Question. 1. How to overcome depression? Right from my student days I have developed inferiority complex and at times I find it really difficult to overcome. My parents and brother have been extremely supportive to me in this regard. But still it is not totally gone. After getting introduced to Krishna Consciousness through my brother, things improved a lot but when my Sadhana started going down and is not consistent, this also started to lead me to hopeless mind state. Are there some practical tips that you can give me to overcome depression in those moments of crisis?
Question. 2. How to overcome fear? Specifically after marriage my fears and depression have increased leaps and bounds. This is mainly due to criticism and discouragement that I face at times at home. Since I am in the neophyte stage I have not got the maturity to convince people or at least ignore criticisms altogether. Basically I am a shy and reserved person and take some time to talk to people (especially my husband). Because of this my in-laws came to a conclusion that since I am interested in spiritual topics I am aloof from the family. This is not totally true. I am really in a precarious position unless I take the right steps to build proper relationship with my husband. Nowadays I have started to worship Narasimhadev to overcome fear. My mother and brother are chanting an extra round for me. Kindly advice.
Romapada Swami answers: I will answer both of your above questions in two parts: first I would like to give some philosophical background, which can help strengthen your mind and bring greater clarity. Based on this fundamental understanding, I will then suggest some practical devotional measures that you could take to address your situation.
Part 1: Lamentation (depression), bewilderment and fearfulness (‘shoka-moha-bhaya’) are understood to be the symptoms of material disease. Just as when there is some pain, fever or inflammation, they are but mere symptoms or indications of a disease, similarly lamentation and fear are symptoms of material existence due to our disconnection from our relationship with Krishna.
The living entity in his normal or healthy condition is sac-cid-ananda – eternally full of bliss and knowledge – the opposite condition of lamentation and ignorance (which is the cause of fear). One is situated in this constitutional identity when one is fully conscious of one’s relationship with Supreme Lord Krishna and fully dependent upon Him – just as a child in the arm of his/her loving mother feels completely safe and happy.
But when the living entity becomes forgetful of his eternal relationship with Krishna, then he becomes absorbed in duality, and thinks of himself to be a product of matter. When consciousness is too much involved and absorbed in thoughts of temporary considerations, it leads to fear, insecurity, anxiety etc. ‘bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah syad’ (SB 11.2.37)
This was the realization of Vyasadeva when he was in deep meditation considering the ultimate welfare for all living entities. He saw this root cause of the living entity’s suffering, and he also saw the remedial measure, viz. surrendering to Lord Krishna and engaging in the process of hearing and chanting His Name, fame, pastimes etc. Thereupon he compiled the Srimad Bhagavatam, by hearing which our loving devotion to Krishna is awakened and the fire of lamentation, bewilderment and fear are extinguished. (I would recommend you to please study carefully SB 1.7.6 and SB 1.7.7 and purports)
If we can understand the cause of the problem, finding the solution is made simpler. The cause of lamentation and fear is: forgetfulness of Krishna and absorption in matter. And thus the solution is to once again shift our consciousness back to the eternal spiritual platform, to turn our attention back to Krishna, lovingly serve Him and take full shelter of Him. Turning our attention to Krishna means to repeatedly keep making that effort to remember and act in our relation with Him. The best way to effect this solution is to hear the messages of Srimad Bhagavatam regularly from a realized person.
That is one very effective practical step you could adopt, by whatever means that is most suitable for you – either by seeking opportunities for hearing classes on Bhagavatam directly or in the form of hearing recorded lectures etc, and if these are not possible, then you can at least regularly study the Bhagavatam. The Bhagavatam is full of descriptions of the pure devotion and realizations of unalloyed devotees and the Supreme Lord’s deep affection and amazing reciprocation towards them. By giving aural reception to these wonderful descriptions, on a daily basis or as frequently as possible, you will feel deep shelter and devotional strength by which all material difficulties will be rendered superfluous.
Here are some further suggestions that are likely to help you:
2) Try to reflect deeply and have a clear focus on what is the aim of life. You can periodically from time to time review, hear or read relevant topics from scripture, and meditate on what is the ultimate purpose for which you are doing whatever you are doing. Along with having a clear philosophical understanding, strengthen your own personal desire to want to achieve that ultimate aim of life.
And try to see practical affairs such as family relations, household duties, occupation etc in relation to this ultimate goal – if needed, you can take the help of devotees, such as your parents or brother, to learn how to see these different things in relation to the ultimate goal. Spending even a few minutes everyday in such reflection even while you are executing your different duties will help to shift the absorption from the temporary to the eternal platform, and this will give you much clarity, focus and the required strength and courage to deal with different practical aspects of life without being affected by dualities. As Krishna says in BG 2.41, “Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched.” (BG 2.41)
3) Set REALISTIC expectations and targets for yourself in terms of your sadhana and occupational duties, after giving thoughtful consideration to the various factors such as your capacity, available time, family expectations etc – the standards you set being neither too low nor too difficult to accomplish. You can consult your family members if needed to make this assessment. After making this determination with due consideration, stick to them and fulfill them consistently for a period of time before trying to increase. This will build your confidence and avoid the ‘hopeless state of mind’ that you mention due to not being consistent with your sadhana etc.
4) Most importantly, please try to take deep shelter of the Holy Name. Give top priority to cultivating qualitative chanting on an ongoing basis. It will be ideal to set aside some specific time, regardless of the numerical commitment you make according to your means, as mentioned previously. And specifically when ‘moments of crisis arise’, as you put it, just reach for your japa beads and chant as feelingly as you can even for a few minutes, putting all other considerations out of the mind for the time being. The Bhagavatam describes that the Holy Name of Krishna is feared by fear personified (SB 1.1.14 ). Try to chant in a prayerful mood, reaching out to Krishna for protection and attentively hear the sound vibration of the Holy Name. Chanting prayers to Lord Narasimhadev – Who is the destroyer of all obstacles on the path of devotion – is also very powerful.
*Trust* in Krishna’s protection. Krishna is an ocean of compassion, and He always responds to the call of His devotees, even if we may not be able to perceive how His mercy is working. As you sincerely try to take shelter of Krishna, He will orchestrate your life favorably.
5) It is most effective to simply be genuine in your interactions with others. A devotee does not feel the need to prove himself or convince others. Although you honestly admit that you are not unaffected by criticisms etc, you can nonetheless strive to be genuine and humble in your response to such situations. Instead of reacting or feeling intimidated and withdrawing out of fear, try to respond to their concerns positively. You can make efforts to progressively express your heart in an open manner (even as you have expressed yourself so straight-forwardly within your questions). You can even seek their support, perhaps taking your husband into confidence.
It may take some time – but do not lose heart, and meanwhile be patient and work on increasingly cultivating a mood of service, and maintaining a friendly, respectful and cheerful disposition. Before long, by your sincere efforts and genuine qualities, others will begin to see and appreciate your heart, as well as the spiritual practices that give you such strength. Particularly when you strive like this to please Krishna and depending on His protection, even if your efforts may not be perfect, Krishna will reciprocate and can inspire those around you to respond favorably.
I hope these suggestions are helpful to you. You have my very best wishes, Hare Krishna!