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Charity Begins at Home
Articles by Satyanarayana Dasa

Charity Begins at Home

Devotee in meditation

by Satyanarayana Dasa

One peculiar phenomenon I have observed in Vrindavan is that many sadhus talk about changing the world. There are plenty of trusts, societies, and institutes here whose names contain words like, “world peace”, “international”, “universal love,’” etc. However, despite so many organizations and individuals, the level of peace or love in the world is not improving. There must be a reason for this.

I also meet many people from mainstream society and they too have a common phenomenon: always blaming someone else for their problems. Their boss or spouse or mother-in-law makes their life miserable. No matter which political party is in power, it is the worst party. God, according to them, is a sadist or at best indifferent; otherwise why is there so much suffering? 

The two groups seem very different: one striving to change the world, the other constantly complaining about it; but I think they actually have a lot in common: Both groups wish the world was different, and neither seem to think much about changing themselves. 

This is an effect of rajas and tamas. 

Effects of Rajo Guṇa

Rajo guṇa inclines us to pride and superiority over others. It imparts over-confidence, inspiring us to strive for things we are not qualified to achieve. It also makes us crave recognition as the most capable and powerful person around. Rajas never grants peace, it always arouses ambition: giving hunger for new acquisition and causing us to under-appreciate what we already have. 

Those in positions of power and prestige usually have a predominance of rajo guṇa, otherwise they would not have the muscle and drive to endure the clawing and manipulation required to “get to the top.” 

In a spiritually oriented society, which highly values sattva-guṇa, the leaders do not like to admit that they are mostly situated in rajas. Their ego and intelligence work together to excuse their rajasic actions as a necessary evil or even an act of compassion. But if someone disagrees, they politicize, marginalize, and ostracize the dissenter—revealing just how fully under the grip of rajas they truly are.

Rajasic people are not evil. They are valuable and needed in any society. Otherwise, who else would “expand the borders,” do the management and run the governments? Rajasic people can do very good service as long as they work honestly under sattvic direction. But when they refuse this and pretend to be the sattvic advisors themselves, they wreak havoc.  

Effects of Tamo Guṇa

Tamo guna inclines us to incessant complaint and constant pessimism. It dulls us so thoroughly that we don’t even notice how negative our behavior is, or how it affects others. Our focus becomes firmly stuck in the past, obsessing over wrongs done to us weeks, months, and years ago. Lazy, we live like a parasite, gossiping and criticizing while oblivious to the hypocrisy we embody. 

Tamo guṇa drains the energy of others, like an “energy vampire.” It lacks the ambition and bravery of rajas but not the self-centeredness, so it winds up making us compete with others through jealous deception. This dark competition extends to practically everyone because, in tamo guṇa it is hard to find anyone who isn’t somehow more intelligent, beautiful, or successful than us. 

Reduction of Rajas and Tamas

On the path of bhakti, sādhaka devotee are usually still more or less under the influence of the material gunas, and thus continue to experience some of the negative effects of rajas and tamas in their lives, and in their societies. But, as one progresses spiritually, one should feel these guṇas slacken. As that happens, one gradually becomes better able to accurately perceive one’s own flaws and appreciate the good qualities of others. 

Practically, no one can do this without taking sincere refuge in the guidance of a guru. Smarter devotees can covertly mimic spiritual progress, by quoting scriptures and propounding arguments. Nonetheless the effects of rajas and tamas noted above continue to dominate their personal life and the social units they form.

Rajas and tamas always shift the focus towards others and towards externals. Thus, the spiritual aspirants under the influence of these guṇas focus on imitating the external symptoms of spiritual advancement, and remain obsessed with the flaws of others. We change our lives superficially, but not on the inside. We change without really changing. Our changes do not touch our self.

To make any real progress in life, one should first clean one’s own house. True change starts by being able to recognize how rajas and tamas are driving your own thoughts and actions.

This requires introspection, but I think people do not really understand what the word means. It does not mean asking the Guru to point out your flaws and saṁskāras, or criticizing the Guru for not making one feel good. Nor is introspection some New Age technique that the Guru is unaware of and needs to be educated about. Introspection means rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work of cleaning your heart (citta).  

Disturbances of the Modern Mind

In the past, when society was simple and not influenced by modern technology, the traditional sādhanā practices, such as japa, kirtan, līlā-smaraṇa, deity worship, hearing scripture, and seva were sufficient for a person to advance spiritually. This is because those people were born and raised in a nurturing varṇāśrama environment, in which they were educated about their identify and the purpose of life.  They had a natural inclination to accept authority and surrender.  They were already in a state of sattva. 

However, in modern days, society has changed drastically. Therefore, the traditional practices, although potent as they were in the past, do not show their effect because the mind is unsteady, confused, and doubtful. The modern mind lacks deep faith and is very insecure. We are not trained to surrender, rather the opposite. The modern world overflows with the intense distractions of rajasic technology. Very few people are raised with any solid, rational understanding of basic philosophical concepts. We confuse authority with tyranny and the acceptance of guidance with personal weakness. Moreover, the tamas and rajas in our dysfunctional and chaotic modern families inflict deep childhood traumas which generate hypersensitivity to feeling criticized, rejected, and unloved by authority figures. 

Thus, most people come to bhakti to heal the wounds of modern life, not for true spiritual evolution. We engage in the regularities of spiritual sādhana primarily to be accepted into social groups that we hope will fill the emptiness we carry in our hearts from our damaged childhoods. Our true motivation, often unknown to us, is to find a surrogate family—thus we hardly take any interest in true introspection to purify our hearts from the reflexive behaviors and perceptions (saṁskāras) that keep us stuck in rajas and tamas. 

If we could truly surrender, we would need nothing but the basic sādhanas to bring us to our goal of kṛṣṇa-prema.  But this doesn’t usually happen. Most of us may have no idea what such “surrender” really means. 

Necessity of a Personal Guide

Spiritual practices are effective when they are done without significant defects. It is extremely rare for a person to consistently and accurately see their own defects. This is why the guide, the guru, is so essential. At least, I would suggest that spiritual practitioners regularly ask the people they know, even those they are jealous of, to point out their defects if they themselves cannot see them. Or, certainly at the very absolute least, all spiritual practitioners should have very open and non-defensive ears when an observation of their defects is willingly offered. 

I always presumed that those who come to spiritual life come primarily to solve their own problems. This is what Kṛṣṇa says in Gītā (7.16), explaining that those who turn to Him are trying to solve financial, health or emotional problems, or in rare cases, to solve the ultimate problem of bondage. In the next verse (7.17), Kṛṣṇa explains that those who take to bhakti come mostly from that rare, fourth category. However, it seems that even they, once taking to the practices of bhakti at least on the surface, soon forget their original purpose and become fixed on the idea of helping humanity. 

A person who is tied up is very ineffective at freeing others. As it is said, katham asiddhah param sadhayati (“how can an imperfect being create anything superior?”) A person who still has rajas and tamas in their hearts cannot help the world get rid of the effects of rajas and tamas. A person who has not solved their own problems cannot solve the world’s problems.

Therefore, even if our motive is to save the world, we can only do so be looking at our own faults, and curing them in ourselves.


  • Amit Kumar November 19, 2018

    My hundreds of heartfelt obeidances at the lotus feet of Baba ji Maharaj. 🙏

  • Indira dasi November 19, 2018

    Pls. accept my sincere pranama,
    This is such a deep psychological truth of the modern man and woman (especially from the West) without using the terms pathological narcissism and psychopathology which symptoms and causes are perfectly analysed above by Sripad Satyanarayana Baba.
    These traumatised adult children are a blind spot to themselves and think to be spiritually engaged when subconsciously (citta) they’re looking for substitutes for mom and dad they never really had (most millennials are creche children). They will not be able to solve their malignant self-love themselves because they run on a DNA encoded program as an infantile defense mechanism, which – if not dissolved – will become genetic in their offspring. In order to get behind this artificial mechanism (extreme false-ego) and become able to cleanse the heart and mind is trauma therapy. Pathological narcissism is not a personality disorder but self-inflicted trauma based mind control as an infantile mechanism to conquer a hostile environment (dysfunctional parents, significant others, or society).
    This is nature going in defense mode in order to at least have survive the body when atma has already retired to the back burner and has become aloof to experiences of unbearable emotional pain. This so-called narcissism (rajo-guna, tamo-guna) is rampant in the world today and is spreading like wildfire.

  • Stoka Krsna Dasa November 19, 2018

    Thanks Babaji Maharaj for pointing out precisely at the root of all problems.
    In the material world when there is some ills and problems infesting an organisation, they seek the help of CONSULTANTS and even the top management of the organisation heeds by the advise and reports given by them.
    However spiritual organisations by being “spiritual” assume themselves to be above everyone and if one is not willing to take help then nothing can really help.
    Is this typical of Kaliyuga?
    For curiosity sake is “SASTRA” an all time Consultant for all spiritual organisations?

  • Prananath das November 19, 2018

    Thank you for remember us our path. We are living, all the world is living, this truth counsciously or not. My part as you say is to go inner, recognize himself for clean the path. Our faith protect us even in the whorst solitude, make us humble and give us the strenght to go further. . Namaste.

  • Kurt Shoemaker November 19, 2018

    Glories to Babaji Maharaj!! This is by far the most honest and sincere analysis of this phenomenon I have ever read. Babaji Maharaj has explained this perfectly once again. I have come to realize that a lot of what propels this is our attachment to our identity which we mistakenly see as being made up of these behaviors that are in reality merely the effect of these gunas. We obtain some realizations and then think we have answers that others have missed somehow. Another aspect of this I see often in the West are those who come to come spiritual practice, but either do not want to accept a Guru in lieu of using their own mind as a Guru or mix different systems together or only taking to certain aspects of Sadhana while leaving others behind which only creates confusion. I sincerely believe that anyone who wants to be set straight should listen intently to what Babaji Maharaj is saying here and apply these suggestions wholeheartedly. As I have heard Babaji say before, “you can experiment with your own mind and see for yourself”, and I would follow up with that recommendation.

  • Advaita Das November 19, 2018

    Dear Babaji, where do I find the text katham asiddhah param sadhayati ?

    • Babaji November 22, 2018

      The closest statement is in the Īśvara-pratyabhijñā-Vimarśinī of Abhinavagupta (1.1.2) in the commentary of Bhāskarī:

      kartari jñātari svātmanyādisiddhe maheśvare /
      ajaḍātmā niṣedhaṃ vā siddhiṃ vā vidadhīta kaḥ // Ipk_1,1.2 //

      iha ka īśvare kīdṛśe kīdṛśena pramāṇena asti iti jñānalakṣaṇāṃ siddhim , nāstīti jñānalakṣaṇaṃ vā niṣedhaṃ kuryāt ? pramātā iti cet , sa eva kaḥ ?
      dehādirjaḍaḥ uta tadanyo vā kaścit ātmādiśabdavācyaḥ ? so’pi svaprakāśasvabhāvo vā na vā ? dehādirjaḍaḥ iti cet , sa eva svātmani asiddhaḥ paratra kāṃ siddhiṃ kuryāt ?

  • hariharadasanudasa November 21, 2018

    In the 21st century, we have the luxury of having an amazing amount of Harikatha in videos, audio and books. so really one should focus on working on himself as the most important purpose and then lead by example.

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