If we think we have no vices, we are novices

A novice housekeeping employee may think that a room which appears to be clean is clean. But some dust may be so settled as to be not immediately visible. Only when they start cleaning vigorously will they realize how much cleaning needs to be done.

Similar is the experience of novice spiritual practitioners. After some initial practice of bhakti, we may find that we are no longer so troubled by impurities such as lust, anger or greed. And we may start thinking that we now have no vices.

However, vices exist within us at multiple levels, conscious and subconscious. Just because they don’t appear at the conscious level doesn’t mean they no longer exist at the subconscious level. What appears at the conscious level is shaped significantly by our association, situation and intention. When we spiritualize these three by practicing bhakti-yoga, our conscious thoughts naturally start becoming purer.

However, at a subconscious level, impurities still lurk, waiting for an opportunity to resurface and re-captivate. The Bhagavad-gita (05.23) cautions that vices such as desire and anger may keep surfacing lifelong; if we learn to tolerate their presence without giving in to their influence, we will be well-situated on the path to spiritual connection and satisfaction.

By acknowledging that vices still exist within us, won’t we feel discouraged? Not necessarily; we will just be deterred from foolhardy complacence. The fact that vices don’t appear so frequently at the conscious level is encouraging – it indicates that bhakti is working. The fact that they still sometimes appear indicates that the work is not yet complete; we need to let bhakti keep working.

How? By guarding our consciousness from impurities and by guiding it towards purity, specifically, the supreme pure reality, Krishna. And by his supreme grace, he will ultimately free us from all vice.

Think it over:

  • How are we novices if we think we have no vices?
  • Won’t acknowledging that vices still exist within us discourage us?
  • How can we let bhakti keep working?

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