QUESTIONS ARE THE ANSWER

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Author: 
Karnamrita Das

QUESTIONS ARE THE ANSWER: My "Question for the Week," got me thinking about the power of the questions we ask ourselves or others. Some verses came to mind, as well as my limited understanding about what the questions we ask tell us about ourselves and our absorption. Many of us know, from such verses as follows, the importance of asking relevant questions to great sages or gurus, but what do our personal, internal questions tell us about ourselves? "One day, after finishing their morning duties by burning a sacrificial fire and offering a seat of esteem to Srila Suta Gosvami, the great sages made inquiries [i.e. questions], with great respect, about the following matters." [SB 1.1.5] / "O sages, I have been justly questioned by you. Your questions are worthy because they relate to Lord Krsna and so are of relevance to the world's welfare. Only questions of this sort are capable of completely satisfying the self." [SB 1.2.5]

Although I read the above verses many times, I didn't understand the importance of my personal questions. Years later, I first contemplated the power of questions in terms of personal and spiritual growth when I heard from Tony Robbins that "The quality of our lives depends on the quality of the questions we ask," which brought home the power of questions in understanding who I was as a person, and what I was really interested in.

Thus, the power of our questions is a very multifaceted and profound idea which is right in line with spiritual philosophies I have studied, including my own of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and one which can be practiced on many different levels. It is a fascinating nutshell of human psychology.

I have thought much about this idea and how it applies to my life. The basis of this perspective is that we tend to only notice what we are looking for (for example, the expression, "Can't see the forest for the trees."), based on our thinking and beliefs about life, ourselves or other people. An interesting point is that thinking is the process of asking questions. What we think about, or the questions we ask of ourselves, teaches us what we think is important, what we really want, and the kind of person we think we are.

Bluntly, if you ask shallow or superficial questions, or one's full of doubt and lack of faith, then guess what?--you only receive shallow or superficial answers, or one's that confirm your doubts and lack of faith. Again this is true because the questions we ask show what we are interested in and what we believe about ourselves, which will shape the direction of our lives. Please consider how this applies to your life both occupationally, in general, and spiritually.

Of late, in my new series of classes on the benefit of facing death to live more fully today, I have been encouraging the audience to ask themselves "what do you want--I mean really, not what you should want or what others think you should, but what you truly want?" and to go as deeply as possible in this question.

I wanted to illustrate that our desires show us the direction we need to take to address where our heart is, and to act in such a way to retire our worldly desires and make them as favorable as possible for spiritual progress. Of course, some desires aren't helpful for our spiritual, occupational, or family life, so in this case we have to understand the deeper desires, say to be loved and understood, they may represent, and address those. To me this is one of the arts of living.

I am focused on helping devotees, including myself, to be more introspective to understand themselves deeply. I encourage us all to take the opportunity to really ask important questions, and not just assume we primarily want spiritual advancement, or whatever we think (on the surface) are "acceptable" desires to have. This means we have to become super honest with ourselves and everyone--to be in integrity with ourselves and what we want.

Personally, I know that understanding our spiritual nature is crucial, as is praying to awaken this serving nature. To me this means to know that only by loving service to God, or Krishna, will we satisfy our deep desires and hankerings, and thus acting accordingly. Yet on the way to this high ideal, we must know where we are on the spiritual and material map. To facilitate our growth in both these areas, we have to ask deep and penetrating questions to help us become conscious. Therefore, we have to take the time to really understand our conditioned selves and use it as a means for obtaining our spiritual goals. Denial or not looking at our "shadow side" [disowned or exiled parts of our psyche] won't be helpful on our spiritual journey.

An interesting aside is that the Vedic scriptures are to a large extent the questions and answers of those with great urgency to understand, and great sages, or God himself in various manifestations. By reading, say the Gita or Shrimad Bhagavatam, we are given a new set of questions about life, the soul, and God, and according to our interest and urgency we will find inspiration there, and ask questions accordingly.

The purification of bhakti and the holy name is meant to both help us uncover unwanted habits and desires, and, most importantly, to awaken our spiritual nature and educate us about the most important quest (and quest-ions!!!) in life, about self realization, and to love completely, our Source, God, or for many of us, Krishna.

Figuring out how to make pure devotion (bhakti) our ultimate goal and desire while acknowledge who we are in our body, is the life of a "sadhaka" or bhakti spiritual practitioner. Another way of saying this is that success in our spiritual endeavors will come from developing high spiritual ideals we earnestly pray for, while being real in the here and now, so we can live a sustainable, balanced, joyful spiritual life, and make gradual, progressing advancement in bhakti.