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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami > Obstacles on the Path of Devotional Service > Introduction

Obstacles on the Path of Devotional Service

By Satsvarupa dasa Goswami







In a First Canto purport, Srila Prabhupada states that there are many realistic obstacles on the path of devotional service, but by the grace of guru and Krsna one can overcome them. What impressed me when I first read this was that Srila Prabhupada and the Vedic sages are aware that we are faced with many problems when we try to take up the life of Krsna consciousness. Sometimes we may think of sages as speaking in an idealistic way about complete renunciation of the world and the attainment of 100% pure devotion to the Lord. We wonder if they know what it is actually like for us to attempt this. It gave me solace to know that they are fully aware of our realistic problems. And we also must be aware of the problems, in order to solve them.


In the present age (Kali-yuga), the problems of life are worse than ever. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam, "In this iron age of Kali men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky and above all, always disturbed" (1.1.10). In his purport Srila Prabhupada states, "The atmo­sphere is surcharged with opposition."Of course, the obstacles in life are not created by the process of bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga is meant to remove all problems, as stated in Srimad-Bha-gavatam:  "The material miseries of the living entities, which are superfluous to him, can be di­rectly mitigated by the linking process of devotional service" (Bhag. 1.7.6). Sometimes it occurs to a neophyte devotee that his life was more orderly before he took to Krsna consciousness, and so he thinks that devotional service is itself creating obstacles to his happiness. The fact is that material life produces the problems. If Krsna consciousness appears to make things worse, it is because we are stirring up the bad habits. If you leave your room dirty, it may seem undisturbed compared to when you sweep it and the dust rises, and everything gets moved around. But ultimately you are healthier and happier by cleaning.


One time a devotee wrote Srila Prabhupada, "There are many obstacles on my path." Prabhu­pada replied that he could remove all of those obstacles with one kick of his foot, but the real problem was that the disciple was not following the orders of the spiritual master. This statement gives us an indication of how the seemingly insur­mountable problems can be resolved. As we study Srila Prabhupada's instructions and share exper­iences of our struggles and successes, we can learn how to overcome the obstacles that realistically come to every devotional life.In a general sense all the opposition we meet while performing devotional service is part of God's covering potency, called maya. Maya has two potencies: one is the throwing potency (praksep-atmika), and she also has a covering potency {aparanatmikd). When the jiva initially misuses its  free will, it is thrown into maya. And even after we enter devotional service, maya continues to test us. Maya dictates, "Don't go to that Krsna conscious temple." When we do go and engage in Krsna consciousness, then maya says, "Why don't you give up Krsna consciousness? It's not making you happy." When we try to think of Krsna, maya's voice interferes. But for an advanced Krsna conscious person, maya is no longer an obstacle. Srila Prabhupada writes:


When a man becomes refreshed by association with devotees and awakens to Krsna conscious­ness, he consults the activities of his mind— namely thinking, feeling and willing—and decides whether he should return to his material activities or stay steady in spiritual consciousness. . . The mind may suggest that by visaya-bhoga, or sense enjoyment, one can become happy, but when one becomes advanced in Krsna consciousness, he does not derive happiness from material activities.

—Bhag. 4.26.14, purport


In this little book I have not attempted a compre­hensive study of every obstacle that comes to a devotee. I've selected problems that are of concern to most devotees and which I can relate to by my own struggles. I hope the treatment will have a positive effect as we think about these problems, read what Prabhupada has said, and apply the remedies.