Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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COMING OF AGE #5 – Ever Feel Guilt or Shame?
By Yudhisthira Dasa   |  Jul 01, 2023

Feeling guilt, shame, or both in our lifetimes is almost inevitable. Guilt applies when an individual does not achieve what he/she feels was expected of them. Shame applies when someone does something themselves that they would consider highly embarrassing, an embarrassment that doesn’t go away. Shame can become a long-term problem that interferes with all we do, at an extreme leading a person to feel worthless.

The good thing is that both guilt and shame also show us that we care! Without these reactions to the guideposts of religiosity and goodness, we would all be criminals of one sort or another! This is the positive side of feeling guilt or shame, as long as these feelings do not  interfere with our ability to function fully in this world, ultimately offering our lives as an act of service.

Like many high achievers, serious practitioners in the Krishna Consciousness Movement face challenges, not the least of which is enduring the feeling of falling short of the highly regarded standards of practice established by the Founder-Acharya, Srila Prabhupada. For the “average soul” following without fail in his exalted footsteps can seem impossible. And, for sincere followers, feeling guilt and/or shame from this perceived position of “falling short,” can accompany us like our shadows on a sunny day.

This is one of the paradoxes of trying to strictly follow any orthodox spiritual/religious path. Guilt and shame easily draw one into false ego (worldly) consciousness instead of identifying with our eternal spiritual nature (being God conscious). What to do? Is it possible to fall short and not feel guilt or shame?

While guilt or shame can sometimes propel us into action and forwards progress, these feelings can also misdirect many of us to fall into a worsened condition. In this circumstance, we resign themselves to stay in our shadow of material consciousness, since guilt and shame are a fabrication of our minds and false egos. Nothing more and nothing less. Quite a dilemma for many.

The opposite would be to ignore the mind and false ego, but that is much easier said than done, since guilt and shame are such intrinsic emotions, while the soul is “stuck” inside this bodily condition of life.

We know that the teachings in the Bhagavad Gita (and other bonafide scriptures) make the “path of the soul” in the material realm to be accessible to everyone, regardless of age, class, intelligence, or activity. This is accomplished in part through highly encouraging pastimes such as the scriptural debauchee Ajamila being liberated for calling out “Narayan” (one of the names of God), even though he was just calling for his son of the same name. Then there is the punishment and subsequent release of Kuvera and Nalakuvara who were cursed by Narada Muni to stand as trees, and many more.

The first step in getting past these guilt and shame stumbling blocks is to recognize their existence in the material world as normal. We are not alone. Speak with others about your feelings. Is it nothing to be ashamed about. Learn how others deal with it. We all have our ups and downs. The good news? All of this is short-lived and temporary, like the ups and downs of a roller coaster in an amusement park. Notably, on roller coasters, people scream in fear on the way down, but not on the way up!

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