I considered myself to be quite the rebel in my teens and early twenties, and I was proud of that label.
I thought I was so cool – smoking cigarettes behind the art building at the strict, all-girls school I attended in the dull, conservative city of Pretoria. [Never heard of Pretoria? Don’t worry about it]. It’s true that I had very little respect for authority, but more than anything else, I was deeply dissatisfied with what life was offering me.
The Oxford English dictionary defines rebellion as: “the action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention.”
Actually, rebellion is in all of us. We naturally resist authority, control and convention – that is the nature of our ego. None of us want to be another brick in the wall because, in fact, we are all utterly unique.
But we’re not who we think we are.
There is a Sanskrit word ahankara, which literally translates as “I am the doer.” It is used to describe the false ego - the false identity of being the physical body and the ultimate controller of our lives. And so, when others tell us what to do, we rebel, thinking that we alone know what’s best for us. Really?
Our false ego makes us proud, our pride interferes with our higher intelligence by preventing us from accepting good advice, and therefore we can’t access knowledge beyond ourselves because we have no faith in any authority.
“Faith is the precursor of knowledge. If you don’t have faith, which is assisted by the culture of genuine respect, your ability to understand things is limited to your own frame of reference.” - Dhanurdhara Swami
The problem is, where do we point our rebellious faces once we’ve recognized that we should turn our backs on the uninspiring authorities and ill-considered conventions of modern society? Well, some of us are intelligent and humble enough to seek out inspiring mentors and higher truths... But not me.
Unfortunately, if you don’t know where to find a constructive alternative to what you’re rebelling against, the only clear way forward is to tear it all down. So I, like many others, not knowing any better and convinced of my superiority over all the sheep out there, embarked on a path that, looking back, I can only describe as hedonistic self-destruction.
It took me years to realize that my rebellion for individualism was just the same as everyone else’s. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll... What I considered to be rebellion was in fact just a jaded pattern of behavior that led to an overstimulation of the senses. It was nothing special, but nonetheless, it made me proud. My pride then stripped me of my intelligence and fuelled the dissatisfaction that I was trying to escape from in the first place.
To make a long story short, it all came crashing down and I had a proverbial wake-up call. Thankfully.
Naturally, the Bhagavad-gita has something to say about this:
What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage. - BG 2.69
Is self-control and introspection the rebellion of the future?
Yes. And here’s why...
The ultimate rebellion is to turn your back on your false conception of yourself. It is to take the humble position and allow yourself to be guided by a worthy teacher. The alternative is simply ignorance. If we can’t understand our true nature as eternal spiritual beings, we can’t make sense of what we’re meant to do with this crazy world, and nothing will ever truly satisfy us. We’ll keep rebelling at every new situation that’s not quite right. There’s no peace in a life like that.
Rebel once more, but do it right this time.
One of the many gifts of Hare Krishna mantra meditation is that it allows us to see our existential condition more clearly. Many great personalities have composed songs and prayers to glorify this type of meditation because it is so uniquely powerful. Sometimes I recite a particularly potent prayer, called the Sri Siksastakam, before starting my daily meditation. The first line translates as follows:
Glory to the Sri Krishna Sankirtana, which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and extinguishes the fire of conditional life.
Sri Krishna Sankirtana refers to the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. The dust is our false conception of ourselves as material beings, and the fire of conditional life is the uneasiness we feel that impels us towards acts of rebellion and seeking.
These days, my day begins at 3:30 am. I rise, wash, dress and spend 2-3 hours meditating on the mantra that came crashing into my life 14 years ago with a rebellious message: swallow your pride and chant Hare Krishna. All it takes is a little bit of initial faith.
After careful consideration (nearly 8 years of it), I wholeheartedly embraced the practice of chanting Hare Krishna. My parents didn’t like it much (a sure sign of a truly worthy rebellion)... At least not initially... But now, almost 6 years later, they can’t deny the integrity and benefit of my personal transformation. And transformation is exactly what a solid rebellion should yield. All it took was a mantra, some meditation beads, a qualified teacher and a calculated leap of faith.
I don’t think I need to convince anyone that the world needs a lot of rebelling right now. But don’t put too much faith in the rebellion of the modern world, which is focussed on material issues and generally just encourages satisfaction of the senses. If you’re gonna do it, do it right, and uncover your true spiritual individuality along the way.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami says it best:
“We must resist the temptation to be ‘normal,’ because those who are now considered normal accept the values and practices of an insane world.”
Rebel, dear ones... but don’t leave your intelligence behind, and take the maha-mantra with you.
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
 Spiritual Warrior III: Solace for the Heart in Difficult Times, Chapter 8 – How To Strengthen Ourselves - by HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami