My Guru once said that opinion is like the belly button, everybody has got one. Although everybody has them we all think that our opinions are special, even unique, and therefore we are usually very attached to them. They define who we are. We identify with them to the extend that, striped away of our beliefs, we become a different person, or even cease to exist.
We have opinions on a large variety of topics, even in areas where we lack knowledge or expertise. These are sometimes charitably called “different tastes”. Identifying with our opinions is deeply rooted, just as identifying with our mind. This is not surprising since most of our views are generated by the two main functions of the mind, sankalpa and vikalpa, accepting objects that give us material pleasure, and rejecting objects that cause discomfort or pain. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna states that all of us are born in this duality; it is so deeply rooted in us that we rarely ever question it:
O scion of Bharata, O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, bewildered by dualities arisen from desire and hate. (BG 7.27)
Of course, we swim in an ocean of dualities every day; we like certain people, ideas, and objects and dislike other people, ideas, and objects. Srila Prabhupada explains that behind these trivial dualities, there is a primordial duality; all other dualities spring out from it:
The illusory energy is manifested in the duality of desire and hate. Due to desire and hate, the ignorant person wants to become one with the Supreme Lord and envies Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (BG 7.27, purport)
So here is our diagnosis, we desire to be God and we hate the fact that we are not God. In fact, as another of my Gurus once said, we hate this fact so much that we want to kill God and take his place. Nothing personal against Him, just it so happens that he is occupying the position we really want.
That means that in our conditioned state we are, unconsciously or half- consciously, envious of our best friend, Krishna. And consequently we should not take our pet preferences, beliefs, and opinions so seriously because they are tainted with envious ignorance.
But please don’t be alarmed; the sacred caw of the contemporary society, the freedom to have an uninformed opinion on everything, including rather elusive spiritual topics, is not going to be attacked here. Not because modern people does hold it in highest esteem, but because it is a God given freedom. The question is not whether we should be free to express our views; the question is, what their value is.
Srila Prabhupada says:
The modern so-called philosophers, scientists, scholars, they say, “I think. I think.” What is your value? The great personalities, they will not say like that.
The great personalities will not say like that not because they lack wisdom or self-confidence; rather they have realized that they have attained perfection by following the perfect Vedic authority. Even Lord Krishna follows the etiquette in Bhagavad-Gita:
Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both. (BG 2.16)
In other words we should accept seriously only the statements of the self-realized pure devotees of the Lord and their faithful followers, not our speculations, or the vox populi.
We are free to have our views, express them, and act upon them, but the value of our opinions and the consequences of our actions, depend not on our imagination but on dharma, the absolute and self-evident Vedic authority. Therefore an ignorant opinion has no value, no matter how popular it is. Contemporary people insist on their freedom of views. But how it is possible that holding on to harmful convictions or habits is an expression of real freedom? After all, the drug addict is expressing his “freedom” by continuing to ruin his life by taking drugs. The powerful force of addiction pushes him, while he thinks that this is an expression of his independence.
In our materialistic state our cherished freedom to have an opinion is actually symptom of our bondage. The reason is that we are conditioned by the three modes of material nature. The particular mixture of gunas we are under manifests by the different beliefs we have acquired. Thus our original spiritual faith in Krishna has become substituted by acquired material attachments and aversions, in short, our pet opinions. Srila Prabhupada explains:
Everyone has a particular type of faith, regardless of what he is. But his faith is considered good, passionate or ignorant according to the nature he has acquired. Thus, according to his particular type of faith, one associates with certain persons. Now the real fact is that every living being, as is stated in the Fifteenth Chapter, is originally a fragmental part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. Therefore one is originally transcendental to all the modes of material nature. But when one forgets his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and comes into contact with the material nature in conditional life, he generates his own position by association with the different varieties of material nature. The resultant artiﬁcial faith and existence are only material. Although one may be conducted by some impression, or some conception of life, originally he is nirguṇa, or transcendental. Therefore one has to become cleansed of the material contamination that he has acquired, in order to regain his relationship with the Supreme Lord. That is the only path back without fear: Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If one is situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then that path is guaranteed for his elevation to the perfectional stage. If one does not take to this path of self-realization, then he is surely to be conducted by the inﬂuence of the modes of nature. (BG 17.3, purport)
In the name of freely expressing ourselves, being real, etc. popular platitudes, we are just being carried away by the gunas. Believe it or not, our favorite tastes and convictions are actually not us. As it is explained in the Bhagavad-gita, they are part of the field of activities and its interactions:
The ﬁve great elements, false ego, intelligence, the unmanifested, the ten senses and the mind, the ﬁve sense objects, desire, hatred, happiness, distress, the aggregate, the life symptoms, and convictions – all these are considered, in summary, to be the ﬁeld of activities and its interactions. (BG 13.6-7)
It is disappointing to realize that your precious beliefs are simply interactions of inert elements composing the field of activity. In this connection it is so amusing to hear how nonbelievers speak of being objective. In reality every one of them is subjected to the particular combination of gunas he happens to be under at his current birth and at the present moment of his life. Objectivity means that there should be a proper, standard way of thinking; in the case of the atheists however, the only standard are their fluctuating thought patterns dictated by the gunas. The state of the gunas predetermines their value system and the value system sets their convictions. In other words their material desires become the axioms of their philosophies. Srila Prabhupada makes this clear in his purport to Bhagavad gita 17.3:
“The word sraddha, or “faith,” is very significant in this verse. Sraddha, or faith, originally comes out of the mode of goodness. One’s faith may be in a demigod or some created God or some mental concoction. One’s strong faith is supposed to be productive of works of material goodness. But in material conditional life, no works are completely purified. They are mixed. They are not in pure goodness. Pure goodness is transcendental; in purified goodness one can understand the real nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As long as one’s faith is not completely in purified goodness, the faith is subject to contamination by any of the modes of material nature. The contaminated modes of material nature expand to the heart. Therefore according to the position of the heart in contact with a particular mode of material nature, one’s faith is established. It should be understood that if one’s heart is in the mode of goodness his faith is also in the mode of goodness. If his heart is in the mode of passion, his faith is also in the mode of passion. And if his heart is in the mode of darkness, illusion, his faith is also thus contaminated. Thus we find different types of faith in this world, and there are different types of religions due to different types of faith. The real principle of religious faith is situated in the mode of pure goodness, but because the heart is tainted we find different types of religious principles. Thus according to different types of faith, there are different kinds of worship.”
When Srila Prabhupada speaks about “faith” in this purport he means not just adherence to particular belief system or religion. Faith here means any type of conviction about anything, including things usually viewed as purely secular phenomena such as politics, science, philosophy, food, or clothes. Any attraction or repulsion we have for any object of this world, and any opinion that is based on it, is a result of the combinations of the gunas.
Sad but true, we are not our convictions. This is true at least until we reach the liberated stage of bhava, or brahma bhuta. How do we know we are on this stage? It’s an easy test; we should check if we always feel completely satisfied without any lamentation for the past or hankering for the future. If we don’t always feel that way we better not take our opinions so seriously.
But this is the problem. Having material opinions means that we do take them very seriously, even more seriously than the opinion of Krishna. We are often incapable of giving them up even when presented with higher knowledge and realizations. Of course this not only our problem. Everybody else is suffering from it. The karmis have coined a term for it: to be deeply entrenched in your opinions.
Why are we so stubbornly attached to something that it is not very important? We identify with it. Once we acquire this false identity we nourish it and it becomes very strong, entrenched deep in our consciousness. As Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura writes:
As the unsteady, restless mind engages itself in enjoying form, taste, smell, sound, and touch, it nourishes various material conceptions of life. That is why subjects of thought such as finding faults and attributing good qualities, display their mastery over the mind.
Our mind is chanchala, fickle, and uses every opportunity to enjoy separately from Krishna. On such occasions it nourishes our false identity as the Controller and Enjoyer. We falsely reason that there are enjoyable and repulsive objects in this material world and make plans how to attain enjoyment (raga) and to avoid distress (dvesha). The truth is that there is nothing good in the material world, as it is confirmed by Srila Prabhupada:
When one is absorbed in the illusory energy of Kṛṣṇa and cannot understand Kṛṣṇa, one cannot ascertain what is good for him and what is bad. Conceptions of good and bad are all imaginations or mental speculations. When one forgets that he is an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa, he wants to enjoy the material world through different plans. At that time he distinguishes between material plans that are good and those that are bad. Actually, however, they are all false. (CC, Antya, 4.176, purport)
Bhagavatam compares our infatuation with good and bad in the material world with an unsteady wind. Bhaktisiddhanata Sarasvati Thakura explains:
As the wind blowing from various directions may create disturbances, the restless mind searching for varieties of material enjoyment destroys a conditioned soul’s attempt for self-control. It is therefore essential for a devotee to serve Lord Hari by means of ekayana, with the support of fixed intelligence… The people of this material world, who always desire happiness and yet simply suffer from distress, are very restless and so, they cannot be thoughtful.  They are incessantly driven by their material conceptions of life and are firmly situated in the principle that material enjoyment is everything.
The materialists are in constant anxiety because there are so many enjoyable and harmful objects in their realm of existence. But the transcendentalist sees differently:
Rather than accepting these 24 entities as the means of my enjoyment, I have accepted them as my instructing spiritual masters. I travel in this world under the shelter of my fixed intelligence…
Even a transcendentalist is surrounded by innumerable material objects, which possess good and bad qualities. However, one who has transcended material good and evil should not become entangled even when in contact with the material objects; rather, he should act like the wind. (SB 11.7.40)
If one can act in this way then only his opinion has value. These are the type of persons you want to listen from. In fact they are the only persons that can drive away the heavy delusion from the heart. This cannot be attained by mundane knowledge or even by independent study of sastra. As it is stated in Mahabharata:
Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person. Consequently, as the sastra confirms, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahajanas advocate.
Our mundane opinions are simply different plans how to enjoy and how to avoid suffering. Since all other conditioned souls have similar plans it all ends up in a constant strife, or as Srila Prabhupada has it, struggle for existence.
On other hand, the opinion of the liberated devotees, the mahajanas, is an expression of their spontaneous love for Krishna. Their point of view is always how to best serve Radha-Krishna and how to eternally improve the quality of their attitude and service. Thus, though their opinions might not be the same, they are all always right. In fact they don’t even care if they are right or not; they insist on their opinion only to give pleasure to Krishna and the devotees and not out of trivial pride as it is common in the material world.
In the material scenario we argue and insist on our views because of false ego and false prestige; we want to show who is the Boss. But in the spiritual world the Supreme Boss, Krishna, is a pure unalloyed servant of His pure devotees. When his devotees have a plan that contradicts his plan the Lord steps back and out of love allows them to fulfill their desires at the expense of his plan. In the Damodara pastime Mother Yashoda wanted to bind Krishna; Krishna, however, did not want to be bound because this would obstruct him playing with his friends and stealing butter. Still, Mother Yashoda succeeded in binding him. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains:
If Yasoda, with desire to do good to her son, and being stubborn, would not give up her attempt to bind the Lord, then between the Lord and the devotee, the devotee’s stubbornness prevails. Thus, seeing His mother becoming tired, the Lord gave up His own stubbornness, and by His mercy allowed Himself to be tied. His mercy is the king of all saktis, illuminating all else.
Thus we see that for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna the most important thing is not to show everybody that he is the Boss, but the relationships with his pure devotees, the mahajanas.
Just as us, the mahajanas have very firm opinions. In fact they are even more deeply entrenched in them than we could possibly be. The difference between them and us is that our material opinions are based on ignorance since we simply follow what our mind likes and dislikes. The mahajanas base their views on what Krishna likes and dislikes. Of course this does not means that they act like robots. Krishna wants to exchange pure love with his devotees. The mahajanas fully cooperate with this desire of the Lord but they do it spontaneously in their own unique ways. Thus their opinion is their personal loving reciprocation with Krishna’s desire according to their own inclinations.
Fortunately we are in contact with such mahajana, great soul, Srila Prabhupada. We should read, study, relish and share his teachings with others. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita such devotees can impart knowledge because they have seen the truth. We should remember that Prabhupada has seen the truth, while the majority of us, his followers, have not. Therefore his opinion is absolute and ours is not.
Kåñëa similarly chastised Arjuna. Açocyän anvaçocas tvaà prajïä-vädäàç ca bhäñase: “While speaking learned words, you are lamenting for what is not worthy of grief.” (Bg. 2.11) Similarly, among people in general, 99.9 percent try to talk like experienced advisers, but they are actually devoid of spiritual knowledge and are therefore like inexperienced children speaking nonsensically. Consequently their words cannot be given any importance. One has to learn from Kåñëa or His devotee. If one speaks on the basis of this experience-that is, on the basis of spiritual knowledge—one’s words are valuable. (SB 5.11.1, purport)
Attaining a state of indifference to all mundane opinions is the price that we have to pay in order to attain prema bhakti. In Bhagavad-gita 2.52 the Lord states:
When your intelligence has passed out of the dense forest of delusion, you shall become indifferent to all that has been heard and all that is to be heard.
And in Brihad Bhagavatamrita 2.4.233 Narada Muni says:
Only once in a while does the Supreme Lord give bhakti, and only to a rare intelligent person who desires only that, indifferent to the opinions of the world.
 This primordial anger out of frustration that we are not God is Brahma’ s first creation: “Brahmā first created the nescient engagements like self-deception, the sense of death, anger after frustration, the sense of false ownership, and the illusory bodily conception, or forgetfulness of one’s real identity.” (SB 3.12.2)
 “Material nature consists of three modes – goodness, passion and ignorance. When the eternal living entity comes in contact with nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, he becomes conditioned by these modes.” (BG 14.5)
 The Sanskrit word in the verse is dhriti, which on different occasions Srila Prabhupada translates as determination, or perseverance. In other words, our mind is very determined to prolong our material existence by being engrossed in dualities. Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to SB 4.26.1-3, “The mind is always making plans … to enjoy the material world.”
 “Men of small knowledge…being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, say that there is nothing more than this.” (BG 2.42-43)
 The connection between the state of our consciousness and the type of opinions and philosophies we have is a well known in the western philosophy. As Will Durant points out,
“Intellectualism – the conception of man as above all a thinking animal, consciously adapting means to rationally chosen ends – fell sick with Rousseau, took to its bed with Kant, and died with Schopenhauer. After two centuries of introspective analysis philosophy found, behind thought, desire, and behind the intellect, instinct; just as, after a century of materialism, physics finds, behind matter, energy. We owe it to Schopenhauer that he revealed our secret hearts to us, showed us that our desires are the axioms of our philosophies, and cleared the way to an understanding of thought as no mere and abstract calculation of impersonal events, but as flexible instrument of action and desire.”
Different opinions and philosophies are result from different material desires. Srila Prabhupada explains:
“The consciousness of the soul becomes polluted by the material atmosphere, and thus various activities [which are result of various opinions] are exhibited in the false ego of bodily identification. These various activities are described in Bhagavad-gita (2.41) as bahu-sakha hy anantas ca buddhayo ‘vyavasayinam. The conditioned soul is bewildered into various activities for want of pure consciousness. In pure consciousness the activity [ad opinion] is one. The consciousness of the individual soul becomes one with the supreme consciousness when there is complete synthesis between the two.”
 “One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything. He is equally disposed toward every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (BG 18.54)
 According to the Acharyas this is a sign of impurities in the heart: “Krishna says: The understanding or knowledge necessary for performance of sankhya alone has been spoken to you, starting with Verse 12 and ending with Verse 30. If that knowledge does not arise in you because of impurities in your heart, then hear about the knowledge necessary to execute karma-yoga, which will now be spoken, and which includes within it atma-jnana… (Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s commentary on Gita, 2.39)
 Here and throughout the text “we” stands not only for the people in general, but for the neophyte devotees as well. Though we theoretically accept our position of servants of Krishna in practical life we often act as His competitors, trying to control and enjoy material nature.
 Contemporary people are not thoughtful because they inhabit a state of existence termed by some a “systematic suppression of silence”. In a nutshell that means that the mind is constantly distracted by nonsense noise (adds, facebook, internet) and as a result it becomes so disturbed that loses its capacity to concentrate on the important things in life (for example, how to deepen our affection for the Lord and His devotees). As the American social critique Morris Berman points out:
Silence, after all, is the source of all self-knowledge and of much creativity as well. [Here the respected Dr. Berman takes self-knowledge to mean sambanda-jnana, and creativity refers to abideya]. But it is hardly valued by societies that confuse creativity with productivity and incessant voice with aliveness…As a result, we don’t notice that fundamental aspects of being human [to be a devotee of Krishna for example] are disappearing.
 Just two examples from Sri Chaitanya Caritamrita:
“Śraddhā is confident, firm faith that by rendering transcendental loving service to Kṛṣṇa one automatically performs all subsidiary activities. Such faith is favorable to the discharge of devotional service.”
“ ‘The six divisions of surrender are… the conviction that Kṛṣṇa will give protection, …”