“A man engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad actions even in this life. Therefore strive for yoga, O Arjuna, which is the art of all work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.50)
When watching sports on television, it is quite common to find pre and post game shows wrapped around the presentation of the event itself. A way to keep the fan always interested in the game, these shows feature interviews, in-depth analysis, and predictions from sportswriters and former players of the game. The idea behind such shows is that if the fan is always thinking of the game, they will be more likely to buy tickets and other merchandise related to the sport.
Many people like to spend their leisure time watching or playing sports. The day-to-day grind and pressures of work and school can become overbearing at times, so it’s nice to have an outlet. Playing a game can be fun, and it can be even more relaxing to sit back and watch other people play. The popularity of professional sports grew out of this need in society. Most of today’s major professional sports were invented in the past one hundred fifty years or so. In the beginning, the only way to watch a team play was to actually attend the event in person. Major league baseball quickly grew into America’s pastime since there were at least 140 games for each team every year. This presented a great opportunity for people to take an interest. As the popularity of the sport grew, radio quickly became the primary medium for following sports like baseball.
In the early days of sports on the radio, the announcers weren’t always present in the stadium. Many broadcasters would actually receive updates from the game via telegraph and then relay that information to the listening audience. Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan actually performed such a task in his youth for the Chicago Cubs baseball team. If the Cubs were on the road, he would receive scoring updates in the studio and then make up his own description of the events. As the popularity of radio increased, more and more games were broadcast directly from the stadiums. This in turn launched the careers of legendary broadcasters such as Mel Allen, Red Barber, and Ernie Harwell.
In the last forty years or so, television has become the primary broadcast medium for sports. Radio was a nice way to listen to the game if you couldn’t personally attend, but television brought on a whole new element. With multiple camera angles and instant replay, for many people, it’s actually more enjoyable to watch sports on television than in person. As television ratings increased, many networks decided to start airing pre and post game shows for major events. The idea behind these shows was pretty clear; keep the audience engaged. Even if there was no game going on, organizers wanted fans to have something to watch, something to think about. Adding cable and satellite television to the mix means we now have twenty four hour networks devoted specifically to covering one sport. Each of the four major sports (football, basketball, baseball, and hockey) each have their own dedicated network along with tennis and golf. A person can spend the entire day watching classic games, catching up on the latest news, and hearing the latest interviews from star players. An active, engaged fan base equates to more ticket and merchandise sales, which in turn, leads to more profit.
The task is similar for devotees of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. God is great, and the Vedas tell us just how great He is. The four Vedas, Upanishads, Vedanta-sutras, Puranas, Ramayana, etc. give us a wealth of knowledge and wisdom about God and all things relating to Him. Actually everything in this world is but a reflection of what exists in the spiritual world:
“janmady asya yatah (The absolute truth must be the original source of everything)” (Vedanta-sutra)
Since this is true, one can go on discussing pretty much any topic and find a way to relate it to Krishna.
The purpose of human life is to connect with God through one of the nine processes of devotional service.
“Unless one is engaged in the devotional service of the Lord, mere renunciation of activities cannot make one happy. The sages, purified by works of devotion, achieve the Supreme without delay.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 5.6)
Every person in the world is suffering, even if they don’t know it. Some people may be struggling materially for want of the bare necessities of life, while others are suffering for want of happiness and peace. The root of the problem is the lack of God consciousness. Krishna is the supreme pure, who is all knowing and eternally blissful. Anyone who connects with Him on a regular basis will always be happy. Not realizing this fact, society’s leaders turn to various “isms” such as socialism, communism, nationalism, and capitalism to cure society’s ills, but these efforts always fail.
It is the duty of those who are already devotees to make others God conscious:
“For one who explains the supreme secret to the devotees, devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.68)
There are various forms of charity and philanthropy, but simply saving the outward dress of a man actually does nothing for him. Our bodies are temporary since we are forced to give them up at the time of death. The soul is eternal, but through ignorance, we have been forced to constantly accept new material bodies subject to the laws of karma. If one is given the torch of knowledge lit by the fire of devotional service, they no longer have to suffer the effects of karma.
So how do devotees go about making others God conscious? Well, just as the pre-game shows raise an interest for the main event that is the actual game, so the devotees should constantly take steps to raise awareness for the supreme controller, Krishna. In this age especially, the easiest preaching methods are the congregational chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and the distribution of prasadam. Due to the effects of Kali Yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, most people around the world are accustomed to a life of meat eating and intoxication. This sinful activity is most dangerous because it firmly binds one to the cycle of repeated birth and death. The only pure food is Krishna prasadam; that food which has first been offered to the Lord. Unlike us, God can eat food simply by glancing over it, provided that the offering is made with love and devotion:
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.26)
Krishna is so kind that He eats the food, but actually gives us back more than we offer to Him. What we initially offer is simply an arrangement of various food grains, milk, or fruit, but what the Lord leaves us is food that is completely spiritual in nature. On the material platform, every action has an equal reaction as it relates to the laws of karma. “No good deed goes unpunished” as the famous joke says. However, prasadam is free of karma since Krishna has tasted the food.
Devotees can simply involve themselves in these two activities, chanting and prasadam distribution, and they will be performing the highest welfare work for humanity. The idea is to utilize everything for Krishna’s service. The temple exists for this very purpose. Aside from a place of worship, the temple is where people can go to learn about Krishna. Newspapers, blogs, websites, etc. can all be used to broadcast the message of peace espoused by the great Vedic texts. Krishna is the main event. He is the most important person in our lives. His form, words, and pastimes are what should be showcased. The job of a devotee is to always keep the public interested in Krishna by having conversations and discussion about His greatness. If people are always reminded of Krishna, then it is more likely they will take to devotional service, which is the only means of salvation in this current age.