“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)
To divine love man has such a strong aversion, which has gathered strength over many lifetimes spent in the material sphere, that worship of even fictitious characters occurs before full and complete surrender to the Personality of Godhead. The Vedas refer to the original person from whom all energies emanate as Krishna, for He is all-attractive. He is also known as Bhagavan because no one is more fortunate than Him. Yet the material realm, the place where birth and death take place repeatedly, exists for a reason. If there were no aversion to devotional service, there would be no need for a temporary realm. Even with resistance to worshiping Krishna, man will have to offer its dedication to someone or something. These created gods, however, fall short in their ability to please their worshipers, as only Krishna possesses and exhibits noteworthy characteristics on the largest scale. For those avoiding worship of God, there will eventually come a fizzling out point, a time when the love directed to the flawed objects of worship turns into frustration or anger. Only with the most worthy worshipable figure, Shri Krishna, can the soul’s tremendous potential for service be fully realized.
How do we know that man is given to worshiping God, especially in His form of Krishna? How do we know that Krishna is God and not just some mythological hero of the Hindu faith? With any piece of information presented, its validity comes from the results that follow the initial acceptance. For instance, if a television anchorperson tells us that it is raining outside and we decided to bring an umbrella with us, once we step outside and see that it is not raining, we’ll know that their knowledge is not perfect. The umbrella was thus carried for no reason, as there was no rain and nothing that we needed the umbrella to protect us from.
In the beginning there was no way of knowing whether the person on television was accurate or not. Since we had no reason to be skeptical of their intentions, we accepted what they were saying as fact. On their authority we believed that it was raining outside. There was no way to prove without a doubt that what they were telling us was true. The person on television could have even had a camera shot showing that rain was pouring down outside and that still wouldn’t have been sufficient. After all, television operates on footage that can be recorded, which means that at any time anyone can show anything and claim that it is a live shot.
The questions relating to authority are settled by the results that come from accepting the information. If the reporter on television were correct in their assertions, then they could be taken as an authority figure going forward. The same tests for validity can be applied to all knowledge transfer, especially when information about the soul and its inherent qualities is passed. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, are considered the most authorized set of scriptures by their followers not only because of the age of the works but also because of the benefits that come from following the prescriptions presented.
“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.24)
What do the Vedas recommend? How are the Vedas any different from the other religious traditions followed around the world? In summary, the Vedas teach that the spirit soul is the essence of identity with any life form, and that this soul is naturally attracted to divine love, or devotional service. The tendency towards love is a byproduct of the soul’s blissful constitution. Just as a magnet automatically attracts those objects with the proper constitution, the giant spiritual force, who is most commonly referred to as God, attracts the sentiments of the pure souls, those who are not tainted by material contact or diverted by desires for personal sense gratification.
God is the proper object of worship because of His qualities. He is the most wealthy, the most renounced, the wisest, the strongest, the most famous and the most beautiful. He possesses each one of these opulences to the fullest extent imaginable. In fact, His attributes are so great in their magnitude that no one can properly measure them. Think of it in terms of infinity. Krishna is infinitely beautiful. Just one look at His smiling face, His beautiful body adorned with the peacock feather in His hair and the garland of lotus flowers around His neck is enough to make one forget about their troubles.
Krishna’s attributes never deplete nor are they ever covered up. To the onlooker giving a quick glance, the knowledge about Krishna and His features may not be completely revealed, but this has no bearing on Krishna whatsoever. The young child has no idea what the sun is or what it is capable of, but this has no effect on the sun’s influence or properties. Similarly, millions of people can be unaware of Krishna and the need for worshiping Him, but this doesn’t alter Krishna’s supreme standing.
Since Krishna is the most attractive, He is the ideal object of worship. The Vedas also reveal that the tiny spirit souls are similar in quality to Krishna but that their quantitative powers are far inferior. In this way we can be considered similar to God but not totally equal to Him. There is a master-servant relationship, one which operates best when entered into voluntarily. There needn’t be any cajoling in the matter, for how could anyone who surrenders to someone so merciful and attractive ever end up the loser? We enjoy tasty foods because of the pleasure it gives us and our favorite music because of how it makes us feel. In the same way, we can worship God and sacrifice our efforts for His benefit simply because it will lead to our gain in the future.
It is not even that Krishna has to do anything explicit to bring happiness to the devotee. The devotional acts themselves, such as chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, bring so much pleasure that adherence to standard practices governing piety and sin become secondary in importance. If I know that my constitutional position is to remain in Krishna’s company, what fear will I have about transgressing the rules aimed at reaching that platform? The gopis of Vrindavana best illustrate this principle. Shri Krishna doesn’t need to give anything for them to feel pleasure. Just reciting His name and remembering Him for one second bring the gopis so much happiness that they lose themselves in divine trance. They are the greatest yogis, in full samadhi, or divine trance, whenever they remember Krishna, hear His flute, see Him approaching, or think about His words. They drink up the sweet nectar that is His divine vision, and they grow attached to this amrita, not settling for any other potion promising enjoyment.
This all seems pretty straightforward, right? But if Krishna is so wonderful, if He is really Bhagavan, why would anyone neglect worshiping Him? In the material world, the situation is turned around for the souls not given to divine love. This is, in one sense, by design, for the choice was made at some point in the past to fall from the graces of the spiritual realm. Rather than worship Krishna, the rebellious souls feel they can imitate His abilities in the departments of creating, maintaining, destroying and enjoying. Separation from Krishna’s personal association thus continues for as long as the desire to imitate God remains.
No matter how far one falls from their constitutional position, however, the intrinsic properties of the soul cannot be hidden completely. Therefore the penchant to worship will be there in any realm, even if one is completely forgetful of God and His existence. Without worshiping Krishna, however, man will dedicate his service mentality to imitation gods, people and things that don’t possess the full feature set of attributes found in Krishna.
It shouldn’t surprise us that the flawed method of worship doesn’t lead to tangible results. At first there may be dedication to the activity. The penchant for service explains why man can become attached to cats, dogs, friends, family, children, celebrities, politicians, athletes and a host of other people. Since to ere is human, anyone who is conditioned cannot properly accept the worship offered to them. Moreover, since they don’t have the divine qualities in full like Bhagavan does, eventually flaws will be uncovered. When the flaws eventually cause the love to turn into hate, the worshiping individual is left to find another god. This cause-and-effect sequence explains how divorce can happen and how there is so much strife and argument in the world.
What’s more amazing is that even when the mind realizes that ordinary human beings don’t make ideal candidates for worshipable objects, there is a tendency to turn to fictitious heroes. The superheroes and the famous characters from film and literature are very popular because of their extraordinary abilities. They can perform magic tricks, defeat evil elements, and rise to the occasion without being afraid. They are fictitious after all, so their personal association can never be found. All that is there is the comfort of knowing that there is someone to accept the attention of the adoring fans.
What does this worship bring? It can’t guide daily behavior, nor can it give a purpose to life. The mind, if anything, just tricks itself, sort of like how when we watch movies and television we imagine that what we are seeing is real. Once the show ends, however, the illusion dissipates. Similarly, once the association of the famed fictitious character is relinquished, the person is left to again search for their cherished object of worship. Moreover, these unreal characters cannot deliver their dependents from the cycle of birth and death.
With Krishna, not only do you get the real Bhagavan, but you get authorized information aimed at understanding Him and bringing about favorable conditions in life, from beginning to end. With chanting especially the benefits are there at every step of the way. In the beginning, the soul may be hesitant to follow a system of religion, especially when regular recitation of Sanskrit words is required; but there is still Krishna’s association. Then in the middle stages, there may be some attachment to the process, but adherence to the rules and regulations is still there. Finally, in the last stage there is bhava, or ecstasy, where no attention is paid to anything except Krishna’s interests. The most significant benefit, of course, is the release from the cycle of birth and death, the return to the spiritual sky, Krishna’s eternal abode.
If we don’t worship Krishna, we will look for the same qualities in others. If others don’t have them, which by definition they can’t, we’ll try to pretend that they do. But once they fail to live up to the expectations placed upon them, misery, sadness, anger, despair, hopelessness, or general bewilderment will surely result. With Krishna none of these defects are there. We can take the celebrated acharyas’ word for it, or we can follow the prescriptions set forth in sacred texts like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam and see for ourselves.
How do we learn more about Krishna, especially if we have no knowledge of Him? The Vaishnava saint, the devotee of Krishna who abandoned the practice of assigning the “god” status to embodied beings, can teach others about vishnu-bhakti, or devotional service. The saints can be likened to television reporters broadcasting messages from a distant land. The difference is that the Vaishnava saints never fail in their recommendations nor will they ever lead anyone astray. For this reason they are equally as worshipable as Krishna. If they are fully immersed in bhakti, in constant Krishna consciousness, how can there be any difference between them and Krishna? Just remembering the gopis and their love for Krishna immediately brings the Lord’s association. In many respects the devotees are loved and adored more than Krishna because of the example they set for others.
Rather than create many gods, we can accept the real one, the beloved foster son of Mother Yashoda and Maharaja Nanda. The residents of Goloka Vrindavana are so immersed in worship of Krishna that they don’t even pay attention to whether or not the Lord is God. He is simply their beloved, the darling of Vrajabhumi, the sight for their sore eyes distressed over the involuntary blinking of the eyes and the stretched out moments of time not spent in His company. Krishna doesn’t disappoint those who approach Him in full humility and kindness. He is the greatest superhero, the strongest enemy of the miscreants, and the kindest of all people to have ever existed. His unique feature set makes Him eligible for worship from every type of person, irrespective of their age or geographic location. Those who create gods are doomed to suffer heartache, but those who create a transcendental home for the Lord and His names within their heart will never be without comfort.
From Shri Krishna take your sustenance,
Make chanting His names your only penance.
Of course in no way is this a punishment,
His company to your internal bliss augment.
In conditioned state man still has the need to serve,
But ignoring Krishna does not find pleasure he deserves.
In forgetfulness many fake Krishnas man will create,
Will look for those who qualities of God try to imitate.
But man is flawed, of supreme worship he is not eligible,
To serve as the supreme lord of all he is not capable.
Just worship the real Krishna and give up the pretend,
To Krishna’s words and talks of His glories your ears lend.
Accept and serve the real Lord as the gopis do,
Soul’s real position of happiness will come to you.