“He who meditates on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Partha [Arjuna], is sure to reach Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.8)
The ascendency to the amazing species that is the human being results in, among other things, the ability to remember. Not only is there short-term memory, but the images of times that have long since passed can be conjured up very quickly. The images, the experiences that created them, and the lessons learned in the aftermath are stored in the memory bank, to be utilized when necessary. As more time elapses, however, the past images bring to mind a period of time that is forever gone. Revisiting a bygone age shows that which is no more. Though the conditioned soul may not be aware of this, there is a way to see what the future looks like. The mental picture of what is in store for the purified individual is captured and held on to by reading a set of famous works, which depict the form of the best friend of every living entity, whose association brings the sweetest pleasure.
With the technology available today, you can go back thirty years in time very quickly. Just fire up a movie or a television show that you used to watch a long time ago and immediately you can go back to that time in your life. “Wow, I was here during such and such time. Life was so much simpler back then. Too bad there is no way to go back.” Another emotion that can result is sadness, wherein you realize how quickly things change. “Wow. So many years have passed and what has actually been made of those years? How quickly time passes, and yet we are not advancing at all. What is the point to our existence?”
No matter how hard you try, you can’t get that time back. Look at pictures from your childhood and you’ll see events that you don’t even remember. “Was that really me? I don’t remember any of this. I don’t remember that day. Oh well, that is now lost forever.” In past eras travelling back in time like this wasn’t as easy to do; hence the sadness resulting from nostalgia wasn’t as commonplace. The mind’s tremendous thinking ability incorporates the power of memory, but when focusing on things which are no more and which can never be again, does not that ability become a deficiency?
The advanced intelligence of the human being is there for a reason, though. It is better to have a high school diploma than to be in the first grade. This only makes sense after all, but until that diploma is put to good use, there is no difference between the person who has acquired a sufficient intelligence and one who is in the bottom rung of education, working their way up the ladder of grades within the school system. With advanced intelligence one can notice the pitfalls in life – how death knocks on everyone’s door and how the past can never be recaptured. The unintelligent youth doesn’t have these abilities; hence they don’t suffer from the sadness that comes with its familiarity.
The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, are meant to give us a glimpse into our future. This is ironic, considering that the works were composed so long ago that no one can actually date them. Though images from the past can reveal very quickly how life changes at every second and how time passes too fast to even notice, sounds from the past don’t necessarily have the same effect. Images appeal to emotion, while sound vibrations purposefully sequenced to provide sublime instruction tackle the intellect. A properly situated intellect can direct emotions towards the proper area as well, to something permanent, a composition of spirit that remains in existence forever. With eternality comes changelessness, which means that in the future the entity in question will remain in existence, ready to continue to accept one’s sincere emotions.
The Vedas, though containing information presented in the most ancient language, Sanskrit, describe the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Krishna and His non-different expansions. Vishnu is His primary expansion, having four hands and being opulently adorned. Vishnu and Krishna are the faces behind the names of the Lord. They are the personalities addressed in the callouts in the middle of the night for help. They are the saviors for the distressed looking for answers to life’s most difficult questions.
It is not that the Christians can only believe in one God and one set of values, and others have their own. Rather, with every system, the knowledgebase carries varying degrees of detail. In most popular spiritual traditions, the personal presence and features of the Supreme Lord are not covered. While this makes it easier to convince a wide spectrum of people to believe in God, the dedication to the worship actually suffers.
How does this work exactly? If you’re at school or work and someone tells you that the person in charge is sitting behind a curtain in front of you, you at least know that there is a controller. You respect what they have done through their energies, namely the operation of the company or the school. Appreciation and recognition arrive due to the efforts of the proprietor, but actual worship is very difficult to perform.
Why is it necessary to worship? Rasa, or the sweet taste resulting from personal interaction, is what the living being craves. Depending on the life form’s particular outward manifestation, the interactions have can specific natures. In the advanced animal species, there are the tastes of association through conjugal love, friendship and parenthood. In the human species, the rasas come from so many different outlets, all of which involve service. Just as the heat and light we see around us are rooted in the supremely powerful sun, the tastes that are sought out show that the internal sun, the soul, craves delightful association, the sweetness of transcendental interaction.
Without a tangible object of affection, the energy of man gets misused, or at least not tapped into fully. When the person behind the curtain is revealed, at least an attachment can be formed. One can talk to them, find out what they like, offer service directly to them, and do many other things. The worship represents the full maturation of the acknowledgment of the superior entity’s presence. Hearing the superior is even better than seeing him because the sound vibrations can be remembered and acted upon. Moreover, if the revealed person is given names that speak to their different features and personal glories, the level of association can continue through even more channels.
All of this describes how and why the Vedas choose to provide the most complete information about the Supreme Lord. Without knowing God’s personal aspect, the level of worship adopted must be checked. I can say that I believe in God and love Him, but if I don’t know what He looks like, what His personality traits are, what makes Him happy, and how to address Him, how can that worship consume my life? How can I make devotional service to Him my full-time engagement if I’m not even sure that what I’m doing is pleasing Him?
Vedic literature, compiled by God’s direct representatives, addresses all of these issues. Not only are the personal features of the Lord enumerated, but so are His pastimes, His wishes, and His teachings. The best presentation of His teachings is found in the famous Bhagavad-gita, a poem sung on the battlefield of Kurukshetra by Krishna Himself. The Lord’s qualities are sung throughout the original Vedas themselves, which consist of hymns and songs. The Puranas, and especially the Bhagavata Purana, describe Krishna’s activities. Through stories of His personal descents to earth, the lessons learned from them, and the firsthand accounts of the people who interacted with Him, one can become very familiar with God. The Shrimad Bhagavatam is so glorious that it is considered non-different from Krishna. This means that if you have the Bhagavatam in your house, you have God residing within your home.
Does this mean that you can honor and worship the Bhagavatam like a person? Isn’t that a little weird? The words on the pages create for you Krishna’s image, which is the sweetest and most beautiful of all portraits, so how can the book not be worshiped? In times past, the Bhagavatam and other famous Puranas were held in such high esteem that they weren’t recited by just anyone. The spiritual masters were the safe keepers of these treasures, and they only shared the sublime information with those who were properly qualified, worthy of receiving it.
Think of an expensive vase in the house or even the large screen television that costs so much money. Young children have no idea what expensive is, and neither can they have it explained to them. If you try to tell your child, “Listen, this vase is hundreds of years old. It is very fragile and has somehow remained intact through all these years. I don’t want you touching it, for if you break it I will be very angry. An important antique will be ruined if you break this.”, they may take the stern warning to heart, but they have no concept of time or value. There is no way to properly convey the value of expensive items to someone who is not ready to understand the concept.
Similarly, a person dedicated to meat-eating, intoxication, gambling and illicit sex life cannot appreciate the sound instruction of the Shrimad Bhagavatam and other Vedic texts. This is a harsh assessment, but imagine trying to study while you’re drunk. Imagine trying to drive your car while people are yelling and fighting in the backseat. Obviously you will be distracted from the task at hand and thus not be able to concentrate on what’s important. Sinful activity has the same effect on spiritual awakening, i.e. it kills it. Sins are identified for mankind’s benefit, not to punish him. The more one avoids the most detrimental sinful behavior, the greater their chances of finding transcendental enlightenment are.
What’s the big deal about being enlightened? The future, what is in store in the days ahead, is known to those who are intimately familiar with Shri Krishna and His features. While time has debilitating effects on the outer coverings of the soul, the essence of individuality does not ever change. If it did, we couldn’t survive the effects of time. We may not remember the day we emerged from the womb of our mother, but we were there all the same. What did change was the size of our dwelling, the body. Therefore we can conclude that the soul is transcendental to matter, that it is not affected by outward shifts.
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)
The Vedas reveal that this unique position of the soul continues after death. The soul was also in the same constitutional position prior to the present birth. In this way we see that reincarnation is not a dogmatic principle concocted by the Hindus. Just as it would be silly to say that you don’t believe in the laws of gravity, to say that your specific religious tradition doesn’t believe in reincarnation is invalid. The leaders of the time may deny the factual transmigration of the soul, but such information is never outwardly denied in any religious text. Rather, only in the Vedas, and especially the Bhagavad-gita, is the concept fully explained as an aspect of spiritual science, thereby making it very easy to understand.
God is also a spirit, though He is of a slightly different nature. He has a body that never changes; there is no difference between spirit and matter for Him and He does not have to undergo reincarnation. This means that the images of Krishna described by the Vedas and the qualities the Vedas constantly glorify in their songs do not deteriorate. Krishna’s beautiful form – holding a flute in His hands, wearing a peacock feather in His hair, donning a flower garland around His neck, having the most adorable smile on His face, and wearing the resplendent Kaustubha gem on His chest – exists forever. You can draw a picture of Krishna based on the descriptions found in Vedic literature and look at it every day for the rest of your life and never have to feel sadness over the passage of time. That same Shri Krishna is awaiting the God conscious soul desperate for personal interaction with the one person who never changes.
To reach that end, to find your true destiny, simply chant the names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The steady influx of transcendental sound vibrations to the ear works best at attacking consciousness, removing it from the depressing images of the past and keeping it focused on the bright future ahead. While delighting in discussions about Krishna’s most intimate pastimes may be reserved for only the liberated souls, chanting His names is not. Any person, irrespective of their dedication to sinful or pious life, can relish the transcendental association that comes through honoring and worshiping the holy name. If there is steady chanting of Krishna’s names, gradually all impurities get removed, and the vision of Krishna’s form becomes clearer and clearer. When that pure image is remembered always, what other fate can there be besides liberation, release from the cycle of birth and death, and Krishna’s eternal association in the spiritual sky?
So sad is the passage of time,
Of man’s mortality does it remind.
Look at old pictures and marvel at how much has changed,
Through the many years what have I really gained?
From Vedas get a glimpse into future that is bright,
From words in pages create most beautiful sight.
Gaze upon this form, the Supreme Lord’s image that is clear,
He accepts your praise and attention, removes your fear.
Dive back into the past too much and you’ll find depression,
But remembering Krishna daily leaves lasting impression.
Of knowledge, eternality and unmatched bliss,
Chant His names so that past you’ll no longer miss.
Categories: devotional service