Surprise Praise

Krishna's lotus feet“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.34)

Let’s say you have a regular group of friends. Whatever it is that you do in your leisure time, you do it with these select few people. Going to the movies, eating out at a restaurant, attending a festival, watching television – nothing is done alone. Your friends are there with you, and for better or worse, you’re stuck with them. These are the people you are loyal to. Now within this group, there is a certain dynamic, a rapport established. In a one-on-one conversation, the two parties are forced to engage in some kind of meaningful dialogue, but with groups of three or more, the conversations are a little different. Perhaps there is constant joke-making or maybe there are quick discussions on many topics.

For this hypothetical scenario, let’s say that one person in the group isn’t particularly nice to you. Deep down, you know they don’t dislike you, but the nature of their behavior towards you is unkindness, wherein they constantly make fun of you. Despite the fact that you know this is how they talk with you, if, for some reason or another, they should one day say something nice to you, something genuinely appreciative of your attributes or your contribution to a particular area, will it not make you feel good? Who doesn’t like to hear kind words coming their way? Surely there might be embarrassment, but praise from someone who otherwise constantly makes fun of you is more noteworthy. It is remembered and appreciated that much more.

If this tendency exists in you, why shouldn’t it also be present in the origin of creation? Just as we have intelligence, the creator has a functioning mind that thinks of things and then does them. As He is the most powerful, simply by His thinking major changes can happen. By a single exhalation, this and many other universes are created, and through an inhalation, everything returns to Him, sort of like the largest boomerang we can think of.

“The origin of the material creation is Maha-Vishnu, who lies in the Causal Ocean. While He sleeps in that ocean, millions of universes are generated as He exhales, and they are all annihilated when He inhales.”  (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.16.37 Purport)

vishnuEvery tendency we see both in ourselves and in others originates from Him. Laughing, crying, stealing, cheating, telling the truth, lifting heavy objects, doing complex mathematics equations – whatever we can think of is rooted in this supreme person. The difference with Him, of course, is that these tendencies can’t harm Him. The original person’s stealing is as good as His rescuing. His smiling is as good as His chastising.

We have documented examples of how this works. In the Bhagavad-gita, a famous text of the Vedic tradition, the origin of matter and spirit mildly rebukes a warrior for growing hesitant prior to battle. Not wanting to fight due to misplaced affection over the fortunes of friends and family members fighting for the opposing side, Arjuna came up with all sorts of excuses to justify his behavior. He used whatever knowledge he had to convince himself that fighting was indeed the wrong course of action, that it was his duty to sit down and give up.

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the value of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy.”  (Bhagavad-gita, 2.2)

Luckily for Arjuna, the most knowledgeable person was his chariot driver. Shri Krishna stepped in and corrected Arjuna, showing some unkindness in the beginning. When this criticism comes from a loving teacher, it is only beneficial. You don’t want your student to think that their faulty logic is correct in any way. But Krishna’s kindness continued with an exposition on the differences between matter and spirit, and how every person has a duty to fulfill based on their inherent qualities. Krishna explained that Arjuna’s duty in dharma was to fight, but He still presented the same case using every other type of logic. Whether Arjuna thought that the individual takes birth and dies within the life cycle of the body or whether he believed in the eternality of the soul, the right option was still to fight ahead.

The same Krishna would give smiling glances to His dearmost devotees in Vrindavana. To them He would speak kind words. Since He played the part of a dependent to mother Yashoda and Maharaja Nanda, Krishna refrained from offering instruction. Instead, He just played like a loving child, accepting the affection of His parents and well-wishers. Thus in both cases, whether running around as a happy son or rebuking His cousin for the faulty logic invoked to shirk his duties, Krishna’s behavior was beneficial to the parties involved.

Lord KrishnaAs we are all His sons and daughters, there is an inherent link to Him. Though the chosen mood of interaction can vary, there is no doubt that a strong friendship exists. We may not know that God exists or that He is a personality, but this doesn’t eliminate us from candidacy for friendship. Shri Krishna is the best friend in this regard, as willful defiance of His wishes and intentional ignorance on the issue of His existence do not offend Him in any way.

Just as the friend that usually makes fun of us can brighten our day with a few kind words, just imagine the pleasure the Supreme Lord feels when He hears words of praise. Of course there is a psychological component to the joke-making from the person in our group. Rather than deal with mushiness, rather than feel embarrassed by acting too nicely to someone else, it is easier for them to hide behind humor, to use humor as a defense mechanism to keep others at a distance.

In the relationship with Krishna, there is no need for such walls. The relationship is deeply personal after all, so the praise offered His way doesn’t need to be broadcast to others. Simply chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, in the proper mood can put a smile on Krishna’s face. Actually, just the dedicated effort alone is an indication of affection. If we feel so inclined, we can speak out our thoughts or record them in books, songs and poems. These are already nice outlets for expressing emotions, so in the realm of spirituality they gain the most receptive audience. Krishna’s ears are all-pervading, so He can hear kindness from any place.

Though in the higher modes of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, there is no expectation of reciprocation, know for certain that Shri Krishna responds to the kind words of the devotees. An indication of His return of affection is the continued ability to offer that praise. With our friends and family we may feel embarrassed to say nice things, but with God not only can the guard be let down easier, but the praise can continue to be offered, day after day, month after month. The saints who distribute the message of divine love and teach others how to connect with the storehouse of virtues pray along these lines, to have only one thing in life after life: devotion to God.

“O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service, birth after birth.”  (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.29)

Lord Chaitanya worshipingLord Chaitanya was Krishna Himself appearing on earth to distribute the message of bhakti-yoga to as many people as possible. In a state of pure humility, He asked to only have devotion to Krishna in birth after birth, not concerning Himself with beauty, wealth, or good education . This means that nothing can check devotional service. Not a low birth, a troubling circumstance, a lack of beauty, nor loneliness.

Know that the concept of an existence comes from Krishna, so from there we have a point of glorification. One needn’t be highly learned in this area, as just a simple “thanks” for having friends, family and food on the table serves as a point of entry into the relationship with God. Chanting His names and giving service to man by teaching Him to revive the same connection brings pleasure to the divine master, ensuring that there are endless future opportunities for service. The pleasure He feels through kindness offered His way gives pleasure to the glorifier as well, making for a wonderful friendship that never has to break.

In Closing:

With your friends engage in play,

Sometimes jokes to them you’ll say.


One friend in particular may be mean,

Never from them a kind word is seen.


Yet if suddenly nice by surprise,

Feel happiness of immense size.


Know that God for too long you’ve forgotten,

Thus now stuck in material misery so rotten.


But just one kind offering that will change,

To Supreme Lord never is love strange.

Categories: devotional service

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