“When the city heard, they became blissful and started singing congratulatory songs. They decorated auspicious kalashas and constructed pavilions.” (Janaki Mangala, 118)
suni pura bhayau ananda badhāva bajāvahiṃ |
sajahiṃ sumangala kalama bitāna banāvahiṃ ||
The purpose of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is to change consciousness. Without a notable shift in the way we think, practice of the yoga of divine love will not be any different from any other kind of practice. One person goes to the store, rents a movie, and then comes home and watches it. Another person attends a gathering where the holy names are sounded, discussions are conducted to delve into the meaning of such a practice and the names contained within the chanting, and sanctified food is eaten. If in both instances the consciousness does not change as a result, the practices are nearly identical. The verse quoted above from the Janaki Mangala gives us one way of telling whether or not consciousness has changed for the better.
If you spend time with miserable people on a regular basis, will you not eventually become miserable too? If they take alcohol and drugs all the time, will not you be swayed into their behavior a little bit? Perhaps if you are strong willed you will not imitate their actions, but your consciousness will still be focused on such a lifestyle. It would make sense then that if you wanted to become pure of mind, increasing your knowledge in the process, you would look to change the type of association.
The mind is the measuring stick to see whether the association is having an effect. The association doesn’t necessarily have to involve physical presence. Television and radio are examples that show how this works. Just by hearing or watching something, our outlook on life can change. If we constantly hear and see these things, then they will be at the forefront of our thoughts. Our thoughts then drive our activities, which are the final indication of the shift in consciousness.
In bhakti-yoga, one should start thinking of the Divine. Why? Because from that thought process all other unwanted things go away. Anartha is the Sanskrit word for an unwanted element. At its root, it means the negation of artha, which means that which is profitable. Everyone desires profit. This doesn’t have to be of the financial variety, wherein you start a business and make money selling a good or service. The worker is as much interested in profit as the owner of the establishment. The profit for the worker comes in the form of a salary. For the farmer it is the yield of the crops. For the loving mother it is the protection of her children. For the husband it is the blissful association of his wife. For the leader of the country it is the satisfaction and wellbeing of his citizens. Since everyone wants profit, everyone inherently tries to avoid anarthas, or things which are not profitable.
An anartha is like having a leak in the roof. If you erect a building to live in, it will have a roof on top. The roof protects you from the scorching rays of the sun in the summer and the chilling snow and rain in the winter. If the roof has a leak in it, its profitability diminishes. Imagine if you did all the hard work to install the roof yourself. The desired profit is a stable and secure home. If the roof is faulty, then your work was not profitable. It ended up being a waste of time.
Similarly, to live a life full of hatred, anger, despair, envy, chaos, tumult, and dread is not profitable for the living spirit, who is full of vitality. We have a life force for a reason, and it is not to eat, drink and be merry. The seemingly magnetic pull of intoxicants shows a desire to escape from the life solely devoted to sense gratification, which provides no lasting happiness whatsoever. Chemicals will not change the situation, though. Only a genuine shift in consciousness, towards an object who is completely pure, will eliminate anarthas and keep one steadily balanced in thought.
We can tell whether practicing bhakti-yoga, as it is passed on since time immemorial by the keepers of the faith who are not envious of the Supreme Lord and who consider Him to be the best well-wishing friend, is having an influence based on our outward behavior. To see how this works, we can look to the example of the residents of Ayodhya. A long time ago, they got the news that their beloved Rama had won a contest of strength in the kingdom of Janakpur. He was set to marry Janaka’s daughter Sita.
Rama was the eldest son of King Dasharatha, and so He was to one day take over the throne. By getting married, He would have a beautiful wife to help Him in His religious observances. Ruling over a kingdom is considered a religious duty if one follows protocol. Even farming and doing menial labor are aligned with spiritual life if the consciousness is properly situated. Such was the case in Ayodhya, as the people started singing auspicious songs, filling up kalashas, and erecting pavilions upon hearing the good news.
From this verse from the Janaki Mangala, we can tell that everyone in Ayodhya tasted the fruit of bhakti-yoga practice. They essentially had a temple in every home. If you were a passing stranger, you could knock on any door and meet a person who was God conscious. As a result, any person would be kind, sweet, humble, generous, and extremely knowledgeable. They may not have known the theory of relativity, but they knew that Shri Rama was great and that His happiness equated to their happiness. That was more than enough knowledge for them. They knew that service to Him was the highest occupation for any spirit soul.
Rama is God, an incarnation of the original Personality of Godhead. He is the detail behind the abstract conception. He is ever youthful, extremely beautiful, and full of transcendental features. Thinking of Him is bhakti-yoga. To start thinking of Sita and Rama all the time is the best way to change consciousness. Keeping them in the mind is the effect from chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and maintaining good association. It is the fruit of hearing from the Ramayana and other Vedic texts which describe their activities.
In Ayodhya, the people had the best association in Rama’s company and the influence of His brothers and parents. Today, we can keep the same association by hearing about Rama’s activities. Even hearing of this reaction in the people of Ayodhya is a way of keeping good association. And when that association leads us to start thinking of God all the time, worshiping Him in our home, thereby making it a kind of temple, then we’ll taste the fruits of bhakti-yoga practice.
To know if practice is real,
A change in consciousness must feel.
Bhakti-yoga for this purpose is meant,
In bad association no more time spent.
Anarthas gradually to wash away,
And Sita and Rama in mind to stay.
People in Ayodhya Rama in mind kept,
At chance to hear of Him they leapt.
Joyous reaction when good news did sound.
Then turned every home into sacred ground.
Categories: janaki mangala