“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6)
“I can’t stay in this room. It is insane right now. Kids are running around everywhere. Some radio program is streaming on the computer. The television is on, where talking heads are discussing the results to the latest game for hours on end. How many analysts do they really need? None of them are that smart anyways. They’ve predicted so many games wrong before. Now they talk endlessly about what they just saw, but if they were really wise they would have said the same things before they actually happened. Anyone can discuss things ex post facto. You don’t even need to be a former player to speak about things you have just witnessed.”
“Okay, now that I have moved to this other room, I think things are better. Time to get started. Oh boy, what is that sound now? Seems like the faucet is leaking in the adjacent bathroom. Water is dripping little by little. If it were falling in a steady stream, there wouldn’t be a problem. But the slow drip is very annoying. I start to anticipate the next drop, unable to concentrate at all. This room might be as bad as the previous one.”
“Alright, this room is quiet. No bathroom nearby. No people around. Time to get to work again. But oh boy, it is really hot in here. I’m starting to sweat. Now I’m getting tired too. This heat is unbearable. It’s all I can think about. I’m trying to block it out, but it is very difficult. Why is it that I can’t seem to catch a break? Wherever I turn there is a problem.”
For analysis purposes in this scenario the exact nature of the work isn’t so important. There is something that the individual wants to do, but for some reason they find obstructions everywhere they turn. In one place the obstructions are obvious and numerous, while in others they are subtle and few. From the differences, we can create a grading system; one room is better than another, and so forth. However, there is still always some obstruction. Religious life can be thought of in this light. It is the search for pleasure without obstruction. Just as everyone else is looking for unlimited happiness, so the spiritual seeker wants to find that area where the highest enjoyment can be found without any distractions.
Not surprisingly, often the initial inclination is to retreat. Leave the busy city so that you can meditate in the quiet surroundings. Chant the sacred syllable of om, which represents the impersonal aspect of the Supreme Lord. If you are turned off by organized religion or just don’t know what a Supreme Being looks like and how He acts, you can at least acknowledge the sum total of everything. There is a complete whole, though it is impossible to fully conceptualize. If someone lives in a single room inside of a house all the time, they may not realize that there are other rooms. They may not know what is on the other floors. Nevertheless, those other aspects do exist. There is a complete picture of the house that exists.
Om addresses the complete manifestation, including both physical objects and sentient beings. Om is difficult to concentrate on, so one naturally seeks shelter in areas where there is limited obstruction. There are several vulnerabilities in this practice. For starters, without knowing the person behind om, the attractiveness of the impersonal view isn’t so great. Without attractiveness there is hardly any attraction. Without attraction steadiness to the endeavor wanes.
Another issue is that even in an area with limited distraction, if there is still attachment to things which are not om, then obstruction exists. If I’m in a quiet room and my ears are ringing from tinnitus, I’m not really in peace, am I? If I’m in a loud room but my mind is focused on something else, able to block out the external noise, then I’m in a better position than the distracted person in the empty room. Thus the external conditions themselves aren’t everything.
All issues are resolved when the person behind the impersonal is understood. In the Vedas He is described by so many names. As He is a person like you and me, He is known as Purushottama. This means that He is the supreme person, better than anyone else. He never loses, so He is known as Ajita. He never falls down, so He is known as Achyuta. He is the source of all men, so He is known as Narayana. He is the husband of the goddess of fortune, so He is known as Shripati. Since He is full of transcendental pleasure, He is known as Rama.
Incorporating all of His many wonderful attributes is the name Krishna, which means “all-attractive.” It is this feature that is considered the original, and it has a corresponding personality. He is bluish in complexion, unbelievably beautiful, ever youthful, always smiling and holding a flute in His hands. Service to Him is the pleasure everyone inherently seeks, though they may not be aware of it. Everyone seeks some kind of pleasure, and they try to find it where there is no obstruction. When they don’t practice bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, they always find some obstruction, be it in external objects, people, or the time factor itself. The person you think is enjoying the most today will eventually lose everything at the time of death. So how much are they really enjoying?
Bhakti-yoga is the platform of no obstruction. Not that outside distractions immediately vanish. One who chants the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and avoids meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex will surely meet with trouble. Others may not like that they are now worshiping God. Others might also try to lure them back into sinful ways, as who wants to hang out with a “downer?”
Indeed, even in circles where everyone is supposedly practicing bhakti-yoga, there are so many obstacles. “Your guru is not as good as my guru. Your guru is not qualified; he is not pure. This organization only services the neophytes, people who are not very smart. This leader is sleeping around. This person is always cursing. That person is only interested in distributing books; his knowledge is not very high. That person is running a business on the side; he is not very pure.”
Such criticisms can dampen the enthusiasm of even the greatest lover of God. If many of those who practice bhakti-yoga are so critical and full of faults, how is there hope for anyone? But actually, the effect of the obstructions is gradually removed when the motives are pure. The purity is strengthened through continuous chanting and service. Most importantly, the more the darling of Vrindavana, Shri Krishna, is remembered, the more He enters the consciousness. His presence then strengthens that consciousness, which in turn strengthens resolve, thereby leading to victory over the attacking enemy known as obstruction.
Loud television, many a rambunctious kid,
Can’t find peace, to deserve this what I did?
From room to room then to go,
Looking for obstructions no.
Spiritual life platform of happiness real,
Limited obstruction, warmth of God to feel.
From bhakti even with so many others being negative,
In remembering Krishna, to prominence rises the positive.