“But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.40)
“What if you’re wrong about everything you’ve told me? What if the entire thing is a lie and you’re just the last person to figure it out? What if reincarnation isn’t real? Won’t you have wasted your life worrying about the afterlife? What if this one life is all we get? What if the Supreme Personality of Godhead isn’t originally a beautiful youth, who holds a flute in His hands, wears a peacock feather in His hair, and sports an enchanting smile? What if everything you’ve read from your sacred texts was made up by creative artists in the vein of the modern day science-fiction writer? Won’t it all have been a waste?”
These are common questions posed to all believers, be it of a spiritual tradition or not. It is natural to worry over an effort going to waste. Especially with respect to the most important thing in life, the reason for living and how to go about meeting it, who wants to be wrong? Who wants to waste their time, effort, faith, hope, and vitality on a lie? But actually, the fear itself can help us to solve the problem. As in math and science it is often helpful to disprove the negation, seeing how faith is currently invested sheds some light on the matter.
What do we mean by this? Well, if the question of “what if you’re wrong” is posed to the sincere spiritual seeker, it can be returned to the doubting soul as well. It is only fair that if you get to ask me a question, I can ask the same one back to you. To the materialist, we can be just as inquisitive. Here “materialist” covers the broader spectrum of the “non-devoted.” One person may crave more wealth, opulence and fame than another, but if both are ignorant of the true purpose of an existence, they can be lumped into the “materialist” category. A more accurate definition would be “someone who knows only maya, or illusion.” Maya is the Sanskrit term to describe “that which is not,” with the “not” referring to the Absolute Truth, the non-differentiated energy that gives life to everything.
“So, my dear friend, what if you’re wrong about this person being good? What if you’re wrong about that band being the best in the world? What if you’re wrong about this athlete being honest, kind, charitable, and an all-around good guy? What if you’re wrong about this president being different? What if he really does lie, cheat and steal like the rest of them? Then what? What are you going to do? Won’t all your worship have been a waste? And yes, it indeed was worship, for you offered undivided attention. You forked over so much money as well in buying what they were selling. Therefore, will you not waste your effort?”
Indeed, by definition so many have been wrong about so many things since time immemorial. They continue to be wrong to this day. For example, in recent times the public gave so much attention to notable athletes. These athletes had a good public image. They said the right things. They supported the right causes. If polls were taken, their favorability numbers would be through the roof.
And yet, as is the nature of man, they proved to be fallible. Their transgressions made it into the public spotlight. And what was the reaction of the previously adoring fans? Was it support? Was it forgiveness? For most, it was anger. And why wouldn’t you be angry if you were completely fooled by someone else? Those covering the news obviously choose to gloss over their mistake in judgment, as they simply shift their faith to someone else in the future. When that person fails to live up to the “godly” status, the same adoring fans will turn the other way.
If people weren’t wrong all the time about their preferences and likes, there would not be any hate. There would be no need to moderate comments on websites and blogs. There would be no need to steer clear of “haters.” Indeed, many in the public eye are so famous that they have groups of haters, who look for any excuse to criticize. A famous rock band originally had a small group of adoring fans, but as their popularity increased and others became envious, they soon acquired so many haters. The haters are worshipers also, in a sense, but they were previously fans. By their own behavior they admit that they were horribly wrong, that their preference resulted in a complete waste of time.
Those deluded by maya have shown themselves to be wrong so many times. The summit to an existence in maya is increased opulence. Well, so many who are extremely beautiful are incredibly unhappy. The same goes for those who have a lot of money. Previously, the young adult longed for the day they would find wedded bliss, but in adulthood they find marriage to be very difficult. Simply living with someone else all the time and compromising desires and preferences is a tough task.
And what comes from being wrong? Is there an increase in knowledge? Time was spent immersed in something, for sure, but then again that time could have been spent elsewhere. More importantly, at the time of death, the living entity is no wiser than when they started as an infant. Gifted with a birth in the most intelligent species, the living entity failed to open their eyes to the reality of the world in time to make the most of their vitality.
In the devotional life, there is real love. This means that it cannot be checked. The corresponding Sanskrit term is “prema.” Prema is distinguished from kama, or material love, by the fact that the object receiving the love can never do anything to remove the sentiment in the person offering the love. In simpler terms, this means that the devotee can never be made to feel wrong. If someone always chants the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” in a pure manner and under the guidance of proper authority figures, when reaching the mature stage nothing can take them away from their chanting. They hold on to the holy name as their life and soul, for they know the name is identical to the person it addresses.
The name Krishna is the same as the person Krishna, who is the source of the material and spiritual worlds. Everyone is attracted to Him in some way; it’s just that the devotees know more about Him. They find His internal nature appealing, whereas the non-devoted are taken in by the external nature. In the latter there are constant mistakes, for the objects in that energy are not the original blissful personality. In the former, one can never be wrong, for the Supreme Lord is the Absolute Truth.
There will always be skeptics, and so for even those worried that a lifetime in devotion could end up leaving the worshiper with nothing, note that the time spent is blissful as well; the reward is not solely reserved for the end. It is in the nature of the spirit soul to serve. One is happiest when they are serving others; this fact cannot be denied. Only in devotional service, the peak of religious practice, does one get to serve without motivation and without interruption. By definition, this makes one extremely happy. Therefore bhakti-yoga becomes the most wonderful utilization of time in this short, but auspicious lifetime. If one is always doubtful they will not take up bhakti-yoga, and they will make the worst possible mistake in missing out on the Lord’s constant association.
What if everything is wrong,
And wasted is your effort long?
Instead of opulence to taste,
Your faith in God went to waste.
In truth wrong is the way right now,
Otherwise hatred towards figures how?
In devotional service nothing to lose,
Blissful is life when love for God to choose.