“Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.14)
Jan was ready to go home. It had been a fun day. Her good friend Megan was getting ready to marry her sweetheart of many years, Steve. In preparation, Megan reserved a day for trying out different wedding dresses, and so she invited her closest friends to join her. They were in the wedding party as well, so they got to look at some of the bridesmaid outfits.
Jan watched with her friends as Megan tried on dress after dress. The establishment kindly served wine throughout, and all consumed to their hearts’ content, with Jan being the lone exception. When it came time to go home, Sally asked if someone could give her a ride, as she did not feel fit to drive. Jan was more than happy to oblige. On the ride home, they chatted about the experience.
“Megan’s dress is so gorgeous,” said Sally.
“I know. She is going to make such a beautiful bride. I am so happy for her and Steve, “ replied Jan.
“It took him so long to propose. They are a cute couple, but don’t you think she talks about him too much? The whole day was just ‘Steve this’ and ‘Steve that’.”
“You’re right,” replied Jan laughingly. “It’s like she has Steve consciousness!”
A little later on in the ride, the discussion turned more serious.
“Thanks for giving me a ride home,” said Sally. “I was in no condition to drive, with all that wine they gave us. I drank way more than everyone else.”
“Oh, it’s no problem.”
“You’re so lucky that you don’t drink. I think I need to cut down. I had too much today. But then it tastes so good. How are you able to go without it?”
“It’s not that hard, really.”
“I see, but aren’t you tempted in the least? I’ll definitely give it up if I become pregnant, but short of that I can’t see going more than a week or so without at least one drink.”
“I really have no interest in it.”
“So, you’re not suffering?” asked Sally, who always wanted to know the real reason for her friend’s principles. This was as good a time to ask as any, she thought.
“Actually, whatever good feelings you get from drinking, I have a pure version of that feeling all the time, “ continued Jan.
“Wow, that’s deep. How are you able to feel that way?”
“Well, I don’t want to get all religious on you, but it comes from practicing bhakti-yoga. Basically, one of the core philosophical points is that we’re all meant to serve somebody. In Sanskrit that property is called dharma.”
“What do you mean by serving? Like doing good to others?”
“Sort of, but not quite. Dharma relates to the soul, which is tied to the Supreme Soul, who is God. So the soul is really meant to serve God. It’s not based on faith or assumption or fear. It’s just the way things are. So if you serve God, you actually become really happy.”
“Oh, okay. But what does drinking have to do with it? Why can’t you drink and serve God at the same time?”
“The service can be in any kind of activity, but in order to qualify as bhakti-yoga, the consciousness has to be right. Like your heart has to be in it. Sort of like how Megan’s really into Steve and this wedding, when you’re serving God your consciousness has to be pure. Drinking makes the consciousness impure.”
Sally admitted she was having a hard time following, though she couldn’t disagree with any of the points Jan had made. She was still a little concerned that her friend was sacrificing too much.
“But don’t you think you’re missing out on a lot of fun? I believe in God too, don’t get me wrong. It just seems like you’re sacrificing a lot to meet some better end in the afterlife.”
“That’s the thing, though. It’s not only for the afterlife. It’s to be happy in this life. Service is what makes each of us happy, and when we serve God we are happiest. It means finding true happiness in this life.”
“Then what about the afterlife? Where do you go?”
“If you’re practicing bhakti-yoga purely, you don’t really care about that. In any other kind of service, even if it seems religious on the outside, you’re always worrying. Megan is so happy now, but going forward she will always worry about Steve and how their marriage is going. That’s only natural, because one day it has to end. We’re all going to die, so whatever we do outside of service to God is temporary, which means we’ll always be afraid.”
“So, you don’t worry?” asked Sally.
“Not about the afterlife. It’s sort of like that saying ‘a watched pot never boils’. Whatever happens after death is in the hands of the higher authorities. I can only enjoy life now. And I choose to enjoy by serving God through chanting His names, reading about Him, and always thinking about Him. I leave the rest to Him. I am confident that this is the right way to enjoy, too. We’re all destined for the same fate of death, but if you’re always worrying, you’re not enjoying life, are you?”
“No, that’s true. This all seems pretty interesting, but I’m about to pass out. Promise me you’ll tell me more tomorrow when I’m refreshed.”
“You bet. Call me in the morning so that I know you’re okay.”
“Will do. Thanks for dropping me home.”
After dropping off her friend, Jan went home and happily chanted on her japa beads: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. She pondered over her good fortune of having so many close friends and their tolerance for her lifestyle choices. Most of all she felt thankful for the opportunity to always serve her beloved Krishna by calling out His names and describing His glories to others.
When so many things to go without.
On life’s fun not missing out?
Devotees this way questioned,
When four principles mentioned.
But true happiness in service know,
Best when directed to Krishna so.
Joy in this life, during and after abound,
For devotion in whatever circumstances found.