“In summary, to reach the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the highest goal, there are two processes: one process is by gradual development, and the other process is direct. Devotional service in Krishna consciousness is the direct method, and the other method involves renouncing the fruits of one’s activities. Then one can come to the stage of knowledge, then to the stage of meditation, then to the stage of understanding the Supersoul, and then to the stage of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One may either take the step by step process or the direct path. The direct process is not possible for everyone; therefore the indirect process is also good.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 12.12 Purport)
“All religions are the same,” Pete said very sharply to his father, who had been playing kirtana music in the car on their way to the local store to pick up hardware supplies. The father wasn’t up for arguing, for he didn’t feel the time called for it. “All paths lead to the same destination, so I don’t know why you keep talking to me about bhakti-yoga and stuff,” Pete continued. A few weeks later something happened that gave him a different understanding. It also gave Pete’s father an opening to elaborate on the glories of bhakti-yoga, devotional service, in more detail.
It was a typical work morning for Pete. It had snowed the night before, but based on where Pete’s car was parked, there wasn’t any snow to clear. He was ready for work, running a little late in fact. Though there was snow on the ground, the roads were more or less clear. “Okay, I should have a pretty smooth ride to work, “ he thought. But this would be unlike any other morning commute he had ever had.
Halfway through his journey, as per usual Pete got on a major highway. On that road the troubles started. Pete noticed that there was condensation on his windshield. He waited as long as he could until running the windshield wipers. Then he noticed some streaks that were left. “Ah, they salted the road. This has never been a problem before, so I should be fine.” As a habit, Pete hardly ever used his windshield wiper fluid that is standard in modern cars. He would get into debates with his friends over this practice. Pete would boast of how he could see through almost anything on the windshield and that he waited until true emergency situations to tap into the reservoir of wiper fluid.
This morning commute turned into an emergency situation very quickly. With the salt accumulating on the windshield, Pete ran the wipers again. This time there was a larger streak of salt residue left. It was getting very difficult to see. “No sweat. Let me run the wiper fluid,” he thought. But there was a problem. No fluid was coming out. It was very cold that morning, so there was the chance that the wiper fluid was frozen. “Aren’t these things not supposed to freeze,” Pete thought to himself. “I better pull over. This is getting ridiculous.” It was to the point that Pete could barely see the road in front of him. A very dangerous situation indeed, he was fortunate that an exit was fast approaching.
Taking the exit, Pete pulled into the first parking lot he could find. Getting out of the car, he took some snow that was on the ground and used it to wipe the windshield. “Boy, I hope I can make it to work. This is insane.” Stopping helped Pete for a little while, but once back on the highway the same problem arose again. Through good luck and a lot of prayer, Pete was able to make it to work, where he told his officemate Wade what had happened.
“Yeah, your wiper fluid is probably frozen, though I find that surprising,“ surmised Wade.
“I mean I’ve seen the labels for those things. Aren’t they supposed to be good until negative twenty degrees?” asked Pete.
“They are, but you don’t know what kind of fluid is in there, right? When did you last fill it up with fluid?”
Pete explained that until that day he’d never once even opened the hood of the car, that the auto repair shop took care of all that for him. “Yeah, so they might have left the summer solution in there,” responded Wade. “They put different fluids in there because in the summer the winter fluid isn’t as good. It can evaporate and leave you in a similar predicament.”
Pete was still upset. He assumed that all fluids were the same. He also thought if there were indeed differences that the auto repair place would know which one to use. All that had to wait, though. He had a bigger problem ahead of him. The weather forecast showed that it wasn’t going to warm up again until the next morning. Worried of a similar terrifying commute on the way home, Pete called his father and asked for a ride.
After picking him up at the end of the day, Pete’s father heard the story of the morning commute.
“Yeah, so Dad, did you know that the wiper fluids are different based on the season?”
“Yes, I did.”
“That’s not right, though. Why not just keep the winter one in there all the time? Why don’t they tell people this?”
Pete’s father saw the chance now to continue the discussion from a few weeks prior about his son’s claim that all spiritual paths were the same.
“It comes down to desire, son. You made an assumption about the wiper fluid, but actually there is a reason for the difference. People have a different desire in the summer season as opposed to the winter. When you accept something, you have to know which desire it is suited towards. Just like with the discussion on religions we were having recently.”
“Oh boy,” sighed Pete. “Not this again.”
“Well, son, you should take this as a learning experience. The reason there are different religions and religious systems is that there are different desires. There are also different circumstances. In one era,the people may be more prone to killing. So the religion of that time focuses on sin and avoiding it. In another place, someone wants to be a great mystic. Another person in a different place wants a lot of wealth. So that’s why you get different systems.”
“What do you want, Dad? Are you saying that your religion is better than everyone else’s?”
“I’m not saying that I am anyone special, but the path of spiritual life I choose is tailored for those who don’t have any material desires. The sole objective is to connect with God, who is a personality. I have so many other desires and I think so many bad things, but I’m trying my best on this path. I know what it is, who it is suited for, and what to expect.”
Pete seemed a little more open to hearing his father out on this day. Perhaps it was the gratitude he felt for being saved from a dangerous ride home or perhaps he was genuinely interested. He continued to ask questions.
“But Dad, the wiper fluid example shows that in one time of the year something is favorable and in another time it’s not. Is your spiritual path missing something, then? Is it not appropriate for all time periods?”
“That’s a good question. Actually, all other paths are missing something. If you’re after money and wealth, you don’t have renunciation. If you’re after renunciation, you don’t have any possessions that could help you to do things. If you’re after mystic perfection, you’re lacking a guiding force once you get your abilities. The path I’ve chosen, which so many have followed since the beginning of time, is free of defects. It works all the time because it is the direct method of approaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You can take the direct method or the indirect method. Eventually you may decide to accept the direct method after having perfected the indirect method, but still the direct method is superior in all circumstances.”
When there was a lull in the conversation, Pete’s father decided to turn on the stereo and play music. Pete could then hear his father repeating that familiar mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They both heard this sacred sound all the way home. The next morning, Pete returned to his car to find that the wiper fluid was now unfrozen. With his father’s help, he quickly drained the fluid and replaced it with a winter-specific version.
“Thanks for everything, Dad. I’ll make sure to keep an eye out for this in the future.”
“No problem, son. And remember, anytime you’re in trouble, chant the maha-mantra. Chant it all the time, but if you can’t, then at least remember it when you’re in difficulty.”
Religions with different names,
In utility not all the same.
Depending on what exactly you wish,
Renunciation or opulence you cherish.
Follow bhakti when with all desires done,
A path complete, a defect not a one.
With regulations take method indirect,
Or straight devotion, success coming direct.