“The whole process of spiritual culture is aimed at changing the heart of the living being in the matter of his eternal relation with the Supreme Lord as subordinate servant, which is his eternal constitutional position.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.24 Purport)
Girish: I got one for you today.
Shankar: You always do. Shoot.
Girish: I think I can tell the difference between people who chant regularly and those who don’t.
Shankar: What do you mean? Like people you run into on the street? You’re a clairvoyant or something?
Girish: That’s telling the future, Mr. Smarty Pants.
Shankar: Or an Iron Maiden song.
Girish: [laughing] If you’re implying that I’m a mind reader, then no. I’m talking about within devotional circles.
Shankar: So if you’re in a sat-sanga or sadhu-sanga, you can tell which people are more “sat” than the others?
Girish: I think so.
Shankar: Oh, this should be good. Let me hear it.
Girish: The people that are really into it tend to be more peaceful. There’s this calm about them. I can’t explain it fully in words. It seems as if peace has conquered them.
Shankar: That makes sense. They say that chanting the holy names is the process for purification with the most efficacy in the present age.
Girish: Yes, I am familiar with the philosophy. Thanks for reminding me [sarcasm].
Girish: On that note, I can’t help but think of myself whenever I see the transformation in these people.
Shankar: Like how you were before you took up bhakti-yoga seriously?
Girish: Yeah, exactly. Believe me, I’m no sadhu right now, and I can’t say that I’m free of faults, but I do remember how I was before.
Shankar: I’m not sure I do.
Girish: Never at peace. Specifically, I used to envy everyone. I should have been happy when good things happened to friends and people I knew, but I never was. Deep inside I was jealous. “How come they can get girls and I can’t? How come they make so much more money? They must know people.”
Shankar: I can certainly relate. It’s difficult to not be envious. I guess it’s rooted in insecurity.
Girish: Definitely. Besides envy, I was always buying things. I had my car phase. I would always check out the newest cars that would come out. Some I would dream of buying and others I would set up a strategy for how to trade up. I bought one car and then wanted another one later on.
Shankar: Yeah. There’s a reason we see so many car commercials during sports programs on television.
Girish: And then there were the technological gadgets. I never had enough. I had to have backups for everything. I had to have the best cases. From this one store online, I used to purchase things at least once a month. I would also binge-watch movies and television shows. I can’t tell you how much time I spent copying, converting and storing my DVD collection.
Shankar: How do you feel looking back on it now?
Girish: I’m so embarrassed. That’s the best word to describe it. I especially get reminded of it when I talk to others. This is why I have a hard time criticizing them. I feel so bad telling them that they’re on the wrong track. Who am I to pass judgment on them? In that time in my life, I was likely much worse than they are now.
Shankar: Well, your empathy is a sign of intelligence. It shows that you learned something from your experiences, that it helped you to understand others better.
Girish: Thanks. I need to get over this. I cringe anytime I hear harsh criticism of such people. I feel like I couldn’t do it myself. It would be hypocritical of me to say anything.
Shankar: Well, let me ask you this. How did things change for you? How did you go from being very envious to not so much?
Girish: You know the answer to that. I started reading bhakti-yoga philosophy, the science of self-realization. I started immersing myself in the bhakti culture. Most importantly, I started regularly chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Shankar: Well, then why can’t you share those experiences with others? This way you’re not criticizing them directly. You’re merely speaking the truth by telling a story. You’re giving an account of your personal history.
Girish: Yeah, I guess I wouldn’t have a problem with that.
Shankar: That is an important point to get across to others. These teachers in the line of instruction starting from Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they all adopted the bhakti life with firm conviction due to their intelligence. And we know that intelligence gets strengthened from personal experience. Practical realization, vijnana, is as or more important than theoretical knowledge, jnana.
Girish: So you’re saying that when I explain to someone that they are not their body, that this life is meant for understanding and serving God, that I should reference my own life experiences to show to them how things can change?
Shankar: Yours or others that you know. I bet you don’t meet such peaceful people outside of sadhu-sanga, right?
Girish: I sure don’t. Or on the odd chance that I do, it is because of some relationship to God that they have, though it may be from another spiritual tradition.
Shankar: Yeah, so all those things you mentioned previously, seeking money, collecting stuff, buying things all the time – they’re all supposed to bring peace, no? Who doesn’t want peace? Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that there cannot be happiness without peace. So if others want peace, they should adopt the bhakti lifestyle.
Girish: They can’t deny that they are looking for peace. There is no doubt about it. I guess I could try that.
Shankar: Yeah, they say that example is better than precept. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada especially liked to quote that. So you are the example, even though in your humility you may not realize it. Stop being so shy and start sharing your divine self with the rest of the world.
Girish: Alright, just stop it. But I see your point. Hare Krishna.
From assimilating bhakti information,
Person naturally to see transformation.
Envy and hankering now gone,
Fondly God’s features to dwell upon.
Value in memory of tendencies prior,
Useful for describing bhakti’s taste higher.
From chanting in devotion regularly done,
Visibly noticeable that by peace overcome.