“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)
Friend1: I’ve come to a realization.
Friend2: What’s that?
Friend1: Not everyone’s experience through life is the same.
Friend2: You’re realizing this now?
Friend1: [laughing] You know what I mean.
Friend2: I’m not sure.
Friend1: I tend to compare others to myself, especially if they are younger. For example, when I was a teenager, I was terrified of having to drive. I thought that I would never get my license because I was too afraid. So I waited until I was 18 before I started.
Friend2: And you could have gotten it sooner?
Friend1: Yeah, about a year before that. When I see kids today learning to drive at 15 and a half sometimes, I wonder how they are able to do it. I can only go from my own experience, in which I was very afraid.
Friend2: Yeah, a lot of kids are fearless. Especially when you’re younger, you think you can conquer the world, that nothing is going to harm you.
Friend1: I tend to do the same projection for almost everything. If I studied all the time while in school, I can’t relate to those who don’t. I always did my homework on time; I never left anything until the last minute. I see others who procrastinate constantly, and I can’t relate.
Friend2: Their attitude is totally different.
Friend1: And then think about those who don’t go to college. They work straight out of high school. Or maybe they go on an extended road trip. I don’t know what that’s like. I knew that I had to go to college after graduating high school. There was no other choice. I couldn’t imagine what I would have done otherwise.
Friend2: The old “when I was your age” speech probably applies here. That makes it difficult to relate to others.
Friend1: So I’ve realized practically that the experience through life is not the same. Some might become more intelligent than me at an earlier age. In some cases, it might take them longer to realize the same thing.
Friend2: I hope you know that you’re making an interesting point about how spiritual life is perceived.
Friend1: I don’t. Please explain.
Friend2: Think about it. A person decides that they’re done hankering after material rewards. They don’t want to accumulate more than the next guy. They know that finding a significant other and settling down is not the pinnacle achievement in life. They take to renunciation as a means of increasing their spiritual awareness. They give up meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. On Friday nights, instead of heading out to the local pub they’re gathering with like-minded people and congregationally chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend1: I think I see what you’re saying. Who is going to relate to that if they’ve never done it?
Friend2: Right, because that is not a phase of life for most people. The outsider won’t look at the sincere seeker on the bhakti path and think, “Oh okay, that’s what I went through at that age. It’s good that they’ve found this.”
Friend1: They’re going to think the opposite, in fact. “What in the world are they doing? At their age, I was partying all the time, enjoying life. I wasn’t escaping from the world. I wasn’t forcing myself into poverty and hoping that some sacred chant was going to fix everything.”
Friend2: Bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is the meaning to life, but if someone has never tasted that sweet fruit, how will they be able to relate? At any age, if a person is still miserable swinging on the pendulum of hankering and lamenting, how can they possibly understand the unmotivated and uninterrupted love the devotee offers towards their beloved Shri Krishna, the all-attractive Supreme Lord?
Friend1: Didn’t Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu take sannyasa at the age of twenty-four? I bet you no one during that time could relate to Him.
Friend2: Who ever takes to the renounced order of life anymore? That institution is mostly filled with cheaters who use the garb as a way to eat without having to work. Full renunciation is the last stage in life, so not surprisingly a person is usually quite old when they enter it. For such a young person to give up everything was quite impressive. No one could dare say a word to Him, since no one could possibly relate. That made His message all the more powerful. There was gravitas behind His words.
Friend1: Hmm, I just had another realization.
Friend2: What’s that?
Friend1: Though someone like me can’t relate to the young sannyasi like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or Ramanujacharya, they can relate to me.
Friend2: Oh, most definitely.
Friend1: Though the person practicing bhakti-yoga might be way younger than me, they know all about hankering and lamenting. They are familiar with chasing after a reward, getting it, and then remaining unsatisfied. Though they have a different experience through life, they are able to relate with anyone.
Friend2: Makes you appreciate them all the more, doesn’t it? So fortunate are we to have them in this world. Blessed are the works which describe their life and teachings, which live on forever and which relate to people of any time period.
Same thing happened to me too,
Stage of life also I went through.
Uniform all experiences are not,
Other perspectives some have got.
Shows that difficult to know from outside,
Bhakti-yoga, pure love for God at heart’s inside.
The bhakta with all to relate despite age,
Armed with eyes of shastra and wisdom of sage.