“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.15)
Friend1: Let me ask you about intoxication.
Friend1: I know that it’s one of the things prohibited for the person following the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga.
Friend2: Yes. That along with meat eating, gambling and illicit sex.
Friend1: It’s only in the regulative period, though. If bhakti is love and devotion, then it can’t be based on the existence or absence of any outside behavior.
Friend2: That’s true, but the more advanced people will still follow the principles. They won’t hold on to them for dear life, but from knowledge they know that there is no use for such things as intoxication and illicit sex.
Friend1: The reason I’m asking is that I think the person habituated to intoxication would have a difficult time giving it up.
Friend2: There’s no doubt about it.
Friend1: And not just giving it up because it’s formed as a habit – they will have a hard time understanding why they should make any change. After all, it’s kind of fun to escape from your surroundings for a little bit.
Friend2: Right. They look forward to that experience. They like getting extra happy and doing silly stuff.
Friend1: Exactly. So they’ll think to themselves, “Why should I give up this fun? I see no need.”
Friend2: The thing to understand is that in bhakti-yoga you’ll eventually feel a similar high, but of a different nature.
Friend1: If it’s similar then how is it different? Are you trying to confuse me?
Friend2: [laughing] No. Here’s what I mean. How does the high from intoxication happen?
Friend1: A chemical reaction.
Friend2: Sure, but what do the chemicals do? They remove inhibitions. Inhibitions are there from past experience, i.e. practical knowledge. The chemicals make you less aware; they make you dumber in a sense.
Friend1: So you’re saying the high is due to not being so aware?
Friend2: Exactly. By losing knowledge, you’re becoming temporarily happy. It’s a blissful ignorance kind of thing. The knowledge doesn’t change, though. What’s right today will still be tomorrow, after the effects of the chemicals have worn off. So you’re basically getting a temporary sensation which attacks your cognitive skills.
Friend1: That can’t be a good thing. But who would want to be so aware all the time? I don’t want to think about my exam next week. I don’t want to keep remembering that family member I lost to a disease. Why not let me forget for a little bit?
Friend2: What I’m trying to tell you is that you can feel an even higher bliss while being totally aware at the same time. That is one thing that results from bhakti-yoga. You give up four main things at the beginning while practicing devotion at the same time. If you practice properly and under guidance from a bona fide authority figure, you’ll get the result of being “high” all the time, except this high will be with total knowledge of everything.
Friend1: How is that possible? If you’re in knowledge, won’t you keep in mind all the tragedies around the world? How can you be high if you are aware of your impending death? How can you be happy if you know that so many others are suffering?
Friend2: You’re happy because you’re armed with the vision of spirit that comes from assimilating the highest knowledge. Since I know that the origin of all matter and spirit is all-attractive, I don’t need to be sad. Since I know that spirit lives on, regardless of what shape the temporary body is in, I don’t need to be worried about the material fortunes of others. From bhakti-yoga, I know that the yogis in devotion never return to this world that is temporary and miserable. They attain the highest perfection, so they don’t worry. They are only happy.
Friend1: How does this spiritual vision work?
Friend2: In the height of devotion, you see only the spiritual nature of every living entity. You love not only the dog in the home, but also the cows that live on the farm. You see the soul inside of both the priest and the convict. More importantly, you’re so happy to have the chance to glorify the Supreme Spirit on a daily basis. No matter what happens to you, you’ll have this chance going forward. This is promised by the beneficiary in bhakti-yoga.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: And you don’t need the help of any chemicals. You’ll feel this way all the time. That is the meaning to Krishna consciousness. You’re always conscious of Krishna, who is the Supreme Lord in His original form. You’re always aware of His mercy that is available to all. His names, forms and pastimes remain in your mind. If that is the case, what need is there for intoxication? Why become forgetful when remembering brings a thrill that runs through your body?
Friend1: That’s a good point. So if we remember the right things, then we won’t need to get high. I can see that this will be a tough sell, especially to someone who won’t trust that a natural high like that can exist.
Friend2: Indeed it is, but that’s why there are the regulative principles. If you have faith in the beginning, then you’ll eventually reap the reward. For the doubting soul, there is no hope in this life or the next. It’s good to be skeptical of wild claims, but you should be open-minded to something harmless that gets rid of habits that you know are bad. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. The person who finds Krishna in bhakti-yoga is the greatest winner.
If path of intoxication you choose,
Known that awareness to lose.
Only temporary, to reality back,
Life again your happiness to attack.
When in bhakti-yoga sincerely to try,
To experience in full awareness a high.
Like no other previously felt,
At divine vision heart to melt.