“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)
Friend1: How important is routine in bhakti-yoga?
Friend2: It’s very important. You know that.
Friend1: I’m obviously laying the groundwork for a specific question. But first set the table for me. What things constitute the routine?
Friend2: You chant every day. That’s the most important thing.
Friend1: What do you chant?
Friend2: The holy names. God has many names. He is not limited to one. In the Vaishnava tradition we take Krishna to be the most potent name. Rama is a close second. Hare is the name for God’s energy.
Friend1: So is chanting all there is to the daily routine?
Friend2: It can be. If you have more time, if you’re eager to do more service, there are other things.
Friend1: Like what?
Friend2: There’s cooking. Instead of preparing food for your own satisfaction, you make things that God would like. He outlines those foods, which are in the mode of goodness, in the Bhagavad-gita [9.26].
Friend1: How do you present the food to God?
Friend2: There is something called the deity. God is formless in the sense that He is not limited by His attributes in the way that we are. I am a certain height, but you can’t say that God is. I have eyes, but they can’t see through walls. God’s eyes can see everything. The deity is His mercy upon us. Though it looks a certain way, it is merely a depiction of His sweetness. And yet through that depiction the full presence of God comes. Thus the food prepared for Him and offered with love is presented before such a form, which can reside in the home or the temple.
Friend1: Nice answer. Very thorough.
Friend2: Condescension duly noted.
Friend1: Okay, so you’re doing things like this every day. You’re also praising Him, right?
Friend2: Of course. Why wouldn’t we? As you can tell, in devotional service your whole life is dedicated to God. Even if it looks otherwise, that you’re working to earn a paycheck to be spent by your family, if your mind is in a certain direction everything that you do is love and devotion.
Friend1: Since bhakti-yoga is endless, someone could ostensibly follow the routine you outlined for years and years.
Friend2: Absolutely. In fact, when they pray to God, they ask that they be allowed to continue this service for lifetime after lifetime.
Friend1: Okay, so here’s my real question. Don’t you ever find that a little odd?
Friend2: Find what odd?
Friend1: That you’re worshiping the same person all the time. Isn’t it weird to keep praising someone, day after day? I’m assuming that if you’re a writer in bhakti, your words are about God. So if you’re writing fulltime, you’re stuck on the same topic every day.
Friend2: Boy, that’s a pretty negative way to look at it.
Friend1: It’s a legitimate question, don’t you think?
Friend2: It would be if all you’ve got is your experience of everything that is not God. Outside of bhakti, if you write a hundred books on a single leader of a nation, it’s a little weird.
Friend1: Yeah, people will think that you’re a groupie. They will think that you’ve got nothing better to do than focus your mind on someone who is fallible.
Friend2: By golly my good friend, you’ve stumbled upon the answer, though you probably don’t realize it.
Friend1: How? What did I say?
Friend2: Fallible. All living beings make mistakes. They have imperfect senses. They are easily illusioned, and they tend to cheat. Therefore it’s a little odd to be so hung up on a human being. God is not this way. He is above defects. His attributes are beyond description. Yet trying to describe them is so blissful.
Friend1: But why not spend some days on other people? Why not focus on the weather, sports, nature, news, or something of this world? Wouldn’t that make going back to bhakti more fun?
Friend2: Your premise is flawed. Why should we have to exclude anything? Whatever we see around us can be explained in terms of bhakti. If God is truly the Lord of all planets and the demigods, then His presence must be in every aspect of life. The swanlike transcendentalist can detect this presence, while the less intelligent will claim that God is absent in everything.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: What you don’t realize is that every writer is doing the same thing we are. They are praising. They are also criticizing. It is said that bhakti is ingrained in the soul; it is the soul’s dharma, or defining characteristic. Hate is nothing more than bhakti inverted. It is like having a mirror and then turning it upside down. The mirror still works, but the image seen is reversed.
Friend1: So you don’t feel like you’re part of a cult? I know that the outsider will think it a little weird that you’re so hung up on God.
Friend2: And we think it’s weird that they’re so hung up on the mundane. We can’t imagine spending your whole life dedicated to someone who doesn’t even know their real identity. We can’t imagine what it’s like to destroy a public figure for a single mistake they have made. We can’t relate to that hate. Bhakti is all-love. Even when there is criticism, it is to get others to turn around to find their true engagement.
Friend1: You didn’t mention how attractive Krishna is. I would think that helps in keeping the flame of devotion lit.
Friend2: That’s a given. If He’s not attractive, why would anyone stay so long on the bhakti path? This devotion to a singular object is fun, most of all. So we’re having fun, and we want everyone to experience the same joy. We know that they won’t find that elsewhere, that they’ll only get glimpses of it. The real thing is the Supreme Lord, and bhakti-yoga is the way to connect with Him.
To continue in service to pray,
To praise Krishna day after day.
On the same person stuck,
A little odd to outsiders struck.
But attention so much already,
On the mundane, thus unsteady.
Creation’s aspects with God included,
Thus in praising Him nothing excluded.