“The Supreme Personality of Godhead is always inclined toward His pure devotees, and by His action it is clear that liberation is not very important for the devotees. Lord Krishna easily gives one liberation, but He does not so easily give one the facility to become a devotee.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.6.18 Purport)
Dharma, artha, kama and moksha – those who are a little intelligent will take these four rewards to be the reason for living. Dharma is religiosity; adherence to right and wrong, following principles and the like. Artha is economic development; acquiring money, basically not being poor. Kama is enjoyment from the things in life; that for which money is spent. Moksha is final liberation; release from ever having to do these things again. One might find it interesting to know that God, who is the origin of everything, can grant any of these rewards very easily. What He reserves for the truly special is bhakti. That does not come so easily, and it is the thing most worth having. Its value cannot be compared to anything else.
Why is bhakti so difficult to obtain? Why are the other rewards so easy? Rewards other than bhakti are not very important in the grand scheme. Sure, in the present generation it’s difficult to find anyone who even wants dharma. Now dharma is up for a vote. It is determined by the community organizer, the activist for a particular cause. Never mind from where they came, what they do for a living, what their qualities are – if they can accuse others of being bigoted, insensitive or mean, they get to create a new system of right and wrong.
Artha and kama exist already for everyone to some degree. Liberation would seem to be the most difficult to get, but it is actually in the same category as the other three. It is simply the negation of kama. You want to enjoy something, and when you’re sick of that enjoyment you want to get rid of it. That avoidance is a kind of liberation. The whole cycle of birth and death ends with moksha; you won’t have to do anything anymore.
Bhakti is love. It is reserved exclusively for God. There cannot be bhakti towards anyone else because no one else can grant us what God can. No one else lives forever in their present form. No one else has lived forever in the same body. So love offered to anyone else cannot be pure; it must end at some point. Bhakti never leaves us, but it must be earned. It must be desired in earnest. It is not cheap. Girish was explaining this to his friend one day. He relayed a story from his past to try to get the point across.
Do you remember the first car you drove? Do you remember the first car that was yours? I certainly do. I got it after I graduated college. By “got,” I mean it was given to me. It had so many miles on it already. It seemed to be on its last legs, but it was still mine. I didn’t treat it very well, though, I must say. A car was a must for me at that point, and I didn’t have enough money to buy one of my own.
This car soon became my extra closet. My clothes were on one side of the backseat. On the other side was my sports gear. The front passenger seat was like a garbage pail. All the receipts I got from dining out went straight there. I would sometimes drop empty soda cans in that spot too. I kept telling myself that I would get to cleaning it one day.
After owning it for about a year I bought a new car on my own. I saved up some money for this one. It wasn’t top of the line, but it was new. I had to finance the purchase. I tell you, I treated this car completely differently. I watched out for where I parked. I never allowed food inside. I wanted to keep that “new car smell” for as long as possible. I got it washed at least once a week. What a difference. Simply because I bought it, I treated it differently. I invested time and effort to purchase it for myself, so I wasn’t going to treat it so poorly.
Girish explained to his friend that the experience with bhakti is similar. It is love for God, so it is the most important thing to have. You can survive on that love, whereas all other rewards eventually vanish. If God simply gave it without thought, it wouldn’t mean that much to the recipient. If He forced it upon anyone, how would the relationship be considered a loving one? If He gave it to people without them wanting it, how would they appreciate it? They would toss it aside for other things.
“Mukti herself is standing with folded hands, waiting to serve the devotee.” (Krishna-karnamrita, 107)
Indeed, it is difficult to regain love for God at the constitutional level, but it is possible. Through systems put in place by the acharyas, the teachers in the line of disciplic succession of love and devotion to the Supreme Lord, one gradually moves past the desires for religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and ultimate liberation. The famous poet Bilvamangala Thakura remarked that since he became so much immersed in bhakti, liberation stood in front of him, waiting to serve. He could get liberation easily, but he didn’t need it. He owned devotion, so what use was liberation to him? Devotion may not come quickly, but it can be practiced easily, through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. It is there for anyone to own and cherish, should they want it.
Supreme Lord any gift can grant,
But give away bhakti with ease He can’t.
Tendencies of man to know,
Casting aside then elsewhere to go.
Better if something to earn,
Then its true value to learn.
The person in bhakti with firm understanding,
Liberation with folded hands to them standing.