“The living entities, as separate parts and parcels of the Supreme, have a purpose to fulfill. Having forgotten that purpose, since time immemorial they are situated in different bodies, as men, animals, demigods, etc. Such bodily differences arise from forgetfulness of the transcendental service of the Lord. But when one is engaged in transcendental service through Krishna consciousness, one becomes at once liberated from this illusion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.35 Purport)
FriendOne: I came upon a pretty grand realization today.
FriendTwo: Yeah? Not just ordinary grand? Let me guess. You really like ice cream.
F1: No, silly.
F2: You really like pizza.
F1: Well, that’s obvious. Everyone knows that. Seriously though, I’m talking about spiritual matters.
F2: Surely you can’t be serious? And don’t call me Shirley. Okay, okay. It’s good that you have these realizations. As long as they are correct from the point of view of shastra, it is beneficial to share them.
F1: That’s why I’m running it by you. You’re my shastra-checker.
F2: I’ve been called worse.
F1: Okay, let me set the table here. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna explains a lot of things.
F2: Time, the material nature, the individual soul, karma, and the supreme controller are the main topics.
F1: Exactly. And the presentation is systematic, thorough, and yet concise too. There’s even questions thrown in there by a wise and helpful warrior named Arjuna.
F2: Helpful for our sake. As you know, Arjuna is a liberated soul. He is never outside of Krishna consciousness. Sometimes yoga-maya manipulates circumstances to meet the desires of Krishna. By Arjuna asking those questions, future generations would get the answers that they would be looking for.
F1: Though there is all this explaining going on, Krishna sums everything up nicely. He tells Arjuna to abandon all varieties of religion and surrender unto Him.
F2: And lest there be any worry over the matter, Krishna promises to deliver Arjuna from all sinful reaction.
F1: Exactly. This is likely the most famous verse of the Bhagavad-gita. It is the one the mayavadis, the atheists, and the enemies of Krishna wish had never been spoken. The non-devotees will never mention this verse. Or if they do, they will first try to redefine Krishna.
F2: Yeah. They’ll say that the surrender is to the Krishna within all of us; whatever the heck that means. They won’t acknowledge Krishna, the person, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
F1: It’s like they haven’t understood any of the Bhagavad-gita.
F2: Or they did understand it and they intentionally choose to mislead others.
F1: So anyway, I was meditating a little on a particular verse. After thinking about it for a while, I came up with something that is pretty comforting.
F2: Do tell.
F1: Basically, if the protection from Krishna is guaranteed, it means that if you actually abandon all varieties of religion and follow Him in bhakti-yoga, Krishna is compelled to protect you.
F2: Yeah, duh.
F1: [laughing] No, I didn’t mean it like that. Think of it this way. If I don’t follow all the rules and regulations of spiritual life, if I don’t necessarily join an established institution or formally take up training with someone who represents Krishna – if I still think about Him and devote myself to Him, as He is, then He’s obligated to deliver me.
F2: Well, you have to have real devotion. You can’t just make up some process and call it devotional service. You can’t take up philanthropy and declare it to be on an equal level with surrender to the lotus feet of the darling child of mother Yashoda.
F1: Right; that’s understood. I’m talking about always thinking of Him. If I’m conscious of Him throughout the day, chanting His holy names, associating with people who love Him, serving them in some capacity, then there is no way that He can abandon me. He is not allowed to, by His own rule.
F2: So what are you trying to say? That once you take up bhakti-yoga, you’re all set?
F1: Yeah. I mean it’s an interesting way to look at it. The rules aren’t that important, if you think about it. Krishna cannot abandon the devotee; it’s as simple as that.
F2: Ah, but you’re missing something very important here: the devotee can abandon Krishna.
F1: What do you mean?
F2: All those regulations, like chanting the maha-mantra a fixed number of times each day, avoiding meat eating, gambling and the like – those are meant to keep you from forgetting Krishna. God will never abandon someone who wants His company, but He doesn’t stand in the way of those who turn their backs on Him.
F1: Ah, I see. Yeah, that’s a good point.
F2: That’s the cause of the birth in the material world. Forgetfulness of God brings residence in a temporary land, wherein birth and death repeat in cycles. You’re also a little too optimistic here. Do you know how difficult it is for someone to accept the path of bhakti-yoga?
F1: It is difficult; I acknowledge that. I was coming at it from the perspective of someone who does take it up with some seriousness.
F2: It can take many lifetimes before someone is even interested in spiritual life. In the animals species there is no chance for it, except in rare cases. In the human species you typically have to at least wait until adulthood, where you start questioning the way things are done and the reason for your existence. Then you have to be fortunate enough to find the right people to teach you. You could take up spiritual life, but remain in an immature stage. You could ask for stuff from God or god-like entities, instead of offering genuine service.
F1: Yeah, and it would be a real shame if you forgot Krishna after finding Him. It’s like having a winning lottery ticket in your hand and trading it for a pack of cigarettes.
F2: [laughing] Yeah, something like that. But you are definitely right about Krishna giving protection. It makes the choice for bhakti-yoga a safe one. The Supreme Lord will ensure that your practice will thrive, as long as your motives are pure. Consistent hearing and chanting of the holy names helps to keep the motives in the right place: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Once in bhakti situated so,
Supreme Lord of you not to let go.
This to Arjuna His promise set,
But devotee His grace can forget.
Fall to material world’s cause,
Led into birth and death’s jaws.
The promise of Krishna’s you’ve got,
Rules to help you forget Him not.