“When one is situated on the transcendental stage, one attains the most coveted position – the stage of loving God. Lord Chaitanya taught that this is the highest stage of perfection for human beings.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Preface)
Bhakti-yoga is translated as “devotional service” by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Another translation is “Krishna consciousness.” Both have the same meaning, as they describe ways to connect with the Supreme Lord in a mood of offering pure affection. Love means offering some kind of service, and in love one is always conscious of the object of their affection. The issue, of course, is how to love someone we can’t see. How do we get reciprocation from someone who isn’t known to speak directly to us? How do we even serve someone who doesn’t give us feedback on our work?
The task is not impossible and we needn’t rely on blind faith alone. We can use present experiences and transition the lessons to the realm of bhakti-yoga. Consider the following sentiments of those offering service in the mood of love:
“I love my wife so much. She means everything to me. I don’t understand how she always stays with me and supports me, in times good and bad. She overlooks my flaws and shines the spotlight on whatever good qualities I have. I will never abandon her. I will try to repay that love in any way I can, but especially through remaining faithful.”
“I love my children so much. They are my world. I live for them. Though they don’t understand this, I don’t care. I will not stop nagging them. I will be in every part of their lives, for who knows what will happen in adulthood? I have knowledge from my own experiences. I know what they should avoid. I know what is good for them. Whether they hate me or love me, it won’t make a difference in how I guard them.”
“I can’t put into words what my friends mean to me. You’ll have to just believe me that they are everything to me. I am well situated, materially speaking, and it is not due to my effort alone. My friends have helped me so much. When I’m in trouble, I can count on them. I don’t have to worry about whether or not they will have time. Therefore no matter what I will give them the same support. I will not let anything bad happen to them.”
This is but a sampling of the different kinds of loving sentiments that already exist. We could add the dedication of the citizen who goes to war to defend the lives of the innocent in their nation. We could include the person who takes care of their pet, which is another kind of dependent. So there are many ways to love, and in bhakti-yoga the idea is to simply convert these ways. Transition them to the divine realm and see life in a whole new way.
Take the vow, for example. Just as we vow to serve someone special in our life, we can make the promise to always chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. We will repeat this mantra for a fixed number of times each day. Missing our target is not an option; we must complete the minimum we have prescribed for ourselves. This is like showing up for something important. It is like meeting the promise made to someone who is very dear.
The motivation shouldn’t be difficult to find. The Supreme Lord provides everything to us. Though we may not be happy with every aspect of our present situation, there are things that we do like. We get food to eat. We get shelter. We get some kind of education. Everything is due to the Lord’s hand originally. He maintains life through the love of mother nature and the guardians during our youth. Since He gives us so much, we can promise to repay Him by remembering Him, reading about Him in Vedic literature, and trying our best to please Him.
How is He pleased? There are those who are already serving Him. There are those who have reached the summit of bhakti-yoga practice, wherein they have surrendered life and soul to Him. We can find ways to please such souls, helping them in their mission to give Krishna consciousness to others. We can lend support to institutions which help people to practice bhakti-yoga and attain life’s mission.
We can reach even the level of the loving parent, who doesn’t take into consideration the reciprocation they get. Mother Yashoda in Gokula loves the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna in this mood. Whether her child is happy with her love or not is of no concern. The gopis in the same area have a similar mentality. They will make fun of Krishna like anything, as they feel safe in doing so. They know that they are always devoted to Him, to making Him happy, so they feel they have a right to say whatever they want to Him.
The reciprocation comes from consciousness itself. The more one thinks of the all-attractive son of Yashoda, the more pleasure they get in their service. The more one becomes attached to the beloved of Shrimati Radharani, the more they know that their work is paying off. The more dedicated they become in their service, the more their love strengthens. And that love is the most powerful; it transcends time and space. It compels the giver of life to put the devoted soul into the ideal circumstances in the next birth, where bhakti-yoga will flourish without obstruction. Indeed, even the present life becomes a sort of heaven on earth, where love is all around.
Since so much support to me to give,
To serve my friends and family I’ll live.
This same sentiment take,
And transition to bhakti make.
To chant the holy names vow,
To remember God tomorrow and now.
Then little heaven on earth to gain,
And most coveted position to attain.