“There are many regulative principles in the shastras and directions given by the spiritual master. These regulative principles should act as servants of the basic principle – that is, one should always remember Krishna and never forget Him. This is possible when one chants the Hare Krishna mantra.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.113 Purport)
Bhakti-yoga is pure love and devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which is a more suitable definition for the author of all things. The word “god” doesn’t suffice. For someone who doesn’t know the meaning to the Sanskrit word bhagavan, this extended definition provides clarity. God is the best among all godly figures. He is a personality who can expand into an infinite number of forms. Like a single candle illuminating other replica candles, God can appear anywhere He so chooses. From that ability, He can be heard by anyone. Any person practicing bhakti-yoga can thereby attain success.
But if you love something purely, what need is there to practice? Does the mother need to remind herself to feed her son? Do the separated paramours need to be told to long for their beloved? Do the military personnel need to be reminded of patriotism? In this regard there is a debate between vaidhi-bhakti and raganuga-bhakti. Vaidhi is following regulative principles and raganuga is following with spontaneous attachment. Obviously the love is more pure when there is less attention given to adhering to this rule and that.
Randy was explaining all of this to his friend one day. The friend was a little confused over the difference. He couldn’t understand why there was so much attention given to rising early, chanting the holy names for a fixed number of rounds and avoiding certain behaviors. Randy explained that following a routine, which is known as sadhana, helps lead towards the goal of spontaneity. He relayed a recent story from his own life.
A daughter of a friend of the family’s was performing in a high school play. My wife and I were invited and we were kind of excited to go. I’ve always liked watching live performances. Especially if I’m not seated too far away, I tend to enjoy theater more than film and television. The characters have to work harder to get the attention of the audience and there seems to be less smut too. To me, a cheap way to get laughs is to insert vulgar language into your film. That doesn’t seem to work so well in live drama.
So it’s the night of the play and we’re getting ready to go. To no one’s surprise, my wife was running late. She always does this to me. I was pretty calm about it, though. I didn’t lose my temper. Finally, she came downstairs and we were all set to go. The play was at my old high school, which I know very well. I used to drive there every day for at least two years after I got my driver’s license.
So picture my wife and me in the car. The high school is not far away from home. She is on the phone text messaging with her friends and I’m sort of daydreaming. This isn’t that out of the ordinary. If I’m going somewhere familiar, I rarely keep my mind focused on the driving. It’s like autopilot takes over.
And the autopilot indeed took over this time. After about fifteen minutes I realized that I was driving to work. The high school is along the same highway that I take every day to the office. Without thinking, from force of habit, I kept driving on the road, missing the exit for the high school. My wife didn’t notice since her head was buried in her smartphone. Realizing my mistake, I quickly turned around. We ended up getting to the play late and having to sit all the way in the back.
Aside from being a humorous incident, there is a good lesson to learn from this. If you take your sadhana seriously in bhakti-yoga, pretty soon your mind will be on autopilot with the different practices. Without even thinking you’ll get up early in the morning. Just like brushing your teeth and taking a shower, you’ll chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
If you think about it, this is the best routine to have. If your mind is going to wander somewhere, why not have it go to a place that is beneficial? The mind wanders to a familiar place, and so why not have God be the most familiar person? This is one way to explain how sadhana in vaidhi eventually turns into raganuga. The principles of bhakti-yoga help to change the default condition from illusion to knowledge, from misery and despair to enthusiasm and happiness. All goodness is in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and so it is no wonder that the regulative principles aimed at achieving Him help to create the best mindset, one that eventually becomes second nature.
Dependent on principles shouldn’t be,
In pure bhakti with love Krishna to see.
Principles still an effect making,
When routine of chanting taking.
From example of driving demonstrating,
Like second nature one thing contemplating.
Follow advanced acharya’s lead,
And their respect for regulation heed.