“Any person who comes before the Deity of Lord Krishna and begins to chant different prayers is immediately relieved from all the reactions of sinful activities and becomes eligible, without any doubt, to enter into the Vaikuntha-loka.” (Nrisimha Purana, quoted from Nectar of Devotion, 9)
Friend-One: Do you ever pray?
Friend-Two: Of course. Doesn’t everybody?
F1: They do, but I noticed something about that.
F2: What did you notice?
F1: It pertains to timing.
F2: As in how often they pray?
F1: That too, but really about when. I’m making this assessment based off my own behavior.
F1: The other day I heard that a friend’s dad was sick. I immediately started to pray for their wellbeing.
F2: That’s not a bad thing.
F1: I know that, but it got me to thinking. I tend to pray like this only when things are going wrong, when something bad happens.
F2: Yeah, it seems to be that way with everyone.
F1: Exactly. But why?
F2: Umm, because they know God is powerful and capable of performing miracles? That’s pretty obvious.
F1: If He’s so great, shouldn’t we be praying all the time? Shouldn’t we pray just as much when times are good?
F2: That’s a great realization. You know, what you just said could be another way to define bhakti-yoga.
F1: How’s that?
F2: Bhakti-yoga is praying to God all the time, whether the situation is good or bad. It’s not about only approaching Him out of weakness. We generally tend to go to Him when we’re in trouble. This is only natural. When things are good, we forget about Him. Why go to someone powerful when you don’t need help?
F1: Yeah. We don’t go to the car repair shop when our car is working fine. We don’t go to the doctor if we know we are totally healthy.
F2: This definition of bhakti-yoga gives more insight into God’s nature. He is more than just an order supplier. He is there to do more than just give us stuff.
F1: I always liked that comparison: order supplier. We don’t think so highly of the online retail store or the supermarket. We pay them and in return they give us what we want. We don’t worship them. We think that God is so great and yet we treat Him like a super-vendor.
F2: He is sach-chid-ananda: eternally blissful and knowledgeable. Those attributes aren’t there for us to steal; they are there to be enjoyed.
F1: But how do we enjoy them?
F2: Through association. It’s like hanging out with your friends. Friendship is based on the meeting of an interest. As long as the people satisfy our senses in some way, they are our friends. If they fail to meet this criteria, we no longer consider them to be friends.
F1: That’s true.
F2: God is meant for pleasing our spiritual senses. One of His names is Hrishikesha, which means master of all the senses.
F1: What is the difference between material senses and spiritual senses?
F2: The material is illusion while the spiritual is reality. The material fluctuates between like and hate, while the spiritual remains fixed. In the spiritual senses, the happiness always increases with more association. In the material, you get sick of the same thing pretty quickly.
F1: You could say the response to overindulgence is another way to measure, no?
F2: That’s a great point. If you drink too much wine, you’re in trouble. If you eat too much pizza, your health will suffer. On the spiritual side, if you get more and more of God’s association, you’re only benefitted that much more.
F1: I think that explains why people can continue chanting the holy names for so long. They don’t seem to tire.
F2: It is the best form of meditation. Without meditation, you can’t really pray to God in good times. You don’t need anything, so what are you going to say to Him? The holy names address Him in love, and the sound they create is a way to meditate on Him constantly.
F1: How do we get people to realize this? I think they will have a hard time understanding the need for praying when times are good. The focus is on personal effort and responsibility. The concept of upward mobility is based on this. If you move to an area that has more economic freedom, you can make your own lot in life. God, therefore, seems to be out of the picture.
F2: That’s why it’s important to know the personal side to the Divine. He is the singular energy that weaves through everything. That is for sure. The presence of spirit is the presence of God. Without spirit, nothing could live. Therefore you could say that He is the life of the living.
F1: But there is something beyond that, right?
F2: Yeah, there is God the person. He has many different names, and sometimes He appears in different ways. But He is always just one person. The names Krishna and Rama address Him nicely. That’s why they are featured in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The more you chant this mantra, the more you penetrate the light of transcendence, which is known as Brahman. The more you get through this light, the more you see of God the person. And the more you see of Him, the more you want to keep Him with you, which bhakti-yoga facilitates.
Since troubled at hearing news sad,
Praying only when times are bad.
But since everything He’s got,
To pray all the time should we not?
More than just store order supplying,
All bliss and knowledge in Him lying.
Chant always for His association to keep,
From personal God Krishna full benefits to reap.