“Krishna sometimes played with His intimate friends by engaging in fighting or wrestling with their arms, sometimes by playing ball, sometimes by playing chess, sometimes by carrying one another on the shoulders, and sometimes by exhibiting their expertness at whirling logs.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 42)
“Do you want to know my biggest fear? Living properly. I don’t want to conform to what everyone else wants. I can’t pretend that my life is some rehearsed show, with every scene scripted beforehand and every move within it choreographed. The last thing I want to do is be limited by outside expectation. Freedom is the essence of living. I want to enjoy. Why do you want me to follow religious life, then? That is the antithesis of freedom. It says that I should avoid this and that, that I should think a certain way. It creates too many boundaries. I had enough of those during my twelve years of school. Why should I continue with it for the rest of my life?”
These concerns are valid. Who wants to live life according to a plan that someone else has made? One of the reasons the nap is so enjoyable is that it is unstructured. It can last for fifteen minutes or two hours. You don’t even have to fall asleep; you can just lay there. The pressure to wake up at a certain time is also absent. In the journey through life there are so many pressures, so why add on to it by following spiritual life?
To be clear, in the culture of devotion there are many recommended regulations. Though the Sanskrit term to describe the discipline is bhakti-yoga, it seems more like enrolling in military school. The day starts by arising early. The period right before sunrise is known as brahma-muhurta, and it is considered the most auspicious time for engaging in spiritual life. It is not surprising that the backbone practice of devotional service, the definition to bhakti-yoga, is perfectly suited for this time period.
Chant the holy names in the wee morning hours. It doesn’t matter if you are tired, for eventually you will wake up. You won’t regret having gotten up early since you will have done something very important. As the sun rises you will hear the holy names emanating from your very own mouth: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The discipline doesn’t stop there. If you are living in a temple, you should next perform an arati ceremony for the important personalities. There is Tulasi Devi, who is a great devotee of the Lord, taking the form of a sacred plant. Then there is the guru, the spiritual master who introduced you to bhakti-yoga and gave you this step by step plan to follow. Of course there is God Himself, mercifully appearing before you as the archa-vigraha, the deity. Man lacks the eyes to see God as He truly is, but the Supreme is so kind that if desired He can appear in a form that is sufficient for viewing, worshiping and understanding.
If not living in a temple, then a modified, scaled down version of the same routine can be done at home. The next step is to go to work. Yet the idea is to remain conscious of God the person throughout. If you are in full-time devotional life, there are many activities that can occupy the entire day. No matter where a person goes after leaving home in the morning, there is always the option to hear about God. This is accomplished easily through books, which the Vedic tradition has many.
There are important rules to follow throughout the day. Don’t eat meat. Don’t take intoxicants, and avoid gambling. If you’re going to have sexual relations, make sure they are not illicit, i.e. only have them with your spouse and for the purpose of begetting children. Don’t offend others who are on the same path of devotion. Try to exclusively eat Krishna prasadam, which is food sanctified through first offering to the Supreme Lord. Follow this routine day after day, and watch as your consciousness gets purified.
This is a lot to follow. To the skeptic, it looks no different than enrolling in school. There is another perspective to consider, however. To the person swimming in the nectar of devotion, material life looks like prison. They wonder how any person could do the same thing, day after day for thirty plus years. They can’t understand how a person would want to sit in an office, suffering for so long just so they can put food on the table. Evidence of the misery is the widespread use of intoxicants, the devotee will say.
The strong distaste for material life is one of the factors leading to the full-time enrollment in the path of bhakti-yoga. The idea is to implement restriction in order to increase enjoyment. When there is pure devotion to God the person, there are no boundaries. This is because the object of service is Himself limitless. In our world, there is a pinnacle to achievement. The boss of the company cannot go any higher. The President of the United States cannot gain a higher post. Once you are the richest person in the world, there is only one direction to go: down.
In the spiritual world, God the person can turn one minus one into two. It is illogical to us, but logic is merely one of the boundaries of this world. Since the attractiveness of the Supreme Lord is complete and unimaginable, one of His many names is Krishna. That all-attractive person has a transcendental land that He calls home. One would be surprised to know that Krishna does nothing all day in Vrindavana. He is not compelled to act. He is not burdened by responsibilities. Like a carefree child He plays in the pristine fields with His friends. Loveable animals are there as well. Despite so many people living there, strife is absent. Everyone gets along; familiarity does not breed contempt.
The more one is with Krishna, the more they desire to please Him. They feel alive by acting in service to Him. The same attitude is replicated in any area where devotion flourishes. The person following bhakti-yoga can write endlessly about the glories of the all-attractive one. They can apply full creativity in the culinary arts for pleasing Krishna and His devotees. They can paint, draw, sing, speak, or craft day after day without getting tired. Indeed, the only way to be truly free, to have the boundaries of life removed, is to take up devotion in full surrender to the jewel of Vrindavana, the heart and soul of the always blissful devoted souls.
Be happy, from boundaries overthrown,
Follow desires, to each person his own.
Though opposite religious appearing,
Every obstacle to happiness clearing.
At Krishna in Vrindavana have a peek,
For His pleasure does each person seek.
Flute carrying, with nothing to do,
Looking all-attractive with bluish hue.
Categories: devotional service