“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)
Friend1: There is no shortage of books of religion available to the world today.
Friend2: You are right about that. In so many languages, too.
Friend1: You would think it would be almost impossible to find atheists, then.
Friend2: Well, that’s an interesting question. Obviously, there are reasons, but what would you attribute it to?
Friend1: I’m not sure. Maybe devotion is not enough.
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: These religions tend to have that in common. “Be devoted to so and so. Be a good person. Don’t sin. Then that so and so will take you to the promise land after death.”
Friend2: That sounds about right.
Friend1: Okay, so even with the recommendation for devotion, we see that there is a tendency towards atheism.
Friend2: Not only that, people who are religious often behave similarly. It’s like you can’t tell the difference.
Friend1: Right. Not to go off on a tangent, but why do the Vedas put so much emphasis on the guru? Why do you need to approach one? I’ve read so many statements that say, “Just be devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” People are not unfamiliar with that. If they inherited that tradition from their parents, they already know the things that the guru will teach them.
Friend2: Obviously, your interjection is intentional.
Friend2: The guru thing. That question is not a tangent, as you described. You’re basically answering the first question. There are so many books on religion, yet people are still in illusion. This is because they don’t know how to practice that devotion.
Friend1: Please explain.
Friend2: One example is that with religion people pray for stuff. You’re approaching someone who is Almighty, after all. Why wouldn’t you ask for things? The problem is that due to material advancement, so many people have found opulence without religion. They don’t go to church and yet they’re doing just fine.
Friend1: Therefore it makes it easier to discount the importance of religion.
Friend2: Then the people following religion have to find another hook. They’ll try the fear angle, i.e. worship or go to hell in the afterlife. There’s the service to humanity thing also.
Friend1: Right. Open up hospitals. Feed the poor. Help your fellow man. That’s how you will make God happy.
Friend2: That’s why the guru is necessary. They will tell you how to practice devotion properly.
Friend1: What if you don’t meet one? How will you get guidance?
Friend2: Guidance is the key word. It’s equivalent with instruction. We know that not all instruction requires personal contact. The key is to hear. The bona fide guru is so merciful that they will try to extend their reach as much as possible. This means they might publish books or have their words recorded in a format that can be referenced later on.
Friend1: Is there any particular instruction befitting the current time and circumstance.
Friend2: Just chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Man doesn’t have the time to go in depth into philosophy. They are too attached to sense gratification to try renunciation. They are too afraid of losing their objects of attachment to enter a disciplinary style of spiritual life fulltime. Better to just meditate on the holy names, hearing and chanting them.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: That gives a glimpse of real devotion. The books are all correct; be devoted to God. From the combination of sadhu, shastra and guru we get an idea of what that actually means. We learn more about who God is, what He looks like, and what He wants. The guru is the Supreme Lord’s representative. If the representative is pleased, the person they represent is as well. The guru is pleased when you follow their recommendation, so from this we know that chanting the holy names is a great way to make God happy. It qualifies as bhakti, or devotion, and it is not difficult to do.
Not at all difficult to do,
Can be done by child even too.
For reading and hearing excuse that can’t,
But any person holy names can chant.
This from guru coming advice,
Representative taking birth twice.
Books on religion so many there are,
But alone not to advance very far.