“The example of clear understanding is there in the Bhagavad-gita itself, in the way the teaching is understood by Arjuna, who heard the Gita directly from the Lord. If someone is fortunate enough to understand Bhagavad-gita in that line of disciplic succession, without motivated interpretation, then he surpasses all studies of Vedic wisdom, and all scriptures of the world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 1.1 Purport)
Friend1: I have to say, one of the things I first found appealing about bhakti-yoga philosophy was the way it relates to all facets of life.
Friend2: What do you mean? As opposed to other religions?
Friend1: Yeah. You think religion, you think God.
Friend2: I would hope so.
Friend1: Maybe the afterlife is covered. Maybe what you shouldn’t do.
Friend2: Thou shall not kill. You shouldn’t steal. Things like that.
Friend1: Exactly. But then there’s not much else beyond that. Even my experience in visiting churches – I felt like I was going to some place reserved for punishment. It wasn’t a welcoming environment. Very serious. Like I should know how bad I am and how much reform I need.
Friend1: Bhakti-yoga, at least how it is described by saints like Prabhupada and others in that line, is so comprehensive.
Friend2: It is synonymous with sanatana-dharma. You could say that is the Sanskrit equivalent for religion, but it’s not a perfect match. Sanatana-dharma is complete, unchanging through time, whereas religion is faith, changed many times perhaps.
Friend1: I like how you can pepper the teachers with practically every question and they have some answer for you. You know what got me thinking about this?
Friend2: I do not.
Friend1: I was watching an episode of Frasier. Have you ever seen that show?
Friend2: I have. Great stuff. Which episode were you watching?
Friend1: It was the one where Niles proposes the idea of a partnership. Frasier is itching to go deeper with patients, more so than he can do on his psychiatry radio show. Niles already has his practice, and there is space available in the next room in the building.
Friend2: I think I remember this one. The father, Martin, laughs at the idea, right? Because he knows the sibling rivalry and how they will end up competing with each other.
Friend1: Exactly. It is so funny. One of the first scenes in their partnership is a group therapy session. Niles has been running the session for a while, and Frasier sits in as a guest. Niles takes a jab at Frasier by saying, “No hanging up on the hard ones here.”
Friend2: Oh man, that is funny. That’s a pretty good insult to throw at a radio talk show host. No one can test the validity because no one besides the people associated with the show knows who calls in and who doesn’t.
Friend1: Right. It got me to thinking about bhakti-yoga and sanatana-dharma. The teachers can never hang up on hard questions, right?
Friend2: If it is asked with genuine inquisitiveness and not in a challenging way, then surely they will be eager to answer the question. The way lawyers are, and even media people, you can get your point across simply through the question.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: Basically, you can hurl an insult at someone through the way the question is worded, essentially rendering the response meaningless.
Friend1: What are some of the “hard ones” for the bhakti-yoga teacher?
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
Reincarnation is compared to the changing of bodies, from boyhood to youth to old age. We were not perfectly God conscious in the previous life; otherwise we wouldn’t have taken birth. But why did we first go to the material world? That is a logical thing to ask.
Friend1: And the answer is that we somehow desired to enjoy separate from God. As soon as that desire is there, the descent occurs. What other difficult topics are there?
Friend2: Well, you get a lot of generalizations made about the different bodies, as in their potential for understanding the difference between matter and spirit. The less familiar may confuse those statements with racism, misogyny, and other such concocted terms of recent times.
Friend1: Right. And those statements are basically a handicapping system. It doesn’t mean that there is no chance for success if you are born with the qualities of a laborer or businessman. Even women can be liberated, which many people who only follow the Hindu faith might not know.
“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth – women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers] – can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)
Friend2: There you go. To me the hardest questions are those about the devotees. How do you explain Shri Hanuman? From where did he come? How could someone serve the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama so well? How do you explain the saints who have written so much, like Valmiki and Vyasadeva? Those are the tough issues that can only be explained by the amazing potency of devotional service, connection to the Divine in love.
Calling in and put on hold,
To radio psychiatrist problems told.
When too difficult cutting the line,
But who to answer question of mine?
Spiritual master never in this way to act,
Knowledge of spirit soul and God exact.
Whatever doubt can raise without fear,
Through eyes of shastra giving vision clear.