“Without pious activities, if a man is in a distressed condition he becomes an agnostic, communist or something like that. Because he does not firmly believe in God, he thinks that he can adjust his distressed condition by totally disbelieving in Him.” (The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 3)
“I put everything into it. There was full faith, the real kind. I had no other hope. Every other tweak, adjustment, or attempt had no impact. The end was nearing. I turned to prayer. I prayed more intensely than I ever have before.
The result? Nothing. The person succumbed to the illness. They are gone. A tragic death, too. So young. So good. They never sinned in their life; at least from what was known. Everybody loved this person. They leave behind a wonderful, but grieving family.
Maybe God isn’t real. Maybe the way to go is to not believe in Him. Then the results might change. I might get what I want. There won’t be as much heartbreak. It’s not as sad when there is no hope to begin with.”
This hypothetical sequence of events is not uncommon. Without a proper understanding of the spiritual science, the idea of God and belief in Him is relegated to the category of faith. Faith is known to change, almost in the fashion of supporting sports teams and players. One day I have so much faith in my favorite team, but they suddenly decide to not honor the flag of the nation in which they live. I have no choice but to change my allegiance, to move elsewhere.
If I look to God only for stuff, for fulfilling desires, I might similarly be offended when things don’t go my way. From such a turn the results can go in several directions.
1. Find failure
What I wanted didn’t come to be. Without God in the picture, I think the next time will be different. Yet there is every chance of finding failure again. Just look to any atheist. See if they succeed one hundred percent of the time. Even the wealthiest person gets stuck in traffic. They miss flights, stub a toe, get indigestion, and get an earful from their spouse.
2. Find success
No more religion, no more problems. That is the expectation. There is every chance of finding success. For evidence, observing the human population is not even required. Look at the animal community. There are stray dogs in some countries. They get enough food to eat. Their duration of life may not be long. The quality of that living is unacceptable to us, but nature is still there to help them.
The tiger gets sufficient food. So do the trees, some of which stand tall for thousands of years. Where is the prayer? Where is the influence of the Divine? Where is the preacher threatening eternal damnation for disbelieving?
3. Receive happiness and sadness
Success and failure are the outcomes, and happiness and sadness are the connected emotions. I’m happy when something goes my way and sad when it doesn’t. Without following religion I will indeed experience both of these emotions, toggling like a pendulum.
“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)
In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that happiness and sadness come on their own. They are due to sense perception only, and the timing of their arrival is like the seasons. No matter how much we try, winter will come this year. It will bring cold temperatures. No more playing tennis outside. No more enjoying time in the park. There will be a quick rush to get inside. The car will need to be sufficiently warmed before driving.
The same with the summer. I will need an air conditioner, if I don’t want to suffer. I will have to pack up and store the winter coats. The sweaters will do me no good. Different clothing for a different period of time.
4. Miss the valuable opportunity of interacting with Him, made possible in the human birth
As happiness and sadness arrive in either circumstance, there is something more to religion. There is a reason the human birth is valuable. The added stresses and anxieties are due to intelligence, knowledge of imminent death that is lacking in the other species. The human being can rationalize, can make inquiries, and most importantly, can change their outlook.
Belief in God hopefully leads to service to Him. This is a change in desire, from personal to the greatest Personality. The shift is from kama to bhakti. Kama keeps a person vulnerable to defeat, no matter how much the Supreme Lord is called to the situation. Bhakti means always lovingly serving, and maintaining that renewed spirit.
One example is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In bhakti this mantra is repeated as a prayer for the opportunity to continue to serve God the person, who is all-attractive and thus known as Krishna. The energy of God, Hare, helps in the situation.
“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40)
There is no loss in this endeavor. It can be started at the latest point in life, moments prior to quitting the body, and still produce a mature fruit. Kama can be indulged for an entire lifetime and still leave a person wanting, with one fear after another. From the bhakti path the benefits are clear, and the more one serves the more they feel the Divine mercy in every aspect of the life experience.
What influence my prayers they had?
Since left feeling lonely and sad.
Maybe now from religion away to turn,
To try out alone, my way to earn.
Success and failure then surely to find,
But missing chance for peace of mind.
Since this life made for with God connecting,
Who work of His devotees protecting.
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