“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.28)
Friend1: I think we’ve had a similar discussion before.
Friend2: About what?
Friend1: The kinds of people that get drawn to bhakti-yoga, spiritual life beyond sentimentalism, what have you.
Friend2: Where you criticized them as being lowlifes and degenerates?
Friend1: Ha, I don’t think I was that harsh. But yeah, something like that.
Friend2: And you want to talk about that some more?
Friend1: A little different angle this time. Just something I noticed with former athletes, greats of the game, whose lives went south due to drugs and alcohol.
Friend2: You could use that to segue into a discussion about the mode of passion, how desires always remain. You think something will make you happy, but it doesn’t really.
“The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.7)
Friend1: That is a good topic, but let’s save it for another day. I noticed with these athletes, they often find religion. They find their “savior” or what have you. They may even start their own ministry. They speak to people about their experiences, detailing how low they fell. In some cases they were almost dead. Knocking on death’s door, they found their way back.
Friend2: That is a good message, don’t you think? It’s the descending process of knowledge gathering. Rather than experience for yourself, hear what others have to say. Take the lessons from them. Learn the easy way.
Friend1: No, that’s fine. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad these people have straightened up. My question is why does it take falling so low for religion to be found? Doesn’t it seem to you that only drug addicts and hippies are open to bhakti-yoga, chanting the holy names and such?
Friend2: Umm, you realize that in every public opinion survey the theists outnumber the atheists? Are you saying every person that believes in God used to be a drug addict or was involved in the hippie culture?
Friend1: Belief in God is one thing. I’m talking about following it in earnest. Unless you were born into the culture that looks at this life as only one of many, where there are different deities to fulfill different desires, it’s like there is no interest.
Friend2: That only makes sense. Material life is a great illusion. Do this and you’ll be happy. Get rid of this thing and you’ll be free of pain. It never works out that way. You can go back to the descending process of knowledge-gathering. Trying to figure things out for yourself is the ascending process. That will never work with spiritual life. You can never reach the proper conclusion of the spirit soul being the essence of identity through observation and experiment. Neither is there enough time nor enough intelligence, even in the human mind.
Friend1: Okay, but why do people have to fall so low to give something new a chance? Why can’t your average person, who has a job, who has a family, who is not destitute or bewildered, take a sincere interest in chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare?
Friend2: There are these studies that show people over thirty years of age don’t listen to any new music. They are fine with the music they grew up with. That is why advertisers tend to target younger people. The older generation has made up their mind; they are set in their habits. The idea is that it is not easy to try something new. The drug addicts have lost so much, and with that attachments. The hippie mindset is being bewildered at the idea of material advancement, of wanting more and more stuff.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: I’m not sure what the problem is here. Just be thankful that anyone is willing to try it out. Every one of us needs to be reformed. Taking birth in the material world means that we are not pure. There are different levels of intelligence, progression, and capacity for understanding. There is no doubt about it. At the end of the day, every individual is a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. The sankirtana movement, the congregational chanting of the holy names, is there to awaken the desire to serve the Supreme. The temple is there to allow the lost souls to meet their long lost friend. There are so many statements in shastra referencing the potency of a moment’s association with a saintly person or the deity in the temple. The simplest offering can make such a huge difference.
Friend1: I guess I am being too pessimistic.
Friend2: There is more reason to be optimistic. Be thankful that there are people who are not afraid to speak about their experiences with something higher. Even if it’s blind sentiment or wanting something from the Almighty, at least there is acknowledgment. It matters not from where a person came, but rather to where they are going. The surrendered souls practicing bhakti-yoga are on the path to liberation, even if that destination at present seems in the great distance.
Matters not from where coming,
More important to where going.
Older generation in ways already set,
What benefit from trying new to get?
So those fallen down open to try,
This bhakti-yoga, a transcendental high.
Destination far out in the distance,
Closer with chanting persistence.