Three More Criticisms Devotees Don’t Mind Hearing

[Prahlada with Lakshmi-Narasimha]“One day will come when death will finish everything, and the living entity will have to enter another body to begin another chapter of life and again begin the cycle of material sense gratification. Prahlada Maharaja describes this process as punah punash charvita-charvananam (SB 7.5.30). Materialistic life means chewing the chewed again and again.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.27.14)

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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that if you were to attempt to count the number of amshas, or expansions emanating from the source of spirit, a majority number would belong to the spiritual world in terms of residence. That is to say by comparison a small number of conditioned spirit souls, jivas, are spinning on the wheel of suffering, the samsara-chakra.

The cycle manifests as birth and death. Not as the same external identification. Not exactly like living the Groundhog Day film, but something similar. A different body each time, which is a collection of material elements, both gross and subtle, consisting of the three modes of nature: goodness, passion and ignorance.

While the majority reside in the spiritual world, which is known as Vaikuntha since it lacks anxieties, those even attempting to go back to home, back to Godhead, to stay on the path that leads them there, are in the strong minority. It is not like they are a few percentage points away from overtaking the other side, either.

Therefore it is not surprising for devotees to hear criticisms. The bhaktas stand out. They must; otherwise there would be no effect to devotional practices. The more they advance along the path, the more immune they become to the critical words. In fact, some of the harshest words increase the strength of conviction.

1. You are obviously lost

A person suddenly gives up meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. On a Friday, instead of going out to the movies or enjoying at a club, they are reading from sacred works like the Shrimad Bhagavatam or Bhagavad-gita. When meeting with others, it is to discuss the same topics. They may have a television in the home, but it is always tuned to recorded discourses about Hari, sometimes lasting four hours.

It is no wonder that others will consider the devotee to be lost. This is a great compliment, because if the materialists didn’t think this way, the devotee wouldn’t really be on the right path. To actually be lost is to stay on the cycle of birth and death, enjoying a little here, but lamenting greatly at loss. Prahlada Maharaja refers to that enjoyment as chewing the chewed.

[Prahlada with Lakshmi-Narasimha]If the bhakta is lost, it is in the transcendental taste coming from interaction with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They are lost in the bliss of surrender, sharanagati. They forget where they are, what type of body they are in, what year it is, who they are related to, and what time it is while they are happily repeating the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

2. You have not a care in the world

The criticism here manifests in the stern rebuke, “You are dead inside.” The idea is that others are caring. They lament over loss. They worry about the poor. They care about material fortunes. The devotee is cold to these things. They are simply engaged in their bhakti. They don’t worry about what happens in the real world.

Again, this criticism can be taken as a great compliment. Shri Krishna Himself explains how a wise person should behave. They take happiness and distress to be like the seasons, which bring changes to weather. Today is a little cold outside. I have to warm up my car in the morning before driving. Just a few weeks ago I was walking around in a t-shirt and shorts.

These changes arise from sense perception only. They should have no impact on my disposition. Just as weather is always changing, so are people’s fortunes. Due to karma sometimes a person is up and sometimes they are down. The jivas are coming and going, and the person who is connected in devotion to Bhagavan is not swayed by these changes.

3. Your object of worship danced with young girls

Since criticism at the personal level is having the opposite effect, shift over to the object of worship Himself. Shri Krishna, the all-attractive one, is famously depicted dancing with young, beautiful girls under the brightest moon of the year, Sharada Purnima. He expands Himself into identical forms so that each girl, known as a gopi, feels as if Krishna is only with them.

[rasa dance]The non-devotee criticizes, asking how a person could be devoted to someone who behaved that way. After all, that behavior goes against all codes of morality, especially those passed down in the Vedas. Again, the bhakta is somewhat pleased to hear this. The criticism further substantiates Krishna’s position as the Supreme Lord, for He is not limited by anything. Not only is His behavior free of any outside interference, but so is His mercy. He can dance with millions of women simultaneously, if He wants, just as He can hear and answer the prayers of His countless devotees to continue in their devotional practices, for life after life.

In Closing:

Bliss from bhakti-yoga extracted,

Not by criticism detracted.

That to world not having a care,

Or asked if of rasa-dance aware.

Lost really those the chewed again chewing,

Who not yet material life eschewing.

Harsh words to bhaktas giving strength,

Known that for them willing to go any length.

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