“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)
“That person speaks so well. They aren’t nervous in front of a crowd. They remain seated, but it looks like they have more energy than a marathon runner. They can stay in that same position, with a fully illuminated face, for upwards of four hours. They recite verses from memory, periodically break into devotional songs, and use the appropriate context, all while weaving through the greatest stories man has ever known.
That person cooks so well. I have never tasted food like theirs. Of course, there is the special potency derived from the offering itself. The food is transcendental, as we say. It is karma-free. Offered in front of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, prasadam is not like an ordinary meal. It has a purifying effect, and surely this person has pleased God so much with their efforts.
This person is fearless. They go up to total strangers and speak with them about the science of self-realization, the meaning of life, what their interests are, and where they think they are going. For every response received, they are able to turn to a relevant verse in the Bhagavad-gita, the song of God. They prove within minutes that religion doesn’t have to be based on faith alone or inheritance from family tradition. Bring every doubt to the table. Ask every question that comes to mind. More than just religion, dharma should be an active, engaged pursuit, for only then will there be confidence in following the path.
These people are so amazing, and juxtapose them with me. What am I doing? I feel like I am totally useless. I have trouble in simply keeping the routine of chanting the holy names a certain number of rounds on a set of japa beads every day: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I will never reach the level of these other people. Perhaps there is no hope for me.”
While it is certainly natural to think this way, that others are doing so much better, that they are further along in the boat-ride to cross over the ocean of birth and death, a few reminders help to relieve the pressure in devotional service.
1. We are not God
Seems like a silly thing to pay attention to, but in some groups the very opposite is taught.
“Meditate on the formless Absolute Truth. Remind yourself that you are Him. Keep thinking in this way and one day you will merge. Eventually, liberation will come.”
Surely there is similarity, to the point of near identicalness. Newborn children are compared to their parents. “Oh, look at that nose. It’s just like the father’s. Oh, look at that smile. A total replica of the mother.”
The Supreme Lord is the original father, the total spiritual energy. The living entities are amshas, or fragments. Those fragments will be identical to the original in so many ways, as drops of water from the ocean have the same constitutional makeup.
At the same time there is great difference. An obvious indication is the pursuit itself. God never has to become God. If we are supposed to become Him, it means that we are deficient. In truth, we are God-like, and He is the real thing.
We get ability from Him, so there is no reason to overly lament lack of success in a particular area. Some are blessed with speaking ability. Others are great leaders. Some can do manual labor for hours without getting tired. Each person has their specific set of qualities, and whatever has been handed down through the higher forces is sufficient for completing the task of connecting again with the Almighty.
2. We will never be God
No amount of effort will make us the origin of all things. There is no way that we will ever get perfect knowledge. One aspect to that knowledge would have to be realization of past, present and future. The living entity is spirit soul, separate from the temporary and destructible body. The body is always changing, visible especially in this lifetime. No sane person can deny that.
The Bhagavad-gita reveals that the same changes take place after death. This means that we have lived before. Transmigration of the soul is the simplest explanation for what is otherwise known as reincarnation.
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
If we lived before, where? How many past lives? What about before reincarnation started? Were we in the light of Brahman, the total spiritual energy of nothingness, or were we with God Himself? Man will never know. No amount of meditation or exercise can allow the limited mind to understand the concept of infinite time. Only God has perfect knowledge, and we will never become Him.
3. We don’t have to be
Neither do we have to become God to attain liberation. Arjuna continued on in the war after hearing the Bhagavad-gita. He heard directly from the mouth of the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna, and so liberation was guaranteed. Still, there was work performed. Arjuna did not merge into Krishna’s body.
Even when such an amazing transfer takes place, the devoted soul enters a realm where they keep a transcendental body, one that is not subject to birth and death. In that svarupa they are able to serve God with love and devotion, without any worry over time.
Shri Krishna looks for sincerity. Ability is due to Him, after all, so it is more important how ability is used. The person sweeping the temple is just as important to Him as the travelling preacher, delivering lectures to audiences averaging in the thousands.
Important even temple’s sweeper,
Liberated soon, like travelling preacher.
Who in front of thousands speaking,
Highest energy in lengthy discussion keeping.
Use whatever ability from high to receive,
Reminder pressure in bhakti to relieve.
Never God nor ever to become,
By sincerity only His favor won.
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