“The demon father employed all his weapons to kill the devotee son, Prahlada, but by the grace of the Lord he was saved from all sorts of dangerous actions by his father. He was thrown in a fire, in boiling oil, from the top of a hill, underneath the legs of an elephant, and he was administered poison.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.15.16 Purport)
I’m ready to take the plunge. I’ve kept an open mind. I’ve heard from all sides. The atheists tell me not to waste my time. I’ll be better off just living life, enjoying through whatever way I prefer. Why limit myself for no reason, for some pipedream that no one is sure exists? Why suppress desires for no reason?
The theists tell me that everything good descends from firm belief in God. The rampant school shootings, the high divorce rate, the disintegration of institutions which have held society together for centuries – the root cause can be traced to godlessness.
In the reverse, things which benefit everyone have their origins in some kind of religion. Honesty, forgiveness, tolerance, steadiness of mind, compassion, strength, perseverance – look to stories described in ancient texts and the themes are evident.
I have decided to try bhakti-yoga. To me it is the most encompassing. Not to put down other religions or kinds of spirituality, but this covers all the issues. There is encouragement to challenge, to not accept blindly. I am applying my intellect. There is no issue of castes or inherited statuses. There is no fear of eternal damnation.
The issue I’m having is that there are many conditions inauspicious for this kind of practice. Though I’m told that all I need to do is chant the holy names, these factors are like major roadblocks along the path to success.
1. No centers around
Yes, I know the potency of the deity. Though God cannot be limited to a single name, devotees address Him as Krishna because of His all-attractiveness. He is also Rama due to transcendental pleasure and Hare because of the energy that is always devoted to Him. Hence the potency of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The archa-vigraha is the merciful form. It is not an idol. We don’t have the eyes to see God in the conditioned state, but for our benefit He arrives in the deity worshiped in the temple or home. One look can change consciousness forever.
The problem is that there are no such temples around where I live. I am willing to visit, trust me. If a center was next door, I would be there every day, engaging in some type of service. Sankirtana and sadhu-sanga are very important to me, but it is difficult when you are on your own.
2. All the leaders I know are frauds
Let’s see. These are some of the crimes and mistakes committed by spiritual leaders in bhakti-yoga that are not disputed. That is to say these are beyond allegations and internet gossip.
Conspiracy to commit murder, wire fraud, mail fraud, associating with underage women, running up multi-million dollar bank accounts, wholesale changing of the writings of past acharyas, engaging in sexual activity with men, and lying in public.
Mind you, these transgressions are from gurus, or the acknowledged spiritual masters, people who are supposed to be Krishna’s representatives on earth. They are supposed to be beyond sin, in control of their senses. To me it seems like all the acknowledged leaders today are frauds. It is a harsh assessment, since some of the followers of these people I know to be genuine. It is a regrettable situation, that the people who are actually qualified to lead are too humble to place themselves in that role.
Where do I turn? Can I survive just reading books? Shouldn’t I have someone helping me along? Shouldn’t there be someone to rescue me?
3. My whole family is against me
It’s not like home life is a picnic right now. People eat meat. They indulge in intoxicants on a regular basis. They are not supportive of my decision in favor of bhakti-yoga in the least. This means I have little in common with them. Conversations turn towards sense gratification, which I am not interested in. What can I do?
The above scenarios are certainly challenging, as there are a variety of circumstances in this world. Not every person finds themselves in auspiciousness, mangala, on a regular basis. From history we have the noteworthy example of Prahlada Maharaja. He lived in a kingdom, but everyone was hostile towards his bhakti, which he learned while within the womb of all places.
The hostility turned violent, which meant that even Prahlada’s internal meditation and devotional practices were not allowed. In that case the bhakti flourished instead of diminished. Prahlada is a special case, but the example is there to illustrate the potency of bhakti over all kinds of spirituality.
“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)
The Supreme Lord brings to the devotee what they lack and preserves what they have. In any situation bhakti can be practiced, as there is always the mind. The holy names can be repeated, the pastimes can be remembered, and consciousness can change for the better. The brighter future will eventually arrive, as long as sincerity of purpose exists. The impediments thrown at Prahlada were too strong to handle himself; Krishna arrived as Narasimhadeva and wiped them away.
Leaders today like frauds seeming,
To commit crimes with others teaming.
No temple near me,
Smiling deity not to see.
Everyone in house with meat,
Not pure even at dinner’s seat.
Like with Prahlada, always a way,
Krishna with His devotees to stay.
Categories: the three