“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
Bhakti-yoga might not be met with open arms in the beginning. In fact, there are several aspects that will be strongly objected to, depending on the audience.
1. The four regulative principles
No meat eating? No gambling? Not allowed to drink alcohol? Wait a second, sex only for the purpose of having children? Are you intentionally trying to make life torturous? No need to wait for punishment in the afterlife, since you are creating such a distressful situation right now.
Religion doesn’t have to be like that. Follow the faith of your choice, usually that inherited from the parents. Be a good person. Don’t steal. Don’t cheat others. Believe in the savior and reach a higher destination after this life is over. Stop making things so complicated. People quickly turn fanatical in the name of religion.
2. Chanting a mantra with Sanskrit words
I can’t even pronounce what you are saying. We live in a culture that doesn’t speak this way. I have never heard of Krishna or Rama, and certainly not the words put together in what you call the maha-mantra. We go to church on a weekly basis. That is sufficient. We pray when we are in trouble. Let everything be understood in the mind. No need to keep repeating a specific sound vibration.
3. Worshiping a statue
As mentioned above, keep it to yourself. Beware of idolatry. I don’t know who this person is standing there on the altar, smiling and holding a flute in His hands. I don’t know who that woman is next to Him, either. In some places you have a group of three with a diminutive monkey kneeling before them.
No offense to your culture, but this is strange to us. We don’t openly worship a statue. It is actually condemned. We could suffer in hell for following that path. Yes, we believe in the savior, but the worship is done within the mind. I understand that there is honor paid to living people and creatures, but that is different. If we could see God in front of us, that would change things. For right now, we are not going to worship a statue.
4. Reading books that focus on birth and death
Why the constant focus on birth and death? It’s cool that you talk about the soul, but there is life everywhere. This understanding of the difference between body and spirit is not necessary. You can’t prove the existence of previous lifetimes, either. Nowhere in our sacred books is such a thing mentioned. You die when you die, and if you’re good you go to heaven. If you’re bad you go to the other well-known place. Case closed, end of story.
Indeed, a person following bhakti has a unique way of life as compared to followers of other popular spiritual traditions. Not that God is divided or distributed in different ways. He is a single person, the origin of everything. There is merely a different understanding based on time, place and circumstance.
Vedic culture provides the most complete understanding, at least as much as there can be known about the Almighty. He is constantly expanding, just like recorded history. His glories know no end, and His mercy continues to be showered on His innumerable sons and daughters.
Going beyond blind faith and sentiment is helpful since the intelligent human being then makes an informed decision in favor of spiritual life. That is to say they are more likely to stay with the path and also derive more benefit from it. If the consciousness gets purified quickly enough, there is liberation even before the end. A person experiences the bliss of surrender to the Divine without having to wait until the unknown afterlife.
Speaking of the next life, Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita give an easy to understand explanation. Whatever state of being a person is in at the time of death, that state they attain in the next life. “State” refers to consciousness, and the next life refers to a new set of material elements covering the imperishable spirit soul.
For example, if I think of a dog while dying, I will likely take birth as a dog the next time around. This isn’t cruel or mean, it is simply the way of material nature. If I think of God the person, I will attain His nature. That is to say I will be one with body and spirit and get to enjoy with Him, side by side. The deity in the temple provides a glimpse into this blissful, eternal life. Avoiding the four most dangerous sins helps to clear the consciousness more quickly.
In the game of “my faith against your faith,” bhakti life certainly looks strange. When the playing field changes to logic, reason, understanding, insightful inquiries, and contemplation over the entire picture, both spiritual and material, the faith viewpoint quickly dissipates. Real religion should be a way of life, dharma, and it should be eternal just like the individual who is following, sanatana.
“To worship a deity no need,
Strange depiction indeed.
Or focusing on birth and death,
And in-depth study the rest.
Just in the savior believe,
And later reward receive.”
No harm in further knowledge precision,
From bhakti culture informed decision.
Categories: the four