Three Things From Material Life That Don’t Fill The Void Of Bhakti

[Krishna and Yashoda]“The same friend of Mother Yashoda addressed Krishna as follows: ‘My dear Mukunda, if Mother Yashoda, the Queen of Gokula, is forced to stand on fire, but is allowed to see Your lotus face, then this fire will appear to her as the Himalayan Mountains: full of ice. In the same way, if she is allowed to stay in the ocean of nectar but is not allowed to see the lotus face of Your Grace, then even this ocean of nectar will appear to her as an ocean of arsenic poison.’ Let the anxiety of Mother Yashoda of Braja, always expecting to see the lotus face of Krishna, be glorified all over the universe!” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 43)

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It is in the nature of the soul to serve. This is the dharma corresponding to that particular entity. The nature of fire is heat and light. For water it is wetness. The idea is that the essential characteristic, the one or two features which cannot be removed without changing the nature of the object, is dharma.

Service is the dharma of the atma, but there is an objective. There is a purpose to the service, in whichever way it manifests. In the perverted form, seen in the material world, there is service offered to inanimate objects even, like an expensive purchase or a large structure. There may be service given to an inferior being, like an animal, which is not constitutionally capable of reciprocating properly or even taking full advantage of the service.

The purpose is ananda. This is bliss. True happiness. Something which transcends the ups and downs of a temporary existence. To go beyond birth and death, what every living entity seeks, from the tiny ant up to the oligarch.

From the pastimes of Shri Krishna in Gokula and Vrindavana, we see that there is no substitute for pure bhakti. Mother Yashoda exemplifies this truth, as certain extreme conditions in material life have no effect on her. If she is in an ocean of nectar, it may as well be poison if she cannot see the all-attractive face of her son. If her feet are in direct contact with fire, the feeling is like ice if she has the good fortune of gazing upon her beautiful son.

[Krishna and Yashoda]This is not an ordinary interaction. Neither the object of worship nor the attention offered are material. Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and Yashoda the ideal devotee in the mood of parental affection, vatsalya-rasa. Nectar and fire are just two examples of many that show the inferior nature of material objects in providing bliss.

1. A new car

I’ve wanted this car forever. I’ve had my eye on it for a while. A major upgrade from what I’m driving now, which is a hand-me-down. There is no guarantee that it will even start on a given day. My trip to work may involve a breakdown on the side of the road. It’s time to get something better.

Yet merely a year after making the purchase the new car is forgotten. The initial appeal is gone. The many new features are taken for granted; they are not appreciated. That ananda I sought didn’t last, almost as if it were never there.

2. A new house

The one bedroom apartment was fine for a while. In fact, I loved not having to worry about maintenance. A lawn to mow? A garage to store so much junk? No, thank you. But after a while space became an issue. Everyone else has a house, so why not me?

[new house]The same result occurred. Pretty soon the new became the stale and ordinary. The taste didn’t last, and now there is more space to manage. Perhaps a bigger and better house, but who knows? Maybe that won’t do anything for me, either.

3. A vacation

Something to break away from the daily grind. The same routine, followed for an entire year. Better to try something new. Relax and forget about troubles. Find a place with good weather and plenty of attractions. The whole family will keep busy and hopefully not bother me.

The experience has two sides. In the positive, the vacation is amazing. The relaxation cannot be matched. The issue is that the stay is not permanent. Sort of like having to leave the heavenly realm after the pious credits accumulated from good deeds expire, there is a return to the previous life.

In the negative, the vacation proves to be more stressful than everyday life. Scrambling to make it to the airport on time. Worrying about every person’s individual needs. Finding decent food to eat. Adjusting to the new time zone. Illness due to the strain on the body from travel. One misery after another.

Using a scanner-like device, going from one object to another, in every direction, the same defect exists. The magic of bhakti-yoga is that the same objects can change in nature. That is to say a person who is connected in consciousness to the Divine, real yoga, can find something basic like the morning sunrise to be a stimulus for ecstasy. They take the new day as another opportunity to serve the all-attractive one, who always reciprocates through His association, which can come as easily as through sound: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Not necessary to travel around,

Ananda as easy as through sound.

Not temporary like new car so,

Or bored for bigger home to go.

Where defect in this and that,

Over time same way to react.

Shri Krishna, association the gift,

Pure bhakti my spirits to lift.

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