“Everyone is inclined in this age to eat meat and fish, drink liquor and indulge in sex life, but according to the Vedic injunctions, sex is allowed only in marriage, meat-eating is allowed only when the animal is killed and offered before the goddess Kali, and intoxication is allowed only in a restricted way.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.26.6 Purport)
Friend1: Don’t you feel that the odds are stacked against you?
Friend2: In what?
Friend1: I mean people are addicted to so many unhelpful things. They are so upset over politics that they are willing to invade restaurants and disrupt otherwise peaceful situations. They cry over the results to elections. They can’t accept something as basic as marriage and gender. They develop these mental illnesses and then look for remedies through the political process.
Friend2: Again, what are you talking about here?
Friend1: With that backdrop you are trying to get people to give up the pursuit of sense gratification and instead take to spiritual life. Athato brahma-jijnasa. “Now is the time for inquiring into the spiritual, Brahman.” The principle applies to the human being. The “now” references the fact that in previous lifetimes the opportunity wasn’t there. But how is anyone going to act on the now if they don’t even realize the urgency?
Friend2: They don’t see anything wrong, so why try something different?
Friend1: One of the basic changes you’re looking to implement at the beginning is no meat eating and no illicit sex life. Good luck with that, pal. Do you see what happens when you tell someone that you don’t eat meat? They look at you funny. Sure, there are movements gaining momentum, but even they have stigmas attached to them.
Friend2: No one said this would be easy [wink].
Friend1: The sex life thing is the entire reason for an existence. You take that away and what else is there? I get that the four regulative principles are important.
Friend2: Sobriety for understanding higher topics. A person who is dhira can understand the changing bodies and not be bewildered upon learning the foundational principle of spiritual life.
देहिनो ऽस्मिन् यथा देहे
कौमारं यौवनं जरा
धीरस् तत्र न मुह्यति
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“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)
Friend1: You are supporting my argument. Sobriety is required. Let me ask you, who out there is actually sober? Practically everyone is addicted to behaviors that will keep them further away from liberation.
Friend2: What is your point, then?
Friend1: That you might be wasting your time.
Friend2: What exactly am I trying to do?
Friend1: Make people Krishna conscious. Have society understand the real peace formula, as explained in the Bhagavad-gita.
ज्ञात्वा मां शान्तिम् ऋच्छति
jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati
“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)
Friend2: That is not what I am trying to do.
Friend2: Bhajana. Glorification of Shri Hari, God who takes away the distresses of His devotees. One aspect of that devotion is prachara, or popularizing the teachings. This is not a required component, but one that many people happily take up. Whether one person agrees or one thousand makes no difference to the person practicing. Their liberation is assured, since they can easily cross beyond the vast ocean of suffering that is the material world.
दैवी ह्य् एषा गुण-मयी
मम माया दुरत्यया
माम् एव ये प्रपद्यन्ते
मायाम् एतां तरन्ति ते
daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī
mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante
māyām etāṁ taranti te
“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.14)
Friend1: Shouldn’t you try a different approach? Maybe water down the principles at first, just to lure people in.
Friend2: The Bhagavad-gita already does what you want, without any compromise. You can’t get any more basic than the difference between body and spirit. There is no need to water anything down, in fact. If you want me to lie to people, to enter the realm of duality, where I promote sense gratification through successful business endeavors and the like, it’s not going to happen.
Friend1: Okay, but then the number of followers will always remain small. You see some of these guys taking my approach and they have close to a million subscribers on video hosting websites.
Friend2: In truth, the majority is always with Shri Krishna. They live in the spiritual world, however, so we don’t see them. We are in the minority already, so even if one person escapes the cycle of birth and death that is a tremendous victory. Anyway, this is not about winning or losing. Follow bhakti yourself, do your best to convince the inquisitive as to the proper way, and let the Divine will sort out the rest.
Friend1: Alright, but sometimes I lament taking birth in this age. In previous time periods the conditions were more auspicious. People might have been more receptive to the message. No one was tethered to an electronic device that they couldn’t resist peeking at every few minutes.
Friend2: But the advantage today is that simply through chanting the holy names you can achieve liberation. No need to understand the principles thoroughly. Stay attached through sound: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
To convince others how,
When attached to sinful now?
Like drinking and eating meat,
Not happily Vedas to greet.
For bhakti not about winning,
Assured that stopped rebirth spinning.
If successful convincing only one,
Then already the amazing done.