Why Can’t I Practice Religion How I Want To

Arjuna_distressed“Sanjaya said: Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.” (Bhagavad-gita, 1.46)

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सञ्जय उवाच
एवम् उक्त्वार्जुनः सङ्ख्ये
रथोपस्थ उपाविशत्
विसृज्य स-शरं चापं

sañjaya uvāca
evam uktvārjunaḥ saṅkhye
rathopastha upāviśat
visṛjya sa-śaraṁ cāpaṁ

Friend1: We might have covered this subject before, but I think it has eternal relevance.

Friend2: Really? Eternal? As in, no matter the time period, a person will come across this trouble spot? Go back thousands of years and there is the same problem?

Friend1: Absolutely. One of the supporting examples I will reference is from five thousand years back.

Friend2: Alright. You may proceed.

Friend1: Let’s take a situation where a person concurs on the need for changing the direction in life. Something is wrong with the path of material pursuit. Earn as much money as possible. Enjoy. Get a bigger house. A more expensive car. This person gets it. Something more must come out of the living experience.

Friend2: Have they been taught about the different options or are they simply lost and looking for some guidance?

Friend1: First, I would say that they are more hungry than lost. They want something more out of life. In this situation they have come across a teacher of the science of self-realization. They have heard the pitch, so to speak, for the need for genuine yoga and how the body is different from the identity of the individual.

Friend2: Nice. That is a great starting point. Just getting there is so difficult and rare.

Friend1: The thing is, this person has a specific way they want to practice. They enjoy chanting the holy names. No problem there. They particularly like the routine of japa in the morning hours. Without anyone bothering them, they are free to focus on the sounds produced: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend2: Even better.

Friend1: What to do if life throws obstacles along the way? What if your preferred expression of bhakti, devotion to the Supreme Lord, is not allowed?

Friend2: By whom? A higher authority?

Friend1: It could be life in general. It just doesn’t seem fair to me. I have agreed to serve Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I am not turning away. At the same time, I get blocked from my specific choice.

Friend2: Who would get blocked? I’m not sure I understand.

Arjuna_distressedFriend1: Take Arjuna, for example. He didn’t want to fight in the Bharata War. He was a devotee; no denying that. He asked Krishna directly if he could drop his weapons and retreat to the forest or something similar.

Friend2: Right, but that was shirking responsibility. Just because you don’t want to do something doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. You can’t be afraid of what life throws in front of you.

Friend1: But what if there is no interest? After all, commensurate with advancement in the spiritual science is detachment.

Friend2: Okay, so if you are truly detached you shouldn’t have a problem doing what the higher authorities will ask. There are more examples to cite, I hope you know.

Friend1: Such as?

Friend2: Shatrughna, one of the younger brothers of Shri Rama. He wanted to stay in the kingdom of Ayodhya and enjoy the association of Rama, who had been away for so long before.

Friend1: Because of the fourteen-year exile thing caused by Kaikeyi.

Rama_Darbar_brothersFriend2: Yes. Shri Rama ordered Shatrughna to go take care of a particular bad character named Lavana. From there the younger brother had to administer the kingdom. Not just search and destroy. Make sure there was peace in the aftermath.

Friend1: You are saying that is analogous because Shatrughna had a different idea in mind for how the devotion would be practiced.

Friend2: On that level there isn’t even conscious awareness of a difference between spiritual and material life. He just wanted to be with the Supreme Lord.

Friend1: Okay, and so that wasn’t fair. Why should a person have to suffer like that? Especially if they are dear to Krishna, shouldn’t He return the favor?

Friend2: And there you have it. He will most certainly reciprocate. Time reveals the master plan. In that separation, in that difficult work that a person may have been reluctant to complete in the beginning, there is increased bliss in consciousness of the Supreme Lord. Shri Hanuman is another example. No one willingly signs up to travel to a hostile foreign territory alone, to search for someone you have never previously met. Hanuman would prefer to chant the name of Rama, in the way that Mahadeva does. At the same time, the son of the wind does not turn back in the face of adversity. The difficult service suits him; Rama chooses the right person. In the same way, in the journey towards liberation there will be many difficult moments, but perseverance will be rewarded.

In Closing:

In most difficult moment now,

To continue with devotion how?

Since hindered my preferred way,

Why Supreme with me to play?

Idea that best result giving,

So that in higher devotion living.

Like with Arjuna and Hanuman so,

And Shatrughna to new territory to go.

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