“The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.41)
प्राप्य पुण्य-कृतां लोकान्
उषित्वा शाश्वतीः समाः
शुचीनां श्रीमतां गेहे
prāpya puṇya-kṛtāṁ lokān
uṣitvā śāśvatīḥ samāḥ
śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe
Friend1: I have heard the relevant arguments relating to the “service to man” issue.
Friend2: From which side?
Friend1: Both. The supporters claim that this is the real way to please the Supreme Lord. Feed the hungry. Provide medical assistance to those in need. Lend support to the less fortunate. They claim this is superior to worshiping a statue residing in a temple.
Friend2: Yes. Why actually try to understand God? Remain in illusion. Stay fixed on a temporary situation, on a body that is destructible.
Friend1: As I said, I have heard the arguments. One that I like from the side supporting bhakti, devotion to Vishnu or Krishna, is that you cannot be perfect in the service to man.
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: Take the worst instance for analysis purposes.
Friend2: As in failure?
Friend1: Oh, no. I’m talking about success.
Friend1: You have successfully helped a person who was in need. They were poor. They begged for money. You happily obliged. The thing is, they went on to use that assistance to purchase a gun to shoot up a gathering of innocent people.
Friend2: That is terrible.
Friend1: But it is service to man. It is supposed to please God. We are helping the less fortunate.
Friend2: Meanwhile, through karma you are further implicated. Not only by remaining in illusion as to the true nature of the individual, but there is complicity, albeit unknowing, to a heinous crime.
Friend1: You aren’t helping anyone in the long term, and there is no guarantee that you are lifting up someone of good character.
Friend1: Anyway, I was wondering if the same argument could be made about following bhakti-yoga in general.
Friend2: As in, you give the holy names to someone of bad character? How exactly will they use knowledge of the soul to hurt someone, though?
Friend1: No, I am talking about the imperfection. If we are saying that service to Krishna is superior to service to man, is there not the vulnerability to imperfection?
Friend2: You have to define a condition of failure for me to properly assess.
Friend1: We speak to someone on the glories of Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. We travel from place to place and lecture to gathered assemblies on the need for abandoning interest in material life. We urge them to take up the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. We ask that they make a sincere effort to understand their true nature.
Friend2: That is great. What is the harm?
Friend1: What if no one follows? What if not a single person becomes a devotee of the personal God as a result? I am driving at the concept of imperfection. Are you not vulnerable to the same defects that are present in the service to man?
Friend2: Absolutely not. The secret, which will stay just between us for now, is that simply taking up bhakti-yoga guarantees liberation.
Friend1: How is that?
Friend2: Because it takes so many lifetimes to make such a decision. It does not happen accidentally. A person must have exhausted their store of sinful demerits before they can try to understand Krishna in truth:
येषां त्व् अन्त-गतं पापं
भजन्ते मां दृढ-व्रताः
yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ
bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ
“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.28)
Any effort ultimately bears fruit. Even if you fail in this life to become liberated, you receive auspicious circumstances in the subsequent birth. You might get a supportive family who encourages you from the beginning of life. Shri Krishna assures the unsuccessful yogi of the opportunity to continue from where they left off. This means that there are no defects in the bhakti process. Serve the Supreme Lord and you will be watering the root of the tree instead of erroneously focusing only on this branch or that leaf.
Today the hungry to feed,
But tomorrow still a need.
Also vulnerability the chance,
That thief’s strength to enhance.
Not the same with bhakti way,
Where the unsuccessful to stay?
Promise that in future placed,
So that progress never erased.