“One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.55)
भक्त्या माम् अभिजानाति
यावान् यश् चास्मि तत्त्वतः
ततो मां तत्त्वतो ज्ञात्वा
bhaktyā mām abhijānāti
yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ
tato māṁ tattvato jñātvā
The intelligent human being at least makes an endeavor. Hopefully with maturity there comes a recognition of the repeating pattern in life. Bhoga and tyaga. Enjoying one day and renouncing the next. I love this person; I hate that one. The viewpoint could shift in regards to the same person or situation. One day I am eating pizza and the next I am swearing off of it.
There has to be more. Maybe religion is the answer. More than just blind faith or allegiance to an institution, let me find that original source. I want to go beyond birth and death, to understand the meaning behind everything.
In this regard there are different avenues that most certainly will not lead to a proper understanding of the Almighty, who is ultimately a person. He is an active, interested observer, who breaks from His position of neutrality on occasion.
1. Mental Speculation
This is something like awaking in a dark room and guessing as to what hangs on the walls. You can likely find the boundaries by surveying the area and feeling with your hands, but there are no lights to show the way. You think that the room has this and that inside, but there is no way to be sure. Moreover, you can only reference objects with which you are familiar. If you have never been exposed to something, you can’t very well guess that it is present within the room.
The Supreme Lord, God the person, who is known as Shri Krishna among many other names, is beyond the range of sense perception. His features cannot be properly measured by blunt instruments. Thus there is no way for me to speculate and reach the proper conclusion as to His nature and activities.
2. Personal endeavor
Win enough championships in the professional sports league and you are a lock to enter the hall of fame upon retirement. Put in enough hours at the office and you will get a positive performance review the next time around. Walk enough steps in a day and you could be well on your way to slimming down the waistline.
There is no equivalent in spiritual life. There are many recommended practices and procedures, for sure. There may even be the promise of promotion to a better destination in the afterlife. Yet this has nothing to do with knowing Krishna. Business-like dealings with empowered figures guarantee only temporary benefits; not a change in consciousness.
Perhaps I can know by studying. Jnana. Read every work of the Vedas. Memorize verses. Teach others the same. Repeat what I have learned and hopefully the information will sink in.
The issue is that jnana does not automatically lead to vijnana, which is practical understanding. Indeed, I could be the biggest atheist in the world and know everything from shastra. Recite verses from memory, but I don’t really know anything. Education can certainly help me along the way, but it is not the determining factor in success.
4. Material acquisition
Maybe if I am the wealthiest person in the world. Accumulate more than everyone else. Live up to my potential for achievement. Build up power and strength to get an idea of what it means to be supreme. Show the Almighty my resume while quitting the body; maybe He will be impressed.
The truth is that Krishna can only be understood by devotional service, bhakti-yoga. That service can involve any of the aforementioned paths, but it is the underlying attitude which matters. Bhakti is so strong that a person lacking education can still understand Krishna. Even if they are poor or unable to exercise the brain to the proper imaginative length, they are equally as eligible for connecting with the origin of the universe.
The bhakti process starts by hearing. Listen to discourses about the Absolute Truth, Shri Hari. Remain in His association through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Discover the best matching outlet for service and never abandon that choice.
Not so smart am I,
Though in education to try.
Others at speculation striving,
But not to proper conclusion arriving.
Since only by bhakti is known,
Through underlying sentiment shown.
Help to the sincere giving,
So that always with Him living.
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