There Are No Atheists In Foxholes

[Lord Krishna]“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

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प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate

“You probably hear this argument a lot, but I think it has some merit. I get that the bhakti-yoga people are into religion. You want to worship God and so forth. Thank Him for everything. Be grateful. Avoid the kripana mentality; don’t be a miser.

“But it seems like you are giving up on the world. You are abandoning everything too soon. As if you see no hope at all, you are surrendering in the game. It just seems a little too easy for me. Give up now and be forever saved. Why not at least try?”

There is the saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” The situation is military conflict. Engaging the enemy head-on, there is the rush of conflict. An emergency situation, and thus no time to contemplate life and death. Remain completely aware of your surroundings. No moment for rest.

When in the foxhole, however, things are more out of your control. You have to sit there and hope things go right. You are not sure if a bomb will come and blow up the area. A large attacking force may be on the march. It is for this reason that the helpless turn towards the heavens.

Even if they were the staunchest atheist before, they come to grips with the reality of imminent death. They understand that no one else can save them. The behavior is similar in emergency situations involving medical treatment or rescue from a burning building. Maybe you really want to pass that test, which will then change your life.

The person following bhakti-yoga simply speeds up the process. They retrieve that helpless feeling without requiring the emergency. They are aware that every living being’s destiny is the foxhole-type situation. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita [2.27], where Shri Krishna says that after birth, death is certain.

Why wait for the emergency? Imagine that it has arrived today. It is the truth, in fact, since no one can guarantee waking up in the morning. The situation is always tenuous, but the illusion of repeating daily activities fools us into thinking otherwise, into forgetting.

Bhakti-yoga is remembering. Not only the nature of birth and death, but also the control of the Almighty. He is entirely in charge of outcomes. We think that we are the doers in this world, but the material nature must first comply for any result to manifest.

[Lord Krishna]The devotee of Krishna is not hopeless about this world. They are quite optimistic, in fact, that the all-attractive one will take care of everything. Even if something inauspicious occurs, it is the Lord’s mercy. He is finding a way to help me to remember Him. He is letting me enjoy His association in bliss instead of fear. He gives me the impetus to surrender now, so that I won’t have to face misery later on. He gives me the renewing bliss of the sankirtana process: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Like immediately to transpire,
That foxhole not required.

Where from war afraid,
And obeisance to heaven paid.

Knowing that helpless already,
So with devotion steady.

That Krishna everything to support,
Always my first resort.

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