“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.34)
मन्-मना भव मद्-भक्तो
मद्-याजी मां नमस्कुरु
माम् एवैष्यसि युक्त्वैवम्
man-manā bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi yuktvaivam
Friend1: We have to acknowledge that a lot of people believe in God.
Friend2: Where is the evidence?
Friend1: Opinion polls. Attendance at houses of worship. Identification with the different faiths. Basic public acknowledgment.
Friend2: You are saying that the majority side is with a belief in a higher being?
Friend1: Yes. That is exactly what I am saying. You have religious disputes for this very reason. They must believe in something. The atheists tend to be in the minority.
Friend2: Many times they aren’t even atheists. They just reject the particular faith forced upon them. They keep an open mind. They are inquisitive into the origins of the world around them. They do not completely deny the concept of an afterlife.
Friend1: Or even previous lifetimes. Reincarnation, the idea that I have lived before.
Friend2: And will live again.
Friend1: Juxtaposing with those who follow the Vedic tradition of worship of Vishnu, what is the comparison?
Friend2: Between what?
Friend1: Say you have someone who believes in God in the general sense.
Friend2: What does that mean?
Friend1: They can’t identify a specific name. They are unsure of what He looks like. They don’t know what to do or how to act, but they don’t attribute the amazing creation to randomness, a collision of chemicals.
Friend1: I would say a lot of people fall into this category. Then you have someone who worships the personal God. We will use the name Vishnu for the purpose of this discussion. The devotee attends a house of worship, they pray at home at regular intervals, and they chant the holy names in mantras like Om Namo Narayanaya and Hare Krishna.
Friend2: Someone within the bhakti school. They are trying to love God.
Friend1: There you go. That is a good distinction. How does that comparison go? Are not the others loving God?
Friend2: You tell me.
Friend1: I am not sure. They might tell you that they love the Almighty. They appreciate everything He has given them.
Friend2: That is a wonderful sentiment. Most of the time it is just acceptance. Spend time associating with both groups and you will surely notice differences.
Friend1: Such as?
Friend2: In one place it is all about fear. Someone mounted on a cross. Killing. The sacrifice of one person so that others could enjoy forever, without consequences. The absolute necessity of making the acknowledgment, to avoid missing the list for salvation in the afterlife.
Friend1: What is on the other side, though? What you describe sounds like most religions to me.
Friend2: Bliss. Happiness. Beauty. Worshiping the deity in a variety of moods. Dressing the Supreme Lord nicely. Making sure His favorite companion is by His side.
Friend1: The goddess of fortune.
Friend2: Singing songs glorifying His attributes and pastimes. Preparing wonderful food dishes, both tasty and healthy for the mind. Offering with genuine love. Not expecting anything in return. Wishing only to continue in that service, lifetime after lifetime.
परवानस्मि काकुत्स्थ त्वयि वर्षशतं स्थिते |
स्वयं तु रुचिरे देशे क्रियतामिति मां वद ||
paravānasmi kākutstha tvayi varṣaśataṃ sthite |
svayaṃ tu rucire deśe kriyatāmiti māṃ vada ||
“O Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)
Friend1: Hmm, that does sound like something different. Especially when you describe it that way.
Friend2: There is no difference in the sense that there is acknowledgment of God on both sides. We spread the glories of bhakti-yoga particularly to make people happier. We are not trying to convert them to a different religion or have them renounce faith in a particular savior.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Be joyful. Live happily. That is what the soul is meant to have. It should not be exhausted from maintaining a life in illusion. It should not be envious over what others have and it should not look to bring others down in order to satisfy that envy. It should be happy knowing that everyone is connected to the all-attractive one. It should be always enthusiastic to serve, like the Vanaras of Kishkindha, in order to keep that radiant smile on God’s face.
Bhakti from others differentiated,
Is one better situated?
For moving beyond fear,
And having understanding clear.
That God best friend of all,
With joy His name to call.
And ready infinitely serving,
Since my efforts deserving.