“The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.6)
स वै पुंसां परो धर्मो
यतो भक्तिर् अधोक्षजे
sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
Friend1: I’ve probably raised a variation on this question before, but it is worth further discussion.
Friend2: Repeated discussion is good for both the person inquiring and the one answering. Approach the issue from all angles of vision. Gain more confidence in the presentation. At least study every different side to try to understand from where a person comes.
Friend1: That’s a good way of looking at it. As per usual, let us start with the situation of someone who is genuinely interested in bhakti-yoga.
Friend2: They have decided to make good on the promise of the human birth, of using the intelligence for the highest purpose.
Friend1: Of understanding Brahman, the spiritual energy. They are tired of spinning on the wheel of acceptance and rejection. They discern the repeating pattern of days, weeks, months and years. They start to understand the beginning and end to material enjoyment, and they want to move beyond:
ये हि संस्पर्श-जा भोगा
दुःख-योनय एव ते
न तेषु रमते बुधः
ye hi saṁsparśa-jā bhogā
duḥkha-yonaya eva te
na teṣu ramate budhaḥ
“An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kunti, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.22)
Friend2: Alright, and so let me guess. They run into a problem somewhere.
Friend1: But not where you would normally expect it.
Friend2: Umm, where would that be?
Friend1: Such as lack of motivation. Distractions due to interest. Basically, maya is not necessarily at play for this case. Our hypothetical aspirant is receiving trouble from an established institution.
Friend2: What kind of trouble and what kind of institution?
Friend1: Oh. I should stress that this is in relation to bhakti. As part of taking up spiritual life in a serious way, this person follows the recommendation for sadhu-sanga. They want to stay amongst like-minded people.
Friend2: Sadhu is the saintly person; either in an official dress or at least in terms of character. Sanga is a gathering or maintaining association.
Friend1: Yes, and so there is an institution nearby to provide the association. Saintly people congregate there. The issue is that this person’s progress is being halted by such association.
Friend2: How is that possible?
Friend1: Could be in a variety of ways. They want to serve in the temple and they are denied access. They want to continue visiting and worshiping, but they get pressured all the time to accept a guru.
Friend2: Well, every person should approach a genuine spiritual master.
Friend1: That’s the thing. This person is not ready to consider any of the people there to be genuine. At least not for their situation.
Friend2: They are not ready to surrender.
Friend1: Exactly. That is the perfect word. But they want to continue to associate, to visit on a weekly basis to listen, hear and exchange ideas.
Friend2: Oh, that’s good. The association itself will be purifying.
Friend1: But it is the association causing issues. There is a lot of pressure. Another issue could be that this person wants to serve more, but the institution doesn’t encourage it.
Friend2: In what way?
Friend1: Say the person wants to write glorifications of Bhagavan and His pastimes. There is no outlet for that within the institution. They want to cook wonderful dishes and offer to the deity. The people in charge might prohibit that. You don’t have to get that specific on the issue. Just take a situation where the association is not helping.
Friend1: What is such a person supposed to do?
Friend2: If you can tolerate, then that is good. At least you have a routine going. If the consciousness is becoming purer, then the association is helpful, if even indirectly.
Friend1: What if it reaches the point where the person wishes to disconnect? Are they helpless after that?
Friend2: Of course not. Bhakti-yoga is described to be ahaituki and apratihata. Unmotivated and uninterrupted. No one can halt the progress. We think that they can. We can go cry in a corner and lament our misery at the failed experiment of association. We can think that everyone is aligned against us, but in truth no one is stopping us from serving.
Friend2: Vishnu is the only one who can keep up with us. No one else is capable. Try telling your paramour every day how much you love them. At some point they will get fed up. It will make them feel weird. You can’t impress your bosses enough, and even if you eliminate the deadliest disease in the world the leader of a country will be viewed negatively by some people.
Friend1: That is true.
Friend2: Except Vishnu will always accept my service, provided I am willing to offer it. This is why chanting the holy names is so effective. No one can stop me, and the recipient of the worship will always support the practice: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Always my service accepting,
Despite institution rejecting.
And torture name-calling through,
Forced acceptance of fake-guru too.
Bhakti on higher ground standing,
Since fate Vishnu Himself commanding.
So that desire the qualification alone,
Strength through chanting routine grown.