“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)
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क्षिप्रं भवति धर्मात्मा
न मे भक्तः प्रणश्यति
kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā
na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati
It is the reality, sadly. There is no way to sugarcoat it. If the kicker made that last-second field goal, his team would have won the game. He did not. “Wide-right” is what the radio announcer said. The team played well, otherwise. They were huge underdogs entering the contest. Not a chance to win based on the statistical comparison.
Yet there they were, on the precipice of a monumental upset. The kicker had not missed a field goal the entire season. This one would have sealed the deal and sent the team to the championship game. Sadly, to err is human, and everyone was reminded of just how human these players are.
Sometimes a defeat can turn into a victory. We need the extended vision in order to perceive. In bhakti-yoga, the vision travels backwards and forwards. Seeing where the individual was before and assessing the difference based on where they are headed. Through devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the worst mistake may not be held against you.
1. If they should stammer while giving a lecture on the science of self-realization
“This person is famous throughout the world for their discourses on the Shrimad Bhagavatam. This is one of the important texts of the Vedic tradition. Originally in the Sanskrit language, the verses are preserved. That is to say there hasn’t been monkeying around with the literature, as there is no need for a translation.
“This speaker sings the verses and then explains them to the audience, in a language familiar to the people. Yet during a recent event they had difficulty. They could only remember the first line of many of the verses. They had to pause mid-sentence, as if forgetting their place. Their speech was not smooth-flowing.
“Something must have gone wrong. Perhaps they were nervous, due to the large attendance. Maybe they didn’t get enough sleep, as travelling great distances takes its toll on the body.”
2. If they should forget a key ingredient in a preparation placed on the altar
“An integral aspect of devotional life at the temple is prasadam. Everyone honors this together, while seated on the floor. This occurs at the end of the program. There is congregational chanting [sankirtana], a formal worship ceremony [arati], and then partaking of the remnants offered to the Supreme Lord.
“It is obvious someone made a mistake. The sweet dish does not taste sweet. Perhaps they added salt instead of sugar. And man is there a lot of salt! Out of respect, everyone is eating. There are no complaints voiced, but the cook did not have his best day.”
3. If they should not properly recall a Sanskrit shloka from a sacred text
“At our weekly program there is something of a challenge for the participants. See if they can memorize a particular verse from the Bhagavad-gita. To test their success, we go around the room and each person recites both the Sanskrit and the English equivalent.
“Surprisingly, last week the leader of the program could not recall the verse from memory. They were the one who distributed the assignment. You would expect them to be the expert. Yet they knew only the first half of the Sanskrit. Strange. Goes to show you that no one is infallible.”
These supposed mistakes are actually not blemishes. The reason is the underlying mood. If there is a sincere desire to please Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to put a smile on His face, to serve His servants, then whatever shortcomings there are get quickly remediated.
There is evidence from direct dealings with Krishna. One time He was mistakenly served banana peels to eat as a visiting guest in a home. He happily consumed the peels and said not a word. The host eventually realized their mistake, but nothing was held against them.
This should serve as further justification for following devotional activities like chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I may not be perfect in the beginning, but Bhagavan will assist me in my endeavor.
Speech not smoothly flowing,
Despite verses so well knowing.
Salt instead of sugar a mistake,
But people so kind as to take.
Of man’s fallibility to shine,
With these blemishes of mine.
But lingering memories not to keep,
When Krishna’s shelter to seek.
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