“Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, never fear any condition of life. For them the heavenly planets, liberation and the hellish planets are all the same, for such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.17.28)
न कुतश्चन बिभ्यति
na kutaścana bibhyati
“I know there is not much we can do about dogmatic insistence. People will stay firmly in their respective corners, afraid to venture out. The mind is made up. No convincing otherwise. No changing of ways.
“Not that we are trying to get people to convert to anything. This is simply to push back on the challenge that we are practicing a religion specific to a region. Hinduism. A dirty-word, with the followers considered satanic by the least intelligent in society.
“In the sacred texts that are followed there is not a single mention of the word Hindu or Hinduism. It is a term derived from an outsider’s perspective. Not knowing what to call a tradition that describes the entire scope of an existence, from the tiny ant all the way up to heavenly creatures, accounting for infinite time and space, and features to the original being, they just label it as a competing faith.
“We try to explain that we are simply loving God, that real religion should have this as the ultimate objective. How do we get others to understand? Especially if they know only the faith paradigm, what will open their minds to the scientific aspect to living in terms of the spiritual?”
As Shri Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita, the people who approach Him directly generally fall into one of four categories. They are not pure in their motives, to say the least, but they do not get rejected outright. Everyone follows the Supreme Lord in one way or another, whether they know it or not.
चतुर्-विधा भजन्ते मां
जनाः सुकृतिनो ऽर्जुन
आर्तो जिज्ञासुर् अर्थार्थी
ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ
catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ
janāḥ sukṛtino ‘rjuna
ārto jijñāsur arthārthī
jñānī ca bharatarṣabha
“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)
Nevertheless, we could still find some reasons that aren’t very logical for approaching the Almighty. These might be the most popular justifications for religious life, as it is practiced today. But a little logic and understanding highlights the fallacies in the thinking.
1. Afraid of going to hell
“I mean no one has witnessed it personally. I will grant you that side of the argument. But do I really want to take my chances? I’ve heard the testimony of people who were destroyed by dependency on illegal drugs. I have never tried myself; the warnings were enough to scare me straight.
“In the same way, I would rather not suffer in hell for eternity. If all I have to do is attend a specific worship function once a week, pledging allegiance to an established institution, why not? What is the harm? Just see the upside. It’s a win-win scenario.”
2. Asking for stuff
“You want to know what we do in our worship ceremony each week? I don’t know. We hear a lecture on the need to be tolerant, forgiving, kind, and the like. We say a lot of prayers, especially for people in the community who are suffering.
“Personally, I have my own things that I ask for. I’ll keep that to myself, but let me tell you that so many times the good Lord has come through. That’s how I am sure He exists. Otherwise, my faith could be shaken.”
As the Vedas explain the science of God and by extension the energies that are connected to Him, we find out much more detail about the living experience. We living entities, the jiva souls, are part of the marginal energy. Spiritual in nature, but vulnerable to illusion, to falling away from the transcendental service that is eternally meant for us; sanatana-dharma.
We already experience hellish conditions. We do not need to wait for the afterlife to receive confirmation. Similarly, there are heavenly pleasures. For one person, it could be the blaring alarm on the unattended car finally turning off. It could be getting a good night of sleep, in peace and quiet.
Shri Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita that the common conception we have of heaven is really just another physical location within the material world. Svarga-loka, a planet full of inhabitants. The place certainly has a different feel to it. Enhanced enjoyments. Cows and trees, but not those with which we have experience.
ते तं भुक्त्वा स्वर्ग-लोकं विशालं
क्षीणे पुण्ये मर्त्य-लोकं विशन्ति
एवं त्रयी-धर्मम् अनुप्रपन्ना
गतागतं काम-कामा लभन्ते
te taṁ bhuktvā svarga-lokaṁ viśālaṁ
kṣīṇe puṇye martya-lokaṁ viśanti
evaṁ trayī-dharmam anuprapannā
gatāgataṁ kāma-kāmā labhante
“When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, through the Vedic principles, they achieve only flickering happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.21)
The issue is that the stay is not permanent. Upon expiry of the pious credits that landed us there in the first place, we have to return to the mortal world, mrityu-loka, to again suffer on the spinning wheel of acceptance and rejection; otherwise known as reincarnation.
If we only worship God to fulfill our orders, what happens in the case of failure? Should that not give further justification to the atheists to turn away? Were they not favored by the Almighty? Why not? What have they done wrong? Why have they essentially been disowned as children?
Do not the animals receive sufficient food and shelter to continue living? They most certainly do, and without a house of worship, a profession of faith, or a single moment in prayer. Why would it not be the same for the human population?
Rather, the proper justification is the position of the Almighty, His character, His eternal nature, and how we are related to Him. Worship is proper because it is part of who we are. It is within the essential characteristic traits of the living being, no matter to which type of body he is sent.
If we are in doubt, the Vedas provide as much clarity as required. We learn of the Almighty’s features, how He has both a personal and an impersonal side. We learn of His activities and good qualities, which are actually endless and impossible to accurately measure.
The sole objective is to bring us closer in worship, upasana, to always feel like we are next to Him, ready to serve, in any condition of life and in any place of residence. Whether in heaven or hell, we will continue to remain connected in yoga, chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
What if my prayers to fail?
And living a woeful tale.
Where countless miseries without favor,
Not blessed like my neighbors.
Even then in worship to proceed,
Since Almighty fulfilling a need.
That deep within the soul found,
Joyful whether hell or to heaven bound.