“How can we worship in various ways the Divine, who is not within our reach, if we neglect mother, father and guru, who are within our reach?” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 30.33)
अस्वाधीनं कथं दैवं प्रकारैरभिराध्यते।
स्वाधीनं समतिक्रम्य मातरं पितरं गुरुम्।।
asvādhīnaṃ kathaṃ daivaṃ prakārairabhirādhyate।
svādhīnaṃ samatikramya mātaraṃ pitaraṃ gurum।।
“I think I understand the teaching about the material world being filled with duality. What is good for one person may not be so for another. It explains why politics sparks endless debate. Each side, however extreme you might think they are, can show some instances where their policy changes would make a positive impact.
“It was eye-opening for me to learn that there is really no difference between good and bad; at least from the Vedic perspective in the Vedanta school of philosophy. Good is something like moving closer to the proper destination and bad is travelling further away, but in either case the individual is left vulnerable to the cycle of birth and death.
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 objective should be transcendence. Rise above the three modes of nature. Look to satisfy the senses of the person who is the master of all senses, Hrishikesha. Work under His direction, which the spiritual master reveals.
“The issue I see is that a person might use their devotion as an excuse to otherwise behave badly. It might be the equivalent of thinking that I am okay, I can do whatever I want, because someone else died for my sins.
“I am still responsible here, since I am on the path of bhakti, but I don’t have to worry about behaving piously. I am in the clear due to the connection in consciousness, yoga.
“To me, something doesn’t add up with that thinking. There must be something I am missing here.”
The recommended method of connecting with the Almighty in this dark age of quarrel and hypocrisy is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
While there are no hard and fast rules to this chanting, since the ultimate plea is to be able to serve in a mood of love, the acharyas do give some hints on how to make the process most effective. To that end there are generally ten offenses to avoid in the chanting process.
One of those offenses is to commit sinful activity on the strength of chanting. In other words, since I am engaged in the timeless art of devotion, recommended by great souls like Prahlada Maharaja and King Janaka, I can do whatever I want the rest of the time. I am someone who has carte blanche in society, because the king of kings, Shri Rama, will protect me.
The truth is that if I am not behaving properly, then my chanting is not really effective. Accidental missteps are one thing, but to think that repeating a Sanskrit word will allow me to treat others horribly, without consequence, is a grave mistake.
Shri Rama, who is an avatara of the Supreme Lord, showed the way by following dharma to the best extent possible. He one time remarked to Sita Devi, His wife, that it is not possible to properly worship the Divine, daivam, while neglecting people who are worshipable in our daily lives.
Daviam can also refer to the family deities, the demigods, or whoever is not visibly manifest but is eligible for worship through authority. This is one of the criticisms against devotees; that they worship statues but never actually see God. Why not treat others well, instead, since you can actually see them?
The truth is that people can indeed see God, that He is kind enough to give an idea of His transcendental features through the deity, and that we should simultaneously offer kindness and respect to others. Mercy, daya, to those inferior, and respect, mana, to those superior.
At the same time, if we worship everyone manifest before us in the proper way, but remain inimical towards the Almighty, considering Him to be fake or imaginary, then we remain within the realm of duality, swinging between acceptance and rejection, toggling from high to low and vice versa.
यस्यास्ति भक्तिर् भगवत्य् अकिञ्चना
सर्वैर् गुणैस् तत्र समासते सुराः
हराव् अभक्तस्य कुतो महद्-गुणा
मनोरथेनासति धावतो बहिः
yasyāsti bhaktir bhagavaty akiñcanā
sarvair guṇais tatra samāsate surāḥ
harāv abhaktasya kuto mahad-guṇā
manorathenāsati dhāvato bahiḥ
“In one who has unflinching devotional faith in Krishna, all the good qualities of Krishna and the demigods are consistently manifest.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.18.12)
The idea is to not use the potency of the connection in consciousness for nefarious purposes. Pure devotion is wanting only what is best for the object of service, and from full surrender a person automatically develops good qualities, such as those found in the demigods.
Traveling devotion significant length,
Sinful behavior on chanting’s strength?
Not an incompatibility to see,
Should not more pious to be?
One of the offenses certainly considered,
That from sinful automatically delivered.
But good qualities natural to grow,
When Supreme in truth to know.