“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
The human life is meant for inquiring into the Absolute. We are all part and parcel of the same energy. In Sanskrit the name is Brahman. I am Brahman and so are you. So is the cow, the elephant, the dog, the tree, and so forth. A wise person is able to see this.
ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि
शुनि चैव श्व-पाके च
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
No time like the present. Don’t spoil this birth. Procrastinate because there are certain feelings you want to avoid, but don’t wait too long. Take the chance. Make the effort. The reward will be fulfilling. Don’t be afraid of the future.
This is the recommendation of shastra, the sacred texts flowing down from like a mountain of time, reaching the present day. The Vedic texts are for our enlightenment. In other births we lacked the potential for understanding. In the human stance there is the urgency for reform.
The issue is there might be handicaps over which we have no control. It is how we were born. They may be related to our surroundings, such as with the family.
1. The family scoffs at the idea of showing compassion to innocent animals
“My entire family is against me. They think it’s silly that I read these books that they describe to be ‘Eastern’ in nature. ‘New age’ or other derisive terms they throw around. I thought family is supposed to support one another. It is almost like my sudden interest in genuine spirituality is a threat to them.
“One of the aspects of the teachings I am learning, through the acharya named Swami Prabhupada, is that we should show compassion to animals. He explains that real religion is not defined by the name, the country of origin, the language spoken, or even the book of choice. Rather, there should be four accompanying qualities to the practice, at a bare minimum.
“Honesty, cleanliness, austerity and compassion. You cannot really be religious if you think it is okay to slaughter innocent animals by the millions. When I first came upon this teaching, it made sense to me. I was relieved that finally someone was teaching this. People are so afraid to speak out against ingrained practices in society that we let sinful life continue without opposition.
“Well, my family does not like this. They should not care what I eat, but apparently they do. They want to know why I won’t eat animal flesh, all of a sudden. They blame the books I am reading, and it’s getting a little difficult to deal with their resistance.”
2. The family is appalled at my lack of interest in acquiring money and enjoying the senses
“There is a success track. Everyone is expected to follow. Take birth. Go to school. Gain entry into a prestigious college. Find a good job afterwards. Get married. Have kids. Then wait for death. I don’t want to do the same. Not that I am against moving forward in life, but there has to be more.
“I am not really interested in acquiring so much money. Sense enjoyment has its limits. It is almost like the years repeat themselves. Everyone is desperate for a higher taste, but no one dares openly acknowledge their shortcomings. I have finally found it and I am not about to give it up.”
रस-वर्जं रसो ऽप्य् अस्य
परं दृष्ट्वा निवर्तते
rasa-varjaṁ raso ‘py asya
paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate
“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.59)
3. The family thinks my bowing before a qualified and featured depiction of the Supreme Lord to be akin to worship of the devil
“This criticism hurts me the most, I must admit. God is one. There isn’t a specific Almighty Being for a certain set of people. His existence is not based on realization from outsiders. Just like the sun shining in the sky. A child might not know what it is. They make guesses, but they have yet to receive formal education on the matter.
“Yet the lack of understanding has no bearing on the sun itself. The same applies to the Supreme Lord, who the Vedas describe to be a person. Bhagavan is one of the Sanskrit words used to identify Him. Bhagavan is a person full of features. He possesses opulences simultaneously and to the fullest extent.
“He is kind enough to allow worship of Him through the deity. Not that He is limited to a statue or painting. Not that people simply conjure up an idol and lose their intelligence. The deity is a symbol of mercy. I am not wise enough to understand what nirguna really means, so Bhagavan offers some assistance to move me along the path of purification of consciousness.
“Well, my family is really appalled by this. It is like I have spat in their face, totally rejected their religion. That is not the case, but my pleading has made no difference. They are on the verge of kicking me out of the house. That is how disgusted they are with something that has made me happier than anything I could describe.”
Shrimad Bhagavatam explains that bhakti-yoga, at the highest levels, is ahaituki and apratihata. It is unmotivated and uninterrupted. This means that I no longer want anything from the Almighty. I am serving only out of a loving spirit. I also will serve without interruption. No one will be able to hinder my progress.
While the circumstances at home might not be ideal, Bhagavan will support me. It may be a difficult road ahead, but the austerity is a way to further realize His greatness, for our love increases the more dedication we have to chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Family completely against,
Out of shape are bent.
That away from religion turning,
Generations of tradition spurning.
But something real I’ve found,
Higher taste in sound.
Finally understanding complete,
No threat can make me retreat.
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