“The gopis have set the standard of devotion for the whole world. By following in the footsteps of the gopis by constantly thinking of Krishna, one can attain the highest perfectional stage of spiritual life.” (Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 46)
“How do I follow in the footsteps of great spiritual leaders, past and present? The standard they set is too high. You have the gosvamis of Vrindavana, for instance. They were vairagya personified. They had no attachment to sense gratification.
“Imagine sleeping underneath a tree, with no cushion. Imagine bathing in a nearby river, regardless of the weather conditions. Imagine begging from door to door, for a small amount of food, enough to be held in the hands.
“Take this experience and repeat it day after day. This is your lifetime’s occupation, until the time of death. No going back for earning a living. No working towards purchasing that dream house. No switching to a new job that has a higher compensation and better benefits.
“There’s just no way. I don’t see it. These people are amazing. I love and respect them. I can never be them, though. I feel insignificant in comparison. How will I ever make meaningful progress? This is a living and breathing tradition, after all. We are not a rubberstamp religion.
“It is about consciousness. Sanatana-dharma. Working in the eternal way of righteousness, for the long-term benefit of the individual, who is spirit soul. If I can’t reach that high a standard, which is a preliminary phase, if you think about it, then I might as well give up.”
Fortunately, there are two examples to use as support and inspiration. Any person can succeed in spiritual life. It does not matter to which parents they were born. The gender is not a determining factor, and neither is occupation.
While the exalted spiritual leader may be renounced in every way, a bow-warrior like Arjuna can be the recipient of spiritual wisdom. He can act as gatekeeper for potential future participants. He can keep the disciplic succession going, after it has broken and the knowledge appears to be lost.
इमं राजर्षयो विदुः
स कालेनेह महता
योगो नष्टः परन्तप
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
sa kāleneha mahatā
yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa
“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.2)
Then there are the gopis of Vrindavana. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has declared their worship to be the best; everyone should follow their example. Not that we can immediately engage with Krishna directly. It is not that we command God to appear and make Him do whatever we want, fulfilling the unending desires that come to mind.
The example is there for drawing inspiration. In the narrative of Krishna’s advent to this world, the gopis are village girls. They are not exalted scholars, renounced mendicants, or travelling preachers. They take care of the home, managing the local economy dependent on farming and cow protection.
Yet these simple girls are greater than yogis. This is due to consciousness. They only think of Krishna. He is their primary interest. Though they enjoy His association, they are more concerned with His satisfaction and pleasure. They will renounce everything, up to and including societal reputation, to serve Him.
In the same way, any person can fix their consciousness on the Supreme. The difficulty is not in the implementation, but rather the decision. To truly renounce pursuit of material gain, to give up the competition with maya, is not easy.
Thankfully, we have the examples set by great spiritual leaders, the acharyas. They show us the way so that we may proceed in the proper path, free of obstruction, with enough strength to overcome the many obstacles that might come in between.
That example impressing,
But then also depressing.
Since after single glance,
For me never a chance.
How to replicate the same?
My efforts put to shame.
Idea that drawing from them inspiration,
Like gopis always in meditation.