“The Lord immediately got up from His seat and invited Narada Muni to sit on His personal seat. The Lord again worshiped him with as much paraphernalia for reception as He had in the palace of Rukmini. After worshiping him properly, Lord Krishna acted as if He did not know what had happened in the palace of Rukmini.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 14)
“I am sure this comes up every now and then. It is a knee-jerk reaction, an observation I have not given considerable thought to. I think there is some validity, or concern at the very least. Someone might witness the behavior from the outside and wonder how it is able to proceed in such a linear fashion.
“There is this idea that devotees of Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, tend to do the same things, day after day. Through the parampara of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, we have the strong emphasis on the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
“There is potential engagement throughout the day. If you are living in a temple, for instance, you can worship the deity in the early hours through what is known as the ‘morning program.’ There is work in the kitchen, preparing and offering prasadam. There is spreading the glories of the holy name to others, either in formal lectures or chance meetings with strangers, urging to read shastra like Bhagavad-gita or Bhagavata Purana.
“The concern is that someone is following almost a routine of mechanics. Going through the motions, without any real sentiment or transformation of heart. We can focus on the chanting alone, to get an idea. How does a person repeat that mantra over and over again? Don’t they get tired of the process? How can bhakti-yoga be successful if it involves so much repetition?”
Are not others engaged in the same activity, day after day? Prepare on a Sunday night for the difficult week of work that lies ahead. Struggle to wake up in the morning to make the commute to the office. Deal with one issue after another, with little to no recognition. Be tired upon completion of the day, relying on intoxicants and other unhealthy substances to make it through.
Then repeat the same the next day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year, until you are old and tired. Perhaps then you get some time to rest, in retirement, but what ends up happening is that there is a sort of bewilderment due to separation from the routine that was familiar for so long.
Bhakti-yoga, in its pure form, is a blissful engagement. It does not have the defect of the zero-sum game or the pie with a finite number of pieces. The bliss can be ever-expanding. Chanting the holy names might be a difficult chore for me today, but after some time spent in the practice it is something I look forward to each and every day.
Though I have heard the verses of Bhagavad-gita sung and explained countless times, I still feel invigorated every time I open the book. When I hear others expound on the glories of Arjuna’s charioteer, I cannot help but feel revived, as if I were stranded in a desert and someone has brought me water.
We see this is the case with the direct interaction, as well. From Bhagavata Purana, we have the experience of Narada Muni visiting Dvaraka. He meets with Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in one palace. He receives a hospitable welcome by the Lord and His chief queen, Rukmini Devi.
Narada then visits another palace in the same day. He meets with Krishna again, but it is like a new experience. Krishna pretends that the prior meeting never took place, and Narada is baffled as to how the same Supreme Lord can be in multiple places at the same time.
The routine is for creating numerical strength. The stronger our devotion, the weaker the illusory energy of maya will be in her persistence that we abandon the pursuit, that we stay within the confines of birth and death for as long as she is around to create the various performances. Transcendence is the better choice, and through a disciplined routine we have the blessings of the acharyas to carry us forward into greater and greater happiness.
From acharyas the blessing,
That rebirth addressing.
Where no more to stay,
Towards eternal life a way.
But at first with repetition routine,
Where benefit gradually seen.
Such that blissfully spent,
For bhakti we are meant.