“Even at the risk of death such a devotee is never bereft of the transcendental loving service of the Lord. A glorious example of this ecstatic love was exhibited by King Parikshit when he was at the point of death. Although he was bereft of his entire kingdom, which spread over all the world, and although he was accepting not even a drop of water in the seven days remaining to him, because he was engaged in hearing the transcendental pastimes of the Lord from Shukadeva Gosvami, he was not in the least distressed.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 37)
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada refers to it as the elevator method. As opposed to taking the staircase to reach the top of a building, the functioning elevator provides a quicker and easier option.
The end-goal is the same. The final destination is identical, irrespective of the option you choose. The objective in this case is transcendence. Stopping the cycle of birth and death. Reaching the pinnacle in terms of achievement for the human birth.
The elevator is bhakti-yoga, whereas the staircase is any of the other authorized methods, as passed down in the Vedic tradition. The ease is in the implementation, which has multiple factors.
Some of the staircase methods are jnana-yoga, hatha-yoga, and karma-yoga. Unfortunately, these are not available to everyone. Jnana refers to knowledge, which requires a certain level of intelligence. We see that there are institutions of higher learning, but not everyone in the population attends.
There are honorary titles, such as Masters and Doctorate, but how many people actually earn them? There are fewer teachers of the subjects, masters of the craft, in relation to the number of students.
As described in Bhagavad-gita, mystic yoga has strict requirements. Absolutely no sex life. This is known as the vow of brahmacharya. Living in a secluded place. Meditating a certain way.
धारयन्न् अचलं स्थिरः
सम्प्रेक्ष्य नासिकाग्रं स्वं
मनः संयम्य मच्-चित्तो
युक्त आसीत मत्-परः
dhārayann acalaṁ sthiraḥ
samprekṣya nāsikāgraṁ svaṁ
manaḥ saṁyamya mac-citto
yukta āsīta mat-paraḥ
“One should hold one’s body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.13-14)
Karma-yoga involves work. What if a person is disabled? What if they have lost the ability to provide value in terms of a good or service? What if they are too indebted to sacrifice the fruits of their action?
कर्मण्य् एवाधिकारस् ते
मा फलेषु कदाचन
मा कर्म-फल-हेतुर् भूर्
मा ते सङ्गो ऽस्त्व् अकर्मणि
karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te saṅgo ‘stv akarmaṇi
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.47)
Suppose I am on the path of jnana. I am following yoga, but suddenly something happens. I need to carry out my practice in a different venue. The same could happen with mysticism or work itself. Will I be able to continue? Will everything pick up from where I previously left off?
What if I live in a period of time where jnana-yoga has no expert? What if there are none around with whom to associate? Maybe the books I need have not yet been published or made popular.
The work to which I am suited might be outlawed by the government. Tyranny abounds, and so people are forced to beg for a living. They can barely engage in the type of occupation that best suits them, to which they can work with detachment.
The functional aspects of bhakti-yoga can be applied by any person. A child can sing and dance. They can hear the sacred wisdom of Shrimad Bhagavatam. They can listen to the direct words of God, as spoken to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
If there are issues, then they can still remember. One who remembers Krishna at the time of death never takes birth again. They attain a nature similar to His.
यं यं वापि स्मरन् भावं
त्यजत्य् अन्ते कलेवरम्
तं तम् एवैति कौन्तेय
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
In the most limiting case where remembrance is the only option for bhakti-yoga practice, I can remember at any place. From the documented history in Vedic literature, we have Prahlada Maharaja remembering Vishnu while in a kingdom ruled by Daityas, who are against God and godly principles.
Sita Devi remembers her husband, Shri Rama, while surrounded by female ogres ordered to harass her day and night. Arjuna remembers Krishna while releasing arrows in a fury in the middle of a heated military conflict. The gopis remember Krishna while at home, after He has left their physical presence.
Bhakti-yoga is available across regions, time periods, predominant cultures, languages spoken, and so forth. The acharya is known as a travelling tirtha. Instead of having to travel to a pilgrimage site to meet saintly people, the exceptionally kind and magnanimous representatives of God extend their reach.
They accomplish this through physical travel, publishing literature, recording songs, preserving aural instruction, and the like. In every way, bhakti-yoga transcends time. It is the only way to feel like a kid again, without having to revert to a different body. Devotional service, directed at the original and supreme person, is like finding the fountain of youth.
Like finding youth’s fountain,
Climbing time’s mountain.
Where in endeavor to thrive,
Since with energy revived.
Because the bhakti path choosing,
And every gifted ability using.
Such that none ever restricted,
Chance whether healthy or afflicted.
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