“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.11)
अवजानन्ति मां मूढा
मानुषीं तनुम् आश्रितम्
परं भावम् अजानन्तो
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā
mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
A common rebuttal to the appeal for self-realization is that there is no visual evidence of a Supreme Divine Being. If He cannot be identified within a picture, then of what use is worship? You might as well create an imaginary figure and set up a system of allegiance, with supporting literature and accompanying rules and regulations.
The truth to the Vaishnavas is that as long as a person is averse to the Supreme Lord, they will never be able to see Him. He might be standing right before them. He might display the virata-rupa, the universal form. He might exhibit unthinkable heroism and strength, such as in lifting a hill.
Since they are averse, they will not give acknowledgment. They will think that the Supreme Lord has accepted a material form, in the way that others do. They will not realize His true standing as the most dominant person, who transcends birth and death, both at the individual level and with respect to the entire cosmic manifestation.
It is seen that when a Vaishnava sets up camp within a sacred land, they receive visitors on occasion. The people approaching always want something. They are in distress. Or maybe they are going through difficulties. They respect the Vaishnava enough to approach in a humble way, but in the background they are looking for some help.
It may appear to be trivial or simplistic for the saint to respond with a recommendation to chant the holy names:
“From this day forward, be devoted to Hari. I can work miracles, but understand that misery is the way this world operates. As soon as there is birth, there is death. You are suffering today, but you will also suffer tomorrow. Instead, chant the names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If your family members are willing, join together. That will be the greatest gift you can give to me.”
Chanting the holy names removes the aversion. That is the first step. Without a dramatic shift in attitude, there is no possibility of witnessing the Supreme Lord and feeling His amazing grace. It is not possible to appreciate His transcendental features or relish His pastimes, which are nectar-like.
The Vaishnava has direct experience of the transformation. In many cases, they were previously just as averse. They had temporarily forgotten the link to Divinity. Maybe they were thrown into the waves of nescience through poor association or sadness over loss.
Chanting the holy names turned their life around. They know that it can do the same for others. If an entire village becomes devoted to the Supreme Lord, they will see Him always. With that vision in mind, it is like the area transforms into the spiritual world.
In truth, there is no difference. Physical travel to a different destination is not required. A person can experience liberation even prior to death. Such a person is known as jivan-mukta. Whether they live or die makes no difference. They are always in the transcendental consciousness.
आरुह्य कृच्छ्रेण परं पदं तत:
ye ’nye ’ravindākṣa vimukta-māninas
tvayy asta-bhāvād aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ
āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ
patanty adho ’nādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ
“O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.2.32)
The recommendation to chant the holy names is the highest benediction a saint can offer. The end-result is more significant than the temporary removal of distress. Assistance of the ordinary variety may be able to prolong life within a specific body, but transcendental awakening to the eternal service known as sanatana-dharma stops rebirth altogether.
To be able to recognize God and His omnipresence is not easy. The less intelligent think that such concepts are not real, that they are only part of mythology. The Vaishnava saints give the path forward, opening the doors to life in reality, which has the all-attractive one standing in every corner.
In every corner standing,
With full authority commanding.
Previously a distant dream,
Perhaps as metaphor to mean.
But saint told me to chant,
Highest benediction to grant.
Such that cloud of ignorance gone,
Now Hari to dwell upon.