“Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, never fear any condition of life. For them the heavenly planets, liberation and the hellish planets are all the same, for such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.17.28)
न कुतश्चन बिभ्यति
na kutaścana bibhyati
“I like to play these hypothetical games. For some reason, they calm me down. They allow me to assess a situation from a different angle. I see things from a different perspective. Time is a constant, after all. This means that things are always changing.
“One of the games I play is contemplating what I could give to someone. Basically, what is the best gift I could think of. If money were not an issue. If I could choose anything. If I wanted someone to be happy as a result and also appreciative.
“The best way is to think from the reverse angle. Put myself on the receiving end. There are many gifts for which I am truly grateful. It might have been a small gesture, but at the time it meant a lot. I have not forgotten.
“If someone were to ask me what I want, what is the best response? What could someone give to me that would make them happy? Is it even possible for someone to deliver in such a way? Are we not placing too much of a burden upon them?”
One candidate would have to be something that brings peace, calm, joy, and happiness in any situation. Literally, any condition of life would then become equal. The bitter cold of winter. The scorching heat of summer. The dreaded allergies from the flowers blossoming on trees.
The wife yelling for no reason. The children not leaving you alone. The boss at work upset over something you messed up. The criminals rising to the seat of power through a stolen election. Fraudulent health officials forcing everyone to stay at home. The only exception, if they are fortunate enough to be allowed out, is that they must obstruct their breathing.
What if I have received a gift that allows for a steady disposition through all the chaos and turmoil? Sure, certain conditions might be favored over others. I prefer the peace and quiet. I would rather not have so many distractions. It would be nice if others treated me with respect and dignity.
But this gift is so powerful that if you turned everything else off, I would be fine. Imagine sitting at home during one of the hottest days of the year. The electricity goes out. There is no backup generator. There is nowhere to go. Mosquitoes are roaming the area, and it seems too hot to fall asleep at night.
Even in that condition I am full of joy. I can find peace and tranquility from within. It is like I have connected with a superior being. There is a friend close by. While I turn this way and that, He is forever there.
This is the gift of bhakti-yoga. The acharyas of the Vaishnava tradition distribute this gift in the seed form. The seed then turns into a creeper, which eventually stands tall as a tree. There must be proper nourishment, but that is accounted for. The recipient is not left in the dark. There is an instruction manual to accompany this wonderful benediction.
Shrimad Bhagavatam explains it from the perspective of three different destinations. We are alive at the moment. There is perceived and experienced vitality due to the spirit-body combination. Elevated consciousness is what allows the human being to stand out.
As time continues to operate, there will be a future. Just exactly where that will be depends on action and consequence, which ultimately impact consciousness. The state of being at the time of death determines the nature of the next iteration at life.
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)
A person can end up in the heavenly realm. That is elevation. They can also fall to the hellish planetary system. That is demotion. There is the opportunity for release from the cycle of birth and death. That is liberation.
For the person with bhakti, any condition is fine. There is no reason to fear. Their life of devotion does not perish. They can still see the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They will maintain their level of allegiance. The discomfort from the lower regions will not deter their enthusiasm. The amenities in heaven do not distract from the ultimate objective of service.
यो मां पश्यति सर्वत्र
सर्वं च मयि पश्यति
तस्याहं न प्रणश्यामि
स च मे न प्रणश्यति
yo māṁ paśyati sarvatra
sarvaṁ ca mayi paśyati
tasyāhaṁ na praṇaśyāmi
sa ca me na praṇaśyati
“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.30)
Liberation is not necessary because anyone who steps into the path of bhakti-yoga is already liberated. They don’t feel a negative influence from the world around them. This is because they see Krishna in everything. They see God the person, and so He is never lost to them.
Best gift that can give,
For recipient happy to live.
Whether in heaven found,
Or to trouble bound.
Whether high or low,
Steady in position to go.
Possible with bhakti’s seed,
Into creeper and tree to proceed.