“In the Hari-bhakti-sudhadaya there is another example, forwarded by Maharaj Dhruva. He says there, ‘My dear Lord, I have practiced austerities and penances because I was desiring to receive something from You, but in exchange You have allowed me to see You, who are never visible even to the great sages and saintly persons. I had been searching out some pieces of broken glass, but instead I have found the most valuable jewel. I am therefore fully satisfied, my Lord. I do not wish to ask anything more from Your Lordship.’” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 46)
“When hearing the pitch for following devotional service, bhakti-yoga, there are constant references to pure devotees and pure devotion. This is the basis for criticism of outsiders, as well. Someone might be known as a follower of Vishnu or one of His avataras, but since they are in a different disciplic succession, there is this casually thrown-about strike against them.
“They are not a pure devotee, you see. Something about someone in their line of teachers, several hundred years back. They were into such and such philosophy, which is a big no-no. Therefore, the entire line is tainted. Best to stick with pure devotees, only.
“Alright, that is well and good. Seems a little cultish to me, but I will hear you out. The only problem is that if you read Vedic literature, every character is after something. Story after story begins with someone looking for a personal benefit.
“How are we supposed to understand pure devotion, then? What is the proper standard? Who is the example to follow? Name anyone within Krishna-lila and I can show you an example of their impure devotion, based on their asking for things.”
This is the material world, after all. To try to improve the personal situation is not a blemish, in and of itself. There is the example from within colonial times in the area known as America. One printer living in the colony known as Pennsylvania happened to discover that lightning is indeed electricity.
The result was the use of rods placed on top of homes and churches. This would safely bring lightning strikes to the ground. This would save lives. It would prevent large structures from burning down.
There was criticism, however. From the clergy, the strike was that if God wanted man to avoid lightning, He would never have produced it to begin with. It is going against God’s will to find protection against such calamities of nature, you see.
Of course that logic is nonsense. If agreed upon, we could say that the umbrella is just as sacrilegious. The same for housing structures themselves, as they protect against the elements, both extremes of heat and cold.
There are three primary sources of misery within the material world. To look for protection against these is only natural. To improve the personal situation makes sense. The distinction with pure devotion is that a person approaches God specifically without any of these interests. It is the highest standard to reach.
It only makes sense that the characters we read about are not necessarily at such a standard. They may worship demigods. They find other solutions to their troubles. And troubles there are; too many to count, in fact.
We have the example of Dhruva Maharaja. He was only a child, but he desperately wanted something. He approached those in authority for help, to see what they knew. Narada Muni told him to go to the forest, to find the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Only the highest authority could help with this personal issue.
Dhruva spent such a long time in meditation that it caught the attention of Vishnu. Riding on Garuda, the husband of Lakshmi Devi arrived at the scene. He was ready to give Dhruva whatever he wanted.
A strange thing occurred, however. Dhruva suddenly changed his mind. He no longer wanted revenge against the family. He was not interested in ascension in the subsequent birth. The meeting with Vishnu changed everything.
That is the primary appeal from the acharya within the Vaishnava tradition. They ask us not to settle for pebbles or stones. Do not be so interested in seeking sense gratification. Even the elimination of distresses is only temporary.
माम् एकं शरणं व्रज
अहं त्वां सर्व-पापेभ्यो
मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
Finding God the person is like finding everything that a person needs. His association is enough. Even if we are impure in the beginning, the connection to Him creates purification. We might not believe the full transformation to be possible, but the surrendered souls are always protected by that great well-wisher.
With their worship to try,
Looking to fall from the sky.
Answers to their troubles when,
How pure devotion then?
A difficult standard to reach,
But acharyas still to teach.
That with Vishnu association coming,
Changed like Dhruva becoming.