“All these faults you have described about life in the forest seem like wonderful qualities to me since Your affection is placed in front of them.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 29.2)
ये त्वया कीर्तिता दोषा वने वस्तव्यतां प्रति।
गुणानित्येव तान्विद्धि तव स्नेहपुरस्कृतान्।।
ye tvayā kīrtitā doṣā vane vastavyatāṃ prati।
guṇānityeva tānviddhi tava snehapuraskṛtān।।
A person new to devotional service might not be able to believe there could be pleasure within otherwise miserable experiences. There must be a catch, they think. It must be hyperbole or excessive effusion with their praise of the one they refer to as Krishna, since He is all-attractive.
To further confuse matters, there are the bold declarations as support. Kunti Devi, the sympathetic character of the Mahabharata, openly prays to have calamities arise again, in order that she might experience difficulty to facilitate a closeness in reliance on Shri Krishna, who was always the well-wisher to their family.
There is the plea from Sita Devi to her husband. Found within the Ramayana poem, the series of verses describes how the daughter of Janaka is well aware of the difficulties to be faced with life in the forest. Especially in contrast to the royal life in Ayodhya, there won’t be much in the way of comforts. This camping trip, of sorts, is set to last fourteen years.
Sita says that the miserable aspects to the experience won’t be miserable at all. Just the opposite, in fact. They will be wonderful in nature. This is due to the association of her husband, whom she follows out of love and also a sense of duty, dharma.
To help the newly initiated in the ways of devotional service better understand, we can take the common situations that parents face. These experiences are new to them. They would otherwise not prefer them. In fact, hardly anyone would welcome such inconveniences, but the presence of a new member of the family seems to change the outlook.
1. Changing diapers
“It bothers you. I can see that. I used to be grossed out by it, too. I mean, who wants to go through with that, on a recurring basis. I think we have at least a few years to go. Not to mention the potential of bringing more kids into this world, we might be facing this task for many years in succession.
“But no, it doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I am quite pleased to do it. Every time I have to change a diaper, it means that my child’s body is functioning properly. It means that at least in one aspect they are healthy and sound. I would be concerned, otherwise.”
2. Getting up in the middle of the night
“You sort of get used to it. It now feels strange if I make it through the night without waking up at least once. I don’t mind keeping an eye on the little one. It’s nice to know they are safe and sound. When I see them sleeping comfortably, peace and calm overcome me.”
3. Sitting at the library
“I was there just yesterday. Probably for three hours straight, I just sat there. I tried reading different magazines, but those become boring. This was after putting in a full day at the office. In the past, I would unwind by sitting on the couch and watching television.
“That life has basically disappeared. I am always on-call. There is always something to do. It is being alert from morning until night. It has become a blissful experience to me, especially seeing my child play with other children. I like it when they want to read books and learn new things.”
4. Listening to screaming
“I certainly prefer peace and quiet. I don’t usually blast music in the car or at home. I could sit outside, in the backyard, for hours, just listening to nature. Maybe some day that will be a regular thing, but certainly not now.
“The screaming is not that bad. It’s the child’s way of communicating. I am glad they are letting me know that something is wrong. I am here to help, after all. I am so lucky to have this relationship.”
5. Reviewing the alphabet and basic mathematics
“I feel like a kid again. I am reviewing basic letters and numbers, but it’s fun. The progress is slow, but steady. My kid now asks to be taught. They think it is fun. They sit down with their notebook and write down different words. They make drawings. It is so wonderful to witness.”
The life in devotion, within a standard discipline, is similar in the drastic changes that might follow. Routine in positive activities, pravritti. Attention to detail and observance of vows. Staying away from certain behaviors, known as nivritti.
यत् तद् अग्रे विषम् इव
तत् सुखं सात्त्विकं प्रोक्तम्
yat tad agre viṣam iva
tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam
“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.37)
The experience might be poison in the beginning, but eventually there is a transformation. The exact same experience, within the same setting, with the same people around, is suddenly nectar-like. This is due entirely to the increased consciousness of the Supreme Lord.
From consciousness increasing,
The poison decreasing.
Experience exactly the same,
But like nectar-wave came.
The restrictions not to mind,
Since abundant positives to find.
In bhakti tradition connection found,
Now to lotus feet bound.
Categories: the five