“For one who is so situated in the Divine consciousness, the threefold miseries of material existence exist no longer; in such a happy state, one’s intelligence soon becomes steady.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.65)
प्रसादे सर्वदुःखानां हानिरस्योपजायते ।
प्रसन्नचेतसो ह्याशु बुद्धिः पर्यवतिष्ठते ॥
prasanna-cetaso hy āśu
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada claims that the Krishna consciousness philosophy has the potency to deliver. There is a beginning state, which then transforms into something else.
Like the pictures of the before and after to supposedly prove the effectiveness of a particular medical treatment, there is a way to assess progress. Bhakti-yoga is not merely a matter of faith or a religion placed into a bin with other competitors.
It is a way of life. It is a way of thinking. It affects consciousness, after all. The individual within bhakti-yoga does not have to wait for the afterlife to notice the effects. The philosophy has the origin of everything as the source, so it is naturally backed by the most perfect authority figure.
1. The darkest realms of ignorance
“I didn’t know it at the time. I only realize now, after significant time has passed. No one really notices these changes. It is like the aging of the body. I’m not exactly sure when my face started to look old, but it has certainly happened. I can tell from photographs taken of me ten years prior.
देहिनो ऽस्मिन् यथा देहे
कौमारं यौवनं जरा
धीरस् तत्र न मुह्यति
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
“I was in complete ignorance. I thought I was wise. I thought I was on the right track. The reality is that I was simply following everyone else. I was entirely miserable. I created one goal after another. These were milestones in the supposed progression of material living.
“Every goal carried the potential for failure. Success brought temporary relief, but failure resulted in elongated stretches of depression and sadness. I was never happy. I put so much value into the temporary, because that is what everyone else does.
“I knew no other way. This is what I followed from the time of birth. It is not anyone else’s fault. At the same time, association with asat didn’t help matters. It’s sort of like everyone else knew the illusion to their way of living, but no one had an alternative strategy. Therefore, we just kept going along the same path.
“I would get easily upset. I would get provoked at the slightest offense. I could not forgive others. I held onto the memory of past incidents for a long time. I could not control my eating or my sleeping. I was always intoxicated. I basically gave up on life.”
2. The enlightened realm of complete cognizance
“I am still the most fallen person I know, but in all honesty my spirits are much better. I cannot believe how things have changed. I cannot believe what I used to think was important. Thanks to the acharya, to the sadhu guiding me through written instruction, as if specifically targeted for me and my pathetic situation, I am much better now.
“I really do respect everyone. Even the criminals. Even those who cause harm to others. Even people who view me as an enemy. I understand the struggle through material living, in dealing with maya. It is like you are stuck in a bad dream. Nothing goes right, so you think that by brute force you can change the situation. You think that you can make the temporary last forever.
“My attachments are much less. I am fine with either a lot of food or a little. I don’t require a hefty salary in order to feel important. Rather, I am always thinking of the source of everything. I am appreciative for all that I have, for this blessed opportunity in the human birth.”
It may seem that the transformation is impossible. It may feel like only a select few will climb the ladder in the purification of consciousness. It may seem that there is no hope, that assimilation of the philosophy is only for smart people or those born into certain circumstances.
We have the example from Bhagavad-gita itself. Shri Krishna shares the wisdom with a member of the kshatriya class. Arjuna is the disciple and he released arrows in a fury, with targeted strikes, for his occupation.
He is not known to be a high scholar. He is not opening an institution of higher learning. He is not accepting direct disciples. He is not living off dakshina, running an ashrama, and preaching to the world.
इदं तु ते गुह्यतमं
यज् ज्ञात्वा मोक्ष्यसे ऽशुभात्
idaṁ tu te guhyatamaṁ
yaj jñātvā mokṣyase ‘śubhāt
“The Supreme Lord said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most secret wisdom, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.1)
Nevertheless, due to his non-envious nature, due to his devotion to Shri Krishna, Arjuna is most eligible to hear the philosophy. This is not a waste of time for Krishna. The period of knowledge transfer will make a difference. Their conversation is documented in the Mahabharata for a reason.
So merciful is he,
My situation to foresee.
That written instruction gave,
For my fortunes to save.
With no direction prior,
In futile endeavors to aspire.
Now like Arjuna from Krishna hearing,
My ignorance through words clearing.
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