Is There An Experience Penalty With Bhakti-Yoga

[Radha-Krishna]“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)

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बहूनां जन्मनाम् अन्ते
ज्ञानवान् मां प्रपद्यते
वासुदेवः सर्वम् इति
स महात्मा सु-दुर्लभः

bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ

“Have you ever been to one of these escape rooms? I believe that is the name for them. You can add it to the list of potential group activities. You have the standard night club or coffee shop, but if you wanted something more engaging for the mind, for an official outing, there are games.

“Such as billiards, miniature golf, arcades, and so forth. The escape room is something unique in that there is a collaborative effort, with solving puzzles. The factor looming over the entire experience is time. If you don’t put together the clues fast enough, you fail.

“The clues build on top of one another. Like opening one door in order to find another. The final judgment is pass or fail. You either escape from the room or you do not. If you take too much time in solving the riddles, you fail.

“This got me to thinking about bhakti-yoga. Is there any sort of penalty for extended experience? I guess there is something similar in higher education. The person who keeps failing their classes requires extra semesters in order to finish.

“The person who finishes on time gets a head start on their career. They are on the fast track to success. They save money in the process. There is some prestige associated with completing on time, compared to the stigma of constant defeat requiring extra time.

“For the person who has been saintly all their life, from the time of birth, are they any better situated at the end? I know that consciousness can turn in a matter of seconds. A person could have been mired in sinful life for many iterations, but one final turn, prior to dying, and everything changes.

“Is that fair, though? Should not the saintly person steady in practice be rewarded? Should not there be a penalty for the extra experience in material life for all others?”

We can use the example of the recording artist going on tour. They will play their songs in front of a live audience. Since they are popular, they anticipate sold out shows in the largest venues possible, which are soccer and football stadiums or even open fields.

[rock concert]Due to the high demand for tickets, the recording artist has set up a system whereby certain people can get ahead of the line in purchasing. These are usually members of the fan club. Even within the fan club there might be different tiers. A person who has been a member since the beginning has better access than someone who signed up only a week ago.

When it comes time for the actual performance, does the artist really care who is in the audience? Are they disappointed if only a few longstanding fan club members buy tickets? Are they sad to see only people new to the scene, who just recently discovered the music?

In an honest assessment, it will not matter. As long as people are there, enjoying in the experience together, the past does not make a difference. Whether that person seated in the front row is arriving for the first time or has been a steady supporter, the importance is on the actual moment.

In the same way, for the person arriving at the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the amount of time previously spent in illusion is not held against them. It is readily admitted that it takes many lifetimes before a person understands God the person in truth. Such a person is rare.

That person could have been a nitya-baddha. This refers to a conditioned soul who cannot find any point in their timeline of history where they were not bound to the cycle of birth and death. Moving forward, it looks like they have no chance of improving the situation. It appears that they will always be in that situation; bound for eternity.

The person could be a nitya-siddha. This is the opposite case, where we cannot find a point in the timeline when that person was not liberated. They are always thinking of how to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They are always furthering the interests of spiritual life, helping others to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

In the complete picture, there is a kind of oneness. The individuals serving and the individual being served. As far as we know, there is no barrier dividing VIP and ordinary participants. The individuals serving are in the same category, as they are there for the same reason.

[Radha-Krishna]Whether today is the first day we are chanting the holy names or we can tick off number ten thousand in a straight line, we should be thankful to have arrived in a better place. Nothing can be done to change the past. There is no point in turning around. Better to continue on the path forward, which is the only way out of the cycle of birth and death.

In Closing:

Chanting holy names too?
To the process you are new?

Well, what took you so long?
Too much maya to dwell upon?

Mattering not since now you are here,
Your devotion from behavior clear.

Together the Supreme Lord let’s please,
The opportunity of right now to seize.

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