Our Most Important Business
By Red Willow mataji
Within our daily practice, we may find ourselves going through the motions, hoping that one day we will wake up with a taste for the holy name, or that we will spontaneously experience ecstatic emotions, maybe even get a glimpse of the spiritual world. After understanding so many ins and outs of the philosophy… even after following the process very strictly, or at least to the best of our ability.
Certainly, just as any other activity we perform, there is a tendency to settle into complacency, and such is also the case with our devotional service in practice. It is not that we are purely practicing, we are practicing contaminated Bhakti, mixed devotional service, it is not pure. If it were completely pure, para bhakti, then this tendency for complacency, idleness, and moroseness would not be present. "The word paraya is very significant. Para bhakti, or spontaneous love of God, is the basis of an intimate relationship with the Lord. This highest stage of relationship with the Lord can be attained simply by hearing about Him (His name, form, qualities, etc.) from authentic sources like the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, recited by pure, unalloyed devotees of the Lord." (SB 3.9.5, Purport) So, para bhakti, unmixed, spontaneous devotional service, is the BASIS of an intimate relationship with Krishna. We have not yet approached the base-line of our real relationship with the Lord. We are simply following mechanically, hoping that by these various practices, some significant feeling will arise. After all, we are promised by our Spiritual Master that simply by hearing about Krishna from authentic sources and from a pure, unalloyed devotee (such as Himself) we can attain the highest stage of relationship. So, what is this hearing? Does it mean that we read, and listen to the sastra as much as possible? Do we simply play a YouTube video of Prabhupada's lectures and wait for our real identity and activity to become revealed to us? Or, do we read Prabhupada's books, letters, and conversations.... And then, we have attained the highest stage of relationship with the Lord? It is simple, right? Prabhupada says it is simple, so is this our idea of simplicity? Does simple mean that it is really that easy? Let's try to understand what real hearing is first. business To hear is different from listening. "Activities such as seeing and hearing are actions of the senses meant for receiving knowledge, whereas moving, speaking, evacuating, etc., are actions of the senses meant for work." (Bg 5.8, Bg 5.9, Bg 5.8–9) Hearing involves being "receptive," and being receptive indicates that one must be submissive, open to assimilating possibly unpalatable information, yet willing to accept and apply what is presented. "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in propagating the bhagavata-dharma, or activities of the devotees, has recommended that people submissively hear the message of the Personality of Godhead. The essence of this message is Bhagavad-gita. The lowest amongst human beings can be delivered by this submissive hearing process only, but unfortunately they even refuse to give an aural reception to these messages, and what to speak of surrendering to the will of the Supreme Lord?" (Bg 7.15, Purport) To listen is not the same as to hear… hearing involves a submissive attitude, listening is more passive and impersonal, and ultimately, hearing denotes surrender. Therefore, Arjuna addresses Krishna, "Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me." (Bg 2.7) We can learn about how to properly hear by taking the example of Arjuna. Only once he fully surrenders, and accepts Krishna as the Supreme Brahman, and as his Spiritual Master, does Krishna begin to instruct Arjuna and thus Krishna speaks the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna begins to actually hear from this point; after total surrender, which is his conscious choice, it does not happen by chance, or accidentally, it also does not happen blindly, Arjuna makes an intelligent, informed choice to surrender, and at once he is eligible to receive the knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita. "Arjuna has now turned his face towards his eternal friend, Krsna, and is understanding the Bhagavad-gita from Him. And thus, hearing from Krsna, he can understand the supreme glories of the Lord and be free from lamentation." (Bg 2.22, Purport)
Hearing begins when we accept a Spiritual Master and take direction from Him. Not simply by listening, nor simply by chanting can we attain the highest stage of relationship with the Lord; He is not so cheap. "When one accepts Krsna as an ordinary man, the Gita loses all importance." (Bg 2.12) It's significant to note that the Spiritual Master, if considered to be an ordinary man, will not yield the same results as are guaranteed to one who takes shelter of Krishna and the Spiritual Master in full knowledge of their superior position. Neither Krishna, nor the Spiritual Master are to be considered as ordinary human beings. This offensive approach will not help us on the path towards pure, unalloyed devotional service. "By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna." (Bg 4.10) So, to be “under the guidance of the Spiritual Master” means to understand that He is not an ordinary man, He is to be considered as good as God. To be under His guidance means that we must properly hear from Him, and that hearing entails a few things… a submissive and receptive attitude, surrender to a Spiritual Master as the ultimate authority, acceptance of the Spiritual Master and His instructions as being as good as instructions delivered directly by Krishna Himself and practical application of those instructions. Not so easy, this hearing process, eh? "The Lord therefore says to Arjuna, tac chrnu, or "Hear from Me." No one can be a greater authority than Krsna, and therefore by hearing from Him one receives the greatest opportunity to become a perfectly Krsna conscious person. One has therefore to learn from Krsna directly or from a pure devotee ––– and not from a non-devotee upstart, puffed up with academic education." (Bg 7.1, Purport)
Okay, so hearing is a much more dynamic activity than it is commonly taken to be. Such also is acceptance of a Spiritual Master. To accept a Spiritual Master means that we must hear from Him. And this means that we must not only accept that He is not an ordinary man, or that He is as good as God, or even that what He speaks is completely perfect and for our very best interest. We can understand these things theoretically, and think that we, therefore, have accepted a Spiritual Master. But, unless we properly hear from Him, then we cannot consider ourselves disciples. To hear means more than to comprehend His message. It means to surrender to His instructions and fully apply them, despite all challenges. We must take His instructions as our very life and soul. That is real acceptance...that is actual initiation; the awakening of transcendental knowledge.
"This unmixed devotional service is transcendental and is called para bhakti. It alone can promote a person to the transcendental kingdom of God. Such a transcendental kingdom is not a myth, but is as factual as the moon. One must have transcendental qualities to understand the kingdom of God and God Himself." (SB 2.8.14, Purport) How serious are we about reviving our transcendental qualities? "The word parena is very significant. Para means "transcendental, untinged by material contamination." Full consciousness that one is an eternal servant of the Lord is called para bhakti. If one has any identification with material things and executes devotional service for attainment of some material gain, that is viddha bhakti, contaminated bhakti. One can actually become liberated by execution of para bhakti." (SB 3.24.45, Purport) How serious are we about returning to our original, pure condition, about liberation from the bodily conception of life, about entering into an eternal relationship with Krishna?
This requires total and complete surrender. Only this surrender can move us from our stagnation, our complacent condition, our moroseness, and our idle disposition. There is a good reason why Srila Prabhupada coined this as the Krishna Consciousness MOVEment. We must allow ourselves to be moved by the mercy of the Spiritual Master, and we must make moves towards receiving that mercy, otherwise we may forever fool ourselves into believing that we are progressing on the path, when in fact, we have not even come to the baseline from which spontaneous loving devotion can blossom. We could very well spend millions of lifetimes stuck in this lingo. To hear about the glories of the Lord under the guidance of a bona fide Spiritual Master is such a multi-layered process and although it may be simple, that simplicity is so completely full of depth and we should familiarize ourselves with its intricacies so that we may be able to one day truly taste the bliss of pure devotional service.