Monday Morning Greetings 2017 #27 – What Makes Bhakti Sweet?

July 3rd, 2017

I think it was the flowers. Summer is here and they are plentiful. Śrī Girirāja, my deity, looked stunning. I felt happy, but the quality of happiness had a unique flavor. I reflected on the feeling and why. It was more a joy than a pleasure, something that came from the heart, not just from the stimulation of a pretty sight. That transcendent feeling is bhakti, the pleasure you get when your happiness is the happiness of another, specifically God or Kṛṣṇa, because when happiness is directed at something inclusive of everything, such love is universal.
 
Although such focus away from oneself is true happiness, why are we so conditioned otherwise? We may say we are not, but are our dreams for ourselves or for others? Go deep in the heart. Listen to the voices of desire. Are they screaming in compassion and for service, or are they the voices of petty desires?
 
When we drink ambrosial nectar we derive a certain pleasure as it pours over our taste buds and down our throat. In the same way, our hearts have a kind of taste bud for the fluid of emotion, but instead of coming from outside and stimulating something on its way down, emotion comes from the inside, stimulates the heart, and flows outward in expression. You may see or touch a beautiful thing in the mood of exploitation and feel a fleeting high, but within our heart we only experience the bitter taste and expression of lust or greed. But contact the exact same thing with the understanding of the pleasure it gives to another, especially in relationship to God, and the sweet flavor of bhakti will exude.
 
And that’s the sweetness of bhakti. It doesn’t deny sensual experience. We can see and smell beautiful flowers, taste wonderful food, and hear the most exquisite melodies and rhythms, but if offered to Kṛṣṇa and then relished with the joy of His pleasure, instead of the bitter taste of simply selfish gratification, the sweet taste of devotion flows from our heart.
 
A while back, the main kitchens in ISKCON Vṛndāvana were under my management. I wasn’t the cook, but I personally oversaw all aspects of the feasts for the nearly contiguous festivals of Govardhan Pūjā and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance. The preparation was especially challenging because we had an inadequate coal based kitchen, no dining hall to feed the thousands of devotees in one place, and took on the responsibility of a fifteen course gourmet feast impeccably served to the thousands of guests sitting in rows. It was exhausting. Only after everyone else was fed did the cooks, servers, and myself honor the feast. I noticed that especially our illustrious cooks, led by B.B. Govinda Swami, then Ayodhyāpati dāsa, took very little, but with great joy. They would relish each preparation, but in relation to how all the Vaiṣṇavas assembled had enjoyed. That is sweetness of bhakti.
 
Frankly, too often the obligation for worship in my busy day becomes too much like a chore. But today the time and inspiration was to get the best for Kṛṣṇa, and that effort was especially expressed in the beauty of the decoration, especially the lush and fresh colorful roses picked right outside of my country home. I enjoyed them, but there was some grace, some bhakti, because my appreciation was somehow shifted to how my Lord was enjoying. That sensual experience then became spiritual and naturally awakened devotion, the happiness one feels upon the happiness of the divine. That universal love is the sweetness of bhakti.
 
 

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