Monday Morning Greetings 2017 #28 – Is It Wrong To Ask God For What We Need?

July 10th, 2017

Her kind father met her at JFK airport to see her off. She made a humble request to him, “Could you please fold your hands and make a prayer for me?” Her supportive father repeated after her, “Dear Kṛṣṇa, could you please find a good husband for my daughter?” Her father’s prayers were soon answered. After more than twenty-five years she is still happily married to a very upstanding Vaiṣṇava.
 
She didn’t always feel that she needed to get married. She had already been married before she joined the āśrama and was feeling happily sheltered in her sevā of distributing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books with a group of other ladies, all quite elevated on the path of bhakti. What more could she want? But her idyllic life would not last. The leader and inspiration for the particular temple where her āśrama was situated fell away and as expected when a charismatic leader falls everything falls apart. But she was thoughtful. As soon as her world shifted she made an adjustment in her life. She decided to take shelter in Vṛndāvana, but also realized that she needed to get married again, this time someone who shared her ideals. Her father graciously agreed to offer her prayer.
 
But isn’t bhakti without personal desire and only for the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa? Doesn’t Kṛṣṇa give shelter and maintain His surrendered devotees by providing whatever they need? Why ask? Doesn’t Kṛṣṇa know one’s heart? Where is her faith?
 
Recently someone asked me a very similar question. This story came to my mind. On one hand, bhakti means the intention to please Kṛṣṇa without any extraneous desire, and the primary symptom of faith is that Kṛṣṇa will protect His devotees. And even when asking Kṛṣṇa for something, a devotee is very careful to not to question God’s motive or try to impose his or her will on Kṛṣṇa’s.
 
Śrīla Prabhupāda became very ill just after I first came to the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement. He allowed us to pray for him. Still he only sanctioned a prayer that seemed to include a condition that inoculated us from questioning Kṛṣṇa’s power and benevolence, “O Kṛṣṇa, if you so desire, please cure Śrīla Prabhupāda!”
 
In the Śikṣāṣṭakam, the only eight verses that Śrī Caitanya composed, the purity of devotion is highlighted from the very beginning of his short poem culminating in the ultimate selflessness espoused in the final verse:
 
“I know no one but Kṛṣṇa as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord unconditionally.” (Śikṣāṣṭakam, 8)
 
The path of devotion, however, does not reject aspirants with material attachment, especially when they have legitimate needs to be met for the peaceful execution of one’s spiritual life. Even in Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s seminal definition of pure devotion service, he doesn’t say that pure devotional service is free from all desires (anyābhilāṣa), only that it must be free from desires that are not integral with our selfish, or motivated nature (anyābhilāṣitā). In other words, the desire of a person threatened with death calling for help or a parent’s natural affection for their child are not necessarily considered against pure devotional service, although in one sense they are personal attachments.
 
So, can a devotee approach Kṛṣṇa with his needs? If we have legitimate needs that we require for the peaceful execution of devotional service and we call to Kṛṣṇa for their fulfillment, is that not part of one’s love for Kṛṣṇa? If a small child is hungry and approaches his mother for food is not that dependence an expression of love? In fact, in rāsa theory, the science of love, the flavor of a servant’s mood of affection is, “You are my maintainer!” Did not the great devotees Draupadī and Uttarā petition the Lord for protection in time of great distress? Did that compromise their devotion, or was it an expression of their love?
 
Did my god-sister, who had fully given her life at the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, violate her pure devotion by having her father ask Kṛṣṇa for a husband for her, or did she just show her dependence on God by asking for help to get what she required for her devotional service? It’s a fine line, and perhaps that is why this sincere and intelligent soul, perhaps being reluctant herself to ask Kṛṣṇa, asked her father to pray for her. It wouldn’t compromise her father’s devotion, as he was not a devotee, but it would endear her father to Kṛṣṇa by service to his daughter, a pure devotee. But if she did ask, what would be the harm?
 
 

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