Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #3 – Helplessly Perfect

January 21st, 2019

We are now near the end of Śrī Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, where the story of Śrī Nārada’s search for the topmost recipient of Śrī Krishna’s mercy is narrated. What an incredibly gripping story! Nārada has been told that he must certainly search out Uddhava, who resides in Śrī Krishna’s capital as His most confidential courier. Eventually reaching his destination, Śrī Nārada, with unbounded enthusiasm, enters the gates of the city. Running through the extremely intricate and confusing labyrinth of the city’s winding streets, intoxicated by love of God, he still manages to find himself at his destination, although apparently oblivious to what he is doing. How did he succeed? The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust commentary explains:


“The truth is, however, that when one is conducted ‘helplessly’ under the control of pure love of God, one actually understands everything perfectly; he certainly cannot forget the way to reach the Personality of Godhead.”


“Helplessly perfect” is an interesting concept and a seeming oxymoron, but if we think about it, if there is a supremely powerful and intelligent force in the universe, and instead of acting out of self-interest we become an instrument for that force, then would we not be in a sense acting helplessly and perfectly?


Perhaps we have personally experienced the reconciliation of this dichotomy when sharing what we know, and then in a mood of prayer the explanation comes through us in a far more fluid or perfect manner than what we could have possibly intellectually composed, or when trying to helplessly understand something about God, a realization or conclusion arises by prayer beyond our capacity to otherwise formulate or even comprehend. In such cases are we not helpless and competent at the same time?


This exact phenomenon of being conducted “helplessly” to reach a more perfect result is highlighted in the second of the four nutshell verses in the Bhagavad-gītā, where Krishna shows how perfect knowledge is given only to those who depend on Him in a mood of devotion.


“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” (Bg. 10.10)


I would like to help substantiate the “helplessly perfect” concept from my personal experience while writing this today. Attempting to compose this week’s Greeting has been exceptionally trying, as I am right in the middle of managing and leading my Puri retreat. This morning it was not surprising that I was practically staring at the blank page for hours trying to write something cogent. At the height of my helplessness, however, some powerful thoughts on how to proceed spontaneously came to mind. One reference especially from the Nectar of Devotion arose that helped resolve my quandary.


In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī described one of nine symptoms of advanced devotion as āśā-bandha, literally meaning that one’s hopes cannot be bound. In Nectar of Devotion Śrīla Prabhupāda translates the term in a very interesting way. He uses the English idiom “hope against hope”, indicating the idea of wishing for something against all odds. I found that translation quite revelatory in reconciling the dichotomy between hopelessness and perfection. The phrase “against hope” is such an excellent expression of the hopelessness of one seeking perfection on the basis of one’s own qualification, while “hope”, as used here, defines the confidence one can have at the same time when reflecting on God’s qualification, specifically His unbounded mercy. “Hope against hope” is thus a perfect aphorism for our theme here, “helplessly perfect”. It is also one that came to this essay when I myself was a bit lost about how to proceed.


I think Śrīla Prabhupāda’s poem “Mārkine Bhāgavata-dharma”, which was written upon arrival at Commonwealth Pier in Boston, is a perfect expression of this consciousness. He stood there with only forty-five rupees in his pocket and a trunk of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatams and began to reflect on the immense task that lay ahead, the spreading of Krishna consciousness throughout the Western world. Both his hopelessness in his personal ability to achieve his mission and his faith in the holy name to inspire him to achieve that mission arose simultaneously in his heart. The last two lines and his closing verification perfectly express this “hope against hope”, and his eventual success in that mission perfectly attests to the concept “helplessly perfect”:


“O Lord, I am just like a puppet in Your hands. So if You have brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance, O Lord, make me dance as You like.


I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge, but I have strong faith in the holy name of Krishna. I have been designated as Bhaktivedanta, and now, if You like, You can fulfill the real purport of Bhaktivedanta.”


Signed-the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami,
on board the ship Jaladuta, Commonwealth Pier,
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
dated 18th of September 1965


And there rests the secret to Krishna consciousness. As Śrī Nārada was conducted helplessly by devotion to reach the doorstep of Krishna’s palace, and Śrīla Prabhupāda in a mood of utter humility succeeded in his mission, only by attracting God’s mercy by our deep modesty and consequent calling of the holy name can we too hope against hope to achieve the sweet fruit of helpless perfection.






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