Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #18 – Difficult and Simple at the Same Time

May 6th, 2019

It’s early morning. My thoughts are clear. As I am writing, a simple but challenging question suddenly appears: Why am I writing this article? Is it for “likes”, a fan base, or any other egoistic adulation that fuels my sojourn in this world? Bhakti is for Krishna. Am I really writing for Krishna? If not, then how is it bhakti? I feel challenged. Bhakti, only for Krishna?! That’s not easy! A counter thought comes: But anyone can do bhakti, even a child. Bhakti is easy. Well, which is it? Here are my reflections.


Bhakti is easy


The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam was originally spoken in four verses from Krishna to Lord Brahma at the beginning of creation. The fourth verse describes the abhidheya-tattva, the means for realizing the truth, which is bhakti. Bhakti is specifically described there by the words sarvatra (applicable in all space and time) and sarvadā (applicable in all circumstances). Bhakti is thus a path that is uniquely independent of any material prerequisite. In that sense it is the easiest thing to do.


In his commentary on this verse, which is almost eighteen pages, Śrīla Prabhupāda supports this contention of how the qualification for bhakti is so undemanding and so easy that there is no impediment to executing it, whether by caste, gender, creed, or even species. Even the unborn are qualified![1] Śrīla Prabhupāda once said that his purports are his personal ecstasy. Perhaps his extended thoughts in his long purport on the universal applicability of bhakti are an expression of his faith and joy in sharing bhakti with all.


“Therefore there is no need to seek properly qualified candidates for discharging devotional service to the Lord. Let them be either well-behaved or ill trained, let them be learned or fools, let them be either grossly attached or in the renounced order of life, let them be liberated souls or desirous of salvation, let them be inexpert in the discharge of devotional service or expert in the same — all of them can be elevated to the supreme position by discharging devotional service under the proper guidance.” (Bhag. 2.9.36, Purport)


It’s quite a declarative statement. The conclusion couldn’t be clearer: As bhakti is applicable in all time, place, and circumstance there can be nothing easier than practicing bhakti. But is it?


Bhakti is not easy


Even the simplest things are often the most difficult to execute when you have no interest or liking for them. Have you ever struggled with saying “I am sorry” or “I am wrong”? You can do either immediately in any circumstance, but it all depends on your liking — whether you want to do it or not.


Bhakti is like that. Although it is the simplest thing to do because there are no material prerequisites for practicing devotion — even a child can bow his head before God — it is still difficult to execute if you have no interest or liking. But how can one not like to do bhakti?


Certainly, simple devotional activities that attract us are to our liking and easy to do, and our various tastes in Krishna consciousness are the door to our full absorption. Pure bhakti, however, is a bit different. It is not just the activities we like to do in devotion, but the consciousness and identity in which all our activities are done. Pure devotion is to serve God without motive, never seeking the center for ourselves. To the extent that we are still seeking to be the center and thus still desiring for ourselves profit, adoration, and distinction for ourselves, is the degree to which devotional activities will be difficult when we see no personal gain. Can we deny that this spirit to be the enjoyer and controller rests in all of us, both subtle and gross? Otherwise why wouldn’t we fully surrender to guru and Krishna right now when such devotion is the ultimate benefit?


I like the way Śrīla Prabhupāda reconciled this simple yet difficult quandary with a concise phrase: “The process is simple. The application is difficult.”


My internal struggle today with writing


Back to my inner dialogue. Am I writing for Krishna? Is it bhakti and is bhakti easy or difficult to do? These are my thoughts: Writing is my service and it takes determination and sacrifice to do it. That’s certainly devotion. Sure, I see that there are personal fruits from my service that agitate subtle desires for distinction, but the main thing is to engage in devotional service and to give your work to God. No matter what impels us, we will be purified. But is that enough for me?


Śrīla Prabhupāda taught pure devotion. It means not just giving your work to God but giving yourself to God. And once you offer yourself to guru and Krishna then whatever you do will automatically be offered to Krishna and imbued with devotion. That’s real bhakti, and that’s my goal and also my challenge, to just write in a spirit of devotion.


I am writing this before a large picture of Śrīla Prabhupāda. I begin and end with a prayer that I may consciously write only for his pleasure, without any desire for personal adulation or profit. For one who fully takes shelter of a guru that is very easy from the start. Just flip the switch to the consciousness that I am servant of guru and Krishna, and we are liberated. So easy. Yes, simple, but easier said than done.



[1] Śrī Prahlāda performed devotional service in the womb when his pregnant mother listened daily to Śrī Nārada recite the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.



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