Monday Morning Greetings 2020 #2 – Bhakti Is for All!

January 13th, 2020

I just spoke with Raghunath. He is very enlivened leading and teaching at the Govardhan Eco Village. He quipped that unless he is surrounded by a lot of people and leading a group, he can’t imagine how he could be absorbed in Krishna consciousness. I think what people like about him now is that he is not all pretentious as a leader. He humbly shares his own struggles, at times almost to the point of self-deprecation. It was a short casual call, so we couldn’t have an in-depth discussion, but one thing stood out — that what a devotee is and how a devotee remains engaged cannot be stereotyped. There are many different types of devotees and many different things devotees do. Therefore, what makes them advanced in practice and consciousness is not particularly what proclivity and service they have, nor whether they are extroverted or introverted, but the degree to which they are absorbed in devotional service and the humility and devotion they have in executing it.

 

I sometimes illustrate this point about distinguishing bhakti from external designations in relation to my own position as a renunciate by explaining how my sannyāsa is not necessarily a sign of devotional attainment, but a reflection of engaging my propensity for renunciation in Krishna’s service. To sum it up, bhakti is independent of both jñāna-sukṛti, credits from past deeds that grant one the propensity for renunciation, and karma-sukṛti, credit from past deeds that grant one a good material situation, including one’s personality and behavior. You can thus find sincere bhakti even in situations where it appears incongruous to classic yogic spirituality. I think a stark example will help make my general point more clear.

 

One of my favorite god-brothers, and a favorite of the devotees where he serves, has severe mental health challenges. His condition is so acute that he requires strong doses of heavy medication, including lithium, just to be functional. He lives in government housing and is incapable of rising from bed until late in the afternoon. Still, every day since I have known him, and that spans over thirty years, he immediately goes to the temple after rising and spends hours into the evening intricately cleaning every nook and corner of the three-story temple/ashram structure where he serves with the utmost sincerity and dedication. He is always humble, never offends anyone, and mostly uses whatever is left of his government stipend after meeting his essential needs to serve the devotees. In this life, he certainly doesn’t have enviable karma-sukṛti or a pronounced level of renunciation. What he does have, however, is considerable devotion.

 

My point about the independent nature of bhakti and the example I gave to illustrate it shouldn’t be misunderstood to mean that those on the path of bhakti are devoid of karma or jñāna-sukṛti. They certainly don’t have to be. The point I am stressing is that bhakti can be done without reservation from any platform of life, whether materially auspicious or not, because bhakti is independent of any external cause.

 

Śrīla Prabhupāda once stated that his purports to the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam were his personal ecstasy. I don’t think it is wrong to suggest that perhaps a purport of extraordinary length can indicate a particular enthusiasm or ecstasy in relation to a particular subject, not just because of its size, but by the apparent enthusiasm in which he cites so many varied references to establish a particular truth. I challenge the reader to find a purport longer and more well referenced than Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 2.9.36, one of the four nutshell verses of the initial Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which describes the universal application of devotional service. Śrīla Prabhupāda goes on for over twenty-six pages about the subject we are discussing, how there is no material prerequisite for devotional service regardless of caste, creed, age, or even species of life and so on. I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that it was this ecstasy or conviction that gave him the faith that he could transform the wayward and uncultured youth of the 1960s by finding the ways and means to engage them in devotional service.

 

Our discussion here began with Raghunath’s observation that he can’t possibly be fully Krishna conscious unless he is surrounded by others and leading them, which almost seems counter-intuitive to bhakti where God is put in the center. His inquiry, however, brought out an interesting point – that it doesn’t matter what nature or status you have if you give it to Krishna. What a merciful opportunity to perfect our lives and achieve spiritual attainment! Whoever you are, whatever you do, just give it to Krishna.

 

 

 

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