Monday Morning Greetings 2021 #32 – The Process is Simple, But the Application is Difficult

August 9th, 2021

The Process is Simple, But the Application is Difficult[1]


Śrīla Prabhupāda said that his purports were his personal ecstasy. Would not then Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 2.9.36[2] reflect the special joy in expounding a subject close to his heart considering that it is his longest commentary in the Bhāgavatam? It makes sense that one who had enthusiastically taken the message of devotional service to every nook and cranny of the world without considering the qualification of the audience, would have special enthusiasm to talk about the universal applicability of devotional service, the subject of that verse. It certainly seems so. Within those purports, for over twenty pages, Śrīla Prabhupāda cited reference after śāstric reference to establish how bhakti is applicable to all, regardless of caste, creed, gender, and even species. He even quoted a reference that shows how a child in the womb of his mother who is hearing the Bhāgavatam can also be practicing the path of devotion. Can there be any doubt that no process is easier to enter than the path of devotion?


In direct opposition to that conclusion, however, we also come across many verses describing how attaining devotion is the pinnacle of austerities and knowledge, implying it is the most difficult and rarest of all spiritual attainments.[3] So, which is it—the most difficult or the easiest? We can reconcile this apparent contradiction by thoughtfully analyzing this simple statement by Śrīla Prabhupāda: “The process is simple, but the application is difficult.”


The Process is Simple


Krishna says in Bhagavad-gītā: “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.”[4] Who is not able to do that? Even a small child whose parents direct him to the altar can bow down before the deity and offer a flower. In 1966, when Śrīla Prabhupāda was lecturing at 26 Second Avenue, a white-haired, grizzly stubbled, and shabbily clothed Bowery derelict entered and offered a roll of toilet paper for the bathroom, which was situated to the right of the dais where Śrīla Prabhupāda was sitting. Śrīla Prabhupāda appreciated his simple offering and commented that the derelict’s seemingly decadent life due to bad association was inconsequential compared to his humble devotional service. What process then can be easier to enter than the path of bhakti?


The Application is Difficult


About thirty summers ago, when I was staying in the ISKCON Brooklyn temple, I made an appointment to visit one of my old friends who lived in Park Slope, which was a twenty-minute walk away. I showed him a slide show, our media then, of the Krishna consciousness movement. He watched silently with interest until a slide of a devotee fully prostrating himself before Śrīla Prabhupāda invoked his strong reaction: “I don’t bow down to no one!” It became clear to me why that although the process of devotion was so simple, its application was difficult. Bowing down before guru and Krishna means to relinquish the false ego, the desire to be better than everyone or anyone, which is the conditioned soul’s very raison d’être.


Going deeper into my chanting inevitably forces me to confront the egoistic covering of the soul, which is dictating everything but the simple step of finally saying to God, “From this day, I am yours!” I shudder at what that means. Will opening my heart to be ruled by what is right mean accepting things that may not stroke my ego or even suggest that I relinquish things that do? Am I ready to live a life of service and surrender where the universal will of love and devotion takes precedence over my petty desires and independence? So certainly, the process is quite simple, and surely the application is difficult, but my solace is that with the mercy of guru and Krishna I can gain the strength to put my head on the floor and be their humble servant.



“For those who are void of ego Śrī Keśava is not distant, but for those who are full with ego mountain ranges stand between one and the Lord.”[5]




[1] This is a common saying by Śrīla Prabhupāda. Among the places it is found is Teachings of Lord Caitanya Chapter 23.

[2] “A person who is searching after the Supreme Absolute Truth, the personality of Godhead, must certainly search for it up to this, in all circumstances, in all space and time, and both directly and indirectly.”

[3] Bhag. 3.33.7, Bg. 7.3

[4] Bg. 9.26

[5] From Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa as cited in Anuchedda 236 of Śrī Bhakti-sandarbha


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