“With a poor fund of knowledge, we cannot adjust to the idea of the personality of the Absolute Truth, and the personal activities of the Lord are deplored by the less intelligent impersonalists; but reasons and arguments together with the transcendental process of approaching the Absolute Truth help even the staunch impersonalist to become attracted by the personal activities of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.1.9 Purport)
It’s difficult to believe with certainty that there is a supreme personality who possesses distinguishable features when you’ve spent your entire life not contemplating such a person. During times of trouble, you may have called out to an abstract figure known as “God”, but never did you know the nature of His enchanting smile, the unique complexion of His body, the preciousness of His features, or the reasons for His advents. You may have tried to conjure up the cause for His personal intervention from time to time, but never were you actually certain. Therefore when hearing about this information from the confident Vaishnava preacher, there might be some apprehension. Nevertheless, in spite of all past prejudices and ignorance based on mentally created theories, when reason and argument are placed together in the proper context, that Supreme Lord’s vision can be taken full advantage of.
The opulences of Bhagavan are meant to be exploited for personal enjoyment. There is a difference with this practice, however. In the absence of divine association, the cherished desire is for personal enjoyment to the point that we have more than anyone else. More money, more clothes, more shoes, more time off, more ways to enjoy after hard work in different ventures. The desire for enjoyment comes from the fact that we are all purusha, or spirit. Dull matter is prakriti, which is the material nature. Purusha enjoys prakriti.
But there is a more powerful purusha, who controls even us. We are meant for His enjoyment, so to Him we are His prakriti. Yet when He enjoys it brings to us the highest pleasure as well, so the two parties become essentially one in the ideal relationship. This is witnessed in the dealings between Lord Krishna and Shrimati Radharani. Krishna is God and Radha His immediate pleasure potency expansion. They are considered one because when they are together, always immersed in wonderful, loving thoughts, there is no question of a difference. Each person plays an integral role in the resulting relationship.
When the expansions are broken in consciousness from the Supreme Lord, differences arise. The individual souls think they are alone, capable of enjoying independently, but with this flawed notion, they find only misery, in lifetime after lifetime. The localized prakriti changes for them through the influence of time, and at death a new set of elements to be enjoyed is provided for the next life.
Of course that enjoyment is only temporary, something like from a dream. It is sometimes also considered false, or illusory. Real enjoyment is with the Supreme Lord in a mood of affection. To become more convinced of the need for that enjoyment, Krishna distributes His gospel to worthy recipients, who then pass it on to humble and sincere students.
The crux of the instruction is to follow the path that keeps Krishna in one’s life. That path is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Of course to hear of surrender unto a divine personality resembles sectarianism or blind ideology, so there is perfect argument and reason to go along with the bhakti path to make it stand out. Ironically enough, the philosophical points are of secondary importance to the surrendered souls on the highest platform of worship. They love Krishna, and from that position they get the requisite knowledge to continue that love and teach others how to reach that same platform.
From the reason perspective, we know that in the present condition we are not happy. If we were content, we would have no reason to read books on how to fix things. The self-help books on the shelves of the bookstores would never sell a single copy. The diet and nutrition experts would never be heard, and there would be no such thing as counseling. The misery is concomitant with separation from the divine consciousness, so the benefit of approaching a bona fide spiritual master of the Vedic tradition shouldn’t be difficult to understand. He can be thought of as the best self-help instructor.
The pillars of bhakti practice are chanting and hearing, which are simultaneously taken care of through outward recitation of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. These names are non-different from the person they address. Thus saying Krishna is as good as being next to Him. Rama addresses His incarnations of Lord Rama or Lord Balarama respectively. Rama also speaks to God’s ability to give transcendental pleasure to others.
We already chant and hear so many different things, so the chanting and hearing aspects of bhakti-yoga sound pretty reasonable. The recommendation is to chant the above mentioned mantra for at least sixteen rounds a day on a japa mala, which is a rosary containing one hundred and eight beads, with the mantra chanted once per bead. It is a difficult routine to adopt and follow at the outset, but the transcendental nature of the process combined with some determination in the devotee makes the process more pleasurable with time. The seasoned devotee will not give up their chanting routine for anything, not even millions of dollars.
This brings us to the argument section. How can you argue against chanting and hearing? You know that material nature brings you temporary rewards already, so what are you really losing by hearing these transcendental sound vibrations authorized and made famous by Lord Chaitanya, the preacher incarnation of Krishna? Life is about finding pleasure, and following regulation is the pathway that leads to pleasure under all circumstances. You follow guiding principles already, so why should they be absent in the highest pursuit known to man?
The regulation aspect of bhakti is to avoid behavior that is most damaging to the consciousness, as the thought processes of the mind are what you are trying to change. Never mind if you are young or old, rich or poor, unwise or intelligent, your mind will constantly work. If it can be trained to swim in the ocean of transcendental nectar, what chance is there for the common pitfalls of life, such as depression, anger, rage, frustration, and jealousy? All such inauspicious conditions are due to a false identification with the body and a lack of awareness of the magnanimous nature of the Supreme Lord.
By avoiding intoxication, meat eating, gambling and illicit sex, the progress in the purification of consciousness accelerates to a rapid pace. At the same time, an eagerness to hear more about Krishna develops. Thankfully there is no shortage of available material in this area. Beginning with the Bhagavad-gita, continuing with the Shrimad Bhagavatam, and then culminating with the Chaitanya Charitamrita, there is so much transcendental work available for the eyes to feast on. Reading is as good as hearing because the words are nothing more than recorded sound vibrations of exalted personalities. Due to the mercy of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the aforementioned books and many other works on bhakti-yoga are available for reference. The ancient truths of Vedanta are presented in a way that is understandable, and yet which constantly reveals new profundities, arguments that are accepted with more understanding with each subsequent reading.
The barrier to the spiritual world is purposefully thick, for why should Krishna grant entry to His kingdom to those who don’t want it? At best we can create auspicious conditions that make the awakening of the divine consciousness more likely to happen for others, but for love to manifest, there must be an interest in all the parties involved. The sacred sounds of the maha-mantra and the cogent and thought-provoking words of wisdom coming directly from Krishna help to break that barrier.
That Supreme Lord could have form and attributes hard to believe,
The senses trained to rely only on sight in this way deceive.
But know that there is a way to break through that barrier,
Consult recorded instructions of Krishna and His message’s carrier.
To find real pleasure in life your mind is set,
And from bhakti-yoga this you’ll certainly get.
In this endeavor some reason and logic apply,
To know that soul’s home is in spiritual sky.
To follow devotional principles in regulation a vow make,
From supreme wisdom of Vedas your ignorance to forsake.