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What Motivations and Qualifications are Helpful in Approaching or Worshiping Krishna?

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Gopinatha 3

One of our great predecessor teachers or acharyas, Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakur has also analyzed four stages of motivation for serving Krishna: 1) fear, 2) prospect(what we will get), 3 duty, and 4) love. Many religions primarily motivate people through fear and intimidation, yet from the Bhakti prospective the goal is to be motivated purely by love. In the beginning we may have a mix of these different motivations. Again we have to begin somewhere, as long as we are cultivating the understanding of the best motivation and are in the process of purification of our heart through devotional service. We pray to serve out of love, and serving out of duty is still very high compared to fear of punishment, though that may be part of our motivation in the beginning. Whatever it takes to remain the K.C.

It is necessary to discern the relative or spiritual value—or lack of spiritual value—of different objectives, like wealth, name and fame, beauty, education or the benefit of worshiping different gods or goddess or the Supreme Lord himself. And then of the innumerable forms and names of God, what is the supreme value of loving and serving Krishna? Why Krishna and not someone else? Remember that there is only one supreme God who has innumerable names and forms. The science of Krishna consciousness or bhakti-yoga teaches us who Krishna is and why he should be approached, taken shelter of and worshiped.

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This is sort of a follow up to my last blog, “Who can be a devotee of Krishna?” This blog is just taking it a step back before that, when one approaches Krishna. So I am going to toggle between the idea that anyone can approach Krishna for whatever reason, and the standard of pure devotion in love. This ultimate standard is very high and can seem intimidating or incomprehensible for people in general and even religionists.

In most religions it is just assumed that people will come to God for a variety of material reasons and they don’t speak of the nature of the soul or selfless service in the spiritual world or the nature of our relationship with God. The idea of selfless service or self sacrifice for others is there to an extent, though with the idea of attaining some heavenly realm or what appears to be material enjoyment—maybe with God off in the distance somewhere.

In a broad sense anyone can approach or worship Krishna who has some faith in him as God. That is a beginning, not the end. Although the goal of Bhakti is to render materially unmotivated, pure and constant service to Krishna for his pleasure, we have to begin somewhere. We can approach the right goal with the wrong motive or the wrong goal with the right motive. It is better to approach the right goal for whatever reason.

The “right” goal is God, or Krishna, as he is our ultimate source, friend and benefactor—we are part of him, just as we all have parts of our body. The nature of the various body parts is to serve the interest of the whole. Our real self interest means to serve the interest of the Supreme. Whatever benefits we may appear to be gaining from our own work or from others is actually awarded to us by Krishna.

One of our material diseases, perhaps the fundamental component of our conditioning is our envy of God. So to really approach Krishna that has to be at least diminished, and as we advance, retired completely. Often we don't think we have any envy toward God, yet through the process of purification through chanting Hare Krishna we become conscious of so many of what were before hidden or unconscious bad qualities.

Sometimes people leave Krishna consciousness because after becoming conscious of these bad qualities, often for the first time in their life, they think K.C has caused these qualities rather than revealed them. Seeing our conditioned self in truth is very humbling. For references about the necessity of giving up our envy and being favorably disposed toward Krishna in order to hear from him please see the Bhagavad gita 3.31-32, 4.3, 4.22, 14.22-25 purport, 16.1-3, 18.67 pp, 18.71, and in Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.2 pp. There are many discussions of the topic of envy of God, and envy of others. Part of God realization is being introspective. Our soul is pure by nature, yet we have adopted a foreign nature which is meant to be uncovered or awakened.

It is necessary to discern the relative or spiritual value—or lack of spiritual value—of different objectives, like wealth, name and fame, beauty, education or the benefit of worshiping different gods or goddess or the Supreme Lord himself. And then of the innumerable forms and names of God, what is the supreme value of loving and serving Krishna? Why Krishna and not someone else? Remember that there is only one supreme God who has innumerable names and forms. The science of Krishna consciousness or bhakti-yoga teaches us who Krishna is and why he should be approached, taken shelter of and worshiped.

As many have heard here, Krishna teaches us in the Gita (7.16) that four kinds of materially motivated persons come to him: 1) the distressed, 2) the desirer of wealth, 3) the inquisitive, and 4) those searching after spiritual knowledge. Everyone is welcome to come to Krishna with the understanding that by studying Krishna’s words and worshipping him one will become purified and thus eligible to the understand spiritual knowledge of the soul and its pure relationship with Krishna. (Most people’s spiritual intelligence is covered my materialism in the form of lust, anger and greed etc.) Here is a little bit of Prabhupada’s purport to this verse (7.16):

“On the whole, when the distressed, the inquisitive, the seekers of knowledge, and those who are in need of money are free from all material desires, and when they fully understand that material remuneration has nothing to do with spiritual improvement, they become pure devotees. As long as such a purified stage is not attained, devotees in transcendental service to the Lord are tainted with fruitive activities, the search for mundane knowledge, etc. So one has to transcend all this before one can come to the stage of pure devotional service.”

One of our great predecessor teachers or acharyas, Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakur has also analyzed four stages of motivation for serving Krishna: 1) fear, 2) prospect(what we will get), 3 duty, and 4) love. Many religions primarily motivate people through fear and intimidation, yet from the Bhakti prospective the goal is to be motivated purely by love. In the beginning we may have a mix of these different motivations. Again we have to begin somewhere, as long as we are cultivating the understanding of the best motivation and are in the process of purification of our heart through devotional service. We pray to serve out of love, and serving out of duty is still very high compared to fear of punishment, though that may be part of our motivation in the beginning. Whatever it takes to remain the K.C.

At present we are conditioned souls who are acting on the level of personal, mental and emotional self interest, while the Bhakti scriptures teach us about our eternal pure nature as souls and the means to revive that nature and live in the world of love, light and devotion----the world of Krishna and his pure devotees who serve him in innumerable ways to their great delight! So there needs to be a bridge between our current involvement with our “egoic” selfishness based on bodily identification, and our pure nature as souls. Material piety or religion does not give us bhakti per say, but can be favorable for the culture of bhakti by lessoning our lust and baser qualities---for example one may serve saintly persons as a religious duty and be blessed or affected by their good qualities. By the grace of pure devotees we may be engaged directly in devotional service and be purified from that even if we are not very pious. Piety is good, yet subordinate to bhakti.

Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.1.11) defines pure devotion thus: "One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Krishna favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service."
Though we should pray to understand this standard of pure service and develop it, we are not bared from coming to Krishna with material desires. A famous verse from the SB [2.3.10] is quoted in this explanation to the BG (7.20):

“Those who are freed from all material contaminations surrender unto the Supreme Lord and engage in His devotional service. As long as the material contamination is not completely washed off, they are by nature nondevotees. But even those who have material desires and who resort to the Supreme Lord are not so much attracted by external nature; because of approaching the right goal, they soon become free from all material lust. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is recommended that whether one is a pure devotee and is free from all material desires, or is full of material desires, or desires liberation from material contamination, he should in all cases surrender to Vasudeva and worship Him. As stated in the Bhagavatam (2.3.10):

akamah sarva-kamo va
moksa-kama udara-dhih
tivrena bhakti-yogena
yajeta purusam param

“A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of all material desire, without any material desire, or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead.”

So rather then worshiping different demigods or even great persons of this earth, one should approach the Supreme Lord Krishna. There are indirect methods of worshiping Krishna for those who can’t appreciate the value of this worship and there is the direct method of worshiping Krishna and his devotees who are dear to him.

Krishna consciousness is very broad in the beginning and we can see the value of many paths for those with different understandings, yet the ultimate method is one---pure devotional service or love for Krishna (Prema).

For confirmation of this let us look at the Gita’s 9th chapter vs 13-15. The first two verses speak of pure devotion, and the last of a more broad view of worship:

“O son of Prtha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible./ Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.”

”Others, who engage in sacrifice by the cultivation of knowledge, worship the Supreme Lord as the one without a second, as diverse in many, and in the universal form”

Krishna also accepts these more removed methods as indirect forms of worship to him, though of course they don’t obtain the same results as the devotees. These types of “worshipers” described here that are lower than the four types of people already mentioned who come to Krishna directly.

Prabhupada lists these three in the purport to 9.15: “(1) he who worships himself as one with the Supreme Lord, (2) he who concocts some form of the Supreme Lord and worships that, and (3) he who accepts the universal form, the ‘vishvarupa’ of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and worships that.”

The lowest are the “monists” who worship themselves as supreme. Since they see themselves as souls who are part of the Brahman they are considered to be worshipping an aspect of God. [Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this non-dual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan. (SB 1.2.11)]

The second category are those who worship the demigods or devas and think by imagination that all forms are the same and equal. Then others worship the Universe as a form of the Lord such as native religions or those who can’t conceive of anything beyond matter. This is accepted because the Universe is also a form of the Lord. In fact the worship of the Universal form of the Lord is considered in the Shrimad Bhagavatam to be the first step in God realization by teaching people to see everything in relationship to God, or understanding the Universe in all its diversity as God’s energy.

The Vedas are full of indirect means of approaching God, but ultimately the direct method is recommended. People should be encouraged to understand Krishna by reading his words and Vedic texts explaining pure devotion, and to chant the holy name, serve the Deity forms of God, honor or eat holy food (prasadum, our most powerful weapon against illusion or maya) and associating with saintly and faithful people. Somehow, someway let everyone become purified and uplifted to be able to understand the truth of life by approaching and worshiping Krishna. We attempt to give everyone the opportunity, knowing full well that not everyone will.

For those people who can’t approach Krishna directly, we can encourage then in ways that correspond to their faith and level of interest. Many people are frankly not that interested. That is why we want to move in the world in kindness, compassion and love to encourage everyone to lead at least a virtuously life, and at most a life of pure devotion. Though we have to save our self we can help others, praying for their welfare. Whatever our occupation is, we can pray to be some type of spiritual light: an example of devotion and good qualities. Example is more powerful then our words. Our positive relationships with friends and family can open the door for them to Krishna--if not now, then in a future birth.