Who Can Be a Devotee of Krishna?
From the Krsna Book (which is a summary of the 10th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam) we read in the 87 chapter, "Prayers by the Personified Vedas" the dual purpose of life for souls within the material world. Souls here have their true identity covered by a material body, mind and ego. Shukadeva Gosvami, who is the main speaker of this scripture tells us here that..."[T]he Supreme Personality of Godhead has created the mind, senses and living force of the living entity for the purpose of sense gratification and transmigration from one kind of body to another, as well as for the purpose of allowing liberation from the material conditions. In other words, one can utilize the senses, mind and living force for sense gratification and transmigration from one body to another or for the matter of liberation."
"The Vedic injunctions are there just to give the conditioned souls the chance for sense gratification under regulative principles, and thereby also to give them the chance for promotion to higher conditions of life; ultimately, if the consciousness is purified, one comes to his original position and goes back home, back to Godhead."
After transmigrating for countless births an especially fortunate living entity by the special mercy of Krishna understands his material predicament and the spiritual solution, and takes up the path of bhakti or devotional service to Lord Krishna.
Although Krishna doesn't force himself on us, he desires the company of his forgetful parts and parcels who inhabit the material world. He is complete in himself and has everything he could desire, save one thing: our love. He is unlimited and his desire for loving relationships is unlimited. Thus the love of every living entity is important to him.
How, one may ask, could he possibly care about my tiny insignificant self? Prabhupada gave an example of our finger to illustrate how. If one might loose their baby finger, one doesn't think, "Who cares about my small finger, I have so many others as well as toes". No. One will try to save one's finger at all costs. Compared to infinite Krishna we are only a spark. Nevertheless we are Krishna's spark, and every one of the unlimited sparks or souls is important and worthy to him. We don't have to do anything for him to love us. It is an eternal fact. If however we are to return to him in his abode and wake up from our material dream, we have to want to, and demonstrate that. Since he loves us he gives us what we want, whether remaining in the material world of birth and death, or being with him and those who love him.
We can also think of ourselves as part of Krishna's body--like a cell. In our body we are conscious of all parts of our body, so in a similar way (only much better and fully) Krishna is conscious of all his spiritual sparks, parts or souls. In the spiritual world we have a role to play in Krishna's life that he wants us to fill. This is our eternal relationship to him, which only has to be uncovered. It exists now, though is dormant.
As Vishnu (Krishna's expansion for maintaining and controlling the material world) he is neutral, rewarding everyone the results of their pious, impious and fruitive activities. Yet when a person becomes interested in him he takes special interest. Krishna sends his devotees into the material world and empowers devotees who are making advancement here to canvas on his behalf. For every step we take toward Krishna, he takes 100 toward us. Without this favor of Krishna there is no way out of the material world.
Justice rules the universe, yet the only way to get free from the laws of nature is by Krishna's mercy. His mercy comes in the shape of his pure devotees who go out of their way to spread the good fortune of bhakti to those burning in the fire of materialism.
Mercy is beyond justice. It is not deserved and descends from above to uplift the eternally bound souls. People become devotees only by mercy, remain devotees by mercy, and obtain Prema only by mercy. Truly in the life of a devotee mercy is what sustains and nourishes them. Although we have to do our part by being active in our spiritual practices, we can only keep doing them by mercy. This should be humbling for all devotees.
Here are three quotes among many about our great need for mercy, and how eventually we will realize that Krishna's mercy is all there is:
"Another meaning of guna is rope; it is to be understood that the conditioned soul is tightly tied by the ropes of illusion. A man bound by the hands and feet cannot free himself -- he must be helped by a person who is unbound. Because the bound cannot help the bound, the rescuer must be liberated. Therefore, only Lord Krsna, or His bona fide representative the spiritual master, can release the conditioned soul. Without such superior help, one cannot be freed from the bondage of material nature. Devotional service, or Krsna consciousness, can help one gain such release. Krsna, being the Lord of the illusory energy, can order this insurmountable energy to release the conditioned soul. He orders this release out of His causeless mercy on the surrendered soul and out of His paternal affection for the living entity, who is originally a beloved son of the Lord. Therefore surrender unto the lotus feet of the Lord is the only means to get free from the clutches of the stringent material nature." [ Bg 7.14[
"[H]e becomes attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and surrenders to Him. At such a time one can understand that Lord Sri Krsna's mercy is everything, that He is the cause of all causes and that this material manifestation is not independent from Him. He realizes the material world to be a perverted reflection of spiritual variegatedness and realizes that in everything there is a relationship with the Supreme Lord Krsna. Thus he thinks of everything in relation to Vasudeva, or Sri Krsna. Such a universal vision of Vasudeva precipitates one's full surrender to the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna as the highest goal. Such surrendered great souls are very rare." [ Bg 7.19]
"Because the pure devotee engaged in Krsna consciousness in devotional service of the Supreme Lord achieves eternal blissful existence that is full of knowledge, his achievements and those of the common worshiper of the demigods are different. The Supreme Lord is unlimited; His favor is unlimited; His mercy is unlimited. Therefore the mercy of the Supreme Lord upon His pure devotees is unlimited." [Bg 7.23]
People come to Krishna.com for many reasons. Some want to increase their knowledge and attachment to Krishna; others are just curious to know who he is---what is the big deal about him anyway?; a few from established religions come to gain information to debunk him, so they can be more convinced that their idea of God is the best. Krishna is like a desire tree and rewards everyone according to their desire to know him or deny him.
So who can become a devotee of Krishna?
One who has received Krishna's mercy or blessings in someway can take up the path of devotion.
Any attraction we have for Krishna is mercy on us, and we can build on that. We have to begin somewhere. We can't exactly "earn" mercy, since by definition it is not really deserved. However, by engaging in Krishna centered activities, that will incline Krishna to favor us. He is not out to get us if we mess up, but he is looking for ways to bless us. Still we have to appreciate the value of Krishna consciousness to want to obtain it. No one wants to do something that has no benefit for them. We have to become convinced that Krishna consciousness is the most valuable thing---more than unlimited wealth, position, followers or friends---whatever is possible to achieve in the material world.
If we like Krishna consciousness, yet remain doubtful about some parts of it, or can't seem to really take to it, we can pray with all our sincerity for Krishna's mercy and the mercy of his devotees (they are one and the same).
In addition we can chant the holy name on beads and in kirtana, read Bhagavad-gita and other scriptures, visit Krishna Temples and associate with advanced devotees who inspire us.
Being philosophical is helpful to remain fixed on the path. All the books are meant to convince that we are eternal spiritual beings, suffering in the material world due to our diseased exploitive mentality, and that the solution to all problems is to revive our eternal loving relationship with Krishna. Ultimately it is love for Krishna that is our souls most essential hankering. As the old rock song tells us, "Love is all we need"---with the important addition of what all souls have forgotten: Krishna. Love for Krishna is all we need, and Krishna consciousness is the process for reviving or awakening this love. Our nature is to love Krishna.
Even if we think we are happy in the material world, we can't stay here. If we study the lives of famous people who seem to have it all, they too meet with unhappiness, unforeseen reverses and great distress. That is one of the meanings that we have to be philosophical. Detachment is valued in Vedic culture because one can see clearly only by stepping back from life and seeing it for what it is beyond the well funded hype. If we are too invested in a particular outcome we are likely to not see it objectively.
I thought I would end with the 5 principles teachings of Lord Chaitanya. We can only approach Krishna through the mercy of Lord Chaitanya, the all-merciful incarnation for the current age of Kali. Lord Chaitanya came to deliver he most fallen souls of Kali-yuga.
Here are the essence of Lord Chaitanya's teachings (from the introduction to the Shrimad Bhagavatam:
"Lord Chaitanya not only preached the Srimad-Bhagavatam but propagated the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita as well in the most practical way. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Sri Krishna is depicted as the Absolute Personality of Godhead, and His last teachings in that great book of transcendental knowledge instruct that one should give up all the modes of religious activities and accept Him (Lord Sri Krishna) as the only worshipable Lord. The Lord then assured that all His devotees would be protected from all sorts of sinful acts and that for them there would be no cause for anxiety."
"Unfortunately, despite Lord Sri Krishna's direct order and the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, less intelligent people misunderstand Him to be nothing but a great historical personality, and thus they cannot accept Him as the original Personality of Godhead. Such men with a poor fund of knowledge are misled by many non-devotees. Thus the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita were misinterpreted even by great scholars. After the disappearance of Lord Sri Krishna there were hundreds of commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita by many erudite scholars, and almost every one of them was motivated by self-interest."
Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the selfsame Lord Sri Krishna. This time, however, He appeared as a great devotee of the Lord in order to preach to the people in general, as well as to religionists and philosophers, about the transcendental position of Sri Krishna, the primeval Lord and the cause of all causes."
1) "The essence of His preaching is that Lord Sri Krishna, who appeared at Vrajabhumi (Vrindavana) as the son of the King of Vraja (Nanda Maharaja), is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is therefore worshipable by all.
2) "Vrindavana-dhama is nondifferent from the Lord because the name, fame, form and place where the Lord manifests Himself are all identical with the Lord as absolute knowledge. Therefore Vrindavana-dhama is as worshipable as the Lord.
3) "The highest form of transcendental worship of the Lord was exhibited by the damsels of Vrajabhumi in the form of pure affection for the Lord, and Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu recommends this process as the most excellent mode of worship.
4) "He accepts the Srimad-Bhagavata Purana [Shrimad Bhagavatam] as the spotless literature for understanding the Lord, and
5) "He preached that the ultimate goal of life for all human beings is to attain the stage of prema, or love of God. [SB Introduction]