We Love, Therefore We Are: The Importance of Serving with Affection Part 1
René Descartes, considered the father of Western philosophy, is most famous for his statement, “I think, therefore I am”. However, devotees of Krishna, informed with the spiritual knowledge of the Vedas, might better say, “I am, therefore I can think,” which hints that often Western philosophy has it backwards. In other words, from consciousness, or from the soul, flow all our abilities such as thinking, speaking, or communicating, etc. Thinking doesn't make us exist, but our eternal nature allows us to think. While rationality is better than merely animality, or the struggle to meet bodily demands, Lord Chaitanya has taught us that the real gift and facility of human beings is their ability to voluntarily love, and specifically to love Krishna or God. Animals express a limited form of love based on biology and receiving physical necessities, yet human beings have the full potential for loving unconditionally--one another and God. Therefore, we might continue to develop Descartes’ maxim, by rephrasing it further to say, “I love Krishna, therefor I am.” Prabhupada has taught us that the basic principle of being alive is our propensity to love others, and that no one can live without loving someone else. Thus our completeness is realized when we fully express our affection and love for Krishna, and everything in relationship to this love. Truly “love makes the world go ‘round.”
Bhakti yoga is based the idea that our nature is to love Krishna, and that this love can be revived. Finding our love for Krishna lacking due to our limited realization of His spiritual reality, we study the bhakti scriptures, chant His holy name, and engage in service to His Deity forms, either at a temple, or our home (or both). Then at least theoretically we can understand that our nature is to love God, and we will also receive some spiritual taste from such activities done for Krishna.
Associating with those devotees who are developed in their affectionate service to Krishna will help kindle our own dormant love. This is one compelling reason to seek out such advanced association, as well as to avoid those (in person or on the Internet) who are doubtful or critical about Krishna or his devotees. Although the faith of the beginner is mentioned in the scriptures as being very tender and in need of great protection from harm, even long standing devotees need to be careful of the association they keep. Compare how you feel being in rush-hour traffic in the middle of a busy city, or walking in a beautiful quite park, or sitting in front of the Deities at temple. We are all affected by our surroundings and the people we share our heart with.
The process of bhakti is not an artificial attempt to create something out of thin air. Our love for Krishna is dormant within us, and only has to be uncovered by the activities of bhakti, and our constant prayer to be awakened to our real, serving, and loving nature. In other words we have to want to be with and love Krishna. Otherwise, why should we bother to remember and serve Krishna, or spend time with His devotees? The love and affection we feel for others or for the things of the world, is the reflection of this innate feeling of love for Krishna, and gives us the clue of how to serve Him. Love is energy, and we can remember this feeling of love, and do our best to put this feeling into our life activities.
I find it helpful to remember and meditate on the feeling of love and affection I have experienced in the world, and then offer this feeling to Krishna while I work, as I did yesterday, while clearing the pollen producing weeds or stacking wood, which isn’t my favorite activity. I am not saying this is THE love for Krishna, as that is the natural, permanent nature of the awakened and pure soul. Such souls don’t have to work to turn it on, since it is their automatic expression. However, for those of us who may not be very developed in our spiritual life, yet still have faith in Krishna and the importance of doing what we do with feeling, this is just a suggestion I find useful. We can practice making the endeavor to infuse our daily activities, service, and chanting with feeling and prayer. Make an experiment and try it.
I remember the words and the feeling of love, kindness, giving, and devotion, infusing my chanting of the holy name with that mood, while also thinking of offering my self in service to Krishna. Though some may consider this artificial, it sure is a great way to live and serve, and with a little practice, it isn’t that hard to do. It is a physiological principle that we can change our inner state by changing with we focus on. I consider this mediation on feeling and affection a tool, and a reminder of my loving nature. In my experience this is a helpful process.
While we chant, and in whatever we do, we can pray that Krishna helps us feel affection and love for Him. We can also pray for the blessings to make our awareness and feeling for Him the foundation upon which we live our life. As aspiring devotees of Krishna we do our best to be conscious of Krishna throughout our day, and put our heart into whatever we do as an offering to Him, and those that are dear to him—our Guru, and the devotees of the Lord. For those who have embarked on the bhakti path, this is our lifelong endeavor. Whether offering our food, or our life to Krishna, what is essential is our love and affection for Him. Then He may be pleased to accept our offering. (continued in part 2)