We Love Krishna, Therefore We Are: The Importance of Serving with Affection part 2
Krishna has a perfect sense of timing. As so often happens in my life, He has helped me in my tiny service. While I was thinking of how to expand my four paragraphs in this second part about affection, I heard a very appropriate tape of a Prabhupada lecture, with pertinent details about feeling that I never remember hearing before: In his travels, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to a town where He observed a brahmana who appeared to be reading the Bhagavad-gita. As he was turning its pages, he was sometimes crying. Passersby were mocking this brahmana’s “reading” of the Gita, since it was known that he was illiterate. Curious, Lord Chaitanya humbly approached him and inquired how it was that he was reading the Gita. The brahmana felt the sincerity of Shri Chaitanya’s inquiry, and answered that he was illiterate, but since his guru asked him to daily read the eighteen chapters of the Gita, he was somehow trying to follow his guru’s order by just seeing the pages. "Oh,” asked Lord Chaitanya, “you are not simply seeing it, since you also are crying." "Yes, Maharaja, I am crying also." "Then if you are not reading, how you are crying?" "Maharaja, I am not reading, but I'm feeling the Gita."
Being asked to further explain, the brahmana described that when he held the Bhagavad Gita in his hands, immediately he would feel Krishna and Arjuna sitting on the same chariot. Thinking of Arjuna ordering Krishna, and then Krishna driving his chariot between the two armies, the brahmana felt such affectionate feelings for Krishna, who is so merciful to his devotee. Krishna is so great and yet he can work as a servant of His devotee. Krishna loves his devotees so much! Overwhelmed by such feelings, the brahmana would cry at the kindness and mercy of Krishna. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu immediately embraced him, saying, "You are really studying Bhagavad-gita."
Therefore our feeling affection and eventually real love for Krishna is all important, and is the perfection of our reading, study, and bhakti practices. When we love Krishna, this is the success of our life, even if we are illiterate, or materially less intelligent. We can gauge our spiritual advancement by the degree of love and affection we have toward Krishna, and those who are dear to Krishna. And, for those of us who can read, in our study of the devotional scriptures, or in our bhakti yoga practice, the more we feel for and are attached to Krishna, the more will be revealed to us how to make spiritual progress. Shri Krishna said to Arjuna: “Now hear, how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached (asakti) to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.” [Bg 7.1] We will only develop consciousness of Krishna when we develop and increase our loving affection for Him. Gradually our attachment for Him becomes firmly established, and we increasingly understand our relationship with Krishna and always act to please Him—this is real self-interest.
We decide to love Krishna because we learn how much He loves and knows us completely, and also due to our appreciation for how wonderfully nectarian, attractive, and desirable He is. Even just approaching Krishna in the beginning stages awards us with a sweeter taste than material enjoyment, enabling us to remain steady, despite tests, or apparent obstacles on our path. Being a devotee of Krishna is not just a means to an end, but becomes our total identity in this life, and forever. Krishna’s love is not irrelevant to our life, or the life of the Universe. In fact, Krishna’s love is the power that sustains the Universe and is what all of existence is based on. We could say that Krishna is synonymous with love, and that this loving, affectionate force is the glue that holds everything together. This is the deeper, spiritual meaning to the Christian saying that “God is love.” Invisibly God maintains the Universe and provides facilities for all living things to live and pursue their desires. Krishna’s hope is that souls covered by their false and changing desires in the shape their body, will again remember their love for Him, and His unconditional love for all souls.
We can understand the magnanimity of Krishna to a tiny extent by imagining maintaining and serving someone without receiving any acknowledgement for our constant gifts, and even having the recipient of our love be ungrateful and angry at us, or deny our existence all together. The closest thing in the material world we have to this is a mother giving birth to a child and caring for it without receiving any acknowledgement—an act of selfless loving service. When the child grows into a teenager they may completely reject their parents and their values. Perhaps only when they have their own children do one’s offspring have some appreciation for the sacrifices of their parents. Or we could think of being a parent to a mentally challenged child who requires care their whole life. Such a child may not be able to reciprocate in satisfying ways, and yet the parents continue to give loving help, even if it can be challenging at times. Krishna gives to everyone by his very existence. Just as we breathe, Krishna gives, loves, and serves everyone.
Our nature as souls is to love and show affectionate appreciation for others. Without knowledge of Krishna we limit this to the material plane. Religion introduces the idea of God as the Source of our ordinary love and affection and informs us that we need to serve Him. Krishna consciousness expands on this basic religious idea by teaching us all about the most confidential nature of God, and that we are his eternal servants, and can have intimate loving relationships with Him. Krishna loves all souls in a general sense, but when we learn of His specific qualities and pastimes and begin serving him consciously in love, then his specific, partial love is directed toward us. This is the meaning of the verse in the Gita that says that Krishna is especially inclined toward his devotees: “I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all [as Lord Vishnu]. But whoever renders service unto Me [Krishna] in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” [Bg 9.29] Our loving serving offered to Krishna begins the natural, eternal dance of loving intimacy between the soul and its Divine Source, or the true love of our life and spiritual heart.
We feel something like this in our loving relationships in the world. The more someone loves us and shows it by their service to help us, the more we reciprocate in kind, and have appreciation for them. In my writing I have experienced that a few people I seem to really touch and connect with, and the loving reciprocation I receive from them makes me feel obliged to write more and try to do so in such a way that is relevant and encouraging to their life. Isn’t this the way life works? Although we may work or serve out of duty or a sense of responsibility, when those we serve or help genuinely appreciate our endeavors and express their affection for us, that drives us to continue with renewed energy. That is our attempt in our loving service to Krishna—to please him and those that are dear to him, and thus to live our life with love for Him. Our affection and love for Krishna will then be expressed in all our actions and relationships. We pray to be love of Krishna personified. Love is, as love does.