The first Canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam is one of my favorites. Why? Perhaps it is because it was the Canto which Prabhupada brought to America and the first book that was available for us to study. Or it could be the attractive, spiritually uplifting, historical stories used to teach the philosophy, or maybe because Prabhupada put everything he could into it, thinking he might not live to finish the whole scripture. Indeed he didn’t finish. Although he finished only a few chapters of the 10th Canto, he did give us the Krishna book in 1970 which is a summary of that Canto. Any of the various narrations contained throughout the Bhagavatam can help us be freed from bodily illusion and take up the spiritual path. It all depends on our receptivity coming from our inner spiritual necessity. Hearing Vidura's potent words while considering their meaning for you and contemplating the questions that arise will help you go deeper into transcendence.
I have a list of pointers or guidelines that I feel if anyone follows they will have a successful life:
--Create a spiritual foundation to build your life on.
--Give to live.
--Discover your mission and embody that.
--Be honest and authentic.
--Be convinced, yet open.
--Act with love and enthusiasm.
--Show kindness and compassion.
--Pray for yourself and others.
By the mercy of a pure devotee even persons who are not even very religious can go beyond material dharma to ask higher questions about the soul. This is expressed in Vedic statement in the Brahma-sutra often quoted by Prabhupada: "athato brahma jijnasa" or now is the time to inquire about Brahman or the Absolute Truth. This inquiry is generally the fruit of religious life. Without coming to this point religious life is practically a waste--it is better than ordinary life, but still keeps one the the cycle of birth and death. Thus the pure devotees realizing how short life is point to the essence of the Vedic teachings, that we are soul, part of Krishna, and have to revive our eternal service to him.
For some people it is easier to be religious when times are good, and often a test when they suffer (although from another angle it is natural for many to call on God in distress, though only officially acknowledging him in happiness). Sometimes even knowledgeable devotees may blame God for their problems in their intense grief and sorrowful emotions, yet in more thoughtful moments they can remember that souls are here in the material world to try to enjoy apart from Krishna. In addition they know that their suffering is being minimized by the mercy of Krishna, and due to the purifying effect of devotional service (or activities performed in love, or in pursuit of love).
A friend of mine who used to be a famous book distributor told me one of his stories about someone he met. He offered the person a book, and the person said,
"I don't need it".
"Because in my religion we know about the personal life of God!"
"O really? What is that?"
"God sent his son to earth to deliver the people of the earth, and he died for their sins."
"That is interesting, though I still think you would find this book useful and uplifting."
"Why is that?"
"In this book the private life of God is described--in his private world of devotion and love, we read about his confidential life with his parents, friends, and secret lovers--that is even secret in his world."
There is saying most of us have heard: "We are born with nothing, and leave with nothing". All degrees, titles, wealth, properties, homes, material facilities and relationships must be left behind at death. For the materialist, death is a manifestation of God, the controller of life and time. For a devotee, Krishna is the life of our life, the consciousness of our consciousness, the heart of our heart! He is all sided, everything. He light, and darkness, the beginning, middle and end! He is the biggest and the smallest, and although he pervades all things, he is in our heart and is present in his eternal abode as the indestructible, inconceivable, all-merciful source of all. In a more personal, endearing and higher sense, he is our dear-most friend, well-wisher, and the love of our life!
The illusion of freedom,
the greatest oppression
the masses enslaved by
the promise of capitalism.
I wrote Friday's blog about motivations and qualifications for approaching or worshiping Krishna to encourage those of us who are not pure devotees and may have material desires that we want to fulfill. That is most of us---it is a question of degree, experience, maturity, and especially realization. It is important to realistically access where we are on the map---so to speak---and act with this in mind. This often takes time of course and we need to know that introspection isn't quick and may come gradually as we mature in levels of understanding as we need it. It is great to want to have pure love for Krishna and be off the bodily platform, but another matter to actually be there.
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.