Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Thankless Task

Lord Krishna “For one who explains the supreme secret to the devotees, devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.68)

Being a preacher is definitely a thankless task. While others are praised for their works of charity, philanthropy, and other feats of altruism, the spiritual preacher doesn’t enjoy adoration and love on a universal level. The devotees of the Lord are faced with a constant and steady barrage of attacks from opponents. Dealing with this opposition is not an easy thing, for the strength of maya has caused ignorance to envelope the material world.

People in general have a very strong attachment to their bodies and in turn to their way of life. There are many varieties of sins and each religion has specific definitions for what is a sin and what isn’t, but in its most basic form, sinful activity is anything that keeps us bound in the material world. According to the Vedas, this material world is the playground for the spirit souls, a place where they can come and pretend to be God. Claiming false proprietorship over all things material, the living entity is bewildered by the temporary nature of things. Being completely attached to fruitive activities, the spirit soul is forced to constantly migrate from one type of body to another, thereby repeating the cycle of birth and death. The four pillars of sinful life are meat eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex. These four activities are considered the most dangerous since they keep one tightly bound to mundane sense gratification, the biggest obstacle towards spiritual realization.

Shrila Prabhupada The bhaktas are the devotees of the Lord who realize that this human form of life is meant for serving Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This service is the only means of achieving everlasting peace and happiness, for activities aimed at pleasing the Supreme Lord are completely spiritual in nature and thus transcend any sin. Those who serve God perfectly don’t return to this material world after death. They instead go straight to Krishna’s spiritual realm, a place where from they never return.

Since devotional service is such a pleasing activity, the devotees want to share knowledge of it with others. It is one thing to serve God and to enjoy all the benefits that come with it, but it is even nicer if that information is shared with others. Sadly, the recipients of these preaching efforts often don’t take very kindly to them. The example of Narada Muni and Prajapati Daksha illustrates this very well. Both sons of the first created being, Lord Brahma, Narada and Daksha got into a disagreement over the muni’s preaching efforts. Being a prajapati, Daksha was in charge of expanding the creation. To this end, he ordered his sons to procreate, but this was stopped by Narada Muni. He explained to Daksha’s sons that material life was a waste of time, and that their time would be better served if they dedicated their life to serving God instead. Daksha got angry at this, so he then ordered another set of sons to procreate, an effort which was again thwarted by Narada Muni. Daksha was so enraged that he decided to curse Narada Muni:

“You have made me lose my sons once, and now you have again done the same inauspicious thing. Therefore you are a rascal who does not know how to behave toward others. You may travel all over the universe, but I curse you to have no residence anywhere.” (Daksha speaking to Narada, Shrimad Bhagavatam 6.5.43)

Narada Muni giving instruction Now Daksha was a karmi, and though not an atheist, his understanding was still not at an advanced level. Generally those who believe in God aim for the three rewards in life: dharma, artha, and kama. Dharma is religiosity. People may follow the basic rules and regulations of religion in order that God may supply them with artha, or successful economic development. After being successful economically, the same people want to use their wealth for kama, or sense gratification. Thus the three parts go hand in hand. While this level of understanding is certainly higher than those of the atheists, it still on the material level. The senses can actually never be satisfied, so there is no point in praying to God for wealth and money if we only plan to use it for sense gratification.

Daksha was a subscriber to this materialistic theory of life. For this reason, he viewed Narda Muni as being unintelligent. Materialists have a hard time understanding the celibate devotees. They view the brahmachari and sannyasi lifestyles as unnecessary burdens. Since they are karmis themselves, they could never fathom life as a renunciate.

These events took place at the beginning of the creation, and the same struggle has continued ever since. Regardless, devotees of the Lord must continue their efforts.

“Nevertheless, Narada Muni never gives up his mission. To deliver as many fallen souls as possible, he continues playing his musical instrument and vibrating the transcendental sound Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Sb. 6.5.23 Purport)

Shri Shri Nimai Nitai If it wasn’t for the tireless efforts of the saints of the past, we would not have the wealth of knowledge available to us today. Narada Muni is the greatest reformer in the history of the world. He used the curses laid upon him to his advantage by preaching God’s message to everyone he encountered. He turned Valmiki into a Maharishi. He served as the spiritual master to the great Vyasadeva and many others. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna’s incarnation in the Kali Yuga, met great oppositions from the Mayavadis of Benares, but He was not deterred. He chanted the Hare Krishna mantra from door to door all across India. His wonderful example inspired future saints Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. It is easy to look back now and see how successful they were, but these great saints struggled very hard to get their message out. It was through firm faith and devotion to Krishna that their efforts were successful.

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati The Vedas are very intricate and comprehensive, with many different teachings. For example, though family life is generally reserved for the karmis, one can still live with a wife and children and achieve spiritual perfection. Devotional service is available to everyone in all stage of life. Love knows no boundaries. It takes a faithful student to understand the Vedas and then be able explain it to others. It may be a difficult task, but preaching is definitely worthwhile. There is nothing like serving the Supreme Lord, so if we can get even one person to become a devotee, our efforts will have been successful.