“When Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami went to Vrindavana, there was not a single temple, but by their preaching they were gradually able to construct various temples.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 7.164 Purport)
It is quite common to see people bemoaning the present condition of society. The complaints cover all different areas such as population size, government leadership, and the state of the environment. Because people understand that the current situation isn’t ideal, they lament the fact that they have little power to bring about change. In the grand scheme of things this is most certainly true, as the most an average citizen can do is go to the ballot box at the time of an election. In this way, individuals are dependent on their fellow man to straighten out problems. For sincere devotees of God, the situation seems even bleaker. Issues relating to economics, environment, poverty, and defense are paltry in comparison to the grander purpose of life. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, provide intricate detail into the nature of the soul and its constitutional position. Devotees study Vedic literature and through samadhi [meditation and trance directed at the Supreme Lord], they come to understand the meanings contained within. Yet upon seeing that the majority of society is uninterested in adopting measures to remediate the present unfavorable condition of their soul, the devotees become dejected and fearful. “What will happen to the science of self-realization? How will society survive in the future without God consciousness?” In reality, Krishna [God] takes care of everything, so there is no cause for such fears.
It must be acknowledged that this attitude of the devotee is quite a noble one. By default, man is born ignorant; he identifies solely with the outer covering of the soul; a covering which is known as the body. Since most everyone adopts this type of identification, enjoyment of said outer covering is taken to be the topmost engagement in life. Man’s dharma, or occupational duty, essentially becomes the satisfaction of the body through fruitive activities. Even if religion or spirituality is brought into the mix, at the beginning stages the ultimate objective is still the same. Spirituality is seen as a vehicle for satisfying the senses and alleviating the concerns relating to the future well-being of the body. It takes steady practice in the art of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, to elevate one’s consciousness to the point where they see Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as the only enjoyer.
Who we identify as the ultimate enjoyer is important because this then drives our activities. Normally we view ourselves as the enjoyers. Sometimes we’ll look to satisfy the needs of others, such as our family members, friends, and pets, but even in this scope, the enjoyer is still the self. Acts of altruism serve to satisfy the desire of the person acting charitably. The only engagement which brings spiritual benefit to two distinct entities is devotional service. The parties benefitted in such an exchange are the individual soul and the Supersoul, or the Supreme Lord. Vedic information states that the entity we normally refer to as “God” is actually a person, or purusha, just like us. Though He is similar in quality to the individual, His quantitative powers are much greater. Since God is great, it is the duty of the subordinate living entities to pay tribute to that greatness. For this service to be truly effective in providing transcendental happiness, it must be offered in a mood of love and devotion. The only way for this mood to be adopted in earnest is for the individual soul to view the Supreme Soul as the ultimate enjoyer. Otherwise, the mode of worship will be similar to a business transaction, wherein the individual is looking for some return on their investment of spiritual service. Even if this business mentality is absent, there is still the possibility of the service being offered in a fearful mood, similar to slavery. The Supreme Lord, being the ever-blissful and fully satisfied Supreme Entity, is not inclined towards any trade activity, nor is He in the business of scaring anyone. A business transaction occurs when two parties are both interested in some sort of profit. Krishna, or God, is the most fortunate person in the world, so He is in need of nothing. In addition, God knows that He’s God, so He doesn’t need to scare people into serving Him.
If Krishna is completely satisfied, what need does He have to engage in loving interactions with anyone? The answer points back to the issue of enjoyment. When service is offered to the Divine Energetic, Shri Krishna, in a loving manner, there is enjoyment both for the entity offering the service and the Offered. This ideal relationship is derived from the ultimate conclusion in life, achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which was expounded by none other than Krishna Himself when He appeared on earth around five hundred years ago in the guise of a brahmana sannyasi named Krishna Chaitanya. Lord Chaitanya’s philosophy, which is simply a description of an eternally existing condition, stipulates that the living entities are simultaneously and inconceivably one with and different from the Supreme Divine Force, that entity that we know as God. This ultimate conclusion goes hand-in-hand with the ideal relationship, wherein pure love is exchanged between the individuals and the whole. The two entities are meant to always be together, at least in consciousness. In reality, we can never be separated from Krishna, for He is always residing within our heart as the Supersoul. The issue of separation relates to consciousness. By adopting the false identification that results from body consciousness, we become forgetful of the ultimate conclusion and the ultimate relationship.
So how do we reawaken the purified consciousness? This is where bhakti-yoga comes in. The devotees, the purified souls who have reached the transcendental platform through deep study, meditation, and service to their spiritual guides, have realized the ultimate conclusion. After ascending to this platform, devotees seek to maintain their close relationship with God through activity. Yet devotees are so kind that they don’t hoard information about the Truth to themselves. Rather, they kindly offer to teach anyone who will listen. Lord Chaitanya Himself inaugurated this preaching tradition in the modern age. In addition to being the most effective method for attaining the platform of Krishna consciousness, the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is also the most effective way to preach the transcendental, imperishable, and supreme science of devotional service throughout the world. This congregational chanting process is known as sankirtana.
Since the sound vibrations of Krishna and Rama are non-different forms of the original Personality of Godhead, they inject the creeper of devotional service into the hearts and minds of whoever hears them. Once this creeper is established, it can grow into a full blown tree of devotional service. This growth takes place through the association of sadhus, or saintly members of society. Every notable spiritual personality of the past achieved success through this good association. In this way, we see that the highest welfare activity is to pass this transcendental sound vibration on to every person alive.
Lord Chaitanya’s formula seems simple enough, right? While sankirtana is simple and straightforward, the results aren’t always what the preacher hopes for. The attachment to matter amongst the populace is very strong. Not everyone will want to hear about Krishna. Even if they do hear about bhakti-yoga and the science of self-realization, they may be prejudiced and biased towards their own sectarian views. They will think in terms of “My God” and “Your God” instead of taking to logic and reasoning. The achintya-bhedabheda philosophy is the highest conclusion in life, so understanding it properly can take some time. In many spiritual disciplines, the soul is not even given much credence. Thus many of the concepts contained within the Vedas are foreign to others. Elevation to Krishna consciousness requires a new way of thinking, and for many people, change is not a welcome thing.
All of these conditions can certainly dampen the hopes and dreams of the preaching devotee. Fears will inevitably creep in regarding the future. “What if Krishna consciousness dies? How will future generations be saved? It seems as though no one is interested in chanting today.” This is actually a nice attitude to have because it shows the deep love that the devotees have for their fellow man and his future. Devotees know that Krishna is not only the ultimate enjoyer, but that He is also the giver of the greatest pleasure in the world. This pleasure can only be experienced through intimate association with Him.
“Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)
To allay our fears, we simply have to remember that Krishna is the original cause of everything. The Brahma-samhita states that Krishna is the cause of all causes, sarva-karana-karanam. Every result has a root cause. This cause may not be visible to us, as sometimes the results aren’t even visible. Shri Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama, teaches us that the results of action, both good and bad, are unseen and indefinite. Yet at the same time, no desired result can be achieved without some action being taken. This means that if we perform an action for some intended benefit, we may not see the result. Either we will quit our body before the result bears fruit, or the fruit itself doesn’t last very long, thus coming and going before we even notice it. But at the same time, no matter the length and nature of the result, there was some action which caused it.
What does all this mean? One of the holiest pilgrimage sites in the world is Vrindavana-dhama, which is located in India. This is the area where Shri Krishna enacted the most memorable and pleasurable of His pastimes during His time on earth some five thousand years ago. We see that museums and monuments are erected at the sites where famous personalities conducted their business. In the same manner, the areas where God and His various expansions performed activities are turned into places of pilgrimage, or tirthas. Vrindavana is a great spiritual tourist attraction today, containing over 5,000 temples and many wonderful sites such as Shyama-kunda and Radha-kunda, two ponds which were created by Krishna and His eternal consort Shrimati Radharani. Govardhana Hill, which is considered Krishna’s land and thus non-different from Him, is also found in this area.
Going to Vrindavana is certainly a beneficial experience for the transcendentally conscious soul, but was Vrindavana always such a great attraction? Actually, around five hundred years ago it wasn’t. Prior to Lord Chaitanya’s advent, the place was essentially a wilderness. This doesn’t mean that Vrindavana had lost its intrinsic value. It was still the same land that Krishna had roamed. Vrindavana is considered a replica of the transcendental abode that exists in the spiritual sky of Krishnaloka. Anyone who lives and dies in Vrindavana is deemed to be a liberated soul; they are on the path towards salvation, which is represented by the cessation of the cycle of birth and death.
So how did Vrindavana change from being a deserted land to a popular pilgrimage site? As Krishna is the cause of all causes, He was also the cause behind the changes in Vrindavana. Lord Chaitanya, while spreading the cult of devotional service throughout India, ordered His two dearmost disciples, the brothers Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami, to excavate Vrindavana and establish a preaching center there. Lord Chaitanya Himself discovered the lost sites of Radha-kunda and Shyama-kunda. Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami wrote countless books about devotional service; from poems and dramas to handbooks and guides covering every aspect of devotional life. We are forever indebted to these two great saints, along with Lord Chaitanya and everyone who follows in His line, for turning Vrindavana into what it is today.
“As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, similarly the learned may also act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.25)
The point to all of this is that we should perform our prescribed duties without attachment to the results. Krishna will always survive no matter the condition of society. This entire world is His land after all, so He can do with it as He pleases. If there is a lull in the practice of devotional service or if there is a precarious plaguing the world, we can be rest assured that the Lord will take the necessary steps to alleviate the situation. If we continue with our devotional practices and try to help as many honest souls as possible, we will be performing the highest service for our dearmost, ever well-wishing friend: Shri Krishna.