Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Love You Man

Lord Krishna“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

Though the issue of freedom has long since revolved around government’s restriction of it, the real yearning for liberty comes from within the spirit soul, who cannot even act out its natural propensity when residing within a large body and having a giant field to run on. Only through the proper outlets is the natural love found within the heart allowed to be set free, to run in every which direction without exhaustion. For a soul constantly in touch with the divine consciousness, a liberated individual who showers forth heaps of praise on its beloved master - whose transcendental glories are inexhaustible - there is no figurative lactic acid buildup. The perfect match can only be reunited by following the principles of bhakti.

Picture the inebriated person who gets happy when they are in their coveted state. It does seem odd to try to find anything praiseworthy about the behavior of someone who is obviously not trying to follow the rules of propriety. Inebriation, though enjoyed by many, isn’t something that one would consider a good state to be in. We don’t want people driving their cars while drunk. We don’t want them making phone calls in the middle of the night to people they shouldn’t be talking to. We don’t allow drunkards to come over our home and perform handiwork. Thus what can we actually learn from a drunk person?

Depending on the type of person involved, drinking can lessen inhibitions with respect to the outpouring of emotion. The drunkard who tells everyone else how much they love them reveals that within the heart there is only affection for others. In the state of sobriety that affection is covered up. There are also the social conventions restricting the outpouring of emotion. If a sober person were to come up to us and say, “Hey, I love you man. You are great”, we’d wonder if they were on some type of drug or if they had gotten enough sleep the night before. Yet if the same person acts that way when intoxicated the behavior is not only allowed, but somewhat appreciated. “Oh, isn’t that nice? They must really mean what they are saying because now they are not inhibited in their speech.”

In every relationship in life the release of emotion is checked. The spirit soul is actually full of potential for action of the loving variety. From love comes pleasure, and pleasure is what every individual seeks. Even amongst the monists who abstract every type of behavior and thus consider God to be one gigantic collection of everything, there is still the desire for pleasure. The psychiatrist who shrinks the heads of their patients by abstracting behavior and considering every action of the human being to be part of some genetically predisposed tendency also must seek pleasure despite their high knowledge.

Both within and without the realm of spirituality the search for pleasure is present, but only with one beneficiary can the release of action aimed at attaining that pleasure continue on and on without exhaustion. Unmotivated and uninterrupted are the properties that describe bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, when executed at the highest level. This combination seems paradoxical, as in most cases interruption is the initial motivation for action. We work hard in school so that we’ll see the interruption of graduation. We put in the long hours at the office during the day so that we can go home at night and relax. In every area of endeavor except love there is this combination of motivation and interruption.

Yet even with love there is forced interruption. The mother who loves her child without motive and throughout the child’s entire life must eventually part ways. Outside the company of your beloved, there is no way to love them directly. You may think of them in your mind, but the thoughts do not reach the person being remembered. The spirit soul is limited in its residence. One soul can only occupy one established dwelling at a particular time. Through mystic yoga one may temporarily perform some magic by traveling outside of their body or even dividing their soul, but even through this difficult effort there is no way for one soul to simultaneously reside within every single creature.

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, or He Himself, Krishna, the localized Supersoul, sits in the heart directing the living being. After changing bodies, the living entity forgets his past deeds, but the Supersoul, as the knower of the past, present and future, remains the witness of all his activities.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 18.61 Purport)

Lord KrishnaThe Supersoul is different. He resides within every single life form, right next to the individual soul. This means that wherever we are, we can offer our obeisances to Him. And why should we? The release of loving emotions is triggered by the qualities of the party being loved, or more specifically the relationship we have to them. A celebrity is honored for their extraordinary abilities in acting, playing sports, writing, governing, etc. Parents, children, siblings, relatives and friends are honored because of the relationship we have to them, one that was established via some physical link, either through family lines or through close proximity in an environment where fruitive work was conducted.

The Supersoul is but an expansion of the original Personality of Godhead, who is known as Bhagavan because of His unmatched transcendental features. Right away, we see that just based on His position He is worthy of our praise. Since He already resides within us as the Supersoul, there is a relationship to Him established. It is one based on both proximity and heredity, as everyone comes from God. There is a simultaneous oneness and difference between the living beings and the Supreme Lord. God is the great soul, while we are tiny fragments expanded from Him. The fragments have the same qualitative makeup, but they are limited in their pervasiveness. The individual soul is the localized witness that can hardly remember what happened a few hours ago, while the Supersoul is the all-pervading witness who knows everything past, present and future about every single living entity.

“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bg. 4.5)

Lord KrishnaThe link to the Supersoul is ideal because the relationship is already established and also because of the pleasure that comes from connecting with Him. Just as the happy drunkard shows that they love everyone when their guard is down, the spirit soul, when immersed in bhakti, reveals that it has unbounded love for the Supreme Lord. With this immeasurable love comes an uninterrupted and unmotivated flow of work to stay in the good graces of the beloved, to remain fixed in divine trance. From this connection, love for all creatures of the world, who are related to God in the same way, is automatically established.

Loving God, who is known as Krishna because of His all-attractiveness, is never inappropriate. Even the mother must check her affection at some point in the child’s life. If the child is mature and married, what can the mother do by buying clothes and telling them how to live and where to go? The paramour must be mindful of not smothering their partner, lest they run the risk of alienating their beloved and causing a rift in the relationship. The drunkard can express their love for others when they are “hammered”, but under sober conditions the same behavior would be considered strange.

In bhakti, one can spend the entire day chanting the Lord’s names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and not run the risk of getting out of favor with Him. Indeed, just the opposite happens. With each successive utterance of the holy name, the mind gets further purified to the point that eventually there is no other desire except to love Krishna. What other beneficiary would allow us to continue to love, while giving us increased pleasure as the bond strengthens? You can stay with Krishna for millions of years and each new day will feel like it is better than the one that just passed.

Aside from chanting, there are other outlets for service such as reading books, gazing at the deity, visiting temples, talking to others about Krishna, and writing poems and books glorifying the Supreme Lord and those who distribute His message to others. Some people even talk to Krishna. While this may seem crazy, why wouldn’t the Lord hear such heartfelt words? He proved many times during His past descents to earth that even through separation one can worship Him perfectly. As Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna accepted the foodstuff offered to Him by devotees residing hundreds of miles away. Lord Krishna heard every one of the prayers of the gopis and reciprocated by remaining within their consciousness.

Krishna with the gopisFollowing bhakti-yoga is the true path towards liberation, towards being freed of the shackles borne of material contact. This freedom is every soul’s birthright, irrespective of present conditions. Whether one is practicing religion or wholly against it, the search for pleasure will continue nonetheless. In the absence of divine love, service will be directed to so many other entities, but the outpouring of affection will always be checked. With Krishna, the invitation is an open one, as He remains within the heart for each go around in a material body. If it takes us one lifetime or many to attain perfection, there are no hard feelings on the Lord’s part, for He is kindly awaiting our return to His spiritual land.

Question: If getting drunk helps a person loosen their inhibitions when dealing with others, will it not also help in bhakti?

Though intoxication may help slacken inhibitions to the point that one feels freer to express their loving sentiments towards others, it doesn’t have any beneficial effect in spiritual life. The soul is naturally blissful and knowledgeable, which means that it has nothing to do with the body. Yoga practice starts with identifying oneself properly, aham brahmasmi. From the proper identification comes the sober realization that one must do whatever they can to limit the influence of the senses that is concomitant with residence in a temporary form. Both the drunkard and the transcendentalist are looking for a way out of the perpetual ups and downs that result from the swinging pendulum of acceptance and rejection in material affairs, but only the transcendentalist following bhakti can find real liberation, where the influence of the senses is naturally removed.

With intoxication, there is a temporary escape from the senses, but the release is an illusion, for the fall back into material affairs is very painful. In the process, much damage is done both physically and mentally to the individual. With yoga, the effect is the opposite. There may be some temporary pains resulting from refraining from meat eating, intoxication, illicit sex, gambling and a host of other sinful behaviors the living being was conditioned to, but in the end this abstention turns out to be beneficial. Think of the sick patient who is told to avoid certain foods in order to get better. If those foods are ingested, there is a risk of remaining ill or even getting more sick. On the other hand, if a little nuisance in the form of renunciation is tolerated, a better position of a healthy condition can be reached.

By practicing the principles of bhakti the mind becomes fully sober, and the soul is set free to act upon its loving desires without requiring external aid. The natural highs of seeing Krishna’s smiling face, hearing the sounds of His holy names, and motivating oneself to be dedicated in His service far surpass those felt with intoxication, be it caused by material success, the consumption of adult beverages, or the association of women. Shri Krishna is the reservoir of pleasure, so one who can connect with Him gets to bask in that pleasure all the time.

In Closing:

After drunkard consumed beer of many cans,

Goes up to friends and says, “Hey, I love you man.”

To that with a smile others might greet,

For the kind sentiment is rather sweet.

The same love exists inside all of us,

But difficult to release for lack of trust.

Loving Shri Krishna is the most ideal,

High affection for Him we already feel.

To find better place accept some austerity,

So that in Krishna’s company you’ll spend eternity.