“Lord Brahma, Bhagavan Narada, Lord Shiva, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahuti], Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, Janaka Maharaja, Grandfather Bhishma, Bali Maharaja, Shukadeva Gosvami and I myself know the real religious principle.” (Yamaraja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.3.20)
Since we experience so many different things in our journey through life, from our thinking abilities we craft theories on how to succeed going forward. For unmarried men, the ideas relate to how to interact with women, i.e. potential girlfriends and wives. When to call them and when not to and when to be nice and when to be mean are some of the issues addressed. Single women trying to land the perfect guy play the same game. In business, the theories relate to succeeding in the goal of earning a profit. Those who consider themselves successful in these areas often write books about their experiences, wanting to share their wisdom with others. In the realm of spirituality, there are twelve figures deemed authorities in the practice of bhakti-yoga, or divine love. They have shared their experiences through written word and verbal instruction, and interestingly enough they did not start from nothing.
What do we mean by this? If you succeed in creating a profitable business, you likely didn’t know anything about the business world at the outset. You kind of had to learn the ropes on your own. If others did give you advice, it wasn’t entirely applicable. You had to take bits and pieces and then assemble the complete theory on your own. The same holds true in other ventures as well. If the successful were all-knowing from the beginning, they wouldn’t feel the need to share their thoughts later on in life. They want to share their wisdom because they think it will help others and that such information is not known to everyone.
With respect to spiritual life, the proper roadmap existed at the beginning of time. It doesn’t need to be created, as it comes from the chaitya-guru, the spiritual master in the heart. Within every living being there are two life forces. There is the individual soul and the Supersoul. The individual is the perceived enjoyer; he chooses in which direction to go. The Supersoul is like the driver, acting on the decisions made and then distributing the results fairly, but at the same time not taking sides. If the individual wants to place their hand into a fire, the Supersoul knows that it is a bad move, but He doesn’t interfere with the decision. The reaction of a burned hand is ultimately caused by the Supersoul, for He is the one who created the material elements and their properties.
“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.61)
The turn towards the proper path of spiritual life takes place when the individual listens to the Supersoul. Not surprisingly, the Supersoul is the person most of us refer to as God. He is not an old and angry man, and He isn’t looking to specifically punish anyone. If someone plays the game of American football and then gets seriously injured in a collision while playing, is it the fault of the game? Is the football to blame for the injury? The individual made the choice to play, and with that choice there was knowledge of every possible outcome going in.
In special circumstances, one can take instruction directly from the Supersoul within the heart. This occurred with Lord Brahma, who is the original creator. Every creature in this universe can trace their ancestry back to Brahma. He was put in charge of populating the creation. He didn’t know what to do at first, so he meditated upon the Supersoul within the heart and received the proper direction. He pleased the Supreme Lord Vishnu in this way. We thus know that Brahma didn’t chart out his own course, though at first there was no one else around to tell him otherwise. He followed the original spiritual instruction of devotion to God, and he found a favorable situation as a result. Afterwards, Brahma went through so many experiences and continues to do so right now, as his duration of life is inconceivably long. His experiences are noted down in the Vedic literatures, and any person can consult them and take away valuable lessons on life.
Narada Muni is another authority on bhakti-yoga. He is Brahma’s son, and he travels the different worlds chanting the glories of Narayana, which is another name for Vishnu. Again, Narada did not chart out his own course, but through executing bhakti-yoga, he gathered so many valuable experiences that are shared with others for their benefit. He is the spiritual master of some of the most notable saints in history, including Valmiki Muni and Vyasadeva.
Lord Shiva is the destroyer. He is the worshipable figure for those in ignorance, who don’t know the difference between matter and spirit and how the aim of life is to be God conscious at the time of death. Lord Shiva prefers to only meditate on the lotus feet of God, but he carries out his other duties at the behest of the Supreme Lord. Lord Shiva has had many experiences to share, including one incident with Narada Muni, where he warned the saint not to be too puffed up from his mastery over the senses. Narada didn’t listen to Shiva at the time, and as a result he had to face the heartbreak of losing the association of a woman he fancied. Lord Shiva does not chalk out his own path, but one can follow his example of dedication to chanting the holy names.
In a similar manner, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila, Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, King Janaka, Grandfather Bhishma, Bali Maharaja, Shukadeva Gosvami and Yamaraja all followed devotional service, and in their unique circumstances they implemented them in specific ways. Rather than try to speculate as to the meaning of life or develop our own theories based on ignorance of the laws of the spiritual science, we can consult the life and teachings of these notable figures, who are saints in the true sense of the word.
If myself only of God I think,
Into ignorance's pit I’ll sink.
The entire creation I can never know,
For time and space are infinite so.
Look at the notable figures of the past,
Took up devotion to God as primary task.
Of Supreme Lord’s glories was their talk,
But never their own path did they chalk.