“You are air, fire, water, and You are the moon! You are the supreme controller and the grandfather. Thus I offer my respectful obeisances unto You a thousand times, and again and yet again!” (Arjuna speaking to Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.39)
Is the whole world in my hands? Seems like a silly question, right? Obviously, I’m not in control of everything. The sun’s influence is impossible to overcome. The rainy day cancels my plans for a picnic, and the snow prevents me from driving on the road. Disease tears away at my ability, and death is sure to arrive, as are taxes. If I know that I’m not in full control, why do I act as if I can shape my destiny completely? Why am I constantly searching for ways to find peace, when in fact that peace never comes? Indeed, such a cogent point is raised by the Vaishnava saints, who remind others that there is one controller who does always get what He wants.
“Let me guess. It’s God, right? Wow; what a surprise. When faced with a difficult situation, when up against the wall, you just lean on God, who is such a vague concept that you can make Him anything. He’s old; He’s young; He’s mean; He’s nice. You should make up your mind already. Why focus on an imaginary figure when you can better spend your time in other areas?”
It does seem like a safe excuse to lean on God when we run into trouble, but who else is there? Should we lean on ourselves? We know that we’re not all-powerful. Should we lean on others? We know that they are just as flawed. Actually, just giving God a try, especially when He is approached through authorized channels, brings benefits immediately. The reminder that we are not God is beneficial across many spectra. There is the fruitive worker, who thinks that by putting in enough hard work they will get what they want. They forget that they don’t always get the desired result and that sometimes the achievement of a desired goal only leads to more misery. Then there are the empiricists, philosophers who deem the entire collection of energy to be God. Since they are part of that singular unit, they take themselves to be God as well. This is the conclusion of the philosophy known as Mayavada, which is quite prevalent amongst followers of the Vedas. The cultural convention of Hinduism is more or less dominated by this philosophy.
Goswami Tulsidas, a famous Vaishnava poet who follows the real principles of the Vedas, says that if man is God, why can’t he always get what he wants? If I am Brahman, part and parcel of the impersonal spiritual energy, why do I have to become Brahman realized? Why do I need education? Why do I sometimes fail? I am indeed spirit that transcends the material covering, but I am not all-powerful. I can reach a state of enlightenment, where I see all living forces as spiritually equal, but I don’t have perfect vision. I can’t see beyond the immediate vicinity, and if there is no external light I can’t see at all.
The Supreme Lord, who is the source of Brahman, does get whatever He wants. He has no need to strive for anything. Simply by exhaling He can create many universes, and by inhaling those same universes merge back into Him. He doesn’t need to work hard for wealth, because He is already the wealthiest person. He is adored by the beautiful Lakshmi Devi, the goddess of fortune, and praised by the hymns of the Vedas, which represent the choicest poetry ever composed. The saints who follow in the Vedic tradition add on to the Vedic literature, which means that in every era, in every language, in every setting, the Supreme Lord is adored.
If not a single person can say that they have always gotten what they wanted, it means that everyone is suited for worship of the Supreme Lord, the higher entity. In the Vedas He is given thousands of names, with Krishna and Rama considered the best ones. Rama also refers to a specific personality, an incarnation of the original Lord. Rama is Tulsidas’ worshipable figure of choice, though Rama is really not any different from Vishnu, Krishna, or the entity the rest of the world refers to as God.
Only in devotion can one always get what they want. It’s an axiomatic truth because the desire in pure devotion is the continued ability to practice devotion. Through the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the worshiper asks God and His energy to be allowed to continue in service. That service, which goes by the professional name of bhakti-yoga, can include hearing, chanting, remembering, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, worshiping, offering prayers, carrying out service, becoming friends, and complete surrender.
There is no failure with chanting in bhakti-yoga. This is because the chanting is done to bring about a change in consciousness, a link to the divine realm. Even if later on the same person goes on to do abominable things, the time they spent chanting was worthwhile. If even for a brief moment one links to the divine, the progress they make is permanent, sort of like filling a reservoir that is there to be used later on. There is no failure in remembering, as who can stop us from remembering God if we want to? There is no failure in service because in bhakti the divine controller ensures success. The successful completion of direct service is indicated by the pleasure of the Supreme Lord, and His pleasure is tied directly to the degree of sincerity in the worshiper. No one can be more sincere than the yogi in bhakti because they don’t desire anything for their personal welfare. They only want God to be happy.
Bhakti-yoga is so superior that the attitude within the individual who practices it turns completely around. Instead of always wanting to get what you want and failing miserably, you start to desire to have Rama get what He wants, even if He doesn’t need it. Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman serve Rama even though sometimes He tries to dissuade them. They think that He doesn’t know better, that He will be better off with their service, whether He likes it or not. And since Rama is the supreme controller, the worshiped figure in bhakti, He is obligated to grant the devotee their wish, thereby creating a condition with a one hundred percent success rate, which is an irony worth celebrating.
Never to see one hundred percent success rate,
Results of work bring both pain and pleasurable state.
If output of work in my hands I don’t hold,
Why then do I think I have supreme control?
Only God what He wants always gets,
Never defeat on that which His mind sets.
In bhakti-yoga the same success comes,
At devotee’s sight defeat immediately runs.
This is nothing more than Supreme Lord’s gift,
Due to sincerity to prominence He lifts.
Sometimes bhaktas even do what He doesn’t ask,
For to bring Him pleasure is their only task.