“It is a natural psychology in every individual case that a person likes to hear and enjoy his personal glories enumerated by others. That is a natural instinct, and the Lord, being also an individual personality like others, is not an exception to this psychology because psychological characteristics visible in the individual souls are but reflections of the same psychology in the Absolute Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.6.33 Purport)
When someone tells you that they don’t like to be praised, know that it’s not the truth. Surely there is embarrassment over hearing someone else extol your virtues, telling you how much you mean to them and just how capable you are in a particular area, but this doesn’t mean that you dislike the praise. Would you rather have it the other way around, where others mock and make fun of your most valuable assets? The inclination towards deriving pleasure from accepting praise extends from the qualities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As we are but parts and parcels of His grand effulgence, His immeasurable storehouse of spiritual energy, we inherit some of His tendencies. As much as it exists in us, that tendency towards feeling pleasure from praise exists in full in the Personality of Godhead, a fact which subtly reveals the secret to finding lasting felicity.
Why the secret? Why shouldn’t the one engagement that gives us the most happiness be known to everyone? The nature of the operating playing field is such that ignorance helps to enhance the experience. Just as when we watch a movie or television program we don’t like to think of it as a scripted production, if we knew the real purpose behind the material creation, the initial desire for fleeting enjoyment would be gone. In a movie, we know that the actors are just acting and that the story is scripted, but we willingly forget these facts during the time of the performance. Only through this method can we get into the story and have an emotional response from the experience.
The purpose of the creation at large is to pursue false enjoyment. The enjoyment is considered false because it is short-lived and based on ignorance. A dog is happy to get a few morsels of food from a dumpster, but a human being would consider the same fare to be repugnant. The only difference in the two cases is the level of intelligence. Ignorance is bliss in a situation where the better taste remains unknown. In the larger picture, if we were to know the real path to follow, then starting from the time of birth we would find life to be uncomfortable, with the predicament similar to being stuck in a prison.
Through uncovering the true meaning of life, however, we can more confidently accept the ultimate conclusion, that we are part and parcel of God meant to act in His service at all times. We can take the circuitous route to this end by studying so many different aspects of nature, including both matter and spirit, the influence of time and space, the infinite natures of both of these amazing aspects of creation, and the equality shared between all life forms. On the other hand, we could take the direct route, connecting with the fountainhead of both matter and spirit right away and deriving the necessary knowledge from there.
The latter option is preferable because it is more practical. It is difficult to accept so many different pieces of information and know what to do with them. Moreover, along the more deliberate path there are more opportunities for distraction, with the wayward spirit soul considering other engagements to be more delightful, more worthy of time. Should even all of the relevant information be processed and accepted, there is no guarantee that the proper engagement will be taken up. I may know all there is to know about math and science, but unless I apply the principles to find a better condition, the knowledge is really of no value.
When following the proper engagement from the beginning, despite a lack of knowledge of the component concepts, whatever knowledge and renunciation are required to continue that service will eventually arrive automatically. Therefore the Vedic seers recommend only one method of salvation for the sincere spiritualists of the modern age. That method is the constant chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Recite this mantra with firm faith and attention and make it your life’s occupation.
Why is this mantra and its recitation recommended over other methods such as the study of the Vedas, strict austerity measures, attending sacrifices, travelling to pilgrimage destinations, and following the principles of piety? The Hare Krishna mantra is a plea to be allowed to engage in the Lord’s service. The energy of the Lord known as Hara is also addressed. As she acts according to her constitutional position at all times, she is the best role model one could ask for. Requesting the energy to show us the way, to give us the strength to love God purely, without any motive for fruitive gain, the alleviation of distress, the advancement in knowledge, or the answers to life’s most difficult questions, represents the best prayer.
The name of Krishna is all-inclusive, for it directly addresses the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is all-attractive. Chanting the name of Krishna through the maha-mantra praises the Lord at the same time, something which He loves. From this praise the living entity finds an easy way to take up service. If someone were to tell you to love God and to dedicate your life to serving Him, how would you go about doing that?
“If, however, you are unable to work in this consciousness, then try to act giving up all results of your work and try to be self-situated.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.11)
A possible solution might be to serve man through giving up the fruits of your work. “I will help the poor. I will help those who are less fortunate. The poor are God’s children after all, so the Lord will certainly be pleased by this effort.” Indeed, Lord Krishna does recommend the renunciation of the results of work in the famous discourse He gave to a hesitant warrior on a battlefield five thousand years ago. It should be remembered, however, that the giving up of the fruits of work option wasn’t the first one recommended by Krishna. Rather, it was the last option, when one couldn’t work directly for Krishna, follow the principles of bhakti-yoga, or always think of the Lord.
This means that the best way to serve Krishna is to directly engage in thinking of Him. It’s easier to think about someone if they have extraordinary qualities, features that are of importance to us. The celebrities earn their fame through their features, for if they were ordinary why would we care about them? From the attention paid to famous movie stars, athletes and politicians, we see that man already has the tendency to praise others and derive pleasure from that offering.
With the Supreme Lord, the ideal target of that praise is met. Shri Krishna is the most attractive, which means that every one of His personal aspects is worth contemplating. Krishna is the most beautiful. He has a blackish complexion and wears a peacock feather in His hair. His youthful visage is so amazing that it defeats the pride of thousands of cupids. Krishna is also the wealthiest and the strongest. Power brings attention, and Shri Krishna is the most powerful, so He garners the most attention from everyone.
The Lord is also the most knowledgeable, for His doctrine of spirituality helps every single person, regardless of their position in life and their level of intelligence. The same can’t be said of any other doctrine. Renunciation applies only to those who are too attached to the senses. It doesn’t help those who are already renounced and looking for supreme pleasure. The acquisition of knowledge can apply to those who have a high capacity for intelligence, but what if someone isn’t inclined towards philosophy and rational thought? Should they be shut out from God’ service?
Chanting the holy names, which is the best way to praise Krishna, is available to every person, across all age groups. Through chanting the mind stays connected with Krishna, which is the number one recommendation for attaining salvation. Krishna may get embarrassed by hearing such praise, but this doesn’t mean that He doesn’t enjoy it. The more the loving emotions rise to the forefront of consciousness, the more one becomes firmly convinced of the benefits of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, whose cornerstone practice is the chanting of the holy names.
Based on the rules that Krishna has Himself laid down, the bhakta who wants to continually praise the Lord is given the opportunity to do so. If we want to spend every day engaged in describing the glories of Krishna and His associates, the divine forces will act to create endless opportunities. The same can’t be said of any other endeavor, for in fruitive activity we are competing with our fellow man for supremacy in a particular field. As each person has a right to manipulate the material elements to their liking, no one can be successful eternally, nor can they completely fend off the competing forces.
In bhakti, even the competitive attitude turns out to be beneficial for all the parties involved. If I spend my time praising Krishna, addressing Him with the choicest verses, uttama-shlokas, others may see the behavior and want to imitate it. As Krishna’s glories are inexhaustible, the new competition entering the arena doesn’t do anything to dampen the spirits of the original glorifier. The more people in the field of bhakti the better, for Krishna’s glories continue to get told in new ways. With more glorifiers, there are more opportunities for others to hear about the sublime life that only comes from connecting with God.
If you already like to honor someone, why not honor the most honorable? He is willing to accept this praise at any time, and it’s such a fulfilling activity that you will never tire of it. In the rare occurrence that no one else is pleased by your effort, just knowing that Shri Krishna is happy will be enough to keep you going. Whether He gets embarrassed or not, Shyamasundara will never deny the outpouring of affection flowing His way.
Happy do you feel from words of praise,
Your ego to higher place it does raise.
Embarrassed by the words some will always say,
But are we not pleased if others compliments pay?
Through your words the highest person please,
Whose vision pain of suffering does ease.
Chant the holy names, for there is no cost,
In service to man there is guaranteed loss.
With bhakti your knowledge only to increase,
Spinning in wheel of suffering to finally cease.