“One has to conquer the mind, and one may do it by following the Vedic rituals and by performing different types of sacrifice. The ultimate end of all those performances is to attain bhakti, or the devotional service of the Lord. Without bhakti one cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.13.39 Purport)
Bhakti-yoga means to love God; it is nothing but that. Whatever follows or whatever is done to lead up to that point is all tied to that love. All recommended practices, procedures, guidelines, and rituals aim to keep one loving God, for only in bhakti does one truly know the Supreme Lord. Without that love, true knowledge of Him is absent, which represents a great loss on the part of the human being, who is filled with potential to do great things.
“Tulsi emphatically says, ‘O mind, hear what I am saying and always take it to heart, for this will benefit you. Remembering Shri Rama’s holy name is the greatest profit, and forgetting Him is the worst loss.’” (Dohavali, 21)
“I don’t want my children to be mediocre. Right now they are down on the country, thinking that the dream passed down from past generations is dead. They seem to be content living with very little. Rather than work hard to buy a house, they are fine with living in an apartment. Some of their friends don’t even want to buy a car. They’d rather get around on their bicycle. Some prefer to walk. I want my children to shoot for the stars. They have so much potential; it would be sad if they settled for mediocrity due to fear.”
It is natural for a parent to want more for their children. That is the meaning to love, after all. If you want more for someone else than you want for yourself, it means that you love them. That is the generally accepted definition, anyway. And it is true that the human being has potential to do so many great things. A famous entrepreneur/inventor/businessman of recent times said something to the effect that one should realize that everything around them was made by individuals who were no smarter than they are. And if one should figure this out, they would be able to do so many great things.
Such a statement is required due to self-imposed limitations. “I can’t do this. I’m not as smart as they are. They are so much more capable than me. I could never come up with something like that.” The push from the elders to work harder to reach new heights asks the children to cast aside this fear and doubt. “Don’t think that you can’t do something; because if you don’t even try how will you ever know what your true potential is?”
The issue, of course, is in determining what exactly is exceptional. How do we know what the potential is to be used for? In the Vedas the objective is straightforward: bhakti. Have love for God. That is the ideal destination for every living spark. This goal is not just reserved for the human being. Every species should reach the stage of bhakti, but the human being is special because it has the best chance to do so.
In bhakti you know God. When you know God, you understand His nature, which includes His likes, dislikes, tendencies, and desires. God is great. This is common sense. By His very definition, He is a supreme being. This means that He can live forever. He can create and destroy universes simply by thinking. He can remember every incident, past, present and future. He witnesses everyone’s actions, even if the individual forgets them. Thus He is superior in all respects.
“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!” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)
But if my understanding of Him stops at the point of the supreme being aspect, I won’t know Him fully. As such, I will look to Him to fulfill orders. In dealing with friends and acquaintances, it is often the case that we desire to do something nice. “Let me help them. Let me ease the burden of work on them. In so doing, I will lose some of my guilt. They will appreciate my efforts and think of me as a good person.” The problem is that once you do something for someone else, they tend to expect the same from you going forward. Since you are dependable, they might also ask you to do so many other things. You will feel guilty saying ‘No,’ and so eventually you might just avoid that other person’s association. “Better to stay away from them than to anger them by denying their request.” And of course the other person will get upset if you don’t do something for them. Never mind all that was done in the past; no good deed goes unpunished, as the saying goes.
Without bhakti, the relationship with the Supreme Lord tends to work the same way. “God, give me this. God, give me that. I know You came through for me before, so surely You can do it again.” Then, if just one time you don’t get what you want, God turns into the greatest enemy. “I can’t believe You denied my request. This is all Your fault. I’m suffering so much right now, and You can see it all. Either You don’t exist or You are a mean person. Whatever the case, I’m done with You.”
In bhakti, one learns that the Supreme Lord is ever-blissful. He is all-attractive, and so one of His many names is Krishna. His foremost desire is to enjoy, and naturally He prefers to enjoy with those who want to be with Him. Why would He hang around enemies all the time? Why would He constantly fight, when He is full of bliss and knowledge for eternity?
In bhakti one learns that the Supreme Lord is much more than an order supplier. The cable provider gives television programming when the payments are made on time. The grocer provides food in exchange for cash. Mother Nature automatically provides the elements necessary to grow food. The Supreme Being has no direct interest in such paltry things, especially when they are already provided by others who are not supreme.
One catches His interest with devotion, or bhakti. When the desire is to always be in His association, His personal one at that, there is guidance, protection, and an overall helping hand from the man upstairs. The exact nature of this aid, along with numerous historical examples attesting to the fact, is explained in the thorough, detailed, and expansive Vedic literature. The enemies of bhakti-yoga will look for any single sentence or rule to try to discredit the Vedas, and this is all done so that they can continue on pursuing material opulence, in the process competing with God instead of loving Him. In such competition one can never truly know God, and so such foes can never transcend the dualities of birth and death. The devoted soul reaches the best end because they know Shri Krishna very well. Since they know Him, they never want to be away from Him.
So many rituals to do,
And many rules to follow too.
But without bhakti cannot know,
Knowledge of God elusive ever so.
As order supplier give me this and that,
When You fail revenge on You to exact.
His real position in pleasure and bliss,
Know Him in bhakti, your chance don’t miss.