“Lord Chaitanya recommended that the greatest achievement of human life is to achieve the grace of the Lord, love of God. He said, prema pumartho mahan: to achieve love of Godhead is the highest perfection of life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.23.8 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
In comparison to the man upstairs, the human being is an infant. He always remains so. He is fully dependent on the will of the supreme, who indirectly provides for his needs through the material nature. This nature is the inferior energy, a force which the living entity mistakenly first identifies for their personal enjoyment. In spite of whatever rise to success may occur, man is still dependent on this nature, and so they are always inferior to God. They survive in the world through the Lord’s mercy alone. Just like the helpless child who is raised to adulthood by the love of the parents, the living entity who is fully dependent on the higher forces cannot exist without the love of God. When they finally reciprocate that love, they reach the greatest achievement in life. That love will carry them forward, allowing them to be happy in any situation.
Consider this scenario. Two people are vying for an important post in the government. This is a newly created position, one that will have vast responsibilities. The pay will be good, and the benefits can’t be found in the private sector. The office holder gets a pension for life after serving only a few years. Not surprisingly, there is competition for the position, and in the end it comes down to two people.
Both realize that fate is not entirely in their hands. They thus decide to pray to God to help them. One person says:
“O Lord, please help me. I could really use this job. I would perform my duties very well, trust me. I know I’ve asked you for so many things in the past, but if you could help me out this one time, I promise never to ask for anything ever again.”
The other person says:
“O Lord, I just know that you’ll come through for me this time. My whole life has been wonderful. I have hardly endured any suffering. I live with so much goodness around me. I can share my experiences with others if I get this post. I promise to worship you so much if I get this position. Please help me.”
We don’t even have to know the outcome to understand that one person will be disappointed here. To the person getting the position, with their good fortune does it mean that they have felt the grace of God? And the person losing out, have they suffered the wrath of the Supreme Lord? Is this what God has been reduced to, a run of the mill order supplier? Is He a delivery man who has to pick which route to take?
Lord Chaitanya says that the greatest achievement in life is to have love of God. When you have prema, pure love, for Him then you’ll know that you’ve been graced by Him. All other achievements are merely temporary, not that important, and not even always auspicious. The person who is happy to have gotten the position could end up hating it. They could make an honest mistake and become the target of a huge investigation that ruins their reputation with the public. The person losing out could find some other job that makes them even happier. Thus what one person considers grace is actually a curse, while to another the supposed wrath is the real blessing.
Prema for Krishna, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is not easy to achieve. Sure, the devotion is easy to practice. Just chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Visit the house of worship and offer obeisances in full faith. Hear about His pastimes in works like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Ramayana. Commune with the saints and accept their wisdom.
The implementation is easy but the decision to practice is the most difficult one to make. Therefore to have real love for God is indeed the greatest achievement. It is rarely attained, even after many births and deaths. Once you get it, though, you have something you can survive on. You won’t need anything else. Whether you have a family or live all by yourself, your love for Krishna will carry you through. Whether you have a lot of money or not a penny to your name, you can still survive knowing that you have so much love for God.
Krishna already loves all the living entities through the resources He provides in the material nature. When the living entity develops prema for Him, the divine love arrives in a more direct fashion. The guiding hand of the Almighty maintains what the devotee has and gives to them what they lack. That which is lacking refers to the ability to act off the prema. So the person with Krishna-prema gets whatever they need to practice their devotion. There is no doubt about this, as so many saints from the great history of Vedic culture serve as proof.
The person who has love for God has truly been graced by Him. They can also help others to reach that rare achievement. They do this by speaking about Krishna’s glories, explaining the science of self-realization, and exposing the folly of focusing on material pursuits alone. The information they pass on is unique in itself, and the reward from accepting this information with sincerity is the chance to capture the elusive achievement of the human life.
Only when something happens to me good,
Is the grace of God coming understood?
What about to one who reward not to get,
With Lord’s wrath have they met?
Love for God is life’s achievement real,
Known when conscious of Him you feel.
Devotion easy in theory, but hardly any to dare,
Thus pinnacle achievement coming to one rare.