“The Deities of Radha and Krishna, Lakshmi and Narayana, and Rama and Sita are very attractive to devotees, so much so that when they see the statue decorated in the temple of the Lord they become fully absorbed in thought of the Lord. That is the state of liberation.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.25.36 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
From the combination of the three modes of material nature that cover an individual soul at the time of birth, there is an immediate assignment into one of the four varnas, or categories of occupation. A varna is a Sanskrit word that also means “color,” and in the varnashrama system it refers to an occupation based on qualities. We inherit our qualities; we don’t choose them specifically when we are born. On the highest end is the brahmana, who sees the spiritual equality in all. On the lowest end is the shudra, who is known for easily lamenting, especially over things that are not very important. Bhakti-yoga is so potent that it transcends the four varnas, meaning that even a person who easily laments can get liberation, release from the cycle of death. And that boon can come as easily as pointing the eyes in a certain direction.
Consider this situation. You have two employees at a place of business. They don’t hold the same position. One person is well-educated. They have several degrees and certifications. They work on things the average person wouldn’t know how to do. They are expert in math and physics, and they are confident in their abilities. You have another person who cleans the offices. They aren’t very skilled, but they do their job with faith and attention. If the roles were to reverse, the cleaning person wouldn’t know the first thing to do, but the highly educated person could eventually figure out how to clean.
One day a personal tragedy hits the owner of the business. As a result, they are terribly upset. They don’t know how to handle the situation. The employee who is very educated is unfortunately also uncaring. They make a few insensitive remarks towards a fellow employee about how happy they are that the boss is upset. “I don’t care what happens to him,” is overheard. “He’s the worst person on the planet, so it’s good if he’s sad.” The other employee mentioned previously, the cleaning person, though not very educated, takes care to console the boss. They are a very loving person, and though they aren’t highly valued in the company, they treat every one with dignity and respect.
So from this situation we see that occupation alone doesn’t determine a person’s character. Intellect can only take us so far, and in the final evaluation of a person it is practically meaningless. This holds true especially in the eyes of the Supreme Lord, who is the father of all. In the Vedic tradition there is the system of education known as Vedanta. It is the end of knowledge, the conclusion of all conclusions. In Vedanta you learn that you are spirit and not matter. You learn that the material world is nothing more than varying combinations of the twenty-four elements described in Sankhya philosophy. Birth and death go in cycles, and the vital force within, the spirit soul, never dies.
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācinnāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥajo nityaḥ śāśvato 'yaṁ purāṇona hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
The person who is not familiar with Vedanta will easily lament over trivial issues. Something like the death of a very old person will make them so dejected for many days. They may have never met that person; it may be the death of a celebrity. They don’t know that the soul lives on, that to grieve for the body is not very wise.
And yet such a person can become liberated in an instant by worshiping the deity, which is the merciful manifestation of the Supreme Lord meant to be served by the conditioned soul otherwise deluded by the images shown to them in maya, or illusion. We can’t see God. It’s impossible. We don’t have eyes to see beyond the horizon, so how can we see someone who is the entire cosmic manifestation? And in fact, He is much more than that, but we reference it here as a way to help us understand His greatness.
Despite being larger than the largest, He allows us to worship Him through a small statue form that can be installed in a place of worship, be it a home or temple. How does the imperceptible liberation take place? The deity is very attractive, as it accurately depicts the beauty and grace of God in one of His many forms. There is the original form of Krishna, who is accompanied by His pleasure potency, the forever devoted Shrimati Radharani. The same Krishna expands into Narayana, and Radha accompanies Him as Lakshmi Devi. Then Narayana expands into Rama, and Lakshmi again stays by His side, this time as Sita Devi.
Even the less intelligent person, who may be consumed with thoughts of trivial matters, such as what occurred on the latest reality television show, can become absorbed in the devotional atmosphere by looking at the deity.
“Just see how beautiful Krishna is. His land of Vrindavana is so fortunate; it gets to see Him every day. Krishna is so attractive; it is no wonder everyone there loves Him. No one can compare to Radharani. Only she can criticize Krishna and have her sentiments be praised. Her love is so strong that Krishna prefers her to everyone else. And yet He still makes room for anyone’s worship. I wish I could stay in this moment forever, never forgetting Radha and Krishna.”
This thought process is liberation. To think of God is the pinnacle achievement for the living spirit. The best opportunity for reaching that level of thinking is the human birth. Familiarity with Vedanta and intelligence to understand the science of self-realization help to give confidence in adopting the bhakti-yoga life, but they are not requirements. The power of the deity is such that any person can have their life turned around in an instant. When they think of God all the time, they are liberated, and no one can take that away from them.
High or low, ordinary or exceptional,
Anyone can get liberation imperceptible.
Just a look at the deity take,
And in an instant transformation make.
Character not from occupation alone,
Company of Supreme Lord for any to own.
With respect to Radha-Krishna or Sita-Rama stand,
Liberated in mind, to spiritual world land.