“Now hear, O son of Pritha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.1)Download this episode (right click and save)
Parampara. Disciplic succession. The only way to know that which is beyond comprehension is through this link. Consult someone in the chain that traces back to the original person. Mental speculation can only take you so far. You can figure out that life ends in death. You can see the constant fluctuation in happiness and sadness, coming and going as if they were seasons. You can figure out that everyone is the same on the inside, that they are struggling in this existence.
But only the spiritual master, the guru, can take you further. The Vedas describe God with so many terms that are negations. This makes sense. Everything we know is limiting. God is automatically the opposite of that. Man is fallible. Therefore God is infallible. Man is prone to death. God lives forever. Man has a beginning, namely the time of birth. God is without beginning.
The guru provides this instruction through words, but just as much is learned about God from behavior. The guru is a servant, after all; a devotee. The devotees have so many wonderful qualities that are rooted in their unwavering respect, appreciation and service connected to the author of all things.
1. Amazing in their kindness
“The person I detest the most just won the presidential election. I am not happy. Not only am I angry at the result, my emotion extends to the people I think are responsible. The voters. How could they make such a mistake? Did they not pay attention to the campaign? The moment I see someone I think is a supporter of the new president, I turn away. I want nothing to do with that person.”
This is the nature of kama, or sense gratification. If it is satisfied, I am favorable. If desire goes unmet, there is frustration. From kama I draw the line between friend and foe, like and dislike.
The devotees are above this. They are kind to everyone. Their compassion extends to the animal community as well, for they see the spirit soul within everything that is living.
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
An example of this kindness is the devotee’s outreach to people from various communities. While traditional religion is inherited from the parents, the dharma of the soul never changes. The essential characteristic of the essence of identity is identical for every single living thing. That’s why the devotees fearlessly spread the holy names to every town and village, on the strength of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the golden avatara.
2. Amazing in their perseverance
If there is a God, He would have to be indefatigable. There is the picture of Atlas, holding the globe on his shoulders. He gets tired, after all, as such a heavy weight is a burden. The Supreme Lord has the avatara of Varaha, who arrives in a boar form and holds up the earth with its tusks. There is no strain. There is no fatigue. Shri Krishna Himself held up a massive hill for seven consecutive days, resting it on the pinky finger of His left hand.
Though obviously not as powerful as the Almighty, the devotees are just as perseverant in their work. They don’t get deterred by setbacks. They see pain, misery and struggle in this world, and they don’t mistakenly think that there is no God because of it. They understand the nature of karma, and how good and bad reactions are associated with work. They know that with enough attention in devotion, consciousness will change for the better. Even if success doesn’t appear likely, they continue on, in the hopes of pleasing the Supreme Lord. Shri Hanuman is an ideal example in this regard. He also once carried a mountain in his hand.
3. Amazing in their strength
Strength doesn’t have to be just physical. There is emotional and mental, as well. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada travelled to America at the age of seventy. It was not a pleasant trip by any means. He travelled on a cargo ship. There was seasickness. There were heart attacks. The trip was made to fulfill the desire of his guru, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
Once in America, things didn’t get easier. There were moments of despair. It looked like there wouldn’t be success. Tremendous strength was required to stay the course. Devotees have this strength because the Supreme Lord supplies. He helps them in their devotion.
4. Amazing in their intelligence
Shri Hanuman figured out a way past several obstacles on his journey to Lanka. He was serving the Supreme Lord in the avatara of Rama. Hanuman is an amazing devotee since he is known for many wonderful attributes. He is perseverant and strong. He is amazingly kind. He is also intelligent. While in Lanka he managed to hide himself from the enemy. He found Rama’s missing wife Sita and became her confidante, even though she was skeptical of practically everyone there. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, He is both remembrance and forgetfulness. The knowledge we have within comes from Him. The devotees are able to extract the necessary intelligence to continue forward in their devotion, even in the face of the greatest obstacles.
5. Amazing in their instruction
As mentioned before, only through disciplic succession can God be known in truth. Krishna lays out the formula in the Bhagavad-gita. He tells Arjuna that by having a mind attached to Him and following yoga in devotion, He can be known in truth, free from doubts. The devotees have this knowledge since they follow Krishna’s formula. They give the same instruction, though perhaps slightly altered to match the time and circumstance. In the present age, they vociferously recommend the chanting of the holy names for finding enlightenment: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
With mind attached in yoga known,
Supreme Lord, by His devotees shown.
Amazing in will to carry on,
Past failures not to dwell upon.
Of wonderful strength to behold,
Like Hanuman the mountain to hold.
To time and circumstance sagacious,
Giving wise instruction freely gracious.