Bhagavat Gita: Chapter 7: Knowledge of the Absolute: Verse:3
kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ
kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ
Translation: Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.
Here, in this verse Krishna is talking about the importance of devotional service. He says out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection. So, who are these thousands of men? The thousands of men are those who are actually only worried about the body. They are thinking about eating, sleeping, mating, defending and whatever they do in their life is just an extension of these activities. It is not that they are atheist, they do believe in God or worship Krishna, but mainly for things with respect to the categories mentioned above .These are the thousands of men who we see in our regular day to day life, getting up early morning, doing daily activities, going for work, working hard, paying rent, getting some entertainment in between. They are just keeping body and soul together. But how many people actually take up to devotional service or how many people are getting a chance to get out of this cycle of birth and death or how many people are endeavoring for perfection.
So, among these people some may think why I am doing these things. Every day I have to work, earn well, it is always same routine, same cycle. They don’t see any difference between their life and an animal life. They start to think slowly, “What am I doing”,” Whom am I originally? “, “How can I come out of this suffering?”. If this thought comes that means it is a start of endeavoring for perfection, they are trying to educated about self, about the soul, about the material body. Then they realize that material body is different from the soul. They also come to know about the super soul, the Paramatma, that is Krishna. And they also learn that if they focus on the soul not on the material body, then they can get out of the sufferings of this material world.
So, what is perfection? Perfection means they are successful in neglecting the influence of material body and realizing that they are spirit soul and they are also successful in getting out of the sufferings of this material world. So, who are these people who have achieved perfection? Srila Prabupad describes the thinking process of such people in the book Science of Self- realization. These are the people who take up the Jnana yoga process, that is the cultivation of knowledge to know who you are, who Krishna is, what material world is. They see that animals are not putting so much efforts like them in their daily life gaining their bread, but still they are fed by Krishna then why should I work so hard to maintain this material body. I need to get out of this suffering. And this can be achieved by merging in to Brahman. But still Krishna says they are not the ones who actually know him.
Then next is the Dhyana yogis. Srila Prabupad explains that these people think that sufferings of this material body are hard and only way to get out of this suffering is by achieving a wonderful skill which is not limited by the material body. So, the people who are striving Dhyana yoga or Jnana yoga are not transcending beyond to Buddhi yoga and coming to Bhakti yoga. They are limiting themselves. Srila Prabupada says that these Dhyana yogis or Jnana yogis they are not realizing that though they are coming out of material influences the siddhis or mystic power they are obtaining that also are material in nature. There is a huge gap with people who have achieved this perfection and devotees who know Krishna. So why is this gap happening. What are the steps to be taken to avoid this gap? Even though you realize that you are not this material body but a spirit soul, how to progress from there.
So, when you look deeply in to that, the focus of the people who are striving for perfection or achieving perfection is that they may not focus on the material body but on the soul. They are more focused on themselves. I am the soul, not this material body, I should come out of this suffering, come out of the cycle of birth, old age, disease and death. This thought process is actually dividing people from coming from the perfection stage to know Krishna completely. But for devotees the focus is completely different. They think that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of God head, and he is the part and parcel of Krishna, not this material body, and his duty is to serve Krishna, he always think how can he serve Krishna in a way which makes him happy, and he completely stop thinking about himself getting out of sufferings of material world, instead he completely focuses only on Krishna, he will develop interest to know more about Krishna. This will help them to come out of the bodily conception of life. We don’t have to make a separate endeavor for that. So, when we change our outlook from “myself” to be the “servant of Krishna”, the perfection which you get from other process slowly manifest in you automatically. Srila Prabupad gives example that any thing can be fulfilled by a well in need can be fulfilled by a huge body of water, a big lake.
Although non-devotees declare that the path ofbhakti, or devotional service, is very easy. If the path of bhakti is so easy, why do they take up the difficult path of practicing yoga for years and years together, reading many spiritual books, when they don’t have the capability to do that? Actually, the path of bhaktiis not easy. The so-called path of bhaktipracticed by unauthorized persons without knowledge of bhaktimay be easy, but when it is practiced factually according to the rules and regulations, the speculative scholars and philosophers fall away from the path. Srila Prabupad says that devotional process is not an easy process, but it is very difficult process and if anything comes easy is cheap. If you find something easily you don’t find regards for it. So, Krishna doesn’t want people who are cheap to come to him and serve him. He wants people who are genuinely having the desire to serve him, and who are actually making an effort to please him to come to him. There is a funny anecdote during early times regarding this. A person was working for the mafia and police had actually put an eye on him. They tracked him down, they knew all his hideout and they were ready to arrest him. So, this person wanted to go to some place for a hide out where no one will suspect him staying there. He sees that no one is actually bothering devotees, they are not doing any work, whole day dancing, chanting, eating nice prasadam and staying in groups. So, he thought of associating with devotees, for he knew that devotees accept new people without asking any questions. He went and stayed in a Brahmacari ashram. He had some contact in the ashram so it was very easy for him to be admitted in the ashram and to live with devotees. So, when he started to live there, he had to follow the rules and regulations and schedule of the temple. So, every day the devotees used to wake him early morning at 3 am, then he has to chant, do various services in the temple like help in cooking, cleaning, go for book distribution, participate in nice Kirtan, listen to the class. The whole day he found he was actually very busy, and no rest. And again, he sleeps at night but had to wake up by 3 am. So, he did that for a few weeks and realized that this is more difficult and life in prison was much better. So, he decided to surrender himself to the police and finish of his sentences and then become free. Now, we can see that if we look externally the practice of devotional service looks really easy, but when you actually get in to it, it is actually difficult process.
Sometimes we can see Srila Prabupad contradicting himself. He says devotional process is very easy, what is the difficulty. Why doesn’t anyone take up. This can be understood by an example. A mother taking care of two- and half-year-old baby. Someone who doesn’t have children, and who works in a professional environment will say to you, it is so nice you can stay at home, you don’t have to work, you can wake up whenever you want, since you are at home. But if they are put in a same situation, to take care of same year-old baby when the baby cries, they may not even know why the baby is crying, is it due to hunger or due to sleep or due to some sickness. They think may be the child is crying out of hunger and make some dish to feed the baby but they baby will refuse eating that, and may demand some other food. When the child is playing, they will be making a mess of the room. They have to clean the house and again there is a mess. It will become very difficult for them to manage and think that life in office is better than staying with the child at home. There is a schedule.
But if we see a mother, when the child starts to cry, the mother knows exactly why the baby is crying, is it due to hunger, or pain. Because she knows the child inside out, she loves the child and have the knowledge how to handle their tantrum and their activities. So, if the stranger sees from outside, it looks easy for them. But if a baby sitter want to take care of the child, they go and ask the ask the mother, what the baby likes, if the baby rubs eyes that means she is sleepy, if baby asks something you need to be ready immediately or else they will change their mind. So, the mother gives that knowledge to the baby sitter. She also gives her phone number to the baby sitter to call her if she needs any help too. Srila Prabupad says it is simple for simple and more difficult for complicated people. If you do out of love then all the devotional activities will be simple that is why when external people when they see it looks easy, they are not doing anything with love. The reason why it appears to be easy is because you are doing out of love and complete knowledge. Here in the example of baby sitter it may seem difficult in the beginning of the process of taking care of the child, but with the guidance from the mother, slowly she develops a bond with the baby and start to love the baby unconditionally and at some point the baby also will start to love her. We are also like the baby sitter sometime, we have the desire to take care of the child ( here it is desire to serve Krishna), but we don’t know how to take care of the child (How to practice devotional service) because we don’t have the love and complete knowledge to serve Krishna. We are stuck, frustrated , we don’t know exactly what Krishna wants, we are not in a position to do everything as a spontaneous love for Krishna like how a mother does for her child, we don’t know how to reach the stage where we are not leaving the process of devotional service, we don’t want to become one among the 1000’s men who are in the process of eating, sleeping, mating and defending, we don’t want to get entangled in the sufferings of the material world either nor we want to be caught up in achieving perfection of coming out of suffering. So, to attain this knowledge to serve Krishna, to show our spontaneous love for Krishna by practicing devotional service we need the guidance, instruction and association of the people who already have attained this knowledge, and doing everything for Krishna out of spontaneous love. These are our Shiksha Gurus and Diksha Gurus guided by our shastras, because devotional service is not like that ok today, I read Bhagavad Gita, so I am going to start practicing now. Every step you need guidance and feedback. Situation may change in life, what will work in one situation may not work in another situations of life. So devotional service is very dynamic. You need someone who can guide you every step. Some mentor, Guru, someone who can help you in every situation. So, the spiritual master and Shiksha gurus they give us the process and they also give us the support. And once we take up the path, it will be difficult initially but with their support and devotee association, automatically we will make progress and reach a stage where spontaneous love for Krishna start developing in our heart. Otherwise it will become burdensome sometimes, to follow something without any results. Sometimes, initially we will feel little comfortable with the process with all the guidance, but that is not enough, we should constantly strive to make our practice better. That should be our goal.
Srila Prabupada says that Krishna is dedicating chapters in Bhagavad Gita about the process of devotional service, giving us all the information so that we make informed decisions so that we use what is needed for our Krishna consciousness. You hear, understand, then apply in your life. Implement the knowledge gained from Jnana Yoga about Krishna, about our soul, to get out of the material conception of life and practice of devotional service. Same way with use the technique from Dhyana Yoga, the rules and regulations of how to control our mind and senses in our devotional services so our mind won’t become our enemy, we can use our mind to focus on Krishna so that we don’t deviate from the path of Krishna consciousness and can come out of the bodily conception of life, the Dehatma buddhi and act on spirit level so that we can serve Krishna much better. So, when we see that from the beginning of the first chapter of Bhagavad Git, if we read Srila Prabupad’s purports carefully, we can see that he is actually trying to explain to us Jnana yoga or Dhyana yoga is attractive but that is not our ultimate goal, there is much more attractive things coming ,that is devotional service to Krishna is much more attractive. This can be explained by an example. A person wants to become a Doctor. And of course, we all know one has to study 5 years or more to become a Doctor. Someone comes and tells him instead of becoming a Doctor why don’t you become a nurse, because Nursing degree is just 3 years, and whatever the Doctor does the nurse also does, like checking the BP, your pulse, insert IV line. So, this person feels more attractive to do the nursing degree. So, the goal gets tangible. He comes to his parents and says that he wants to do Nursing degree but the parents try to convince him that being a Doctor is much better, you can do more things. So here Srila Prabupada becomes our parent, guiding us so that our immaturity and influences from material nature does not deviate our mind and we become more focused, determined and have strong will power to practice Krishna consciousness. We will be able to practice ourselves well, same time we will be able to preach and guide others as well. We will never be stagnant nor there will be any divide, because what we have learned theoretically, we are doing practical application also (what we hear, we Practice sincerely). We will take our chanting seriously, and try to do it without any offence, so we will find progress in our material and spiritual path as well.
So how can we implement every knowledge spoken in Bhagavad Gita. It is by careful Introspection of ourselves. That is trying to figure out what kind of a person we are, what are the defects we have, what are the good qualities we have, what are the negative qualities we have like anger, envy, pride, greed etc., what are the obstructions in our path preventing us from doing your Sadhana to Krishna. We have to make a note of it, and always try to improve. In this material world if we have some amount of knowledge we are considered as perfect. If we are having some problems means then other persons are bothering you. We are taught not to look over our faults and figure out what is wrong with us. Whatever way you are, you are considered to be great. That is the training we all get and it is superficial. We cannot achieve anything thinking we are great, perfect. This gives false confidence, false sense of loving from everyone. This is not a good tactic, but unfortunately this is what we are taught.
Introspection is a main quality of a devotee. In Bhagavad Gita in many places a devotee is described as an Introspective sage. An example regarding this is Imagine that you are in Goloka. In Goloka you will be serving Krishna under the guidance of a Gopi or a Manjeri. You will not be serving Krishna directly. You don’t receive any individual appreciation or recognition. In Krishan Lila, Krishna does not ask who made the garland for him, who picked those beautiful flowers etc., He only appreciate Radha Rani. All other’s goal is get appreciation from Radha Rani. So, think that you are put with a person whom you don’t like, whom you cannot stand, you always try to avoid them in the service of Krishna. What will be your emotions, it is positive or negative? If you feel negative emotions overtaking you that means you are fallen that level. Practice thinking of this scenario after few months, see where you stand, check your emotions. If you see still you are struggling to come out of negative emotions, open your heart to someone who you trust and take guidance from them like Shiksha Gurus, Diksha Gurus who are always willing to help you, and from devotees. Same with our Chanting to. We all know all the 10 offence to be avoided in Chanting like to blaspheme the devotees who have dedicated their lives for propagating the holy name of the Lord, to consider the names of the demigods like Lord Siva or Lord Brahma to be equal to, or independent of, the name Lord Visnu, To disobey the orders of the spiritual master, to blaspheme the Vedic literature or literature in pursuance of the Vedic version etc. First of all, we don’t have the purity or the spontaneous love to chant the holy name of the Lord, because we are fallen, and does not have superiority to do any offence and top of it so many things to take care of. But we have to do our chanting sincerely. Why because we have promised our spiritual master or Shiksha Gurus that we will chant sincerely. So that is our first duty to fulfill the promised we made to them, second thing is Krishna gets pleased when we chant sincerely so it our duty to please Krishna and our intention should not be to get out of material conception of life, third when we chant just listen to our chanting carefully and focus our mind on Krishna rather than focusing on the 10 offences of the holy name and beg him to engage you in his services. Control the mind from wandering. Associate with devotees.
How can one recognize a pure devotee? Vishwanath Chakravarthy Thakur says, observe how devotees leads their life, listen to them, see what are they doing out side their lecture, how are they dealing their day to day activities in their daily life. If exposed to any critical situation how are they handling. Are they showing the same enthusiasm, the same joyful nature while doing service when no one is watching them? When we see the Gurus, Sanyasis they are always focus on Krishna and do their activities never deviated from the path of Krishna Consciousnesses. Best example is Srila Prabupada. If we read Srila Prabupada-Lilamrta, it clearly says how he overcomes negative situations in life, the negative emotions, he was cheated, disrespected, his health was at risk, still he came to America, people discouraged his efforts. One devotee used to say we discredit Srila Prabupad while elevating him so much. He is empowered by Krishna. He attained the status of pure devotee by his Sadhana Bhakti constantly meditating on his Guru’s words and following his instructions. We can apply this in our life by sincerely doing our devotional service like chanting and other services, introspecting us daily, obeying the instructions of Shiksha’s Gurus and Diksha Gurus. That way we can make progress in our spiritual life. Therefore, unless one practices devotional service to the Lord, one cannot know Krishna as He is (tattvataḥ), even though one is a great scholar or philosopher. Only the pure devotees can know something of the inconceivable transcendental qualities in Krishna – His being the cause of all causes, His omnipotence and opulence, and His wealth, fame, strength, beauty, knowledge and renunciation – because Krishna is benevolently inclined to His devotees.