From the very beginning I assumed that my journey back to Godhead will be rather short, that I would reach my destination at the end of this life. There are plenty of encouraging signs everywhere, right from taking our initiation vows to numerous assurances in our books.
I always assumed “life after life” line in Siksashataka was more like a figure of speech, why would a devotee need to take so many births anyway? So here are some possible explanations why Lord Chaitanya included them there.
First, there’s a certain sequence to Siksashataka prayers – one feels unfortunate that one doesn’t have taste for the Holy Names, then one feels humbled, then one pleads the Lord for the opportunity to serve him anyway, life after life. To a devotee on the “durdaiva” and “trinad api sunichena” stages the thought that he could achieve the Lord in this life doesn’t even occur.
The real devotee never feels confident of qualifying for Lord’s mercy any time soon, or even any life soon. That could be a nice yardstick to judge my own progress against.
Second, a real devotee is absolutely indifferent to liberation. The question of “I need liberation, why doesn’t it come” doesn’t occur to him either.
So he sees himself as totally unqualified for liberation AND he doesn’t care whether it comes or not, he’s only interested in the opportunity to serve the Lord.
In his life he doesn’t focus on his imperfections, like I do, he focuses only on the positive – the opportunity to chant, the opportunity to serve. I approach it from a different angle – if I eliminate this or that, devotion would come. A real devotee begs for devotion, knowing that only devotion can overcome his obstacles, he doesn’t waste time on artificially trying to clean his heart himself.
Surely it doesn’t mean he is not trying to avoid offenses against the Holy Name, but his solution is only to chant more rather than analyze what he has done wrong on the Internet.
I should take notice again.
With an attitude like that a real devotee doesn’t have time to worry about terms of his deal with his guru, and not because time is short. For me lifetime after lifetime sounds like an awfully long period, for a real devotee, with real humility and real understanding of his position in this world, lifetime after lifetime sounds like a wonderful chance not to be missed, even a blessing.
If I heard that from the start I probably wouldn’t have thought of bhakti yoga as anything special, it would have appeared as a very slow and totally unreliable process.
In reality, however, it appears that it is the only process by which one can escape the power of time altogether, and escape here doesn’t mean liberation, as desire for swift liberation is still contingent on one’s judgment of time, but a total, absolute escape where one is not even aware of the time passing by, lifetime after lifetime.
Question is – would someone like me, subconsciously desiring for the end of my suffering in material world would ever qualify for the boon of devotional service? On one hand the two have nothing in common, one is selfish, the other is selfless, but, on the other hand, the realization of one’s suffering here is a necessary step to any spiritual endeavor.
I hope I don’t get stuck.