About two weeks ago I wrote a post about desire tree aspect of devotees, how we expect them to grant us our wishes and why we expect them to be even more merciful than the Lord Himself. It might not be a legitimate reason – we hope they empathize with our material desires where the Lord doesn’t care or explicitly forbids us to enjoy. It’s like choosing your friends over your parents because they “get you”, they don’t enforce any rules and they don’t give any chores.
Eventually we’ll grow out of this childish attitude, I hope.
There’s more to devotees role in our lives, of course, and today I want to focus on positives. As we look at our post-Prabhupada society we will certainly see a great diversity, and not in a good sense. We have ritviks, we have people who just hate GBC, we have people who went over to the GM or babaji community, we have those who stay faithful to our mission and we have those who stay skeptical about it. We also have those who simply serve to Prabhupada’s representatives without giving too much thought how qualified these representatives are. They came from Krishna, they saved us, we don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Those are the best, but what about the rest?
If we judge by the Internet it’s very hard to find someone who is not engaged in some kind of fight or another. Astrology, female gurus, female dharma, mission drift, kirtaniya infestation, vegans, book changes, dubious behavior, falldowns and cover ups, marriage business, Hindu worship, jiva origin – the list is endless and quiet breaks are rare.
What about all these devotees? What good they are to our lives?
Not much, really. Among six exchanges among the devotees in Nectar of Instruction there’s no arguing or debating. It might look like we learn something from these discussions but it’s all only external knowledge, bhakti doesn’t grow there, it’s a giant waste of time.
It can’t be that bad, though, can it? Of course not, we just have to learn to see devotees in a different way. Not as fellow embodied souls with their claims to their own share of the pie but as vishnu tadiya, Vishnu’s accessories. We should learn to see their bodies moving around as we would see Vishnu’s swinging earrings. They don’t have any other purpose to existence but pleasing the Lord.
It might not look that way but it’s because of our own material perspective. With our envious eyes we would give even the Lord Himself a pass if He quietly appeared among us. We look at devotees and we see the reflection of our own anarthas, and our critical judgments of them are the testament to us seeing the world in terms of duality.
Whenever anything material makes any movement in this world it immediately produces reactions ranging from love to hate depending on the position of the observer. We might hate ritviks and they might hate us back but if we were born into their bodies our feelings would flip in a moment. This materially based perception in not absolute and one might find causes for criticism even in the best behaved devotees and otherwise spotless acharyas.
On the transcendental level, on the other hand, we are all Krishna’s dearmost associates, slightly bewildered and talking nonsense but that doesn’t affect our eternal relationships with Him, only temporarily cover them.
How to see that in devotees we meet in our everyday lives? How to separate it from our materialistic perceptions?
I think one fundamental, immutable quality is that devotees remind us of Krishna. Always. We just don’t notice it most of the time and we don’t think it’s important. Yet I would posit that this feature – reminding us of Krishna, is the only thing that really matters. Doesn’t matter what they say, doesn’t matter what they do, doesn’t matter what they look like, doesn’t matter whether we agree with them or not, doesn’t matter whether they are senior or junior, doesn’t matter whether they are our friends or enemies. They remind us of Krishna, instantly, and that’s the perfection of our lives and the perfection of their gifts.
If a white man goes to some third world country children would always shout “hello” to him because simply seeing a foreigner reminds them of English they have been taught at school or by their parents as something very important, so they say the only word they know to show their appreciation.
Same things with devotees, as soon as we see one, we remember Krishna, sometimes we say Hare Krishna, sometimes we don’t but we always remember Him when we see His devotees. Similar to the white man situation our actual communication might be awkward and irrelevant and sometimes we shouldn’t be even bothered but this initial remembrance of the Lord justifies everything else. It’s the most important rule, after all – always remember Krishna and never forget.
Therefore when I see devotees on a prowl and looking for trouble I don’t want to engage them because that would spoil the fact that I’ve seen devotees and I’ve been reminded of Krishna. Sometimes it’s for a good cause, misunderstandings need to be corrected, opinions exchanged, ahcaryas protected and so on, but if it makes me forget that I’m actually talking to Vishnu’s accessories it’s probably not worth it.
That should be our guiding principle in all interactions with all devotees and we should structure our interactions in such a way as to never undermine it. Easier said than done, I know, but at least the effort should be there. With time appreciation for this rule will come, I hope, and that will make our lives so much easier.