Vanity thought #1018. Science of Bhakti

Yesterday, and for the better part of this week, I tried to prove that “scientific method” isn’t as scientific as it’s made out to be, that science has no monopoly on it, and that it can be applied in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, too.

My last note, however, was that scientific method is of no use in catching Kṛṣṇa even if we fully comply with instructions of our ācāryas and rules of sādhana bhakti. I guess you can already see where it’s going.

Scientific method won’t work for us because the idea of reaching Kṛṣṇa by our own efforts is wrong. There’s another materialistic assumption about scientific method I haven’t mentioned yet – reliance on yourself. In science it’s axiomatic – if you want to learn anything, you have to study it yourself. If you want to discover anything, you have to search of it yourself, too. There’s a pretty straightforward correlation between success and efforts made to achieve it. It’s not a constant ratio, of course, but the correlation is always positive – you study, you learn. You don’t study and you don’t learn, there’s no other way.

We cannot achieve Kṛṣṇa by our own efforts, no kind of God would allow Himself to be exposed this way, not just Kṛṣṇa.

This puts a huge damper on whatever enthusiasm I might have about applying scientific method in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It makes it look like waste of time, and, in a way, it is. We don’t need to be scientists to learn this simple truth. What is hard is to always be aware of it.

Most of the time, being in a conditioned state, we forget that our efforts will never be the cause of whatever results we get. Karmically, yes, of course, but spiritually there’s no such thing as the law of karma. There’s only the law of causeless mercy. Causeless – get it, it’s the opposite of karma.

So, if we think that by chanting many rounds we can make Kṛṣṇa manifest in the Holy Name, we are wrong. If we think that by reading many books we can finally grasp the philosophy and develop love of God, we are wrong. If we think that if we go to all temple programs and serve devotees there we will earn the right of Kṛṣṇa’s association, we are wrong again.

Nothing works. No matter what we try, we can’t force Kṛṣṇa to reveal Himself. No matter how scientific or how rational our method is, it does not deliver Kṛṣṇa, because Kṛṣṇa is supremely independent. If He doesn’t want to, He won’t show Himself.

We can try the sneakier way – we get the mercy of guru first, then we hope to get the mercy of Lord Nityānanda, then, by His grace, we get the mercy of Lord Caitanya, and then Lord Caitanya will deliver us to Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet.

There’s nothing wrong with it, this is exactly what will happen, but it won’t depend on us, and Kṛṣṇa can block our progress at any point without any explanations. He is not obliged to explain Himself to us. Our guru, our predecessor ācāryas, our entire paramparā all the way up to Lord Brahmā – no one can force Kṛṣṇa to do anything. They can put a good word for us, and I hope they would, but final decision always rests with the Lord.

One could say that Kṛṣṇa always fulfills desires of His devotees but He does that our of His own free will, if He doesn’t want to, no one can force Him to do anything.

This isn’t the end of the world, though – we can always seek shelter of Śṛīmatī Rādhārāṇī and leave Kṛṣṇa to enjoy His selfishness alone, ha ha.

Seriously, though, this realization that we cannot command bhakti to appear in our hearts should increase our humility and that is always a good thing. Humility increases our patience and makes it easier for us to wait.

Another side of this realization is that we can reflect on the very nature of bhakti and on our expectations from it. Why can’t we get devotion? What’s wrong with us?

Let’s put it in very simple terms – bhakti means relationships with Kṛṣṇa. Not chanting in our own room, not reading books in a cozy chair, not eating prasādam, not dancing, not offering prayers, not offering obeisances, not associating with devotees – bhakti means associating with Kṛṣṇa.

Bhakti means relationships and so without contact with Kṛṣṇa it is meaningless. Nothing can substitute it either. In fact, our first contact with Kṛṣṇa will probably be devoid of bhakti, it would probably be about awe and veneration, not love yet.

So, in our everyday lives, when we don’t even hope to contact Kṛṣṇa directly, what is it that we expect from our version of bhakti? Our own happiness, that’s what.

We might say that it’s a spiritual happiness so it’s okay but it’s still about our own enjoyment, still fundamentally selfish. Bhakti will not grow in such a heart.

When we apply this so called scientific method in our devotional lives we usually judge results by the amount of pleasure this or that activity brings us. “Oh, serving devotees is so nectarian. Oh, book distribution is the height of ecstasy. Oh, freedom from sex is so cool. Oh, kirtans are so sweet. Oh, Bhāgavatam classes are so liberating.”

Without direct contact with Kṛṣṇa this is probably all we can hope for. We assume that this pleasure is given to us by Kṛṣṇa so it IS a kind of exchange, however indirect. It IS a kind of relationship, isn’t it? We do things and Kṛṣṇa reciprocates by giving us spiritual rewards. This doesn’t prove anything, however.

God reciprocates with every living being. He fulfills desires of every little worm slurping its way through delicious stool. Getting this kind of response is not bhakti. It is a higher level of enjoyment, true, but it’s still enjoyment. Our enjoyment, to be precise.

As long as we value our own feelings, we won’t get bhakti. We should be ashamed of it, really. It’s nice and kosher and it’s spiritually uplifting but it’s the very thing that keeps our hearts locked out of love for Kṛṣṇa.

We can’t say “I want pure devotion but I also want to feel good about it.” It’s an oxymoron, pure devotion and our own feelings are like oil and water, they don’t mix.

Well, what can we do then?

Not much, I’m afraid. We can forgo our feelings and engage in service without any ulterior motives, that would be good start. We might not be able to serve Kṛṣṇa directly but we can start by serving His representatives, and not just as a step to better things in the future but as our ultimate goal – as far as this life in this body is concerned it is true.

Without seeing Kṛṣṇa directly we don’t know how to please Him but we have His representatives and we can concentrate on their happiness instead of ours, and we should not treat this as a temporary assignment either. It’s all there is for us, life after life. Kṛṣṇa manifests for us through His devotees and so we should treat them correspondingly.

It is a kind of spiritual ABC but I haven’t heard anyone preaching in this vein for a very very long time. Maybe I am just unlucky, or maybe we, as a society, have become so suspicious of each other that we can’t say such things in public anymore. What can I say? It’s our greatest loss.

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