Two days ago I discussed the ways and the necessity of always keeping in touch with the Lord. It’s not easy as it sounds in Kali Yuga because everything that worked before is hopelessly contaminated now.
People used to offer yajñās and the Lord would appear, which is totally out of the question for us. People used to meditate and see Paramātmā within their hearts, it was even instructed in Bhagavad Gīta, we can forget about that, too. People could at least follow the rules of varṇāśrama and that would satisfy the Lord to some degree but varṇāśram is totally screwed now, too. How could a poor soul keep in touch with Kṛṣṇa? There’s no way but chanting, which is our yuga dharma.
For us the world appears as totally separated from the Lord and it’s not just because of our illusion but also because the Lord wouldn’t touch it with His foot anymore. He used to come here and perform His pastimes but now the Earth is too corrupt, too covered under the modes of passion and ignorance. We can’t accommodate the Lord and His associates even if they wanted to come.
Well, if the Lord really wanted to come here again He certainly could but then He would prepare the place first and it wouldn’t look anything like where we live now.
Being always connected with the Lord is a constant theme of all our literature. All stories in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam end with seeing the Lord, for example. There are tons of mantras and invocations, too. They are still the same and the potency of the Holy Name remains unaffected but results of chanting are different.
All intricate worship of the Lord on the spiritual plane used to be done through mantras. For every rasa there was a mantra. Every aspect of the Lord had a mantra, every name meant something different. You chant it and you experience the relationship expressed by the mantra. Needless to say, we are nowhere near that level.
Svarūpa Dāmodara used to screen various verses and poems submitted to Lord Caitanya for subtle deviations. There’s a whole science there for properly expressing all the moods and mellows. For us it’s all the same, we understand these things only theoretically, rasa-ābhasa means nothing to us, there’s no overlapping transcendental mellows because we don’t have any transcendental mellows, period.
So, how do we keep in touch with the Lord?
That’s actually easy – we just chant as instructed. That’s all we are good for in this day and age, if we don’t feel anything about it then that’s where we are at, there’s no better way than keep chanting regardless.
The other question is a lot more complicated – how do we keep our noses clean when we are not chanting? How do we relate to this polluted world when we are out and about?
How do we go to work and serve under orders of materialistic people? How do we go to government offices and beg things like passports and visas to visit holy dhāmas? How do we eat food when we don’t have facilities to cook ourselves and offer it to the Lord? How do we survive raising kids? How do we raise kids who can survive in the modern society? We have oh so many obligations to fulfill, lots of them don’t even feel right let alone being connected to Kṛṣṇa or being called service.
How can we say “I surrender to Kṛṣṇa” and then go work for money somewhere else? Our houses, our clothes, our food – it’s all supplied by materialists in exchange for money given to us by materialists. And money is given to us in exchange for our service to materialists. Where is our surrender? Is it even possible? How?
Short answer – impossible. To become a completely surrendered soul one must reach the level of paramahaṃsa, everything before that is a mixed, impure bhakti. In our ISKCON hierarchy total surrender begins with taking sannyāsa, that’s when one officially puts all his trust solely into the Lord. Not in his family and his job, like a gṛhāstha, not in his temple authorities, like a brahmacārī.
Anything below that cannot be called surrender, precisely for the reasons outlined in questions above.
We have historical examples to illustrate this point. Take Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmīs – their situation in life was very similar to ours, they served meat eaters and did not see themselves as brāhmaṇas anymore, they saw themselves as outcasts, not part of varṇāśrama. When they went to Jagannātha Purī they didn’t behave like “Hindu” devotees of Lord Caitanya, they knew their places, didn’t try to enter the temple, didn’t eat in the company of actual brāhmaṇas and so on.
They got the full mercy of Lord Caitanya, of course, but not before they completely given up their previous material engagements, their status, their wealth, everything. When Sanātana Gosvāmī appeared wearing a relatively expensive woolen blanket Lord Caitanya visibly disapproved.
That’s the answer to the question “How can we fully surrender if we have to work.” We can’t. Full surrender means giving up your job. Gṛhāstha life is not for fully surrendered souls, it just isn’t.
One could cite examples of gṛḥāsthas among Lord Caitanya’s associates but we shouldn’t think that their attachment to their gṛhāstha duties was anything like ours. Śrīvāsa Ṭhākura wouldn’t stop kīrtan to go have a look at his dying son, it’s unthinkable for us. We can’t imitate him, of course, but then we can’t claim being the same kind of gṛhāsthas, too.
Śrīla Prabupāda was a gṛhāstha, one might say. Yes, but not when he came to the West, which required full surrender. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was a gṛhāstha, too, but his life was an example of gradual progress from a busy householder to a paramahaṃsa bābājī. At one point in his career he even had a craving for and ate meat, then he had given everything up. Point being that full surrender is still incompatible with householder life.
There’s an example of Lord Caitanya’s brother Viśvarūpa to illustrate what full surrender means, too. He lived in the Holy Dhāma at the time the Lord was performing His pastimes there. He was surrounded by Lord’s intimate associates who were all pure devotees and liberated souls, traveling with the Lord from one universe to another. Yet to Viṣvarūpa life in Navadvīpa appeared too materialistic to tolerate. It appeared that way to Advaita Ācārya, too, let’s not forget that.
Viśvarūpa didn’t try to see spiritual connection to Kṛṣṇa in materialists surrounding him, he just gave it all up and took sannyāsa.
It would be a fool’s errand to try and see our bosses and colleagues as Kṛṣṇa’s agents. Even if they theoretically are, we aren’t on the level where we can actually see that. We can’t seek surrender and keep our lives as we know them. We must give it all up.
For several decades we’ve been telling ourselves and anyone who would listen that it’s possible be a devotee and have a job or a business. Yes, possible, but only “sort of a devotee”, an aspiring one, a neophyte, and the progress in one’s devotion would mean gradually severing all the ties with our current situations, just like Śrīla Prabhupāda did, just like Sanātana Gosvāmī did, just like Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī did, just like Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura did.
We should follow their footsteps, not invent our own ways or offer fancy explanations, or pretend we are anything like Lord Caitanya’s gṛhāstha associates.
We can’t live in a pigsty and keep our noses clean no matter how much we want to. There are ways to mitigate our current situation but they are not solutions. I will probably discuss these ideas some other day.