Vanity thought #1166. Spiritual justice

Continuing the old topic from last week – so far all talk about hell and atonement has been confined to karma kanda interests and therefore inapplicable to devotees. Vaiṣṇavas don’t go to hell, Kṛṣṇa won’t allow it no matter what we do. Why? Interesting question.

Common answer is that He just wouldn’t let us suffer that much, He is very kind and forgiving. It would break His heart to see His devotees in pain. Another answer would be is that He promised in Bhagavad Gītā to absolve His devotees of all sinful reactions and specifically told us not to worry about it anymore.

If we think about it a little, however, it would appear to be slightly more complicated than that. Practically, it is still true so it doesn’t matter if we understand the mechanics of it or not, but if we happen to push the boundaries or find ourselves in a difficult situation then a little more knowledge wouldn’t hurt. I can’t claim to know anything special here but simply considering what we already learned in our classes might be useful enough.

First, the boundaries – we might not go to hell but we certainly continue to suffer just like everybody else. We certainly can’t escape old age and death, and we can experience what others call hellish life here. In some cases it might actually be necessary for our spiritual advancement.

Kṛṣṇa can take away our wealth, for example. Money means a lot in this world, most of the time we have no idea how poverty really feels, how many things we might lose when money goes away. Our creature comforts will go, our position in the society will go, respect we got accustomed to will go, maybe friends and even family.

Generally, it’s fairly easy to survive on whatever is provided by our karma no matter how bad it gets because it’s one of the major functions of the illusion itself – it WILL force us to feel content about our lives no matter how miserable we become. There’s also the fact that as long as we have the body there will also be minimal provisions for its maintenance. Air, water, and some food will always be there, and we’ll always have time to sleep.

In this sense we’ll never experience real hell on Earth. Moreover, Kṛṣṇa taking away our family affection, OTOH, will feel like a real help and losing our family might be impossible to escape anyway. It’s like sex – if we want to be with Kṛṣṇa we must give it up, will hurt in the beginning but it will be worth it.

To that end we might be forced to live with people who genuinely hate us and the worst part would be the sense of betrayal because this hate would come from people we relied on all our lives. The realization of this irreversible loss of humanly love might also feel like a torture. Unlike water and air, love is not included as part of conditioned material existence.

So, losing family affection might be a very painful but also very necessary to give up all hope in happiness of material life. As long as we harbor even the faintest of hopes we won’t be able to surrender to Krishna, we can’t approach Him with a plan B in the back of our minds.

And if you think losing family is bad, wait until vaiṣṇava community turns its back on you. It’s been known to happen and it CAN happen to anybody. Or, more often, one can just lose its support. That happened to thousands and thousands of devotees, a common thing.

The point is that such material suffering is spirituality useful and no matter what Kṛṣṇa has promised He might force it on us for our own good. Question is – will it be fair?

Fair in what sense? In the material, karmic sense of things it might be not – we worship the greatest, the most powerful, the wealthiest God in all creation and we get nothing useful in return. That has always been vaiṣṇavas’ fate, even in Lord Caitanya’s time. From the POV of a materialist or even a worshiper of demigods, vaiṣṇavas are stupid. There’s no return on their investment.

In the spiritual sense, however, all material treasures are not worth a drop of attraction to the Holy Name. We will never put one against another for comparison. All the treasures in the world can’t bring one even tiniest bit of devotion so whatever we lose in the material sense is insignificant.

Comfort, health, wealth, family, love – none of that matters to devotees. None of that is even considered when begging Kṛṣṇa for a drop of bhakti. Bhakti itself is non-negotiable, it doesn’t have a price, it doesn’t have an equivalent, it can’t be expressed in dollars and cents, or lifetimes, or piety, or fame and respect. It’s transcendental to all those things.

It means that all our concerns about arranging our service here in the best possible way are futile – none of the material conditions of our service matter. It doesn’t matter what it brings to us, it doesn’t matter if it makes our lives more difficult or easier, it doesn’t matter what it makes people think of us, it just doesn’t matter.

Wait, but shouldn’t we take responsibility for our service and see that we do our real best for our guru and Kṛṣṇa? Yes, but we are not entitled to results, only to efforts. It’s not the results that we offer to the Lord, it’s our attitude.

Generally, there’s a connection between responsible service and satisfactory results but it should not be taken backwards, ie good results are not caused by good service. Kṛṣṇa doesn’t judge us by the amount of money we raise for Him, He doesn’t judge us by the taste of food we prepare for Him, He doesn’t judge us be the opulence of our deity worship – all of that is so insignificant that it doesn’t even register on His radar. There’s no such thing as “good result” for Him.

What we consider “good enough” here is nothing by the measures of the spiritual world. It’s like Rāvaṇa who thought he was the biggest badass in the whole universe until he was taken to a golden mountain that turned out to be just an earring that fell of slaughtered Hiraṇyakaśipu.

Another point to consider is that this is Kali yuga, things are generally going so bad here that anyone who has lived long enough notices how they deteriorate from one year to another. Fruit and vegetables become tasteless, for example. They have no vitality in them anymore, only looks, even “organic” stuff doesn’t cut it. Flowers don’t smell as nice as before, and don’t even start on people’s religiosity and other virtues.

So, if Kṛṣṇa doesn’t judge us by the results, why should we judge fellow devotees that way? We tend to think, if not say it outloud, that if someone doesn’t bring results then his devotion is lacking. That is actually offensive. We cannot say such things about others’ bhakti as a matter of principle. There would never be a valid reason to accuse any devotee of lacking surrender. We can accuse them of all kinds of material faults, including sloppy service, but we should never question their surrender.

In our society Kṛṣṇa is everybody’s life and soul but we all got material bodies to deal with and so we might not look pure enough but it doesn’t change the fact that even the slightest drop of devotion, even expressed years and decades ago, outweighs lifetimes of sinful activities. Once surrendered, always surrendered, people don’t go back on their bhakti, only their bodies appear to.

Now, if we apply this rule to ourselves it certainly doesn’t look that way but our own humility in this case should not be projected on others – we can see ourselves as fallen but we can’t even think about other devotees that way.

Hmm, spiritual justice is a tricky thing, and I haven’t even touched on actual spiritual component of our lives here, only externalities.

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