Yesterday I stopped on, perhaps, the most important lesson taught by Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura – everyone IS a servant of the Supreme Lord and therefore no one has the right to interrupt other people’s service. Everyone’s service, not just service of those who we see as ISKCON devotees.
The tricky part, of course, is to recognize what is service and what is not. It is possible that everything a living entity does IS a service to the Lord but I do not see it like that yet so I seek differentiation. I can sort of accept it theoretically but then I could also refute it or propose other explanations. For example, paramahaṁsas see the Lord everywhere but they might see the Lord providing everything for the living entities, not being worshiped by them with their every selfish breath. Perhaps they see living entities’ selfishness as a legitimate relationship with the Lord, even if in perverted rasas, but it’s not service as we mean it here. It’s not bhakti.
Well, if I put it this way it becomes kinda obvious that paramahaṁsa vision or not, souls in the material world do not possess bhakti. Except we can also say that bhakti is in every soul’s nature and so inseparable from it, just covered or displayed in minute qualities. This apparent controversy was my point – unless we see it for ourselves we can only speculate. Each version makes sense and yesterday’s explanation I got from reading Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s purport was as good as any other, probably better because it was direct words of our ācārya.
“Lord Janārdana … is served by everyone according to their respective moods.” Seems clear enough – we all serve Him. “Janārdana” is translated in various ways by Śrīla Prabhupāda, from “killer of the enemies” to “maintainer of all living entities”. It’s probably this last meaning that is more applicable here – he accepts service and reciprocates with everyone. Not potentially everyone but literally everyone. Also, when we say that the Lord is the only enjoyer it might literally mean that He is the ONLY enjoyer. Whatever we do, He enjoys it, and He is also the only one who does so.
We think we enjoy this world but it’s an illusion, not a real thing. What we actually do is serve Lord’s eternal energy. Who enjoys this service? The Lord, not us. Somehow or other, He arranges for every interaction we have with the world and takes pleasure from it.
This is controversial – does he enjoy rape or clubbing baby seals? I can understand that there’s pleasure, however, sick, in perpetrating these actions, otherwise people would never even thought about it, but in these cases there are also victims – does the Lord enjoy suffering of others?
Umm, the obvious answer is no, of course, but how can He be an enjoyer in these cases? What if it’s tsunami, an act of nature – there are no agents who’d enjoy it, no perpetrators, only suffering. How could the Lord derive pleasure from it?
More importantly, in general, if there is suffering in the world – who feels it? If we can understand this question it might give us a clue how the Lord could be an enjoyer in absolutely all circumstances, all interactions in the material world.
First of all, what we see as suffering is an illusion. There’s no real connection between us and our suffering bodies. Bodies are dead, the can’t feel anything. There is a medical condition that make people insensitive to pain and children afflicted by it can easily burn off their fingers and not feel anything at all. Pain exists only in our minds, medically speaking. There’s only PERCEPTION of suffering and it afflicts only us. The Lord does NOT feel it because suffering does not objectively exists and He is not under the same illusion as we are.
From His pov there is only us and the material nature that fulfills our desires. She doesn’t do anything else. The Lord creates it for His own reasons and He enjoys her because He is the puruṣa and she is the prakṛti, there’s no other relationship between them, no other feelings. Well, there’s probably a whole range of feelings but they are all spiritual and pleasing to the Lord.
What about us, then? We are also there, we should also be a part to the equation. We are, we are part of the Lord’s reason to create the world – He interacts with us through it. We want it and the Lord provides, it’s integral part of our relationship and He is happy that we have it.
Why are we not equally happy with our experiences? That’s the tricky part, or rather a trick question. We ARE happy with our experiences with material nature, we just don’t realize what they are. We think it’s the feelings of pain or pleasure but what the māyā actually provides is illusion, misidentification with our material bodies. This service never fails, never disappoints, we just take it for granted, don’t notice it and don’t appreciate it.
We want to be in illusion and by Lord’s mercy we always are – how’s that unfair on the part of the Lord? So, when we feel pain we ask – how could the Lord allow it and how He could possibly enjoy it but what the Lord actually likes about the situation is that we still think that we are material bodies. “Wow”, He might think to Himself, “this illusion works so well, it’s perfect”. He knows that as spirit souls we are never in any actual danger, there’s no possibility of us ever being hurt at all, so that does not concern Him. He is only impressed with the ability to keep us thinking that we are little gods ourselves. It’s the service He provides, we appreciate it and treasure it at all times, and that’s what brings Him perpetual enjoyment, too.
When time comes and we feel that this “I’m the enjoyer” thing is not worth the trouble and seek freedom from the illusion the Lord immediately provides necessary knowledge, too. He is not keeping us here against our will, never. If we turn to serving Him with love and devotion He arranges that, too.
These are three kinds of our relationships with the Lord in this world – we want to be in illusion, we don’t want to be in illusion and become liberated, and we want to serve Him. He provides for all three, He reciprocates with all three, and He enjoys all three.
Our preoccupation with pain and pleasure is part of the first one, part of the illusion that we so desperately want. And, once again, pain and pleasure exist only in the mind, the soul is not affected by them. The soul is affected only by illusion.
The Lord has zero interest in what happens within the illusion. He reacts only to “I don’t wanna see you” tantrum of the spirit soul. THAT he provides, personally, and feels good about having the job done.
Anyway, I just wanted to understand how the Lord could be the only enjoyer even when we feel nothing but pain. I think I get it even if can’t express it in a perfect manner.
Another part of it is that we are always, always in service to the illusion. She sets the rules and we try to follow them, and I don’t mean the rules from scriptures, I mean the laws of nature we use for our own enjoyment. We never give up our quest for eating, sleeping, mating and defending – this is service and we offer it voluntarily. This is how we interact with the Lord – via medium of māyā, and this is how He accepts our service and appreciates our mood. He sets out rules (via māyā) and we try to follow them. We don’t even need a human form of life for this level of service, even a one-cell organism can provide it to the Lord. Even if the only thing it does is swim towards the light it’s already service.
As humans we can perform infinitely more and that’s why Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura said “The Supreme Lord accepts devotion of everyone”, as they were speaking about religious duties at that point. If we object to other’s devotion, however imperfect by our standards, we interrupt relationship between the Lord and the spirit soul and we shouldn’t do that.
Hmm, that’s exactly where I left yesterday, so no progress today. Except, perhaps, a deeper understanding of the same point.