Contemplating our inherent lack of sweetness and inability to express ourselves properly led me to think that we should better keep respectful distance from Kṛṣṇa. The Supersoul is always with us, closer to our hearts than anything else we perceive as real in the world, including our own [false] ego, so keeping artificial distance from Him is implausible, but Kṛṣṇa is different, He is not your ordinary Lord.
We can’t approach Kṛṣṇa like we can approach the Supersoul – sweetness is absolutely necessary, otherwise He has nothing to gain from our association. Eloquence is not a requirement, though, so we can leave that out for the moment.
Sweetness overrides everything else, however. One day Kṛṣṇa (as a grown up), showed up at Vidura’s house but Vidura wasn’t at home, only his wife was. She was Krṣṇa’s devotee, too, but she was caught of guard. Vidura wasn’t a rich person, there was nothing in his house to offer to the Lord but cheap bananas, and that’s what Viduranī run for so that she could offer at least something to the Lord.
She started peeling bananas for Kṛṣṇa but, completely overwhelmed with experience, she mistakenly threw bananas in the bin and gave peels to the Lord, who dutifully took and ate them. Vidura then came back and seeing what his wife was doing started chastising her but Kṛṣṇa immediately stopped him. “I don’t know what your wife is feeding me,” He said, “but it’s the best thing I’ve eaten ever.”
The point is that from our offerings Kṛṣṇa takes only bhakti, only sweet, unalloyed devotion, and if we don’t have it then He wouldn’t even taste our bhoga, however opulent it might be. He can’t taste anything else but bhakti. He doesn’t know what our ghee or sugar taste like, He can taste only our hearts.
That’s where our sweetness should come from, not from sugarcane or honey, and if we don’t have it – what else are we going to offer to the Lord? Prayers? Kṛṣṇa, I mean Vṛndāvana Kṛṣṇa, does not listen to prayers, they break His mood, and He won’t step outside to listen to ours either.
What is the value of prayers then? If we want to serve Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana then they don’t mean much, especially if all we say is how great He is at creating the world, how He defeats all the demons and so on. We can take a clue from Six Gosvāmīs who praised Kṛṣṇa for His sweetness and for His dealings with intimate devotees, but we are even worse at offering that. It’s so far out of our experience that we shouldn’t be talking about it.
We all, however, learn to relate to the Absolute Truth as it reveals itself to our consciousness and that’s where prayers are absolutely essential. Atheists feel grateful for the gift of life and knowledge, Christians are grateful for God sending His own son to death. Hindus are thankful for money, children, husbands for their daughters, fame etc, so they pray for that and praise relevant manifestations of the Lord for providing it.
This, btw, might sound like impersonalism and māyāvāda – all forms of the Divinity are just manifestations of one indivisible Brahman, whoever you choose to worship doesn’t matter. I can see how it can be interpreted this way and maybe that’s why some of the followers of Advaita Ācārya thought he was preaching impersonalism, too.
There’s a difference, however. All the demigods only *act* as channels to the same Absolute Truth, they are as different from Him as our guru – representatives but not Godhead Himself. So, when Hindus worship Gaṇeśa they worship a distinct personality who has been infused with powers by Viṣṇu, and it’s ultimately Viṣṇu who grants the benedictions, but He delegates Gaṇeśa to act on His behalf so Gaṇeśa can never be excluded, not now, not in the future, not ever, which is contrary to māyāvādīs’ conclusion. Of course if we don’t want to involve Gaṇeśa in our prayers and approach the Lord directly (or rather through our guru) that is fine, too. The kind of things we should approach the Lord for cannot be delivered by Gaṇeśa anyway. Problem with Hindus is that they don’t see Viṣṇu acting through Gaṇeśa, or they don’t see Viṣṇu and Gaṇeśa as different persons.
The point was that we should offer prayers according to our perception of the Absolute, that would make us honest and honesty is the absolute must in devotional service. We can’t pray like Brahmā did because it’s not how we see the universe, for example. We only can learn how to see the universe from Brahmā’s prayers and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s our vision, too. Lord Brahmā is grateful for his set of experiences of Kṛṣṇa, we should be grateful for ours.
If Kṛṣṇa ever shows up in person, of even when talking to the Deities, we should talk about what we know and how we see the Lord and, given our meager experiences, eloquence might not be necessary yet. We’ll learn it as we progress, but honesty should always be there, it’s an absolute must.
Now, if we are honest about ourselves we should see how far our consciousness is from Kṛṣṇa’s actual pastimes and how we lack necessary devotion to talk about things of interest to Kṛṣṇa – gopīs, gopas, calves, stealing butter etc. If we praise Him for any of those pastimes it would be awkward as we have no idea what we are talking about. You don’t tell strangers how you appreciate intimate moments he might be having with his wife so it’s not something we should bring up in our prayers to Kṛṣṇa either, even though we might think that His dealings with Rādhārāṇī are awesome.
That’s why we need to keep our distance and talk only about what we really know. I suppose it would be honest to express our appreciation for the sweetness of His pastimes as they are revealed by His pure devotees, but not for the pastimes themselves as we didn’t see or participate in those. Technically, it would be appreciation for the power of saṅkīrtana, the power of discussing Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes among devotees.
Alternatively, sometimes we can see Kṛṣṇa as taking personal interest in our lives and arranging things for our service, I guess it is perfectly okay to feel grateful for this help. Someone might argue that it’s not Kṛṣṇa Himself, who never steps a foot outside Vṛndāvana, but someone else helping us out. To this objection I would answer that if devotees ask Kṛṣṇa personally and help comes, why shouldn’t Kṛṣṇa be given the credit? Who is to say that the hearts of these devotees aren’t in Vṛndāvana already, which isn’t a place but a state of one’s devotion.
Of course there will always be mentally unstable people imagining things but I’m talking about genuine service as authorized and directed by proper authorities, like preaching or book distribution. It’s Lord Caitanya’s personal project and He’d have absolutely no objections if we prayed for Kṛṣṇa’s help while doing it, and it’s by His mercy that Kṛṣṇa woul help us, so there’s no problem here.
How to properly relate to Lord Caitanya is a topic for another day.