In Śikṣāṣṭaka prayers Lord Caitanya called saṅkīrtana ānandāmbudhi vardhanaṁ, it expands the ocean of transcendental bliss. I don’t know about that, not the bliss part, but I suppose it will come in due time. What we can observe already, however, is the ever expanding part, so let’s look at saṅkīrtana’s total expansion. Same thing as I’ve been discussing for the last few days but from a different angle.
Expansion implies space, in particular space not yet occupied, but that is in our mundane perception. When scientists say that the universe is expanding they don’t mean it the way we understand expansion. There’s no extra space for the universe to expand into, it’s not like a balloon being blown up. All the space is inside the universe already, not outside. Universe does not exist in some emptiness, all the emptiness in the world is already inside the universe.
Perhaps we could look at the expansion of the universe in a different, philosophical way. What if it’s not the universe that is expanding but our perception of its size? I remember once walking into my old school gym and being very surprised at how small it actually was. Gym’s size didn’t change, of course, only my perception of it did, and, perhaps, we can apply the same logic to the universe, albeit it’s getting bigger, not smaller.
There’s a difference, though, I estimated the size of the gym by comparing it to all the other stuff I saw in my life, like the size of my body, the size of people around me, the size of my desk, how far I would normally walk or run, that kind of thing. As these things were gradually replaced with bigger versions or outright grew in size and so the gym stopped looking big by comparison. With the universe, however, we have absolute, not relative measurements.
If we compare the universe to how far we can travel, for example in space, then it should be seen as gradually shrinking but we rather observe the opposite. Never mind that, though, the theory of relativity can help us overcome this dilemma. We do not actually have absolute measurements of anything. We can calculate distances in miles and kilometer but those are useless for the size of the universe. Instead we have “light years”, meaning the distance light can cover by travelling for a year. We know the speed of light in kilometers per second so we can still use our traditional units but they would be too big to handle comfortably, like Zimbabwe’s trillion dollar notes which are worth a quarter (not sure about exact exchange rate).
The problem with light years, however, is that light can’t possibly travel for a year. From the light’s perspective every place in the universe, no matter how far out, is accessible in an instant. Light does not travel, it’s just there. It’s very hard to wrap our minds around it, but what actually happens is that the time stops. It doesn’t stop for us so we can talk about years or seconds taking for the light to reach some place, get reflected, and return, but time does not move for the light itself. By definition.
The point is that our perception of the size of the universe depends on our perception of time, and since it’s subjective there’s an opening for us to see universe as bigger or smaller, as expanding or shrinking, while, in fact, the universe might not change at all.
Expansion, therefore, must also mean something different, not just physical expansion into an adjacent space, it should take a different dimension, so to speak, and we can see it happening with saṅkīrtana, too.
At first, expanding saṅkīrtana could mean simply taking more people in. There’s a limited number of embodied souls capable of engaging in saṅkīrtana and so we can talk about saṅkīrtana movement as if it was a virus. It would affect an ever increasing percentage of the population until it either dies out or consumes all the available resources. It’s a battle, no doubt about it. Some new people get infected, some old ones get “cured” and return to their good old materialistic ways. It is also Kali Yuga so total saṅkīrtana domination is impossible.
Here we should remember that saṅkīrtana yajñā in this context is only a tool. Those souls who seek self-realization in this age can take advantage of it but otherwise Kali yuga is for people to finally express their demoniac nature, which was impossible in previous eras. This means we shouldn’t hope to convert everyone but only the relatively small percentage of the population that is interested in genuine spiritual progress. How many are there? We don’t know, and this means we don’t know if we have already saturated the market or still very far from it.
We can make a reasonable estimate by the number of new people being drawn in as well as by the number of existing devotees. Once we reach stability in the number of devotees and very few new recruits come in then it’s probably the time to talk about saturation, at least with our current preaching methods.
This is where saṅkīrtana should start expanding in another dimension, not outwardly, where it can be measured by sociologists, but inward, making a progressively deeper impacts on those who continue practicing. As Prabhupāda used to say – it’s time to boil the milk. Milk is good in itself but once boiled for a long time it becomes condensed and therefore even better. That’s how we make sweet rice and other mouth watering desserts.
In reality both of these processes go at the same time – external expansion and internal growth, and they are also interconnected. Internal growth brings external success and external success means the Lord is pleased, He becomes extra generous with His blessings, and this leads to intensifying our internal realizations.
At some point we run into big obstacles, it could be country’s laws that make preaching illegal, or it could be our anarthas that make further spiritual progress impossible. External obstacles might not affect our internal progress very much at first but not being able to engage our bodies will eventually slow down cleansing of our hearts, too. Kṛṣṇa will always provide what is necessary, of course, but for that we need to be constantly engaged in His service first. If we lack the opportunities for such engagement we might get ourselves in trouble.
That’s one of the reasons I said the other day that when going gets tough, a devotee find where it goes easy. If material nature doesn’t cooperate with some particular kind of service we need to find the kind where it does. Guru and Kṛṣṇa’s desires always get fulfilled and this means that if we have run into a wall we are probably not doing what they want, even if the orders are still visibly there. Understanding the mind of guru and Kṛṣṇa is not easy, sometimes they appear to be contradictory, and that’s why we should always check with śāstra and fellow devotees.
Proper saṅkīrtana should always be expanding, by definition, and that’s what we should always be on the lookout for – are we making progress? Are devotees around us making progress? Is our society making progress?
This reminds me of the second law of thermodynamics, but enough science for today.