Perhaps the most memorable lesson I learned from my dental problem was that Kṛṣṇa remains totally aloof from the happenings in the material world. Whatever help that occasionally comes is part of the universal plan. What concerns me today is the question how to bridge this gap and get Kṛṣṇa’s attention.
Well, “occasionally” above is probably not the right word. On some level the Lord always offers help – it’s a universal law. We offer sacrifices, chant the holy name, and the universe responds. The holy name is fully invested with all Kṛṣṇa’s energies, when it appears in a sound form these energies are always present, even if imperceptible to us, so the universe has to accommodate them. More like the holy name IS part of the universe just as deities and temples are, and so there is always some purifying influence around.
Sometimes temples get desecrated and deities destroyed, though. Does it mean that Lord’s power get overwritten? Visibly – yes, spiritually – no. If one dies while protecting the deity from aggressors the spiritual reward is worth all the material loss – the person doing the service is always spiritually protected even when his material body is not. Aggressors need to have their wishes fulfilled, too, and this way both parties are satisfied – devotees get reunited with their Lord and atheists get to rule the matter as if God is not there.
Anyway, as long as we chant, the influence of Kali Yuga will remain minimal. If we keep ourselves clean by following four regs we become practically impervious. It doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to us but the law of karma will greatly reduce them because of the presence of the holy name. This doesn’t mean that we get upgraded in our own relationships with Kṛṣṇa.
The holy name is there, it protects us and it will save us from greatest dangers, but it doesn’t mean we’ll be granted pure devotion, maybe we’ll lose a few anarthas at best.
Our current relationship with the Lord is that we chant His name, hear it, and keep doing our own thing. We don’t see the name’s full glory and we ignore the words of our ācāryas imploring us to chant the holy name with full seriousness. In this state we obviously can’t expect any breakthroughs. The name will reciprocate with our negligence by staying hidden.
So, how to bridge this gap and earn Kṛṣṇa’s attention?
Not by whining about toothache for sure. Bhakti must be unalloyed, as Prabhupāda learned from a billboard put up by Boston steel company, I learned the other day. He saw it and thought that concept of “unalloyed steel” could be very useful in describing devotion. Nice story, but the word unalloyed appears plenty of times in his purports to the First Canto of Bhāgavatam which were written and published before he came to the US.
In case of pain, unalloyed devotion means not even acknowledging that the pain is there. It’s not even tolerating it, because tolerance means awareness and conscious reaction. When we consciously react to our karma we make our bhakti “karma-miśra” -infused with material desires, and the Lord will never reciprocate with that. If He feels that He can’t ignore His devotees even when they exhibit material desires He would relieve them of karmic tendencies first, and only then proceed in developing a relationship. It happened to Dhruva, it happened to Kubjā, it happens all the time. Material desires have no place in relationships with Kṛṣṇa.
We aren’t anywhere near Dhruva’s level of intensity in our service and Kubjā was born to live in Mathurā during Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, so we won’t get Lord’s personal darśana unless we completely purify ourselves. We need a level of purity necessary for mahā-bhava platform, nothing less.
During these couple of days when I felt the pain I also was given a chance to see that chanting and remembering Kṛṣṇa is “transcendental”, that it can go on regardless and feels just the same. I could pray for easing of the pain, and that’s one way to make us remember the Lord, but I could also simply sit and hear the name, the effect on pain perception was the same.
If I directed my consciousness away from my tooth, the pain disappeared. I could direct my attention to talking to other people, I could direct it to something on the internet, I could direct it to reading our books – it doesn’t matter. If I directed it to hearing the name, however, it would be a spiritually benefiting decision while all the others would be creating more karma. It doesn’t matter whether it would be a good karma or bad, neither for the purpose of pain management nor for the purpose of developing Kṛṣṇa consciousness – it is something that would steal my attention away from Kṛṣṇa in the future.
I was given a chance to see how by concentrating on chanting, or rather remembering the name, as chanting itself takes only a small portion of the day, we can divert our consciousness away from matter while karma still goes on. I use the word “consciousness” here because the mind seems unstoppable and acts on its own. If I paid attention to the mind he’d immediately remind me of pain. If I used intelligence to force the mind to think of something else, I would still be on a mental platform, just in a slightly different place – less painful for the moment but who knows how it’d turn out in the future? Consciousness, however, is spiritual, and its existence and experiences are different from those of subtle material elements like mind and intelligence.
It’s the consciousness that needs to be diverted, rendering convulsions of the mind irrelevant and uninteresting to the soul. We can see it in older, wiser people. They seem to be unperturbed by whatever is happening to them, and not just because their senses have become dull, but because they don’t value sensory perception and activities very much. The world goes on but fails to impress them. That’s what we should be going for, too, even if it doesn’t mean recognition by Kṛṣṇa.
I can’t make Kṛṣṇa shower me with mercy, I don’t even deserve this mercy – compared to the efforts made by other devotees, but I can divert my consciousness to hearing or remembering the name. I can’t force my mind and intelligence – those are working under the modes of nature, but my consciousness is transcendental. It can’t upgrade my relationship with the Lord but it can concentrate on what is already there – whatever it is that I can chant and remember, there are no material words to adequately describe remembrance of the Lord anyway.
So, at the end of the day, it’s not reaching out to the Lord but learning to appreciate whatever is already given, and not even appreciate but simply observe. Appreciation would imply receiving mercy, it won’t happen out of the blue. Observation, however, is available to all who has ever heard the words Hare Kṛṣṇa.
Finally, this silent observation doesn’t seem to do anything practical at the moment but it shows that there’s more to life than obsessing with happenings in the material world.