From the very first day we joined Hare Kṛṣṇas we’d heard how special our movement is, and all over our books there are innumerable quotes about exalted position of Kṛṣṇa’s devotees. It takes a long time to realize that all those advantages do not necessarily refer to us but to really pure souls. On the other hand, we ARE covered by Lord Caitanya’s mercy regardless of our advancement, thanks to the protection of Śrīla Prabhupāda and the entire paramparā.
This is a bit tricky, of course. We can’t say that we spit on thought of sex enjoyment because the bliss we find in chanting the holy name is so overwhelming. We can’t claim that liberation is standing there with folded hands in our presence. We can’t claim to have greater powers than yogīs and jñānīs. We can’t claim that we are above the modes of material nature. We are short of pure devotees mentioned in our literature in so many ways, and yet denying these advantages being given to us would be denying the power of paramparā.
We can’t say that Kṛṣṇa does not take personal interest in each and every one of us because that would cast doubts on the extent of His mercy or the extent of His power. We can’t say that Kṛṣṇa is too busy looking after the entire universe and all the real pure devotees in it so He can’t spare time for us – because that would imply Kṛṣṇa has limits and these limits would depend on our estimates of what is difficult and what is easy for Him. In this regard I think He’d reciprocate with our feelings and act as if it’s indeed too difficult for Him to engage with us directly. I don’t mean He would show Himself directly to our material senses but take direct interest in our well-being. For showing up personally the universe has a schedule, He won’t do it according to our will, or, rather, we won’t be able to express sufficient desire to cause Kṛṣṇa’s descent the way Advaita Ācārya did.
We should also remember that Kṛṣṇa sees the bigger picture and He knows past, present, and future. Our own estimates, however, are limited by our karma and we can’t see how all little pieces in our life must eventually come together and bring us to the sate of perfection. Kṛṣṇa gives us spiritual benedictions which we can’t perceive at the moment with material mind and senses and within material concept of time. It doesn’t mean that they are not there, however, and they all will be manifested at the appropriate moment, most likely at the moment of death. Until then our experience of life in this world is not much different from that of the atheists.
On the bodily platform we have no other stick to measure Kṛṣṇa’s mercy but material success, whether it’d be expressed in money, fame, good health, good character, the ability to convince others etc etc. These are the same qualities that are present in every other human being and even in animals but to different degrees. Experience shows that we hardly ever possess them in larger quantities than others, even atheists. We aren’t smarter, we aren’t more honest, we aren’t richer, we aren’t better in anything we can think of. Our lifestyle gives us a big leg up in the race for such material perfections but it’s not enough to actually win.
We can look at fellow religious groups and wonder why they can build much bigger temples than ours, or how they an attract a lot more followers, or how they can keep their congregation together, or how they can attain position of power. After fifty years all we can show is Tulsi Gabbard, for example, and she is not even from ISKCON per se. There was a time when we made a big splash but by now we are rather ordinary. For the larger society it’s not bad to have us around because we are essentially harmless, but we are not essential and if we suddenly dissolve ourselves hardly anyone would miss us or ever remember we existed.
Isn’t this proof that we are not God’s special people? Does it mean that we are crappy devotees and Kṛṣṇa doesn’t care much about us? No, it rather means that our Lord is impartial to everyone and He gives everyone an equal opportunity to succeed.
What we should not forget is that our deal is to chant everyday and follow four regs so that at the moment of death we don’t miss our biggest chance at spiritual success. Everything that happens before that can be safely discounted and forgotten. We are not here to compete in material success and if we still expect material proof that our Kṛṣṇa is the real God then our devotion is very immature and our desires are harmful to our own spiritual well-being and Kṛṣṇa won’t satisfy them for our own sake.
Material success is nothing, it’s the very first step in God realization and as such it’s available to everyone regardless. Remember that conversation between Lord Caitanya and Rāmānanda Rāya where Lord Caitanya quickly dismissed following varṇāśrama? Varṇāśrama is what gives material benedictions and it’s the go to prescription in any religious system. Even the most uneducated and unenlightened men would be told to live according to God’s laws without bothering them with details. In fact, there aren’t any details to bother Christians and Muslims with – God’s own nature and own pastimes are not available there even to the most advanced practitioners. It’s all “just live according to God’s law, will you?”
In Kṛṣṇa consciousness it’s dismissed outright because we are being given access to the real nectar instead. We shouldn’t even be paying attention to perfecting varṇāśrama because our lives are short and we’d better try and achieve success in chanting. It would be foolish for us to seek parity with aforementioned Christians or Muslims. In fact, even atheists can implement perfect varṇāśrama and reap its material benefits. For material success it doesn’t matter whether they worship God or not as long as they follow the same prescriptions. In Vedic culture this was epitomized in philosophy of karma-mīmāṁsa and in modern society it’s epitomized by democracy.
This last point might need further elucidation but I’ll leave it for tomorrow. Suffice it to say that we should not be competing for this low hanging fruit at all, we’ve got better things to do with our lives.