In the past couple of days I often mentioned the difference in goals between us and the rest of the materialistic society. This is obvious, of course, but our exact goals are much less clear. What do we want from Kṛṣṇa? What do we expect? What can we reasonably expect?
Devotional literature in our sampradāya offers a wide range of achievements from the highest goal of developing Kṛṣṇa premā down but we also know that most of it is closed for us and we’ll never be able to experience it while in our present bodies. We know that eventually, by the grace of our predecessor ācāryas, we will attain Kṛṣṇa’s company but how we will get there is less clear. Will it be another birth in this world but in Kṛṣṇa’s presence? Or will we taken straight to the spiritual world? There are good arguments for both outcomes, plus Śrīla Prabhupāda promised return back to Godhead from the very beginning.
It would require a little word jugglery to accommodate that promise with another birth in Kṛṣṇa’s presence but I bet we are up for it because, while technically incorrect, being in Kṛṣṇa’s company is not the same as being in the material world due to one’s karma, it’s not a return to the world of the repeated birth and death.
The argument goes that we get to train ourselves for direct participation in Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes just like those unnamed gopīs who couldn’t participate in rasa dance. They were with Kṛṣṇa but not quite there yet. They were technically born inside of the universe but they weren’t a part of it either. They had to die like ordinary people do but they didn’t suffer from birth, death, old age and disease because they were liberated.
Then we have even the higher gift of service when Kṛṣṇa asks His devotees to come back to the material world to reclaim fallen souls because they are very very good at it. I seriously doubt anyone ever says no to such a request and I’ve heard that in one of his books Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī said that these requests are very common. Will we be asked the same? Quite possible.
Right now for many of us it seems like a waste of time because we are largely useless of the preaching mission but it’s one thing to try and take it up from our present condition and quite another to come back empowered by the Lord Himself. With His blessings everything will become possible, no excuses.
Then there’s a “minor” matter of us being saved by Lord Caitanya. He taught us to serve Kṛṣṇa, of course, but I don’t see how this bond between us can ever be broken. We will always be His servants and this means we will always be concerned with spiritual welfare of the conditioned souls. Just like each incarnation of the Lord has its own faithful following we will always be in Lord Caitanya’s posse. For us this will be preferable even to eternal pastimes with Kṛṣṇa Himself because that is our natural position. We will never be excluded from Vṛndāvana either so we’ll have the best of both worlds.
Does it mean that we all will stay in this world indefinitely to serve Lord Caitanya’s mission in one universe after another? Quite possible, but hardly any one of us mentally prepares himself for such an outcome. We are just not up to it, only the best of us, devotees who already act on a liberated platform, can consider it seriously.
So, what’s left for the rest of us? The fact that we have been plucked out of completely materialistic surroundings means that outcome of our current attempts at service will be far more modest. Kṛṣṇa premā, eternal preaching service, milking surabhi cows – that’s not for us, not in the immediate future and so we should not get carried away.
Take Mahārāja Parīkṣit, for example. He was descendant of the Pāṇdavas and therefore related to Kṛṣṇa Himself. He was saved by the Lord in the womb of his mother, he was a pure devotee from his very birth, he was the original recipient of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, who are we compared to Him? Nobodies. So, what was HIS goal of life, as explained by Śukadeva Gosvāmī?
It was his direct question right in the beginning, when Śrīla Śukadeva first made his entrance (SB 1.19.37-38):
You are the spiritual master of great saints and devotees. I am therefore begging you to show the way of perfection for all persons, and especially for one who is about to die. Please let me know what a man should hear, chant, remember and worship, and also what he should not do. Please explain all this to me.
And what did Śukadeva Gosvāmī answer? Premā-pumartho-mahān? No. He declared the following (SB 2.1.6):
The highest perfection of human life, achieved either by complete knowledge of matter and spirit, by practice of mystic powers, or by perfect discharge of occupational duty, is to remember the Personality of Godhead at the end of life.
Ante nārāyaṇa-smṛtiḥ – at the end we should remember Nārāyaṇa. That’s it, nothing fancy. There are plenty of quotes from Śrīla Prabhupāda telling us the same thing, before we get carried away with all the other delicious prospects. Chant sixteen rounds without fail, follow the regulative principles, and that should enable us to remember Kṛṣṇa at the moment of death. That’s all we have been promised, that’s our contract with our guru.
We can dream of this and prepare for that but all we really need to do is to remember Kṛṣṇa at the end of our lives. Many devotees prepare themselves for entrance into Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. They read up on them and try to develop attachment to hearing about them, they retell these stories to one another, they hope that it would help relieve them from sexual attraction, yet the goal of all this hearing and reading is still far more modest – remember Kṛṣṇa at the end of life. In our current state everything else is pure speculation.
Of course even if some devotees do all those things for a wrong reason it still helps them to think of Kṛṣṇa on their deathbed so there’s no loss. Still, we should be realistic with our expectations and there are other ways for these unauthorized discussions to impede us in our service. We think that remembering Kṛṣṇa would be OUR action, that it would be OUR choice, but no, it’s more likely that we won’t be able to think straight and make any decisions whatsoever. The ability to think of Kṛṣṇa would be due to blessings of our guru which come in reciprocation for the lifetime of service. If we spend our lives doing something else then blessings might not be there even if we ostensibly engaged ourselves in discussing Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes.
Kṛṣṇa’s appearance in our mind would be Kṛṣṇa’s, it won’t come as a result of our own attempts, and Kṛṣṇa comes only by the mercy of the guru no matter what we read or discuss. If guru’s mercy is not there then there won’t be Kṛṣṇa either. The point is – we should be very careful with inventing our own ways to render service, it should be done on guru’s terms, not ours.