I HAVE RECEIVED the following letter:
My problem arises from my attempt or rather my eagerness to love and serve Lord Krsna. It must be a typical situation, really: my parents want me to marry a wealthy young man and enjoy material benefits, and I want to practice spiritual life. For my part, I haven't helped calm them down, because I've been so excited about my visits to the temple and I've talked a lot about the Lord and the purpose of life. Now I have to keep my visits to the temple top secret. How can I practice bhakti-yoga at home in the light of all this? I'm attached to my parents and don't want to hurt them. At the same time, I want to love Krsna.
As I reply, my first consideration is Amba's Krsna consciousness whatever may happen at her home or whatever agreement or disagreement she reaches with her parents.
I write: "You should know that devotional service is transcendental to material circumstances. Nothing can check it. A vivid example is Prahlada Maharaja. You can read in the Seventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam how, as a five-year-old boy, he cooperated with his father who was completely inimical to Krsna consciousness by going to school and otherwise obeying his father. But at the same time he fully carried on with his Krsna consciousness. Absolutely nothing, not even the possibility of death, could impede the steady flow of Prahlada's remembrance of Lord Krsna.
"You may not be able to imitate Prahlada Maharaja, but as his father could not restrict Prahlada's thoughts and feelings, your parents cannot restrict yours. Your parents may impose physical restrictions on you, but they can't really interfere with your inner world.
"The Vedic scriptures say that the essence of all instruction is to always remember Krsna and never forget Him. So try to see every aspect of your daily life in relationship to Krsna. Feel a thrill each moment as you connect with Krsna by seeing how everything is happening under His direction, and how all that is beautiful and wonderful and all that is frightening too is but a spark of His splendor. Try to see how all that you do from breathing to eating to working to playing to loving can be done as an offering to Krsna.
"Besides remembering Krsna, you can rise early and have your own regular spiritual program, or sadhana. You can go on a daily walk while you chant Hare Krsna on your beads. When walking with disciples early in the morning, Srila Prabhupada would sometimes say that the joggers were doing their physical exercise and we are doing our spiritual exercise.
"You can also offer all your food to Krsna. If you are prevented from offering it openly, you can mentally say prayers of offering, such as, 'My dear Lord, I offer this to You,' and then chant Hare Krsna.
"The Nectar of Devotion tells of a devotee who was unable to serve Krsna as elaborately as he desired, so he practiced meditating that he was making grand, royal devotional offerings. At times in my own life I have applied this idea. Once I was ill with a fever, and another time I was in a prison cell, arrested for 'obstructing the footpath' as I tried to sell Srila Prabhupada's books. Both times I meditated on the entire morning program at the temple. I sang, offered arati, chanted japa, danced in a kirtana, gave a class all in my mind. I look back on those experiences as very important for me in my spiritual development.
"So if you want to serve Lord Krsna and practice bhakti-yoga at home or in any other circumstance, you can if for no other reason than it is your eternal right.
"Although devotional service is our rightful 'inheritance' from our supreme father, Lord Krsna, still, as prodigal children we chose to turn our backs on Him and enter the material supermarket to purchase its illusory wares. We may now be coming to our senses and getting sick of paying the high price of repeated birth and death, but we can't expect Krsna to hand us our freedom on a silver platter, gratis. Srila Prabhupada says that Maya tests us to see if we are serious in our commitment to Krsna consciousness. Do we really want to be Krsna's devotee? Sometimes the fire of adversity may help us decide.
"Perhaps your particular circumstance will ultimately prove greatly beneficial to you. Perhaps you will become increasingly determined to practice Krsna consciousness and to become a pure devotee. Many stories in the Srimad-Bhagavatam in fact most of them depict a devotee facing a circumstance that is difficult or painful. It is not surprising that in this world, where most of us are determined to forget Krsna, practicing devotional service to Him is often fraught with difficulties. Devotees, however, by their devotion to Lord Krsna, eventually come out of any-thing with flying colors. They know the art which we can also learn of using absolutely any circumstance in Krsna's service. Even amidst great hardship they are always free.
"The sense of spiritual freedom is so valuable to a devotee that he or she may come to welcome hardship. Queen Kunti, the mother of the five Pandavas, prayed that all the calamities she had faced would happen 'again and again,' because the calamities gave her more chances to be with Krsna. So never despair. Sooner or later things will work out.
"Lord Caitanya once instructed someone in a situation similar to yours. A young man named Raghunatha desperately wanted to leave home to join Lord Caitanya. His parents were horrified at the idea of Raghunatha's leaving home and, seeing his determination, employed ten people to guard him. His parents even considered binding him with ropes. They married him to an exquisitely beautiful girl and provided him with vast riches. They reasoned that if these things couldn't tie him down, nothing could. But Raghunatha could think only of getting away. He tried again and again, but was always caught.
"Eventually Lord Caitanya visited Raghunatha's neighborhood. Raghunatha begged his parents on the plea of his life to allow him to spend a little time with the Lord. Seeing his utter earnestness, and being devotees themselves, they gave their permission. Raghunatha was so happy to be with Lord Caitanya and serve Him that he began to think of cheating his parents and not returning home as agreed.
"Understanding Raghunatha's mind, Lord Caitanya advised him, 'Be patient and return home. Don't be a crazy fellow. By and by you will be able to cross the ocean of material existence. … But for the time being enjoy the material world in a befitting way and do not become attached to it. Within your heart you should always keep yourself very faithful, but externally you may behave like an ordinary man. Thus Krsna will soon be very pleased and reveal to you how you may be delivered from the clutches of Maya. … If one has Krsna's mercy, no one can check him.' (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter 16)
"I know it may not presently be easy for you, Amba, but try to see the plusses of your present circumstance. Take advantage of them to go forward in your resolve and deepen your spiritual life."
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him in care of Back to Godhead.