Whenever the mind throws tantrums, we need to remind it about the basic question of our spiritual life
I struggled to remember this phrase as my eyelids closed repeatedly during the Srimad- Bhagavatam class that we attend daily as part of the ISKCON morning program. While the speaker was emphasizing how the platform of real, lasting spiritual happiness is when we ask this question, “How can I please you Krishna ?” I was struggling to digest the unusually heavy breakfast of puranpoli and spicy amti that I had minutes ago. Then mustering up enough courage I stood up and invested all my energy in hearing the class attentively. A thought struck me, “Maybe this is the best way I can please you Krishna — by being present here and now.”
We often postpone asking this question because we think pleasing Krishna can happen only if my material conditions are well adjusted. However, the material world is so created that never will there be a time when all situations are perfectly arranged. The point of surrender and pleasing Krishna is now!
Bhakti is not dependent on any external, material arrangement. The path of bhakti is referred to in the Srimad-Bhagavatam as aihatuki and apratihata, unmotivated and uninterrupted. In other words, a practitioner of bhakti, or a devotee of Krishna , meditates on pleasing Krishna at all times, especially “now,” irrespective of the material challenges facing him or her.
The Mind’s Cheating Games
What prevents us from striving to please Krishna here and now? Why are we not focused in our spiritual activities? The mind’s never-ending hankering and lamentation cheats us from pleasing Krishna .
As we get older, we think, “If only I had earned so much money in youth I could have had facilities today to render devotional service.” Or the mind may fool you by saying, “Later when I am retired and have ample time, I shall certainly chant and hear more” or “Oh, if only I had taken care of my health then. . . .” In this way, the mind invents endless reasons to not please Krishna now.
These distractions simply mean another birth because by the laws of nature the desires stored up in the mind need to be fulfilled. Then in the next birth, we squander away precious time and just when old age creeps in, our mind cribs again about the unfairness of life. Then we die yet again with a set of unfulfilled desires. Like this we are perpetually trapped in a cycle of repeated birth and death. Instead if we choose to please Krishna here and now, we have not only broken the mindless cycle of hankering and lamentation and ushered in a state of happy consciousness, we also have inadvertently broken the cycle of samsara, the terrible succession of rebirth and untold suffering in this material world.
Pleasing Krishna Improves Relationships with Others
Constantly cultivating a desire to please Krishna and serve Him in all situations also helps us in this world — we could transcend petty skirmishes with other devotees.
Most of our differences are trivial, and reveal a lack of depth in our understanding of Krishna consciousness. We are so much filled with our own needs and desires that we hardly ever think of Krishna ’s pleasure. Natural fallout of this selfish attitude is we divide others into friends and enemies: those who foster my idea of pleasure are my friends and those who oppose me are my enemies. Like this even in the garb of devotees we remain disillusioned, and a far distance away from Krishna . Our lives remain hollow despite our decades of devotional service.
Instead when we change the paradigm, if we start thinking of what will truly please Krishna , we will learn to love others as well. Fulfilling Krishna ’s desire fills our own mind with rich happiness. That removes traces of envy and insecurity, and as we strive to please Krishna , the burning grudges of the heart, kept aflame for years, now appear inconsequential.
Ignoring Faults by Seeing the Bigger Picture
One then begins to think in terms of life and death: “How does it really matter what he or she said or did when I am lying on my deathbed?” When we see issues from a larger perspective, most of our conflicts dissolve.
It doesn’t take great intelligence to see other’s faults. Anyone can do that job, and moreover everyone does have some faults, shortcomings or idiosyncrasies. Kubja was a crooked, hunchbacked lady, but she pleased Krishna by offering Him the best scents she had. Krishna chose to ignore her external fault, and lovingly straightened her crookedness.
If Krishna doesn’t see the externals, how could we as Krishna ’s devotees focus on these nonessentials while ignoring the fact that every soul is dear to Krishna ?
From Condemnation to Love
The whole town of Navadwip saw serious faults in Jagai and Madhai, yet Lord Nityananda loved them enough to transform their hearts. His compassion was driven by the desire to please Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This aspiration to give pleasure to the Lord is itself nourishing to the heart. A sincere devotee doesn’t ignore the faults, especially if it is affecting so many others, but he handles the issues sensitively and maturely so as to truly help all parties concerned in the best possible way. And this endeavour certainly satisfies the Lord.
SP left Vrindavan to live with derelicts and hippies on the lower east side in New York. He could have condemned them as untouchables — that’s what many pious Hindus from India would have done to such Americans. Yet Srila Prabhupada saw them as fit recipients of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu‘s mercy. For pure devotees like Srila Prabhupada compassion for others is a natural overflow of the desire to serve and please Krishna .
Kind Dealings Come from an Abundant Heart
Living and serving together in a devotee community is only possible if we can translate the sublime philosophy of Krishna consciousness to this simple action of kind dealings. The inner work of developing a connection with Krishna by endeavouring to please Him helps us develop this gentleness to other human beings.
A community flourishes when we harmonize our differences and help each other, and that happens only when we can truly appreciate them. But appreciation is never found in a heart starved of love. When we are filled with abundant happiness generated from cultivating a sincere desire to serve and please Krishna , we can feel secure in our own emotional state. Then it’s easy to appreciate and accommodate others.
I thought I pleased Krishna today by staying awake in the class. Now that the class is over and a whole day’s activities lined up, I need to once again ask, “How can I please you Krishna ?” And the next time let me ask this question before honouring delicious prasada, rather than struggle to please Krishna after a heavy meal.
Vraja Bihari Dasa holds a postgraduate degree in International Finance and an MBA from Mumbai University. He is serving as a resident monk at ISKCON Chowpatty. He is an active teacher of bhakti-yoga and a prolific writer on Krishna consciousness. You can read his daily reflections on www.yogaformodernage.com