Direct Engagement For Whom?

In a Bhagavad-gita purport, Srila Prabhupada says that a slightly developed Krishna conscious person can be directly engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord without waiting for other Vedic formulas. Who is this “slightly developed Krishna conscious person?” Due to my ignorance I may start considering myself a “slightly developed Krishna conscious person” and start disobeying the Vedas. Please explain.
  – N. Agarwal, by email

Our reply: A “slightly developed Krishna conscious person” is one who experiences an undeniable pull towards lovingly serving Lord Krishna . In the famous verse by Prahlada Maharaja in the Seventh Canto starting with Sravanam kirtanam visnoù, he uses the word addha, which means “direct.” Someone who understands that all rituals and mantras are ultimately meant for the sole purpose of pleasing Lord Visnu has no need to follow all the detailed prescriptions and reach the goal in a roundabout manner. He can be engaged “directly” in the loving service of Lord Visnu (Krishna ) under guidance. For everyone else, there is a systematic arrangement of following different Vedic rituals so they can also reach the same goal eventually. Such a “slightly developed Krishna conscious person” shows taste for any activity connected to serving Lord Krishna . He realizes that every devotional activity could become ritualistic if he doesn’t have proper information about what pleases Lord Krishna and what does not. Thus, a test for advancement is increased taste for hearing Krishna katha. It is natural to be eager to hear more and more about the person you wish to come close to. No detail about that person is superfluous. The smallest information is critical because it can potentially help you please that person in just the right way at the right time – any time. One doesn’t wish to lose any chance to please the beloved. Such a person can be directly engaged in Krishna consciousness. For everyone else who hasn’t developed attraction for Lord Krishna , there is a long path of ritualistic activities that will eventually bring that person at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna (Gita 7.19). In the association of advanced devotees of the Lord, this attraction for Lord Krishna is especially freely distributed as it spills out of their hearts into their mouths and falls on the ears of the listeners in the form of drops of sweet nectarean aural messages.

The most interesting thing is that even after devotees develop a natural taste for devotional service to Krishna , they rarely stop following Vedic injunctions unless it clearly obstructs their advancement in Krishna consciousness. Advanced devotees follow all Vedic injunctions and procedures that favor advancement in devotional service without considering themselves to be “advanced.”

Difficult Decision

ISKCON regulative principles prohibit intake of all non-vegetarian food. Recently, I have developed deficiency of vitamin B12 and vitamin D. My doctor advised me to take vitamin supplements and also take some fish to cure the problem.

Earlier I would occasionally consume eggs and fish, but since becoming a devotee four years ago, I have stopped taking these things. But my doctor insists that I take little fish as medicine since my deficiency is severe and could lead to serious health problems later. Please advise.
  – V N Giri, by email

Our reply: Often, doctors of one discipline are not aware of approaches or medicines formulated in another discipline. There is a good chance that there is some alternative cure for your deficiency using Ayurveda or Homeopathy. Depending on your determination, you can check with some of these doctors if there is any alternative cure for your specific deficiency that won’t require you to break the four regulative principles. Vitamin deficiencies are generally not lifethreatening so you can try to avoid threatening the life of another living entity. Even if these non-standard approaches do not solve your deficiency problem completely, still they will certainly reduce your problem. In this way you can avoid the emergency situation and get some time to slowly nurture yourself back to health without breaking the four regulative principles.

Sharing Without Satisfaction?

I have been taught to share. Even if I don’t have enough still I should learn to share. I have tried to share some times but it has been difficult for me to feel satisfaction when I shared. I think sharing should be natural not just to pretend. Shouldn’t I have enough myself before I attempt to share?
  – Swapnil Adep, by email

Our reply: Consider this example. The government sets up shops (commonly called “ration shops”) to provide essential commodities like grains, sugar, etc. at a low, affordable cost to citizens even of a lowincome scale. These items originally belong to the government but they are distributed by the manager of this shop. There are other grocery stores, too, other than the “ration shops” that sell these items.

The essential difference between these two types of shops is that the goods in the ration shop belong to the government and the shop owner is more like a distributor, whereas the goods in other stores are owned by the shop owners and are meant for sale. The distributor isn’t possessive about the goods lying with him and is not eager to earn profit out of selling them; he is assured of his monthly salary for his job of distributing. The other person, the shop owner, on the other hand, is possessive – he owns the goods and wants to earn profit out of selling them. His earnings depend on the profit he earns by selling his goods.

When we have a mentality of owning things that we possess, it becomes difficult to share with others. We wish to hoard and enjoy because we feel we “own” things. If we act like simple distributors who has been given charge of some goods by the Supreme Lord (comparable to the government), then we see ourselves as providers to others. By this paradigm change, a scarcity-consciousness changes to an abundance-consciousness. We can meditate on the fact that we all had nothing when we came to this world, and will have nothing to carry with us when we leave. So, what things belong to us when we are here in the material world? It is by the Supreme Lord’s grace that we have received so much and we can distribute it to those who do not have so much. Since the goods originally belong to the government, there won’t ever be a shortage of supplies; the Supreme Lord can supply much more than we can ever distribute or receive.

When we share freely with others seeing it as our sacred duty on behalf of the Supreme Lord, we naturally derive the highest satisfaction seeing ourselves as acting on behalf of the Supreme Lord. In the Gita (18.5), Lord Krishna emphatically declares that acts such as sacrifice, charity and penance are never to be given up and these activities purify even the great souls. As desired by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the followers of ISKCON especially wish to be supremely magnanimous in their attempts to distribute the greatest wealth of all, love towards the Supreme Lord, to one and all irrespective of any qualification. Any other commodity that can help in the distribution of this most priceless commodity can also be distributed magnanimously in abundance.

Are Prayers Answered?

I understand that we get in life what we deserve by our karma. But can prayers give me what is not destined for me? I sometimes pray for riches and health not in excess but so that I can have a trouble-free life. Will I get according to my karma or as per the Lord’s desire?
  – Chintan, by email

Our reply: A general principle is that the Supreme Lord doesn’t interfere with the law of karma that governs us in the material world. The law of karma is the Supreme Lord’s own supervisory system designed to ensure a life of responsibility for human beings in the material world. As it is commonly observed in nature – as you sow so shall you reap.

Prayers to the Supreme Lord are a very potent form of calling out for His mercy. Depending on how genuine your prayers are, you may or may not experience reciprocation from the Supreme Lord. The Supreme Lord’s reciprocation also depends on the intent of our prayers.

If the fruits we pray for are not harmful to anyone else and will not distance us from the Supreme Lord, there are chances that He might fulfill our prayers. However, many times our prayers are not fulfilled by the Supreme Lord because He fears that facilities might distance us from Him since it is a common observation that opulence and its concomitant enjoyment usually lead to lesser intensity in faith and surrender to God.

A devotee has full faith in Lord Krishna ’s intelligence. He firmly believes that whatever the Supreme Lord plans for him is the best. Just as an expert physician alternates sweet and bitter medicine to a patient depending on the need, a devotee knows that the Supreme Lord sanctions certain things in a devotee’s life irrespective of his or her likes. The best prayer, therefore, is to genuinely express your desire to remember Him and serve Him in every situation, and let God decide about the best way to facilitate this. What to give and what not to give – let this be His prerogative!

Replies were written by Nanda Dulal Dasa.