NOW THAT I LIVE IN the country, I'm more aware of the predictable pattern of nature. I notice how trees and creatures in and around my cottage submit themselves to the laws of the universe, as if even they recognize a superior power. At an ordained time they sprout and grow, shed their leaves or fur, and reproduce and die.
As I watch with fascination, I sometimes forget that the same creative and destructive principles are also at work on my own body and its offspring. But at night, when one by one my children, my wife, and I succumb to sleep, I sense our subservience to the regulation of the vast mechanism of the universe.
Regulation is an intrinsic part of yoga, too. Yoga is the art of living within the universe and ultimately becoming liberated from its stringent laws. So in bhakti-yoga, devotees use regulation to help awaken their eternal love for Lord Krsna, which is the only sure means to permanent liberation.
Of Srila Prabhupada's books, The Nectar of Devotion most systematically describes sadhana-bhakti, or the regulative practice of bhakti-yoga. Sadhana means the method for attaining something, and bhakti means devotion to Krsna. Sadhana-bhakti develops in two parts: vaidhi and raganuga. Vaidhi means to follow rules and regulations of bhakti-yoga under the order of a spiritual master, and raganuga means to follow them out of spontaneous attraction for Krsna.
Like a baby's ability to walk, love for Krsna lies inherent within us. By practicing the simple principles of vaidhi-bhakti, we can all develop spontaneous attraction and affection for the Lord.
You can begin vaidhi-bhakti by making a daily practice of the Krsna conscious activities you already like to do. If you like to offer incense to a picture of Lord Krsna or His pure devotee, you can make this offering a part of your daily devotional service. It will become a duty you'll be careful to remember, and you'll progress from liking to burn incense in your room, to offering it to Lord Krsna before you enjoy it, and finally to offering it at His convenience and for His pleasure only. (Of course, as you master this art, your pleasure will increase hundreds and hundreds of times.)
Similarly you can offer a flower, a fruit, or fresh water daily and clean the place where you make your offerings. In this way you can gradually add Krsna to all the phases of your life.
Suppose you like to chant on your beads. Commit yourself to chanting a certain number of rounds on your beads every day. If a day goes by and you haven't finished your quota, you'll naturally remember, "Oh, I haven't finished my rounds. I'd better finish them before I go to bed." The same principle can apply to reading Srila Prabhupada's books: you can make a commitment to read a certain number of pages or a certain amount of time every day. In this way you'll make great spiritual progress.
Don't worry that setting up spiritual regulation will make your life stereotyped or boring, as material habits and customs are apt to do. Like Krsna's words, spiritual duties are ever fresh, and they'll help your individuality and originality come to the surface.
If you stick as rigidly as possible to your regulation, despite sometimes feeling lethargic or despondent, you'll find that in the face of obstacles you'll become enlivened and surcharged. Bhakti-yoga is both the means and the end of transcending duality, for it is nondifferent from Krsna Himself.
Sometimes you may even wonder why you took up Krsna consciousness in the first place. Such thoughts arise because we are influenced by material nature, and our conditioned minds tend to accept something one minute and reject it the next.
If the force of your material conditioning and bad habits make you feel like quitting, you can submit yourself to Krsna and expect His mercy. Because we are the Lord's tiny expansions, and in one sense nondifferent from Him, He naturally loves us, regardless of our condition. Krsna will unfailingly help us should we simply make an effort or even desire to make an effort in His direction. "God helps those who help themselves." Everything ultimately depends on Lord Krsna's mercy. And if you resolve to follow what Krsna terms "the regulative principles of freedom" despite any impediments and difficulties, you will undoubtedly be a recipient of the Lord's "complete mercy" (Bg. 2.64). Just imagine that!
Rohininandana Dasa and Radha Priya Dasi would like to correspond with anyone interested in living near them. Write to them at Woodgate Cottage, Beckley Nr. Rye, E. Sussex TN31 6UH, UK.