The Essence of Bhakti Yoga
Yoga of Love Series # 4
I was initiated in 1968. I’ve been doing sadhana for some 46 years now. But Krishna consciousness isn’t a caste system. As it says in the Bible, some of the first may be last.
Over the years I’ve always found that whenever I engage in our Krishna conscious practices, there is always some degree of liberation. Anxieties evaporate, and I begin to feel mildly blissful. But I always wondered: “Will I ever arrive at a sense of loving reciprocation with Krishna in this lifetime?”
Most of the devotees I’ve talked to seem to hold the conviction that if we just maintain our vows, engage in our sadhana and do some practical service, then one day, by grace, love of Krishna will dawn in our hearts. I’m convinced that this isn’t quite enough.
A robot can be programmed to perform all of the activities that we engage in. They can chant the Holy Name. They can do puja, recite slokas, prepare Deity offerings, clean the temple, even distribute Krishna conscious literature. So what’s the difference? The difference is that a devotee does these activities with love for Krishna alive in his heart.
That’s why Srila Prabhupada used to speak about the “rubber stamp”. He was telling us that all these authorized activities can be officially regarded as devotional service. However, without saturating these activities with love, we are rubber-stamping them as devotional service. Certainly there will be some benefit, some progress, some purification. But if we actually want to enjoy a sense of loving reciprocation with Krishna, we have to perform these activities with love in our hearts. We have to come to that point. Srila Prabhupada writes: “Even a leaf, a flower, a bit of fruit, or a little water……will be accepted if offered with love……..God accepts only the love with which things are offered to Him.” (Bg. 9/2 purport).
So love for Krishna is not something that will mysteriously dawn in our hearts. Love for Krishna is something that we have to bring to the table. And this is where many aspiring devotees draw a blank. “But I have no love for Krishna!”, they say. For so many years, this was my mood too. Then gradually I began to understand. We all have the ability to cultivate the quality of love in our hearts. We know the philosophy of Krishna consciousness; but without love it won’t come to life within us. Our Krishna consciousness will remain on the “mental platform”. Therefore I humbly repeat: we have to purposefully apply ourselves to this cultivation of love within our hearts.
Our way of feeling is largely a matter of habit. Glad, sad, mad, scared. When our buttons are pushed, these old programs, old recordings, play out over and over again. But we have a choice. We have the ability to cultivate the feeling of love in our hearts. And when we do, our whole view of life changes. When there’s love in our hearts, that love will effortlessly brighten every interaction, every activity we engage in. This is the mode of goodness.
Most importantly, Srila Prabhupada encourages us, Krishna consciousness is simply a matter of “transferring the account”, transferring our loving propensity to Krishna. But without love in our hearts, where is the question of transferring the account? Therefore this is the first essential. Unless and until we can make love an on-demand faculty in our own hearts, a faculty that we can draw upon at will – how can we purposefully begin to transfer the account to Krishna?
We’re not talking about raganuga bhakti. We’re talking about the simple ability to cultivate the practice of directing our love towards Krishna, here and now, so that we can begin to have a sense of Krishna’s loving reciprocation. A living sense of connection with Krishna. As much as we love Krishna, to that degree will we sense His love for us. That’s Krishna’s promise. We can directly experience this. And when we do, we’ll want more. Then we’re on our way.
I was once alone with Srila Prabhupada in his room; he pushed up his sleeve and did a pantomime of injecting drugs into his forearm. “You have seen this?”, Srila Prabhupada asked me. “Yes”, I nodded. “Krishna consciousness is like that.” Srila Prabhupada said with a smile. In other words we’ll want more. But first we have to have a taste of Krishna’s loving reciprocation.
The first requirement is the ability to carry love in our hearts, so that we can offer that love to Krishna. Then whether we are washing a dish, sweeping a floor, walking, driving, chanting………patrum pushpam phalam toyam, and, yat karoshi yad asnashi (Bg. 9/26-27), it can be done with a feeling of love for Krishna.
Therefore we have to seriously contemplate the understanding that this is the meaning of Krishna consciousness – serving Krishna with love. As we engage in loving devotional service, Krishna reveals Himself to us. And as Krishna reveals Himself, our love continues to grow. This is the most confidential part of Krishna conscious knowledge.
bhajatam prita purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
vena mam upayanti te
“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to me.” (Bg. 10/10).
Anyone can do this. The only question is: When will I begin?
By Ishan das