“Religion means to know God and to love him.” – Srila Prabhupada
An exercise will help you discover where you stand in your relationship with Krishna/God:
Open your mind’s eye. Now visualize a screen/board and draw a vertical line – the line of struggle. (Figure 1).
The space on the left of the line denotes ‘No struggle/effort’ in spiritual life and the area on the right signifies ‘Struggle/effort’.
If you believe spiritual life to be a laid-back, relaxing process, where we simply follow what the mind says, then you are likely living on the left of the line. I have known people who said, “I’ll practise spiritual life someday in future” or “I’ll come to your temple when God invites me”
In our tradition, Srila Prabhupada gave us a simple spiritual process of chanting, dancing and feasting on sanctified food, called prasadam. Some members imagine spiritual life to be free of any kind of struggle. They may misquote Srila Prabhupada, “Just enjoy Krishna Prasad and attain perfection in spiritual life.”
The line of struggle
If you are spontaneously attracted to an easy spiritual life and to Srila Prabhupada’s pastime where he glorifies the ease of spiritual practice, then you are well established on the left of the vertical line. Once when devotees expressed difficulty in perfecting their spiritual life, Srila Prabhupada humorously declared, “Just hold on to my dhoti, and I’ll take you to the spiritual realm – I have a key through the back door.” On another occasion, he said, “While impersonalists struggle in their spiritual practices, we go back to Krishna’s (God’s) kingdom, simply by eating a gulab jamun (an Indian sweet)”.
Those on the left of the line are easy-goers and are not inclined to take up the anxiety of struggle or more responsibility in spiritual life.
Those living on the right of the line quote Srila Prabhupada saying that spiritual life is extremely difficult and one has to practise rigorous discipline. They are attracted by austerities and fasting. They chant more, perform herculean tasks and take up more challenges – they believe struggle is the name of the game. They quote Srila Prabhupada who once said, “If I tell you how many gallons of tears you have to shed to get Krishna, most of you’d run away.” The seemingly difficult practices excite you if you live on the right of the line. Here, you try to control the mind and you are determined to go back to God’s abode, in this lifetime, maybe even tomorrow. You have a sense of urgency.
Decide where you are more naturally situated: to the left or the right of the vertical line.
Remember we are not discussing right now where you should be situated, or what the ideal state is. We are understanding what ‘is’ and not what ‘should be’. We are taking an honest stock of our relationship with God and not how to improve our relationship.
Once you have chosen your position, erase and forget this illustration from your mind’s screen. We’ll come back to it later.
The line of surrender
Now, in your mind’s eye, imagine an empty space and draw a horizontal line – the line of ‘Remembering God’ or the line of ‘surrender’ (figure 2)
Let us see on which side of this line you are.
If you spend days or weeks forgetting God, with no prayer and only tasks to do, then you are living below the line. “I’ve been so busy with such important responsibilities, I had no time to pray or remember God.” If this is your common complaint, you are firmly settled below the line of ‘Remembering God.’ You may be busy with fifty things to do in a day, and you may tick off all the boxes, but there is no heartfelt offering of your emotions to God; you are disconnected from Krishna.
Those above this horizontal line call out to the Lord often. They spontaneously remember Krishna. Srila Prabhupada said that he’d fly kites with his sister as a child, and pray to Krishna, “Let my kite fly higher.
To be continued…