Friday, May 13, 2016

Loving God Simplified

When it boils down to it, the essence of it all, I have very little doubt that the end goal is Love!  But not just any old love - Supreme Love - Divine Love - Love of and for the Absolute Godhead!  What could be more sublime!?!?

BUT....Occasionally, I find myself overwhelmed by the amount of information available about the 'correct' method of developing love of Godhead! 

I can certainly understand some basic do's and don't's, most of which just make sense. And even some of those are disputable and vary from one group to the next; but as you go deeper, you find that there are more subtle rules and ideals that must be followed, and the deeper you go into a particular sect, the more specific those rules and principles become. And that's where I often start to become a bit disturbed - bewildered, if you will.  And that is ALSO where I begin to see clashes, disagreements between one group and another.

For instance, if I just say, "Hey, everyone...Do your best to Love God and love your neighbor," most religiously minded people will agree and give you a hearty pat on the back.  But if I say, "Love God, but you have to do it through 'This' person, or in 'That' way," then suddenly I find certain people love me and others, well.....not so much! 

I also believe that there ARE higher and lower understandings and approaches to God, and that certain elements may have subtle and powerful effects that we may not be very aware of in our mundane states.  Our diet, for instance, may very well impact the subtle energetics of our body, thus allowing (or preventing) certain 'flows'. 

Karmically, too, behaving in certain ways can hamper our 'evolution'.  Personally, I have not consciously eaten any meat in more than four decades, and can't quite ever see myself doing so. But I  also don't believe it is impossible to eat meat and love God. I have friends that do so. 

But I'm talking about even MORE subtle things - which Name of God you use, whether you turn clockwise or counter-clockwise, bow to the ground or just nod your head. It's like whether you use silverware or not when eating Pizza!  The POINT is to get the pizza into your mouth - NOT HOW you got it there!

Tolstoy tells a famous story known as The Three Hermits.  In extremely shortened form goes something like this:
There were three hermits who lived on an island, and had become quite famous as saints. The local bishop came to visit them, and  asked them about their spiritual practices. 
The hermits told him, "We simply pray, 'Lord, you are three, we are three, have mercy on us.'"  The bishop thought this was totally unsatisfactory and not in line with the church, and so spent some time teaching them the proper liturgies and prayers. 
The bishop leaves the island, and having traveled some distance from the island in his boat, soon sees a glowing light coming toward him, which turns out to be the three hermit brothers running ACROSS the water!  
"Father, father," they cry, "we have forgotten the prayers that you taught us." 
"No worry," says the bishop, "Our father hears your prayers. Please pray for me, a sinner!"

I love these stories of the simplicity of loving God.  I have many friends and acquaintences who like to delve deeply into extremely esoteric aspects of the Vedic and Gaudiya philosophies, and, in the past, I was much more enthusiastic to do such things myself.  But as I get 'longer in the tooth', though I still like to dabble, my real loves are the most simplistic - chanting one mantra, and reading one book.  For me, those are the Hare Krsna Mahamantra - Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Ksna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare;  and the one book - Bhagavad Gita. 

While, truthfully, I am slightly envious of those who have the mental and intellectual power to remember vast numbers of verses and repeat stories throughout the night, for the most part, I am increasingly contented to simply delve into those two things - mantra and Gita - and find that there are universes of truth and love in just those.  Or, as others have said, "Better to dig ONE hole, ten feet deep, than TEN holes, one foot deep." 

In our Gaudiya tradition, we revere a man by the name of Srila Haridas Thakur, a moslem by birth, who was so dedicated to the chanting of the Holy Names, chanting 300,000 names daily, that he is referred to as Nama-Acharya - The Teacher of the Holy Names. We know very little about him. I don't know if we even are aware of whether he could read or write - but he is famous, because he chanted the names of God - day and night! 

Or there is a story that when Lord Caitanya traveled through South India, he came across a brahman in the temple who was holding Bhagavad Gita, upside down, and tears were flowing from his eyes, while others laughed at him.  When asked, he explained that his guru told him to read Bhagavad Gita, but he did not know HOW to read, so he simply held the book and thought of the mercy of Lord Krsna in instructing Arjuna and his heart burst open with love. 

Many times while I was teaching Sanskrit, students would ask how important it was to pronounce the mantra exactly right.  My standard response was, and still is, Most important is your heart! Pronunciation is second.  God hears our heart more than anything, our words second.

So while it CAN be very fun and absorbing to learn the intricacies of various spiritual sciences, it CAN also be a distraction - just one more thing to absorb our mind, rather than focusing on the main goal, which is Loving God. And worse, it can be something to disagree and fight about, the need to be right, to defend YOUR viewpoint.  There's another famous saying, having NO idea who said it first, "You can be happy, or you can be RIGHT."  Because often they are NOT the same.  And you can be right OR wrong, and still be happy, because you recognize....It really doesn't matter.  What matters is...Did you get the pizza into your mouth!?  Or in other words - DId you develop Love for God?

हरे कृष्ण हरे कृष्ण कृष्ण कृष्ण हरे हरे    
हरे राम हरे राम राम राम हरे हरे


  1. A deep, swelling wave moving in the heart, from the ocean floor to the surface of the sky. Simple and profound.

  2. Very nice. Love of God. The only standard of measure of what is right or wrong. Lesson of Gita. Well written. Thank you.

  3. you go the essence ... Hare Krishna!