This article is the first in a series that will give you practical guidance in performing bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotional service to Lord Krsna. Wherever you live, wherever you travel, at work, at school, or in your home, you can do bhakti-yoga and become Krsna conscious.
There are many ways you can practice bhakti-yoga: hearing about Krsna, chanting about Him, offering Him prayers, worshiping Him, and so on. But the basic rule behind every practice is simply this:
Always remember Krsna and never forget Him. All the other rules and regulations are servants of this one principle.
But why should you remember Krsna? Why is remembering Krsna, God, more significant than remembering last week’s hockey scores or the Preamble to the Constitution? What will you get by remembering Krsna that you won’t get any other way?
Yoga means “link.” By serving Krsna, with bhakti, devotion, we link up with Him. We are not our material bodies: we are spiritual souls. Somehow or other we’ve been overcome by Krsna’s external, material energy. But when we voluntarily use our material bodies and minds to serve the Lord by working for Him and remembering Him, our bodies and minds become spiritualized.
If you take an iron rod and put it into a blazing fire, it will become warm, hot, red-hot, and finally as hot as the fire itself. It will burn anything it touches, just as the fire would, because it will have developed the qualities of fire by associating with fire. In the same way, when you associate with Krsna, the Supreme Spiritual Person, you reawaken your original spiritual nature.
This reawakening of the soul is so relishable that once you’ve tasted this nectar of serving the Lord you’ll automatically want to go on and on tasting it. Unlike other yoga systems, which people take up as a means to some end (hatha-yoga for health, for example), bhakti-yoga is simultaneously the means and the end. Just as a delicious meal pleases a hungry man, even from the first bite, bhakti-yoga gives transcendental pleasure to anyone who takes it up, even in the beginning stages.
And not only will you want to continue performing devotional service; you’ll also find yourself losing the desire to exploit nature and other people for selfish ends. The inferior pleasures you can get from ordinary, material activities (including habits you may have been trying to kick for years) will seem tasteless compared to the superior pleasure of serving Krsna.
If you think it’s too difficult to add bhakti-yoga to your life, think again. Here’s a surprise for you: You’re already doing it! Just by reading through the pages of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine, you’re taking the first step in bhakti-yoga: hearing about Lord Krsna. What result can you expect? The scriptural classic Srimad Bhagavatam explains: If you regularly hear about Krsna from those who are purely teaching about Him, everything hindering your spiritual advancement will be gradually destroyed. Just by hearing about Krsna, you’ll find yourself wanting more and more to serve Him and be with Him.
How does this happen? The Lord Himself does this for you. Wherever the Lord is spoken of, He Himself is present in the form of transcendental sound. This sound is as powerful as the Lord Himself, because He invests it with His potencies. Srila Prabhupada, in his commentary on the Srimad Bhagavatam, says that out of love the Lord responds immediately to any sincere person who wants “to get admittance to the transcendental service of the Lord.” When Lord Krsna sees that someone has become eager to hear about Him, “the Lord acts from within that devotee in such a way that the devotee can easily go back to Him. The Lord is more anxious to take us back into His kingdom than we can desire. Anyone who desires to go back to Godhead. Sri Krsna helps in all respects.”
Krsna is the Supreme Spiritual Person. We are also spiritual persons, and bhakti-yoga is our eternal spiritual activity. It follows, then, that there must be a spiritual place, distinct from this temporary material world, where the activities of loving devotional exchange can go on eternally. There is. It’s called Goloka Vrndavana, and it’s Lord Krsna’s eternal home, far beyond our material vision. Then you may ask, How can we take up bhakti-yoga while in this material world?
The pure devotees of Lord Krsna, who dedicate their lives to spreading the knowledge of bhakti-yoga, can create spiritual places even here in the material world. The centers of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness are such places. If I met you in the course of my day, and if you seemed interested, I would invite you to one of these centers, either for the famous Sunday feast or for an evening class. Then you could get a first-hand experience of doing bhakti-yoga with others interested in reviving their Krsna consciousness.
But for you, as for many people I meet, visiting a Hare Krsna center may be impractical. Maybe you live too far away. Maybe your commitments to your job or family leave you little free time. Maybe you already belong to a spiritual fellowship, or maybe you’re skeptical about any spiritual path (a common viewpoint in this age of cheaters).
In any case, please try bhakti-yoga in your own home. All the articles in this series are meant to help you do just that. Simply by reading BACK TO GODHEAD you’ve made a good start—you’ve begun hearing about Lord Krsna. Next month’s article tells you about another basic practice: chanting the Lord’s holy names.
But you don’t have to wait till next month’s BACK TO GODHEAD comes to start chanting. There are no hard and fast rules. Simply chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Take a little time out and try the chanting. Chant while you’re driving to work, while you’re standing in line at the supermarket, while you’re walking to a class. If you watch television, turn down the volume during the commercials and chant (a double treat: not only will you gain spiritually, you’ll miss a dose of Madison Avenue brainwashing). Chant out loud when you can. Chant silently if you’d rather not attract attention. However you do it, please try the chanting. Krsna is personally present in His holy names, and in transcendental literature like the Srimad Bhagavatam and BACK TO GODHEAD magazine. Take Him into your life, into your home. If you do, you’ll be well on your way along the road back to your eternal home, with Him.