Wednesday, January 23, 2013
In the case of spirituality and religion, tradition often plays a huge role. Dress, customs, food, practices - all of these can be considered part of tradition.
For practitioners of any spiritual path, this is oftentimes a source wonder. Why should we follow tradition? Aren't the principles more important? What's the reason behind this?
As opposed to the "Just because you should" or "Because I said so," answer that is often spouted, bhakti has an answer. The general answer to this question is that these spiritual traditions act as tools to help connect us with the goal of bhakti which is to re-establish our relationship with God and serve him with love. I give the general answer here for the sake of brevity, but rest assured for those who have very specific questions, very specific and detailed answers are available.
Ok, so we receive an answer, but then why is it so difficult to accept it sometimes? What most of us are blind to is the fact that our material perceptions and viewpoints often become incorporated into any practice we take up, like that of bhakti yoga. In many ways that's very dangerous because it prevents us from practicing the path of bhakti authentically.
Think about it. Sometimes the thing we most resist doesn't come from what is being presented, but is due to an experience we have had on the material level. That clouds our judgement. If we take family tradition, for example, if one rejects or was never exposed to it in their own lives, then it may pose a problem when they encounter it in the bhakti lifestyle.
Srila Prabhupada, the translator of the Bhagavad-gita as it is, and one of the foremost bhakti practitioners of our time, presents a solution to these challenges an aspiring bhakti yogi may face. Srila Prabhupada writes in a purport found later in Chapter 4 of the Gita that, "Blind following is condemned".
I remember when I first read that. It really struck me and the scientific minded part of me was jumping for joy. Yes! As a person who always asks the question "Why?" I had received confirmation that this was not only appropriate but encouraged. Of course as an aspiring bhakti practitioner the attitude in which questions are posed are really important. So it was even more helpful that Krsna actually speaks on this and teaches us that one should inquire with great sincerity from a reputable source (i.e. legitimate spiritual teacher or guru). Wonderful.
That's the beauty of practicing devotional service. There's an answer to any and every question you could ever dream of asking. So I encourage everyone, don't hesitate to ask. You'll never find what you're looking for if you don't inquire.