Wednesday, January 23, 2013

just ask

Verse 1.39: With the destruction of dynasty, the eternal family tradition is vanquished, and thus the rest of the family becomes involved in irreligion.

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.


  1. "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 soon as I read that short quote from Srila Prabhupada in your post I immediately recalled having read it because those words lifted my heart as well when I read them, so much so I noted them down in my journal.

    That's one thing that really continues to inspire me about bhakti yoga, is that questions are encouraged if asked with the eagerness to learn and with a sense of humility. I had been a Christian, until a little over a year ago, for fourteen years, and that was one thing that disheartened me, is that when I started coming up with concerns and questions and sought reconciliation with what I felt to be true and what the Scriptures were saying, I was told to have "faith like a child" and not to question or even to read so much. To concentrate less on the spiritual but more on the material-like trying to improve our finances, be able to tithe more, etc. But the questions just continued to fester and were left unanswered so I had to branch out at that point and see if I could find the truth I was seeking elsewhere.

    It seems that thinking, questioning, seeking is encouraged in bhakti yoga as long as one keeps in mind where to go to for the answers.

    When it comes to trying to become familiar with its various traditions and rituals, I have to say they can seem very foreign and a little daunting and some of the traditional views towards women I've read have left me perplexed, but I know that is also because I come from a very modern and Western way of thinking so it's important to keep an open mind and perspective.

    Another great post. Thank you! I shared your blog on my blog's fb page as well. Hoping other people take advantage of reading your great insights.

    Hare Krishna!

  2. Dear Jessica,

    Thank you so much for your wonderful realizations. I can completely understand what you mean by traditions and rituals that may seem foreign and daunting. I can only imagine. However, I think you have very much imbibed the bhakti spirit which is to keep an open mind and perspective. Since bhakti is all about the soul level all these other aspects will reconcile themselves.

    With respect to views about women, yes it may sometimes seem like it's traditional, but as an aspiring bhakti yogi myself I can say without a doubt that the types of roles and encouragement that women in bhakti receive is so incredible and astonishing. I've been a recipient of that myself and I always am left feeling overwhelmed by the opportunities and support. If you ever want, I can tell you more about it. :)

    As well, I think as you very well know, one of the fundamentals of bhakti (which will be the main theme of Chapter 2) is that we are not this body. We are the soul. So from that perspective these types of designations such as male and female actually have little do with the essentials of bhakti yoga. Yes, the practicalities are there, but when it comes to the real stuff in bhakti - it's all about the soul, not the body.

    Thanks so much for sharing my blog your fb page. Btw, please feel free to add me on fb: Vrndavana Vinodini. Look forward to hearing from you soon!

    Hare Krsna!