On Seeing Krishna part 2--Seeing Through the Ears!
Another way to answer the question posed in my last blog, “On Seeing Krishna?” is that we aren’t trying to see Krishna, but to serve Krishna. At present, we don’t have the spiritual eyes, or qualification to really see him. Even if Krishna were right before us, we could very well miss him, or misunderstand him, as did some envious persons when Krishna was on this planet five thousand years ago. Prabhupada often taught us that we will hear Krishna before we see him. Generally we “see” Krishna through serving him as well as his devotees. Pure devotees carry Krishna within their heart, constantly hearing and chanting about him, and share their realizations to those who want to hear. Therefore, we first hear or see Krishna through the example and teachings of such great souls. Through their chanting of the holy name, we are inspired to also chant, and we practice seeing through hearing our personal japa (soft repetition of the mantra on beads), and through singing with others in kirtana.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvaiti Thakur advised us that we shouldn’t try to see God, but to act in such a way that he will want to see us! In Hare Krishna Temples throughout the world, there are Deities (murtis, or consecrated statues) where we can see and serve Krishna in a special form meant to favor us. The Deity of Krishna and his devotees or energies (Radha-Krishhna, Gaura-Nitai, Prahlad Nrsimhadeva, etc.) appear made of material elements—which we can see—yet these authorized forms are a way even neophytes can perceive, remember, and meditate on Krishna, and engage in devotional service. Though we aren’t eligible to see his spiritual form, we are still given great mercy. Such forms of God are authorized manifestations of the Supreme Lord described in the Vedic scriptures, and thus are very different from made-up idols worshiped by the ill-informed. Even with such sanctioned forms, they can also be idols if we don’t have love for them, and see them in the right spiritual mood. Feeling gives everything life, and feeling is what bhakti is made of.
This means, we have to study Krishna conscious philosophy and have faith in Krishna and bhakti, and at least some realization regarding Krishna’s omnipotent and inconceivable power, and thus his ability to appear in a Deity form. This gives us the preliminary qualification to properly perform such worship. With a good theoretic understanding, advanced devotee association, and practical experience, we will have the proper mood. In that way we are seeing through the eyes of scripture and our faith in what they teach. Attitude is everything, and Krishna reciprocates according to our faith and conviction (Bhagavad Gita 4.11). If we have the proper attitude the Deities will reciprocate with our sincere desire to please them. Along with our devotional attitude, our sincerity of purpose is all important.
I lived in Krishna Temples for the first fourteen years I was a devotee, and my main service was pujari service (working on the altar in the worship of various Deities), and cooking for them. Yes, God eats (he isn’t materially hungry, but is spiritually hungry for our love). When we prepare vegetarian foods with devotion, and offer them to the Deities with love, the result is the food becomes transformed into prasadam, or spiritually sanctified food. (Something similar to holy communion in Catholicism.) When take, or honor, such pure spiritual food, we are associating in another way with Krishna, who has become the food. So eating such holy prasadam, we can “see” Krishna—by taste, but also experiencing how this isn’t ordinary food!
Although we may have an experience of any of the above manifestations of Krishna before we have heard anything about them, in general, every way we experience or “see” Krishna, begins by hearing. Our word limit for today is up, yet there is another important way we can see Krishna. We can see him through his material energy, and his prominent manifestations we read or hear about in the scriptures. I will have to save that discussion for part three. Hare Krishna!