On Reasons for Taking the Pilgrim's Journey/The Importance of Necessity and Timing
A Christian asked me, incredulously, “Why would anyone take to Krishna consciousness? He was satisfied with his religion and felt that not only could it— and should it—meet anyone’s needs, but if it failed to do so and one took up another religion, then that was the fast track to hell. Of course, it is not only Christians who curiously ask this question, but people trying to make sense of a path which seems foreign to them as Westerners. Strange clothes, practices, worship, language, scriptures, and with a transcendent goal they can’t relate to: “The spiritual world of Radha and Krishna, which is named after cows (Goloka)—come on now!” Although they may still not like or understand this path, they may be more understanding of devotees of Krishna who are born in India, where bhakti and Hinduism are the norm.
One psychic told me, “If I was supposed to be a Hindu, I would have been born in India.” Although Krishna may appear Indian since knowledge of him comes from scriptures which appeared there, the spiritual quest is for every soul. Those who have embarked on a spiritual search—either from the West or East—and found that the practice of bhakti spoke deeply to them, weren’t looking for a Hindu God or process, but for answers to their deepest questions and dilemmas. They see Bhagavad Gita and other Vedic literature as universal—the culture of the soul, not any particular land. Krishna claims to be the father of all living beings, which excludes neither country, nor species.
Searching for answers to this riddle of conversion, academic persons may look at the family background of converts and point to some psychological deficiency within them, brought about by broken, alcoholic, or abusive families, etc., to explain what might seem an odd or sudden choice. I think this perspective was more prominent back in the times of deprogramming (organizations that promised to break a person’s faith so they could go back to a more conventional, less demanding religion). When I became a devotee in 1970, the only option was living in an ashram, and we were often fanatic, very insular, and cut off from the rest of the world. To be honest, in those pioneer days we suffered from the lack of mature devotees, neither worldly wise, or spiritually developed. In fact, Prabhupada was the only adult, as we were very green in most arenas! My mother’s attitude, in response to my overzealousness and insensitivity to her I have spoken about in my blog, “How not to speak with your mom”. (http://www.krishna.com/blog/2010/07/1/how-not-speak-your-mom), gave rise to her telling, sardonic comment to me: “When are you going to rejoin the human race?”
Our lack of sensitivity and maturity notwithstanding, we were sincerely searching after spiritual truth, and a life that worked for us. We felt impelled to make the pilgrim’s journey, and failure was not an option. The external reasons that may be sited as “causing” our spiritual search are only part of the picture, being only the external aspect (which some consider everything) of a facility offered to embodied eternal souls to finish up their spiritual practices from previous lives. The ultimate purpose of karma and reincarnation is to foster such an awakening. We read in the Gita’s eight chapter that the yogi or devotee who is unsuccessful in one life, is given continual opportunities, life after life, until complete perfection is obtained. Krishna is merciful to the extreme, and out of his love for us, gives us repeated lives for spiritual success. Wouldn’t you expect this from the supreme loving “parent” or source of all life?
Thus, what may appear as unfortunate circumstances of birth, upbringing, or in life, are great fortune if they help us again take up the spiritual path, and find our true shelter in Krishna. I have spoken of my spiritual awaking probably too frequently in these blogs, and it is also in my Krishna.com bio. A story similar to mine is a frequent scenario of many devotees—a frustrated youth from a broken, and/or unhappy upbringing—who become driven to embark on a spiritual search to find meaning and purpose. My wife and others have a different type of story, though the same ending. She came from a good family and had all the trappings of success and material happiness: good looks, education, intelligence, position, and friends, but yet was unhappy and unfulfilled, prompting her to take up the spiritual search. How that mystical awakening will manifest in a person is unique and perfectly suited for them.
Whether one’s life is on the lowest ebb, or one appears to have everything, the common thread for covered devotees is their dissatisfaction or depression with their material life which was an instrument to impel them towards divine living and God. In either case, the timing of our spiritual unfolding was perfect, and we were offered a path that spoke to our hearts and souls. The intensity many of us felt to pursue the journey toward the spiritual was practically irresistible, and was a special gift. The universe responds to a fixed purpose enthusiastically pursued with determination. Krishna teaches us in his Gita (4.11), that he reciprocates to the degree of our urgent necessity. To continue on the spiritual journey means we will be confronted with various doubts and disappointments, as well as temptations. They can be overcome only by our realization, inner spiritual experience, and the mercy of Krishna and his devotees. I write blogs to see if you will find some light, or a piece of the puzzle, so you might begin your spiritual journey, or continue it with renewed vigor—it is not academic.