Time to achieve perfection

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    Sri Vasudeva Das

    Hare Krishna Rishiraj prabhu

    I was deeply curious about the question as to how much time does each yoga practice take to offer the perfection it proclaims, specifically bhakti yoga. I do understand that it will obviously depend on the practitioner’s intensity of practice as well his current standing. But still if you could elaborate on this, would be quite helpful.

    Ashish Dalela

    In bhakti-yoga, there is a simple measure: Your taste for chanting the holy name. Everything is in that holy name, including knowledge, the form of Krishna, all His pastimes, etc. But we are not able to see it. So, how can we see it? By developing a progressive taste for that chanting.

    What is taste? It is not in the count of names. Of course, if you hate chanting, your will not chant at all. But even if you chant a lot of names, the count doesn’t indicate the taste. The taste is measured by just one thing: How much happiness you derive out of chanting. A symptom of that taste is that while chanting you forget everything else. You are so absorbed in just chanting the name.

    This taste has to grow continuously if we are chanting properly. Increasing taste in chanting is also the sole measure of spiritual progress and the goal of all other things in life. For example, suppose you build a big temple for Krishna, and thousands of people come to see Krishna in that temple. Most people will say: We did something great by building this temple because so many people are coming to see Krishna. But that is not a measure of spiritual progress. The correct question to ask is: Did my taste for chanting increase in the process? If our taste for chanting increased during the temple construction, then we did a spiritual activity. Otherwise, temple construction was just like another building construction. Thousands of people are constructing thousands of buildings without progressing in spiritual life. They all feel a sense of achievement from finishing the construction of a building. But they don’t develop a taste for chanting by that. In the same way, if we don’t develop taste for Krishna’s name, then it is not a spiritual activity. At best, it is a pious activity.

    I have written so many books over the years, but I don’t count that as an achievement. I count my increasing taste for chanting as the only achievement. How do I know that I’m on the right path? The answer is: If the taste in chanting is increasing, then I am on the right path. If that taste is not increasing, then there is something wrong. If the progress slows, then I investigate what is wrong. And I fix that mistake. I know I have fixed it when continuous progress restarts again.

    Lord Chaitanya states: ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ. You can study this statement deeply. The term prati-padaṁ means “every step”. I can tell you from my experience, that every step means every day. Sometimes it is many times in a day. Every day, and sometimes many times in a day, you will see a visible improvement in the taste you have for chanting.

    There is an ocean of bliss and we are walking toward it. As we come closer to that ocean, we hear the sound of the ocean, and our pace quickens. We get a smell from the ocean, and our pace quickens. Then, even if you are not near the ocean, you know that you are getting closer and closer and you run faster and faster. You see a mountain in front of you, and you run and climb it. This is because at every step you hear the sound of the ocean better and clearer. Lord Chaitanya describes the chanting of the holy name in a similar way. The bliss increases at every step until we reach the ocean.

    The question is not how long. The question is: Are we seeing continuous progress? The question of how long arises when we are walking toward the destination. If we are not walking at all, then the question of how long doesn’t arise. The symptom of walking to the destination is that the taste for chanting grows with every step.

    Now, the question is: What if the taste is not increasing every step? Then you investigate honestly. Most people are not honest. They hide their flaws and try to show off their greatness. That ensures they don’t make progress. But if they are honest, they will find the flaws and fix the flaws.

    Chanting of the holy name will undoubtedly deliver progress, except in one condition: You disobey the pure devotees. Krishna never favors those who disobey the pure devotees. I know that lot of people do not make spiritual progress, although they are doing many things from an outwardly perspective. There is only one reason for that: They are doing many things that Prabhupada forbade, and not doing many things that Prabhupada asked them to. You can try to rationalize all these things in your own way, and the result will always be: You will not develop a taste for chanting.

    Your question assumes a certain model of spiritual life, in which you travel on a path and one day you reach the destination. And you are asking how long that takes. This is a wrong question because it means you are not smelling the air of the ocean, not hearing the sound of the ocean. This is contrary to Lord Chaitanya’s statement: “The ocean of bliss increases at every step”. So, you should investigate what is wrong, and try to fix that. If your taste is increasing at every step, then you will not ask this question, because you will know: It increased so much in one day, one month, one year, and so it will increase even more as the time passes. You will know the answer yourself. The sound of the ocean will get clearer, and the air from the ocean will smell stronger. By that, you will know.

    When you start seeing progress in chanting, then you run faster and faster. You accept more hardships over time. You become more tolerant and humble naturally. You know that everything is for a higher purpose, and the price you pay for it is miniscule compared to the result. Life becomes exciting overall, even if there is a lot of temporary pain and suffering. There is always hope, even if the enthusiasm sometimes wanes or declines due to the problems. You are assured of success in the longer run and that conviction removes the need for faith in religion because you are observing continuous progress. You will know that the process is working, because the taste in chanting is increasing. But it happens only when we follow the pure devotees. Blasphemy of devotees is not merely through words; it is also through actions. In fact, blasphemy is more through actions rather than words. So, someone who acts contrary or different from the instructions of the pure devotees can vocally articulate their adulation for pure devotees, but by their actions they blaspheme the pure devotees. And the result is that they do not develop the taste for the chanting of the holy name.

    When the taste is not increasing, then the knowledge is also not continuously increasing. Then, our teaching also remains mechanical. Religion becomes a fixed set of routine practices. The sense of progress, excitement, and the capacity for risk-taking, all decline, simply because the taste in chanting is not increasing. So, one can judge by these symptoms too. Thus, it is not difficult to judge if someone is making progress or not. And it is not difficult to judge if we are progressing or not.

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