Essential Qualities

The science of Krishna consciousness can be divided into three divisions: knowledge of our relationship with Krishna (sambandha), the process for realizing that knowledge (abhidheya), and realization of our relationship in pure love of Krishna (prayojana). In other words, to become pure lovers of Krishna and thus achieve the ultimate goal of life (prayojana), we begin by learning what Krishna consciousness is all about (sambandha) and then diligently practicing bhakti-yoga (abhidheya).

When Lord Krishna appeared as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu five centuries ago, He taught Krishna consciousness in the context of these three divisions, and among His closest associates, three are considered the acharyas, or leading preachers, of the divisions. Sanatana Goswami is the sambandha-acharya, Rupa Goswami is the abhidheya-acharya, and Raghunatha Dasa Goswami is the prayojana-acharya.

Here I’ll write a few words about an important lesson from the teachings of Rupa Goswami, who learned from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. In response to Lord Chaitanya’s order that he write books on the science of devotion, Rupa Goswami wrote, among other books, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, which Srila Prabhupada presented in a comprehensive summary as The Nectar of Devotion. The first part of Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, Rupa Goswami’s most famous book, deals extensively with the regulated practices of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.

In a shorter book, Sri Upadeshamrita (“The Nectar of Instruction”), Rupa Goswami lists six things favorable to devotional service and six things unfavorable. The first three items on the “favorable” list are enthusiasm, determination, and patience.

To begin his purport to the verse listing the six favorable things, Srila Prabhupada writes, “Devotional service is not a matter of sentimental speculation or imaginative ecstasy. Its substance is practical activity.” In other words, to be successful in bhakti-yoga we have to practice. How? With enthusiasm, determination, and patience.

Learning the philosophy of Krishna consciousness should naturally make us enthusiastic. Prabhupada writes, “One should accept this opportunity to return home, back to Godhead, very enthusiastically.” Enthusiasm in our spiritual practices shows that we truly understand what has been made available to us.

We often see, though, that the initial enthusiasm of taking to Krishna consciousness can wane after some time. This phenomenon, of course, can occur with any endeavor when the novelty of it wears off. But because Krishna consciousness is on the spiritual plane, we can always have fresh experiences if we apply ourselves. That requires the determination to press on through rough times. Srila Prabhupada compared taking up Krishna consciousness to declaring war on maya, the energy of the Lord that keeps us in material illusion. Our mind and senses naturally want to rebel when we try to engage them in devotional service after lifetimes of rejecting Krishna. We must be determined to, as Prabhupada would say, “do the routine work” of regulated bhakti-yoga.

Fortified with enthusiasm and determination, we might expect overnight success, but the transformation from “me” consciousness to Krishna consciousness takes time. So we need to be patient. Patience is not a quality our modern lives tend to inspire. Today we Ecan get almost anything we want very quickly. But material things are impermanent, and therefore not of ultimate value. Being patient about reaching the perfection of Krishna consciousness shows that we truly appreciate its value. As Prabhupada repeatedly told us, “Don’t take it as a cheap thing.”

There’s simply nothing more valuable than entering our relationship with Krishna. Our longing for it and our determination to work for it for many lifetimes, if need be, are the attitudes that will inspire Krishna to grant us His priceless company.

  • Nagaraja Dasa