We cannot recognize God simply by seeing from our eyes. We’ve to also see from the heart. The Brahma Samhita (5.38) describes, “I worship the primeval Lord, Govinda, who is always seen by the devotee whose eyes are anointed with the pulp of love. He is seen in His eternal form of Krishna situated within the heart of the devotee”
A neophyte spiritualist is often attracted by the external grandeur of temple worship. A real bhakti yogi, cultivating genuine devotion and selfless service attitude is able to appreciate the Lord both within the beautiful and elaborate worship in a big temple as well as in a simple setting. His conscious cultivation of faith, gratitude and service attitude makes the heart soft and a fertile ground; the seed of bhakti grows luxuriantly in such a heart. Such a practitioner sees from the heart and is able to appreciate Krishna even if He appears in a materially unattractive form.
For example the Lord often appears as shaligram shilas, traditionally worshipped in many Indian homes. The shilas appear to be ordinary black stones to our mundane vision. However a sincere spiritualist, hearing from the revealed scriptures and leading a life based on service and gratitude is filled with reverential love and devotion when serving these forms of the Lord. The Indian scriptures also describe the Lord appearing as Varaha, a boar incarnation. Ordinarily a boar is ugly; most people aren’t attracted by the hooves, paws and hairs on the hog’s body. A devotee of Krishna however sees this form of the Lord as transcendental, for his vision is impelled by the inner mood of devotion and service. Just as a dog is able to recognize his master in whichever form he appears; sometimes in a suit, at other times in sports gear or even in underwear, similarly a devotee is able to recognize God in whatever form He appears.
In the modern times the Lord kindly appears as Holy Names and a beginner maybe attracted only by the melodious rendition of the chant. However a sincere devotee chants the Holy Names with faith, feeling the presence of the Lord always irrespective of whether the singing is externally melodious or not. In the devotional town of Vrindavan, it would be a common sight to see some old couple singing alone and aloud in a deserted temple or courtyard. Externally the chanting may appear uncoordinated and off beat but a sincere hearer can see that this singing of the Holy Names is imbued with deep devotion. On the other hand one devoid of faith, gratitude and servitude is unable to recognize God even if He were to appear in His externally most beautiful form of Krishna. When Krishna performed miraculous pastimes in Vrindavan and Dwaraka, the likes of Kamsa, Shishupal, Duryodhana and Jarasandha couldn’t recognize His Supremacy. That’s because they had closed their hearts and didn’t attempt to see Lord through the vision of servitude.
The vision of the heart also helps one see God during inevitable tragedies and death. 34 year old Stoka Krishna das, a member of our congregation was dying of cancer, yet with profuse gratitude accepted the fatal disease as a blessing of the Lord. It was evident to all who knew him that he came closer to Krishna during this tragedy, and was able to see and appreciate Lord better than most of us.
Therefore the foundational substance of our spiritual lives is the qualities of faith, gratitude and service attitude. It’s when we cultivate these qualities that we develop the required vision to see Krishna at all places and in all situations of our lives.