Spiritual path, especially the path of renunciation, is like walking on a razor’s edge. A slight inattention and you could bleed. Lack of care in our daily spiritual practises could almost instantly lead to contamination of our consciousness. From a happy life of remembering and serving Krishna, in no time we could be forgetful of our spiritual purpose and land up serving the illusions that we left long behind.
Lessons from history
Imagine if this planet were to be known by the name of a king or president of some country, what would be his power and charisma. Today there is none who would be accepted by all the six billion humans populating this planet. Yet Bharat Maharaj had the influence and strength to be accepted by one and all. He ruled the entire planet earth and by his super excellent qualities the world came to be known as Bharat. Even millions of years later, today, the country of India is still known as Bharat after him.
Besides being the most powerful ruler he also possessed attractive spiritual qualities. That’s how he could easily renounce his kingdom. Srimad Bhagavatam describes being an undisputed emperor of the planet he had access to unimaginable opulence. Yet he easily gave up all of it just as a person after evacuating doesn’t look back at his stool. (Srimad Bhagavatam 5.14.43). He went to the forest and made a small hut for himself and performed devotional service to the Lord. In his spiritual practises he reached the stage of Bhava, the preliminary stage of pure love of God. This is a rare stage of perfection achieved by very few spiritualists and is just one step before Prema, the culmination of all spiritual activities.
One day Bharat saw a baby deer drowning in the nearby river and saved it. He gave shelter to the deer in his ashram and eventually got so attached to it that he reduced his spiritual practises in preference to serving the doe. His prayers and worship became ritualistic and was totally distracted from his goal. Eventually one day the deer was missing, and being restless in separation from it, Bharat searched everywhere. Wandering about in the forest, talking like a mad man, he gave up his life remembering the deer.
Maya doesn’t spare
It’s sobering to know that a person of such calibre as Bharat Maharaj also had difficulties in his spiritual life, and he slipped away. The temptations and distractions threaten to take you away from Krishna even if you are as advanced as Bharat Maharaj. The material energy doesn’t discriminate between a new devotee and a seasoned one, and none are spared of her scrutiny. All are susceptible to illusion. Srila Prabhupada writes that maya or illusion never gives up on us because she wants to test whether we want to serve Krishna or disturb Him.
“Maya will test us to see how firmly we are fixed in Krishna consciousness. Because she is also an agent of Krishna, she does not allow anyone the freedom to disturb Krishna. Therefore she tests very rigidly to see whether we have taken to Krishna consciousness to disturb Krishna or are actually serious. That is Maya’s business.” (Srila Prabhupada in Teachings of Queen Kunti)
Even Lord Chaitanya’s own personal associate Kala Krishna dasa was allured by a nomadic gypsy group called the Bhattharis. Being tempted with their wealth and women, he gave up the wonderful opportunity to personally serve the Lord in exchange of insignificant pleasures of this material world.
Of course later both Bharat Maharaj and Kala Krishna dasa were saved by the Lord and that’s a subject of discussion for another time.
But here we can learn the importance of being alert in our Krishna consciousness. I remind myself the famous words of Winston Churchill who said, “Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat it”
Even the mighty and powerful could slip away when inattentive to the purpose. And these lessons from history given in scriptures are only meant to alarm a spiritual practitioner and make us determined in our practises.