Krishna consciousness is attractive, yet one needs to be attentive in his or her practises. Otherwise a life centred on sense gratification lures us to give up our spiritual practises; slowly, but surely one could abandon Krishna for maya, the illusory energy of the Lord.
Just as a person suffering from typhoid is diagnosed by the symptoms he exhibits, a person suffering from lack of taste in Krishna consciousness and on the verge of a fall down, can be recognized by these four symptoms.
The fifth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam reveals the plight of Emperor Bharat who relinquished his unparalleled wealth and position as the ruler of this planet to practise exclusive devotional service to God. He reached the Pulaha ashrama on the banks of river Gandaki and performed rigorous austerities and rituals remembering the Lord. By his sincerity he reached the stage of Bhava, the preliminary stage of love of godhead, and showed ecstatic symptoms of love for God. Tears of affection for the Lord automatically swelled up in his eyes and his body trembled in ecstacy as he thought of the Lord’s various pastimes. Although he reached such a rare, exalted stage in his spiritual practises, yet he fell down from his position.
We could learn from his mistakes.
One day as he was performing his daily practises, he saw a pregnant doe terrified by the roaring of a lion, and she immediately delivered her child that fell into the river. While the mother died, the baby deer was swept by the river’s strong current. Instantly Bharat Maharaj leapt into the river and saved the newborn.
Feeling compassion for the young deer that was rendered motherless, Bharat took care of her by tending to the smallest of the needs of the animal. While the act of compassion is glorious, in the process, he reduced his own spiritual practises. He spent a good amount of time petting and caressing the deer, collecting food for the animal, playing with it and soon his distraction caused him to forget his basic spiritual practises.
Just as a strong wind may pull away the plane from its course but the pilot expertly redirects it on course, similarly it’s natural that the distractions and temptations of this world pull away even a sincere practitioner from his spiritual program. Yet his glory is in coming back on track. However Bharat Maharaj failed to redirect the lost plane of his consciousness back to absorption in the Lord. He began to justify his lower standards saying it’s natural and reasonable to reduce one’s spiritual standards for the glorious service of taking care of a helplessly dependent animal such as this innocent deer.
He forgot that he had left his huge palace and riches for pursuing God realization but now a small deer had clouded his intelligence so much that he justified his reduced spiritual standards.
Once we reduce our standards and worse we give excuses to justify it then it’s natural that our little spiritual practises we are performing would be a mechanical affair. Bharat Maharaj was so absorbed in remembering the deer that while plucking flowers for his worship of the Lord, he thought of the little animal. He closed his eyes in meditation of the Lord, but thought of the deer. Then as the little animal came close to him expecting affection, he feigned absorption in his practise, while he stole glances at his pet. He then placed the deer on his lap, and performed a cursory ritual of worship.
If our practises are ritualistic, it’s a matter of time before we feel choked up in its execution. We’d wish we were doing something else rather than these practises where anyway our mind is not absorbed. Bharat Maharaj felt restless when he saw his deer was missing. He could no longer do even the basic spiritual functions; he was desperate to be reunited with the deer, and searched for her everywhere. He gave up his practises and felt restless in his ashram. Soon remembering the deer, he gave up his body.
Since while dying he remembered the animal, he was born as a deer in his next life. However due to his sincere practises, he was awarded the remembrance of his lapse of previous life and eventually he perfected his life.
Still for sincere spiritual practitioners the dangers on the path are clear. If we reduce our standards or worse justify it and allow our practises to become a ritualistic affair, we’d soon become restless in Krishna consciousness. We’d then prefer to live outside the association of devotees and eventually give up our Krishna conscious practise.
The episode of Bharat Maharaj’s fall down teaches us to be careful and attentive in our spiritual practises.
“From this we can understand how we have to be very cautious in executing our spiritual duties by observing the rules and regulations and regularly chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra. If we neglect doing this, we will eventually fall down. We must rise early in the morning, bathe, attend mangal-aarati, worship the Deities, chant the Hare Krishna mantra, study the Vedic literatures and follow all the rules prescribed by the acharyas and the spiritual master. If we deviate from this process, we may fall down, even though we may be very highly advanced…. One should not think oneself very advanced simply because one has accepted the sannyasa order. The activities of Bharata Maharaj should be carefully studied for one’s spiritual advancement.”
– Srila Prabhupada (in purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 5.8.9)