About 15 minutes ago a respectable friend of mine told me that he is going to a university to explain Krsna-Consciousness to a group of students with little to no prior exposure to it or even to global religions. He asked for my suggestion on a class outline. Here is what I came up with.
1) What is the meaning of life?
Let them offer suggestions.
Then say “Raso Vai Sah” and “Ananda Moya Abhyasat” and explain that Vedic wisdom says that the meaning of life is to relish joy and bliss – to be happy.
Suggest that the validity of this answer is self-evident.
2) Explain the 4 goals of life, as different milestones or facets of understanding how to attain that goal.
Kama – happiness through sensations, Artha – happiness through security (to stabilize our ability to enjoy quality sensations), Dharma – happiness through morality (to cooperate with one another so that no one wants, and thus no one steals our enjoyable sensations), and Moksha – happiness through enlightenment (to attain an enjoyable sensation beyond the confinement of this world, i.e. time).
3) Explain the 5th goals of life, Prema.
After exploring all 4 goals we evolve to understand that joy does not come by having enjoyment, rather it comes by giving enjoyment. Prema means, love, and love is the desire to give enjoyment to the beloved.
4) Explain the proper vishaya for prema.
Once we understand love it also has to evolve to find the most joyous and blissful person to love (“Vishaya”). First we will love a limited person, but (a) that excludes other persons, and (b) that person is temporary and (c) that person has faults. Eventually to fully realize the meaning of life we seek love of God.
5) Explain the 5 stages of love of God.
At first love of god is merely an awestruck wonder at God’s position – shanta rasa. Then it can evolve to actually interacting with that awe-inspiring and worshipable being – dasya rasa.
These are the common conceptions of God, but beyond that are secret conceptions that are rare. The 3rd stage is where love of Godhead evolves so that we interact with Godhead without the limitations imposed on the relationship as a result of God beings so, “God-like” and imposing. This is Sakhya Rasa.
It can evolve beyond that so that the love intensifies so much that one expresses superiority to the beloved and takes care of him like a parent takes care of a child. This is Vatsalya Rasa.
It can finally evolve to the most intimate state, in which there are no limitations whatsoever on the intimacy of one’s joyous blissful loving relationship with God. This is romantic divine love – the sweetest bliss – therefore called Madhurya Rasa.
Mention that there are further evolutions within that category beyond the scope of current discussion.
6) Name the Vishaya.
There are various forms of Godhead to reciprocate with various people in various relationships. But the higher three relationships become more exclusively focused on the original, intimate form of Godhead known as Krsna, the “all attractive.” Krsna is Godhead at his most open and intimate.
7) Now the sadhya (goal) as been explained, so next explain the sadhana (means to achieve it): Nothing but love creates love. Therefore to attain divine love one needs only to practice it. (sadhana-bhakti-yoga).
The practice mainly centers on Sravana-Kirtana-Smarana: hearing about the beloved, and speaking about the beloved – with the effect of remembering the beloved.
There are many ways of doing this, but extra emphasis is given on the most effective way: nama-sankirtana – coming together with others who desire to love Krsna and together singing and listening to songs about Krsna, especially about his sweet name.
There is one particular Mantra, the “maha-mantra” especially suited and empowered for this practice:
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna
Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama, Hare Hare