I remember an argument where my dad asked, “Love God? How can we love God? He is not here, like you or your mom. We should love each other! That’s how we should love God.”
I’m sure my answer again didn’t thrill him. I think I brought up one of Prabhupāda’s analogies about watering the root of a plant, not the leaves. The idea is that if we love God we love everyone, just like watering the root of a plant nourishes all the leaves, but if we try to love individuals independently from God its like trying to water a leaf individually – neither the plant nor the leaf benefits.
Dad saw this as an excuse to ignore real people for the sake of imaginary love of an imaginary person. “What are you talking about?” He blurted out. “I can show love to you directly, without needing to love your through someone else!”
And so again, our argument just wound up as a mess: Him frustrated, me stubborn, mom petrified.
Today I know that “loving God” is simple and doesn’t demand that I adopt behaviors and social affiliations that completely ostracize my family and friends. All I need to do is pay attention to God.
Ironically, the Hare Krishna’s who definitely led me to believe that I had to radically turn my entire life upside down and inside out before I could really love God are the same Hare Krishna’s who gave me the simplest, most wonderful and beautiful way to easily and purely give loving attention to God without having to turn anything upside down or inside out: by just focusing on God’s very intimate and personal names in a simple and catchy mantra:
hare krishna, hare krishna, krishna krishna, hare hare
hare rāma, hare rāma, rāma rāma, hare hare
Maybe the idea was supposed to be that I could focus non-stop on this mantra – and thus love God non-stop – if I would abandon everyone and everything else and run away to a temple. That’s a valid idea, but I have to wonder why no one really stopped to point out that I should probably try to concentrate completely on this mantra for even five minutes a day (rather than just rattling it off with next to zero focus or comprehension) before imitating a person who is ready to do throw the world into a waste-bucket and do it twenty-four hours a day.