“It’s All Up To Krishna’s Mercy, Prabhu”

There is a very prevalent notion that we will attain self-realization / enlightenment / liberation / Vaikunṭha / Vraja Prema (call it what suits you best) by the mercy of Krishna / Rādhā / Guru / Vaiṣṇava alone. “It’s all up to the mercy of the Lord.”

This is wrong.

If our enlightenment is up to Krishna, then why are we not enlightened? It would have to be that he wants us to suffer? He can enlighten us whenever he likes, but he doesn’t – so what would that say about him? He prefers us to be ignorant and unfulfilled? What kind of “Supreme Person” is that? That is obviously wrong.

It is true that enlightenment/ prema cannot be generated by the individual soul. But it is not true that the individual soul has nothing to do with attaining enlightenment / prema. A cup, for example, does not create water – but it would be ridiculous to say that the cup has nothing to do with a cup full of water. The individual soul is consciousness, which is like a “cup” for knowledge (vijñāna) and love (prema). The soul cannot generate pure knowledge or pure love on its own, but that doesn’t mean it’s own efforts and constitution have nothing to do with its attainment of enlightenment / prema!

Our “cup” has its open end facing the wrong way. It points down, away from the flow of divine knowledge and love. Therefore it doesn’t fill up. Our job, our effort is to turn the cup around – set it right-side-up, and then the downpour of divine mercy fills it!

It is not anyone else’s job or capacity to turn the cup around. Only the cup can set itself right-side-up. The “cup” is consciousness, which is synonymous with will. Krishna has established eternally independent conscious-wills (“souls”), and does not tamper with their individual will. Only we can adjust our own consciousness by our own will. We cannot produce divine knowledge or prema, but we can (and must!) adjust our own consciousness so that it “points the right way” to receive the constant flow of divine knowledge and prema that springs from the Original Person, Śrī Krishna.

The Goswāmī’s discuss this pretty thoughly when they define sādhana-bhakti, because sādhana-bhakti is an EFFORT, a “work” we perform. So they question whether this effort and work actually CREATES the goal (bhāva- and prema-bhakti) or if there is some other factor involved. Their answer is that our efforts do not literally create the goal (divine love), but they create receptivity in ourselves which can then absorb the goal (divine love), which descends out of compassion, mercy, grace.

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  1. Thank you for taking the time out to write this!
    I was wondering: do you think it’s true that Krishna, upon seeing our receptivity, takes special care to maintain our interest, so-to-speak, and inspire us further? I have a feeling the answer is yes… So, I guess my question is, do you mind explaining how Krishna personally responds to our receptivity in a way that differs from the way a mundane person might respond to receptivity?


    1. Sometimes I want to say yes… sometimes I want to say no. It’s “yes” because certainly Krishna is very affectionate and will more than generously return any affection and attention. But it’s “no” for two reasons: (1) Even after a few decades of trying, I don’t know if I’ve really, REALLY, paid any true, pure attention to Krishna or given any affection truly to him, and (2) What we may think would be “inspiring” might actually be inspiring an impurity in us taking the guise of Krishna bhakti. So sometimes we think we are being ignored or mistreated, but actually that itself may be the main required inspiration for us at that time.

      I don’t think Krishna is fundamentally different from the other individual consciousness. He is just the original and the focal point of us all, but our qualities are mostly the same. He just has them in full and without the impurity of selfishness.


      1. Thank you for your response and for the reminder that Krishna is not selfish! Such a humbling remark. Do you mind explaining what you mean by point “(2)”? I’m confused as to how something we consider inspiring could inspire an impurity that takes the guise of Krishna bhakti.


          1. I feel like Krishna knows that we have egos, and, despite that, He gives us service in appreciation for our service to Him. Like, He doesn’t condemn us for having egos… What do you think?
            Perhaps the most important thing we have to focus on is “turn[ing] the cup around” like you mentioned!


          2. He doesn’t condemn. I agree. But this is different from being pleased. We will be blissful when we PLEASE Krishna. Not being despised or condemned is not the same accomplishment, especially since one of the core qualities of avid is absolute neutrality- and therefore not despising or condemning ANYONE.


  2. I like the point about our goal is not to not be condemned, rather to please Krishna. What do you think about asking Krishna for forgiveness? Does this please Krishna? Is it conducive to spiritual life?
    Lastly, I am confused by your use of the word avid. Did you mean something else?


    1. Nyasa! “Avid” was an iPhone typo for “God”.

      Its natural to ask a person you love for their forgiveness… a lot. That’s nice. If its done from love (“I wish I did more for you”) then its very pleasing and conducive.


  3. Thank you 🙂
    If you don’t mind, I had one more question… Is Krishna humble? He is the most of so many things and qualities. Is one of his qualities also humility?

    When I introspect deeply, I find myself finding it very difficult to give myself fully to the Person who doesn’t really seem He needs me, anyway… since He has so much already.
    Lots of ego involved here, I suppose, on my part.


    1. Yes, he is exceptionally humble. Sri Rupa Goswami has made a point of it when describing Krishna in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu. Because he is the Supreme, he reconciles apparent opposites – thus he is exceptionally humble and also can be exceptionally bold and proud. This is possible in him because he is everything. But the fundamental nature of him is humility. It is the fundamental good quality, and also the foundation of love – which is the whole purpose of his existence.

      I encourage you to read my translations of Srimad Bhagavatam (see the books on http://www.vrajakishor.com). You will see his deep, deep humility every time he speaks. I particularly love how he speaks with the Four Kumara and Jaya/Vijaya in the Third Canto (“Varaha, Vidura, & Kapila” is the title of that book).

      Krishna may not seem to need us, but we need him. And when we recognize this, we discover that he creates in himself a need for us. The universe is not simply a gigantic place measured by light-years, it is also a tiny thing confined to the four walls of whatever room you happen to be in. God is not just gigantic, he is also minute. In our relationship with the divine, we don’t assemble in Yankee Stadium, the setting is always small and intimate (at least for those of us who will realize the divine as Krishna).


  4. Thank you so much! Yeah, it takes a lot for me to feel that I have a one-on-one relationship with Krishna– every once in a while I get a taste.

    How do we understand that Krishna is everything when there is so much ungodliness in the world? ie anger, lust, violence, etc.


    1. The Sun creates shadow by its absence. When things obstruct the sunlight there is darkness. Evil is the result of clashing of wills. Wills clash when they don’t have a common center. This is a world of jīvas – each with their own center, naturally there will be evil, clashing, violence.

      Why do such jīvas exist. Because Krishna manifests the multitudes of consciousness, and consciousness inherently has freedom to focus on whatever it wants. Naturally, some minority of the multitudes of consciousness will not focus on the natural center (the origin of consciousness, Krishna), but will look away, hoping to find their own centers.


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