Following Rules

Doubt: I’ve found in the past, when I try to follow the rules of a particular tradition, at some point I lose interest and they cease to have the allure they once did: they lose their magic and/or I lose my passion.

My Reply:

We have to pay attention to following the rules effectively – not just checking them off when we mimic the external form. If we follow a rule effectively, we should get the promised result.

Following a rule should give a result.

When we follow a rule, we can evaluate the result and come to one of four conclusions:

  1. This rule doesn’t give the promised result – it’s bunk!
  2. This rule hasn’t yet given the promised result, but I’m still not sure if it’s bunk. Maybe I don’t understand the rule deeply and am not practicing it effectively. I should get some guidance and clarity, and then see if I get the result.
  3. This rule gives the promised result!  But I realize now that I don’t really need this result.
  4. This rule gives the promised result, and I love it! I’ll stick with it to get more of the same.

The rules (practices) of bhakti promise to result in nitya-siddha-bhāva – eternally, effortlessly perfect ecstacy, joy.

“Nitya siddhasya bhāvasya prākaṭyaṁ hṛdi sadhyatā.” The rules (practices) of bhakti promise to result in eternally perfect joy.  No one abandons joy. We abandon promises of joy that don’t seem to deliver. We abandon results that aren’t truly joyous. But no one ever abandons joy.

If we are not getting joy from following the rules of bhakti, we have those four conclusions to consider:

Is the rule bunk? Maybe. Maybe it was made up by someone recent and inexperienced – and not one of the original 64 practices enumerated by Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī, etc. How do we know? Well, we should research, and not expect the perfect sādhana and siddhānta to be hand delivered on a silver spoon to us as we lounge about in lotus posture. Still, one shortcut is, if sādhus follow the same rule and seem to taste profound joy in it – it’s probably not bunk. (You can’t always rely on this shortcut, though, because you may not be experienced enough to differentiate a real sādhu from an imposter, or real joy from its imitation. So you should always combine this shortcut with the longcut of actual reasarch of the śāstra and its explanations by the ācāryas).

If I have good reason to believe the rule is not bunk, maybe my understanding of it is wrong? I should get better guidence and try to figure out how my understanding and implementation of the rule differs from how those sādhus understand and implement it.

If I get that guidance and still can’t get the result, I am more inclined to consider the rule “bunk” but if my research proves me wrong (i.e. the successful ācāryas followed and recommended this rule, and I see contemporary sādhus successfully employing the rule), then I conclude that the rule may be grand, but isn’t appropriate or plausible for me as an individual at this particular point in my life. I should try to find a more appropriate and realistic rule/practice of bhakti and focus on that.

If I follow the most appropriate rule, with good guidance and sincerity, I should very soon, if not immediately, get the result: joy which is far superior to any other joy I’ve experienced elsewhere. If somehow I can’t get this result, I have to conclude that either the bhakti-mārga is junk (which is difficult to do after some exposure to the sādhus and ācāryas) or that I need to focus initially on a different mārga (“path”) like the more science-meditation-oriented paths of jñāna-mārga or the more religion-deeds-oriented paths of karma-marga.

But this would not be an expected outcome. With the right guidence, anyone can quickly experience the superior joy of bhakti by applying themselves to the key practices/rules.

If I follow the most appropriate rule, with good guidance and sincerity, I should very soon, if not immediately, get the result: joy which is far superior to any other joy I’ve experienced elsewhere.

In conclusion: Following rules is not enough. Following rules effectively and getting the result is what we are after! We need more than rules, we need results. No rule will get boring or seem impossible to stick to if it gives the result it promised.

 We need more than rules, we need results.

Guidance is always the first priority in following any rule, because without guidance it is very unlikely that we will apply the rule effectively.

The five most important sādhanas are the best rules to focus on because they give the most profound results, and do so the most quickly.

Vraja Kishor das


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