By Kesava Krsna dasa
If crying is the preserve of advanced devotees steeped in devotional mellows, should it bother us to display a show of apparent weakness? Shedding tears in lamentation, as a plea for sympathy, as ostentatious syrupy hype or as a tantrum disguised as frustration, can all be good enough reasons not to appear less than masculine.
Yet tears are required while treading the path of devotion. For the ‘average’ practitioner who plods along, pacing himself as if running a super life-long marathon, conserving his serious energy for a later time, the need for earnestness can be a zealous overstated subject matter. We may feel bombarded hearing sermons given by serious preachers who tell the rest of us to get serious. But sometimes the truth hurts.
With this in mind, are there any grounds for crying for Krsna? If we fall far short of Lord Chaitanya’s standard of – vipralambha-seva, what on earth can behoove us to weep? Yes, we may shed tears of gratitude to the spiritual master who has kindly accepted us into the spiritual fold. We will bereave the passing of a vaisnava. With a heart softened due to devotional practices and good association, we may feel for those who are immersed in deluding pursuits. “But crying for Krsna?” one may ask. “Am I ready for this? Perhaps if I receive some special mercy I will understand the need for it.”
Srila Prabhupada writes in the NOD page 83: “….one should learn how to cry for the Lord. One should learn this small technique, and he should be very eager and actually cry to become engaged in some particular type of service. This is called laulyam, and such tears are the price for the highest perfection.” Given this information, one may ask how and when to cry? Does such a small technique justify a mention since it is not a frequently discussed topic?
It is undoubtedly a necessity for all serious spiritual aspirants. A serious devotee knows that the teachings of Lord Chaitanya embody all his aspirations. NOD page 82/83 says: “Lord Chaitanya also desired that “a moment will appear to Me as twelve years of time, and the whole world will appear to Me as vacant on account of not seeing You, my dear Lord.” This is the teaching of all great devotees, especially Lord Chaitanya.”
It is obvious however that until we have a semblance of Krsna-prema, any show of crying for Krsna is going to be sham imitation, or not? How can we feel separation as intensely as Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu? There is a way, and it is available for all. The answer is found in just that – devotional service, added to the fact that devotional service and Krsna are the same. We hear so much about the Lotus Feet of the Lord and wanting to see Him.
In the purport to SB 1.6.22 Srila Prabhupada says: “One can go on increasing his hankering for the loving transcendental service of the Lord, and yet he will not find satiation or end. By intense service of the Lord, one can experience the presence of the Lord transcendentally. Therefore seeing the Lord means being engaged in His service because His service and His person are identical.”
Once we have a grasp of this understanding, a problem would arise if we are unable to be engaged, either because of an unsteady mind, lack of desire, complacency, satiation, offences and other causes. These are certainly reasons to cry.
In TLC Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says to Srila Sanatana Goswami: “Activities in devotional service increase the sense of devotional service. What else is there for two eyes to see beyond the face of Krsna? Since one cannot adequately see Krsna with only two eyes, one feels incapable and thus becomes bereaved.” Though this is an elevated expression, the lesson for us is to feel deprived in the absence of devotional service. With such awareness we can more understand what great souls undergo when feeling separated from the Lord.
One may surmise “Yes! This is all very nice. But I have been around for some time now. I chant my rounds and attend temple functions, I have my dear circle of friends and my social status is stable. My integrity is intact and I am reasonably well respected by my peers and juniors. I am happy as I am.” While this is laudable in terms of assurance, of knowing that ones path back to Godhead is more or less assured, it could indicate a static state of affairs. NOD page 107 states: “For persons who are not inclined to clear the dust from their hearts who want to keep things as they are, it is not possible to derive the transcendental result of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra.”
Clearly, emphasis is put on continual forward progress. TLC page 169 says: “In every practice there is some endeavor, and the ultimate endeavor is the endeavor to reach the highest perfectional stage of devotional service.” If we have no desire to endeavor this way it is a pitiable condition. To cry for such a resolve is required.
In many situations the need to feelingly appeal to the Lord for leverage in bhakti are instances of being away from Krsna and His service. We can never get close enough. BG 10.10 refers to such continuity with the words – satatam yuktanam – to be always engaged. If ever we flounder without guiding intelligence, Srila Prabhupada answers in the purport to this verse: “The qualification is that a person always engages himself in Krsna consciousness and with love and devotion render all kinds of services.” The word love implies a selfless act. To be constantly selfless requires eagerness, the same price to pay for success in spiritual life.
Lord Krsna also says – ananya manaso – without deviation in BG 9.13 and – satatam kirtayanto mam – always chanting my glories in BG 9.14. To understand this constancy we can learn from the effects of unbridled lust which has no satiation, which when transformed into real love towards Krsna, also has no satiation.
When Lord Chaitanya laments; durdaivim idrsam ihajani nanuragah – “I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them [holy names].” No one in their right mind will accuse the Lord of lacking in taste. Rather, He was so blissful yet cannot get enough ecstasy hence His mourning. When Srimate Radharani is being embraced by Krsna She feels the utmost happiness, yet allowing some anxiety to creep in about impending separation enhances Her ecstasy even more.
Crying for Krsna is an internal way of beseeching the Lord for empathy and strength to be constant in practice. It is a private matter, unless one is lucky to have like-minded friends with whom to confide, and who understand each other. To be seen wailing during japa time is asking to be labeled a sahajiya. Seriously correcting wayward intentions can mean the difference between positive or negative advancement. TLC page 143 says “When conditions are favorable, a pure devotee laughs, and when emotions are not favorable, he cries.”
Even if we perform favorable devotional service, our determination may be deficient. We often hear or read the word ‘intense’ used regarding serious practice to bolster our progress. Whenever we not feel like reading, chanting or other such activities, we should be concerned. Conversely we can never ever read enough, or chant enough or do enough of any service in Bhakti due to its unlimited nature. Thinking like this will keep us motivated to progress incessantly, and crying to attain such constancy is a purifying deed.
If great fortune allows us to elevate our desires from average to eager, this small technique of crying will manifest what Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu says to Sanatana Goswami “All devotees of Krsna in full Krsna consciousness are free from all kinds of material pleasures and miseries. They are fully absorbed in the service of the Lord, and they are always jolly by virtue of their engagement in His transcendental service. They are experienced men of happiness.”