Sanatana Dharma has a rich tradition of many devis and devatas, who are worshipped and/or propitiated in a number of different ways. Gyana or the path of knowledge, Karma or the path of selfless action, and Yoga or the path of energy and breathwork are some of the paths that have been pursued over the ages. A question that often comes up is, which is the best way to attain God, and Shri Krishna answers this in the Bhagavad Gita, where He says in Ch 18 v66, “Abandoning all observances, be they of body, mind or intellect, take refuge in Me alone; I will liberate you, grieve not.” This direct instruction from the Lord himself has been the cornerstone of the Bhakti movement, expounded by saints like Mira, Kabir, and more recently Srila Prabhupada.
In his Bhakti Sutras, Maharishi Narada defines Bhakti as being of the nature of the highest love for God, and upon attaining which, one becomes free of all worldly attachments and is able to single-pointedly revel in the beauty and silence of the divine nectar that is the Self. Such is the all-consuming power of Bhakti, the principle tenet of which is the ultimate surrender to God and revering all that comes one’s way as Prasad, or the will of the divine.
History is replete with stories of the power that this complete surrender to the divine brings, and one that comes to mind is Srila Prabhupada, who whilst having received instruction from his Guru at a young age, dedicated himself fully after retiring from service, taking Sanyas at the ripe age of 69. This was however no typical retirement, as he set off on his first voyage, taking the message of his Guru to American shores. Despite suffering a number of health setbacks during his travels, his total surrender to the will of Krishna didn’t let this deter him. He set up the first temple in a shop that he managed to rent with the help of the young student following that he gathered during his time in New York.
Today, the ISKCON movement is global, having garnered support from celebrities like the Beatles, with George Harrison famously donating a mansion towards the cause of establishing the resplendent Bhaktivedanta Manor in the south of England. The simplicity of the Hare Krishna maha mantra has attracted devotees in the hundreds of thousands. So in these stressful times, if you find yourself reaching for a spiritual practice, but are confused, start simple and chant the maha mantra, and don’t miss this chance to experience the descent of peace and the grace that follows.