Did Krishna Build a One-way Staircase?
Posted October 2, 2012
I wanted to bring up in a public forum the subject of seeking shelter after falling away from the pure path, with the hope that it will generate some discussion. It is not my intention to criticize ISKCON in any way.
What would the world be without the presence of pure bhakti? The commitment and dedication that is exhibited by the devotees to the path of bhakti is extraordinary and inspiring. So many of us who have fallen away from the strict practice of devotional service still depend on the presence of ISKCON in one way or another as our spiritual sustenance. But at the same time, so many of us are isolated and have very little, if any, direct association with the movement.
The staircase analogy used to represent the ascension on the path to Krishna is seemingly a one-way street, and the falldown from whatever step you may have ascended to is often a fall that descends over many of the steps that you so smoothly ascended. The unfortunate reality is that most of the people who pursue the path of bhakti go through this experience. More people, by far, have left the movement than have been able or willing to stick with it, as those in the movement are painfully aware.
Is there something in the sastras that could provide some relief to this category of people? It seems like it's "pure bhakti or bust." There must be more alternatives available to assist those that have fallen away from the movement to stay on a more progressive path. There must be some rules of engagement for those practitioners that are unable to maintain the pure path, that still hold Vaishnavism in the highest regard yet do not hide the fact that their commitment is on a lower level.
Do the demigods as Vaishnavas provide shelter on the progressive path when approached in the proper manner? If we worship them as Vaishnavas, rather than just asking them for benedictions, will they not give us shelter on the progressive path? Is it proper to worship Lord Brahma as a Maha-bhagavat? Is it proper to worship Lord Shiva as Parama-Vaishnava? There must be some recommended service or engagement in the sastras that parallels the gradient levels of mixed bhakti for those that find pure devotional service out of reach.
Is it proper to keep chanting Hare Krishna while maintaining a regimen of fruitive activities? I have often asked devotees this question, and they have always said to keep chanting Hare Krishna no matter what. But maintaining material attachments while chanting Hare Krishna is one of the ten offenses and is a time bomb that will inevitably explode. There must be some form of authorized shelter on the progressive path that allows those on a lower level to find shelter. I just wish that there was some way to organize those of us that are like-minded and have fallen from the pure path. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of us.
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