Faiths may change; once I was a Christian, now I am a Hindu, etc. That kind of faith, that kind of sectarian material designation has nothing to do with the development of pure God Consciousness - Krishna Consciousness. From our understanding the development of God or Krishna consciousness, being conscious of God is something that can be sought after by anyone. He is the Lord of EVERYONE, and EVERYONE is under His creation, dominion and care. Some may not accept this, and think themselves independent, just like a rebellious son thinks himself independent of the law or of his father. Often it takes some "wake-up call" to enable such people to realise that they are still under the plan of the Lord, and knowing each and every one of us individually He knows just how to invoke us, or incite us to respond to realising just how dependent we really are. That in itself creates soul-searching, which in due course creates faith - not sectarian faith but real faith.
Vedic scripture mentions that for each and every one of us there comes a time when we cry out in desperation, "There has to be something more than this........!" Then simultaneously, light thunder and lightning the Lord sends the guide and the guide manual to reclaim His now seeking and dependent devotee. Bhagavad Gita says there are four kinds of people who go in search of the Absolute Truth, and this crying out is the beginning stage of that.
Then after searching a little more among the information that we have received, some direction becomes manifest. It is not a serendipity or coincidence, this is what we asked for in our "Hour of need". Just like in India in 1971 when the India Pakistan war was going on, the communists were spreading their anti-God propaganda. The people were starving for want of food and then praying to God, their only hope. The ICP and Naxilites told them, why you waste so much time praying to God, He will not supply bread and rice, but we will, come to us and we will give. But the men of faith gave thanks to the Lord, "Thank You Lord for sending bread and rice through the hands of the communists!"
In the initial stages it takes some Faith to approach the devotees and to enquire. That Faith is a VERY big step. All humans at some stage of their lives come to a point where in frustration they cry out, "There must be something more than this!!!" Then at that time the Lord recognising their sincere enquiry sends His representative, and the guide manual to get one back on the right road.
If we can take positive advantage of these gifts, the guide and the guide manual, they can help us in re-establishing our link to the Supreme Lord. this association is so important - "A man is known by his association" - the free choice is ours. The choice is also made through the purity of our desires and God given intelligence, and affected by our previous karmas. So where we are, and what we are experiencing is what is meant to be.
There is an interesting little story that brings out how we deal with the association that we have, or get. Once there was a Rabbi in the forest, who was renown as a learned and great person. Nearby there were some communities that were struggling, and unconsciously keeping people at a distance. Why was the way that they interacted. their mood was focused on materialistic goals and mundane individual achievement - get what you want out of life at any cost..... that was the mood.
The Rabbi's mood was that of if he could help anyone then he would. He was an ever well wisher of all beings, a friend to everyone, and shelter of all. If someone took one step to approach him, he would take 100 steps to help them.
He had learnt the differences between so-called friendship of the material world that resembles a bucket of poison with milk on top - as soon as there's some friction to the vessel the real nature of the contents of the bucket is revealed - "I remember the time when you....."
Also he could recognise the differences between those ordinary associates and those of a working friendship - which has commitment to the work, the mission, etc., even if the individuals themselves are not so mature to associate with integrity and commitment.
Being recognised for his learning in these ways members of nearby communities approached him for help, and asking that he become their Messiah, leader, Guru and guide.
The Rabbi merely told them all, "...that the Messiah is already among you, there's no need in approaching me!"
It made the members of the communities think; well maybe it's Krishna prabhu - he's so nice, devoted, faithful and hardworking; or maybe it's Rama prabhu, his years of dedication and....; or maybe it's Gopala, such a nice devotee...... after all it could be me, ...for I'm so full of faults, I'm so fallen and in so much need of good association.
Thinking like this everyone noticed a remarkable change in the atmosphere of each of the communities. They now respected each other, their contempt and familiarity had been replaced by seeing the good in others, and appreciating their worth.
Not only this, but now they were attractive to others, to those also looking for the saintly qualities of a Messiah. And they found themselves in how they looked at others.
That is the purpose of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, it is a place (that is represented by its principles and not by the land it owns) where people can place themselves, in a safe environment to learn about the science of self realization. Together we can learn. We are all uniquely different, some gain realisations more in one topic, some in others, but within the bowl of Krishna Consciousness each and every individual fruit-like member has his or her individual worth.
The banana can develop to be the best banana he/she can be, the apple the best apple he/she can be, with no-one to try to artificially tell the orange to be a banana, or visa versa. Within the parameters of the Krishna conscious realm (fruit bowl) set, all can find their full potential and worth.
Attaining the quality of the best we can be, means avoiding things of the material realm that can damage, inhibit or contaminate that potential. Obviously we don't want to damage our potential, or cause ourselves set-backs. In this way we learn to discriminate what is matter (that can harm or rather set-back our development) and what is spirit (that which will enhance or help us to progress in our development more)(...anartha nivrrtti).
When we become fixed in the conception of being the best practising person that we can be, then we are steady (nistha). To become steady, it may take some time, and maintaining a positive focus is important. There may be seasonal set backs, to one degree or another, or there may not... We are all individuals.
There's no need in my comparing my worst qualities or deficiencies with your best qualities and causing myself depression or doubts. Rather recognise each day at a time, each step on the path, as we tread the road back to home.
If we look at things in this way working on the things that we have direct control over - ourselves, trying to be of use to others, but not being distressed if we cannot change what is beyond our region of control, a mood of goodwill comes about.
Ultimately Krishna is the Supreme controller, and He gives us all our just deserves, be they good or corrective (painful). He is always fair, and REALLY is only looking for our best interest at heart (He is Bhakta Vatsala). He will not stand by and watch us suffer, become discouraged and give up all hope.
When we are ready and have become reformed of our previous material conditions He will give us our rightful place at His lotus feet. But for now, while we are still uncommitted, to entrust more than we could handle could be detrimental to our development, even causing adverse effects or even relapse.
When we are at the stage where we think only in terms of how we can serve Him, and His mission of extending His realm to help others as we have been helped, then we become most dear and trusted (Asakti). At that time we're allowed into the intimate inner circle that is free from material conditions, and is cent per cent dedicated to the will of the Lord.
It is no cheap trick, as some have come from the east to profess, and certainly one cannot bluff his way in. You have to pay the price. The price being to give up the material world and association with it. In reality no-one is going to do it for us either so we NEED to get a little self motivated in this, but from a feasible perspective.
I'd like to share this inspirational writing with you, as it has helped me so much, as I carry it daily in my wallet, have it up on my wall in the office, and meditate on its meaning and intent:
"Krsna Consciousness means
We should always be satisfied and happy,
Not that we must work something impossible,
Become overburdened and then,
Because we are unhappy by so much trouble,
We lose enthusiasm and give up all hope.
By all means we must preserve our spiritual status, that
is the point.
Not that we are mad after big buildings,
Many devotees, life members, this, that______
No. These are only the ways to engage the devotees,
So that they may apply the principles
Of devotional service to some kind of work.
It is not the result of the work that we want.
If we sincerely preach
To only one person a day,
That is sufficient,
Never mind big, big programs.
So do not be bothered by these things.
Krsna does not like to see His sincere devotee
Suffer of become frustrated or depressed.
He will not stand idly by, in such a case,
So do not fear on that account.
Krsna has a plan for you,
Always think in that way
And very soon He will provide
Everything to your heart's desire.
Letter from Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
to Brahmananda Swami (9th December 1972)
Put in the form of a poem.