By Abhaya Mudra Dasi
From the moment that the living entity is born, he has a desire to enjoy. With cute smiles and cries of discomfort, the cute little baby forces his parents to dote on him. From the moment a conditioned entity is born, he believes that this world is meant for worshiping him. His awakening years start when he grows and is no longer little and adorable. Having left childhood behind, worship becomes more difficult to acquire. The living entity has limited experience and a poor fund of knowledge. Much of this is due to the memory at the end of his previous life when he underwent the shock treatment called death. Once re-born, he assumes that the worship that he receives at birth is the rule of his existence. If somehow he does not receive adoration, he is determined to achieve it at any cost.
Here in this material world, anyone who has taken birth should have executed certain favorable activities in past lives in order to obtain the adoration of others. This rule does not keep the living entity who has not executed favorable activities in his previous life and who is born into poverty from constantly endeavoring to achieve the worship he desires. And due to this constant competition for receiving adoration, the subject of fake worship winds up being praised even by jealous persons who are hungry for his position.
Even King Indra is very afraid of someone taking his position. As described in Shrimad-Bhagavatam’s 4th canto, chapter 17, When Prithu Maharaja, the incarnation of the Supreme Lord, wanted to perform a Rajasuya yagna, Indra stole the sacrificial horse. Indra thought that would prevent the yagna from proceeding. A living entity can attain the post of Indra by executing one hundred such yagnas. In this world, even the position of a demigod does not guarantee worship. From the behavior of Indra it appears that rising to the status of a demigod is not such a wonderful achievement after all. Yet Indra and other demigods seem to be more aware of the real intent of their worshippers. The supplicant does not offer worship to the demigods because he likes them, but because he wants something in return. When his desires are satisfied, he forgets the deity who has granted the benediction.
On the earthly plane one becomes worthy of worship not because of one’s genuine merits, but because he fits the agenda of someone else. Take for example the life of Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. He was half mad and very poor during his lifetime, but due to how his brother promoted him at the end of his life and after his death, many of his paintings now sell for over a hundred million dollars. Although the real merit of a person is found in his individuality, here in this material world one becomes recognized only if he happens to fulfill the agenda and requirements of someone else. Generally public adoration is seen as a blessing by others but it can be very painful and even little more than a trap to the individual. Such false worship serves only to perpetuate the illusion of so-called happiness in this world.
For instance, singer Michael Jackson found his fame to be so overwhelming that he could not go out freely. Every time he stepped out of his domain, fans accosted him. So great was the risk even to his life, that he ended up living like a prisoner in his own house. Even though he lived in a palatial estate, nonetheless he was held captive from a world that even ordinary persons experience freely.
Today there are many fake competitions which create the illusion of an equal possibility of winning. People go to college and receive diplomas, they play games and get trophies, and they work hard all their lives and receive salaries. There are always numbers that count who is first and who is last in any activity of the world. But at the end there is always someone who everyone felt was likely to win because the position of the winner appeared somehow predetermined. People are picked by a higher power and set up for a certain status in the world. These powers today are the forces that drive the world, though ultimately to a hellish existence. But on the grand scale of the cosmos, it is the material nature that controls karma under the commands of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Shri Krishna.
One may think that when he receives the worship of others, he has then fulfilled his destiny. But, ultimately, the karma that has caused him to take birth is merely an entanglement that keeps him from understanding his birthright as pure spirit soul and part and parcel of the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. Realizing one’s eternal self is possible only when one reestablishes his lost relationship of service to Shri Krishna. Being worshiped in this world means that since one has to serve the requirements of others in order to achieve the worship he desires, therefore he loses touch with his eternal constitutional position. The self does not need to endeavor for a position which is not actually his because he is already an eternal individual.
Children are often asked by their elders, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” And the answer is usually something akin to, “I want to be a cosmonaut.” Or, “I want to be a ballerina.” In this world there is always some agenda that needs to be fulfilled. But the soul, the eternal self, does not change and does not need to become anything other than what he is.
Desire for being worshiped in the material world is essentially useless. Such worship is always based on jealously and profit, and once the worshipped no longer serves a particular requirement, he is tossed out in favor of some newer or more fashionable object of veneration. There is neither eternity nor security in such worship conducted by other deluded souls. But—how does a devotee exist in this world which is based upon false worship when even getting one’s daily bread is based on the veneration of another conditioned living entity?
The truth is that worship of other conditioned entities within this material world is irrelevant to all spiritual matters. The relationship between the spirit soul and the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna is ever present even if the conditioned entities in the mode ignorance may fail to recognize it. In order for the living entity to achieve his desires, he only needs to pray to the Supreme Lord Who is sitting right beside him in the heart. No external position is necessary for this simple act. People go to college; they become slaves of the system and they waste their lives because they do not believe they can get everything they need directly from the Supreme Personality of Godhead Shri Krishna. And the irony is that He is already giving everything.
Even in the history of Vaishnavism we see that external recognition in the material world does not change one’s original position whether one is worshiped or not. Devotees in the west are familiar with the Supreme Lord Nityananda Prabhu, but few have heard about His Son Lord Virabhadra, Who is Paramatma Himself. And, because He is not understood, therefore He is not generally being worshipped. We have heard that Shri Krishna had 16,108 wives, each of whom are very exalted souls but only the names of His principle queens are known. There are many other unknown Vaishnavas who have achieved the highest level of understanding, although they are not recognized and worshiped. And they are not disturbed by this lack of worldly recognition because their singular focus is on their relationship with Shri Krishna.
The desire to be worshiped is ingrained in the nature of each living entity that is living in the material world. This yearning for worship is the desire to find and to prove one’s personal worth. The means of fulfilling desires in this world are quite crooked. One has to move mountains of social structure in order to achieve a mere straw of appreciation that is buried underneath. This is the price paid by the deluded soul who thinks his individuality is found in the worthless praise of other deluded individuals.
Seeking false worship is the ultimate admission that one does not understand his genuine value. Truth to be told, he who has not valued He Who is most valuable has lost his own value. The most valuable thing is finding one’s reciprocal relationship with the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. Only by seeing oneself in the eyes of the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna can one understand his own individuality. Every living entity is a unique individual. This truth can be realized when in his constitutional position one serves the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. There is satisfaction in the exchange between the living entity and the Supreme Lord, and in the ecstasy of devotional service the false desire of the soul to be worshiped dissipates automatically.
The last trap of illusion—even for one who is on the path of liberation— is the desire to save the world. Many devotees have this desire in the immature stage. This desire is like a split personality disorder. On one hand one wants to help others understand Shri Krishna, but on the other hand he wants to receive adoration for his service. The adoration part is automatically imprinted in this mental scheme because usually the neophyte thinks, “I will save the world, or I want to save the world,” which only means he is not doing it at the moment. The confused mind of the conditioned living entity seeks the justification of some materialistic motivation to perform the service which is not a requirement in a spiritual sense.
The sole motivational factor in the material world is worship. Such motivation does not exist in the spiritual world. Service there is uninterrupted, eternal and without any desire for profit.
While coming to the west aboard the Jaladuta, Shrila Prabhupada prayed to Shri Krishna, “Please make me dance like a puppet in your hands.” This is the example of the attitude of a pure devotee who is eternally engaged in the service of Shri Krishna. Whether he will save the world or not is decided by the will of the Supreme Lord. Shri Krishna is the only doer; the living entity can only express his desires and wait for the response of the Supreme Lord.
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Who is Shri Krishna in the guise of His own devotee, has specifically expressed this mood in His Shikshastaka verse 4:
na dhanam na janam na sundarim
kavitam va jagad-isha kamaye
mama janmani janmanishvare
bhavatad bhaktir ahaituki tvayi
“O Almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor to enjoy beautiful women. Nor do I want any number of followers. What I want only is the causeless mercy of Your devotional service in my life, birth after birth.”
OM TAT SAT