By Dhruva Maharaja dasa
It is regretful that everyone reading this knows someone who has committed suicide, unless you’re very young.
During our current Bhagavad-gita eCourse semester on Krishna.com one of the participants friend’s husband took his life while we studied Chapter 8, Attaining the Supreme, and thus the topic became magnified in our online forums.
What happens to someone who commits suicide? What if someone kills himself while chanting, or drowns purposefully in the Yamuna or Ganges? Won’t they attain a higher birth in the next life?
What is a ghost? How does a ghost leave it’s body at the time of death? Does everyone who commits suicide become a ghost?
Answers to these questions are just tips of the iceberg of wisdom lying in the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literature. Yet our society, as a whole, seems to consider deeper understanding of such topics not so important. The proof? Read the first sentence again.
In Bg 7.16 Lord Krsna describes four kinds of people who render devotional service unto Him, and we praise these four. In fact, ISKCON focuses most of its attention trying to find them and introduce them to Krsna. However, in the subsequent two verses Krsna explains that these four are not pure devotees and that one must mature beyond such initial self-motivated fuel to actually enter into a loving relationship with Him.
â€śThe devotees who want some benefit out of devotional service are accepted by the Lord because there is an exchange of affection. Out of affection they ask the Lord for some material benefit, and when they get it they become so satisfied that they also advance in devotional service.â€ť
â€śBut the devotee in full knowledge is considered to be very dear to the Lord because his only purpose is to serve the Supreme Lord with love and devotion. Such a devotee cannot live a second without contacting or serving the Supreme Lord.â€ť (Bg 7.16 purport)
What is the difference between these two? And how can one advance from the lower stage to the higher?
The solution is in the purport to Bg 9.3:
â€śAs far as the development of faith is concerned, one who is well versed in the literatures of devotional service and has attained the stage of firm faith is called a first-class person in Krsna consciousness. And in the second class are those who are not very advanced in understanding the devotional scriptures but who automatically have firm faith that Krsna-bhakti, or service to Krsna, is the best course and so in good faith have taken it up.â€ť
Did you catch it?
The difference between the first-class and second-class devotees is being well-versed in devotional scriptures and thus attaining more firm faith.
Therefore, one who wants to advance from lower to higher stages should carefully study scripture in the association of devotees. This will increase one’s faith, and purify our desires.
Unfortunately the majority of people who begin devotional service gradually slip away. Statistics over the last 40 years in ISKCON reveal this. â€śIf they are engaged in devotional service officially, with some ulterior purpose, they cannot achieve the highest perfectional stage. Most probably they will slip after some time. They may become engaged, but because they haven’t complete conviction and faith, it is very difficult for them to continue in Krsna consciousness. We have practical experience in discharging our missionary activity that some people come and apply themselves to Krsna consciousness with some hidden motive, and as soon as they are economically a little well-situated, they give up the process and take to their old ways again. It is only by faith that one can advance in Krsna consciousness.â€ť
The logical conclusion in this discussion, therefore, is that one must study Srila Prabhupada’s books as well as render service; no matter what level of devotional service he or she has attained. Thus, once again we’d like to invite everyone to join our online Bhagavad-gita eCourse and take up this aspect of devotional development seriously. For more information visit: http://www.krishna.com/ecourse