One should know the intimate relationship between science and faith. Without faith, there can be no knowledge. Doubt, the opposite of faith, destroys knowledge. In the absence of faith, one will simply continue to doubt until he is uncertain of everything, including his own existence.
The Bhagavad-gita describes a systematic process by which anyone can directly experience his or her spiritual nature. In this article, we discuss the first steps in this process of self-realization, known in Sanskrit as bhakti-yoga.
Knowledge and Faith
The beginning of knowledge is hearing from an authority with faith. In a classroom, students accept a certain subject matter – mathematics, sociology, economics, etc. – as valuable and worth learning on the basis of faith. They also accept the teacher on the basis of faith in his diploma from an accredited institution. Those who do not place faith in the teacher or in the importance of the subject matter fail to learn. Disbelief cripples them. They do not apply themselves. The faithless student goes nowhere.
The science of spirituality is no different. The preliminary qualification is to have faith in the existence of the soul beyond the physical body. Second one must have firm faith that people in the past have perfectly realized their spiritual existence. Armed with this conviction the sincere student sets out in search of his spiritual master, determined to perceive for himself the Absolute Truth.
Learn more: Check out our Overview of the Bhagavad-gita.
The Need for a Guru
Some spiritual teachers suggest that one does not need a guru. “Be your own guru. Create your own path. Do not let others decide your future for you.” But already they have contradicted themselves by taking the position of an instructor. The fact is that the guru-principle is always active. The human being does not live in isolation. We are always learning from others: from friends, enemies, the environment, or from the guru within, the Supersoul, Krishna.
Imagine trying to learn physics without a textbook or a professor. Who could do it? The modern scientific textbook is the result of many lifetimes of research, and still there are only theories. Fortunately Krishna is neither cruel nor irresponsible. Along with the creation of each universe He provides a “users-manual” in the form of the Vedas. The Vedas provide a step-by-step method for attaining whatever one might want in this lifetime in addition to making progress towards self-realization, the ultimate goal of human existence. Unlike modern textbooks, the Vedas are not theoretical. There is no need of further research or experimentation. The knowledge is there. Simply one must have faith and take advantage of it. Then in a very short time he can experience the tangible result.
Summary of the Bhakti Process
As soon as one decides to study the Vedic science under the guidance of an expert spiritual master, he begins the practice of bhakti-yoga. Hearing from the guru with faith in the importance of the subject matter and in the guru’s qualification is the first and most importance practice. This does not mean the student should blindly accept whatever he might hear. Questions should be put forth in humble mood, with a sincere desire to understand. The duty of the guru is to remove the doubts of the disciple through logic and by his own spotless example of pure devotion to God. To assist in the assimilation of the lessons the guru will assign the student some practical service. He will also instruct the student to commit to a daily quota of mantra meditation with the Hare Krishna mantra. This service and chanting cleanses the heart of false ego and the attachment to material enjoyment. Hearing about Krishna, chanting His names, offering Him love and affection through glorification and praise, and performing practical service for Him are the natural activities of the soul. By performing these activities in the association of Krishna’s devotees one can very quickly revive his natural spiritual consciousness, or Krishna consciousness. Then his faith becomes solidified by virtue of practical experience. This is the preliminary stage of self-realization. As his devotion continues to mature in the association of other devotees, in due course of time, he attains love of God. This love is the ultimate goal of life for all living entities.
Individuality is Eternal
It is a misconception that at any point in time the minute soul can become God. Krishna is infinitely beautiful, intelligent, compassionate, powerful, famous… He is conscious of every living entity in existence. You are conscious only of yourself. And I am only conscious of myself. Krishna clearly explains in the Bhagavad-gita that every living being is sanātanaḥ, or eternal. This means that I am eternally me, you are eternally you, and Krishna is eternally Krishna. At no point do we become one blob-like entity. This is an imperfect understanding. Complete self-realization involves understanding one’s eternal individuality as a servant of the Supreme Person and performing the spiritual activities of bhakti-yoga on the platform of spontaneous love of God. This alone gives full satisfaction to the soul, who experiences ever-increasing spiritual ecstasy in his dynamic relationship with the all-attractive Krishna and His unlimited devotees.
Learn more: To learn more about these topics, you can read the following verses from the Bhagavad-gita: 2.12; 2.44; 2.49; 2.60 (and 2.61-64); 3.9; 3.43; 4.9; 4.22; 4.39; 4.40; 5.6; 5.7; 5.22; 5.29; 6.5; 6.25; 6.26; 7.14; 9.2; 9.34; 10.8; 10.10; 11.55; 12.8 (and 12.9-12); 13.8-12; 13.24; 13.35; 14.26; 15.5; 15.19; 16.23; 16.24; 17.28; 18.5; 18.49; 18.51-53; 18.55; 18.65; 18.66; 18.70