Some people may doubt that when they are studying, it doesn’t appear that they are doing any service. They are just studying, studying, and studying. There is nothing about service to the Lord. They are simply talking about engineering, medicine, business, commerce, arts etc.
H H Radhanath Swami clears this air of doubt. He reminisces that he had seen a a devotee studying some medical book. And he happened to look into the book. And he did not understood more than 3 words in a page. It was all very very sophisticated technical medical language and there were pictures of all these horrible diseases. And she said to Maharaj, how am I supposed to think, when I have to study 8-10 hrs of this book. So sometimes we think that we are wasting our time. On one hand we are but on the other side, if it is the desire of the guru and Krsna that we should study, then we should know that in the end whatever we learn will be used in Krsna’s service. So this is the preparation. And the preparation is in itself devotional service. It is service of the Lord, if our consciousness is whatever I learn, I will use it in the service of Krsna. Therefore, in this consciousness, while we are engaged in studies, we are actually engaged in bhakti, devotional service. It is not so much as to what we do, but the consciousness and the spirit in which we do it.
Just like the pandavas were simply learning how to organize the military troops, how to make military strategies, formations on the battlefield, how to fight with club, how to fight with bow and arrow, how to fight in hand-to-hand combat, how to ride on a chariot..but because it was their service to be khsatriyas, their training was bhakti. Of course, in any training there has to be tests. Nobody likes to be tested. But tests are necessary because we are forced to digest, understand and assimilate what we have been learning. We can sit in a classroom, all day long, and we can pretend that we are learning, but how much are we really absorbing the subject matter?? At the time of test, we are forced to show how much we have absorbed of the subject matter. So, similarly in spiritual life Krsna tests us. First through the sadhus, the guru, he gives us so much theoretical knowledge but what will inspire us to really absorb this knowledge. There are so many people who can quote so many slokas but they do not have any realization of Krsna. We cannot attain bhakti by scholarship, by memorization of many slokas of sastras. We can only attain bhakti in utter humility by applying these teaching in our life by assimilating them. So, therefore Krsna puts us in testing conditions from time to time just so that we can understand the urgency of understanding, assimilating and practicing Krsna Consciousness, NOW.
H H Radhanath Swami narrates a real life story to make us understand why tests are put in our life by the Lord. There was a devotee, back in the early 70’s. He was quite a sincere devotee. But there is always a tug of war in spiritual life. Krsna is all attractive and He is pulling our mind into Krsna Consciousness but maya also is presenting herself very attractive and trying to pull our mind the other way. So this devotee succumbed to maya. We should not criticize anyone who becomes weak but be sympathetic to them. He would never criticize devotees. He was always very respectful in that sense. He always accepted that this is highest philosophy and this is the highest path. And this is really what he wants to do but he was just too weak so he was not able to get up to perform his morning sadhana… he was not chanting according to the vow he made to his spiritual master. In fact, he was not even following the 4 regulative principles. And he gradually drifted away. But his heart was always thinking that what I really want is Krsna Consciousness, but I just cannot do it. So one time he was talking to a devotee and that devotee asked him, so when are you going to be serious in your spiritual life, you are wasting your life away and that person started to cry and said, I know but I cant just do it. It is difficult for me. I think the only way I am going to be serious is if I get cancer. And as you know, Krsna is in our heart, He is seeing everything we do… He is tasting everything we eat, He is smelling everything we smell…He is hearing everything we say !!! He is witnessing every thought !!! So he gave Krsna the information, not that Krsna needed it, but he gave the info that what would make him serious. So not more than an year later, he came down with a terrible terrible case of cancer. It was such an intense, abrupt and sudden attack on his body that as soon as it manifested, it went to such a stage that doctors said that if he had six weeks then he is lucky. But we can try as much as possible. So he went and tried chemotherapy, naturopathy but nothing was working. Then he realized it was hopeless, he was about to die. And then he moved to New Vrindavan. And he was chanting Krsna’s names all day long…and he was praying to Krsna, thank you very much. This is just what I need. Who knows if I were to live 100 years comfortably and then died, I don’t know where I would have gone..or if I would have met with an accident and left body after living the way I was living, then I wouldn’t have known where I would have gone..but now You have given me this little time that I have understood that it is my life’s urgent decision. It is an emergency. Whatever I have learnt in my life, I have to assimilate it and practice it NOW in my life. He became very serious. He was practically an instant paramahamsa. And he was inspiring all the devotees, he was just thanking God with such gratitude, thank u for giving me this gift. Now I am serious. Now I don’t care about anything except Your lotus feet. And he was chanting, chanting and chanting. He ended up living about six months but he lived that six months in such a way that when it was time for him to leave the world, there was a whole assembly of devotees around his bed having kirtan. And he said my only regret is that I could have done so much more in my life for my spiritual master. And one devotee was trying to make him comfortable and he said why are you trying to give me material comforts. Let me just think of Krsna NOW. If you want to make me comfortable, have kirtan with me.
So this is a test, the final test. But before this final test, a good teacher will give us so many preparatory tests to make us prepare for the final test, to inspire us to become serious, to understand, assimilate and put the transcendental teachings we have received in our life into practice.