The Ocean of Tranquil Wisdom

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After giving various examples of His opulent, beautiful and glorious creations throughout Chapter Ten of Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa says that whenever we see something wonderful, it is essentially Him that we appreciate (10.41):

yad yad vibhūtimat sattvaṁ

śrīmad ūrjitam eva vā

tat tad evāvagaccha tvaṁ

mama tejo-‘ṁśa-sambhavam

“Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.”

Kṛṣṇa specifies majesty, beauty, strength or influence, and so on. 

The ocean has all of these. Once many years ago, I went to the seashore to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa as the sun set. After driving through the passionate rush of traffic and wending down a few smaller lanes to the ocean, I stepped onto the cooling sands of the nearby beach. Looking up, I immediately felt the deep tranquility of that massive expanse of salt water known in this world as the Pacific Ocean. The sight of it brought to mind another verse from Bhagavad-gītā (2.70):

āpūryamāṇam acala-pratiṣṭhaṁ

samudram āpaḥ praviśanti yadvat

tadvat kāmā yaṁ praviśanti sarve

sa śāntim āpnoti na kāma-kāmī

         “A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires—that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still—can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.”

With such a clear visual presentation, I instantly felt how I’m nowhere near that level of serenity. Further reflecting on the ocean’s awesome, immoveable peace, I also remembered the words of a Catholic Saint who said:

                     Let nothing disturb you,

                     Let nothing frighten you.

                     All things are passing,

                     God never changes.

                     Patience gains all things.

                     Who has God wants nothing.

                     God alone is sufficient.

At that moment, the vast sea displayed so many luminous aquamarines, mixed together with subtle nuances of orange, pink, and innumerable other pastel hues, all reflecting the dying sun upon the millions of fleeting ripples in the water. In Bhagavad-gītā 10.24, Kṛṣṇa also declared: “sarasām asmi sāgaraḥ;” “Of all bodies of water, I am the ocean.” Since everything in this world will eventually change into something else, these colors slowly changed into many darker hues such as lavender, purple, and blue—as Sūrya Nārāyaṇa’s golden chariot seemed to dip below the far horizon. 

Looking upon the multicolored spectacle before me, I began ruminating on all the things we’ve heard about the ocean: “ocean of material life” (bhavābdhi),  “ocean of mercy” (karuṇā-sāgara),  etc., etc. Far offshore, squadrons of large pelicans flew just inches above the water, searching for the inexperienced little fish not deep enough in the ocean to be out of harm’s way. Those fish are like neophyte devotees who curiously play in the warmer waters of maya because they don’t yet realize their precarious position. As numerous seagulls soared above the shore, tiny sanderlings scurried past just at the water’s edge—always somehow managing to avoid the incoming surf; they were truly “taṭa-sthā,” on the margin. And like the mind, they seemed to move impossibly fast on their tiny legs.

If we daily hear and repeat whatever instructions we’ve heard from our spiritual master, they will definitely flood our minds even when we see the ordinary things of this material world, like the ocean. When we spiritually advance, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says, such experiences are called “uddīpana” (stimulants), because they will stimulate our pure and eternal love of Kṛṣṇa, now dormant. 

Love for Kṛṣṇa thus increases itself—just as the ocean fills itself with the downpour from rainclouds made of its own water.  

Metaphorically, the ocean fairly illustrated ŚrīŚrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s colorful description of the variegated humours of pure devotional service. The Taittirīya Upaniṣad says, “raso vai saḥ;” God is definitely rasa. Rasa means liquid, but also taste and sentiment. According to expert aestheticians, the essence of this rasa is wonder. Therefore, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, who compiled what Śrīla Prabhupāda described as “the complete science of Bhakti-yoga” (the Nectar of Devotion), titled his famous work as “Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu,” the ambrosial mellows from the ocean of pure devotional service. 

Thus beginning from the ocean of material activities (karma), and through the ocean of tranquil wisdom (jnāna), we come to a very different ocean: the ocean of unbounded bliss (ānandāmbudhi) found only in pure devotional service. 

Suddenly, the crashing waves broke this meditation, and brought to mind these lines by the American poet Robert Frost:

                                   Devotion

                     The ear can think of no devotion

                     Greater than being shore to the ocean–

                     Holding the curve of one position,

                     Counting an endless repetition.

So as all devotees in ISKCON vow, I chanted my daily quota of japa, because calling out to Kṛṣṇa to engage in His service is what separates the merely introspective jnānīs from pure devotees. Hearing and reflecting can purify the intelligence, but only hearing Kṛṣṇa’s holy name purifies the heart—and the mind that brought us into the material world. Instead of passively appreciating the ocean of devotional rasa from an external viewpoint, pure devotees want to dive deeply into the ocean—and become “deep-water fish,” as Śrīla Prabhup;ā said—far from māyā’s reach. 

Kṛṣṇa becomes so happy whenever we call out to Him, personally. By Śrīla Prabhupāda’s grace, practically everyone can turn to Kṛṣṇa’s merciful holy names, anywhere, anytime, and dive into the ocean of the nectar of devotion. All things will pass as surely as the sun sets every evening. But the most auspicious of all auspicious things should be embraced immediately—at this very moment—while our chance remains. We may not know when our last breath will end, but we do know that we can chant before that time. The whole world now has access to this simple but sublime process of chanting the mahāmantra:

Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare

Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare  

madhuraṁ madhurebhyo ’pi

maṅgalebhyo ’pi maṅgalam

pāvanaṁ pāvanebhyo ’pi

harer nāmaiva kevalam

Only the holy name of Hari

is more auspicious than auspiciousness itself, 

even more purifying than purity itself!