A Journey Into Bhakti-yoga
--by Jessica Davey
Jessica is a student on the ChantNow Mantra Meditation course, sharing her personal experiences as an example of how Bhakti-yoga unfolds naturally by the grace of the divine.
Before I start anything new, I usually do some research to figure out how “impossible” the thing is. My ego likes to know the destination before I start the journey. If there's even one part of it that I don’t think I can accomplish, I don’t even try. But it seems that my ego wasn’t in charge of my journey into bhakti-yoga. Instead I took small steps as they felt right, and eventually, before I knew it, Krishna was a part of my life.
Last year, I wasn’t interested in religion at all. I had some interest in spirituality, but I had become jaded by all the many paths I’d tried (and quit). Actually, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and considered a stay at Bhaktivedanta Manor (the center of ISKCON in the United Kingdom), mostly because of its connection to the late Beatle, George Harrison. This led me to pick up a copy of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is. I had read it once a long time ago, and I re-read it then, purely for information. It’s a long book, so I read a little bit every night. Even though I didn’t volunteer in the end, I found it so interesting that I kept reading anyway.
A few weeks later I stopped eating first meat, then later eggs. Although I had been a vegetarian for many years previously, at that time I was eating anything and everything, and had been for about three years. However, I found that it became difficult to read a book that made such good points against meat-eating and to continue eating meat at the same time. Personally, I had to make a choice. Well, I had been a vegetarian before, so doing it again didn’t seem like such a big deal. I kept reading and gave up meat.
A few months after that, I was doing some more traveling and had a free evening in Berkeley, California. After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to visit the ISKCON temple there. It felt like it might be too much, and I wasn’t sure I had any business going there. It seemed like a big step, from just reading a book to going to a temple that was sure to be full of unfamiliar sights and sounds.
It was a risk, but by this time, reading about Krishna had become a comfortable, familiar habit. So the “risk” turned out to be an absolutely lovely experience. Listening to the chanting and talking to the devotees (oh yes, and eating the delicious food!) were enough to convince me that I wanted more of that in my life. When I went back to England a few months later, I finally visited Bhaktivedanta Manor. I talked to some more devotees there, bought a set of beads, and was shown how to chant japa on them. I started with one round a day and gradually increased it. I also gave up drinking coffee, something I had tried and failed many times before. This time, it was almost easy, and I haven’t looked back since.
I am so lucky to have found Krishna and bhakti-yoga the way I did. Knowing myself and my ego, the story could have gone very differently. If I had known even half of what was expected of devotees up front, I would have decided that this path was closed off to me and not even tried. Instead, I took many small steps and have found myself able to do a little more each day. So even now, when I learn about some other aspect of bhakti-yoga that I’m not yet doing, I just think, “well, okay, I can’t do that now, but I’ll get there eventually.” And I know that, with Krishna’s help, I will.