THE ECSTASY OF DEVOTIONAL SERVICE
“I had become a trance DJ. And I was really into making music. I was also in a band at that time, a fairly successful band. We spent all of our money on music and drugs. We didn’t even really feed ourselves.
I had gotten into the drug ecstasy. I took it to the point where it wasn’t getting me high anymore. I was over at my friend’s house, it was 4 o’clock in the morning, and we had been doing ecstasy and some other types of intoxication all night long. And I just wasn’t feeling any euphoria. I was getting nothing from it, which was strange to me. Never had I experienced that.
So I told my friend, ‘I think I’m going to go to the Hare Krishna temple,’ because Dravida [one of the devotees] had been speaking about the ecstasy of devotional service. And so I was saying, ‘Well, I’m not getting any ecstasy here. So maybe I should go there?’
And he’s like, ‘You can’t go there? It’s 4 am!’ He literally tried to drag me, to hold me back from getting in my car and driving away. I probably shouldn’t have been driving, but I was determined! I want to go to the Hare Krishna temple and do this morning program that I’d heard about and, and try this chanting that’s supposed to bring this ecstasy.
So I did it. I went to the temple. They gave me some beads and I started chanting, and I really felt like I was transported into a spiritual atmosphere where I was feeling some bliss; some real reciprocation.
That convinced me there was something to the chanting. The devotees, they were taking such good care of me. I really felt like they had my best interest in mind. I decided to join. As soon as I joined, it was something that just came naturally to me. Somebody approached me at one point and said, ‘You’re chanting nicely. You must have been doing this in your past life.’
And I felt, ‘Yeah, probably!’ I mean it really felt like something that was just second nature.”
I met Arya Siddhanta Das at New Raman Reti Hare Krishna, an International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) temple in Alachua, Florida. My first exposure to Arya Siddhanta was hearing and being stopped in my tracks by his deep and beautiful voice chanting the Hare Krishna “Maha Mantra.” Listening to his chanting and singing along many times since has helped me understand how chanting the holy mantra purifies the heart.
Arya Siddhanta was very typical of many who came to be Hare Krishna devotees—he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Krishna Consciousness saved many from certain death, especially from drugs, since devotees are not allowed any form of intoxication.
It is remarkable to me how Arya Siddhanta connected that the drug ecstasy was no longer getting him high, but the devotee he had been talking to promised that chanting and spiritual involvement would provide a new kind of ecstasy.
An article in Back to Godhead magazine, titled, “New Zealand: Spiritual Cure for Addiction,” describes drug-free euphoria: “As Lord Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita, a person can give up bad habits only if he develops a higher, spiritual taste. When he experiences the superior pleasure that comes from within, he can easily give up the inferior pleasure that comes from external sources like drugs.”
An ISKCON scholar named Chaitanya Charan Das expounded on this idea in an article titled, “Bad Habits – Causes and Cures,” in the The Spiritual Scientist magazine. “Love necessitates freedom; only when the object of love freely chooses to reciprocate one’s love does the experience of love becomes [sic] truly satisfying and fulfilling. The soul is therefore endowed with a minute free will to enable him to experience the joy of loving Krishna. But when the soul misuses his free will and becomes causelessly unwilling to love Krishna, he has to find a substitute in whom he can repose his loving propensity. Of course, by definition, there can be no substitute for the Supreme. And, by his very constitution, the soul cannot find happiness in loving anyone other than the Supreme. But for those souls who insist on making that attempt, the world of matter (where all of us currently reside) provides the necessary arrangement for experimentation and rectification.”
Thank you to Arya Siddhanta Das for lending his beautiful voice to the sacred Hare Krishna chants and mantras and for sharing the story of his journey with me.