Does the definition of success vary from person to person or is it universal?
What is success ? Defination of success differs from person to person or its same for all?
Transcription (edited by): Bhaktin Raji Nachiappan
Question: What is success? Does the definition of success differ from person to person or is it the same for all?
- There is material success and spiritual success. The definition for material success varies for everyone but the definition of spiritual success (i.e. devotion to God) is the same for everyone
- In the Vedic culture, according to the psychophysical nature of people, different definitions of success were given, e.g. intellectuals and warriors are given different definition of success.
- Modern society messes things up by having one definition of success (i.e. money, position, prestige) for everyone. This leads to a lot of material dissatisfaction and unnecessary material competition.
There is material success and spiritual success. The definition for material success varies for everyone but the definition of spiritual success is the same for everyone. In material life, some people may consider having a very good looking muscular body as a success. Others may consider becoming very learned or scholarly, or becoming very wealthy, or famous as success. So, in material life different people can have different definitions of success and these definitions are relative.
In the Vedic culture, depending on the psychophysical nature of people, society was divided into 4 varnas. The intellectuals were given one definition of success, the warriors were given another definition of success, the businessmen were given another and the general assistants were given another definition of success.
Modern society messes things up by having one definition of success for everyone. All students are told that if you become an engineer or a doctor, you are successful. This unilateral imposition of one definition of success on all people, leads to a lot of material dissatisfaction and a lot of unnecessary material competition. From the material point of view, we have to understand what our nature is and what our talents and abilities are. Based on that, we choose the best way we can use our talents and abilities within the limitations we have, for the best service to God and humanity (without letting ourselves be pressurised by society). And that will be our material definition for success.
At a spiritual level, success means developing devotion for God. By developing it, we transcend beyond the miseries of this world (beyond the repetition of birth and death) and go back to the spiritual world. All success at the material level is ultimately doomed, whether a person becomes a millionaire, a sports star or a super star because when he dies he loses everything. He has to start from scratch in the next life. But whatever spiritual advancement we make, whatever relationship we develop with Krishna that is going to be forever with us.
Therefore at the spiritual level, success is real success. Some of us may be successful materially and some of us may not be successful materially. Circumstances and ultimately destiny play a role in unfolding our material success or checking its unfolding. But spiritual success is entirely in our hands, if we desire to develop our relationship with Krishna nobody can stop us from doing so. If we long and intend that I want to love Krishna, then Krishna will guide and inspire us.
The BG gives a definition of success in the samadhi verses (BG 6.20-6.23).
yaṁ labdhvā cāparaṁ lābhaṁ
manyate nādhikaṁ tataḥ
yasmin sthito na duḥkhena
It says real success should have two characteristics. These are (i) once having attained this success one should not feel that there is something more to achieve (ii) and once having achieved this success, one should go beyond the reach of misery.
In any material success, even if someone is successful in becoming the most powerful person in the world (e.g. the CEO of the biggest company or the president of America) is there a situation where he will not want anything more? No, he will always be craving for more. If someone is the wealthiest person in the city, he will want to become the wealthiest person in the country and then the continent and then the world and then wealthiest in the history of the world. By that time, the person himself becomes history. Then he has to start from scratch in his next life. In the material world no matter how much we achieve, there is always more to achieve because no material achievement can satisfy our heart. It can satisfy our ego and senses but ultimately our heart is longing for love. And the only love that we can satisfy our heart completely is Krishna’s love because He is the only person who understands us entirely and loves us unconditionally. Nothing can substitute that love from Krishna. That is why all material achievements keep us dissatisfied and unfulfilled, craving for more. Similarly, no material achievement can take us beyond the reach of misery. This means that even if someone becomes the most powerful person in the world (say the president of America), is he beyond the reach of misery? No. Often he has more misery than most people. So many threats from political rivals and enemies all around the world, anxiety about maintaining his tenure and ultimately he is going to lose everything. He also cannot avoid miseries. Therefore, no achievement in this world can take people beyond miseries.
Sometimes when people are poor, they may feel if only they had a car, they would not need to travel in the crowded public transport. Yes, wealth can free us from the misery of travelling in a crowded local, but then we have to face the misery of navigating traffic in a congested and crowded road. So, the form of misery may change by certain material achievements like fame, wealth or power, but the principle of misery cannot be removed. Whereas if we develop our love for Krishna and turn back to Krishna because Krishna is eternally and ever increasingly attractive, that is why love for Krishna completely satisfies us. We don’t want anything else beyond that. As Dhruva Maharaj says svāmin kṛtārtho ’smi varaṁ na yāce- ‘my dear Lord I am completely satisfied and I don’t need anything else’. Similarly, when we love Krishna, regain our spiritual bodies in the spiritual world, there are no miseries (birth, disease, old age and death). So the real success in life, beyond the relative material success that we all define for ourselves, is the spiritual success which free us from misery and completely satisfy our heart.