02.60: The way to say “No” is to say “Yes”
Many people hesitate to adopt authentic scripture-based spirituality because they fear that they will have to give up too many worldly pleasures. Even those of us who are practicing spiritualists are often mentally preoccupied with the temptations that we have to evade and avoid. This negative or defensive attitude towards spiritual life makes it more difficult than it needs to be.
In order to stay away from temptations, many of us use our:
1. Moral conscience that tells us it is the right thing to do and
2. Philosophical conviction that tells us it is the beneficial thing to do.
This moral and philosophical discernment is necessary; without it, self-restraint often becomes an exercise in meaningless and purposeless self-torture. However, discernment is necessary, but not sufficient. With discernment, we recognize self-restraint to be right and beneficial, but don’t experience it to be joyful. That’s why the Bhagavad-gita (2.60) states that even a person of discernment endeavoring for self-restraint is overpowered by temptations.
The next verse (2.61) urges us to complement discernment with engagement. When we engage ourselves in service to Krishna, then spiritual happiness doesn’t remain an abstract conception or a hazy dream; it becomes a concrete reality and a living experience. Service to Krishna is not restricted to activities that are externally, directly connected to Krishna. Even our worldly responsibilities can become a service to Krishna if we keep him in our hearts and strive to do those responsibilities as devotional offerings to him. When we start using our devotional creativity to discover in every situation, every event, every activity, every interaction the hidden opportunity to serve Krishna and then say “Yes” to that opportunity, the resulting devotional connection with Krishna through internal remembrance and external service gives us profound spiritual fulfillment. Once we start tasting and valuing this fulfillment, then temptations become exposed as sources of distraction – not gratification. At that stage, saying “No” to them becomes not just right and beneficial, but also joyful.
Thus, the best way to say “No” to temptations is to say “Yes” to Krishna.