18.37 – Conviction and purification take us from the poison to the nectar

by November 7, 2012

As devotees who wish to rise from the material level to the spiritual level, we often face the question, “How do I sustain myself during the phase when I have to abstain from material enjoyment but can’t yet experience spiritual fulfillment?”

The Bhagavad-gita (18.37) acknowledges that this initial phase is like poison but reassures us that we will relish nectar permanently on reaching the spiritual level. Gita wisdom informs us that we can tolerate the poison and strive for the nectar by conviction and purification.

Conviction: Intellectual conviction helps us understand that material enjoyment being temporary is undesirable, whereas spiritual fulfillment being eternal is eminently desirable. By thus facilitating us to see beyond appearances to consequences, conviction enables us to stay away from anti-devotional material indulgences. It also empowers us to stay satisfied with whatever spiritual happiness is available presently and persevere optimistically on the spiritual path, knowing that happiness far greater than what we have given up awaits us ahead. To deepen our conviction, we need to study scriptures scrutinizingly and ponder their teachings introspectively.

Purification: As souls, spiritual fulfillment is natural and material enjoyment is unnatural for us. But when we are covered by impurities like lust, anger and greed, our tastes become perverted and we start delighting in material enjoyment, although we don’t actually find it delightful. The more we become purified, the more our original taste gets restored. We start finding spiritual fulfillment to be familiar and natural, and material enjoyment to be alien and artificial. To become purified, we need to seriously cultivate remembrance of Krishna, who is supremely pure and whose contact is supremely purifying.

Thus, by conviction and purification, we can move from the initial poison to the eventual nectar.


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  • Mahadev
    November 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    BG 18.37 says about Satvik happiness which is not the spiritual happiness of the soul. Spiritual happiness can not be experienced by “mayic” senses/mind.

  • Mahadev
    November 8, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Spiritual happiness is sat-chit-ananda. Once gotten, it is eternal,endless happiness denoted by ‘sat’, which is nectar from beginning to endless-end. It is not like the “”whatever”” happiness we experience through our current senses/mind which is temporary because senses/mind itself is temporary, hence not spiritual.

    So “whatever” happiness we are deriving “now” from seeing deities, honoring prasadam or chanting is not spiritual as it is not everlasting. It is one of those mayic varieties [satva, rajo or tama]

    • aspiring devotee
      November 10, 2012 at 2:04 am

      The second part of the comment by Mahadev contradicts the understanding of how to achieve spiritual happiness given in the sixth chapter. Starting with verse 6.13, (mat chitto yukta asita mat parah- one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life), and culminating in 6.21, where this process gradually allows supreme happiness (sukham atyantikam) to be experienced- buddhi grahyam- accessible to the intelligence and atindriyam- beyond the senses and transcendental; Krishna lays out a clear path based on the practice of yoga to achieve transcendental happiness. Whether we focus on him in the heart, or on his archa vigraha as he teaches in chapter 12.2-12.7, the happiness experienced is transcendental. Chanting, deity worship, prasadam are all processes for inner meditation on Krishna. These transcend the material modes. One may take time to realize this happiness- atah sri-krishna-namadi

      na bhaved grahyam indriyaih

      sevonmukhe hi jihvadau

      svayam eva sphuraty adah

      “No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of Sri Krishna through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.” (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.234)

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