02.69 – Might we be running in the right direction on the wrong train?
Suppose we want to go north, but somehow board a train going south. Will running northwards within the train take us to our desired destination?
Might this be what happens to us when we try to advance spiritually while living in a materialistic culture and accepting its definitions of success?
We board the train of the materialistic culture by adopting its values as our own. These values often reduce humans to consumers whose success is defined by their capacity to own and enjoy the things glamorized by the culture. If we adopt these values, then external opportunities and internal fantasies conspire to propel us headlong into unending materialistic pursuits.
Within such a value system, whatever spiritual activities we practice become rituals that are nominal, superficial and ineffectual. They become akin to running north in a train going south.
Authentic spiritual progress requires clear differentiation between the material and spiritual, as done in the Bhagavad-gita (02.69). By understanding this difference, we can choose to board the train going north. That is, using our individual willpower, we can choose spiritual values and pursue devotional aspirations.
Does this imply that we isolate ourselves from the materialistic culture and stop pursuing material goals?
No, not necessarily. The path of bhakti is so inclusive that it can utilize the material in the pursuit of the spiritual. We can stay in the world and use our material talents and accomplishments to serve Krishna. But to ensure that our stay in the world doesn’t make us worldly-minded, we need the conviction that material things can’t make us truly happy and spiritual things can and will make us everlastingly happy. Regular scriptural study and mantra meditation grants us this conviction and thereby keeps us on the bhakti train headed towards Krishna.