03.20 – Devotion encompasses both reconnection of the world and its renunciation

by October 1, 2013

Some people fear that devotion to Krishna will require them to renounce the world.

However, devotion requires not renunciation of the world, but its reconnection with Krishna. Arjuna, the Gita’s original student, didn’t renounce the world; he became a world ruler.

Why did Arjuna get so involved?

Because devotion is meant to include the world, not exclude it. That’s because the enlightened vision sees the world as it actually is, as the property of Krishna meant to be used by devotees in his service.

Of course, we can’t acquire this vision overnight; it requires sustained practice of devotional service. That practice fosters intellectual illumination and emotional reorientation: illumination to understand ourselves as souls whose real fulfillment comes by loving Krishna, and reorientation to direct our heart towards Krishna, not the world.

As we don’t yet have this enlightened vision, we need to be cautious. That’s why we stay away from some activities that are especially entangling and we make time regularly to keep our devotional connection strong. But beyond that we do our worldly duties responsibly to set an example for others and to thereby attract them to Krishna and to the path of devotion. The Gita (03.20) declares such example-setting a vital social responsibility that does loka-sangraha, a word that literally means maintenance of the world order.

This may raise a question: If setting an example is so important, then why do some devotees renounce the world?

Devotee-renunciates focus not on renunciation but on devotion; they use renunciation as a tool to focus singularly on sharing Krishna’s message of love with the world. Thus they inspire more people to reconnect with Krishna and reconnect the world with him.

Such is the glory of devotion – it includes in its fold both the world and renunciation of the world.


03.20 – Kings such as Janaka attained perfection solely by performance of prescribed duties. Therefore, just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work.

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