How to choose between doing our worldly repsonsibilities devotionally and doing directly devotional activities?
Transcribed by: Argha Maji
Question: How to choose between doing our worldly repsonsibilities devotionally and doing directly devotional activities?
Answer: The first point to recognise is that often consciously or subconsciously spirituality becomes excuse for irresponsibility. Because in our material life often there are lots of challenges , frustrations and spiritual life seems like joyful, just chant , dancing, hear some katha , worship deities, it’s all so nice. Often people start using that as an excuse. That may not happen every time, it can be conscious or subconscious or it may not be there. First thing is that Krishna said very clearly that
duhkham ity eva yat karma
sa krtva rajasam tyagaa
naiva tyaga-phalam labhet (BG 18.8)
He said that just because something is troublesome , one gives that up, that is renunciation in mode of passion and that will not lead to the fruit.
So overall it is not that just doing externally devotional activities will necessarily take us closer to Krishna. Going close to Krishna is a matter of developing the disposition of service. That I am a servant and I am meant to serve Krishna, that attitude of service is the essence of going closer to Krishna. And that service can be done in various ways.
Of course it is important that we need to have a direct connection with Krishna.
There at least should be some time when we come to the temple, some time when we do explicitly devotional service, because our consciousness is largely affected by externals.
When we come to temple, it is more likely we will remember Krishna than if we go to a movie theatre or if we go somewhere else. So externally coming and doing devotional activity is important but over a period of time, even externals can become mechanical, and we then come and chant Hare Krishna externally and our mind is wandering somewhere else.
So that’s why what is required is taking our heart closer to Krishna. And that happens primarily through purification. Purification is something which doesnt result just by externally connecting with Krishna. Purification is something that happens when we sacrifice for cause of Krishna. Even when we are coming to temple, actually how much responsibilities we take up for sake of Krishna that is what will truly lead to substantial spiritual advancement. So, rather than seeing that temple is a place where I do devotional activities , and home or office is where I do material activities. But then I acquire devotional consciousness and by acquiring devotional consciousness, I do devotional activities, I infuse mood in devotion in my other activities also. So, by doing our other duties responsibly we develop a certain level of realisation about the nature of material world. We also develop understanding of pervasiveness of Krishna consciousness. Realisation about material world means actually by living in the world, actually by doing our responsibilities , we get a deep-rooted conviction that yes, this is not a place where I can get lasting happiness. And also the pervasiveness of Krishna Consciousness means we start realising that what I am learning in the philosophy, what I am learning in the scriptures is true. So in that sense, even doing our material activities, can in a sense deepen our devotional convictions and realisations.
So we don’t have to necessarily divorce the two.
So what level should we practice and how should we practice?
Krishna in 12th chapter, 12.8 to 12.12 , he gives multiple levels on which one can practice bhakti .
mayy eva mana adhatsva
mayi buddhim nivesaya
nivasisyasi mayy eva
ata urdhvam na samsayah (BG 12.8)
Fix your mind on me, fix your intelligence on me and in this way, you will live in me, that is life of pure devotion.
atha cittam samadhatum
na saknosi mayi sthiram
mam icchaptum dhananjaya (BG 12.9)
If you cannot fix your mind on me, practice concentrating on me, that is sadhana bhakti. That is what we are trying to do. We chant Hare Krishna , we practice devotional activities. That is second level. Third level is
abhyase ‘py asamartho ‘si
mad-artham api karmani
kurvan siddhim avapsyasi. (BG 12.10)
If you cannot even try fixing your mind on Krishna then work for me. mat-karma-paramo bhava
Work for me can mean two things , we do seva, we can do book distribution , we can do various seva. It is not that all the time when we are doing seva, we are thinking of Krishna directly , but still we are working for Krishna or it can also mean doing our worldly work for sake of Krishna. That means we do our profession and then we convert our home into temple, We give charity to temple. That way our work also get spiritualized
And then he says. If we can’t do that also, then we just work and sacrifice for a good cause.
athaitad apy asakto ‘si
kartum mad-yogam asritah
tatah kuru yatatmavan (BG 12.11)
He says just learn the mood of sacrifice and service. Whatever work you do , do it for a good cause. Sacrifice. Even that will lead to progress.
Which level we should practice? We learn by our own experience, we can take guidance from senior devotees, look at example of others and look at our own nature and then decide. Although bhakti means to follow the scripture but there is a huge amount of individual initiative also in bhakti.
So sometimes our material obligations are more so then at that time we have to spend more time , sometimes we don’t have so many material obligations, then we can focus more on devotional activities , so its not that one formula will work throughout. So it’s like if somebody is riding on a cycle or bike we want to go in a direction, but if there is a roadblock, we have to turn like this and turn like that and go ahead. So to keep going straight one has to become tilted and has to again become tilted. So if I stay tilted only like that then I will just go round in a circle.
The point is we generally understand that I want to become advanced in my bhakti but specifically according to time, place and circumstance things will change.
So we can also learn from experience, the defining principle for practical application in bhakti is anukulyasya sankalpah pratikulyasya varjanam (Hari Bhakti Vilas 11.676) , that which is favorable accept that that which is unfavorable neglect that. So with philosophy and with practice we understand that these things are favourable. Now we will find that sometimes we do certain devotional activities and feel very nourished by those activities. But then we also recognise that Krishna is not just present in devotional activities. The whole purpose of Krishna consciousness is to see him in all activities, so when we are nourished by devotional activities, we try to expand our vision and see Krishna in all worldly responsibilities.
So the practical balance is something we learn by experience and guidance, but overall rather than looking for one formula we just look more for this applicational principle. We try to understand what is favourable and unfavourable , accept the favorable and reject the unfavourable, and Krishna assures that dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te (BG 10.10). As I will give guidance about how to come closer to me. So there is no need to worry too much about it.
It is like if we have two options by which we can go closer to Krishna, its not that if we choose one option, its a disaster. No decisions are irrevocable on our part. So if we find this is not the best thing we can learn from experience. Bhaktivinode Thakur says if you wanted to go like this and you find you have gone like this , it is not that you have to go back again and start. You can just turn back, what is important is regular association of devotees by which we can evaluate am I on the right track?
Say a plane is going from here to Calcutta or to Mayapur , then it is said that plane is 90% of the time off track, off-course , because there are so many environmental factors, the wind pressure , the clouds and everything , that the plane goes off track . Then how do they reach the destination ? Because the pilot is watching and the pilot brings the plane back on track. Its like in a car also, we are driving and the car tends to go off track. And using a steering wheel we bring the car back on track. So like that at the very least we need periodic association of devotees and then we do introspection then even we find that this I am doing too much and then I come back in track. If I am going too much on that track then I come back. So introspection and association can help us to find individually the best way to move closer to Krishna .