Human Effort

Lord Krishna “The Blessed Lord said: Son of Pritha, a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil.” (Bhagavad-gita, 6.40)

Success in any venture requires steadiness of mind and perseverance. Obstacles will always come along the way, but those who are dedicated remain undeterred nonetheless.

Lord Krishna sleeping Things don’t always go as planned. We are always making plans for our happiness, thinking that by making certain adjustments we will be happy. These plans almost always never work out since the mind is so fickle that it constantly requires change in order to be happy. It is quite common for young children to have high hopes and dreams. These dreams aren’t of the sleeping variety, but rather, they are hopes for bigger and better things, and are especially related to what the children want to do when they grow up. In school, teachers will often ask their students what career they’d like to have as an adult. The answers are wide ranging; some want to be a fireman or a policeman, while others want to be an astronaut.

Having a dream is one thing, but actually achieving that dream is another. This material world created by God is governed the modes of nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Along with these modes, there is an illusory energy called maya which throws obstacles in our way and thwarts our success. This is by design since God didn’t want us to remain in this material world. He wanted to put something in place that would get in the way of our material hopes and aspirations. Nevertheless, we still see that there are people who actually succeed in realizing their dreams for material success.

The Great Depression Today, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is listened to by almost 22 million people each week on over six hundred radio stations across America. Though talk radio is very popular now, when he started his national show more than twenty years ago, AM radio itself was considered a dying format. Rush knew he wanted to be on the radio back at the age of sixteen, but no one really took his dream seriously. His parents had suffered through the tough times of the Great Depression, so they wanted their son to go to college and have a steady job. Having no interest in college, Rush eventually dropped out. He actually became the first person in his family not to graduate from college. Rush took a chance by going into radio, and his attempt was met with great failure in the beginning. Fired from seven different radio jobs, Rush was even told by one manager that he didn’t have what it took to make it in the business. Depressed and dejected, Limbaugh took a job with the Kansas City Royals baseball team, doing public relations. Making very little money and not liking his job, Rush took one more shot at radio with a station in Sacramento, California. This was his big break as his show took off and eventually went national when he moved to New York in 1988.

Limbaugh, like many other great successful people, had a dream and never gave up on it. All the obstacles that came his way certainly discouraged him and brought him down, but he never quit. Such perseverance is rare since most of us can easily become dejected and give up. And what happens when we finally quit striving to achieve our “dreams”? Are we any better off for it? Usually we’re not, for all our past effort has gone to waste. Luckily for us, this principle doesn’t hold true when applied to devotional service to God.

Lord Krishna Around five thousand years ago, God Himself, Lord Krishna, spoke the Bhagavad-gita to His disciple and dear friend Arjuna, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The Gita contains the essence of the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of the Vedas. There are many great aphorisms and truths expounded in the Gita, including facts about the soul and its eternal nature. Krishna’s primary teaching to Arjuna was that he should strive to act with knowledge, meaning he should perform his duty as a kshatriya warrior without holding any attachment to the results. Good and bad things come and go, but the aim of human life is to perform yoga. This should not be confused with the vernacular definition of yoga, which relates to various breathing exercises and gymnastics poses. Yoga means achieving union of the soul with God. The spirit soul represents our identity, and it is part and parcel of God. Yet the spirit soul is different in quantity from the Supersoul, which is God’s expansion that exists in every living entity. Thus the purpose of human life is to connect our soul with the Supersoul.

There are various types of yoga described in the Vedas, including hatha, jnana, and bhakti. Devotional service, or bhakti yoga, is the highest discipline since it involves dovetailing all of one’s activities with God’s service in a loving manner. Lord Krishna gave vivid descriptions of the qualities of a devotee and how one can go about becoming one. Arjuna found the whole yoga process to be a little overwhelming. He was worried about what would happen to those people who didn’t succeed in yoga during their lifetime:

“Arjuna said: What is the destination of the man of faith who does not persevere, who in the beginning takes to the process of self-realization but who later desists due to worldly-mindedness and thus does not attain perfection in mysticism?” (Bhagavad-gita, 6.37)

Lord Krishna then happily replied that a faithful transcendentalist does not suffer any loss for his efforts. Devotional service never goes to waste. We get to continue from where we left off in our next life by either taking birth in a pious family or a family of devotees. Knowing this, we have no excuse not to take up the process.

Rama and Lakshmana This attitude of perseverance was taken up by Lakshmana, Lord Rama’s younger brother. Rama was Krishna’s incarnation who appeared many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya. Born as the eldest son of King Dashratha, Rama was ordered to spend fourteen years in the forest as an exile. Lakshmana was greatly angered by this. He was unwilling to accept Rama’s argument that this was all due to destiny. He wanted to take on destiny by forcefully installing Rama as the new king.

“That person, who is capable of fighting off the forces destiny by human effort (purushakarena), does feel regret even if he completely fails in achieving his purpose. Today, people will see the power of destiny and the power of man. Today, it will clearly manifest which one is stronger. That destiny which has thwarted Your installation as king, I will crush today with my own prowess. The public will certainly see this.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 23.17-19)

This act of defiance wasn’t necessary since Rama had a higher purpose to serve by going to the forest, namely protecting the brahmanas and killing the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Nevertheless, Lakshmana’s actions are well worth noting. It should be our guide to follow when performing our devotional service. Destiny, maya, or other material forces will inevitably get in our way. That is no excuse, however, as we should be strong and try our best to overcome them. As the Lord stated to Arjuna, there is no loss on our part . Lakshmana’s loving service was rewarded, as Lord Rama would allow Him to accompany Him on His journey. God will be equally as kind to us if we dedicate ourselves to serving Him.



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