“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)
“Can I have this? Can I have that? Why not? But I want it now?” A good parent prevents their child from becoming spoiled, from being given every single item that they want. No matter how persuasive the presentation may be, no matter how intense the temper tantrum they throw, the resilient caretaker will hold firm in their vow to instill discipline and show the true value in what is procured through labor. The child can’t be blamed for their ignorance, for they don’t know any better. To them, money just comes on its own. When you go to the store, your mother or father just whips out a credit card or a wad of cash and pays for whatever they need. There is no concept of affordability or the fact that something can’t be bought because the money required must be allocated for something else. The children following this mindset can be likened to the materialists who believe that the elements of nature just appear on their own and are thus meant to be continually exploited. Just as the spoiled child is in for a rude awakening in adult life, the ignorant human being not apprised of the highest scientific truths of spirituality is in for a world of hurt.
Does not the latter condition apply to pretty much everyone? And, what is the difference really between acknowledging God and ignoring Him? Are we going to hell just because we fail to profess allegiance? The punishment actually comes not from a vengeful Lord looking to punish those who forget Him. Rather, the inflicted pain is sourced directly in the misuse of the materials provided. Just as a fire can do great things when used properly and cause tremendous harm when not, the gross collection of material elements can do wonders for the spirit soul transmigrating through different bodies. On the other hand, when used improperly, the same elements can cause continued nescience and a renewed sentence to life in temporary realms.
So we’re basically saying that matter is neither good nor bad? Yes. Neither extreme is absolutely beneficial or detrimental. Adopting a favorable view towards matter for the purpose of exploitation is based on the ignorant mindset adopted at the time of birth; the animalistic tendencies to eat, sleep, mate and defend without restriction. When this sort of lifestyle proves to be too painful, the opposite extreme of full renunciation is taken. Yet even this is painful, for through it the penchant for activity is unnaturally checked.
“The senses are so strong and impetuous, O Arjuna, that they forcibly carry away the mind even of a man of discrimination who is endeavoring to control them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.60)
So what can we do? How do we learn the right way to use the elements around us? The child eager for gifts is taught the value of money so that they eventually learn to curb their desires. Moreover, getting everything you want right away is not good for controlling the senses. For starters, getting what you want doesn’t actually equate to happiness. Our impulse may tell us to eat the entire pizza pie placed in front of us, but if we do so, pretty soon we’ll have a stomach ache. Despite the numerous studies conducted about how to prevent disease through avoiding and accepting certain foods, the key to healthy living is actually regulation. Just follow regular habits based on moderation, leave your body enough room to breathe without difficulty, and you will avoid so many ailments. Just think of how many problems are caused by straining the body, pushing it to the limits of action and thought. Too much stress at work results in painful conditions, as do excessive travel and exercise. Eat more than you need to and you will cause an imbalance in the body that will bring negative consequences.
Through control over sense gratification, eventually the same person that kept asking for things from the parents reflects back on their past behavior with regret. “I can’t believe I wanted all of those things. They seem so useless now. I’m glad my parents instilled some discipline in me and had the courage to say ‘No’.” At the heart of the conversion is maturity in thought, which comes through both education and the practice of regulation. Without this maturation, the same spoiled child will have difficulty dealing with the rigors of the real world, where there is not an endless cash flow available from the parents. When money has to be earned, the necessary restrictions on spending are automatically imposed on the earner, even if they weren’t expecting them.
In the larger picture, if we continue to operate under the mindset that the material elements around us just happened to appear on their own, without the hand of an intelligent creator, we will have a difficult time succeeding in the mission of life. And what exactly is that mission? As the soul is eternal, it must have an eternal occupation. To perform the duties in that occupation, an eternal home is required. The supreme destination is referred to as sugati, or auspicious home. The sugati is attained only by the favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. People in the past have earned it by performing wonderful devotional service directly for the benefit of the Supreme Person during His various descents to earth. This is the information given to us by the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India.
“Shri Rama personally gave liberation [sugati] to Shabari, the vulture Jatayu and those who performed wonderful devotional service, whereas the holy name has liberated countless wretches; a fact well-established in the Vedas, which sing of its glories.” (Dohavali, 32)
While steadfast devotion personally offered to the Lord has resulted in attainment of the supreme destination, which is akin to gaining liberation, for a few notable personalities, the chanting of the holy names has liberated countless people, even the lowest wretches in society. The holy name is non-different from the Supreme Person it addresses. The only reason we have distinctions between God and His names is that we are unaware of their equality. Which names should be chanted? The Vedas provide countless names, which each reference specific qualities or pastimes. The names Krishna and Rama are considered the best, as they can be recited by anyone looking to evolve from the ignorant mindset adopted at the time of birth. These names are best chanted together in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
Chant this mantra, having full faith in its ability to take you to the sugati. Why is the supreme destination better than the present one? Anything created must be destroyed. When there is birth, there has to be death. If there is acceptance, there must be rejection. These are the rules of the temporary realm, which means that everything in it must eventually end in misery. A miserable place cannot be the natural home for something that is permanent, something which does not ever get destroyed. The soul always carries the properties of eternality, knowledge and bliss. In a substandard destination, ignorance takes over and the mind considers the objects around it to be useful only for its own pleasure. No thought is given to God and His amazing abilities. The difficulty in perfecting consciousness is so strong that even if the Lord is acknowledged, His influence is taken to be for the benefit of further exploitation. This is similar to if the child would think that their parents go to work simply to give them the stuff they ask for. “My dad works hard at the office so he can buy me whatever toys I want.”
Surely the parents will provide gifts to the child every now and then, but the home, clothing and food are provided to maintain life, to help the child mature to the point that they can become independent. The material elements serve a similar purpose, except the independence relates to freedom from nescience. The human birth represents the best opportunity for the conditioned soul to fully develop consciousness. In pure God consciousness, everything is used to perform divine service. The holy name is the best tool to further this end because it carries the least restrictions. One needn’t even start out with the desire for renunciation, proper education, or purification of consciousness. Just chant the holy name with faith, in the company of other wonderful servants, and see how rapidly you make progress from within.
“Though engaged in all kinds of activities, My devotee, under My protection, reaches the eternal and imperishable abode by My grace.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.56)
What is the difference between an adult materialist and an adult devotee? Don’t devotees go to work, eat food and enjoy leisurely activities? In this sense how are they any different? The key distinction is with consciousness. Whatever thoughts are on our mind at the time of death determine where our next destination will be. Those servants who were personally liberated by the Lord thought of Him while quitting their body. It was difficult for them not to, for God was standing right in front of them. In the case of the vulture Jatayu, Lord Rama, the avatara of the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing in the Treta Yuga, was holding him in His arms. If God is on the mind at the time of exiting the body, the next destination is the Lord’s home, a place where no one ever has to leave.
Chanting the holy name, which is a cornerstone practice in the discipline of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is meant to further the aim of reaching God’s kingdom. On the flip side, by thinking that the material elements just appeared from random collisions, the continuing mindset will be one focused on exploitation. Not only is this detrimental towards attaining the proper destination in the future, it also leads to misery in the immediate aftermath. Even if one doesn’t want to believe the statements about reincarnation so nicely presented by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God, they can see the harmful effects of a materially conditioned consciousness in their own lives. Indeed, every ailment, mental or physical, is related to the forgetfulness of God. The “world peace” that is so desperately wanted can only come about when the nature around us is understood for what it is. If we think that everything is “Mine”, and other people harbor the same mentality, how can there not be constant conflict?
Karma continues for he who does not know about God and His abilities to create the wonderful nature around us. On the other side, the mature living entity keenly aware of the differences between spirit and matter knows how to tailor their behavior just perfectly so that they can remain fixed in divine trance, or samadhi, even while performing their daily routine. The ultimate reservoir of pleasure is the Supreme Lord, who is thus known as Krishna. He is all-attractive, giving sweetness to anyone who interacts with Him in the proper mood. The discipline of bhakti-yoga, with its do’s and don’ts, is meant to purify our consciousness so that we can fully appreciate our spiritual counterpart, our eternal life partner, who also happens to be the source of the abundant resources present before us.
Ignorant child thinks parents have endless cash flow,
To provide for their needs, supply of toys to grow.
Think that the credit cards in stores work like magic,
To harbor this attitude as adult is tragic.
Mature adult not knowing God thinks the same way,
That material nature came through randomness’ sway.
Understand who is God and what He provides,
Learn how the soul through time always survives.
From knowledge follow the proper behavior,
Look to Shri Krishna as your only savior.
Work for Him to find supreme destination,
Abandon your drive for sense gratification.
Know that elements given by God for pleasure to feel,
To appreciate His beauty, blessed fate to seal.