“After one enjoys the results of virtuous activities in the upper planetary systems, he comes down to this earth and renews his karma or fruitive activities for promotion. This planet of human beings is considered the field of activities.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 15.2 Purport)
“You ask, ‘What have I been up to? What’s new in my life?’ Well, I’ve started this new job. It’s way better than the previous one I had. The pay is better and so are the benefits. It’s closer to home, and the hours are great. On the home front, we’re looking to move to a bigger house, one that has more rooms. I want a bigger yard also. That way I can host parties. If my wife and I keep working this way, we’ll be able to retire with plenty of money to spare. Then we can really enjoy.”
This is the basic sentiment of the fruitive worker. And why shouldn’t it be? Who wants to be stuck in mediocrity? If you don’t make plans for the future, why get out of bed each morning? You need excitement and anticipation in order to make life fun. In the Vedas, such action and reaction is known as karma, and those who engage in it exclusively are known as karmis. If they follow the proper path, their destination is the higher planets, where material enjoyment is increased. Whether one believes in the afterlife or not, it is seen that within the present life the same kind of destination is desired.
We can think of the higher planet as the bigger house. In the bigger house, there is more room to maneuver. There is more space for the kids to roam around. For material enjoyment, you need a spouse, a home, children, and friends and relatives. These components fill out the picture. Enhance the quality of each component and you apparently increase your level of enjoyment as well. “Bigger and better” is the motto. It works with the common worker and also with the businessman. The athlete and entertainer think the same as well. “My last album went gold, so my next one has to go platinum. During the last tour I played arenas, so the next step up is to play the large stadiums.”
While success is not guaranteed in the least, if it should happen to come the result is actually an increase in wants. In this model, I am basically working so that I can increase my desires. I may not realize it at the time, but it is most certainly true. I work today at my job so that I can get a better car. That desire is a want. Once that car arrives, I will want something better. Again I will work for it; thereby keeping the relationship of working to increase wants.
Is there another way? Should our work decrease our wants?
Desire is fundamental to an existence. It only makes sense to want things, but work itself shouldn’t automatically lead to more work that is more difficult. It shouldn’t increase the burdens. Moreover, it shouldn’t bring only temporary satisfaction. In the same Vedas it is said that once the karmi who follows Vedic principles reaches the heavenly planets, they eventually have to fall back down to earth. This occurs when the merits they accumulated from their pious work expire. Think of it like reserving a room in a fancy restaurant for an hour. When the hour is up, you have to leave. In the same way, when the time allotted for your stay in heaven is up, you have to go back down to earth. Even in the earthly realm, the same is seen. If you are the most successful person in the world, at the time of death you are forced to exit your body. The same applies to the least successful person in the world.
“When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, through the Vedic principles, they achieve only flickering happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.21)
Karma is purified when there is a specific term attached. That term is yoga, which means a linking. Work so that you can link your consciousness to the Supreme Consciousness. Work so that you’ll always think of the origin of matter and spirit. Work not to promote yourself anywhere, but to instead elevate your way of thinking. Your consciousness goes with you. If you move to a different area to escape bad experiences or to look for a better climate, your consciousness comes along for the ride. If it was filled with negative thoughts before, those don’t automatically vanish with the move.
In karma that doesn’t have yoga, the consciousness is set on promotion. Bigger and better. This mindset stays with the individual wherever they may go. Just because you go to the top of a building doesn’t necessarily mean that your way of thinking has changed. When you reach the area of promotion, if the mind is set on more promotion, the eventual fall will be more painful.
In the elevated consciousness the desire is to serve more and more. When the motives are pure, no outside factor can inhibit this. To tell how pure the motives are, one sees how desirous they remain of material promotion. If I desire a big house or a fancy car, so many things can get in my way. The strongest inhibitor is time; which is the greatest subduer. The car manufacturer can cease production of the vehicle of choice. I could lose my job. I could get into an accident with the car.
“Although the Lord was present in Vaikuntha, He was present also in the heart of the brahmana when he was meditating on the worshiping process. Thus, we can understand that things offered by the devotees even in meditation are accepted by the Lord, and they help one achieve the desired result.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 10)
If my desire is to serve the Supreme more and more, all I need is my mind. It is said in the Nectar of Devotion that a priestly man once only contemplated making an offering to the Supreme and somehow had it accomplished. He was lacking the means, so he could only daydream of the possibility of making the offering, which would be the best. He would come to find out that the offering was as good as made. In this way, nothing could stop him from serving.
What is the benefit to the elevated consciousness?
If on one side I need constant promotion to receive temporary satisfaction and on the other the mind alone is fully capable of meeting objectives, wouldn’t we say the latter is superior? Thus the elevated consciousness not only constitutes as spiritual life, it also relates to real and lasting happiness. These claims and more are supported by the vast Vedic literature left by those who had reached this consciousness themselves. They learned the art from their teachers and then kindly passed on the teachings to future generations.
As this present age is filled with so many souls who only want more and more in the chase for promotion, there is rampant quarrel and hypocrisy. Therefore just hearing of the need for transcendence is rare, and more rare is finding a situation where it is practiced. As mentioned before, only the mind is required, though to train the mind we can implement various physical practices. In times past, an entire culture of spiritual life, which was supported by knowledge and renunciation, could be created without issue. In today’s environment, the best physical practice is the constant chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” coupled with abstention from meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Through a little sincerity and a concerted effort at the beginning, the elevation in consciousness quickly begins, leaving behind the life of unending wants.
How bigger and better to get,
On this my mind is set.
Once cherished items I do receive,
On improvement then ideas to conceive.
In heaven enjoyments stand tall,
Eventually back to earth must fall.
In devotional service defect not the same,
Mind alone required for pleasure to gain.
Chanting and hearing tradition from Vedas take,
And quickly into peaceful home your mind make.