“The word ‘hetu’ [‘cause’] means that a thing is done for some motive. There can be three motives. One may act to enjoy the result personally, to achieve some material perfection, or to attain liberation.” (Lord Chaitanya explaining the Atmarama verse, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 24.27)
Knowledge is power. Supposedly, the more you know the better off you will be. If I’m playing hockey, if I know the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent, it will be to my benefit. If I know their game plan, I will be even more benefitted. In Presidential politics, information of the opponent’s strategy is so important that sometimes there are moles who steal such information and then transfer it over to the opposition. In one particular discipline, the knowledge acquired is so vast that all arguments are learned. Before someone even argues against your particular viewpoint, you know from where they are coming. And therefore you are able to assess different arguments and be more confident in your position.
The discipline is bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Defining the distinct terms, we get love and devotion and the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. You can hammer a nail in different ways. The point is to get the nail into the object so that it will stay there. You can hammer gently. This will take a long time. You can hammer haphazardly. This might be quicker, but there is more chance for error. If you hammer with great attention and good technique, you will get the job done.
With respect to bringing the individual soul together with the Supreme Soul, bhakti is the latter method. Indeed, it is the constitutional method; it is the one that brings the ideal culmination in the shortest amount of time. All other kinds of yoga are meant to end in bhakti. Without devotional love for the Supreme Soul, yoga is not complete. In this union, where the individual understands their position as servant and God’s as master, knowledge of all desires is automatically acquired.
Desires are what make arguments. As an example, one side is arguing in favor of abortion, while the other is against it. So many different points will be made:
“A woman has a right to privacy. She has a right to treat her own body as she so chooses. This is a women’s health issue. Men should not have an opinion on it.”
The other side will say things like:
“It’s an innocent life. Killing is bad. Abortion is killing without seeing. Just because you don’t see the death doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. This isn’t an issue of privacy. It’s one of morality. When the child exits the womb then it’s not okay to kill, but just moments prior it is? That doesn’t make sense.”
In practicing bhakti-yoga, the desires of both sides are understood. Generally speaking, the side in favor desires kama, or sense gratification. An unwanted pregnancy is the negative consequence to unregulated sexual affairs, and ending the pregnancy is one way to remove the negative consequence. Nevertheless, the initial desire is for sexual relations, which is based on lust. In sexual relations that aren’t lusty, which don’t violate the principles of religion, there is no desire to end the pregnancy.
“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)
The side against abortion has a desire rooted in righteousness. They are in favor of some kind of dharma. In this particular instance, assessing the two desires we see that dharma trumps kama. Dharma is an essential quality. The foremost quality of spirit is to serve, and so dharma is the system that allows that service to take place. Within the broader scheme, there are rules and regulations specific to circumstance. Protecting innocent life to the best extent possible is one of those rules that is part of an overall march towards the divine consciousness, which manifests in service.
Kama was seen in the abortion argument, but it is prevalent in so many other areas as well. Anytime there is a desire to enjoy money, wine, women, gambling, or eating, there is kama. The specific desire in kama is known as bhukti, or the pleasure of enjoyment, in Sanskrit. Sometimes even the side supported by dharma has their desire rooted in bhukti. The opposite of bhukti is mukti, or the enjoyment of liberation. With mukti someone wants to get rid of stuff. “No more distractions in the way. No more annoying spouse. No more pressure-filled job. No more burdens brought on by a material existence. Just let me out.” There is also siddhi, or the enjoyment from attaining a mystic perfection. This is similar to bhukti, except the enjoyment doesn’t necessarily have to come through gross sense objects.
Those who desire such things do not know bhakti. Perhaps they have heard of it, but they will discount it as a vehicle for the simpletons used to achieve an end they are already on their way to. The person in bhakti-yoga, however, knows all about bhukti, mukti, and siddhi, for they have reviewed each and determined that they are inferior to devotional love.
And who can argue with their assessment? In bhakti-yoga you get the divine vision of Shyamasundara, the beautiful youth with a blackish complexion. You get the strong hand of Girivaradhari, the lifter of mountains, to protect you. You get the enchanting sound of the flute of Muralidhara to bring pleasure to your ears. You get the wonderful fragrance of the flowers offered to Damodara, the beloved son of mother Yashoda.
These three names refer to the same personality. He also happens to be God. In bhakti-yoga, knowing this last point isn’t so important. God is the Supreme Being, so it is a given that someone whose association is so beneficial would be supreme amongst all others. In service to Him knowledge comes as well, revealing the flaws in the arguments borne of inferior desires. Kama has limits. It does not bring lasting satisfaction. Mukti isn’t the end; it is merely a temporary release from the pressures of a material existence. It is not a viable position. Siddhi must have a use for it to mean something. How it is to be used is unknown to one who doesn’t know Krishna, who is the all-attractive Supreme Lord. For one in bhakti the puzzle and all its pieces make sense, and so with confidence they are unwavering in their devotion.
Since towards devotion they go,
Bhaktas all arguments to know.
Each side from a desire to make,
From bhukti, mukti, siddhi all take.
Bhakti beyond all of these,
From material miseries it frees.
Without devotion full knowledge not to find,
Only lover of God to know everyone’s mind.