“Ananda-mayo ‘bhyasat (Vedanta-sutra 1.1.12). The living entities, like the Lord, are full of consciousness, and they are after happiness. The Lord is perpetually happy, and if the living entities associate with the Lord, cooperate with Him and take part in His association, then they also become happy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)
“The worries began to mount in my childhood. Though I didn’t have a job or any real responsibilities and thus nothing to worry about, I thought I did. I worried about whether or not I would complete the current grade in school. Like so many others, I would have the recurring dream of where I showed up on the last day of class to take the final exam after having not attended the class all year. Obviously this dream was due to fear over failure, over not successfully completing the class.
“In young adulthood, the worries continued. College was so difficult. I wanted to hang out with my friends, but I had to study also. And the studying never stopped. One class was easy, but then the next was difficult. I saw others studying a lot too, so I needed to keep up with them. Then what was I going to do after I graduated? Where was I going to work?
“In adulthood, I took on the stresses of a regular job. It was nice to work, but then I never knew if the company would stay afloat. I never knew if my next paycheck would be my last. I had my spouse and children to worry about as well. Can you imagine if I had lost my job? How would I have supported my family?
“In retirement age, when the stresses of work were gone, I still had worries. Were my children okay? Were my grandchildren being properly taken care of? How was I going to spend my time? I sat around the house the whole day, but I had nothing to do. I tried going on long vacations, but those weren’t really fun.”
When given a book on the spiritual science, it is not uncommon to place it on the shelf for later reading. “I will get to it soon. Right now I have so many other important things to take care of. Once things ease up a bit, maybe I will give this a look.” This is the general sentiment, but as we see from the hypothetical course of events reviewed above, the worries never go away. From childhood to adulthood to old age, the individual never has to look too far to find something to worry over.
The idea that spiritual life should come after these worries subside is an illusion. Eating is necessary. So is sleeping. These are not mutually exclusive to working and meeting obligations. Indeed, if you don’t eat and sleep, everything else becomes more difficult. In the same way, spiritual life is meant to be practiced in conjunction with everything else. When it is practiced perfectly, all of life becomes spiritual, even mundane work. The worries change in nature as well.
In a land where spiritual life has to be explicitly practiced, two foundational principles are jnana and vairagya. These translate to “knowledge” and “renunciation.”
“Learn about who you are. Don’t just take someone else’s word for it about who we are meant to worship. Put in some sincere effort to figure out what it is exactly you’re supposed to do with your time. After all, everyone goes through the same worries. Everyone takes birth, everyone lives for some time, and everyone dies. Why does this all happen? Is there only one life to live? If that is the case, shouldn’t exploitation be the guiding principle? If you’re going to die, why not enjoy as much as possible?”
Ah, but what is the nature of the enjoyment? The only valid answer is available in the spiritual science. In fact, everyone is looking for enjoyment, but nobody really knows where to find it. In jnana, one learns their true identity as spirit, or Brahman. They learn that others are Brahman too, including the nonmoving and moving creatures of the lower species. They learn that the soul is ananda-mayo, or by nature blissful; hence the compulsion to search for enjoyment.
Through practicing vairagya, one’s enjoyment actually increases. Seems odd considering that one eventually gives up the seemingly enjoyable activities of meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex life in order to make their spiritual practices fruitful. Knowledge supports renunciation and vice versa. Jnana tells you that the renunciation will be beneficial, sort of like how you know that not eating doughnuts in the morning will help you to lose weight and thus feel better about yourself. Vairagya increases your knowledge, sort of like how you can study more effectively when you are not intoxicated, when the senses are not constantly attacking you. You work better when you are focused on the task. This is not up for debate. So why wouldn’t your intelligence on the highest subject matter rise when you are not attached to so many outside things?
Time is spent in life regardless. Whether you are rich or poor, you must go through the journey of life. If you’re going to get on the train anyway, why not make the trip enjoyable? The spiritual science aims to make this life and all future ones the most enjoyable. We already had a childhood. It is done. It is gone forever. We can’t get it back. Having survived it, should we have spent it playing on the fields all day? Should we have tried every video game there was instead of going to school? Obviously not, since the schooling and guidance of our elders helped prepare us for the next life, namely adulthood. In the same way, this entire life serves as preparation for the next. The “one life to live” concept is invalidated through knowledge of the spirit soul, which is timeless.
The soul is always alive, even at the time of death. If there is always an active state, why should there be constant worrying? The endpoint is the changing of bodies anyway, so there should be enjoyment right now, today, tomorrow, next week, and so on. The highest spiritual science of bhakti-yoga aims to make this enjoyment a reality. Bhakti is the greatest mercy of God since it is available to every single person. Even the child, who lacks the developed consciousness needed to accept higher knowledge, can practice bhakti-yoga through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Knowledge and renunciation do help, but devotion to God is not dependent on them. In fact, devotion is not dependent on anything except the mood of the worshiper. In a life spent in worry, the mood is always fearful, and so God stays far away. In bhakti, He is always close by, so there is no choice but to take dose after dose of enjoyment, which gives real meaning to life.
Timeline of life fast it went,
Why in so much worry then spent?
Soul enjoyment always should feel,
Why illusion then bliss to steal?
Knowledge and renunciation take,
For life of enjoyment to make.
Devotion open to those with means lacking,
Supreme Lord Himself their efforts backing.