“The temporary comforts of the body are not the goal of life, and it is due only to darkest ignorance that people become enamored of the glimmering advancement of material comforts.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 1)
“Boy, I don’t know what to get them for a gift. I know that I have to bring something. I was invited to the party because I am important to them. They enjoy my company. Through all the years we’ve managed to remain friends. Since I don’t see them all the time, it’s difficult to determine what they will like. Plus, in adulthood a person can more or less purchase whatever they want. Other than high end items like a fancy car or designer purse, if there is something of interest, a person who has a steady income can purchase it.
“You know what? I’m going to get them a gift card. It will be specific to a store or restaurant that they like. This way I know they will like the gift. It will be better than giving them straight cash, for that would look like I’m paying to attend the party. The gift card is easy enough to carry. I can put it in an envelope along with the card marking the occasion. Problem solved. This will work perfectly.”
Indeed, the gift card is such a popular item for giving as a present that there is a large variety of them in supermarkets and convenience stores. You’re not really on the map as a store until you can offer gift cards that people can purchase in large quantities. Since the material is ultimately tied to the spiritual, even the gift card can teach us a valuable lesson about which is the superior path to follow in life. The gift card example shows how something that seems very difficult is so because it is not meant to be practiced by the majority of the people.
If something is not meant for everyone, it means it does not completely represent God. Regardless of one’s religious persuasion or disinclination towards it, if we are to acknowledge a supreme being, He would have to be inherently tied to everything. This means the tree, the ants, the birds, the beasts, the rivers, the oceans, the mountains, and the human beings alike would have to be related to Him. The more inclusive a specific aspect of nature is, the more closely it resembles God.
For instance, those things we actually need in life are abundantly available and inexpensive, relatively speaking. This shows God’s benevolence. The Supreme has put things into place to allow life to continue. The newborn gets the mother. Simply with the milk from the mother, the child can survive. There is no cost for this. There is no difficult procedure for acquiring this. As soon as there is life, there is a parent.
Water, milk, grains and fruits are cheaper and available in larger quantities than meat, wine, fish and eggs. This means that the former is sufficient for survival and the latter unnecessary. Knowing this helps in putting the different ways for spiritual connection into ascending priority. Those methods which are difficult to practice and have prerequisites that are rarely found must not be necessary.
Meditational yoga is the most difficult of the different paths of spiritual connection. Yoga means connection, and it always relates to the union of the individual spirit soul with the Supreme Soul, the benevolent God whose influence cannot be removed from any space. Real meditational yoga bears the fruit of a siddhi. This translates to a “perfection,” which in this context means a sort of ability.
“The highest perfection of mystic power is called kamavasayita. This is also magic, but whereas the prakamya power acts to create wonderful effects within the scope of nature, kamavasayita permits one to contradict nature – in other words, to do the impossible. Of course, one can derive great amounts of temporary happiness by achieving such yogic materialistic perfections.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 1)
There is a fruit to any kind of work. If you build a house, the reward is a house. If you drive to a certain destination, the reward is reaching that destination. If you practice meditational yoga, you get the reward of a perfection, or siddhi. Perfections are abilities. You can become very light. You can become very heavy. You can travel outside of your body. You can get something just by wanting it.
These things seem far out to us, but from reading the Vedas and studying the behavior of some special mystics of today we can find examples of these abilities. Since the siddhis show a kind of magic, it is easy to mistake a mystic for a realized soul. Indeed, the public display of these abilities has often led to the mystics being mistakenly identified for God Himself.
But the siddhi is not different than the gift card balance, if you think about it. If you receive a gift card for your birthday, what does it really mean to you? It’s actually just a piece of plastic. It’s no different looking than a credit card or an identification badge for school or work. The gift card takes on its meaning when it is used. When the balance is transferred for purchase of specific objects, the card becomes valuable.
In the same way the siddhi is meaningless unless you can do something with it. If one person who is not a yogi can become very light by losing weight, and the mystic can do the same after intense yoga practice, what is the difference? How is one person spiritual and the other not? Has the mystic transcended birth and death, the two main problems for a spirit soul in a material existence? Has the mystic found true happiness?
In karma there is work for a fruit to be enjoyed by the senses. In jnana there is renunciation and the assimilation of high philosophy. In yoga there is the siddhi that must be used in order to have value. Bhakti-yoga is the superior discipline because it gives meaning to all other yogas, philosophies and work. It is also available to everyone. It is not restricted to only those who can practice austerity. It is not reserved solely for those who can work very hard in fruitive endeavors. It does not discriminate based on intelligence, gender, or age.
In bhakti-yoga, you can still have a siddhi. You can have millions of dollars. You can also have high knowledge. In whatever condition you find yourself, you worship God. You worship through service, which means dedicated action. The service may be something basic like chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” It may also be something very difficult like lifting a mountain with your hands and carrying it somewhere else. Since in bhakti-yoga the consciousness is fixed on pleasing the Supreme Lord, guidance from both within and without is provided on how to use whatever abilities one has. Bhakti-yoga shows even the adept mystic how to advance for real, so in all respects it is the superior form of yoga.
Gift card for birthday I got,
Until I spend value it has not.
Fruits of mystic yoga in way the same,
Ability alone not worthy of spiritual name.
Whether to work, study or stretch issue not,
Focus on link to supreme consciousness got.
When to serve Supreme Lord in love you choose,
Whether rich or poor, all abilities suitable to use.