“Spiritual realization cannot be attained by materialistic persons. For those who are addicted to sense enjoyment, spiritual realization is not possible. In Bhagavad-gita it is stated that those who are too attached to seeking material possessions and material enjoyment cannot reach yoga-samadhi, absorption in Krishna consciousness. Propaganda that one can enjoy this life materially and at the same time spiritually advance is simply bogus.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.20.53 Purport)
Things were getting old around the Patel house. The family had lived there for almost twenty years, and many of the same original parts were still in place. The bathrooms, the kitchen, the basement, the paint on the walls – nothing had been changed. In fact many of the cars were the same ones owned when the house was originally purchased. So naturally, things started to break down.
The attitude of the parents was to replace something only as a last resort. With each problem, a workaround was implemented. One day it was the battery in the car. It was known to die every now and then. Every time the daughter, Smita, was set to go anywhere, it wasn’t guaranteed that her car would start.
“Dad, this car is ridiculous. Let me take it to a repair place,” she one day told her father.
“No, that’s okay. Just take this battery charger with you. Anytime you have trouble, open the hood and jumpstart the car. You should be fine,” he responded.
Smita was not happy about this. She thought the process to be ridiculous. Nevertheless, she was respectful of her father, so she didn’t go against his wishes. She went to the supermarket that day, made her purchases, and her luck would have it that the car wouldn’t start as she was set to go home.
“Do you need a jump?” asked a stranger who was parked next to her.
“No, that’s okay, but thanks,” Smita replied, as she embarrassingly hauled out the battery charger from the trunk.
As the days passed, Smita tried to go to different supermarkets, not wanting others to see that she had to constantly charge the car. There were other similar temporary fixes in the house. The automatic garage door wouldn’t open, so the workaround was to leave the garage door permanently closed and go through the house in order to get anything from the garage. One day it was snowing, and so Smita tracked snow all through the house in putting back the shovel that she retrieved from the garage.
Another recurring problem was the dripping faucet in the upstairs bathroom. The hot water knob didn’t close all the way. Therefore there was a constant drip. The parents placed a bucket underneath to catch the drip. That bucket would be emptied periodically, especially when someone had to use the tub. One day, after finishing a shower Smita decided she wasn’t going to put up with the drip anymore. As hard as she could, she turned the hot water knob to the right. To her poor luck, the knob then broke, and so instead of the faucet dripping hot water, it was pouring it. It was like the faucet was permanently in an open position.
When her father came upstairs and saw the damage, Smita told him what she did.
“Dad, this is ridiculous. I figured instead of putting the stupid bucket underneath I would just close the knob shut.”
“You can’t do that. We told you to use the bucket. Now you broke the knob.”
“Dad, you should call someone already. It’s not normal to keep doing these things.”
Just then, Smita’s mom walked in. She took the side of her husband, and the two reprimanded Smita for messing up the system they had carefully crafted.
Several years later those incidents reappeared in Smita’s mind when she was one day having a conversation with a friend over religious principles. This friend, named Swati, was wondering why Smita didn’t drink alcohol or eat meat.
“Is it a religious thing,” Swati asked.
“Sort of,” Smita replied. “Not that I think I’ll get in trouble or anything for violating the rules, but it’s more of a consciousness thing. I try to follow bhakti-yoga, which is also known as the science of self-realization. One of its core principles is renunciation.”
“What does that mean? Is that like giving up things for God?”
“Sort of. It is said that one cannot attain spiritual realization while remaining a materialist. It’s a little complicated, since this doesn’t just mean that you have to give up everything. The point is that in order to fix the problem of material attachment, you have to make some changes in your life.”
“And avoiding drinking and eating meat are two of the changes?”
“The change is in overall attitude, but those are two of the four basic regulations. You’re also supposed to avoid illicit sex and gambling. The idea is that if you have attachment to these four things, your mind isn’t any different than someone who is not trying for spiritual realization.”
“But do you think such drastic measures are necessary?”
“Well, I think I’ve told you about the stories relating to the old things in my house in recent times? There was the car battery that we wouldn’t replace, the garage door that we refused to fix, and the leaky faucet in the bathroom.”
“Yes, yes, you guys are too funny.”
“Right, well you can think of the four things to give up in bhakti-yoga in that light. If you maintain material attachment, you’re not fixing anything. You’re putting a bucket under the leaky faucet. You’re jump starting a dying car battery. The better way is to replace these things with fixes. With the fixes you have less things to worry about. In the same way, if you fix the consciousness by removing material attachment, you have more time to concentrate on your spiritual life. That is how you’ll advance. It’s like getting rid of weights that are holding you down.”
“I see. That makes sense.”
“More importantly, the goal is to always think of God. He is known as Krishna because He is all-attractive. This doesn’t mean that Krishna is only for the Hindus, but still one should know without a doubt that no one is more attractive than God. Not surprisingly, the names used to address Him are attractive as well, as are the mantras passed on since time immemorial that contain those names. So the point to all of the regulations is to increase the effect of devotional efforts. Though I’m a dismal failure so far, I’m trying my best to limit my material attachments so that I can enjoy the bliss from chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
Material attachment and bhakti not to mix,
Like using old machine with fix after fix.
Better if with new one to replace,
So no more a constant worrying face.
In bhakti following principles four,
Easier for Krishna to adore.
Renounce today the temporary,
And keep Him no longer secondary.