“A Vaishnava is described as para-duhkha-duhkhi because although he is never distressed in any condition of life, he is distressed to see others in a distressed condition.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.6.47)
Friend1: Do you ever think about how bad some people have it?
Friend2: Yes. I think about it all the time.
Friend1: No, I mean the people who are really in a bad situation. Like those living in poverty stricken countries. Then there are those who are stuck in the middle of a war. I can’t imagine living through that.
Friend2: It is sad, indeed. There is no doubt about the difficulty.
Friend1: Yes, I know what you’re going to say, that everyone in this world is struggling. Both the poor person and the rich person have struggles; just on the surface they appear different.
Friend2: Anyone who is in the material consciousness is “needy.” There are the needy who require food and there are the needy who require a higher taste, something beyond the dualities found in the material existence.
Friend1: Bhakti-yoga is the answer. Realization of the self is what brings true peace. That peace can be found from within; you don’t have to be rich to get it.
Friend2: Exactly. Everyone wants this peace but hardly anyone is willing to accept the formula to get it.
Friend1: I’m glad you said that. It’s sort of where I was going with the feeling bad for people. If you are concerned with how people are wasting their time in drinking, sports, work, school and the like, and you want them to find the supreme bliss that is surrender and devotion to the Supreme Lord – is that a material desire?
Friend2: What’s your definition of material desire?
Friend1: Kama. That’s the Sanskrit word for it. I know that kama gets translated to want, desire or lust depending on the context.
Friend2: That’s good. Yeah, kama relates to the body. Something like considering eating pizza for dinner is a want. To hanker after something is desire. To want to enjoy separately from the Supreme Lord, taking His property and not acknowledging His kindness, that is lust. In the higher picture, all three translations are identical.
Friend1: If my desire is to save someone on the spiritual platform, is that kama?
Friend1: But what if I have such an intense hankering for it that it makes me sad?
Friend2: I think I see where you’re going with this.
Friend1: In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna mentions several times how the wise person remains detached. They don’t get too high or too low. He even says that such a person is dear to Him.
yasmān nodvijate loko
lokān nodvijate ca yaḥ
mukto yaḥ sa ca me priyaḥ
“He for whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anxiety, who is steady in happiness and distress, is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.15)
Friend1: What if I get unsteady in distress by thinking about how people are struggling in this world? I want them to be genuinely happy. This is not about improving my standing in the eyes of others. I don’t care if I get the credit for rescuing people. I just know that bhakti-yoga will work for them. I can see how they’re already serving so many things and people. I can see how it’s not making them happy. I know that if they turn that service propensity, which is their dharma, in the right direction they will get everything they’ve been looking for.
Friend2: Well, you have to remember that the same principles apply no matter what type of work you’re doing.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: When you’re doing your job, you’re supposed to remain detached from the outcome. This is the wise choice. If you get too caught up in the results, it means you’re under the sway of ignorance. The wise person knows that the living entity is not the doer. Only when a person is under the grips of the modes of nature do they consider themselves to be the doer.
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
Friend1: By worrying about bringing people to the transcendental consciousness, I’m essentially attached to the results?
Friend2: And you’re thinking yourself the doer. Independence is dynamic. This means that you can’t control someone else’s independence. If they’re choosing against God, and thus assuring themselves of reincarnation going forward, you can’t force them out of it. You can try your best to give them the shelter of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. You can give them sound advice pertaining to their true identity, should they be willing to hear it. You can go the extra mile and more, but the results are still out of your hands.
Friend1: That’s true. Good point.
Friend2: Think of it this way. Even the Supreme Lord doesn’t force everyone back to Him. He certainly wants all His children to be happy. But forcing them would invalidate the independence. Without independence, there cannot be love. If anyone were to lament, it would be the all-attractive God, Shri Krishna. Yet we know that He is atmarama, or self-satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, having compassion for others is good. Wanting to save them is certainly not a material desire. But if you get too caught up in the results, then you’re forgetting about the nature of action. You’re thinking that you are God, when even He doesn’t force people to come back to Him.
Vaishnava distressed to see,
When others in painful condition to be.
Wanting desperately rescue to give,
So that in true happiness they’ll live.
But results ultimately out of hand,
Known when independence to understand.
Action through choice can take,
But guaranteed outcome cannot make.