“The Supreme Lord is so kind to His pure devotees that in proper time He calls such devotees up to Him and thus creates an auspicious circumstance for the devotee.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.24-25 Purport)
Friend1: If you’re giving money as a gift for someone’s birthday, how much do you put in the envelope?
Friend2: Trying to be stingy again? Is this someone you don’t like?
Friend1: I’m asking about the general rule. Would you ever give one hundred dollars?
Friend2: Usually it’s like one hundred and one.
Friend1: Okay. That’s exactly what I wanted to discuss. I do the same thing. For some reason, I can’t give money as a gift without putting the extra dollar in there.
Friend2: Right. I’m not sure the origin of that. As a kid whenever I got money as a gift, it had the extra dollar in there. So I just followed the same tradition.
Friend1: Is it a Hindu thing?
Friend2: It might be. Maybe it has something to do with good luck.
Friend1: That makes sense.
Friend2: Vedic rituals and traditions are highly influenced by time and circumstance. As an example, they put a lot of stock into what time you were born.
Friend1: And that’s based on the lunar calendar, right? Depending on how the stars were aligned at the time of your birth, it says something about what will happen to you in the future.
Friend2: And what kind of character you will have, and so on. It’s about auspicious and inauspicious.
Friend1: Does it mean that if you do things at certain times, you are always doomed?
Friend2: Not necessarily. Not everything is the same for everyone. Remember, auspicious and inauspicious can be relative.
Friend1: How so?
Friend2: Take the open door as an example. It’s inauspicious for the owner of the home or apartment. For some reason they have left the door open. It’s inviting something bad to happen. On the other side, the thief is so happy. They have been waiting for an easy job. They don’t have to work so hard at stealing when they can enter without breaking a lock. It’s like getting a free meal.
Friend1: I never thought of it that way.
Friend2: It’s called duality. It’s an integral aspect to the world in which we live. One man’s food is another man’s poison.
Friend1: I’ve definitely heard that one before. Is there auspicious and inauspicious in religious life?
Friend2: What do you mean? Like for worshiping and such?
Friend1: For some reason I’m remembering that they have priests calculate the ideal day for a wedding.
Friend2: Oh, for sure. The same for travelling, conceiving a child, and moving in to a new home. In India you can make a living by running such calculations.
Friend1: Is there any activity or situation which is always auspicious, where the time and circumstance don’t matter?
Friend2: Devotion to Vishnu, or God the person. Everything else can be against you, but if you are devoted to the Supreme Lord then everything will be alright.
Friend1: If you’re giving Him a gift, do you have to include the extra one?
Friend2: [laughs] No. The general concept of appropriate time and circumstance still has relevance, though. For instance, the best time to worship Vishnu is in the morning right before sunrise. This is called the brahma-muhurta. Spiritual activities performed at this time are considered to be more effective.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: But does it mean that if you don’t worship at such an early time you are doomed? No. You can be in the worst circumstances, lacking all paraphernalia, surrounded by hostile people, and still have devotion to Vishnu. Even if you are born in a family of bad characters, your circumstances are considered auspicious if you have devotion, or bhakti, to the Lord.
Friend1: In that sense, you could say that bhakti is the only way to transcend time and circumstance completely. The person who has devotion to Vishnu doesn’t cry about their situation; they don’t pity themselves.
Friend2: Even if they do, they still remember the Lord. Their lamentation is auspicious. It’s difficult to understand, but with steady practice in devotion everything becomes clear. There’s the example of Shrimati Radharani. She always feels the pain of separation from her beloved Krishna. She laments, but it’s not a bad thing. The lamentation increases her attachment to the all-attractive Lord. There is also Prahlada Maharaja. He faces direct antagonism from the bigger, more influential elders. Still, he does not budge. You wouldn’t consider being thrown in a pit of fire against your will to be auspicious, would you?
Friend1: Certainly not.
Friend2: Yet even in that situation Prahlada maintains his devotion to Vishnu. These examples prove that bhakti transcends the material world. Though we see duality in everything, there is no such issue in devotional service. Something like chanting the holy names is all-auspicious, beneficial for everyone. That’s why it’s the principal means of rescue in the modern age: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Wedding and rituals on appropriate day,
Following time and circumstance way.
As thief open door auspicious for me,
But for homeowner bad sign to be.
Duality in this world everything in,
But not for bhakti, beyond piety and sin.
Even pain pleasurable can become,
And devotion through antagonism done.