“The fruitive workers, the salvationists, and also the yogis who are after mystic powers, are all unhappy because of unfulfilled desires. But the person in Krishna consciousness is happy in the service of the Lord, and he has no desires to be fulfilled. In fact, he does not even desire liberation from the so-called material bondage. The devotees of Krishna have no material desires, and therefore they are in perfect peace.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.70 Purport)
Shri Krishna reveals the formula for attaining peace and then maintaining it going forward. From the highest to the lowest, rich to poor, young to old, man to woman – everyone is searching for peace. Whether they specifically look to fulfill this desire or remove that negative situation, the underlying goal is peace. Without peace there cannot be happiness.
“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires—that enter like rivers into the ocean which is ever being filled but is always still—can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.70)
Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says that the key is to remain undisturbed. Desires will always remain. They rush in like rivers into an ocean. That ocean is constantly being filled, but in the peaceful state it remains still.
In this regard we can study categories of individuals and see why they are lacking peace. Indeed, in one sense because of the nature of personal desire, kama, there can never be success.
1. Fruitive workers
The Sanskrit word is karma. Since this is work that has consequences, manifesting at some point in the future, remaining sometimes for a short period and at others a more lengthy stay, an appropriate English translation is “fruitive work.”
“Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)
The person who works for fruitive results is known as a karmi. There is one desire after another. Karma is the default position, starting right at birth. In youth the desire is to play. Later on the focus shifts to doing well in school. Then land and maintain a job. Get married. Have children. Save money towards retirement. Find something to occupy the time after quitting from fulltime work. Maintain life for as long as possible. With so many desires, how can there be peace?
This is the English word used by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to describe jnanis, or those who are on the path of jnana. The Sanskrit word just means “knowledge,” but in this context the specific aim is to become knowledgeable to the point of enlightenment.
At the highest stage there is merging into the spiritual effulgence known as Brahman. It is a very difficult achievement. There is intense focus on keeping desires at bay. It is something like one giant desire trumping all others. The mindset is, “There is room for only one, so everyone else leave.”
There is very little peace in this path due to the focus required. One slip up and you have to start over. Moreover, the taste for sense objects remains. Just because I am on a diet doesn’t mean I no longer crave pizza and ice cream. Not until I find a higher taste will the nature of my desire change.
This refers specifically to those practicing meditation in the hopes of becoming a mystic. Just like jnana, yoga also has strict requirements. It is not meant to be a hobby, something you dabble in part-time. The reason is that as soon as you leave the environment of yoga, most of the benefits depart simultaneously.
The ideal conditions are solitude, celibacy, and strict control on eating and sleeping. Success is difficult to achieve, which means that peace is elusive. As long as I don’t reach the end, how can the mind be steady? Even when there is success, the enhanced abilities, the siddhis, must be used. Now that I have detached from the temporary body, what am I supposed to do? Time is still an issue.
The saints of the devotional tradition of spirituality coming from the Vedas say that only a Krishna conscious person can attain peace. This is because they have surrendered everything, from outcomes to conditions to the issue of time itself, to the Supreme Lord.
They know that God is an all-attractive person, Krishna, who can hear prayers and directly intervene on behalf of devotees. He does not take such a position for any other group, as the material nature handles ups and downs, highs and lows, and success and failure. Those are temporary shifts regardless, as the real nature of the soul is to serve and be happy in that service.
“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.59)
Bhakti, devotion, is the higher taste that removes attachment to the sense objects for good. Even if there is a slip up later on, the benefits don’t get erased. The same can’t be said of progress in any other path. In this manner and others the benevolence of the all-merciful one continues to flow. The devotees are at peace because their lone desire of continued service is fulfilled by the very object of that service.
Jnanis with an interest to serve,
Failure when elsewhere to swerve.
Workers with this desire and that,
No peace even when success exact.
Devotional service the only way,
Ensured by Krishna on path to stay.
From danger providing protection,
Highest taste when in that direction.
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