“Without pious activities, if a man is in a distressed condition he becomes an agnostic, communist or something like that. Because he does not firmly believe in God, he thinks that he can adjust his distressed condition by totally disbelieving in Him.” (The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 3)
“Piety and sin. Why should I bother? What is the need? They are defined in books that are thousands of years old. Man has made tremendous advancements. No longer are people put on trial for not believing in God; at least not in a large portion of the world. Science has helped to debunk so many myths. What benefit is there to pious activities?”
These reservations are only natural, especially when so much work is accomplished without any attention paid to good and bad, pious and impious. There are still benefits to following what is passed on from time immemorial. The Vedic tradition is for increasing knowledge, and one aspect of knowledge is knowing what work should be done.
1. Stay away from harmful activities
In the 1990s the United States government created an initiative called Midnight Basketball. The program was targeted at high crime areas, where drugs and alcohol were a problem. The idea was that if the trouble-prone population was given a more constructive activity to engage in, they would steer clear of crime.
Pious activities have a similar benefit. By engaging in good works for the benefit of others, automatically harmful activities are avoided. Pious activities include performing ritualistic sacrifice, intended for the enjoyment of the enjoyer of sacrifices, Yajneshvara. There is also reading scriptural works and teaching them to others. In Vedic culture there are enough pious activities to keep a person busy from morning until night, from youth to old age.
2. Build up meritorious credits
The Sanskrit word is sukriti. Good things happen as a result. Whenever good fortune comes our way, we should know that it was not by accident. There were some meritorious credits accumulated through past activities. The timespan is not limited to the present lifetime, either. We may have done something good in another life, for which we are now enjoying.
Going forward, there is the reward of life in the heavenly realm. A longer duration of life. Enhanced comforts. Amazing abilities. Be pious in this lifetime and after quitting the body these are some of the enjoyments awaiting.
3. Avoid becoming an atheist
Without pious activities, it is easier to make a grossly foolish and incorrect diagnosis upon a downturn in events. If something doesn’t go my way, I am more prone to discounting the idea of God. After all, if I prayed to save the health of my family member and they ended up dying because of the illness, what good did praying do me?
“And that understanding which cannot distinguish between the religious way of life and the irreligious, between action that should be done and action that should not be done, that imperfect understanding, O son of Pritha, is in the mode of passion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.31)
In this regard pious activities help to put everything into the proper context. Working simply for personal gain, without regard for right and wrong, is in the mode of passion. To meet my objective, I will make up my own set of values, i.e. what should be done and what should not.
Consider the mindset of the thief. For them, the nighttime is auspicious. Lying and sneaking around are pious activities, while telling the truth and respecting the property of others is impious. Since real pious activities are lacking, it is much easier for them to think that there is no God, that they won’t face punishment for the crimes they have thus far gotten away with.
Falling into the mindset of atheism is a great tragedy for the human being, whose increased potential for intelligence is meant specifically for understanding the spiritual nature. The atheist is also a worshiper of God; they know only the rear portion, the shadow version, if you will. The human being is meant to understand God in full, as He is, a distinct personality to whom everyone is connected to some degree, at all times. The proper understanding brings a level of enjoyment not seen elsewhere, and never to be degraded by time and its steady onslaught.
Benefit from following giving,
With pious activities living.
Clear of bad behavior to stay,
Building sukriti along the way.
Atheist mentality not to find,
Steady through good and bad the mind.
Human life especially for Krishna meant,
For reformation to this world sent.
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