“Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura gives the following example: If one has strong digestive power, after eating he automatically lights a fire within his stomach to digest everything and does not need to take medicine to aid his digestion. Similarly, the fire of devotional service is so strong that a devotee does not need to act separately to attain perfect knowledge or detachment from material attractions.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.23.11)
The pure spirit soul being covered up by gunas, which are material qualities, is a kind of diseased condition. It is not the normal, healthy situation. There are various symptoms, with repeated birth and death being the most obvious. Like getting tossed into a vast ocean, without any rescue in sight, again and again such births take place, even after the entire cosmic manifestation has been dissolved.
“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Partha, and they are helplessly dissolved.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.19)
The best medicine for this condition is bhakti-yoga. Described as devotional service in English, it is a way of life, with both a means and an end. It cures the diseased condition, but it creates a new, permanent one, as well. Bhakti-yoga is so potent that other kinds of cures, which are commonly prescribed, are no longer necessary.
1. Following rituals for material advancement
I am not happy in the present situation, but perhaps in the future I can get ahead. After all, in some nations the poorest people have to scramble to get food. There is no guarantee of eating dinner. In another nation, the corresponding group in terms of income has an air conditioner, two cars, a television, and assistance from the government for purchasing food. Both groups are designated as poor, but the quality of life is not the same.
One way to advance is to follow rituals passed down in shastra [scripture]. Do this at a certain time. Stay away from this during that period of the year. You will get benedictions as a result.
2. Studying to attain perfect knowledge
The knowledge of the difference between spirit and body does not come automatically. The necessary components can be observed by the person paying attention. After all, I am the same person today that I was during youth. I look vastly different, however. Practically everything has changed, except for who I am.
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
The path of increasing knowledge of such things is known as jnana. It is the easier way, going through what is described as the descending process. Take information from past authorities. Don’t just listen. Don’t just hear every few days. Apply the principles practically. See how they apply. Ask questions. Bring every doubt to the table.
3. Renunciation for gaining detachment from material attractions
Coupled with jnana is vairagya. Both are extremely important. Knowledge tells me that in order to remain realized of the difference between matter and spirit I have to become detached. Stay away from the common attractions, like sex life and overindulgence in eating. Even gathering too many possessions can be harmful.
There is a proper way to get renunciation, and again that is passed on by authorities. The various stages of spiritual life, with the different residences and outfits, are meant for increasing this detachment until there is no interest anymore in material attractions.
The ultimate benefit from the different medicines is enlightenment, and an enlightened being is well situated to find permanent happiness.
Bhakti-yoga is so strong that practicing it eliminates the need for other remedies. The comparison is made to a strong digestive fire. If there are problems in the stomach, so many medicines can be prescribed. Too many toxins build up in the body, and from there diseases of many varieties take hold. Strong digestion, however, eliminates the potential for toxins to gain strength. The powerful digestion alone removes the need for medicine.
Bhakti-yoga is of a similar potency. Whatever is needed for material life is provided for by the goddess of fortune, who is married to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. Perfect knowledge is there in Bhagavan Himself, who also teaches through works like the Bhagavad-gita. Attachment to Bhagavan automatically removes interest in material attractions.
These promises may appear to be extraordinary and impossible to fulfill in reality, but proof is there in the lives of the saints. They experienced this amazing potency and therefore strongly urge others to try the same. Bhakti-yoga can be practiced through something as simple as chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Amazing the promise made,
That so much from little honor paid?
How possible can be?
That so easily enlightenment to see.
Like stomach with digestive power shown,
Removing toxins despite whatever thrown.
So bhakti-yoga with power similar like,
Needing not jnana or vairagya alike.
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