“Sometimes people ask us, ‘Why are you utilizing material products if you condemn the advancement of material civilization?’ But actually we do not condemn. We simply ask people to do whatever they are doing in Krishna consciousness. This is the same principle on which, in the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna advised Arjuna to utilize his fighting abilities in devotional service.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 14)
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada advises against suddenly changing occupations. No need to quit the home, leave the family, and retreat to the forest. No need to stop talking to every single person you speak to on a regular basis. No need to shave the head right away, wear different clothes, and live in a new place.
At the same time, there aren’t any absolute rules for progressing in the path of self-realization. This is more true when the path is bhakti, which is love and devotion. In jnana-marga there has to be intelligence; otherwise how will the knowledge be assimilated? In karma-marga there has to be the ability to work; otherwise how will the fruits to sacrifice manifest?
Bhakti-yoga can be practiced during childhood, even, where there isn’t much maturity in comparison to adulthood. What rules should be followed, though? It would be easier if someone just made a list. Something like a giant image of possible objects of attachment. Then go to each object and put either a check or a strikeout mark, like with the no smoking sign.
The material world has duality in every aspect. What is good for one person may not be so for another. The rain is welcome on a scorching summer day, but on a cold and windy autumn afternoon the rain only makes things worse.
From the bhakti school of teachers there is the concept of yukta-vairagya. This is a combination of connecting and renouncing. Use things around you in service to Bhagavan, but become detached at the same time. Another way is to say, “utility is the principle.” This concept is not very difficult to understand once we apply it to several objects with which we are already familiar.
One person says they can’t watch the news anymore. It’s just sadness, twenty-four hours a day. They don’t report the good things. When buses and trains arrive on time, thousands of instances throughout the year, there are no stories. When there is an accident, however, total focus. Maybe it is better to stop watching television altogether.
Another person uses televised programs to relax. They like to laugh. It is easier to turn on an electronic device than to travel to a live performance held somewhere. Also, the television gives breaking news on weather alerts and other emergencies. Without at least some viewership, society would be in the dark about these things.
Better to not eat vegetables raw. They are difficult to digest that way, and every health issue has improper or poor digestion at the root. Let’s use a knife to cut up those vegetables. The products that come in the annoying packages from the retailer, only a knife can do the job.
At the same time, one mistake and the effects can be deadly. The knife is sharp, after all. It is intended to cut. What if the target is human flesh? What if an accident happens in the kitchen? Maybe it is better to avoid knives altogether.
The judgment on this object should be more uniform. One group says that guns are weapons and only that. They have no other purpose. Look at the amount of deaths that happen each year caused by a gun. Why should anyone own them? They are not safe. Whatever some men from two hundred years ago thought, today is different.
Another group says that there are bad people out there. Those evildoers will not adhere to the laws of the government. They will find a way to get guns, even if the objects are banned. When such a person goes on a rampage, what are the innocent potential victims left to do? Pray? Post on social media? Wear a ribbon? Only another gun will provide sufficient protection. Indeed, so many deaths are prevented each year because a responsible, law-abiding citizen was near a potential crime scene carrying a gun.
One person is beginning to get fed up. They are sick of being awoken to the same sounds each morning. Life must have been better before the invention of the microphone. Then people wouldn’t be able to annoy as easily. There is no reason to amplify sound to that magnitude.
Another person is so thankful for the same microphone. They are able to speak to large gatherings without having to shout. In addition, the people in the audience can hear through the many distractions. People on their smartphones, standing up in the aisles, talking amongst themselves – at least with the amplified sound the speaker can be better heard.
In this way we see that different objects in nature cannot be condemned universally. Utility is the principle, and so the sadhaka can take the same lesson. Shrila Rupa Gosvami advises that whatever is favorable for devotional service should be accepted. That which is unfavorable, pratikula, should be avoided.
As a simple example, the association of drunkards, cheats, animal killers, and sense gratifiers in general will not do much good for the consciousness. If not physically renounced, then at least attachment to such association should be given up. The association of sadhus, saintly people, will help us tremendously, especially if we take the opportunity to meet with them and chant the holy names together: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Both groups consist of people, but the relationship to the highest cause brings different effects.
Decide to travel on spiritual road,
Leading straight to God’s abode.
What about material objects to see,
From attachments shouldn’t be free?
For everything utility the principle,
Like sharp knife, from cut not invincible.
Or television valuable information providing,
Effect on bhakti assessment the line dividing.
Categories: the four