“In the Shrimad-Bhagavatam it is said that the foolish do not know that Vishnu is the ultimate goal of life. According to the conclusion of all authoritative Vedic scriptures, when a person comes to the stage of appreciating Vishnu, he is at the beginning of devotional service. If one cultivates devotional service further and further, under proper guidance, other features of devotional service will gradually become manifest.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 35)
Friend1: Svartha-gatim hi vishnu.
Friend2: I believe that’s a quote from Prahlada Maharaja.
Friend1: In the Shrimad Bhagavatam.
Friend2: Do you know what it means?
Friend1: Going to Vishnu?
Friend2: Not just the destination. It’s talking about svartha. This is the interest, artha, of the self, sva. Reaching the destination of Vishnu is the most important.
Friend1: There is an associated term, right?
Friend1: Yes. Does that mean the same thing?
Friend2: In philosophical discussions svartha typically refers to interest in the present lifetime and paramartha the afterlife. Sort of like earthly rewards versus heavenly ones.
Friend1: And Prahlada specifically mentions svartha.
Friend2: I am glad you picked up on that. The idea is not to relegate spiritual life to something mysterious, beyond our understanding. It’s not something to be believed in only through faith. It’s not like saying, “My religion is to go to Vishnu.” No, the destination of the personal God is in your best interest right now, today.
Friend1: I’m assuming the paramartha aspect is implied.
Friend2: Both are the same, if you really think about it. This is the way the Vaishnava thinks. Goswami Tulsidas has written similarly. Stop thinking in terms of this life, heaven or hell in the next life, and then enjoying or suffering. Think about the right now. Associating with God is in your best interest, always, for any duration of time.
“When your personal and supreme interests can be easily obtained from one place, it is not sensible for you in weakness to beg at the doors of others, O Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 54)
Friend1: Would you say that is the ultimate goal of life?
Friend2: In the Nectar of Devotion there is the specific reference made to Vishnu being the ultimate goal of life. Do you understand how that works?
Friend1: It’s supposed to be juxtaposed with other stated goals of life.
Friend2: Well, everyone is searching for higher knowledge to some degree. People are looking for the essence, the origin, what have you. Vishnu is the soul of the universe. He is the atom, paramanu, and He is the Supersoul inside of every living thing. Without knowing Him you don’t really know much.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Knowing Him is the beginning. Naturally, there will be some appreciation. This is called shanta-rasa, or the interaction in neutrality.
Friend1: Awe and reverence.
Friend2: Notice that even this is beyond the stage of fear. It is God-appreciating instead of God-fearing.
Friend1: Which a lot of people are happy to acknowledge.
Friend2: At least appreciate Him. No need to be so afraid. The more you know Him, the closer the relationship becomes.
Friend1: Like the gopis, who actually chastise Him.
Friend2: Right. The parents, Nanda and Yashoda, think that God will not survive unless He is taken care of. Step back and ponder that for a moment.
Friend1: It is a pretty amazing attitude.
Friend2: That is what awaits a person who reaches the ultimate goal of life. Vedic literature and Vedic culture are passed down to facilitate this objective. There is no other purpose. Living comfortably through wealth, beauty, and fame is not the highest goal.
Friend1: Animals already have a lot of stuff, if you think about it.
Friend2: They get sense enjoyment already.
Friend1: In a lot of cases, their enjoyment is superior to the human beings, who have to struggle so much.
Friend2: So the solution is to stop struggling. Find Vishnu. Appreciate Him. Learn more. Serve through different ways described by the same Prahlada Maharaja. Live happily ever after.
Searching here and there,
But of real goal not aware.
That devotion to Vishnu to taste,
And all other pursuits a waste.
The current and future interest too,
His association the best for you.
Like Prahlada Maharaja saying,
And other Vaishnavas displaying.