Three Nonnegotiable Requirements From Different Paths Of Spirituality

[Shri Krishna]“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.47)

“That’s fine that you accept bhakti-yoga. It is a mechanism, just like the other ones. It is a means to an end. In my opinion, it is for the less intelligent. That is because eventually you have to cast aside the devotion. The worshipable form, the archa-vigraha, merges into the spiritual nothingness, Brahman. Everything will become one. Whatever way a person arrives at that destination is bona fide.”

This conclusion based on mental speculation misses one key factor. If the Almighty is truly for everyone, then He cannot be limited by requirements. Bhakti-yoga is the constitutional position. That is to say while it is a specific discipline of spiritual life in the material world, designated from others, it continues in the liberated state. The only difference is that the designation gets removed.

Since it is for everyone, there are no hard and fast rules. There are no strict requirements. Indeed, in other paths there are certain attributes which must be present. The corresponding qualification is nonnegotiable.

1. Intelligence

The opinion from the hypothetical person referenced above is borne of slight arrogance from following the path of jnana. This is more than just knowledge. Real jnana is about the individual, who they are and what they are not. Specifically, they are not maya, which is the illusory energy. They are atma, spirit soul.

The realization takes place through what is known as jnana-yoga. Connect to the Divine through knowledge gathering. Obviously intelligence is required. There is no way around it. A child is limited in their ability. They cannot practice jnana-yoga fully precisely because they lack the intelligence. Even in adulthood, after maturation, the presence of the ability is not guaranteed.

As an example, not every person is qualified to become an engineer. They may be gifted in the study of mathematics, but physics would be a different story. A person good at physics might not be so at medicine. The different elements covering the soul create variations in appearance, height, weight and also intelligence.

2. The ability to work

This bears close resemblance to bhakti-yoga. Known as karma-yoga, there must be the ability to work. Continued action and reaction, which is karma. Go through activities that are known to bring consequences relating to a future deha, or body.

The difference is the attitude. As Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, we can work but we don’t have the right to enjoy the fruits. There is a temptation. The allure of the enjoyment of the senses, brought about by personal effort, keeps a person trapped in the cycle of birth and death.

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)

Work in a detached way. Carry out the duties prescribed for your particular order in a matter of fact way. Do not be so focused on the outcome. If you earn a lot of money, give it away in charity to proper recipients. If you don’t earn a lot from your work, don’t be so eager to increase the yearly income.

While it seems karma-yoga would apply to every person, there has to be the ability to work. If you are disabled, if you can’t do much, how to practice? How to connect to the Divine through this path?

3. Bending the body

No matter how much I try, I can’t do it. I can barely sit down on the floor with my legs crossed. After a few minutes I have to change positions. When I get up, it is difficult to walk. Yet in this path I am supposed to become more advanced. Eventually, I have to place the feet on top of my thighs in what is known as the lotus position.

[yoga asanas]There are many other such positions. The immediate benefit is enhanced health. The airs within the body will be able to flow unobstructed, thereby eliminating the potential for so many diseases to manifest. The long-term benefit is less reliance on the senses. It is something like being bitten by a snake that has no fangs.

This is hatha-yoga or ashtanga-yoga. Become spiritually realized through meditation that eliminates the negative influence of the body. While extremely effective and authorized, what if a person simply cannot do the postures? What if their body is damaged to such a degree that they can barely sit down? Are they forever prohibited from connecting to the Divine?

Bhakti-yoga is for everyone, and it is readily available. That which is relatively inexpensive and abundant in quantity is what will really be of value to us. While bhakti-yoga seems easy, just see how difficult it is to make the decision in that direction. The promise is there that simply by hearing Krishna-katha, discourses about God the person, liberation will come. Don’t do anything else; just hear.

[Lord Krishna]There are other outlets, as well. Pray. Worship in a formal setting. Become friends. Offer service. Or you can just chant. Describe the glories of God or sing His holy names, such as those in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The requirements aren’t as strict, and so devotional service is known as the universal and real religion, sanatana-dharma. It matches the soul’s desires, and so the connection to God, yoga, continues even after the present life completes.

In Closing:

As universal religion is known,

Since lack of requirements shown.

Such as not much intelligence when,

With disability how to work then?

Body not possible this way bending,

Better consciousness to Him sending.

Shri Krishna, the one attractive to all,

Easily with holy names called.

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