“For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pritha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.6-7)
ये तु सर्वाणि कर्माणि
मयि सन्न्यस्य मत्-पराः
मां ध्यायन्त उपासते
तेषाम् अहं समुद्धर्ता
भवामि न चिरात् पार्थ
ye tu sarvāṇi karmāṇi
mayi sannyasya mat-parāḥ
māṁ dhyāyanta upāsate
teṣām ahaṁ samuddhartā
bhavāmi na cirāt pārtha
We’re living in the ocean of suffering, samsara. It is like a spinning wheel, chakra. The birth-death cycle perfectly symbolizes the sequence of events. Accept and then reject. Potential and then the abrupt end. Hope followed by despair.
How should the existence be treated? This is the world accepted, after all. There is no alternative. There has to be a way. It is said that jnana must have an associated kriya. Knowledge put to use through action.
1. For enjoyment: bhoga
This is the initial thought. Children don’t know any better. Play every day, at every moment. Even feeding is a kind of enjoyment. The infant who just learned to walk and move around quickly has no shyness when requesting food. They will approach the mother and make specific sounds to voice their request. If an answer is not forthcoming, they will start to grumble.
The pursuit continues into adulthood, but shastra says to avoid this path. Samsara is not meant for bhoga. The more a person remains on this path, the more entangled they become. Something like sinking further into quicksand. The goal is to escape; not to remain in the dangerous situation for one cycle after another.
2. For renunciation: tyaga
This is the opposite of bhoga. If I’m not supposed to enjoy since it leads to stronger attachments, perhaps I should go in the other direction. Renounce everything and everyone. Live in a cave on a mountain. Drink water from a nearby stream, eat fruits that fall off a tree, accept torn, used garments for clothing and live a generally peaceful life.
Yet shastra says that this isn’t entirely the way, either. It is a leg up from the animal species, who have no choice on the matter. Tyaga is a choice based on intelligence, but giving things up won’t lead to success without an overall shift in consciousness. This is because the mentality is still rooted in some attachment. I am avoiding something because I have fear of developing an attachment; therefore the objects of the senses still have influence over me.
य आस्ते मनसा स्मरन्
मिथ्याचारः स उच्यते
ya āste manasā smaran
mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate
An example given by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada helps to illustrate the proper way. Walking down the road a person in front inadvertently drops some money on the ground. They are unaware, and so they proceed further. You happen to come upon the money.
The bhoga choice is to take it for yourself. Use it for purchasing something to enjoy. No one will know; except perhaps the people in charge of karma, but who actually believes in that? The amount could be trivial in the grand scheme, and so who is it really going to hurt?
The tyaga choice is to keep walking. Forget about the money. Don’t even think about it. Someone else’s problem. Just touching it gets you entangled in a process that you will regret later on. Maybe it’s a sting operation. Perhaps someone is trying to frame you for a crime. Better to leave it behind and move on towards higher pursuits.
The proper action is to return the money to the person who dropped it. There is no entanglement since the attitude is neither attachment nor aversion. The object is being put to the proper use. Whether appreciation is forthcoming is of no issue. You inherently understand that this is the right thing to do.
In the same way, the body found in the samsara has an ideal purpose. The nature around us is meant to be used for fulfilling this objective, for reaching the ideal destination. In any form the living being is always pure spirit at the core. The individual soul, the jivatma, is meant for serving the Supreme Soul, Paramatma.
Therefore the best treatment of samsara is to take everything available for use in both creating the connection and maintaining it. The link is known as yoga, and as Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, yoga is always the best option.
तपस्विभ्यो ऽधिको योगी
ज्ञानिभ्यो ऽपि मतो ऽधिकः
कर्मिभ्यश् चाधिको योगी
तस्माद् योगी भवार्जुन
tapasvibhyo ‘dhiko yogī
jñānibhyo ‘pi mato ‘dhikaḥ
karmibhyaś cādhiko yogī
tasmād yogī bhavārjuna
“A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogi.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.46)
The next issue is how to be a yogi while living in the samsara, which has dangers in every corner. I want to connect to the Supreme Soul but I have a job to attend in order to maintain life. There are diseases associated with aging, and others sometimes get in the way, acting as obstructionists.
Fortunately, in this age the way to practice yoga is easier. Simply chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Make a routine of the process and follow the guidance of someone who is already connected. Then you not only make the best use of this world for yourself, but you also show others the way, shining the light of the Divine into an otherwise dark and hopeless area.
Otherwise dark and without hope,
With samsara difficult to cope.
Bhoga an option one,
Enjoy with more desires to come.
Renunciation choice two,
But lingering attachment too.
Best when to proper use set,
Shine mercy of His Divine let.
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