Three Aspects Of Material Life Which Make It Difficult To Practice Bhakti

[Shri Krishna]“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.10)

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तेषां सतत-युक्तानां
भजतां प्रीति-पूर्वकम्
ददामि बुद्धि-योगं तं
येन माम् उपयान्ति ते

teṣāṁ satata-yuktānāṁ
bhajatāṁ prīti-pūrvakam
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ
yena mām upayānti te

Bhakti-yoga, devotional service, is the way to transcendence. In fact, it is the state of liberation itself. Though in the beginning viewed as a series of recommended practices and accompanying stages of enlightenment, any person who brings a dedicated effort is guaranteed of perfection. This is due to the help received from the other side, from the object of devotion. Other paths of spiritual life do not carry the same benefit.

It looks like an easy decision. Why wouldn’t everyone follow? Safe for both the afterlife and the present. The mistakes of the past corrected, in an instant. No more having to dwell on that regrettable incident, over which nothing can be done.

बिगरी जनम अनेक की सुधरै अबहीं आजु |
होहि राम को नाम जपु तुलसी तजि कुसमाजु ||

bigarī janama aneka kī sudharai abahīṃ āju |
hohi rāma ko nāma japu tulasī taji kusamāju ||

“The many past births you spoiled can be rectified right now, today, if you start chanting Shri Rama’s holy name and renounce bad association, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 22)

The material world is known to be a place of illusion for a reason. Maya gets in the way, and her potency is especially visible in the typical day of the modern worker.

1. Job uncertainty

I would love to follow bhakti-yoga, to chant on a set of japa beads every day, but I can’t seem to get past the worry. The job situation is uncertain. Though I am confident in my abilities, knowing that my skillset should match with an employer looking to hire, there are no guarantees in life. I’ve heard some stories where it took a person years to find a new job.

This concern is ruining my meditation. My heart is not in it. I chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. But the mind drifts elsewhere. Shri Krishna is correct when He says that the uncontrolled mind can carry away the intelligence.

इन्द्रियाणां हि चरतां
यन् मनो ऽनुविधीयते
तद् अस्य हरति प्रज्ञां
वायुर् नावम् इवाम्भसि

indriyāṇāṁ hi caratāṁ
yan mano ‘nuvidhīyate
tad asya harati prajñāṁ
vāyur nāvam ivāmbhasi

“As a boat on the water is swept away by a strong wind, even one of the senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man’s intelligence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.67)

2. Long commute to work

Mine isn’t so bad, in comparison. Half an hour in and half an hour returning. That is the average. Sure, sometimes I get stuck in traffic. You can’t predict accidents on the road. I don’t mind the distance, since most of it is highway. I don’t even pay attention. I sit back and concentrate on what is playing on the stereo.

[morning commute]But for others it is much worse. More than an hour each way. By the time they reach home they are too tired to do anything. How will they spend time reading Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam? There is the recommended practice of chanting the maha-mantra for sixteen rounds a day, but what full-time employee will be able to set aside adequate time?

3. Family responsibilities

In most households I see that both husband and wife work. This is a necessity, as housing costs are skyrocketing. This includes the taxes that must be paid on homes that are owned outright. Childcare is a massive, but almost unavoidable expense. Still, that is only during the daytime.

The two exhausted parents return home from work only to see a mountain of responsibilities. Take out the trash. Clean the dishes. Sweep the floors. If the children are young, they are essentially a fulltime responsibility. The mother barely has time to sleep, and the father needs his rest in order to perform optimally at work the next day.

The task of succeeding in spiritual life may look impossible, but the potency of the holy name particularly matched for the present age of struggle brings the necessary help. A person need only concentrate on this name, repeating it and hearing it as often as possible, to achieve the same kind of success people of ages past saw, when there was more opportunity for standard meditational and worship practices.

[Shri Krishna]Shri Krishna provides the understanding by which a devotee can come to Him. There is no qualifier with respect to the conditions of society, the difficulties with maintaining a job and family, or the amount of free time available each day. The promise is there, and those who follow the advice know the truth.

In Closing:

So much over which to care,

Like potential job loss scare.

Commute to work tiring,

Requests from all directions firing.

Urgency certainly now,

But to practice bhakti how?

Holy name for this age concession,

Hold on as most valued possession.

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