“There are certain sacrifices to perform to attain a good son or to attain elevation to the higher planets, but sacrifices prompted by desires should be stopped. However, sacrifice for the purification of one’s heart or for advancement in the spiritual science should not be given up.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 18.2 Purport)
Sannyasa and tyaga. The official renounced order of life and giving up attachment to external objects and objectives. The Vedas offer so many recommendations for sacrifice. Follow this particular procedure at this specific interval. Observe a vow relating to eating and sleeping on a particular day within the lunar calendar.
The opportunity to follow the Vedas or a culture derived from the same based on the distinction between body and spirit is what separates the human beings from the animals. Austerity, cleanliness, compassion and honesty should be the immediate results from religion; otherwise, the system followed is either not genuine or deficient in key areas.
While sannyasa and tyaga are praised as beneficial and necessary at some point in the journey through life, how to deal with the contradictions arising from maintaining life itself? Tyaga is based on a spirit of renunciation, and at the same time sacrifice is rooted in desire.
1. A good son
This is a step up from the cats and dogs. Rather than engage in sex without control and without limitations, follow a regulated way of life. Followed under regulative principles, this kind of sense enjoyment is actually equivalent to Shri Krishna.
बलं बलवतां चाहं
कामो ऽस्मि भरतर्षभ
balaṁ balavatāṁ cāhaṁ
kāmo ‘smi bharatarṣabha
“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)
A man and a woman come together through the marriage institution. They desire progeny. A good son. Someone to carry on the family name. A conditioned soul to hopefully rescue from the cycle of birth and death. In the exceptional case, someone who might rescue the parents from their dependence on illusion, maya.
There are recommendations for sacrifice in this area. One of the more well-known instances is King Dasharatha described in the Ramayana. At an advanced age he was still without a son, despite having beautiful queens living in the kingdom. At the advice of a brahmana he conducted a yajna. The queens partook of the remnants of that sacrifice, prasadam, and became pregnant soon thereafter. The ruler of Ayodhya previously without a son was blessed with four wonderful, pious and beautiful boys.
2. A suitable husband
Someone to protect. The parents will not stay around forever. Otherwise they wouldn’t mind taking care of their daughter for life. Someone who is good-natured, pays attention to duty, and sets a good example.
The unmarried girls can play a role in this, as well. There are sacrifices and vows recommended for obtaining a good husband. Perhaps seek the favor of Lord Shiva, the great-god. In the case of the gopis of Vrindavana, they worshiped Goddess Katyayani. She is a specific form of the wife of Shiva. Parvati Devi originally observed her own austerities to win the best husband, Mahadeva. Through her favor she can help others to obtain a suitable match.
A common question that may arise from an uninformed or unintelligent journalist towards a specific politician relates to profits:
“What role do profits play in a company? More specifically, are profits necessary for employment? How do we make sure that people get good paying jobs?”
The inquiries are silly because the entire purpose of establishing a business is to earn profit. There are no jobs without enough money coming into the company. Even a so-called non-profit corporation looks to at least earn enough money for salaries to be paid, i.e. they don’t work for a loss.
Profit is one of the four rewards in life described in Vedic literature. Artha is beyond the jurisdiction of any politician or leader. The desire for profit is what serves as the impetus for work.
Therefore, a person starting a new business venture might look for some extra help in gaining success. They perform a sacrifice to earn the favor of Ganesha and Lakshmi. Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati, and he clears obstacles from the path towards success. Lakshmi Devi is the goddess of fortune, and she can shower blessings upon the endeavor.
4. Elevation to the higher planets
Here the desire is technically known as paramartha. The interest or profit relating to the afterlife. Death will arrive eventually, and to where exactly I will go I am not sure. Perhaps by following a specific yajna I can at least reserve a lengthy time in a parking spot within the garage known as the heavenly planetary system after death.
Shri Krishna explains that a person does not stay in that place forever. There is something like a card that gets stamped upon arrival. The duration of validity is commensurate with the amount of pious credits accumulated. Once the time expires, the individual is susceptible to returning to the land of birth and death.
ते तं भुक्त्वा स्वर्ग-लोकं विशालं
क्षीणे पुण्ये मर्त्य-लोकं विशन्ति
एवं त्रयी-धर्मम् अनुप्रपन्ना
गतागतं काम-कामा लभन्ते
te taṁ bhuktvā svarga-lokaṁ viśālaṁ
kṣīṇe puṇye martya-lokaṁ viśanti
evaṁ trayī-dharmam anuprapannā
gatāgataṁ kāma-kāmā labhante
“When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, through the Vedic principles, they achieve only flickering happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.21)
The contradictions relating to sacrifice get resolved through the elimination of personal desire. Follow yajna as a matter of duty, for pleasing the enjoyer of sacrifice, Yajneshvara. In the case of Dasharatha, the desire for a son was for ruling the kingdom properly. Since his heart was pure, that sacrifice yielded the amazing result of the Supreme Lord Himself appearing as the son.
With the gopis of Vrindavana, their desire was to have Shri Krishna as a husband. The sacrifice was not materially motivated. A person can pay respect to Ganesha, as well. Many poets of the bhakti tradition begin their works with a prayer to Ganesha, Shiva and Parvati. They hope to have the blessings of that amazing family in order to please the Supreme Lord. Any sacrifice intended for His benefit is worthwhile, not violating the spirit of sannyasa or tyaga.
Sannyasa and tyaga for attachments freeing,
But sacrifice also for Supreme Being.
With Dasharatha wanting a son,
Gopis for best husband to come.
Violation of principles to tear?
Not since higher purpose aware.
To Krishna closer coming,
Less in maya becoming.
Categories: the four