“The bhogis are the karmis, those who are working very hard to exploit the resources of the material nature, like the scientists, for example, who are doing research to further such exploitation. Their intention, actually, is to steal. On the other hand, the tyagis, those who are unable to steal, have a ‘sour grapes’ philosophy: ‘Oh, these things are useless. There is no need of them.’ Mostly, of course, people are bhogis; that is, they are trying to use everything to enjoy sense gratification. But still there are those who are baffled in sense gratification and who therefore say, ‘No, no, we don’t need these things.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Ch 21 Purport)
Friend1: You know, like the rest of us, I’ve heard the use of the term “sour grapes” many times. Maybe only in my situation, but I never really knew the origins of it. I didn’t stop to consider the component words.
Friend2: What do you mean? Like you just associated the term with a specific emotion, but didn’t call to mind a sour taste or the fruit identified as grapes?
Friend1: Exactly. “Counting your chickens before they hatch.” “Putting the cart before the horse.” You hear these sayings and know what they mean based on the context of the use, but you don’t really think about the origin.
Friend2: I see what you are saying.
Friend1: Anyway, the sour grapes thing relates to a jackal. Or a fox; I am not sure of the exact animal. They are reaching for some grapes that are in sight. They try and try until finally giving up.
Friend2: And then to avoid feeling like a failure they claim that the grapes were sour.
Friend1: Yeah. “I didn’t want them anyway. Not worth the effort.”
Friend2: Oh, and we human beings have a similar mentality in so many areas. That is because it is very easy to fail. They publish volumes of literature on how to succeed, on how to stay positive, but no one needs to be taught how to fail at something.
Friend1: Could not we say that someone taking up bhakti-yoga is a case of sour grapes?
Friend2: What gives you that idea?
Friend1: They are essentially giving up on life. If serious, they immediately avoid the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex. They end up labeling everything around them maya.
Friend2: The illusory energy pervading the material world. That which fools us into taking something unreal to be real.
Friend1: And hiding our true identity as Brahman. Couldn’t someone say that is the easy way out? Call everyone around you a karmi, which is used derisively:
“Eww, look at that person. They are totally in maya. I will avoid their association, lest I get contaminated. Oh, that person is so engrossed in the bodily concept of life. I am not like them.”
Friend2: Where is the sour grapes angle?
Friend1: That they couldn’t succeed in material life. Or maybe they didn’t want to get a job. You know, the hippie mentality.
Friend1: I can’t be like everyone else so I will condemn their way of living. Some of these people were heavy into drugs and alcohol. Since they couldn’t control their addiction, they tell everyone that any kind of indulgence is bad. They use shastra as an excuse, as a way to affirm their bitterness.
Friend2: I have certainly never heard this line of reasoning before. Usually, we say that the atheists are the ones with sour grapes.
Friend1: Why is that?
Friend2: They can’t understand God. They have no concept of spiritual life. They are also frustrated with material life. They cannot explain the cause of birth to anyone. They do not understand the reason for living. Therefore, when they see anyone following religion, they condemn the idea as a fantasy or fairytale.
Friend1: I cannot understand dharma so I will declare it to be sour, not worth pursuing.
Friend2: And even if the person in bhakti is accurately accused of sour grapes, look at the benefit they get. Shri Krishna says that a person only surrenders to Him after having exhausted every option in sinful life.
येषां त्व् अन्त-गतं पापं
भजन्ते मां दृढ-व्रताः
yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ
bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ
“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.28)
Friend1: In that sense failing at becoming wealthy ends up being beneficial.
Friend2: Or not wanting to work or succumbing to substance abuse. Those are not good reasons to follow service to the Supreme Lord, but the key is that the right kind of service purifies the situation. Every sinner has a future and every saint has a past. Once in the shelter of the Divine, the past makes no difference. Whether you found Bhagavan through birth in a high family or after lying in the gutter from homelessness is irrelevant.
Friend1: Okay, but how do you explain to someone that bhakti is not sour grapes?
Friend2: Let them see the other side first. You can only make a proper assessment after some knowledge and experience. If I leave a review for a restaurant at which I have never eaten, is there any value to my opinion?
Friend1: No. That is cheating.
Friend2: At least taste the grapes on this side. Make a proper comparison. Then see if they are sour or not. So many saintly people experienced material life to the fullest and realized that there was nothing to it. They were still unfulfilled, and actually that is guaranteed to be the case. The individual is spirit soul and the soul is meant to connect with the Supreme Soul in a link known as yoga.
After failing at chase,
Sour grapes the case.
Could not devotee be accused,
By the skeptic abused?
First the other side see,
For proper comparison to be.
Truth that material always lacking,
Yoga for higher taste tracking.