“Narada Muni continued: Lord Brahma was very much satisfied by Hiranyakashipu’s austerities, which were difficult to perform. Therefore, when solicited for benedictions, he indeed granted them, although they were rarely to be achieved.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.1)
एवं वृतः शत-धृतिर्
प्रादात् तत्-तपसा प्रीतो
वरांस् तस्य सुदुर्लभान्
evaṁ vṛtaḥ śata-dhṛtir
prādāt tat-tapasā prīto
varāṁs tasya sudurlabhān
Advice given to the aspiring devotee, the person looking to go beyond the highs and lows of a material existence, to find real transcendence, is to not over-endeavor. The pursuit in karma is only natural. Fruitive activity is what determined the conditions of the present birth, and it will subsequently play a role in the future situation.
अक्षरं ब्रह्म परमं
स्वभावो ऽध्यात्मम् उच्यते
akṣaraṁ brahma paramaṁ
svabhāvo ‘dhyātmam ucyate
“The Supreme Lord said, The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called the self. Action pertaining to the development of these material bodies is called karma, or fruitive activities.” (Bhagavad-gita, 8.3)
Work for the purpose of achieving a result. Otherwise, what is the point to doing anything? Why not stay in bed the entire day? Let others take care of meeting the daily obligations. Don’t worry about paying the bills or keeping the refrigerator stocked.
As this is not the typical course of action, it is only expected that once a person endeavors, they might overdo it a bit. Go to the extreme, not realizing the folly of the course. Hiranyakashipu over-endeavored to the point of winning the favor of Lord Brahma, but a person needn’t travel so far in order to discern a disturbing pattern.
1. Saving for retirement
The tax-collecting wing of the federal government has stringent rules in place. So many different types of accounts, and you can’t really overlap. For instance, if you store a certain amount of money through a plan offered by the employer, the amount you can contribute to a personal plan gets reduced.
There are some loopholes, however. Any significant side income could classify as a separate business. That entity could then have its own retirement plan. The spouse has their own contribution limits, separate from you. In addition, the plan at work has a matching feature.
Combining the different incentives, I decide to load up on my retirement savings. Let me take the tax breaks today and allow my investments to grow tax-deferred. Not only can I potentially retire early with this method, but I might even find tricks later on to withdraw the money without having to pay taxes or penalties on it.
2. Exercising to perfection
Not just once or twice a week. They say walking is good for you, but I want to reach the level of an elite athlete. They don’t seem to have health problems. High cholesterol and diabetes are almost non-existent for them; at least while they are active in the field.
I will exercise in such a way that my fitness will increase in the process. My stamina and endurance should reach peak levels. To aid in the process I will restrict my diet to certain foods. The more progress I make, the happier I will be; at least that is the expectation.
3. Create a collection
Many friends and family rave about the online streaming service they subscribe to. It has so much digital content for them to consume, but I would rather own everything myself. I will set up a standalone server to run out of my basement. I will load it up with every film and television series imaginable.
There is corresponding software available. I can connect to my own collection from any device, from anywhere around the world. This will be really cool. I will have more than anyone else, and hopefully sufficient quantity to bring many years of enjoyment.
The acharya of the bhakti tradition will highlight the obvious flaw in the plan: guaranteed destruction. There is also the unpredictability of its arrival. That is to say I do not know exactly when everything will come crashing down. The time I spent endeavoring gets nullified through something I have little control over.
An ideal example is Hiranyakashipu. He endeavored to the point of conducting austerities that hardly any person would be able to replicate. He worked to the extreme to achieve boons of protection. More than just retirement income, he had safeguards against others attacking him. Lethal punishment would have no meaning to him, or so he thought.
Meanwhile, Hiranyakashipu’s five-year old son exemplified the attitude of avoiding endeavoring in the extreme. Prahlada was simple, humble, devout and steady in his determination to please the Supreme Lord. The child did not care about protecting the temporary body. Neither was he interested in exerting influence over others to the point of domination.
That over which Prahlada took no interest came easily. He managed to protect himself from the attacks of the powerful father. Though Hiranyakashipu invested so much to achieve protection from Brahma’s boons, he could not complete a simple task like killing an innocent and defenseless child.
Hiranyakashipu eventually lost everything, whereas Prahlada’s most cherished possession, pure devotion, remained protected. That spirit can be carried from lifetime to lifetime, as time will never be able to destroy. The controller of time, Narasimhadeva, personally provides the protection.
From DVDs and digital content a host,
My collection with titles the most.
Invest for retirement savings large,
A perfect body through exercise charge.
But time an unpredictable cost,
In an instant the rewards lost.
Whereas saints like Prahlada easily to get,
Since Vishnu like pillar in protection set.
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