“One who neither hates nor desires the fruits of his activities is known to be always renounced. Such a person, liberated from all dualities, easily overcomes material bondage and is completely liberated, O mighty-armed Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.3)
ज्ञेयः स नित्य-सन्न्यासी
यो न द्वेष्टि न काङ्क्षति
निर्द्वन्द्वो हि महा-बाहो
सुखं बन्धात् प्रमुच्यते
jñeyaḥ sa nitya-sannyāsī
yo na dveṣṭi na kāṅkṣati
nirdvandvo hi mahā-bāho
sukhaṁ bandhāt pramucyate
The Vaishnava acharya says to go beyond dualities. For this reason the genuine teacher of the Absolute Truth, as passed down in a chain of succession, will never venture into the areas of material life that will resemble a self-help guru or life coach. Such information is already available in mass quantity, but the secret of all secrets is reserved for those who have become exhausted in the constant swing of up and down, enjoyment and renunciation.
To illustrate the concept of duality, we can take a single train ride and how it is viewed differently. Nothing about the situation changes, but the external viewpoint has a variety of factors.
1. “Oh, no, it’s running local this weekend.”
“This stinking train is running local again? What is going on? I have to travel all the way to the other side of town. On the weekdays this thing goes lightning fast, but for some reason on the weekends it is hit or miss. I’m arriving from over an hour away. With the train running express, as per normal, the trip would be around forty minutes.
“Now there is an additional twenty minutes added on, but it’s not really the time that bothers me. It’s the eleven extra stops. It gets really annoying. I have to suffer the same on the way back. Usually I can pass the time rather quickly by reading a book, but that only works on the express route. I intrinsically know when my stop is approaching. But with the local trip I have to pay more attention.
“This schedule is getting to be so annoying that I am thinking of scrapping the trip altogether. I will find something better to do on the weekends. I don’t need this headache.”
2. “Oh, yes, it’s running local this weekend!”
“Whew, what a relief. I live right next to the subway, so when the express trains run local on the weekends, I am a huge beneficiary. This prevents me from having to wait forever on a local train to meet up on a transfer stop down the line. Another option would be to walk fifteen minutes to the station where the express train stops normally, but who wants to do that?
“In the winter every minute spent outside is brutal. In the summer I wouldn’t mind it, but a lot of the times I am carrying something. The cargo tends to weigh you down as more time passes. I know because sometimes I order pizza from a nearby place, and carrying the pie with two hands for ten minutes can become a little annoying.
“I’m so lucky that they do this construction on the weekends, which means that the express tends to run local more often. Some other people might get annoyed, but who cares? It’s the weekend; let everyone live in peace.”
The most interesting aspect of this analysis is that the perspectives are from the same person. In one situation they live far away from the train station, so they want to cut down on the additional travel time. In the second situation they have moved closer to a station in which the local train stops.
Material life operates in this way, as what may be beneficial for one person is not for another. The rain is welcome news in the heat of the summer, but not so forgiving in the colder autumn months. Therefore, if a spiritual leader makes recommendations such as “finding your passion” or “going for what you want in life,” I might actually end up being more miserable. What I thought I wanted may be harmful to me, and vice versa.
Spiritual practices such as chanting the holy names are always beneficial: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Thinking of the Supreme Lord, contemplating His features, remembering His lila, describing Him to others – these are auspicious in any time of the day, and to any person.
The human birth is the best of all possible entries into the material world, and the timeless practice of bhakti-yoga is the best use of the time spent in that form.
Oh no, not again,
Troubled by train local when.
Since more time to spend,
Irritation on journey to extend.
Other side happy as can be,
Since station from apartment can see.
By such dualities bewildered,
By spiritual science delivered.
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