What To Say To Someone Who Says They Have No Need For Religion

[Shri Rama]“When your personal and supreme interests can be easily obtained from one place, it is not sensible for you in weakness to beg at the doors of others, O Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 54)

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स्वारथ परमारथ सकल सुलभ एक ही ओर |
द्वार दूसरे दीनता उचित न तुलसी तोर ||

svāratha paramāratha sakala sulabha eka hī ora |
dvāra dūsare dīnatā ucita na tulasī tora ||

Friend1: Someone is going through life just fine. Steady income. Spouse and children. Friends and family living close by. Excitement over the new season of the favorite sports franchise. Visiting exotic destinations for vacation.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: Why would they want to take up religion? They may raise the following objection:

“Thanks, but I think I am fine right now. Religion sort of turns me off, anyway. I don’t like the whole institutional aspect to it. ‘Surrender now or be forever damned.’ Show blind allegiance. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Friend2: I would agree with them. We’re not talking about joining a cult, here.

Friend1: Okay, but they will have no interest at all. They are fine with life as it is.

Friend2: Well, everyone is interested in protecting their assets. That is one of the four animalistic tendencies.

Friend1: Eating, sleeping, mating and defending.

Friend2: The insurance industry exists for this reason. You work hard for something and you don’t want to see it squandered. Save your money, but also allow it to grow through an investment account. Purchase and build the home of your dreams; then insure it. The same applies to the expensive car used for transportation.

Friend1: What does this have to do with religion, though?

Friend2: Well, you know that those other assets can never be fully indemnified.

Friend1: I don’t know about that. If my car gets totaled in an accident, the insurance company will fully reimburse me. The house catching fire is not a total loss, either.

Friend2: You are forgetting the influence of time. There will be a total loss. That is the guaranteed end. After birth, death is certain. Shri Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita and Shri Rama presents a variation of the same truth in the Ramayana.

यथा फलानां पक्वानां नान्यत्र पतनाद्भयम्।
एवं नरस्य जातस्य नान्यत्र मरणाद्भयम्।।

yathā phalānāṃ pakvānāṃ nānyatra patanādbhayam।
evaṃ narasya jātasya nānyatra maraṇādbhayam।।

“As a ripe fruit has no other fear than to fall, so a man who is born has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)

[Shri Rama]Friend1: Okay, but that applies to everyone. We already know that.

Friend2: But do you? Are you acting with that knowledge? If you know something won’t last forever, that you can’t protect it indefinitely into the future, wouldn’t your behavior be different? Wouldn’t you start to question the meaning of your existence? Wouldn’t you ask why you were put into this situation to begin with? Wouldn’t you be inquiring into the meaning of it all?

Friend1: Hmm. Those are good questions.

Friend2: And they have nothing to do with religion. Every person is interested in this subject matter; whether they openly acknowledge or not. That is the sell for Vedanta study. You are not merely following another faith out of the many available to choose from. You are not just joining a group to feel like you belong to something. You are tackling life’s most challenging questions. You are working to secure the best future. Both svartha and paramartha are accounted for.

Friend1: Explain what those mean.

[Lord Vishnu]Friend2: Svartha is personal interest, applied for the short-term. Paramartha is the long-term, like the afterlife. We generally consider the two to be opposed to one another; contradictory. Prahlada Maharaja says otherwise. Svartha-gatim hi vishnu. The best way to meet the self-interest is to go towards Vishnu, which is one name for the Almighty. This short-term interest meets the long-term, as well. Protect your greatest asset, the ability to serve in full cognizance of the different energies of this world. Act as a jnani but in the bhakti path; i.e. worship in devotion with knowledge. Then you will meet the objective of life and experience a happiness never thought possible.

In Closing:

Svartha for short-term implied,
Paramartha to afterlife applied.

Contradictory to each other,
But also understanding another.

That self-interest with Vishnu to marry,
Where into future also to carry.

Thus accounted for even today,
Bhakti not just hope and pray.

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