Five Possible Activities In Bhakti

[Lord Krishna]“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.13)

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यज्ञ-शिष्टाशिनः सन्तो
मुच्यन्ते सर्व-किल्बिषैः
भुञ्जते ते त्व् अघं पापा
ये पचन्त्य् आत्म-कारणात्

yajña-śiṣṭāśinaḥ santo
mucyante sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ
bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā
ye pacanty ātma-kāraṇāt

The Sanskrit teachings passed on in the Vedic tradition reveal the presence of a subtle element known as ego. Typically identified with the word ahankara, the false version is tied to the temporary body. Essentially, the way I identify is the ego, and starting from birth I get fooled into a mistaken identity.

I am not who I think I am, but a worse mistake is to think that I am nothing. I do have an identity. I am spirit soul, aham brahmasmi. Spirit is of a different quality than matter. Spirit is so amazing that it is finer than the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego, but it still gives strength to everything larger. Without the spirit inside, the body would be inoperable; something like the total loss to an automobile in insurance terms.

The false aspect of the ego gets removed when there is a connection to the source of spirit. The proper identification is that I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit. Ego remains, as there is work that goes on. My identification is what drives me to continue in service, and so there is bound to be some rivalry with others.

Variety in surrender, sharanagati, manifests in different kinds of activities. Genuine spiritual life is not dull and lifeless. It is the complete opposite, in fact. Something like being a kid again, with youthful exuberance and boundless energy. Inexhaustible, since the target never fails to reciprocate.

1. Working

Going to the office. Maintaining a day job. Riding the subway train in the morning, packed with other passengers, some who do not smell very nice. Rushing to make the transfer to the express train so that you arrive on time at your desk. Sifting through a mountain of emails. Hoping to work on that languishing project without constant interruptions.

Then to go home at night and count down the hours until the same has to be repeated the next day. Surprisingly, such activity can fall into the category of bhakti. The distinction is the utilization of the fruits of the work. At the core, what are you working for? What is the purpose of the activity?

Two people enter a kitchen supply store to purchase a knife. One intends to chop vegetables at home to prepare dinner. The other is looking for a weapon to use for hurting others. The purchase of the knife is the same in both instances, but the intent differs greatly. The single action of purchase has a different influence based on the mindset.

2. Cooking

Shri Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita that devotees are absolved of sinful reaction, papa, since they eat the remnants of yajna. This is religious sacrifice; some sort of dedicated effort for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, done in an authorized way.

[gulab jamun]Outside of this behavior, the purpose of cooking is to satisfy the senses. The same activity, but of a different nature; similar to the knife example. The beloved of Krishna, Shrimati Radharani, is so expert at cooking that she can prepare endless varieties for the satisfaction of the person she serves with heart and soul. Another person is famous for delighting customers at a restaurant, but the outcome is of a different nature.

3. Painting

[Lord Krishna]Use whatever talents God has given you. If you like to paint, take the factual descriptions and accounts provided in shastra to memorialize significant events. Give others a chance to understand what the saguna aspect to Bhagavan is by appreciating paintings and drawings. Krishna’s glories are endless, which means that many lifetimes can be spent in this blissful activity.

4. Writing

The first step is hearing, shravanam. Sit down and sacrifice some time. Hear from saintly people, sadhu, about the lila [pastimes] of the Supreme Lord. Passive attention is sufficient for qualifying for a benefit. Hear on a regular basis, especially, creating something like a routine.

Soon enough you will be able to explain the same to others. You may not have thought this to be possible prior. But now writing is blissful. You like to keep a record of your thoughts, emotions and realizations. Unlike the daily newspapers, which have an expiration date in terms of relevance, glorification of Krishna is timeless.

5. Chanting

Incapable of entering any of the above mentioned engagements? Then simply chant. Take the maha-mantra and use it as your vehicle to travel to the spiritual world: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Krishna is so kind that He makes no distinction between the different kinds of service. While the cook may be looked down upon at the office full of high-paid executives, in the spiritual world there is equality in terms of status. The sentiment is what counts. The devotion is the most valuable aspect, and it can be exercised in any way preferred, provided the enjoyer is satisfied.

In Closing:

Activities looking the same,
But different reward to gain.

Like man purchasing knife in store,
One for cooking another violence for.

When with bhakti path aligned,
Highest benefit to find.

Through whatever way preferring,
Satisfaction of Krishna occurring.

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