“Kala, or time, is the synonym of nature and is the transformed manifestation of the principles of material creation. As such, kala may be taken as the first cause of all creation, and by transformation of nature different activities of the material world become visible. These activities may be taken up as the natural instinct of each and every living being, or even of the inert objects, and after the manifestation of activities there are varieties of products and by-products of the same nature. Originally these are all due to the Supreme Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.5.22 Purport)
Friend1: Let’s talk about vairagya.
Friend2: The absence of raga, which is attachment.
Friend1: Vairagya is renunciation. Lack of attachment, particularly in the context of sense objects. You will see saintly people of the Vedic tradition glorify vairagya.
Friend2: Another way to understand is the difference between two principal paths: pravritti-marga and nivritti-marga. If having to choose between the two, saintly people opt for nivritti-marga, which is renunciation.
Friend1: It is certainly not everything. Just because I stay away from things doesn’t necessarily mean I am superior. There is the trap wherein I become proud over how renounced I am.
Friend2: Yes, along with the joke about being proud of how humble I am.
Friend1: No one is more humble than me. I beat everyone in that category.
Friend1: I agree with you. Nivritti seems to be the recommendation. Goswami Tulsidas has an entire work dedicated to the glories of renunciation. It is called Vairagya-Sandipani. The gosvamis of Vrindavana were so renounced that people today can’t believe they were able to survive in the self-imposed conditions.
Friend2: Sleeping under a tree. Begging for a little flour, mixing it with water from a river, and then baking the dough in a makeshift oven.
Friend1: That food would last the entire day.
Friend2: Old rags for clothing. Basically, no possessions or amenities to be proud over.
Friend1: While people within the culture can share notes, tips and tricks, on how to increase renunciation, simultaneously you are scaring away people who might be interested.
Friend2: Due to the restrictions?
Friend1: The preponderance of them. It is not simply avoiding killing or not coveting your neighbor’s wife.
Friend2: Within a specific tradition there are the four regulative principles: no meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication, no illicit sex. This is the bare minimum to qualify as a brahmana by occupation and quality.
Friend1: Right, and that is just the beginning. There are so many rules and regulations. I understand their purpose in the grand scheme. I know that the intention behind each rule is correct. I am not arguing with the validity.
Friend2: You are just worried people won’t be able to follow?
Friend1: More than that. They have a counterargument, which says that the rules and regulations are suppressing natural instincts. It is like surgically removing organs, when they are not necessarily in a diseased state.
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: I have hands. I was born with them. Since those hands get me into trouble, into following sinful activity, I will get rid of them.
Friend2: And while that may satisfy a particular regulation, it defeats the entire purpose.
Friend1: There should be a purpose. We have hands for a reason. In the same way, we have these instincts for a reason, it seems. Why should we voluntarily suppress our instincts?
Friend2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that it is not about stopping natural instincts. Rather, everything should be dovetailed with service to Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Friend1: Then where does renunciation come in?
Friend2: The dovetailing of the instincts is renunciation. It may be a little difficult to notice. We also learn that kala, which is time, effects change in the material world based on the activities of the living entities.
Friend1: Sure, such as when a person gets to work on constructing a building. The result is due to time, but time knows exactly how to manifest based on the actions of living entities in that particular field.
Friend2: And so those actions are driven by natural instincts. That is the way of the world, how it remains manifest through the ages.
Friend1: Right, and so we are trying to stop nature, no? Vairagya is going against natural instincts.
Friend2: The original cause is the Supreme Lord. That is why Krishna is known as sarva-karana-karanam. The natural instincts should be used for His pleasure. That is why the body is the way it is. We have these organs, these limbs, these features, for a purpose.
Friend1: Okay, but if we have organs for reproduction, why suppress them?
Friend2: You don’t have to. Use them at the appropriate time. For the first twelve years or so of life, those organs are pretty much useless. It doesn’t mean they have no purpose. During the period of maturity, they can be used to increase the population of servants of the Supreme Lord. Later on, with time, the interaction can be reduced.
Friend1: That is the way of nature, regardless.
Friend2: And so view everything in the same light. Be thankful to kala for manifesting the changes to nature. Appreciate that we have instincts which can be used for pleasing Krishna, which will, in turn, please us. There is no reason to fear renunciation, as what waits on the other side is much more enjoyable than what we experience before.
In proper time be sure,
That opening that door.
To where everything to use,
Instead by nature to abuse.
Not natural instinct to lose,
After vairagya to choose.
The purpose merging into one,
Activity all for Krishna done.