“Knowledge means knowing things as they are, and if by deliberation it is found that there are things which are at all unnecessary, naturally the person who has acquired knowledge leaves aside such unwanted things. When the conditioned soul finds by culture of knowledge that material necessities are unwanted things, he becomes detached from such unwanted things. This stage of knowledge is called vairagya, or detachment from unwanted things.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.2.12 Purport)
“I have heard the story that devotion personified, the goddess of devotion, Bhakti Devi, has two sons. They are Jnana and Vairagya. Translated from the original Sanskrit, these refer to knowledge and renunciation, respectively.
“I think the story, as I heard it, was that Bhakti Devi wasn’t in good sorts. She was upset about her two sons. They were looking old and tired. Defeated, as if there were no hope remaining in the world. Then, through the grace of Bhagavata-Katha, both the sons became young again. Refreshed and energized, simply through the process of hearing.
“This squares with the teaching from the acharyas about bhakti-yoga being both complete and the culmination of spiritual life. Every sort of rule and regulation we must follow, for gaining auspiciousness and finding good sorts, the ultimate reward is fixed devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“From a logical perspective, how does bhakti bring jnana? How do we find vairagya if we are not actively striving for it? People tend to be bewildered by the advice of ‘chanting more rounds’ as the response to every difficult question. How exactly will bhakti bring knowledge and renunciation, in the practical sense?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that real knowledge is seeing things as they are. In this respect, esoteric knowledge is certainly important. If someone can explain to me the difference between matter and spirit, at least my eyes will be open to the new point of view; something I was not taught otherwise.
At the same time, realizing the knowledge is more important. Better than to give the proper answers on a standard examination is to put the principles into practice in real life; practical application. Bhakti-yoga facilitates this. There is the verse from Shrimad Bhagavatam recommending meditation on the Supreme Lord.
Through knowing God the person, I will know both the self and the source of the spiritual and material energies. It is thus easier to understand the world around me. In this way, jnana is automatically incorporated in the bhakti life.
Within the practice of devotion, the unwanted things get removed. They are roadblocks along the path; they prevent me from proceeding forward. If I want to keep moving, I will not want to maintain attachment to hindrances.
In this way, vairagya automatically takes place. The rise of jnana and vairagya is one indication of success along the spiritual path. Things which were much more difficult to foster become easier, without a conscious effort.
Removing anartha is something like the principle of addition by subtraction. If an IT development team takes on a new member who is both difficult to work with and slow in completing projects, the addition actually has a negative influence. A quick and easy way to boost productivity is to subtract that member from the team.
In the same way, if I slowly lose interest in profit, adoration and distinction, there will be rapid advancement towards enlightenment and the ultimate unbreakable link in consciousness, which is known as yoga.
This provides a new perspective on the rules and regulations of spiritual life. The acharya wants only for others to be happy. They give helpful hints and tips so that we don’t have to experience every misery for ourselves. They have already realized what is helpful and what is not, and if we simply follow their advice we save so much valuable time.
The more time we have, the more we can meditate. The more we meditate, the less interest we have in unprofitable behavior. The less interest we have in unwanted things, the easier it will be to ride out the many fluctuations in conditions, from high to low, wealthy to poor, happy to sad, and so forth. We will be steadily engaged in serving the all-attractive one, who is identical to the bhakti dedicated to Him: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
For devotion to sustain,
A high standard to maintain.
Knowledge automatically to gain,
And renunciation the same.
So that not separately to try,
Where on bhakti to rely.
In front vision always to receive,
From Supreme Truth to believe.