“In dreams we sometimes enjoy eating sweet rice and sometimes suffer as if one of our beloved family members had died. Because the same mind and body exist in the same material world of duality when we are awake, the so-called happiness and distress of this world are no better than the false, superficial happiness of dreams. The mind is the via medium in both dreams and wakefulness, and everything created by the mind in terms of sankalpa and vikalpa, acceptance and rejection, is called manodharma, or mental concoction.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.17.30 Purport)
“I have heard His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explain the concepts of sankalpa and vikalpa. The idea is that we are mistakenly driven by the mind. Sort of like that Larry Appleton character from the television sitcom Perfect Strangers, there is one crazy idea after another.
“The promises never end. Each new idea will be the big one. This will finally make everyone happy. I can certainly relate. One day I planned on watching so many television shows from the online streaming service. Another day I had plans to sign up for a gym membership and become fit and healthy.
“In another time period, I purchased this new kitchen appliance. This was finally going to make things easy on us. No more having to order from restaurants on a constant basis. We would make our own food, from scratch, every single day.
“As you can probably imagine, these turned into vikalpa rather quickly. The swami is certainly on to something. He says that we should follow the Supreme Consciousness instead. This will be work that we never reject. The ideal example is Arjuna. At first, he wavered on whether or not to proceed in the war.
“The final decision was to go ahead, at the direction and guidance of Shri Krishna. Whatever the outcome, since the action aligned with the Supreme Consciousness, there was no question of giving it up, abandoning, or diverting interest elsewhere.
“That is all well and good, but what about people within the devotional culture who constantly shift occupations? One day they are the temple president and the next they are travelling to a different country. Today, they might be known for the food they offer on the altar, and tomorrow they are travelling the world in a sankirtana musical ensemble.
“If bhakti-yoga truly aligns with the Divine consciousness, why do we see the same pendulum of sankalpa and vikalpa? Should not a person be fixed in their service?”
As Shri Krishna explains, people who finally arrive at the doorstep of devotional service follow through with determination. The Sanskrit is dridha-vratah. This is resolute determination. They are finally free of the reactions to negative activity, papa. They are ready to continue for the pleasure of the Almighty, no matter the temporary circumstances or the nature of the outcome.
येषां त्व् अन्त-गतं पापं
भजन्ते मां दृढ-व्रताः
yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ
bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ
“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.28)
It is not that a person in devotional service must remain fixed in a particular activity. Rather, it is the nature of the work and the intended beneficiary which qualifies the engagement as bhakti, which aligns with the Supreme Consciousness. The original decision for serving the highest cause does not change.
Even in Arjuna’s case, one moment he was on the battlefield, in the heat of conflict, and the next he was celebrating victory and ruling over the world under the leadership of Maharaja Yudhishthira.
In the case of Shri Hanuman, one moment he is a wise counselor to Sugriva and the next he is pretending to be a brahmana in welcoming two youths in the forest of Kishkindha. Though we have the famous depiction of Hanuman reading from the Ramayana, he is also seen burning an entire city to the ground using his tail.
The sankalpa and vikalpa driven by the mind are ultimately inauspicious. There is never a permanent settlement. The shifting continues through until old age. In the next life the same occurs. The Supreme Consciousness is for finding the right way, for remaining steady in seeking the pleasure of the all-attractive one, who is the greatest well-wisher a person could ask for.
Of limitless kindness to tell,
Best friend wishing me well.
Such that dedicated vow to take,
Work solely for His pleasure to make.
One day maybe arrows releasing,
Another state treasury increasing.
Seen travelling the world in song,
But always to His service belong.