“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)
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 ||
“I know there are a lot of interesting subject points brought up in Vedic literature. The introduction, if you will, sets a baseline which is much higher than any other formal system of education. I am speaking specifically of Bhagavad-gita and its initial emphasis on the difference between matter and spirit.
“I am spirit soul, part and parcel of Brahman. Never was there a time that I did not exist. I will never cease to be in the future. Death is something like taking off clothes and putting on new ones. The entire world needs to hear these truths. They are relevant to every corner of the globe and every period of time, moving both forwards and backwards.
“As I said, this is the preliminary study. There is so much more to learn. You could spend many lifetimes uncovering the hidden gems of this universe, which are perfectly placed by the original person, who happens to be Supreme. He is just like you and me, except also different. This is known as achintya bhedabheda-tattva.
“This might not be fair to ask, but I will bring it up anyway. Would you say there is one secret that every person should know? Is there one truth that would qualify as the answer to life? Is it that we are spirit soul and should be devoted to God? I think that might be covered already.
“Athato-brahma-jijnasa certainly says a lot, that it is finally our time, within the human birth, to inquire into the nature of the spiritual side of things. Is that it? What would be your entry in an informal contest?”
The Vedas provide a juxtaposition between two different kinds of interest. One is called svartha. The literal definition is the interest of the self. Things that I want for myself. Goals that I hope to achieve, under a formal evaluation.
Even the distant future is not so far away. If someone asks me where I see myself in five to ten years, that is also svartha. Satisfying the taste buds, dealing with extreme heat or cold, searching for a life partner, finding the best school for the children to attend – these are all svartha.
The related term is paramartha. This is also interest, but with the context of the afterlife. Death is certain. No one can avoid it. Perhaps it is better to spend the remaining time in ignorance of the truth, but the destiny will always remain.
The difficulty with satisfying paramartha is that it seems impossible to validate. There is no personal eyewitness testimony, at least from recent times. No one is entirely sure unless and until they experience death and move on.
Nevertheless, people go to great lengths to secure paramartha. They follow rules and regulations, standards set by spiritual leaders.
यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः ।
स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते ॥
yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate
“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)
A secret known particularly to the elevated saints of the Vaishnava tradition is that svartha and paramartha are the same. The meaning is that both can be met simultaneously, when effort goes in the proper direction.
Self-interest and afterlife-interest do not have to be mutually exclusive. I do not need to torture myself on a hope and a prayer that I will enjoy in some mystical and magical place known as heaven. I also do not need to indulge the senses without care and attention to right and wrong, thinking that there won’t be an afterlife at all.
As Goswami Tulsidas says, there is no reason to go begging door to door for interests to be met. Simply worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is known by many names, such as Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, and Narasimha.
Prahlada Maharaja gives confirmation. He says that svartha is within the destination of Vishnu. The goal is not to become God or merge into His energy. Simply serve Him with love and devotion. Follow the standard He sets and take the advice of those who are dedicated to Him.
There may be sacrifices in the beginning. It may seem like there is unnecessary torture tied to rigid austerity, and that there won’t be a tangible benefit until the afterlife. The longer a person stays in the path, the closer they come to the Supreme Lord, the happier they will be.
They will soon validate the secret for themselves, that when every lifetime is spent in such service, there no longer is a distinction between material and spiritual life, death and living, high and low, and bound and liberated. The entire existence is the same in nature as the person being worshiped.
So many truths at play,
But one secret to say.
From the Vedas descending,
To every time period extending.
That neither exclusively done,
Svartha and paramartha actually one.
When for Vishnu’s approach combined,
Then the same destination to find.