“One should not give up anything which can be utilized in the service of the Lord. That is a secret of devotional service. Anything that can be utilized in advancing Krishna consciousness and devotional service should be accepted.” (The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 14)
Friend1: I’m having a hard time deciding whether or not to keep something.
Friend2: What is it exactly?
Friend1: It could be anything, but let’s say it’s a job.
Friend2: Okay. You are unsure of whether you want it?
Friend1: Let’s speak in the context of devotional service, bhakti-yoga.
Friend1: My life would be easier without the job. I could dedicate more time to chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend2: As part of your daily routine?
Friend1: More time for reading books. Just to stay in the devotional mood.
Friend2: Right, but I think that is a common sentiment. That is the basis for saving for retirement. There is the modern-day concept of FIRE.
Friend1: What does that stand for?
Friend2: Financially independent, retired early.
Friend1: Oh, interesting. Basically, retire prior to the typical age.
Friend2: Which is reaching your sixties. Anyway, this is something a lot of people want. They would love to give up their job and focus on other interests.
Friend1: Except this is the supreme interest, paramartha. I want the highest gain possible.
Friend2: But how would you eat? How would you pay for things without a job?
Friend1: Let’s say that there is just enough income already to get by.
Friend2: So this is a second job?
Friend1: It could be.
Friend2: Do you like the work?
Friend1: I do.
Friend2: What is the hesitation, then?
Friend1: If I have enough to get by, why do I need the extra responsibility? I could focus on chanting the holy names, delving deeper into bhakti-yoga, and the sort.
Friend2: There is the principle from Shrila Rupa Gosvami that we should not give up anything which is favorable for devotional service. This way we don’t have to ponder the different rules and regulations, to see if we are in proper alignment.
Friend1: Okay, but how do I determine if something is favorable? What if it is on the fringe, such as in the hypothetical case I described?
Friend2: Would you be able to continue in devotion without it?
Friend2: What about if you kept the job?
Friend1: I think I would be okay. It is difficult to predict the future. You don’t know how the stresses would play out.
Friend2: It is an unknown.
Friend1: Yes. These decisions are not so straightforward. I don’t really have anyone to guide me.
Friend2: Another recommendation is that someone should not over-endeavor.
Friend1: What does that mean?
Friend2: Work too hard at a particular objective. If you stress yourself out, you won’t have any life left. You are sacrificing so much to get ahead, but you are actually behind the entire time.
Friend1: I see. That makes sense.
Friend2: The tough decisions will always be there. Arjuna did not know how to proceed prior to the Bharata War. Shri Hanuman was stuck in Lanka without success. He contemplated giving up entirely.
Friend1: How were they able to decide?
Friend2: Arjuna had Krishna as his charioteer and dear friend. Krishna turned into the spiritual guide, although He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
मन्यसे यदि तच् छक्यं
मया द्रष्टुम् इति प्रभो
योगेश्वर ततो मे त्वं
manyase yadi tac chakyaṁ
mayā draṣṭum iti prabho
yogeśvara tato me tvaṁ
“If You think that I am able to behold Your cosmic form, O my Lord, O master of all mystic power, then kindly show me that universal self.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.4)
Friend1: I don’t have that luxury at the moment.
Friend2: Shri Hanuman decided that as long as he was alive, he could at least make an attempt at fulfilling the mission for Rama. The same would not be possible, otherwise.
Friend1: It seems every person serious about advancing the cause of the human birth eventually reaches this fork in the road. They could have material success or spiritual success. They have to choose which one makes more sense, at the given moment.
Friend2: There is some assurance from Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna reveals that He advises the devotee from within. He dissipates the ignorance, shining the lamp of knowledge. This is something we can rely upon whenever we are in doubt, provided we are willing to keep the connection going:
अहम् अज्ञान-जं तमः
aham ajñāna-jaṁ tamaḥ
“Out of compassion for them, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.11)
Lamp from within showing,
When keeping connection going.
Such that Krishna to guide,
When no others to confide.
So that difficult decision to make,
Whether to indulge or forsake.
Principle that the cause not to lose,
When for bhakti’s benefit to use.