“O son of Pritha, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I need to obtain anything—and yet I am engaged in work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.22)
न मे पार्थास्ति कर्तव्यं
त्रिषु लोकेषु किञ्चन
वर्त एव च कर्मणि
na me pārthāsti kartavyaṁ
triṣu lokeṣu kiñcana
varta eva ca karmaṇi
Friend1: Human life is meant for tapasya.
Friend2: Austerity and penance, which are voluntarily imposed.
Friend1: This is to distinguish from the animal existence.
Friend2: Which knows only eating, sleeping, mating, and defending.
Friend1: Real religion has tapasya at the foundation.
Friend2: It only makes sense, if you think about it. We don’t need to be taught how to eat. There is no guidance necessary in figuring out how to continue the population.
Friend1: Religion brings restriction in these areas.
Friend2: Marriage can only be rooted in religion. Otherwise, there is no purpose. Mix together like the cats and dogs, as His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada likes to say.
Friend1: The same with eating, in that there is one restriction after another. Fasting periods. Rituals. Sacrifices.
Friend2: Yajna, which is equivalent with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Real religion is so nice in this way. There is so much assistance offered for making progress. We simply have to accept it.
Friend1: Okay, but I have also heard that renunciation is not enough, that tyaga is merely the opposite of bhoga.
Friend2: Toggling between enjoyment and renunciation. Attraction and aversion. These are the dualities within a material existence. The living being is sadly overcome by them.
इच्छाद्वेषसमुत्थेन द्वन्द्वमोहेन भारत।
सर्वभूतानि संमोहं सर्गे यान्ति परन्तप।।
icchādveṣasamutthena dvandvamohena bhārata।
sarvabhūtāni saṃmohaṃ sarge yānti parantapa।।
“O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conquerer of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.27)
Friend1: Right, and so a person might ask why the insistence on tapasya? Why is that the foundation of genuine religion?
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: Why isn’t bhoga part of religion? If enjoyment is no different than renunciation, why is there focus on renunciation? Do you see the contradiction?
Friend2: It is because we are accustomed to enjoying the senses since time immemorial. In the human birth, the child plays for at least the first five years. They have to be compelled to learn. Otherwise, they would likely never take to it on their own.
Friend1: The parents enforce a time for sleeping. There is restriction on eating.
Friend2: You can’t have pizza and ice cream for every meal.
Friend1: You have to be courteous to others. You must share with other children. I see what you are saying.
Friend2: It is a tough balance, for sure. A monkey lives in the forest, but they aren’t necessarily renounced.
Friend1: Yeah. That is simply their way of living. But you can see the confusion here. Do we indulge or do we avoid? Do we work or do we not?
Friend2: Shri Krishna says that every person must act according to their nature. He references Himself in that respect. Though He is the origin of everything, He still takes up a role while within the manifest realm. Though karma does not impact Him, He behaves as if rules and regulations apply.
Friend1: This is to set a proper standard?
Friend2: Yes, and to teach others the way. We have vitality. We have senses. We will not reach transcendence simply by eschewing the senses. Rather, the initial focus on tapasya is for preparing the individual for experiencing a transcendental taste.
Friend1: Indulging in a different way?
Friend2: The spirit soul is meant for a spiritual existence. It is not meant to be stuck in the constant toggling between bhoga and tyaga, which are wrapped in between the events of birth and death.
“It is stated that he whose mind is not fixed in Krishna consciousness must hover between acceptance and rejection. However advanced a man is in academic qualifications, as long as he is not fixed in Krishna consciousness he will simply accept and reject and will never be able to fix his mind on a particular subject matter.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.26.27 Purport)
The objective now is to stop rebirth. Put an end to karma and the vulnerability to sense enjoyment, which is actually misery.
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यम्
एवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर् जन्म
नैति माम् एति सो ऽर्जुन
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
Into this birth to send,
Now the cycle to end.
Where enjoying on this day,
And tomorrow staying away.
Attraction on one side to find,
The other aversion in mind.
When first on tapasya to stand,
On transcendental plane to land.