“All living entities are rotating throughout the universe, going sometimes up to the higher planetary systems and sometimes down to the lower planets. This is the material disease, which is known as pravritti-marga. When one becomes intelligent he takes to nivritti-marga, the path of liberation, and thus instead of rotating within this material world, he returns home, back to Godhead. This is necessary.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.1.2 Purport)
1. Will I get rich?
“I want money, obviously. I want to be settled, in the future. I am willing to accept some hardship in the beginning. You hear the stories from the previous generation. In the beginning, they were living in a small apartment. This is when they were starting out.
“They eventually moved on to a bigger place. They managed to save enough to retire at a decent age. I want the same for me. I would prefer it to occur at an accelerated pace. Will this bhakti-yoga thing sufficiently compensate me for my efforts?”
2. Will my health improve?
“There is a reason the diet and exercise industries always have willing customers. Who isn’t looking to shed a few pounds these days? We sure have come a long way. I think in some cultures the protruding belly is a status symbol. It means that you are doing better than your peers.
“Around where I live, however, people are looking to improve health. They prefer the natural route, if possible. Will bhakti-yoga help me to lose weight? Will it give me more energy on a given day? Will I be able to sleep better? Will key metrics related to the body fall within acceptable ranges?”
3. Will I get to travel the world?
“I don’t like being stuck in one place. It could be a paradise-style location. It could be where the rest of the world visits to get away from bad weather. If you keep seeing sunshine, on a daily basis, sometimes you long for the rain or the snow.
“You get what I am saying, right? Will bhakti-yoga keep my spirits refreshed? Will I get to travel? There is the saying that travel is as good as rest. I would love to see different parts of the world.”
4. Will my friends and family approve?
“If I follow bhakti-yoga, will I be able to incorporate friends and family? Will they come along for the ride, so to speak? I am not big into isolation. I’m fine with trying something new, but I don’t want to be shut out from the rest of society. I am not ready for that.”
5. Will I be happy?
In this area, the answer is always in the affirmative. The happiness flows in such a positive way that there is no accurate comparison. In Ramacharitamanasa, Maharishi Valmiki compares the joy of transcendental life to rivers rushing into an ocean, but never overflowing. A person wants to repeatedly experience the taste, which is in connection with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
रस-वर्जं रसो ऽप्य् अस्य
परं दृष्ट्वा निवर्तते
rasa-varjaṁ raso ‘py asya
paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate
“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.59)
The experience is at another level. The Sanskrit is param drishtva. This means seeing something better. The highest taste is so pleasurable that it is easy to give up everything else. Previously, there would be lingering attachment.
For instance, if I want to quit drinking diet soda, I might be fine for a day or two. I am forcing myself into restriction. I am thinking for the bigger picture. At the same time, there is a craving. I have only truly succeeded when the attachment is gone, when I no longer seek out the previous enjoyment.
Bhakti-yoga follows a similar pattern, except there is full replacement. It is not that a person necessarily forgets previous enjoyments due to the lengthy passage of time. They have simply replaced those activities with something better.
यत् तद् अग्रे विषम् इव
तत् सुखं सात्त्विकं प्रोक्तम्
yat tad agre viṣam iva
tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam
“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.37)
The shift might be bitter in the beginning. It is like associating with poison. With enough time and under proper guidance, the exact same life is like associating with nectar. This nectar is not harmful if overdone. There is no such thing as overdosing on devotional service.
As to the previous questions, the answers can fall either way. You might become supremely wealthy due to your connection to Bhagavan. Sudama Vipra was too ashamed to ask for anything, despite his poverty-stricken condition. The goddess of fortune then gifted him with a beautiful palace and enough wealth to remove the concerns of his wife at home.
Health may indeed improve, due to a simplified diet. If a person renounces intoxicants and animal flesh, from eating simpler so many issues might go away. Goswami Tulsidas explains that by eating fruits and drinking milk for six months, every siddhi can arrive. The secret is to chant the holy name during the same period of restriction.
पय अहार फल खाइ जपु राम नाम षट मास|
सकल सुमण्गल सिद्धि सब करतल तुलसीदास ||
paya ahāra phala khāi japu rāma nāma ṣaṭa māsa|
sakala sumaṇgala siddhi saba karatala tulasīdāsa ||
“Subsisting on fruits and milk, chant Shri Rama’s holy name for six months. Tulsidas says that by following this formula all auspiciousness and every perfection will arrive in the palm of your hand.” (Dohavali, 5)
Notable saints of the Vaishnava tradition have travelled the world many times. Narada Muni can travel the three worlds and even visit Vaikuntha whenever he wants. This is his special arrangement, made to facilitate distributing the glories of Narayana.
A person may be fortunate to share their bhakti life with family and well-wishers. They may engage together in formal worship in the home, on a regular basis. They read sacred texts together and have proper discussion. They prepare delicious offerings to the deity and then honor the remnants known as prasadam.
At the same time, the person selling bhakti-yoga is honest. They reveal that the answers to the previous questions may fall in the negative. Your health might deteriorate rapidly due to the conditions of material life. You may lose the association of friends and family. You might become the poorest person in the world, with Hari taking away everything you have. You might be stuck in a single location, with not enough money to even travel to a nearby city.
These circumstances already occur for any person. That is the reality to material living. The difference is that the shelter of bhakti provides an auspicious conclusion. Though the answers to the first questions may fall in the negative, the last question always has a positive in the long-term.
A person can be happy with little to their name and no one to talk to. Though they are stuck in one place, they always see the Supreme Lord, wherever they go. They are so happy in their service that no amount of persuasion or proposed compensation can make them go back. They are fixed to their service like the strongest pillar, like Garuda and Hanuman in their service to Vishnu.
Maybe the poorest to become,
With bank balance none.
Friends and family driven away,
Still stuck to material way.
Forced to in one place to remain,
But chance for happiness same.
Since Supreme Lord always seeing,
Joyful in connection being.
Categories: the five