The Hammer - 15
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© 2004 - Hansadutta das

The Hammer For Smashing Illusion

Shankaracharya's famous "Bhaja Govinda"


By Hansadutta das

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Text 15

The body is worn out; the hair has turned gray; the mouth has become toothless; and the old man goes about clutching hold of a stick. Despite this condition, he has not given up his bundle of desires.

The Force of Desires

It is the force of desire which carries us from one situation to another. In the Upanishads it is said, "As man's desire is, so is his deed, and as his deed is, so is his destiny." In the West, we have the saying, "Man is the architect of his own fortune or misfortune." This present life is the result of our previous life, and what we do in this life will determine what kind of life we will have in the next body. In this way, everyone is moving under the impulse of desire.

There are some teachers who advocate becoming desireless, but that is not possible, because desire is the concomitant factor of a living being. Just as fire must have heat, similarly everyone must have some desire. The basic desires are to enjoy as much as possible, to live permanently and to know everything fully. These are the three desirable situations: full knowledge, full pleasure, and eternal life.

However, we are in a situation which never gives us full pleasure, full knowledge and eternal life. In fact, we experience all misery, complete ignorance and a temporary life. Therefore, the Vedic literatures, especially Bhagavad-gita, teach the conditioned soul how he can actually experience this eternal life of full knowledge and full pleasure. That instruction is known as yoga. There are various types of yoga: karma-yoga, jñana-yoga, ashtanga-yoga, and bhakti-yoga. Although people claim that all the yogas are good and one should pick one according to his particular inclination, we find from the Bhagavad-gita itself that bhakti-yoga is the topmost stage of yoga practice. It is the culmination of all yoga practice. Karma-yoga, jñana-yoga, and ashtanga-yoga are stepping stones to come to the platform of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. In fact, karma-yoga, jñana-yoga and ashtanga-yoga are automatically included in bhakti-yoga.

You Can't Give Up Desires

What is bhakti-yoga? Bhakti-yoga means to engage one's complete energy, words and wealth in the service of the Lord. In bhakti-yoga there is no attempt to give up desire, to become desireless, to become inactive, or to become void, impersonal, or even to become one with God. There is not even a desire for liberation. In that sense bhakti-yoga is desirelessness, but in another sense bhakti-yoga actually engages our natural desires for work in a purified manner. That principle is explained by Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (9.27, 28):

yat karosi yad asnasi
yaj juhosi dadasi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kurusva mad arpanam
Whatever you do as work, whatever you eat, whatever you give away in charity or perform as penance, that should be done as an offering unto Me. By this principle of work you will be freed from all sinful reactions and come to Me.

Desire cannot be extinguished; we shall always be full of desires. However, at the present moment, because we are in ignorance of our eternal relationship with God, our desires are perverted because we are acting on the bodily platform. We desire on behalf of this body. Everyone desires his body to be very comfortable, very beautiful, rich, and famous, but we cannot be happy pursuing such desires, because the body is not the self. I am not this body--I am merely a resident within this body. Just as a driver is quite separate from the automobile and naturally cannot be satisfied simply by taking care of the machine, because the driver is not the machine. The machine requires some care, of course, but that care does not satisfy the driver. Similarly, although we must look after this body by eating, sleeping, defending and mating, we should not think that simply by taking care of this body that we can be satisfied or happy.

That is the mistake of the modern civilization. Society has focused all its attention on taking care of the temporary, material body without any consideration for the eternal soul within the body. The result is no one is happy in spite of material advancement in all fields. In fact, we find those who are most advanced materially are the most unhappy and frustrated. So a man goes through life, day in and day out, week after week, accumulating all kinds of advantages for his body; but he becomes old and diseased, his hair turns gray, and his teeth fall out. He is bent over; only with the help of a stick is he able to walk, and still he does not give up his material desires and try to understand Krishna consciousness.

This is the idea of this verse. Everyone is busy with material desires, but we cannot be satisfied pursuing material desire. We must spiritualize our desires. We must purify our desires by acting for Vishnu.

Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi vishnum: Everyone is in ignorance about this essential truth. "We are meant to satisfy Vishnu." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.31)

yajñarthat karmano 'nyatra
loko'yam karma-bandhanah
In Bhagavad-gita (3.9) Krishna says, "One should work for the satisfaction of Vishnu." That kind of work will keep us free from bondage; otherwise work binds us to this material world. We are working, but the result of our work is that we are becoming more and more entangled in the material existence. The same work performed for the satisfaction of Vishnu or Krishna, frees us from the material entanglement.

No One can be a Yogi

In Bhagavad-gita (8.12) Krishna says, "No one can become a yogi unless he gives up the desire for sense gratification." Sense gratification means unnecessarily laboring for more to eat, a more comfortable arrangement to sleep and to have sex and more production of weapons for defense.

Krishna also says, "Yoga is not for one who eats too much or eats too little, sleeps too much, or does not sleep enough." (Bhagavad-gita 6.16) We do not suggest that one should stop eating, or stop sleeping, or stop sex life, or stop defending himself; but one should regulate his activity of eating, sleeping, defending and begetting children. That is yoga--decreasing the material necessities to the bare minimum. We would not put more gasoline or oil in the car than the manufacturer has recommended, because that would damage the machine, so similarly, this body is a type of machine. In fact, in the Bhagavad-gita this body is actually described as a machine, or yantra. Yantra means machine. Krishna says, "The living entity is seated as if on a machine made of material energy, and I am directing the wanderings of all living beings all over the universe." (Bhagavad-gita 18.61) This bodily machine, which is constructed of the eight elements--earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego--should be cared for in a very systematic and regulated way. That is the purpose of yoga practice. For example, ashtanga-yogis practice asanas and pranayama.

There are eight divisions of the ashtanga-yoga practice. The purpose of the different practices is to cleanse the body completely of all kinds of impurities, especially the nerves. The nerves should be cleansed so that they can function at their top potential. Then by pranayama, they are nourished with prana, the life force of air. Then dhyana (meditation) and ultimately there is samadhi. Samadhi means that the mind becomes completely peaceful. In Bhagavad-gita (6.19) it is described, "As a flame in a windless place does not flicker, so is the yogi's mind who has attained the Supreme. It never moves. It is never disturbed."

Modern Civilization's Only Concern

The purpose of the preliminary practice of yoga, whether it is karma-yoga, jñana-yoga, ashtanga-yoga or even bhakti yoga, is to completely purify one's existence: first physical existence, then mental existence and intellectual existence. That will give us entrance into our eternal, spiritual existence, which is our real existence. The bodily or physical existence of our life is temporary. We are born at some time, then the body grows and produces offspring. It remains for some time, then dwindles and again it vanishes. So the physical existence is temporary--maybe sixty or seventy years--and then it is gone. Although bodily or physical existence is very flickering and short-lived, we find that the whole modern civilization is concerned only with the physical existence of the living entity. They are simply busy creating various types of comfort and sensual enjoyment for the physical body.

How to Reach the Platform of Spiritual Existence

A few men are concerned with mental and intellectual existence. They are fond of thinking, speculating, philosophizing. They are on the mental and intellectual plane, but that also is temporary. That is not permanent.

In the Bhagavad-gita (15.8) it is said, "The living entity carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another, as the air carries aromas." The mind is the subtle body. The mind is like a photographic negative: when you expose the negative on photographic paper, you get a positive. In a similar way, the mind is the background of this gross body. When the gross body is destroyed, the subtle mind continues to exist, and according to the mental picture at the time of death, a person is born again in the next life and develops another gross body appropriate for that mental situation. Bhagavad-gita (8.6) says, "Wherever and whatever the mind is fixed at the time of leaving this body, to that nature one attains without fail." We even use the expression "mind over matter." The mind gives shape to matter.

But above the mind and the intellect is the soul. The soul is the original source of the mind, intelligence and body. We want to transcend the platform of the senses, mind and intelligence. We want to come to the platform of purified spiritual existence, where there is no influence of the material atmosphere with its birth, old age, disease and death. On that platform there are no impediments such as time and space; everything exists in its pure, original, unadulterated, harmonious state.

Material Improvement is a By-product of Yoga

To come to that pure, spiritual, eternal and joyful life, we have to accept some process. There is a procedure, just as in science. In order to arrive at a particular conclusion, you have to go through a procedure or process. We want to come to the purified stage of life, and to do so, we must accept the process for purification. That process is outlined in various Vedic literatures and is popularly known as yoga. People take yoga to be something fashionable or at best something to improve our health and peace of mind, but actually yoga is not meant for improving our health nor our peace of mind. It is really meant to help us permanently get out of material existence--not to improve our material existence. Improvement of our material existence is an automatic by-product of yoga practice, but that is not at all the aim. The real aim is to give up material existence, no matter how nice it may appear to be.

Condemned Life of Frustrated Desires

Generally, we find that in youth our senses are very powerful, our mind is clear, and our health is in order, so we tend to waste our youth pursuing sense gratification. Young boys are after young girls, earning money and having friends. In this way, "eat, drink and be merry" is the prevailing mood. But we find that when youth has faded away, our senses have become worn out, due to indulgence in sense gratification. Even when an old man can no longer eat properly, when he can no longer enjoy sex with young girls, when he cannot sleep at night, and when he can hardly walk straight, still he has not given up his desire to enjoy material life, although the prospect for enjoyment is out of the question.

Here Shankaracharya says, "Although the man is in this condition, unable to enjoy sense gratification, still the desires for sense gratification are with him." Youth has passed, old age has overwhelmed him, and death is looming; still, he is carrying about a big bundle of desires. An old man will look at young girls and think of enjoying, although he cannot. This kind of life is condemned. We should learn how to become free from material desires by practicing bhakti-yoga, dovetailing our desires for the satisfaction of Krishna.

Everyone Knows How to Read, Nobody Knows What to Read

Narada Muni has instructed that this practice should begin from the age of five--not at the age of fifty, when we are worn out and habituated to sense gratification. It is almost impossible to practice Krishna consciousness at that time. Therefore Vedic culture is not aimed at material advancement; it is aimed at spiritual advancement. Those who follow are concerned with achieving permanent enjoyment, rather than immediate, temporary enjoyment. That is the difference. The training to purify our existence by the practice of yoga should begin from the age of five years.

Spiritual science should be learned alongside the material sciences. That will make for a successful life. Advancement in reading, writing and arithmetic without knowing what should be read or written is useless. Everyone knows how to read and write, especially in Europe and America, but no one knows what to read, they do not know what to write. People simply read newspapers, magazines and comic books, but such literature cannot enlighten us about our eternal life in Krishna consciousness. The newspaper, the magazine and the comic book are, after all, just describing the happenings of the temporary world. We want to know about the happenings of the eternal world and how to go there. That should be our subject matter for reading and writing. It is very nice that everyone is reading and writing, but now people should read and write about Krishna. That will make everyone happy.

In order to facilitate this, the Krishna consciousness movement is distributing books so that people can read about Krishna and how to go home, back to Krishna. That is the purpose of this movement.

Whatever You Are, Wherever You Are, Everyone Can Participate

Even if one cannot read or write, he can chant Hare Krishna and eat krishna prasadam. It is such a nice, sublime movement--everyone can participate. There is a place for everyone. You don't have to give up anything. Keep whatever you have, chant Hare Krishna, take krishna prasadam, and read Krishna's books. That's all. No one is asking you to give up anything. Of course, if you understand who Krishna is, then you will want to do something for Krishna. Whatever you do now, you can do that for Krishna. If you are a doctor, you can treat the Krishna devotees. If you are a businessman, you can do business and make money, then spend it for Krishna. If you are an artist, you can produce paintings and other art works for Krishna. If you are a housewife, you can teach your children about Krishna and cook krishna prasadam. Whatever you are, wherever you are, you can serve Krishna and be Krishna conscious. It is easy.

But we have four principles which are very important, and one who is serious about Krishna consciousness must give up eating meat, fish and eggs, give up intoxicants (including tea, coffee and cigarettes), give up illicit sex and give up gambling. These four restrictions will help you to become purified, and they will also save you money. You will be happy. We have all given up these things and we are feeling that it is very practical.

Meanwhile, chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. That's all. See for yourself whether there is some benefit. If you like it, then continue. If you don't like it, give it up. But try it. Make an experiment. Set one month aside and say, "This month I will practice and see." Give up these four things, chant Hare Krishna, read Krishna's books, and see what happens. There is no risk involved. Nothing to lose but all to gain. Hare Krishna.

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Hansadutta das
Rittvik Representative of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Trustee, BHAKTIVEDANTA BOOK TRUST
WORLD SANKIRTAN PARTY


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