The Hammer - 18
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The Hammer For Smashing Illusion

Shankaracharya's famous "Bhaja Govinda"


By Hansadutta das
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Text 18

Whether living in celestial temples or under trees, lying on the bare ground and wearing rough skins, by giving up all possessions and enjoyment, to whom will not such detachment bring happiness?

Happiness At Last

In material life we experience various conditions of happiness and distress, but if we want to be happy under all circumstances, we shall have to accept the mood of renunciation: jñana and vairagya. Jñana means knowledge, and vairagya means renunciation or detachment. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says, "The wise men do not take part in the sources of misery which are due to contact with the material senses. Such pleasures have a beginning and an end. No wise man delights in them." ( Bhagavad-gita 5.22) Krishna also says, "No one can become a yogi unless he gives up the desire for sense gratification." (Bhagavad-gita 6.2)

Sense gratification means eating, sleeping, defending and mating. There must be some sense gratification, because, after all, in our present condition we are bound up with our senses. We are entrapped within the material body, which is composed of the five senses including mind, intelligence and false ego. As long as we are trapped within this material body, we must accept some sense gratification. We must eat something. We must sleep somewhere. We must defend ourselves and beget children. But if we want to be happy in this material situation, we shall have to learn to regulate our sense gratification. Bhagavad-gita (2.64) says, "One who can practice the regulative principles of freedom can attain the complete mercy of God and become free from all kinds of material misery." Regulating sense gratification means to accept only the bare necessities of life, and everything else should be given up.

Give Up Doesn't Mean to Throw It into the Street

Give up doesn't mean to throw it in the street; it means to utilize it for the service of Krishna. We should take however much we require for our personal maintenance. We have this house, so we should accept some place to sleep, but not each person having his own room with all kinds of unnecessary paraphernalia such as furniture and lamps. As far as food goes, we should eat some rice, chapatis and vegetable. That is all. Whatever is left over should be used for prasadam distribution. This is the idea of renunciation. Without renunciation and detachment, knowledge, penance and austerity, there cannot be any progress in Krishna consciousness. A life of sense enjoyment, comfort and luxury does not go together with yoga. We must reject one or the other. In Chanakya's Niti-Shastra it is said, "A man who desires knowledge should give up the desire for sense gratification, and the man who desires sense gratification should give up the desire to have knowledge." How can one who desires sense gratification have knowledge? And how can one who has knowledge desire sense gratification? These two are always opposed.

Therefore in this verse Shripada Shankaracharya is saying that whether we get the opportunity to live in a palace or a temple, or whether we have to lie on the ground beneath a tree, wearing rough clothing or animal skins, or whether we give up all possessions and all kinds of enjoyment, if we are in the mood of renunciation and detachment, then we shall be happy. That should be our motto. We should be satisfied with whatever comes off its own accord and not make any extra effort for our personal sense gratification. That is called sannyasa.

Be a Sannyasi and be Free

Sannyasa refers to a person who has given up all kinds of plans and arrangements for unnecessary sense gratification. A sannyasi is supposed to wander over the face of the earth, not staying in any place more than three days. A sannyasi is supposed to practice depending completely on the mercy of the Lord under all kinds of conditions, sometimes in the cold and sometimes in the heat. Sometimes he will be praised, sometimes he will be blamed. At all times a sannyasi is supposed to be completely dependent on the grace of God. In this way, a sannyasi learns to become free from material attachments and completely free from material designation. He is preparing himself so that when he dies he has no dependency on anything material but is completely surrendered to the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Thus he goes home, back to Godhead.

This Krishna consciousness movement is essentially a movement for renunciates. It is not a movement for improving material life. It is a movement for improving spiritual life, and whatever is destined to come to us due to our past karmic activity, we shall accept and not endeavor for more.

Even those devotees who enter into the grihastha ashram (married life) should also live a progressive life of renunciation. Although grihasthas (married devotees) are permitted to associate with the opposite sex, that association is also restricted to associating to beget children. That means unless one desires to beget a child, he should not accept sex life. Sex life is accepted as religious only when one engages in sex for begetting a child. Otherwise, there should not be any sex indulgence. That is the tapasya (austerity) of grihastha life. A grihastha who lives according to the rules and regulations of Vedic injunctions is considered also to be a brahmachari (celibate student). Those who do not abide by the Vedic injunctions in the grihastha ashram are called grihamedhis (those who have made the central interest of their life sense enjoyment). In other words, they are simply maintaining a wife and a band of children without any interest in spiritual advancement.

No One is Greater Than One Who has Mastered Himself

Every member of the Krishna conscious movement is supposed to be a sannyasi (renunciate). On the basis of knowledge, we want to get out of material existence in this very lifetime by strictly controlling our senses. In the matter of eating, we should eat only krishna-prasada (food offered to Krishna), and even then we should eat only as much as we require. We should not overeat in the name of prasadam. To eat too much prasadam is a kind of maya (illusion). We should sleep only as much as necessary. If possible, we should sleep in the temple, which is transcendental. As far as defending is concerned, we depend on Krishna to protect us. Regarding sex, if one desires to beget a Krishna conscious child, he can accept sex life with his legally wedded wife, but not with others. If there is no intention to beget any children, one should keep himself aloof from the opposite sex. If we keep these four principles very strictly, then we are sure to make progress. When this term of bodily activity comes to an end with the dissolution of the body due to old age, disease, and death, we shall definitely be promoted to the spiritual sky in our original spiritual body and enjoy our original life of knowledge and bliss, being eternally in the association of Krishna.

It is very difficult to keep oneself purely Krishna conscious, but if we remain in the association of devotees and follow strictly the regulated program of rising early, chanting sixteen rounds, attending mangala-arati, regularly hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam, taking prasadam and going on sankirtan, then there will be no problem. It is a matter of following the standard practices in the association of the devotees. As soon as we remove ourselves from the company of the devotees, then immediately maya begins to attack us, and we are attracted to eat more, to sleep more, to have sex and so on. The secret of success is the association of devotees. Make this life perfect and go home, back to Godhead. Hare Krishna.

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Hansadutta das
Rittvik Representative of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
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