The Hammer - 2
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The Hammer For Smashing Illusion

Shankaracharya's famous "Bhaja Govinda"

Text 2

O fool! Give up the desire to obtain wealth and cultivate spiritual intelligence which is self-satisfying. You should entertain your mind only with the wealth achieved by means of your own karma.


So You Want to Be a Rockefeller?

This verse has two instructions: one positive and one negative. Shripada Shankaracharya is advising us that we should not unnecessarily endeavor to increase our wealth or waste time trying to improve our economic situation. That is the negative. The positive instruction is instead of trying to improve our economic standard, we should rather try to cultivate spiritual intelligence and improve our spiritual standing.

Generally, everyone is engaged in various plans for improving his economic condition. Even if a person is born with all kinds of economic facility--"born with a silver spoon in his mouth," like a Rockefeller or a Rothschild--still we find that he is engaged in trying to increase his economic position. No matter how much wealth a man accumulates, he is never satisfied. We find that just the opposite is true--the more wealth a man accumulates, the more anxious he becomes to accumulate wealth. In the endeavor to improve wealth there is great anxiety. There is also great competition for accumulating money.

The American dream is based on aspiring to capitalize on or profit from others' misfortune. Any means which will help us to improve our wealth is considered acceptable, even though that program may be detrimental to others. One who improves his wealth by scheming is considered to be a very successful, important and respectable person.

One may say, "But we cannot simply sit idle; otherwise we may starve. We must endeavor to get money. With money we have to purchase food, clothing, shelter and so many other necessities of life." Shankaracharya says no. We should be satisfied with that much wealth which we get automatically by our own karma.

You Always Get What's Coming to You

Every one of us is bound up by the law of karma. Karma means work. The work which we have performed in our previous life is being rewarded in this life. In this way, our wealth, our education, our health and our length of life are already fixed by our previous karma. Suppose we have a one-liter cup . . . whether we dip that cup in a pond or in the ocean, it can hold only one liter. Similarly, whatever karma we have accrued in our previous life we shall experience in this life--we cannot improve it; we cannot diminish it. In the Panchatantra it is said, "You always get what is coming to you. Even the gods cannot avoid the laws of destiny. Whatever destiny gives me, no one can take away. Therefore, I regret nothing and nothing astonishes me." People do not know that this life is the result of the previous life and what we do in this life will determine our position in our next life. We cannot improve our position simply by plan-making and hard labor. Everyone is under the stringent laws of nature.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam Prahlada Maharaja explains:

The happiness perceived with reference to the sense objects by contact with the body can be obtained in any form of life according to one's past fruitive activities. Such happiness is automatically obtained without endeavor, just as we obtain distress. ( Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.3)

Prahlada Maharaja points out that no one tries for distress or misfortune, but still it comes automatically. Similarly, happiness will also come automatically without any endeavor, according to your previous karma. If we can understand this point, then we can turn our attention to spiritual life, which is the purpose and aim of this human existence.

Cats, Dogs and Hogs Eat and Sleep

To eat, sleep, defend and have sex is not unique to human being. Cats, hogs, dogs and all living creatures in the lower forms also eat, sleep, defend and have sex according to their different standards. A human being is supposed to be more important than an animal. Why? Because a human being has a more highly developed consciousness and intelligence, which is supposed to be utilized for attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death. The struggle for existence is characterized by these four activities: finding food, shelter, protecting ourselves and begetting offspring. We are supposed to get free from these four activities--not improve them in the name of science, technology, politics, economics, art and music. Such improvements of eating, sleeping, defending and sex, in the name of science and technology, amount to nothing more than polished animal life. After all, if a human being has no awareness of his eternal life as spirit soul, part and parcel of God, the Supreme Spirit Whole, but is only engaged in meeting the bodily demands, like animals, then what is he? Is he not just a polished, sophisticated animal? The animals have no books. They have no universities. They have no system of social and political intercourse. They have only some instinct for meeting the bodily demands--eat, sleep, defend and have sex.

The Body is a Lump of Matter, But You are Not!

A human being is distinguished from animals only when his attention is turned to the question of spiritual life or life beyond the temporary activities of eating, sleeping, defending and sex, all of which are in relation to the body only. The body is a lump of matter which is created at some point in time and space, grows, produces some offspring, remains for some time, dwindles, and then again vanishes into the air of oblivion, never to be seen again. The soul, however, which is the background of this lump of matter, is eternal, and the human form of life gives the eternal living entity a chance to get free from the cycle of birth and death.

iccha-dvesa samutthena
dvandva-mohena bharata
Bhagavad-gita (7.27) says, "Every living entity is born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate." Vedic literatures and the spiritual master are here for the specific purpose of bringing the living entity out of this delusion and darkness and enlightening him about his eternal nature and relationship with God.

However, in order to advance in spiritual understanding we have to accept penance and austerity. Tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam. In Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.1) Rishabhadeva says, "Human life is not meant just for enjoying sense gratification like cats, dogs and hogs. It is meant for tapasya (penance and austerity) in order to achieve divine life. eternal life."

Shankaracharya is instructing us: "You should be satisfied with that which is destined to come to you due to your past previous activities. Instead of wasting time you should try to improve your spiritual intelligence." For that reason there are scriptures called Vedas. Veda means knowledge--not knowledge manufactured by a mundane man; but knowledge coming from the spiritual world. It is transcendental knowledge or spiritual knowledge coming down through the spiritual masters in the line of disciplic succession (guru-parampara). This knowledge is not intelligible with our mundane mind, intelligence or senses. It can be understood only when we adopt the transcendental process, and the transcendental process is completely opposite or diametrically opposed to the material process.

Spiritual Knowledge--Speculation or Revelation?

The material process of understanding is an ascending process. Suppose I want to know what this computer is. I must approach the object of knowledge. I have to dismantle it, examine it, speculate and experiment. That is the material way of understanding--experiment and speculation. But the spiritual process is descending. We must allow the knowledge to descend and reveal itself to us. We cannot approach it. Just as we cannot approach the sun, but the sun will come in its own time and reveal itself to us. We can stand in a receptive place and receive the benefit of the sun's rays when it rises on the horizon, but we cannot go to the sun. The same principle applies in spiritual life. We cannot approach Krishna, but Krishna approaches us. How does He approach us? He approaches us through His representative, the spiritual master (guru).

Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya. In Bhagavad-gita (4.34) Krishna advises Arjuna: "Just try to approach a bona fide spiritual master, inquire from him submissively and be prepared to render him all kinds of service. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth." We cannot challenge Krishna. We cannot challenge Krishna's representative. We can only submit ourselves and inquire in submission, rendering service according to the instructions of the spiritual master. As we engage ourselves in the service of the spiritual master and Krishna, the transcendental or spiritual truths will unfold within our heart.

Spiritual knowledge is not a foreign thing. It is inherent within us, because we are already by nature spirit, and one of the qualities of the spirit spark is that it is full of knowledge. So the knowledge of Krishna consciousness is not something foreign or unknown to us. It is, in fact, inherent within our soul, but it is dormant. It is covered by this external energy which is known as maya (illusion).

How to Increase Your Spiritual Awareness

The spiritual master awakens us to our spiritual identity. Krishna, from within, reveals Himself according to our sincere attitude of submission and service. In Bhagavad-gita (15.15) Krishna says, "I am seated in everyone's heart. From Me alone comes knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness." Krishna also says, "In that proportion as one surrenders unto Me, I reveal Myself to him." (Bhagavad-gita 4.11)

This should be our only consideration: how to increase our spiritual awareness, how to advance in spiritual life. We should be convinced that whatever is destined to come to us by the force of our previous karma will come whether we endeavor for it or not, and therefore we should be satisfied with whatever comes our way, knowing full well that we cannot improve our position by any means--all our endeavors in that direction being simply a waste of time.

It's All a Fleeting Dream

In dreams we may experience great pleasure, becoming a king or a highly placed minister with wealth and women, or sometimes we may experience a nightmare. It does not matter, because dreaming is a state of illusion. It is not our real situation. Pleasant dreams or unpleasant dreams--both are after all only dreams. When we awaken, then the good dream has no value, and the bad dream also has no importance--both of them are illusion.

Similarly, our material position--either wealthy or poor, learned or foolish, handsome or ugly--really has no substance. It is all a fleeting dream. It may be a sixty-year dream, a dream in three dimensions or a dream composed of earth, water, fire and air. In the night the dream is composed of mind and intelligence, and in the daytime the dream is composed of earth, water, fire, air and ether. But a dream is after all still a dream.

Real Life Means Spiritual Life

Reality is something quite separate from the material dreams. Unless we are engaged in pursuit of the Absolute Truth and our eternal relationship with Him, we are simply wasting this opportunity of human life.

In Bhagavad-gita it is stated that satisfaction is the austerity of the mind. We should practice being satisfied in all circumstances, whether good or bad. As a matter of course, we should practice being satisfied, bearing in mind, "This is destined to be my lot by the force of my karma. Let me not try to counteract these miseries, but let me instead try for improving my spiritual life, so that when this term of karmic reactions comes to an end, I will be completely purified and not have to come back to material existence to experience another term of karmic reactions, which put men into the grip of birth, old age, disease and death."

We may be very good and consequently get very good karma (good money, good women, good name in society, good looks and good health), but after all, birth is not good, old age is not good, disease is not good, and death is not good. No matter how good our wealth, our looks, and our position in life may be, our real life is spiritual life. This human life is an opportunity to attain complete spiritual life, free from all the miseries of birth, death, old age and disease.

Material Life Automatically Improves

Spiritual life is not exclusive. It is not separate from material life. In fact, spiritual life includes material life, just as my hand includes the shadow. Wherever my hand goes, my shadow automatically follows. Similarly, if spiritual life is improved, then material life automatically will improve, because matter is the shadow of the soul. When the soul is separated from this body, or when the soul leaves this body, the body immediately begins to decompose, disintegrate and vanish, just as when I withdraw my hand from this table, the shadow vanishes. This body and all its paraphernalia are shadows of the eternal soul. Therefore, by improving our spiritual life, material life is not neglected. Generally, people have this fear that by pursuing a spiritual life they will have to neglect their material life and become a financial or social zero. That is not a fact. You can actually improve your position on the material platform beyond your wildest imagination by pursuing spiritual life. But the fact of the matter is that spirit is the only thing of substance, and on the spiritual platform you will come to see that matter is nothing but a shadow of spirit. Just as you do not constantly look to see if your shadow is with you when you walk down the street, similarly, the person who has advanced spiritually becomes indifferent to his material wealth, his position and other material considerations. These become most insignificant in the light of his spiritual advancement. That is the nature of spiritual life.

How to be Richer than Rockefeller

It appears to the materialistic person that the devotees (Hare Krishna people) don't have anything. "They don't have any sex life. They don't have any money. They don't take intoxication. What do they do? They have no diversion. They are just paupers or beggars." The fact is that a devotee is so rich that he doesn't have to think of any of any of these things. They have no value in his elevated existence. A very rich man like Rockefeller doesn't have to carry any money in his pocket. He doesn't have to do anything, because everyone does it for him. Similarly, a devotee is so rich in spiritual life, having attained the lotus feet of Krishna, that he doesn't have to think about anything. He doesn't have to think about what other people may think of him. He doesn't have to think about money. He is simply thinking of Krishna, and Krishna is simply thinking of him. In this way, a devotee is oblivious to the material situation. Although he is apparently living in the material atmosphere, he is actually quite oblivious to material affairs, just as a man who is intoxicated with drink is oblivious and doesn't know in the dead of winter whether his hat or his coat are on or off. He walks across the street without seeing whether it is a red or a green light. The cars are coming to a stop and he is just going on.

Getting Everything Effortlessly

The spiritual platform is so sublime that there is no need to be anxious about eating, sleeping, defending or sex. All these things come and go without any endeavor. Everyone wants to have such a sublime carefree life where there is no anxiety, but we do not know how to get it. In ignorance we adopt various sense gratificatory programs, such as intoxication, sex indulgence and gambling. We are trying to get that carefree life by ingesting intoxicants, absorbing ourselves in sex, gambling, eating or sleeping, but none of these activities actually bring us this carefree life. In fact, they make us more anxiety-ridden than ever. This is the secret: take shelter in Krishna, and let Krishna take care of you. Hare Krishna.

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