The Message of Godhead
Bhagavänera Kathä 4
by Çré Çrémad Bhaktivedänta Svämé Mahäräja
[NOTE: This page uses Balarama font (available here)
for better transliteration of Sanskrit into English]
There is only one process of pure bhakti-yoga. The method to expertly engage in buddhi-yoga (bhakti-yoga) through karma and jïäna is revealed in the Bhagavad-gétä alone. When karma is aimed at buddhi-yoga, it becomes karma-miçrä-bhakti. Only then is it known as karma-yoga. And when jïäna is aimed at buddhi-yoga, it becomes jïäna-miçrä-bhakti. It is then called jïäna-yoga. Only that buddhi-yoga that has crossed beyond karma and jïäna and, remaining uncovered by them, has reached the stage of kevalä-bhakti, is called çuddha-bhakti.
Every action (karma) that we perform in this world, be it mundane or in accordance with Vedic standards, produces various results. And as we enjoy the various fruits of this karma, new karma is performed and new fruits of karma are created. Because these actions also produce various results, they cannot be called karma-yoga. Action (karma) and the fruits of action (karma-phala) continue to expand like the endlessly spreading branches and subbranches of a great tree.
For those who enjoy the fruits of that great tree, the only result is worldly entanglement. This suffering and impermanence, as dispensed by providence, is the root cause of their distress. Having climbed that tree of worldly entanglement birth after birth, the jéva has become controlled by karma and its fruits. As a result, he repeatedly wanders throughout the 8,400,000 higher and lower species of life, being painfully scorched by the threefold miseries. He attains no rest or peace.
Yet people have no alternative to relinquishing such karma. They may pretend to renounce all action by accepting the attire of a so-called sannyäsé, but they still have to perform various actions to fill their bellies. While considering the plight of his subordinate sannyäsés, Çré Çaìkaräcärya said: udära-nimittaà-bähu-kåta veçam. “One accepts many types of dress just to fill one’s stomach.” The solution is not to renounce karma. The great-hearted Arjuna was a warrior and his duty was to fight in the war, but he wanted to renounce this duty. He was therefore instructed by Çré Kåñëa:
niyataà kuru karma tvaà
karma jyäyo hy akarmaëaù
çaréra-yäträpi ca te
na prasidhyed akarmaëaù
Perform your prescribed duties such as sandhyä
(chanting of Vedic mantras) and upäsanä (spiritual
practices such as, worship of the deity), because action
(karma) is better than inaction (akarma). If you
refrain from action, you will not even be able to maintain
your body. (Bhagavad-gétä 3.8)
Çré Kåñëa instructed Arjuna to always perform his karma according to the tenets of çästra. “By renouncing karma you will not even be able to maintain your body.” If a person who is unqualified for renunciation renounces his prescribed karma, he creates a disturbance for the world. Since one cannot maintain the body without performing action, it is impossible to renounce action. The tree of saàsära, or repeated birth and death, develops worldly entanglement in the form of karma and its results, so the jéva has no hope of any peace. For this reason Çré Kåñëa has instructed us how to perform karma:
yajïärthät karmaëo ’nyatra
loko ’yaà karma-bandhanaù
tad-arthaà karma kaunteya
O Kaunteya, all actions other than niñkäma-karma
offered to Çré Viñëu are a cause of bondage to this
world. Therefore, become free from desire for the
fruits of your action, and perform appropriate action
for His satisfaction only. (Bhagavad-gétä 3.9)
The way to become free from attachment to the results of action is to perform all karma as yajïa for the satisfaction of Viñëu. This is the art of karma-yoga through which one achieves freedom from the bondage of karma and gradually develops his eternally perfect bhägavad-bhakti. For this reason karma-yoga is also known as niñkämakarma-yoga. Niñkäma refers to that karma which is free from the desire to satisfy one’s own senses. In other words,
it refers to offering the fruits of one’s action to Bhagavän rather than enjoying them oneself.
To maintain our lives we must all accumulate wealth according to our capacity. Money is exchanged for goods, which when transformed into our food, keeps us alive. If
we do not eat properly we cannot maintain our body; and if we do not maintain our body we cannot gather foodstuffs. It is difficult to ascertain which of these is the cause and which is the effect. However, if they are both considered to be each other’s cause and effect, they can be
described in one word – karma-cakra, the cycle of action and reaction.
In our movement through our karma-cakra birth after birth, we wander from universe to universe. By the mercy of Bhagavän, sädhu and guru, any fortunate jéva roaming throughout the universes in this way can understand that his condition is miserable. By acting according to their directions he can endeavour to become free from worldly attachment.
We are all eternal entities; therefore we have endeavoured for eternal happiness and peace since time immemorial. To obtain the fleeting peace and happiness of this mundane world is not our objective. However, we simply change bodies from one birth to the next as we wander throughout the fourteen worlds. We do not realize our plight and we spill so much blood just for ten to twenty years of temporary peace and happiness.
The bliss we search for through our demonic propensities can never give us peace, because we do not know where peace lies. Prahläda Mahäräja has explained: na te viduù svärtha-gatià hi viñëuà. “Persons who are trapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a blind man like themselves who is attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the ultimate goal of their lives is
indeed Viñëu.” (Çrémad-Bhägavatam 7.5.31)
We sit in the boat of this material body and mind and search for our selfish motives, but we are just floating aimlessly in this material ocean. Instead of reaching any shore we receive pushes and blows, and thus we conclude, “There is no rest for man in the dispensation of providence.” If we knew that Viñëu is the shore of our material existence and that He is our ultimate destination we would not suffer. However, we do not know this, and so Bhagavän
Çré Kåñëa has instructed that it is obligatory to perform work for the sake of yajïa; that is, for the pleasure of Viñëu.
The Åg Veda has also given us this instruction: oà tad viñëoù paramaà padaà sadä paçyanti sürayaù. “The pure devotee always beholds the supreme abode of Bhagavän Çré Viñëu, just as the unobstructed eye sees the sun within the sky.” Therefore, those who are sürayaù, that is, who have attained the nature of the devas, always understand that the lotus feet of Viñëu are the supreme destination and that to perform karma for the pleasure of Viñëu alone
is the highest undertaking by which one can attain freedom from attachment to the results of karma. Man must accept the lotus feet of Viñëu as the goal if he wants to become free from this cycle of karma. If he does not do this, he must become an asura.
Those who have taken shelter of the system of varëäçrama-dharma, or sanätana-dharma, have become known as “Hindus”. Their ancestors, especially those who were of the higher castes such as brähmaëa, kñatriya, or vaiçya, all used to place their service to Viñëu at the centre of their activities, and in this way they would go about maintaining their lives. And within the äçramas, especially the gåhastha-äçrama, persons would daily perform yajïa (in the form of viñëu-sevä) in their homes. Even now many devoted gåhasthas do this.
Yajïa is only performed when one performs all of his activities for the pleasure of Viñëu. When one only earns money for viñëu-sevä, exchanges that money for foodstuffs, cooks those foodstuffs for the sole satisfaction of Viñëu and then respects the prasädam remnants of that offering, then yajïa is performed. Everyone can apply this method in all circumstances and in all aspects of their lives. If we perform every action for the sole satisfaction of the Lord of everything, who is our cherished destination, we will become freed from the bondage of action.
We should not oppose the development of karma, but rather we should execute it for the sole satisfaction of Viñëu. Learned sages have said, muktiù viñëu ëghri läbhaù. “Attaining the lotus feet of Viñëu is mukti.” By performing action for the satisfaction of Viñëu, one’s own satisfaction is fulfilled. This indeed is the gradual path of karma-yoga. Furthermore, Bhagavän Çré Kåñëa has explained the result of such karma: if one does not work with the aim of yajïa,
or satisfying Viñëu, all of his activities will give rise to the poison, or sin, that creates havoc throughout the world.
yajïa-çiñöäçinaù santo / mucyante sarva-kilbbiñaiù
bhuïjate te tv aghaà päpä / ye pacanty ätma-käraëät
Saintly persons, who accept the remnants of yajïa,
become free from all sins; but those who cook grains
and other foodstuffs for their own sake are sinful and
certainly partake of sin. (Bhagavad-gétä 3.13)
This method of viñëu-sevä demonstrates how to execute activities to maintain the body. A person who performs apparently sinful action will be absolved from all types of
bondage if he accepts the prasädam (remnants of yajïa) of Bhagavän Viñëu. We may diligently and strictly adhere to the path of non-violence, but the cycle of karma in which we are revolving imperceptibly forces us to perform many sins.
We commit sins in business dealings, in dealings with people in general, in daily activities, and especially in political activities. Although we talk about non-violence, there is practically no way to live without it. And although we refrain from all kinds of sinful activities, we cannot live free from performing païca-çünä, five types of sin. While walking the streets, we are compelled to destroy the lives of countless ants, although not wanting to do so. We kill many living entities as we clean the house, grind food grains, store water pots and light fires. In this way, while performing our daily activities of eating and moving, we are forced to harm innocent living entities and destroy them. Willingly or unwillingly we incur sin.
We are bound by the whims of our minds, and thus the path of non-violence we have adopted will convenience some but inconvenience others.
(To be continued…)
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