“…the spirit soul has to be engaged in the good work of Krishna consciousness, otherwise it will be engaged in occupations dictated by illusory energy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.5 Purport)
No one likes being bored. Each of us has a certain level of inactivity that we can tolerate before we lose our composure and become antsy. Long periods of inactivity, where our minds aren’t stimulated, can lead to a feeling of helplessness and weariness.
We search far and wide for activities to engage in, all in hopes of avoiding boredom. Many times we’ll see that people who are having trouble in their personal lives, or people who don’t keep many friends, will dedicate much of their life to work and school. Putting in long hours at the office or the library, the mind becomes deeply immersed in the mode of passion, always thinking of what to work on next or how to solve the current problems at hand. Known as “workaholics”, these people will be the first ones to arrive at the office in the morning and the last ones to leave at night. On weekends, if they aren’t driving in to work, they are always checking their email at home. Even when going on vacations, these people will bring their laptops along so they can always be connected to their job or studies.
Other people take to gambling or gaming as a means of avoiding boredom. Playing cards, sports, or video games are great ways of keeping one’s mind engaged. The sport of baseball is known as “America’s Pastime”, obviously meaning that Americans love to pass their time playing or watching it. In extreme circumstances, people will turn to intoxication as a way of avoiding boredom. Drugs can act as stimulants, which can cause sudden spikes in brain activity, offering a jolt to those feeling lethargic.
Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with most of these methods, for they do keep the mind engaged. The problem is that they are just temporary solutions. One who is attached to their occupation will always nevertheless feel unsatisfied. Work is never finished, for new challenges and issues are always popping up. Gambling and intoxication are even more harmful because they can lead to addiction, which leads to a greater unsteadiness of the mind than that initially caused by boredom.
So how do we find a permanent solution to our boredom? A person must be active, for that is the nature of the soul. We living entities, being spirit souls at our core, relish our individuality and freedom to act. Many people think that we can just give up our activities, thereby nullifying any bad results that come from them. “If the bad results are eliminated through inaction, then we will be happy.” This is the mindset of dry renunciates.
According to the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, simple renunciation of activities is not the solution to our problems. One can give up all activities and spend their time sitting in meditation, but if one still has material desires, they are forced to come back to this material world in the next life. This is the result of karma. Karma means fruitive activity, or works performed with a desire to achieve a material result. Even if we aren’t physically performing activities, our mind still desires things, like shanti (peacefulness), ascension to the heavenly planets, or liberation from the cycle of birth and death. These are all material desires, meaning our renunciation has proved fruitless if these wants still linger inside us. According to the Bhagavad-gita, our desires, measured at the time of death, determine the type of body we get in the next life:
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bg 8.6)
Instead of artificially renouncing all activity or taking up various hobbies simply to pass our time, we should purify our consciousness by performing our regular activities in the right mindset. This is the only permanent solution to our boredom. The Vedas say that the meaning of life is to understand and love Krishna, or God. We generally equate religion with faith, where one person believes in their own doctrine and another person believes in a different one. Since it is equated with faith, one can change what they believe on a whim. The Vedas, however, define religion in a different way. It is known as sanatana dharma, meaning the eternal occupation of man. It is not simply faith, but rather the duty of all living entities to become God conscious and perform works in His service. The Vedic system declares that the human form of life to be most beneficial since only human beings have the intelligence to know and understand God. Other species, like birds, beasts, cats, and dogs live simply on the principles of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Animals by definition cannot commit sin since they do not know any better. The human form of life represents the opportunity for the spirit soul to engage in karma yoga or bhakti yoga, better known as devotional service. Unlike material activity, works performed in devotional service don’t have any karma associated with them and thus they are completely spiritual.
Acts performed in bhakti yoga on the surface don’t appear much different than the ordinary acts many of us already engage in. One can take almost any activity and spiritualize it by dovetailing it with service to Krishna. By definition, devotional service consists of nine different processes: hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering prayers, carrying out the orders of the Lord, making friends with Him, and surrendering everything unto Him. Engagement in all of these processes isn’t required because simply performing one of them can make one’s life perfect. As we can see, these nine processes provide us a wide breadth of activities from which to choose from. If we like to cook and eat, then we can spiritualize the activity by offering food to Krishna first, and then eating the prasadam ourselves. If we like to listen to music, there are hundreds of songs praising Krishna that we can listen to. The same goes for singing and dancing, for the Hare Krishna mantra was made to be sung: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Many of us love to build things with our hands. In that case, we can use our talents to build nice altars for Krishna in our homes. If we are really ambitious, we could even construct temples for the Lord where large groups of people can congregate and offer their prayers to God together. As we can see, the possibilities are endless. If we all sincerely take up this process of bhakti yoga, then we are sure to never be bored again.