“Everyone in the material life, in all species and varieties of life, is full of anxieties, either by breaking or without breaking the laws of nature. Liberation, or mukti, means getting relief from these constant anxieties. This is possible only when the anxiety is changed to the devotional service of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.12.28 Purport)
This may be difficult to realize because of the constant pressures you face, but actually no matter where you turn in life you will suffer anxiety. The tendency of course is to think the opposite way. “Let me just fix this one problem and I will be alright. If I could only take care of this single nagging issue, finding a way to solve it, then I can live peacefully, with no worries in life.” The anxieties will continue primarily due to the temporary nature of the objects around us. If that anxiety is changed, however, towards a controller who is absolute in His authority, then even the suffering can turn into pleasure.
Let’s say that you’re working at a company, having been there for over ten years. You probably didn’t consciously decide that you would stay there that long, as on day one your aim was to just find any work. You needed a job, and this business was kind enough to hire you, so you stayed at the company and learned so many things. The ten year mark is only noticed because the future of the company is now in jeopardy. Any business that sells a good or product for a profit will have an uncertain future, as competitors will enter the market and look to capitalize on the same wave that you initially did.
The misfortune of the downfall of the company will trickle down to the lower employees. Though you may not be the lowest person on the organizational chart, eventually the financial austerity measures are going to have their effect on you. The worry then turns to overall job security. “Will my job still be around in a month? Will I be able to put food on the table? I haven’t looked for a job in so long, will I even know how to do it? Why would I want to start at a new company when I’m already comfortably situated here?”
The control over these anxieties rests in the hands of the company’s owner, who is responsible for steering the ship. He makes the vital decisions that will affect profit margin, either for better or worse. The problem with this reliance, though, is that the owner is not all-powerful. We may think that a particular quarterback in American football is unbeatable and the greatest of all time, but he also can lose games, and big ones at that. He may have won multiple Super Bowls in the past, but he can also lose the most important game of the season.
Should we put full reliance on our boss, there is no guarantee of a successful outcome. This is not a criticism of him per se, as he could be trying his best to save the company. Follow the same reliance in practically any area of life and you reach the same limiting wall. Just imagine if someone relied on you like that. Are you perfect? Do you not make mistakes? Do you not worry about the future? If these faults exist in you, why should they be absent in someone else?
In addition to the fallibility of man, there is the issue of non-permanence. There is fear over losing a job because no job lasts forever. There is anxiety over not being able to earn enough money to pay bills because that destitution is a real possibility. As soon as there is birth, death is guaranteed. As soon as something is created, there is a point in time when it will get destroyed. Therefore the sober person does not lament in the unavoidable discharge of their duty. Every person must work to support themselves, so why not work with detachment?
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
Of course the principle of ignoring anxiety is difficult to live by, for we’re not accustomed to looking at the world from the macro perspective. We see nuance and variety because of our immediate vision. We’re not observing the earth as a whole from outer space, so it’s difficult to abstract everything while you’re actually in the middle of so many things.
No reason to worry, though, as only the nature of the anxiety needs to be changed. Regardless of where you are, you will have things to worry about. Should you win the lottery and never have to work again, there is still the anxiety of what to do with yourself every day. As soon as a decision is made in one direction, should anything get in your way, you will feel anxiety. I may plan to visit my family members over the weekend, but if my car breaks down during the ride, I will feel anxiety. If something gets in the way of plans, which is certainly possible, uneasy feelings will creep up.
If the worry is shifted towards the area of devotional service, the entity in charge of delivering the results makes sure that there is no failure. Devotional service is bhakti-yoga, or the religion of love. Dedicate your life to God, chanting His glories and never forgetting Him. For dedicated remembrance it helps to know what the object in question looks like. To offer wonderful praise it is helpful to know some of the activities and features of the worshiped entity.
This is where the vast Vedic literature comes to the rescue. The Shrimad Bhagavatam, the crown-jewel of Vedic literature, specifically contains details on the Supreme Lord’s forms, names, attributes and pastimes. In His original feature Bhagavan is all-attractive; thus He is addressed as Krishna. Since He appeared on earth and delighted so many people, the Bhagavatam devotes an entire canto to Krishna’s lila, or divine sports. As His name is non-different from Him, the Bhagavatam lists so many names for the Lord, which can be called out in a mood of love.
The direction of the spiritual master, or guru, is necessary for practicing devotional service properly. We need discipline when we don’t have any. We need education when we are not knowledgeable about something. Surely there are some things we can pick up on our own through practice, and perhaps the same route can initially be taken in bhakti, but regardless there must be a reference point. If we’re picking up computer programming on our own, we must consult a guidebook which describes the subject. That book must be written by a programmer, a person in the field.
The acharyas have also left written instruction to be implemented by sincere spiritualists. The instruction of the spiritual master is more important than his personal association, as what we hear from someone may get forgotten very quickly. If the same points are written down and can be referenced at any time, they can stay with us.
The central component of bhakti-yoga is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Recite this daily on a set of japa beads for sixteen rounds. That takes quite a bit of time at first, but then that is the point. Your consciousness will be determined by what you think about the most. If the most time is spent in bhakti, then naturally your consciousness will be focused on Krishna.
There are also a few restrictions accompanying the chanting routine. Steer clear of meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Serve the Vaishnavas, the devotees of Krishna, and try to chant with others as much as possible. To abide by these principles requires dedication, and to stay dedicated there must be some pressure applied both internally and externally. With pressure there is bound to be some anxiety. “What if I can’t chant sixteen rounds? How am I going to avoid eating meat when there is meat all around me? These principles are so difficult; I don’t know how I’m going to follow them properly.”
Ah, but this kind of anxiety is good. Mother Yashoda had fears when she was tending to Krishna directly in Vrindavana. She worried about whether her son would enjoy the food she made. The clever child was known for raiding the butter supplies of the neighbors and then running away with the contraband. He would feed the butter to monkeys, animals known for stealing people’s food. If you visit Vrindavana today, watch out for the monkeys when walking the streets. They will grab whatever is in your hands, thinking that it is food. They are especially fond of snatching eyeglasses.
Yashoda’s anxiety resulted in even stronger feelings of attachment for Krishna. The Lord, unlike the business proprietor or the customer, is all-powerful. The anxiety of Krishna’s dependents relates to their ability to serve Him. Since that is the sweetest worry in the world, Krishna ensures that there is never any failure. Whether you belong to the highest caste or the lowest section of society, if you’re sincere in your wish to please Krishna, the Lord will guarantee success for you.
Success doesn’t mean an end to the anxiety. There will always be worry no matter where we turn, but the nature of the anxiety can be purified. Shri Hanuman was anxious in his travels through Lanka while looking for Rama’s wife Sita. Rama is the same Krishna but appearing on earth in a slightly different visible manifestation. Hanuman was worried that he would fail his beloved Rama, but this worry helped him further strengthen his resolve. It also gave him more opportunities to think of Sita and Rama, his life and soul.
Thus the anxiety in bhakti turns out to be a good thing. The path of devotional service is not the path of least resistance, but it is the sweetest path nonetheless. The Supreme Proprietor is the wealthiest person in the world, so whatever the devotee needs for their devotional practices will be provided to them. The key ingredient of a positively situated consciousness, one that maintains the vision of the sweetheart who roamed Yashoda’s courtyard, will always be there for the pure devotee, both in this life and the next.
Company’s profits dwindling in a hurry,
So about your future work you now worry.
Control over anxiety in boss you invest,
You do your job, he’ll take care of the rest.
But he is flawed, he can certainly fail too,
He must worry also, if worry you do.
Anxiety always there, in new direction turn,
Follow devotion’s path, from acharyas bhakti learn.
Yashoda always worried but for her it was good,
Her love Supreme Lord Krishna understood.