“The expert electrician can utilize the electrical energy for both heating and cooling by adjustment only. Similarly, the external energy, which now bewilders the living being into continuation of birth and death, is turned into internal potency by the will of the Lord to lead the living being to eternal life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.3.34 Purport)
The objects of the material world have an ideal use. In the absence of the knowledge of that use, man will either indulge in activities that are not worthwhile or shun the material elements altogether. The requisite understanding is known to the Vaishnava saint, who gathered the information from their own teacher. Descending up the chain we eventually reach the origin of both matter and spirit, who predicted both the proper use and the misuse of His material nature. Since it was the desire of His numerous children to forget Him, He sanctioned the potential misuse. But when things are turned around in the right direction, the divine remembrance can be rekindled, and a return trip to the spiritual land can be booked.
To understand the difference, let’s look at the laptop computer. It has an operating system, a keyboard and a mouse for input, and a monitor to display information. The laptop is quite a powerful machine. You can use it to write books, read books, chat with friends over the internet, watch videos, make videos, do accounting tasks for a corporation, view pictures, edit pictures, and even draw pictures. The possibilities are endless through the use of this simple, yet powerful device. In return for its capabilities, the laptop requires a power supply. For the power there must also be a corresponding weight to the device. The machine will get warm through use and may take up some space wherever it is placed.
What if we only looked at the negatives and completely ignored the positives? “This machine stinks. It’s big and heavy. It takes up too much space and it requires all this power. I want to get rid of it already. Life would be so much simpler without it. I don’t see the need for holding on to it.” Or what if someone took the positives to the extreme? What if they used the device to look up pornographic videos all day or chat with strangers that would lead them to trouble? What if they avoided their important obligations and instead remained addicted to the features of personal enjoyment the laptop had to offer?
In both cases the ideal use is missed, and the laptop itself is not to blame. The machine can suit a legitimate purpose for each individual. The machine is but one aspect to a very large material creation that has similar dual-sidedness. The knife is sharp enough to cut vegetables but it can also be used as a weapon to attack innocent people. Electricity gives us light during the dark night, but it can also hurt a person who touches it with their hand. The food that we eat gives us energy, but it also can cause disease. In this way everything we see can serve different purposes depending on the use.
But how to make light of everything? How do we decipher the proper utilization for the many objects we see? After all, not all aspects of life have an accompanying instruction manual. To find the answers one requires the true path in life, the highest aim. The Vedas declare this to be God consciousness, wherein the thoughts of the mind focus only on the Supreme Lord and how to please Him. Naturally, for that desire to be aroused, one should know what the Supreme Lord looks like, what makes Him happy, and how to connect with Him.
Though He is ananta-rupam, or with unlimited forms, there is an original, and it is considered all-attractive; hence it is addressed as Krishna. This form also brings transcendental pleasure to those who connect with it; hence it can also be called Rama. The original is the source, and that which emanates from Him is the energy. Thus the call to the Supreme Lord and His energy is a great way to foster God consciousness. Fortunately the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, takes care of this. This mantra can be chanted by any person, at any time, and for however long they desire. Accompany the chanting with some hand cymbals and drums and you have a musical group. The ensemble could continue in a call-and-response format for hours, with the ears not tiring of the transcendental sounds.
Chanting is part of the overall discipline of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Service to the divine can follow chanting, hearing, remembering, worshiping, and a host of other outlets. The key is in the qualities of the object of service. As He is the origin of the material nature, whatever we see around us can be used for His pleasure. The proper use becomes easy to decipher once the objective is pure. For instance, the laptop can be used to continue in service. Perhaps pictures can be seen of Krishna, or words praising Him can be authored. One can connect with fellow devotees through the internet and spread the gospel of devotional service to a wide audience without much effort. The kitchen utensils can be used to prepare foodstuff to first be offered to Krishna. The remnants, known as prasadam, can then be distributed to others, allowing for a spiritual infusion to take place through eating. While walking one can chant the maha-mantra to themselves and thus purify the time of exercise.
The possibilities for divine action are endless, as the breadth and scope of the material nature is too large for us to fathom. And just think, the material nature is only but a fraction of the entire space that is infinite. Therefore God can be worshiped in any circumstance, and at any time, and within any life - past, present, or future. Knowing how to use the elements around us, the connection to the divine never has to break.
Kitchen knife in my hand to take,
Use as weapon or food to make?
Laptop given to me as a gift,
For knowledge or through garbage to sift?
Every item thus has a proper use,
To discard everything as bad a weak excuse.
From connection to the divine know,
How to use everything properly so.
Chant the holy names to be spiritually infused,
Thinking of God faculties of mind well used.