"If someone gives up self-gratificatory pursuits and works in Krishna consciousness and then falls down on account of not completing his work, what loss is there on his part? And, what can one gain if one performs his material activities perfectly?" (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.5.17)
You get up in the morning at a specific time because you know you have to go to work. There is no compromise here. You must get to the office on time because otherwise things won’t get done, and you’ll get in trouble. Even if you are the boss of the establishment, your absence will cause you pain in the future. The problem with getting up, however, is that you are so tired. You got home at midnight the previous night, so you didn’t even have time to unwind. Right away you took off your clothes and fell into bed. You didn’t want to talk to anyone because why cut into the precious moments of alone time? Why put more pressure on yourself when you’re finally in a place where no one requires anything from you?
The pressure during that time is due to the fact that the cycle of work repeats itself, day after day, week after week. Either you really like what you do for a living or you must support your dependents. You refuse to be a freeloader. Rather than rely on the government or someone else to take care of you and your family, you’re going to do it yourself. You’ll work two jobs if you have to. Where there is a will, there is a way, and in this case your will is strong. It’s so strong that you’ve signed up for punishing yourself just to keep going.
But is it all worth it? Sure, your time is occupied, which means that you’re in a better position than if you were, say, sleeping throughout the day. The hard worker dreams of time off, but when that pressure does lessen, the moments of free time are difficult to occupy. What to do all day? Sleep? Watch television? These actually get boring rather quickly, and they do nothing positive for the psyche. They are considered leisurely activities for a reason; they are not meant to occupy the entire day.
There has to be more to life than just filling time, no? Shouldn’t we be working towards building something tangible, something that will bring real happiness in the future? In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the consciousness is what stays with us from lifetime to lifetime. The consciousness is tied to the essence of individuality, the spirit soul. It is said that whatever consciousness one has at the time of death that type of being they attain in the next life.
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
The mind, intelligence and ego carry through the air like aromas, determining the internal qualities of the next life form. For instance, if we see someone who is particularly adept at sports from a young age, it should be known that these qualities were determined from the consciousness during the previous death. This is a positive aspect of the spiritual science, for it shows that destiny can be shaped. All we have to do is change our consciousness.
Consciousness is affected by what the mind thinks about throughout the day. If all the time is spent working to maintain a house and family, the consciousness will be altered accordingly. Yet we know that the house will eventually crumble, and typically the individual will leave this earth prior to that destruction. The hard work thus goes towards maintaining something temporary, and in the process the consciousness remains stuck on something temporary as well.
In Krishna consciousness, one shapes their activities in such a way that they always think about God. Starting in the morning with the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the mind is trained to do service to the Supreme Lord. This type of chanting qualifies as bhakti-yoga, or the mysticism of devotion. The full benefits of meditational yoga are still present, but the added bonus is that a higher entity helps you out. He is the beneficiary of the service, whereas in other yogas the individual is mainly working for personal pleasure.
Krishna is the name for God that means “all-attractive”. He is also the reservoir of pleasure, and since He is inherently connected to every spirit soul in a relationship described as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, or simultaneous oneness and difference, His pleasure brings pleasure to the devotee. Think of it like making an elaborate food preparation for your guests and then seeing smiles on their faces when they eat. Their pleasure in eating gives you pleasure. Now expand that same small practice to the largest scale and you get an idea of how bhakti-yoga works. Whether hearing, chanting, remembering, offering prayers, or surrendering everything, there is pleasure given to Krishna during the process, provided the service is genuine.
“Any work begun on the material plane has to be completed, otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure. But any work begun in Krishna consciousness has a permanent effect, even though not finished. The performer of such work is therefore not at a loss even if his work in Krishna consciousness is incomplete.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40 Purport)
Along the way a fixed consciousness develops. There is no loss on the yogi’s part, a fact confirmed by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita. Other kinds of development of consciousness can be erased, as the mind can travel elsewhere and develop new interests. In Krishna consciousness there is only a forward march, even if there are setbacks. The progress doesn’t go away, sort of like saving the spot you’re at in a particular video game and then resuming later on. The house of a consciousness connected in the yoga of love to the Supreme Lord is the only one worth building, making the many hours spent in devotional service worth the difficult effort.
“Nothing will get in my way,
On the path of work I will stay.
So much my body has perspired,
And from efforts I’m now so tired.
And will my building even stand?
Life is temporary I understand.”
Instead same effort in devotion take,
And permanent consciousness thus make.
Thinking of God never to go in vain,
Progress in devotion always to remain.