“Chanting Shri Rama’s holy name with love, faith and according to regulative principles will be beneficial for you from beginning to end, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 23)Download this episode (right click and save)
There are two sides to the religiosity fence. On one side you have those who think the whole concept of a God and a religion necessary for worshiping Him is bogus.
“You’re just playing ‘make believe.’ I gave that up when I was in elementary school. I’m into reality. I’m into believing in things which can be proven empirically, i.e. those things which I can see. Sure, I can’t see the fragrance of a flower or the taste of my favorite pizza pie, but with God I insist on seeing, nothing else. As I know there is no God, I’m going to enjoy right now. Why deprive myself? I don’t think that suffering is virtuous. I think it’s stupid to go through life that way.”
Then on the other side you get the strict observers of religious principles. They think only of the afterlife. Never mind how things are going right now; they’ve heard that life in heaven is longer. That longer life is more important to worry over.
“I want to go to heaven. Why would I want to be condemned to hell after this life is over? Therefore I don’t mind following austerities. I don’t mind suffering a little bit right now. The payoff is worth the effort. I’m not going to go against God’s will. I’m not going to be a flagrant sinner.”
The two apparently contradictory goals go by the names svartha and paramartha in Sanskrit. In Hindi, Goswami Tulsidas refers to them as svaratha and paramaratha. One is self-interest, or the interests that pertain to the presently manifest world. The world in this regard doesn’t have to refer to the globe as a whole. If I live in a prison cell, that tiny space is my world. If I am a world traveler, then the airplane, the taxi, and the hotel are my world. Svartha is meeting satisfaction while one is still in their present world.
Paramartha is the interest served at the next destination. And there will be one, for sure. The soul is eternal. It actually travels to different places right now. We can think of our childhood as our past life. We can think of old age as our future. Paramartha is the interest for the next body, when this covering is renounced entirely.
Though the parties don’t know it, the interest is actually identical on both sides of the fence. Both are seeking enjoyment in a temporary place; just one wants it now and another later. The soul is not satisfied in either case. There is the hope for the larger fortune, one that is seldom to arrive. The person after worldly interest hopes for the big payday through playing the lottery, investing in stocks, or running a business. Drowning in material life, no amount of money is satisfactory. The person seeking interests in the afterlife never finds any happiness presently. They are always suffering, as they hold on to the hope of the big payday of reaching heaven.
“Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune, that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.” (Benjamin Franklin)
Benjamin Franklin, a famous American philosopher and inventor from the colonial period, was known for making little improvements that would provide some conveniences to every day life. This actually falls into the category of svartha, but the philosophy behind it speaks to the glories of bhakti-yoga. The philosophy is that happiness comes from little advantages rather than the hope for a big fortune, which seldom arrives. In bhakti-yoga, devotional service, the happiness is there from beginning to end.
This is true only of bhakti because no other discipline seeks to find happiness for the soul. At its core the soul is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge. It would make sense, then, that the blissful potency would match well with something that is eternal and full of knowledge. Worldly pleasures are not eternal and neither are those in the afterlife. From the Bhagavad-gita we understand that life in heaven is not permanent; one has the chance of falling back down.
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
The soul is happiest when it is serving. This property is the soul’s dharma, or defining characteristic. Service to anyone except God is temporary. More specifically, service to anyone except the Supreme Personality of Godhead is limiting. God can be known in three different ways. One is through the impersonal energy called Brahman. The vague idea of a supreme controller basically speaks to Brahman, though the worshiper may not know the exact definition of Brahman. Then there is Paramatma, which resides within the heart. This is a more personal version of God, who is specific to each individual. Then there is Bhagavan, which is God the person in full. Bhakti-yoga is for connecting with Bhagavan.
And that connection means finding advantages every single day. It means being happy in the morning by rising to chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. It means being happy in the afternoon through eating food that is prepared and offered to the deity of Krishna, which is the best name for Bhagavan. It means being satisfied in the nighttime through hearing about Krishna and discussing topics relating to Him with others. It means kicking back and relaxing on the weekend through the continuation of service, which may include travel to places of importance to Krishna. Thus the present life is spent happily and in the next life the same devotion continues, making every moment a huge payoff to work.
One for later another for now,
But happiness throughout how?
Felicity from advantages smaller,
Better than waiting for payoff taller.
In bhakti to God your devotion send,
Reap rewards from beginning to end.
Future bright, happily this life spent,
To wonder then how quickly the time went.