“Bhakti is our eternal engagement, and when we engage in our eternal activities, we attain salvation, or liberation. When we engage in false activities, we are in illusion, maya. Mukti, liberation, means remaining in our constitutional position.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Quest for Enlightenment, Ch 6d)Download this episode (right click and save)
It’s a legitimate concern. It’s something practically every person living in the modern day will have to worry about, should they live long enough. More importantly, it is a difficult problem to solve. There are different strategies to go about finding the solution, but nothing is fixed in this world. This means that the future is impossible to predict.
The concern is retirement, when there is no more working for a living. In old age the body starts to slow down in ability. There is the desire to relax. Who wants to sit in an office day after day, until it is time to leave their body? Better to save up now, to make room for enjoyment later.
The real meaning to Hinduism is sanatana-dharma. The definitions to the two Sanskrit terms are “eternal” and “engagement” or “occupation.” Dharma also means religiosity, virtue and duty. Real spirituality, genuine religious life, is something that has no beginning and no end. It is the one occupation in which there is no retirement. Stay in the job as long as you wish. One concern in the present job marketplace is losing health insurance. Health insurance is not portable; it does not carry over from job to job. Sanatana-dharma does indeed stay with the individual from lifetime to lifetime.
1. It’s not about the money
One of the reasons you retire from a job is that you have saved up enough money. You’re getting paid for the work that you do. Otherwise, why even do it? Why sit there and take heat from the boss, who you know to be lying? Why pretend to be friends with someone just in order to make a deal? Why yell at a potential vendor as part of the process of negotiating a deal?
There has to be payment; otherwise who will work? In sanatana-dharma, there is no money. Sure, you can worship different heavenly figures to get money. Lakshmi Devi is revered for this very reason. She is the goddess of fortune. Earn her favor with offerings and you’ll be rewarded with good fortune.
That kind of worship is but one tiny aspect of sanatana-dharma. It is a way to increase your consciousness of things beyond this world. The eternal engagement is never about the money, since the enjoyment from material objects is not permanent. Sanatana-dharma is synonymous with bhakti-yoga, which is linking with the Divine in a mood of love and devotion. If you truly love someone, you don’t expect anything back from them.
2. It can be done in any condition of body
Wayne Gretzky is considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time, if not the greatest. He holds so many records. In fact, it is probably a record to simultaneously hold so many records in a single sport. He scored so many goals, won many championships, and inspired generations of future players.
If you attend an NHL game today, you won’t see Wayne Gretzky on the ice. He no longer plays. He was very good. The past tense is used because of the change of body. Because of old age, abilities diminish. Players are forced to retire. The same holds true in other occupations as well. You may have done a job well for over fifty years, but eventually the abilities give way to time.
Bhakti-yoga can be done at any age, in any condition of body. If you are lying in your bed, unable to get up, you can still chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. A child can offer a flower to a deity of the Supreme Lord. The young adult can learn to play music and sing songs glorifying God. The adult can spend hours studying the voluminous Vedic literature, and the elderly person can engage in teaching those who are not yet mature in their devotional service.
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham
“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)
When the body completely changes over, the opportunity for bhakti-yoga does not vanish. If the devotee was sincere, everything is provided for them going forward by the object of their worship.
3. The pleasure increases with time
One of the reasons you retire from something is that it becomes boring. Revisiting the athlete example, sometimes players have retired before their abilities diminished. They did so because they no longer had the fire of competition inside of them. Through success they became disinterested.
Bhakti-yoga is not like this. The more a person advances, the more pleasure they feel. This is due to the nature of the object of worship. He is described as nava-yauvanam, which means always fresh and new. In His original form, in the highest spiritual planet, He always looks to be around sixteen years of age. Even when He came to this world, when He was over one hundred years of age and a great-grandfather He still looked like a teenager.
Krishna and bhakti-yoga are one and the same. This means that devotional service is also nava-yauvanam. In the spiritual world one plus one can equal one. The strict laws of mathematics do not apply there. A person can feel full pleasure and bliss and still find a way to add on to it as time passes. No other occupation is like that.
4. You are never finished glorifying Him
How much time can you spend glorifying Krishna? Actually, there is no end to His glories. It is said that Ananta Shesha Naga is continuously glorifying Him. He is the serpent with an endless number of hoods. With each mouth He sings the glories of God. Though he has been doing this since the beginning of time, he has yet to reach an end. He is not bored, either.
Still, even that glorification is not sufficient. It is not that since Anantadeva is glorifying in this way that others cannot. The root definition of dharma is “essential characteristic.” For the fundamental object of life, dharma is service. Sanatana-dharma is thus endless service to the Divine. Since the Divine is not material, His glories are not limited. It is a great boon to be able to continue to glorify God, as it is the most rewarding occupation.
5. Bhakti-yoga is as eternal as the spirit soul
Retirement is a product of the material world, which is populated with perishable bodies. The individual within each living thing is eternal. That is the meaning to spirit. Spirit is that which continues to live on, vitalizing any localized area that is otherwise not animated. Spirit is life, and life means existence.
Bhakti-yoga is the constitutional occupation for spirit. As spirit continues in its existence, so does bhakti-yoga. A person who finds this engagement again never has to give it up. They don’t need to retire and move on to something else. Nothing else will bring as much happiness as bhakti-yoga, and nothing else will indefinitely persist into the future.
As spirit soul always to exist,
Should find occupation to persist.
Not from one gradually to tire,
Savings with eye to eventually retire.
Anantadeva having hoods of no end,
Since forever glories to God to send.
Still, for all others opportunity remains,
The impossible, with pleasure steady to gain.