“Dharma is sometimes translated as ‘religion,’ but that is not exactly the meaning. Dharma actually means ‘that which one cannot give up,’ ‘that which is inseparable from oneself.’ The warmth of fire is inseparable from fire; therefore warmth is called the dharma, or nature, of fire. Similarly, sad-dharma means ‘eternal occupation.’ That eternal occupation is engagement in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.25.11 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that devotional service is unchecked. This is not just his opinion; the great saint has it on the authority that is disciplic succession. A person may choose to rely only on observation and experiment, but there is the limitation of the senses to consider. Man commits mistakes, also. Therefore just because someone observed something one hundred years ago, it doesn’t mean that the finding is valid going forward. Another scientist can come along with a different conclusion. This is the very definition of progress, i.e. to move on from a point of imperfection.
Parampara, or disciplic succession, as it relates to the spiritual science is not like this. The claim about bhakti-yoga being unmotivated and uninterrupted was true five thousand years ago, is true today, and will continue to be true going forward. When someone says that something is unchecked, they mean that the things that typically serve as impediments are unable to succeed at obstructing.
What are some of the common things that bring a halt to an occupation? Time is the most obvious inhibiting force. Consider this situation. You have a friend or family member whom you love dearly. In your mind you think that you can never repay them for the affection they have shown you. The first candidates for such love are the parents and children. The parents gave you everything, but with the children it is your job to offer them something worthwhile. Ideally, they are going to live past you. You are in a position to provide for them, at least while they are young.
What should you give them? Money? Clothes? Food? It would be best to give them happiness. That comes from an occupation. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that every person must work. Work in Sanskrit is known as karma. Even if a person is totally renounced, sitting in a cave and doing nothing but meditating, they are still working to some degree. The idea is to follow work that will bring bliss; find an ideal match for the individual and its qualities.
na me pārthāsti kartavyaṁ
triṣu lokeṣu kiñcana
varta eva ca karmaṇi
“O son of Pritha, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I need to obtain anything - and yet I am engaged in work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.22)
The issue is that whatever occupation I recommend to my children, they will be checked at some point. Time will get in the way. If they become a professional ice hockey player, eventually they will have to retire. Wayne Gretzky is the greatest player of all time, but today he does not play. Time has taken a toll on the body, no longer allowing it to perform at peak levels.
Bhakti-yoga comes from Krishna Himself. Since the objective is to serve Him with love and devotion, it is actually identical to Him. Its practice is unchecked because time cannot destroy it. Time is undefeated in every other area, but it bends to the will of the Supreme Lord, who describes in the Bhagavad-gita that He is time.
kālo 'smi loka-kṣaya-kṛt pravṛddho
lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ
ṛte 'pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣyanti sarve
ye 'vasthitāḥ pratyanīkeṣu yodhāḥ
“The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.32)
How do we know that bhakti-yoga is not destroyed at the time of death? We must accept this information on faith, though we can test the strength of the occupation while we are still alive. Is it possible to chant the holy names in any circumstance, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”? Is it possible to remember the darling child of Yashoda and Nanda and concentrate on His all-attractive features? At any time are we able to glorify the Supreme Lord, His eternal consort Shrimati Radharani, the perfection of devotion that are the gopis, and the fearless representatives of the Lord who reveal the bhakti path to the fallen souls?
None of these things can be checked while we are alive. Even if the entire world is against us, we still have the mind. We can use it to practice bhakti-yoga, which means that bliss is available at any and every moment. Shri Krishna assures the yogi in bhakti that their practice will continue into the future, as the Lord is Himself inexhaustible, ever fresh and new.
Dependent on me now living,
For best future what to them giving?
An occupation engaged in which to be,
That for them happiness to always see.
Everything by time is checked,
Dharma of the soul except.
Devotional service, even from the mind,
At any moment ananda can find.