“Actually, a pure devotee does not aspire after any of these perfections because the happiness derived from devotional service in Krishna consciousness is so transcendental and so unlimited that no other happiness can be compared with it. It is said that even one drop of happiness in Krishna consciousness stands beyond comparison with an ocean of happiness derived from any other activity.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 1)Download this episode (right click and save)
Life in the material world is difficult. The main reason is failure. Not every venture is guaranteed to be successful. Others are in competition, after all. I want to fill that job vacancy so that I don’t fall behind on the bills. Who wants to sit idly by day after day, where the one pressing engagement is not missing that show that comes on television? Who wants to tell their friends that they are unemployed, incapable of finding work?
The corresponding term in Sanskrit is artha. The root definition is “profit” or “success”. When discussed in terms of the overall journey through life and juxtaposed with the three other major rewards, artha means “economic development.” If a person can get dharma, artha, kama and moksha, then they have done pretty well. Some virtue, sense gratification, success in economics, and then ultimate release from the cycle of birth and death.
“Though the modern astronauts go to the moon with the help of spaceships, they undergo many difficulties, whereas a person with mystic perfection can extend his hand and touch the moon with his finger. This siddhi is called prapti, or acquisition. With this prapti-siddhi, the perfect mystic yogi can not only touch the moon planet, but he can extend his hand anywhere and take whatever he likes. He may be sitting thousands of miles away from a certain place, and if he likes he can take fruit from a garden there. This is prapti-siddhi.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 1)
One way to get what you want is through yoga. Not just twisting your body as a way to increase circulation of blood and free up the vital airs, the authentic system of mysticism passed on in an authorized tradition since time immemorial. Real yoga, practiced properly, brings siddhis, which are perfections. One of those siddhis is prapti, which is the ability to get whatever you want. Who wouldn’t want that? Actually, the bhaktas have no need for it. To them, the devotion to the Supreme Lord is infinitely more blissful than anything prapti could give them.
1. You don’t always know what you want
If I had the ability to get whatever I wanted, what would I ask for? Do I really know? I have trouble deciding what to eat for lunch. I’m not sure where to go on vacation. I know for certain that I have made so many mistakes in the past. Suppose I am fortunate enough to get the prapti siddhi. Then what? How should I utilize it?
Bhakti is a lot simpler, since the only desire is to continue in bhakti. The object of worship takes care of the rest. He removes the seeds of doubt, should they creep up. He shines the light of knowledge from within, giving the devotee the intelligence by which they can come to Him.
2. Just because you get something it doesn’t mean that you will be happy
The classic example illustrating this truth is the drunkard. It’s the weekend and they can’t wait to let off some steam. They are ready to get “hammered,” which is a euphemism for the intoxicated state. They follow through on their plans. They don’t necessarily need the prapti siddhi to accomplish this. Going to a nightclub or pub is sufficient.
What is the end result? Often times the next day brings illness. The same person must vomit repeatedly. They have a strong headache, and the night before is a blur. They may get so sick that they promise to never touch alcohol again.
This is but one example, but the same applies to so many situations, both large and small. There is buyer’s remorse with material desires. Divorce is another common example. Just because you can get what you want doesn’t mean that you will be happy as a result.
3. Krishna is Hari, which means He takes away
Bhakti is dedicated to the Supreme Lord, who is a person. That person has many names, addressing His different features and attributes. He is Krishna because of His all-attractiveness. True bhakti can only be offered to God the person. There is a reason. With any other style of worship, there are some desires. The mood is not pure love. With Krishna, even if there are material desires going in, the process is purifying.
Another name for Krishna is Hari. This means “one who takes away.” I may not get what I want through worshiping Hari. He may actually give me the opposite. He might take away something I think is important. This is not mean, but rather a kind of mercy no one else will show. Krishna is atmarama, which means that He is the topmost expert on enjoyment. He knows what is best for everyone else as well, and only those who worship Him get His guidance on how to enjoy. He is the best consultant to retain.
4. Prapti is difficult to acquire
This is a hypothetical exercise, judging what would happen if the prapti siddhi were there. The reality is a different situation. It is not so easy to get any of the siddhis of yoga. The ideal practice hinges on celibacy. No sex. There should be freedom from outside distractions. Even then, it takes a long time of continued practice to reach the end goal.
Bhakti can come in a second. It simply requires a change in desire. That change sometimes doesn’t happen for millions of lifetimes. A person can spend their whole life in meditation and not realize that the end goal is service to the Supreme Lord. They may still be full of desires. Bhakti can come to a person easily, provided they want to please God.
5. Bhakti brings more enjoyment
This reason trumps all the others. Simply put, bhakti brings more enjoyment than anything else, be it economic development, renunciation, material engagement, or mysticism. Of course this truth can only be realized personally through practicing bhakti. There is no way to explain to a person who has never felt undying affection for the Supreme Lord what that feeling is like. It has to be experienced.
This should not be a cause for concern, since so many things are already accepted on faith. To extend faith to the guru, the representative of Krishna, is safe because the guru has no personal desires. Through their own experiences added on to the experience of the predecessors, there is full knowledge of the limitations of material rewards. The siddhis of yoga fall into the material category since they do nothing to change the fortunes of the spirit soul, who is forever part and parcel of Krishna.
Very far with my hand to reach,
Taking object desired each.
From prapti siddhi of yoga done,
Acquired from steadiness with distractions none.
Bhakti yet superior to that still,
Devotional service boundless joy to fill.
For certain fact difficult to believe,
From a little faith knowledge to receive.