Minimizing bodily demands
Srimad Bhagavatam – 2.2.4
satyam ksitau kim kasipoh prayasair
bahau svasiddhe hy upabarhanaih kim
saty anjalau kim purudhanna-patrya
dig-valkaladau sati kim dukulaih
When there are ample earthly flats to lie on, what is the necessity of cots and beds? When one can use his own arms, what is the necessity of a pillow? When one can use the palms of his hands, what is the necessity of varieties of utensils? When there is ample covering, or the skins of trees, what is the necessity of clothing?
The necessities of life for the protection and comfort of the body must not be unnecessarily increased. Human energy is spoiled in a vain search after such illusory happiness. If one is able to lie down on the floor, then why should one endeavor to get a good bedstead or soft cushion to lie on? If one can rest without any pillow and make use of the soft arms endowed by nature, there is no necessity of searching after a pillow. If we make a study of the general life of the animals, we can see that they have no intelligence for building big houses, furniture, and other household paraphernalia, and yet they maintain a healthy life by lying down on the open land. They do not know how to cook or prepare foodstuff, yet they still live healthy lives more easily than the human being. This does not mean that human civilization should revert to animal life or that the human being should live naked in the jungles without any culture, education and sense of morality. An intelligent human cannot live the life of an animal; rather, man should try to utilize his intelligence in arts and science, poetry and philosophy. In such a way he can further the progressive march of human civilization. But here the idea given by Srila Sukadeva Gosvami is that the reserve energy of human life, which is far superior to that of animals, should simply be utilized for self-realization. Advancement of human civilization must be towards the goal of establishing our lost relationship with God, which is not possible in any form of life other than the human. One must realize the nullity of the material phenomenon, considering it a passing phantasmagoria, and must endeavor to make a solution to the miseries of life. Self-complacence with a polished type of animal civilization geared to sense gratification is delusion, and such a "civilization" is not worthy of the name. In pursuit of such false activities, a human being is in the clutches of maya, or illusion. Great sages and saints in the days of yore were not living in palatial buildings furnished with good furniture and so-called amenities of life. They used to live in huts and groves and sit on the flat ground, and yet they have left immense treasures of high knowledge with all perfection. Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami were high-ranking ministers of state, but they were able to leave behind them immense writings on transcendental knowledge, while residing only for one night underneath one tree. They did not live even two nights under the same tree, and what to speak of well-furnished rooms with modern amenities. And still they were able to give us most important literatures of self-realization. So-called comforts of life are not actually helpful for progressive civilization; rather, they are detrimental to such progressive life. In the system of sanatana-dharma, of four divisions of social life and four orders of progressive realization, there are ample opportunities and sufficient directions for a happy termination of the progressive life, and the sincere followers are advised therein to accept a voluntary life of renunciation in order to achieve the desired goal of life. If one is not accustomed to abiding by the life of renunciation and self-abnegation from the beginning, one should try to get into the habit at a later stage of life as recommended by Srila Sukadeva Gosvami, and that will help one to achieve the desired success.
Sukadeva Goswami is instructing Parikshit Maharaj in the subject matter of self-realization. Answering Parikshit’s question as to what is the duty of a person who is about to die. He has clearly summarized in one verse -
tasmad bharata sarvatma
bhagavan isvaro harih
srotavyah kirtitavyas ca
One who desires to be free from all miseries must hear about, glorify and also remember the Personality of Godhead who is the super soul, the controller and the savior from all miseries. Now this hearing about, glorifying and remembering the Personality of Godhead is done in stages, beginning with the meditation on the external gross potencies of the Lord in the form of this entire manifested universe. Therefore he described the virat rupa of the Lord and the meditation on this form. As the Lord does not have a material form, His form is transcendental. Because He has entered this universe as its super soul – visvatma, the Lord is also present in our heart as the Paramatma. That is another etymological meaning of Vishnu – one who is all pervading because he has entered into everything. First He enters the mahat tattva as the Maha Vishnu, then He enters the universe as Garbodakasayi Vishnu.
Sukadeva Goswami is gradually leading Parikshit Maharaj to understand the super soul present within the heart. For that he begins by telling that the Vedas which are actually meant for a gradual elevation of the people in self realization is also sometimes very much bewildering to the conditioned souls who are always desirous of sense gratification. Now when Krishna is instructing Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita, he begins the instruction of the section buddhi yoga in the second chapter. After describing sankhya yoga, describing the difference between the body and the soul, matter and spirit, then Krishna says, now I shall describe to you in terms of buddhi yoga and there He warns about the people getting misled by the flowery words of the Vedas -
yam imam puspitam vacam
veda vada ratah Partha
nanyad astiti vadinah
janma karma phala pradam
kriya visesa bahulam
bhogaisvarya gatim prati
Krishna says, men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, bhogaisvarya gatim prati they say that there is nothing more than this. People interested in sense gratification, may get misled by the Vedas promising different kinds of rewards particularly in the karma kanda section which direct a person to perform different kinds of vrata, penances for attaining certain material benefits. If one is ready to surrender to Krishna, then the whole business of self realization is finished, very quickly. But the nature of the souls who have come to this world are averse to surrender to Krishna.
krsna bahirmukha hana bhoga vancha kare
nikata-stha maya tare japatiya dhare
Very nicely Chaitanya Mahaprabhu summarizes this whole thing that when we become
krsna bahirmukha when we turn away from Krishna desirous of enjoying independently
bhoga vancha kare then immediately we are captivated by maya – the illusory energy of the Supreme Lord. So still Krishna is very much kind upon such souls and He lets them be given some facility in a restricted way to try to satisfy their material desires. In the human form of life a gradual elevation of consciousness is possible by performing vratas or religious rituals to realize certain higher values of life.
So the method of the Vedas is the pravrtti marga where one is allowed to restrictedly try to satisfy his senses and at the same time elevating the consciousness gradually. Vyasa deva was not satisfied by presenting this gradual method of elevation of consciousness and thereby living entities attaining the freedom from the clutches of maya. Narada Muni pointed out that whatever is described in the gradual method, especially in Kali yuga, this conditioned souls will not care for the restrictions. They may accept some religious rituals, but they will forget the restrictions and they will become degraded; classic example when Buddha advented.
In the name of performing yajna nindasi yajna vidher ahaha sruti jatam they were killing animals unrestrictedly and became addicted to meat eating. But externally they are posing as if they are following Vedic rituals in offering animals for sacrifice.
Now here the Bhagavatam recommends nivrtti marga that in the first canto has been elaborately described by Suta Goswami.
dharmasya hy apavargyasya
kamo labhaya hi smrtah
Very clearly he says, actually the purpose of dharma is not artha or kama, it is ultimate liberation and that also he defines as apavarga. Apavarga means aiming for going back to Godhead. So he clearly says, automatically when dharma is followed, there is artha and there is kama, but that artha should not be utilized for sense gratification, but one should simply desire a life of self preservation. kamasya nendriya pritir labho jiveta yavata – the same thing here Sukadeva Goswami is telling. This world is actually a creation of the illusory potency of the Supreme Lord - that a person has to realize. He should be intelligently fixed and never endeavour for unwanted things being competent to perceive practically that all such endeavours are merely hard labour for nothing. labho jiveta yavata.
Bhagavatam is especially meant for anarthopasamah saksad bhakti-yogam adhoksaje. Bhagavatam is nivrtti marga, the path of renunciation, but this renunciation is qualified. How? bhakti-yogam adhoksaje while you try to minimize the anarthas, simultaneously you should practice bhakti yoga, develop your devotion to the transcendental Lord, because people do not know this. That renunciation should be ultimately aimed at developing one’s innate bhakti. The danger in the pravrtti marga is people miss out the real purpose of restricted sense gratification through following the rituals they become completely unrestricted. The danger in the nivrtti marga is they cannot give up the desire for merging into the absolute, to try to become God.
So to avoid being misled either by the pravrtti marga or the nivrtti marga, the Bhagavatam recommends anartha upasamam saksad bhakti-yogam adhoksaje. You follow the path of bhakti, by which there is automatically anartha nivrtti. So that is systematically instructed by Rupa Goswami in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu. People come to the platform of bhakti after having gradually elevated their consciousness through giving up fruitive activities and through cultivation of knowledge. The gradual process is not practical for people in this age. That is why Krishna after instructing all the different methods of yoga and describing bhakti yoga as the culmination of all yoga systems, He says, now simply you give up all these other considerations of yoga practice – sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja - you exclusively surrender to Me alone. And that surrender is facilitated by - man mana bhava mad bhakto mad yaji mam namaskuru.
So Rupa Goswami instructs us in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu that this process of bhakti yoga where one directly takes to devotional service beginning with adau sraddha – this process of sadhana bhakti that he elaborately describes, he summarizes in this adau sraddha –that faith is gained in the association of pure devotees. So when one develops preliminary faith in the process of bhakti yoga, then he begins to practice sadhana bhakti, chanting, hearing, etc., then anartha nivrtti – by this practice one is actually able to become free of anarthas. That elaborately Bhagavatam describes - anartha upasamam saksad bhakti yogam adhoksaje. Now here Sukadeva Goswami is particularly drawing our attention to the fact that, if at all somebody is serious about self realization, then he has to minimize the necessities in the name of maintaining the body and soul together. If you have to lie down to give some rest to the body, don’t become busy with making elaborate arrangements for lying down to get rest by trying to arrange for some cot, some bedstead, etc. Because don’t forget that your necessity for getting some rest is already provided for by Mother Nature.
That is why Krishna says, one who is serious about cultivating transcendental knowledge - yadrccha-labha santusto – one should be satisfied with whatever comes of its own accord, by higher arrangement. Then only you can actually, properly pursue this path of self realization. So gradually Sukadeva Goswami will describe that minimizing the necessities of the body and focusing one’s intelligence.
Again Prabhupada is warning that this does not mean that we go back to living naked in the jungles. Because a human being using his intelligence can easily provide for his necessities with becoming very busy for the same. Whatever extra energy, time or intelligence he has got, he can direct it towards self realization. He says, you minimize your necessities and don’t engage your intelligence in simply creating artificial demands or satisfying artificial needs.
So Prabhupada is telling that the examples are there of great stalwart devotees like Rupa Goswami that when they met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, they gave up their position as great ministers living in very aristocratic society - tyaktva turnam asesa-mandala-pati-srenim sada tucchavat. In association with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu they realized this is actually useless for self realization and - bhutva dina-ganesakau karunaya kaupina-kanthasritau – and upon taking compassion on the suffering souls they worked for the mission of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by accepting the bare minimum necessities, simply one cloth for covering their lower portion of the body and living underneath trees but they did this for the sake of doing some welfare activity for the entire human society by writing wonderful literature, gathering all the essential instructions of bhakti from different scriptures - nana-sastra-vicaranaika-nipunau sad-dharma-samsthapakau – even Narada Muni did that in his literature – Narada Bhakti Sutra.
So we have to take the spirit of this and that Sukadeva Goswami will further describe as to how one can actually minimize the bodily demands and direct his intelligence towards self realization by directing the intelligence to realize the presence of paramatma within the heart.