Making the Best Use of a Bad Bargin
I can see from the comments we are getting here at www.krishna.org that the vast majority of people are under the impression that somehow we can turn this world into a happy, peaceful place. They seem to be thinking this is the purpose of religion and spiritual life.
When people come to understand there is a God, and He is all-powerful, their natural tendency is to try and get God to help them solve their problems of life.
So many people write: “Will Krishna help me get a promotion at work,” or “Will Krishna help me pass my exams.” or “Will Krishna find me a nice wife…” It is endless. It seems that everyone wants Krishna to do something for them and they are asking me how they can get Krishna to do these things for them…
In one sense this is good. Of course Krishna is God and He can do anything, and it is the nature of someone who believes in God to turn to Him in times of need. This is also good. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (7.16):
O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me–the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.
So there are four types of good people who turn to Krishna or God and perform devotional service: one who is distressed, one who wants money, one who is inquisitive and the one who is searching for knowledge of the absolute.
Krishna goes on to say that of these four types of people the one who is searching for knowledge of the absolute is the best because his motivation is a genuine search for spiritual knowledge. Still Krishna says the other three types: the ones who are distressed, who want money and who are inquisitive; are all great souls, because when they have some need they turn to Krishna for it.
But these three types of people are not really rendering pure devotional service. When they need something they approach Krishna and ask him for it. But they are pious, they believe in Krishna but they want to use Krishna to satisfy their own desires in the material world.
There is a very nice story that illustrates these people. There was once an old lady who lived in the forest. Every day she would go out into the forest to collect a big bundle of wood to burn in her cottage for cooking and for keeping warm. So one day she had collected a very big bundle of nice dry wood and was carrying it on her back when suddenly it fell off he back, it was very heavy. So she called out “Oh God help me…” And God appeared in front of her and asked, “You called, what do you want?” So she asked God, “Can you please help me get this bundle of sticks on my back again…”
So you see this is not very intelligent. All the old lady could think about was getting the sticks back to her cottage so she could get the fire going and start the cooking… So when she got the chance to see God, instead of asking for something really valuable, all she could think of was “Please get this bundle of sticks on my back again…”
Of course this is not going to help her in the long run. She will get the sticks back to the cottage and light the fire and do the cooking and burn the sticks and will be out in the forest again the next day looking for more sticks. And that is the nature of this material world. Nothing is permanent here. But we are looking for a permanent situation.
And all these questions I am getting: “Will Krishna help me pass my exams, Will Krishna get me a promotion at work, Will Krishna find me a nice wife…” It is all the same as this old lady asking God to put the heavy bundle of sicks on her back again.
Practically everyone is “worshiping” God in this mood. The Christians are praying to God, “Give us our daily bread…” It is always “Give me this, give me that…”
However as devotees of Krishna our idea is completely different. We know things are going on in this material world as a result of our karma and are not very concerned about changing that. Whatever is meant to come will come, whatever position in the world we are meant to have that will be, we don’t care for that. All a devotee cares about–in whatever position of life of situation he finds himself in–is how to serve Krishna, how to please Krishna.
A devotee never wants to take service from Krishna. He never wants to ask Krishna for anything. he wants to render service to Krishna. That is why Krishna consciousness is called “devotional service.” Krishna consciousness means to engage our mind, our body, our senses; everything, in the service of Krishna. And if we can do that then we will become happy. Because our natural, eternal constitutional position is that we are servants of Krishna.
A devotee is not very concerned about anything else because he understands that these things are not under his control. Things are happening in our lives. People are coming into our life and people are leaving our life. Sometimes we are rich, sometimes we are poor. Sometimes we are happy, sometimes we are sad. These things are coming and going like the waves in the ocean. Just like you can not stop the waves in the ocean and you can not stop the tides coming in and going out similarly in our lives these situations will be constantly changing. Happiness and distress, heat and cold, poverty or good fortune. It is going on according to the modes of material nature and according to our karma. It is fixed up and we have no control over it. There is no point trying to change it…
The best way is to simply accept things as they unfold and not be attached to any particular position and simply, “make the best use of a bad bargain.” Having a material body is a bad bargain, but we can use this material body in the service of Krishna and that is making the best use of it.
I do not really know how to express this as what I am speaking here goes so much against all the modern education and brainwashing we have all been subjected to. But really we can not change our material situation very much. The mood of the devotee is to simply accept the material situation he finds himself in and engage himself in the service of Krishna.
I am trying to express that this material world is not our home, we do not belong here. We are spiritual living beings, all part and parcel of Krishna. We belong in the spiritual world, in the Kingdom of God, serving Krishna there. That is our home, that is where we can be eternally happy. We can not be happy here in this material world any more than a fish can be happy if you take it out of the water and provide it with all riches and comforts on the land. The fish is a creature of the water. He belongs in the water. There is no way he can be happy out of the water.
Similarly with us. We are spiritual living entities, we belong in the spiritual world, we can not be happy out of the spiritual world. Here in the material world we are exactly like the fish out of the water. We can’t breathe here… Our nature as spirit souls is sat, cit, ananda. It means we are eternally young, we are full of knowledge and our nature is to be ever increasingly blissful. But here, in the material world, we are covered by and are identifying with this material body which is just the opposite. It is asat–getting old and dying; acit–full of ignorance and nirananda–full of distress. So like the fish out of water here in the material world we living entities are our of our natural environment and no matter how much money or how many beautiful women or how many followers we get there is no way we can be happy here. Just like there is no way the fish can be happy out of the water. The only way is you have to put the fish back in the water.
For us the only way is we have to get out of this material world and go back home, back to Godhead. And to do that we have to stop asking Krishna for things and instead ask Him to engage us in His service. Instead of asking Krishna to do things for us we need to be learning from Srila Prabhupada how we can do things to please Krishna…