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Worldly Duties or Divine Service? Discourse Podcast Shri Hrushikesh asked Swami through Shri PVNM Sharma: One of my friends said “We have to do worldly work to support our families, so we cannot dedicate ourselves totally to the work of God”. I request You to please respond to his comment. Swami Replied: If this point of your friend were valid, the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna in the Gita would have been as follows: Krishna: O Arjuna! Give up this worldly work of fighting to win back your lost property and kingdom. Become a saint and propagate My spiritual knowledge in this world. Arjuna: How can I withdraw from this war? I need to get back the property earned by my father in order to support my family. If I completely dedicate myself to Your work, would I not be doing an injustice towards my family? In fact, the real version of the Gita is the reverse. Arjuna wanted to withdraw from the war. He was fighting the war to regain his lost kingdom, so, fighting the war was his worldly duty. Krishna forced Arjuna to do his worldly duty, which is essential in pravrutti or worldly life. Krishna never said that Arjuna should withdraw from the war and dedicate himself to doing the work of God in this world. Arjuna’s wanting to withdraw from the war was not for the sake of doing spiritual work or nivrutti. His reason for wanting to withdraw from the war was his blind love for his grandfather, teacher and other relatives. He wanted to avoid having to kill them even though they stood for injustice. All of them had been responsible for the injustice done on several occasions including the attempted undressing of Draupadi in the royal court. Some like Dusshaasana were the direct doers of injustice. Some like Duryodhana were the indirect doers of injustice. Some like Shakuni and Karṇa were the promoters of injustice and some like Bhishma and Drona were the supporters of injustice by keeping silent when they could have prevented it. Arjuna was ready to withdraw from a war that was justified. His wanting to withdraw from the war was due to his blind attachment to his elders and relatives, and not for the sake of his spiritual effort or God’s work. So, Krishna objected and told him to fight the war. Even if Arjuna had said that he wanted to withdraw from the war for the sake of doing spiritual work, Krishna would still have objected. If Arjuna had really wanted to withdraw from the war due to his interest in spiritual work, he could have done it before going to the battlefield. But before reaching the battlefield, he was motivated to fight. Only after reaching the battlefield, he saw all his respectable elders and beloved relatives standing together as his enemy. It kindled his blind attachment for these worldly relationships. His intellect was clouded due to the attachment and he failed to analyze their defects. This was the reason for his wanting to withdraw from the war! Service and Sacrifice Benefit the Soul; not God Your friend has made God out to be a helpless person requesting the help of others to do His work. As if God cannot do His own work! Why would the omnipotent God need the help of powerless human beings? Your friend’s wrong thinking is the result of his ignorance of God’s omnipotence. In fact, God never asks anybody to help Him in His work. Even if He advises devotees to participate in His work of propagation of spiritual knowledge in this world, it is only for their spiritual welfare. The propagation of His spiritual knowledge strengthens the concepts in the devotee’s mind due to repeated revision. It leads to the reformation of the devotee who is propagating the knowledge. By advising certain blessed souls to participate in His work, God is only providing an opportunity for them to rise higher on the spiritual path. This progress on the spiritual path is a permanent attainment that follows the soul in every birth. On the other hand, pravrutti is the work related to one’s worldly bonds and is confined only to this birth. In fact, God never advises souls to proceed on the path of nivrutti, which is establishing a strong personal bond with God. Nivrutti is the path discovered by the devoted souls themselves. It was not introduced by God. In fact, God discourages the path of nivrutti by creating several difficult hurdles which serve as acid tests to prove the deservingness of the soul. The only path introduced and encouraged by God is pravrutti. It is the path of protection of justice and the rejection of injustice in worldly life. His entire focus is only on pravrutti. He introduced worldly and heavenly benefits for following justice. To discourage sins and injustice, He also introduced punishments in this world and in the upper world. God descends into this world in the form of Incarnations for this very purpose of establishing pravṛtii. In that case, how can anybody blame God for supporting nivrutti at the cost of pravrutti? In fact, God created this world having all the souls and gave them the commandments to strictly follow pravrutti. Souls are supposed to strictly follow justice and avoid injustice in their worldly life. God remained as the unimaginable domain, aloof from this world, which is the imaginable domain. It is just like parents staying aloof from their grown-up children after helping them settle down in life and giving them proper instructions on leading a happy life through discipline. Had these souls followed the instructions of God and maintained the balance of society perfectly, God would never have had to visit creation. He would have been happy simply to see all souls living together happily. This point answers the question of atheists, who ask why it is even necessary for human beings to think about God in their worldly life. If souls could have lived happily following the discipline necessary to maintain the balance of the society, there would have been no need for souls to think about God. Old parents, staying aloof from their grown-up children, are not interested in unnecessarily visiting the homes of their children as long as the children are leading a disciplined and happy life. When the children break the discipline and create havoc in their own lives and in society, the parents rush to their homes to set things right. They come to the homes of their children to solve the crisis created by the children and not to get free food or service from their children. Now, human parents are ignorant and they are not omnipotent either. In fact, they themselves might be in need of financial and other help from their children. So, it is possible that they might visit the homes of their grown-up children expecting some help. But God is omnipotent and does not require any help from souls either in terms of service or in terms of money. The service rendered by a devotee to God is called karma samnyaasa and his hard-earned money offered or sacrificed to God is called karma phala tyaga. Both service and the sacrifice of hard-earned money together are called karma yoga. Karma yoga or service and sacrifice of money are not needed by God at all! In the case that the parents are strong and healthy and are also financially well-off, they need neither service nor money from their children. In spite of that, if the children serve the parents and give money to them, it is due to the children’s love for their parents. The service and the money given are the practical proof of the mental love they have for their parents. God is like these strong and rich parents who do not need anything from their children. Unfortunately, some clever children exploit this point, saying that they do not serve their parents or give them any money since the rich and strong parents do not need any of it. These grown-up children are missing the point. The service rendered to the parents and the money offered to them is not because of the need of the parents. It is the proof of the real love that the children have for their parents. Many people in the world also think in the same manner about God. They too must understand that service rendered to God and the money sacrificed to Him is only the proof of one’s real love for God. Your friend’s comment is like that of a son, who says to his poor and dependent parents living with him in his home “If I serve you and spend my money on you, how can I look after my family towards which I am duty-bound?” The comment is completely out of place for the context of God and souls. The case of God and a soul is similar to that of rich and strong parents who have been caring for and financially supporting the son and his family from the beginning. So, whatever service the son renders to such rich and strong parents and whatever money he sacrifices to them, is not because they need it. It is only the practical proof of his real love for them. Thus, your friend’s thinking, which is also the thinking of a lot of other people, is based on an illusion and ignorance. It is God who has been helping and supporting the devotee in all possible ways. He needs nothing from souls! The love that the devotee has for God is in the mind. It is theoretical. It cannot be seen. A person may falsely claim that he loves God. Therefore, proof becomes necessary. Service and sacrifice of one’s hard-earned money to God are the practical proof of real love for God. They are called karma samnyaasa and karma phala tyaga respectively, and they are the proof of devotion. They can be said to be practical devotion. Of course, the devotee can practically prove his theoretical devotion either through service or through the sacrifice of money. Service is work done for God. It is the sacrifice of one’s energy for God. Money is said to be the fruit of one’s work since we earn money in return for our work. Offering money to God is the sacrifice of the fruit of one’s work to God. Service or karma samnyaasa represents the sacrifice of energy. Karma phala tyaaga represents the sacrifice of matter since money stands for matter. Since both energy and matter are mutually interconvertible, service and sacrifice both constitute karma yoga. Both are equivalent and a person can do any one or a combination of both as per one’s convenience. Service is convenient for a renounced saint who does not earn or possess money. For a householder, a combination of the two is usually convenient. Since he earns and possesses money, he can sacrifice some money. In addition, he also has some spare time in which he can serve God. The extent to which a devotee should do this karma yoga is told as “yathaa shakti, yathaa bhakti”. This means that it can be done as per one’s capacity and as per the depth of one’s devotion. In this regard, it is very important to realize this essential truth and keep it permanently in one’s mind: God never needs any service or from souls, He never forces anyone to sacrifice anything to Him and He never has any intention to cheat any soul. The service and sacrifice are entirely voluntary from the side of the devotee who is totally free to choose. True and False Devotees and Incarnations Discourse Podcast A false devotee is one who tries to escape from the practical service and sacrifice to God. He exploits the fact that the omnipotent God is not in any real need of service or sacrifice from petty human beings. A true devotee is one who performs the practical service and sacrifice to God along with pure theoretical devotion. He completely surrenders to God in both theory and practice. He proves the theoretical devotion in His mind by practically serving God and sacrificing his money for God. A false incarnation is a glorified beggar. He cheats devotees by saying that they must do practical service and sacrifice to him for the sake of their own spiritual welfare and not because he needs it. A true Incarnation never aspires for anything from the devotee since He has absolutely no need. He accepts the service and sacrifice of the devotee in the interest of the devotee so that the devotee may be truly uplifted on the spiritual path. There are two perfect matches. The first is the true devotee and the true Incarnation and the second is the false devotee and the false incarnation. When the true devotee meets the true Incarnation, the devotee is benefited. When the false devotee meets with the false incarnation, the false incarnation is taught a good lesson. Let us also see the cross-associations. When the false devotee meets the true Incarnation, only the false devotee suffers a loss. No loss ever comes to the true Incarnation. When the true devotee meets the false incarnation, the true devotee gets cheated if the devotee is not capable of doing a proper analysis in order to recognize the true Incarnation. Just as the Incarnation tests devotees, the devotee must also test Incarnations. Tests based on sharp and intelligent analysis are needed on both sides. The customer tests the golden ornament before purchasing it from the jeweler. The jeweler also tests the currency notes given by the customer to see whether they are genuine or fake. Krishna began His preaching of the Gita with the concept of buddhi yoga , which is sharp analysis using one’s intelligence. He even ended His preaching highlighting the same point of thorough analysis (Vimrushyaitadasheshena...). This intelligent analysis must be used to test the Incarnation. The devotee must never blindly accept the knowledge given by the Incarnation. He must accept it only upon being fully convinced after a thorough analysis. Identifying the Incarnation of God How to identify a true Incarnation? Generally, people identify an Incarnation by His ability to perform miracles. People are attracted to these miracles since they are useful to solve their worldly problems. But the worldly problems are confined only to this birth. Such people realize their blunder only in the last minutes before their death when there is no time for rectification. Miracles can be done even by devils. They get miraculous powers from God through rigorous penance. The main problem with miracles is that they increase selfishness in the devotee. The devotee develops the habit of exploiting the power for solving worldly problems and getting worldly benefits. But the usefulness of these miracles is limited only this birth. Unfortunately, the selfishness developed in the devotee as a result of the miracles prevents the divine grace from working on the devotee and spoils the spiritual growth of the devotee. This is a huge loss which affects the soul in all future births. Miracles are useful to deal with scientific atheists or atheistic scientists. These are people who do not believe in God but who are capable of objective and patient analysis. They are people who accept proof and are capable of changing their opinion in the face of contrary evidence. There is no need to attempt to change adamant atheists because they will never change even if they experience miracles. They lack the ability to conduct an objective analysis or change their opinion in the face of contrary evidence. Similarly, silent pure scientists are satisfied to study only science and are not capable of inquiring about anything beyond science. There is no need to show miracles and attempt to change them either. Miracles are useful to the devotee to solve the worldly problems of the present birth. But they increase the devotee’s selfishness. Eating sweets serves the purpose of temporary pacification of hunger, but it increases the risk of diabetes! The best identification of an Incarnation has been told as the true spiritual knowledge given by Him. This divine knowledge helps souls progress in worldly life (pravrutti) by establishing justice and peace. It also helps souls progress in spiritual life (nivrutti). This true spiritual knowledge is described in the Veda as “Satyam jnaanamanantam Brahma” and in the Gita as “Jnaaniitvaatmaiva...”. Why has the true spiritual knowledge been given such total importance? The reason is that it helps in giving right direction to the soul for its temporary welfare in pravrutti as well as permanent welfare in nivrutti. A person usually has a strong fascination for worldly bonds of money, spouse and child. Driven by this fascination, he commits sins in the world. The true spiritual knowledge diverts a person’s strong fascination from the worldly bonds towards God. Thus, it prevents the person from committing sins. Then the person naturally avoids punishment in this world and in the afterworld. This is the contribution of spiritual knowledge to a person’s worldly life. As the person advances further and further in the same true spiritual knowledge, in course of time, it brings the person closer and closer to God. The person gets the opportunity of not just becoming a Human Incarnation, but also the master of God. Becoming the Human Incarnation of God is attaining monism with God, which is the goal of the monistic philosophy of Advaita. The goal of the dualistic philosophy of Dvaita is to surrender to God as a devoted servant. But God out of love treats such a surrendered devotee as His own master. Thus, the goal of dualism is higher than the goal of monism. Of course, both these fruits are given by God only to those devotees who do not aspire for any fruit from God. Hence, attachment to God is the essential starting point for success in pravrutti as well as in nivrutti. It is the railway ticket purchased right up to Delhi which represents the goal of nivrutti or spiritual life. It allows you to break the journey at the intermediate station which is pravrutti or worldly justice. If you learn spiritual knowledge, develop theoretical devotion and practice practical devotion to God, you have purchased a ticket right up to the abode of God, which is known as Brahma Loka. You can break your journey for a very short time at the intermediate station which is heaven or Svarga Loka. But if you only do good social service you have purchased a ticket only up to the intermediate station called heaven. With it, you can stay for a longer time in heaven, but you will have to return to earth thereafter. If you consider the attachment to God as nivrutti, then this nivrutti is essential from the very beginning of pravrutti. The attachment to God leads to a simultaneous detachment from worldly bonds. In the first stage of pravrutti, the attachment to God is only partial. The partial detachment from worldly bonds due to the partial attachment to God enables a person to follow the path of justice in pravrutti. The attachment to God grows and becomes complete in the latter stage of nivrutti. Both partial and full attachments to God can be called as nivrutti. Thus, spiritual knowledge, which is the starting point for developing attachment to God is the essential requirement for both the worldly path of justice and the spiritual path of devotion.