Yoga as Reestablishing Relations with Kṛṣṇa
The Absolute Truth is realized in three stages: impersonal Brahman, localized Paramātmā (Supersoul) and ultimately Bhagavān, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the final analysis, the Supreme Absolute Truth is a person. Simultaneously He is the all-pervading Supersoul within the hearts of all living entities and within the core of all atoms, and He is the brahmajyoti, or the effulgence of spiritual light, as well. Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa is full of all opulence as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but at the same time He is full of all renunciation. In the material world we find that one who has much opulence is not very much inclined to give it up, but Kṛṣṇa is not like this. He can renounce everything and remain complete in Himself.
When we read or study Bhagavad-gītā under a bona fide spiritual master we should not think that the spiritual master is presenting his own opinions. It is not he who is speaking. He is just an instrument. The real speaker is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is both within and without. At the beginning of His discourse on the yoga system in the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa says,
kāryaṁ karma karoti yaḥ
sa sannyāsī ca yogī ca
na niragnir na cākriyaḥ
“One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no work.” (Bg. 6.1) Everyone is working and expecting some result. One may ask, What is the purpose of working if no result is expected? A remuneration or salary is always demanded by the worker. But here Kṛṣṇa indicates that one can work out of a sense of duty alone, not expecting the results of his activities. If one works in this way, then he is actually a sannyāsī; he is in the renounced order of life.
According to Vedic culture, there are four stages of life: brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and sannyāsa. Brahmacārī is student life devoted to training in spiritual understanding. Gṛhastha life is married householder life. Then upon reaching the approximate age of fifty, one may take the vānaprastha order – that is, he leaves his home and children and travels with his wife to holy places of pilgrimage. Finally he gives up both wife and children and remains alone to cultivate Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and that stage is called sannyāsa, or the renounced order of life. Yet Kṛṣṇa indicates that for a sannyāsī, renunciation is not all. In addition, there must be some duty. What then is the duty for a sannyāsī, for one who has renounced family life and no longer has material obligations? His duty is a most responsible one; it is to work for Kṛṣṇa. Moreover, this is the real duty for everyone in all stages of life.
In everyone’s life there are two duties: one is to serve the illusion, and the other is to serve the reality. When one serves the reality, he is a real sannyāsī. And when one serves the illusion, he is deluded by māyā. One has to understand, however, that he is in all circumstances forced to serve. Either he serves the illusion or the reality. The constitutional position of the living entity is to be a servant, not a master. One may think that he is the master, but he is actually a servant. When one has a family he may think that he is the master of his wife, or his children, or his home, business and so on, but that is all false. One is actually the servant of his wife, of his children and of his business. The president may be considered the master of the country, but actually he is the servant of the country. Our position is always as servant – either as servant of the illusion or as servant of God. If, however, we remain the servant of the illusion, then our life is wasted. Of course everyone is thinking that he is not a servant, that he is working only for himself. Although the fruits of his labor are transient and illusory, they force him to become a servant of illusion, or a servant of his own senses. But when one awakens to his transcendental senses and actually becomes situated in knowledge, he then becomes a servant of the reality. When one comes to the platform of knowledge, he understands that in all circumstances he is a servant. Since it is not possible for him to be master, he is much better situated serving the reality instead of the illusion. When one becomes aware of this, he attains the platform of real knowledge. By sannyāsa, the renounced order of life, we refer to one who has come to this platform. Sannyāsa is a question of realization, not social status.
It is the duty of everyone to become Kṛṣṇa conscious and to serve the cause of Kṛṣṇa. When one actually realizes this he becomes a mahātmā, or a great soul. In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says that after many births, when one comes to the platform of real knowledge, he “surrenders unto Me.” Why is this? Vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti. The wise man realizes that “Vāsudeva [Kṛṣṇa] is everything.” However, Kṛṣṇa says that such a great soul is rarely found. Why is this? If an intelligent person comes to understand that the ultimate goal of life is to surrender unto Kṛṣṇa, why should he hesitate? Why not surrender immediately? What is the point in waiting for so many births? When one comes to that point of surrender, he becomes a real sannyāsī. Kṛṣṇa never forces anyone to surrender unto Him. Surrender is a result of love, transcendental love. Where there is force and where there is no freedom, there can be no love. When a mother loves a child, she is not forced to do so, nor does she do so out of expectation of some salary or remuneration.
Similarly, we can love the Supreme Lord in so many ways – we can love Him as master, as friend, as child or as husband. There are five basic rasas, or relationships, in which we are eternally related to God. When we are actually in the liberated stage of knowledge, we can understand that our relationship with the Lord is in a particular rasa. That platform is called svarūpa-siddhi, or real self-realization. Everyone has an eternal relationship with the Lord, either as master and servant, friend and friend, parent and child, husband and wife, or lover and beloved. These relationships are eternally present. The whole process of spiritual realization and the actual perfection of yoga is to revive our consciousness of this relationship. At present our relationship with the Supreme Lord is pervertedly reflected in this material world. In the material world, the relationship between master and servant is based on money or force or exploitation. There is no question of service out of love. The relationship between master and servant, pervertedly reflected, continues only for so long as the master can pay the servant. As soon as the payment stops, the relationship also stops. Similarly, in the material world there may be a relationship between friends, but as soon as there is a slight disagreement, the friendship breaks, and the friend becomes an enemy. When there is a difference of opinion between son and parents, the son leaves home, and the relationship is severed. The same with husband and wife: a slight difference of opinion, and there is divorce.
No relationship in this material world is actual or eternal. We must always remember that these ephemeral relationships are simply perverted reflections of that eternal relationship we have with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We have experience that the reflection of an object in a glass is not real. It may appear real, but when we go to touch it we find that there is only glass. We must come to understand that these relationships as friend, parent, child, master, servant, husband, wife or lover are simply reflections of that relationship we have with God. When we come to this platform of understanding, then we are perfect in knowledge. When that knowledge comes, we begin to understand that we are servants of Kṛṣṇa and that we have an eternal love relationship with Him.
In this love relationship there is no question of remuneration, but of course remuneration is there, and it is much greater than whatever we earn here through the rendering of service. There is no limit to Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s remuneration. In this connection there is the story of Bali Mahārāja, a very powerful king who conquered a number of planets. The denizens of the heavenly planets appealed to the Supreme Lord to save them, for they had been conquered by the demoniac king Bali Mahārāja. Upon hearing their pleas, Śrī Kṛṣṇa took the shape of a dwarf brāhmaṇa boy and approached Bali Mahārāja, saying, “My dear king, I would like something from you. You are a great monarch and are renowned for giving in charity to the brāhmaṇas, so would you give Me something?”
Bali Mahārāja said, “I will give You what You want.”
“I simply want whatever land I can cover in three steps,” the boy said.
“Oh, is that all?” the king replied. “And what will You do with such a small piece of land?”
“Though it may be small, it will suffice Me,” the boy smiled.
Bali Mahārāja agreed, and the boy-dwarf took two steps and covered the entire universe. He then asked Bali Mahārāja where He was going to take His third step, and Bali Mahārāja, understanding that the Supreme Lord was showing him His favor, replied, “My dear Lord, I have now lost everything. I have no other property, but I do have my head. Would You so kindly step there?”
Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa was then very much pleased with Bali Mahārāja, and He asked, “What would you like from Me?”
“I never expected anything from You,” Bali Mahārāja said. “But I understand that You wanted something from me, and now I have offered You everything.”
“Yes,” the Lord said, “but from My side I have something for you. I shall remain always as an order-carrier servant in your court.” In this way the Lord became Bali Mahārāja’s doorman, and that was his return. If we offer something to the Lord, it is returned millions of times. But we should not expect this. The Lord is always eager to return the service of His servant. Whoever thinks that the service of the Lord is actually his duty is perfect in knowledge and has attained the perfection of yoga.