Vanity thought #468. Clearing the confusion

Yesterday I puzzled myself with the story of Dhruva Maharaja, today, after listening to what proper authorities have to say on the matter I think I’m ready to dispel all my doubts.

In short the dilemma is posed like this – Dhruva Maharaja approached Lord Vishnu with a very strong material desire and succeeded. Who knows what would have happened if he wasn’t rejected by his father, probably nothing, at least in the context of this story. Main point – he was motivated by his severely bruised ego.

We, on the other hand, are advised to give up all our material desires and never act on the impulses of our egos, thus potentially depriving ourselves of attaining the Lord the way Dhruva Maharaja did. How are we going to follow his footsteps in this case?

Yesterday I thought that we might have to look at things in a different way, judging desires not by how strong or material they are but whether they are connected to the Lord or not.

In support of this one may site the yukta vairagya principle, engaging material things in service of the Lord rather than rejecting them, and also the warning against pursuing too much renunciation, as it hardens one’s heart. Bhakti won’t grow in the hardened heart, it has to be softened first.

We might site this Bhagavatam verse in support, too:

SB 2.3.10

akamah sarva-kamo va

moksha-kama udara-dhih

tivrena bhakti-yogena

yajeta purusham param

Akama – without desires, sarva-kama – full of desires, moksha-kama – desiring liberation – everybody is welcome.

Practical application of this solution is simple – do not try to give up your material desires but connect them with Krishna one way or another. Outside of ISKCON it leads to loosening regulative principles, including smoking pot, inside ISKCON it might lead to overindulging in Sunday feasts, for example. Let people stuff themselves to their necks, it’s all prasadam, it’s all good. One should not renounce taking prasadam and so on.

There might be some truth in this line of reasoning but I’ve heard much better solution and it lies in the same Bhagavatam verse.

Dhruva Maharaja didn’t approach Lord Vishnu with material desires, his bruised ego was only an impetus. He achieved the mercy of the Lord only due to blessings of Narada Muni, and even Narada Muni didn’t believe that it would be possible for such a small boy. If Narada Muni didn’t believe in it, why should we make it our principle?

Nevertheless, by the grace of pure devotee Dhruva Maharaja received his mantra and instructions on how to use it, and the next key to his success was the word tivrena from the third line in the verse above.

Presence or absence of desires described in the previous two lines does not have any value by itself. The key lies in what one does next – tivrena bhakti yogena – intense devotional service.

In fact we might even read the verse starting from the end (which is normal for sanskrit – take the first verse of Siksashtaka, for example). In order to succeed one must practice devotional service with intensity. This word, tivrena, appears several times in both Srimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita and the translations are always the same – intense, concentrated, firm, serious, strong.

How one comes to attain this tivrena doesn’t matter – either as akama, sarva-kama or moksha-kama.

It is wrong to build a connection between having strong material desires and strong service to the Lord, one does not follow the other, thus the original confusing question is also wrong – we won’t miss the opportunity to attain Lord’s mercy simply because our desires are strong or weak. We might miss the opportunity because we don’t turn our predisposition (akama, sarva-kama etc) into tivrena.

Well, as usual, the correct answer lies in formulating the correct question. It would be a waste of time to search for an answer to a wrong question.

Glad this has all worked out.

Now back to Damodara lila – how can one develop tivrena when thinking about it? I don’t see a way.

Dhruva Maharaja was given a mantra and he performed severe austerities, applying tivrena in a similar situation is easy – there will always be the need for more efforts.

Contemplating Damodara lila, otoh, gives no space for tivrena bhakti yogena at all. Maybe only in keeping your mind thinking about it. Still it can’t compare to efforts we exert when trying to control the mind while chanting.

So, today’s score – Dhruva Maharaja lila 1, Damodara lila 0, but it’s not the end of the month yet.

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