Continuing from yesterday – Haridāsa Ṭhākura advised fellow inmates that they would be better off in jail than on the outside. They didn’t like the idea at first but then he explained that by staying inside they would be spared material sense gratification and that would be beneficial to their chanting of the Holy Name. Yesterday I said that this advise is a bit controversial, let me explain why.
On the surface it makes perfect transcendental sense but we shouldn’t eagerly apply it to our own life and we should remember that when the conditions are not right things can easily go wrong.
At first, one would think that depriving oneself from sense enjoyment would be good for his Kṛṣṇa consciousness just as it was good for the inmates but it doesn’t work like that. We can’t imitate the prisoners because they have been put in that condition by the Lord and the material nature. They have deserved it, we do not. Their karma and the Supersoul were ripe and ready for renunciation, ours is not.
It’s an objective condition imposed on the soul regardless of his desires. If it’s not imposed or even simply offered to us then we can’t take it up on our own. We have to act according to our nature, however imperfectly – it was Kṛṣṇa’s injunction in the Gīta (BG 18.47):
śreyān sva-dharmo viguṇaḥ
It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly.
Śreyān here means better, vigunaḥ – imperfectly. Para-dharmāt means duties of others and sv-anuṣṭhitāt means done perfectly. Cannot be any more clearer.
So, unless it’s obvious that our immediate duty is renunciation and cessation of sense-enjoyment we should not try to accept that position. We should also remember that there should be no sannyāsa in Kali Yuga precisely because no one is capable of proper renunciation, we will inevitably fail.
However, it doesn’t mean that severe restrictions can’t be imposed on us by external forces, just as they are on prisoners. If, and only if, we are placed in a situation where sense enjoyment is no longer possible we should accept it as our next lesson and try to learn it. The inmates from the story didn’t see it that way at first, they didn’t want to give up their freedom and hopes of going back to their wives and families, but by the mercy of Haridāsa Ṭhākura they were put on the right path. Did they succeed? We do not know, but considering Haridāsa’s spiritual potency they had very very good chances.
What about all other prisoners? What is their lesson? Is it spiritual? Unfortunately not, not without our help. For them it’s simply māyā’s training in following laws and gradually elevating themselves.
Another objection that can be raised to Haridāsa’s advice is the same as was raised by Prajāpati Dakṣa after Nārada Muni converted all his sons into renunciate devotees (SB 6.5). Generally, we should take the side of Nārada Muni in that dispute but it doesn’t mean Dakṣa didn’t make good points, too. As far as his sons were concerned in general, he was absolutely right – premature renunciation wouldn’t have done them any good. They still had debts to pay (to ṛṣis, demigods, and ancestors) and Dakṣa also made a strong argument in this verse (SB 6.5.41):
Material enjoyment is indeed the cause of all unhappiness, but one cannot give it up unless one has personally experienced how much suffering it is. Therefore one should be allowed to remain in so-called material enjoyment while simultaneously advancing in knowledge to experience the misery of this false material happiness. Then, without help from others, one will find material enjoyment detestful. Those whose minds are changed by others do not become as renounced as those who have personal experience.
The only clue why he was wrong was in the previous verse: “I must say that unless full knowledge is awakened.” His only mistake was not recognizing Nārada Muni’s spiritual power. Nārada had really changed his sons around, he really infused them with full transcendental knowledge, and he really put on them on the path of service to the Lord, which immediately canceled their debts. Dakṣa didn’t see any of that, he missed it completely.
That’s why we take Nārada’s side and see Dakṣa as wrong. But that doesn’t mean we can imitate Nārada Muni ourselves. Unless we “awaken full knowledge” either in ourselves or in people we give advice to we should not recommend renunciation, nor should we try it ourselves. God knows we tried and our whole society learned lessons from that, which doesn’t mean it was wrong, btw – it’s the same “personal experience” mentioned by Dakṣa, it’s invaluable and unavoidable for beginners like us.
Haridāsa Ṭhākura could pull it off, we can’t.
Still, nothing stops us from praying for and welcoming external restrictions on our sense enjoyment when they come. Kṛṣṇa wouldn’t put us in these situations if it wasn’t for our benefit and therefore we should see them as mercy, not adversity. Right now we are not ready for it, not ready for the next step, but it shouldn’t stop us from praying, hoping, and waiting.
When we think about patience and tolerance described in Śikṣāṣṭaka we presume the Lord was talking only about tolerating pain. He explained it on the example of a tree and Śrīla Prabhupāda meant it the same way, too, but here it seems that tolerating pleasure could be just as valuable. Indeed, it’s simply the other side of the coin and for detached person both should feel the same.
A person in pain learns not to give in to it, not to break into crying and begging for relief. A person in pleasure should learn not to give in, too, and not to break into enjoying and begging for continuation. It’s the same thing, just inversed between love and hate.
Thing is, both pain and pleasure are hard to tolerate and if they are administered in excess fighting them would consume all our energy, leaving nothing for Kṛṣṇa. We should see injunction “taror iva sahiṣnunā” in this light, as enabler of chanting, not as an obstacle to it. If it doesn’t lead to kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ we are not doing it right and it’s useless.
It means we should not seek more trouble than Kṛṣṇa allots us Himself. His dosage is perfect, ours will inevitably be off the mark. Let Him manage the external circumstances, volunteering out of immaturity would only cause Him inconvenience. When we are ready to take on more tapasyā for preaching we will know it, the Supersoul within our hearts will make it look natural and encourage us to take it, we don’t have to worry about missing His signs.
It’s probably better to pray for the day when the Lord engages us in His service than pray for the day He takes away our sex drive or our desire to fill our bellies with delicious food.
Going back to Haridāsa’s advice – he was a messenger from the Lord and he engaged his fellow inmates in chanting, that was the main thing he did, the invitation to stay in jail longer was only secondary.
I hope this clarifies a few things, and tomorrow I can reflect on Haridāsa’s preaching during the trial.