Success—What it is, and How to get it! Part 1
To make the claim of today’s title, which might be promised by motivational speakers or writers, I would have to give a universal definition of success. Though I honestly don’t think this is possible, I could do my best to say that in general, success means to be happy—though even here at different times, people would disagree for various good and bad reasons. In any case, if we can agree for the sake of this blog, that in general people want to experience happiness and avoid distress, we might still argue over the best way to reach this sometimes illusive state.
For some people happiness or peace of mind can seem like the carrot before the donkey—always seeming to be within reach, but never quite obtained. We might have an ever increasing list of things required to come to our ideal state of happiness—got to have that IPad, and this app, and then that app! To our motivational guru, this would sound terribly negative, since they believe that we can have anything we want if we want it badly enough. Although the Vedas and Krishna devotees might agree that one can have most anything desired either today or in some lifetime they would caution us that although one may be temporarily happy, it can’t last. The nature of the world is constantly changing, including our body, senses and mind. For instance, toys or dolls no longer are objects of happiness for an adult, or as an old person our ability to enjoy certain foods is lost—though we may still desire them!
Besides this, and fundamentally more important since our identity is not material but spiritual, worldly things can’t bring the soul happiness. In a similar way that a fish won’t be happy out of the water, regardless being offered beautiful clothes, cars, jewelry, house, furniture, a new computer, food, or even other attractive, available fish, the soul requires a spiritual atmosphere to realize their completeness and fulfillment. Or a person with amnesia won’t be happy or peaceful until they know who they really are—or were, and why they can’t remember.
The above, which is applied Bhagavad Gita, is the basic premise under which devotees of Krishna live. Does this mean that our only activity should be in realizing our true divinity? Ideally it would—if we could, yet practically we have to take into consideration our unique physical/mental/emotional/intellectual make up and act accordingly. The soul being categorically different from the material body means (at least from perspective of the Gita) that reincarnation is behind our taking on a particular body/mind and nature. Nothing is accident, as this is a purposeful Universe. We reap what we sow.
When you see your or another's body you are seeing natural consequences of their past choices and actions now transformed into solid form. Krishna’s Nature is never capricious, yet fortunately in addition to Universal justice, there is mercy, upon which our spiritual life is completely dependent. Thus, when people are blessed to have an existential crisis bringing them to question the meaning of life they will be on different stages of spiritual development. This means we all have various levels of urgency for spiritual life and must apply the Gita’s principles very individually.
Such a large or small “divine drive” will determine the degree of material support that we require. A naturally renounced monk may live and be satisfied in a simple ashram setting with a few books and clothes, whereas a married person may think it quite normal to be surrounded by a large variety of material accoutrements. Those of us who joined the Krishna consciousness movement in youth and lived as celibate monks were able to do this for awhile, but eventually discovered we needed to marry and have a unique occupational means of livelihood and fulfillment.
Although the general principle of bhakti is simple living and high thinking, simple is relative. The most important thing is that we are making progress in our devotional service attitude and in loving Krishna and his devout. I am bringing up this topic of various levels of spiritual and material necessity to point out that in a devotee's pursuit of their ultimate success of prema or love for Krishna, there may be other successes along the way which support their highest goal. While we engage in a focused spiritual practice or sadhana, we may consider it as a success to obtain a spiritually inclined marriage partner, children, and a compatible occupation. To remain steady for the long haul of a lifetime of bhakti, we must be peaceful in our living situation. The saying, “The way out is through”, can be applied to going through our material desires while we pursue our spiritual ideal, which is the ultimate success.
So, I didn't give you a formula success (that perhaps you were hoping for), since everyone's idea is different, but I pointed out that real, lasting success, is a spiritual one. Those on spiritual paths, such as bhakti, will accept this fact, though only theoretically until they realize it practically. Krishna consciousness is the process of being convinced and realizing that serving, remembering, and loving Krishna and his devotees, is the ultimate success. All other relative successes will naturally revolve around the ultimate One, Krishna--or the ultimate Two, Radha-Krishna, or the ultimate Three, Radha-Krishna and their devotees!