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Success—What it is, and How to get it!

[reposted from 2011-01-26] SUCCESS, WHAT IT IS, AND HOW TO GET IT: 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 makeup and act accordingly for our progressive, sustainable spiritual progress. 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 an accident, as this is a purposeful universe and and life.

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. Thus if you want material success, which from a bhakti perspective is not a lasting success, go for it, but let it be favorable for your spiritual life--or as Prabhupada would say, "dovetail it." Those on spiritual paths, such as bhakti, will accept only theoretically until they realize it practically, step by step. Krishna consciousness is the process of being convinced and realizing that serving, remembering, and loving Krishna and his devotees, is the ultimate and everlasting success. All other ordinary successes of the world will then naturally revolve around serving the ultimate One, Krishna--or the ultimate Two, Radha-Krishna (or Gaura and Nitai), or the ultimate Three, Radha-Krishna and their devotees!

1st Question from FB

Q. Thank you Prabhuji for guiding us. The problem is we keep on forgetting that everything is for serving Krishna and we are His instruments. How can we remember this every moment of our life? Sheetal

A. Sheetal, although experience is sometimes criticized in favor of hearing the shastra [scripture], seems for most of us a very effective, if time consuming method. Somehow sticking our hand in the fire gets our attention, even though we heard it would burn. Practice make perfect, as does being with devotees who are more developed on the path. Even if we don't live near devotees we can try at least at times to visit temples or homes with advanced devotees and learn from them. Plus our daily spiritual practices and reading the scriptures and the lives of great saints connects us to Krishna and bhakti.

And Sheetal, keep trying and never give up, and pray as much as you can to offer everything you do to Krishna. From my experience the more you do this, the more natural it will become, and when you are my age almost in spite of your self, you see the wisdom in our practices.

Although I still have those stubborn parts of me that would like to convince me enjoy the material world, it really becomes rather unappealing. And reading these transcendental scriptures with poetic and beautiful descriptions of Krishna gives our mind subject matter to be absorbed in--who can compare to Krishna? Of course having Deities of Radha Krishna or Gaura-Nitai or visiting Temples or devotees homes who go can also be a soothing balm.

2nd Question from FB

Q. so v have to achieve some sort of material success also so dat v can execute our devotion properly as not all of us are very attached to dis due to our previous misdeeds
in order to continue wis kc v ...need to take care of our bodily needs also so dat dey don't become a stumbling block in our way to bhakti...
m i right??

A. We all need a platform from which to serve Krishna. We could call it our interface with the material world. It is easy to understand the theory that we are not the body, difficult to realize it--even though it is considered the ABC's! The SB teaches us that to understand our adhikari or eligibility and act accordingly is true beauty. In my experience that isn't always evident at first, though everyone is different. Look at the Gita's twelfth chapter. Krishna begins with the ideal, and then gives other alternatives which will gradually lead us to higher stages. Our ideal that we keep in our heart is all important. We have to keep our minds and hearts fixed on that, yet do what is required thinking long term. We have seen many "shooting star" devotees who do big service and then disappear because they didn't understand their material requirements. Many of us thought we could flush our past and didn't have to worry about what "we" wanted. We were sincere, yet immature. Had we had mature elders many would have been able to remain devotees. We all have what I like to call our "karmic mission" or that activity we came in to do, or what activity we resonate with. If we don't do that, we will not be satisfied with our life. The trick is to do it for Krishna. Then we can have everything and still make spiritual advancement.

Question and answer from old site

Hare Krsna
What is meant by "going through our material desires while we pursue our spiritual ideal" ?
thank you

Hi Bhakin Carol! Hope all is well in your life! What this means is that we are not pure devotees. Sometimes when we first come to Krishna we are unrealistic in our self assessment. This was especially true for me and many of the early devotees who moved into the ashram at a very young age. I was 20 years old, and green and inexperience in every way! At that time I thought I would remain a brahmacari for life and that within a few years I would being going back to Godhead and the world would be Krishna conscious. Things can sound or be explained very simply, yet the reality is usually different.

I wasn't aware of my desires at that young age and due to Shrila Prabhupada's shakti and urgency for his tender movement to get a foothold we were not focused on our needs. In my early thirties I really had to reassess my whole life. I had much sorting out to do, and knew I needed to be married and find myself materially. So these things are material adjustments which support our long term survival and eventual thriving. So I had to go through my attachments.

Of course we want to do only those things which are within the purview of acceptable behavior, but frankly sometimes we slip and mess up. So we have to pick our self up and always strive and pray to do better. My desires for marriage and independence were not pure devotion. They were mixed, yet I had to go through it. That is what I meant that we have to through our material desires while pursuing our ideal. This will be different for different devotees at various stages of spiritual advancement and material attachment. This is very practical and common sense, though sometimes we complicate it and suffer do to not understanding our needs and thinking long term.

Your friend in Krishna,


Seek ye first the kingdom

Thanks for stopping by Matt. I liked your artwork and comments on your page. This idea you expressed above is present in all scriptures and faith traditions. Although we get a few drops of temporary happiness in the material world it can't satisfy the soul who is feeling parched from the dry material desert and requires an ocean of spiritual refreshing waters. I do my best to give some food for thought concerning our spiritual heart--and the search for the real and lasting relationship and love. Most of my blogs have been transferred here from the old site and if you so desire you can go back over three years. Plus, there are many resources here to give your soul nourishment. Feel free to ask me questions, and i will do my best to help. All the best on your exciting spiritual journey and in your painting expression. All gifts are God given and find their perfect utility to further the spiritual cause--the prime necessity of life.

your friend in Krishna,

dasanudas Karnamrita