Balance in Life

Hare Krishna Prabhujis and Matajis,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev.

After getting into this transcendental movement of Srila Prabhupada the most commonly asked question that I have come across is how to balance between devotional life and material life?

I will not be surprised if each one of us has come across this question many times and the most common answer we hear is that we have to be practical in maintaining a right balance. And in the name of being practical knowingly or unknowingly we end up doing things that diverts us from devotional service. So the question is how to maintain a balance between the two ?

In Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.10 Srila Prabhupada very explicitly answers the above question:

kāmasya nendriya-prītir lābho jīveta yāvatā
jīvasya tattva-jijñāsā nārtho yaś ceha karmabhiḥ

Life's desires should never be directed toward sense gratification. One should desire only a healthy life, or self-preservation, since a human being is meant for inquiry about the Absolute Truth. Nothing else should be the goal of one's works.

In his purport Srila Prabhupada writes, "The Bhagavatam says that one should not live for sense gratification. One should satisfy the senses only in so much as required for self-preservation, and not for sense gratification. Because the body is made of senses, which also require a certain amount of satisfaction, there are regulative directions for satisfaction of such senses. But the senses are not meant for unrestricted enjoyment. In every sphere of life, therefore, the ultimate end must be seeking after the Absolute Truth, and that sort of engagement will make one happy because he will be less engaged in varieties of sense gratification"

However, on most occasions and especially when it comes to children we take a very liberal stand and allow gratification of their senses (and ours) without considering whether Krishna will be pleased with our actions. In the name of giving exposure and all round development (which will lead to so called progress) we allow our children to watch television, unwanted movies, play sports and indulge in many avoidable activities. We close the front door of our house and open the main door (by watching television) and allow our innocent children and ourselves to be exposed to the very things that we would never wish would happen to us (like murder, rape and mind agitating advertisements etc.)

We don't care to question our mind on, "how did the previous generations grew up? Did they watch television to become intelligent? Were there no intelligent beings during their times?" The fact is that we prefer our children to sit in front of the television (resulting in unexplained behavioral disorders) so that they will not disturb us from carrying on our sense gratificatory activities which we have been indulging for millions of births.

The weakness is in the hearts of the parents who are afraid that too much exposure to Krishna Consciousness will not make the child smart. They will not be in a position to carry on so called normal conversations with their friends. They will be left behind (in the rat race). And for this very reason in purport of Sri Ishopanishad Mantra 11, Srila Prabhupada warns us that:

"A man should lead a healthy life with a sound mind just to realize vidya, true knowledge, which is the aim of human life. The path of vidya is most perfectly presented in Srimad-Bhagavatam, which directs a human being to utilize his life to inquire into the Absolute Truth."

This does not mean that all activities for the maintenance of the body should be stopped. There is no question of stopping activities. To make the best use of a bad bargain is the appropriate expression. The culture of spiritual knowledge necessitates the help of the body and mind; therefore maintenance of the body and mind is required if we are to reach our goal...the great sages and saints of India have attempted to do this by a balanced program of spiritual and material knowledge. They never allow the misuse of human intelligence for diseased sense gratification.

As our beloved Gurudev once said, "The moment we are born our material activity starts. So we do not have to go out of our way to do material things. And the only way out of this tabernacle is to bury ourselves in the pages of Bhagavatam."

The whole idea is to ensure that the decisions we take in life should give us more time to be engaged in the sublime process of devotional service for satisfying the transcendental senses of the Supreme Lord Krishna, which will ultimately satisfy our senses. And as far as material activities are concerned the guiding principle is laid out for us that it should be restricted for self-preservation only. So whatever position we are in materially we should be satisfied and not try unnecessarily to improve our lives or the lives of our children.

So a balance definitely should be maintained in both devotional life and material life only to ensure that our devotional service progresses smoothly and the balance should tilt more in favor of spiritual life with the passing of age. If in this process we perform well materially or not it's all right as nothing is lost in our attempts in Krishna Consciousness.

So when we make our children sit in front of the television to keep them "engaged" or we are too busy at work to attend devotional programs, or we would like to visit our friends or relatives to catch up, it will be good to ask ourselves a question:

Am I in the name of being "practical", looking for a break in devotional service, to gratify my ever demanding senses?

Thank you.
Hare Krishna. Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev,
Gopal Krsna das
Chennai