7-Minute Bhagavatam

7-Minute Bhagavatam

Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.9-10
by
Gopiparanadhana Dasa
Language 
English
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Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.9 and 1.2.10
Continuing the explanation of the second chapter of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam with verse nine:
dharmasya hy āpavargyasya
 nārtho ’rthāyopakalpate
nārthasya dharmaikāntasya
 kāmo lābhāya hi smṛtaḥ
“All occupational engagements are certainly meant for ultimate liberation. They should never be performed for material gain. Furthermore, according to sages, one who is engaged in the ultimate occupational service should never use material gain to cultivate sense gratification.”
According to this statement, human life is generally misdirected – and should not be. The religious scriptures, smṛtis, composed by various sages, all declare this. Of the four kinds of human beings – karmīs, jñānīs, yogīs, and bhagavad-bhaktas – the vast majority are karmīs. Among these karmīs, those who follow the authority of the Vedas believe that the purpose of life is found in the cycle of dharma (religious or other occupational service), artha (material gain), and kāma (fulfillment of desires). One leads to the next, and the success of artha and kāma recycles back into the facility for more dharma.
The minority who want to transcend the limits of karmic existence are advised to redefine their duties and purpose in life as āpavargya – that is, they should aim at breaking the materialistic cycle. The jñānīs and yogīs think of liberation as the perfection of life, but the devotees of the Supreme Lord know that pure love is the real perfection.
Material gain has its proper use in spiritual life. Jñānīs and yogīs try to apply it in support of their efforts at self-control, while bhaktas use it easily and naturally for the service of the Supreme Lord and His devotees.
Now verse ten:
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.”
The meaning of the word kāma varies according to the contexts in which it is used. Kāma is first of all the urge for enjoyment every living being feels in its heart. The satisfactions of that urge, sensory and mental, are also called kāma, or sense gratification. And as a principle in social philosophy, kāma is the third in the cycle of life’s purposes, beginning with dharma and artha and ending in mokṣa. What marks the success of kāma in this last sense? Materialists consider their pursuit of the heart’s urges successful when it results in physical gratification, or, for more subtle materialists, in mental satisfaction. But those who seriously cultivate spiritual knowledge and the disciplines of yoga reject as too short-scoped such a view of the purpose of life. Jñānīs and yogīs experience the fruits of kāma – pleasure and pain – as reactions to their previous engagement in ritual karma and ordinary material activity. Faithful practitioners of the Supreme Lord’s devotional service, however, are disconnected from the reactive cycles of karma; the pleasure and pain they may experience are thus mostly not karmic. They are, rather, results of offenses against the Lord and His devotees or are ways the Lord shows them special kindness. Jñānīs, yogīs, and devotees intent on perfection should always remember that sense gratification is a minor circumstance of life; like distress, pleasure comes of its own accord, and one should take only as much of it as needed to keep body and mind peaceful and fit for spiritual endeavor.
As this verse expresses it, one’s purpose in engaging the senses with their objects should not be mere pleasure but a moderate, balanced life. And the real success of a good life is not found in entrance to heaven and the other accomplishments of ritual sacrifice but in tattva-jijñāsā, the awakening of interest in the truths of spiritual life.
Material sense gratification is bad because it is selfish. If people made Kṛṣṇa’s happiness their purpose, their own happiness would be assured. But even the seekers of impersonal liberation are selfish sense gratifiers. Like a suicide hoping for peace or some heavenly bliss after death, the impersonalist dreams vaguely of brahmānanda while dangling on the ledge of personal annihilation. Only the devotees of the Supreme Lord, satisfied in devotional service, escape the fatal trap of selfishness. They are happy simply in making Kṛṣṇa happy and helping others join this effort. Busy studying how to do this, they have little time for unnecessary sense gratification.