Real Meaning of Anartha

moon w cloud coverBy Swami B.R Sridhara Deva Goswami

Anartha means ‘separate interest.’ Krsna consciousness is causeless, nirguna, it has no end. Nirguna means that the central flow and vibration of Krsna consciousness is eternal. That wave has no end. Any interest which is separate from Krsna consciousness is anartha. ‘Artha‘ means ‘necessity’ and ‘anartha‘ is that which is not my necessity—that which is opposed to my necessity, being based on separate   consciousness and interest. So to get out of the trap of separate interest which is misleading us, and to learn how to read the Infinite, we are to identify with the universal flow, the universal wave. At present we are being carried away by different waves of separate-interest consciousness— anartha, it is not necessary for us. Our only necessity is to merge in the wave of the universal interest, which is for itself, for Himself.

The Lord says:

aham hi sarva-yajnana, bhokta ca prabhur eva ca

“I am the only enjoyer of all sacrifices, of all movement in this world. I am the only enjoyer, and everything belongs to Me unconditionally.”
Bhagavad-gita 9.24

God’s position is such. He is paramount. He is the highest harmonizing center, and we must all submit cent-per-cent to Him. Any deviation from that is anartha. Anartha means ‘meaningless,’ it has no meaning. The only real meaning or purpose worthy to be served is the connection with the universal wave, the universal movement. Anything besides that is anartha— undesirable and unnecessary. The anarthas will serve no purpose. We are in connection with anarthas, undesirable things which won’t serve any real purpose towards our cause. But the real cause of our life and the whole satisfaction of our very existence will be found only in connection with the universal wave of the whole Absolute. That is Krsna consciousness. It is the most universal, fundamental wave, and we have to catch that. Our goal, our satisfaction and the very fulfillment of our life is only to be found there, in that layer, that plane, and not in the superficial plane of nationality interest, family interest, social service, etc.—for that is provincialism.

One section is busy with many local interests, and another section wishes to stop all activity. To stop one’s own movement, to do away with one’s own existence, is renunciation, samadhi, and is also suicidal. So we have to give up renunciation as well as enjoyment. The tendency to do evil and also the tendency to go on strike, both are to be given up. In a nation, we may find so many workers doing some wrong, going against the principle of the law; but that is hooliganism and is bad. At the same time, to go on strike, refusing to work is also bad. The good path is only to work for the interest of the country.

This we have to learn: from local interest we must go to the universal, the Absolute. We are not to have any local interest however extensive it may be. Whether self-centered, family-centered, village-centered or society-centered as in humanitarianism, it is all only a part of the Infinite. This is the fact, and generally we are to try to understand things in such a way. The technical words like anartha nivrtti, bhava, asakti, all these are covered by this understanding.

Lord Krsna has recommended in Srimad Bhagavad-Gita how one can conquer kama, lust, by regulating the senses. He advises us to become acquainted with the nature of the soul, then all the problems caused by kama will be turned into ashes:

indriyani parany ahur, indriyebhyah param manah
manasas tu para buddhir, yo buddheh paratas tu sah
evam buddheh param buddhva, samstabhyatmanam atmana
jahi satrum maha-baho, kama-rupam durasadam
Bhagavad-gita 3.42-43

Lust is not easily accessible, but is hidden. We cannot easily trace where he lives, but he comes suddenly and after looting, disappears. But we are told here that really he lives in the intelligence, the mind and the senses. To conquer that lust we are to regulate the senses, but in order to do so we first have to analyze what the senses are and what is their position, and then, what is the position of the internal king of the senses, the mind. After that we are to analyze what is the intrinsic position of the buddhi, the faculty of reason, judgment and intelligence. Then, with the help of reason, we are to try to find out what is in the background of that faculty of reason, of judgment and of decision making.

In the background is a pencil-thin ray whose nature is diametrically opposite to the world of experience. In Srimad-Bhagavatam an example is given that in the night a cloud may cover the moon. Though the cloud obscures the moon, still the cloud can only be seen by the light of the moon.

na rarajodupaschana  svajyotsna bhasitairghanaih
aham matya bhasitaya svabhusa puruso jyatha

In this example the soul is likened to the moon and the ahankara is likened to cloud cover. The sense-consciousness, the mind and the intelligence have all combined to form a system, ahankara, which has covered the soul. But they are seen, and it is possible for them to act, only because there is light—the light of the soul, the moon. So by the help of our reason we must try to perceive what is above reason, and we shall come to see that it is the atma, the soul. In this way we may have some direct connection with the atma, or at least some conception, however vague, of its existence and nature. At that time our whole material aspiration will turn into trash and within ourselves we will be able to conquer all the charms of this world. The Lord’s advice in Srimad Bhagavad-Gita is to somehow or other try to obtain understanding of the true nature of our own atma. We are really of such a superior nature and hold a noble, dignified position in the higher plane; but lust and so many base things have come to entrap us.

Raso ‘py asya, param drstva nivartate (BG. 2.59). By even slightly coming in contact with the dignified position of our own soul, all worldly charm will vanish; and even that will seem to be a negligible thing compared to the awakening of higher levels of realization, up to the Super-soul—Paramatma—then to Narayana and Krsna! There is so much ecstatic enjoyment on that side and it will be realized only when it will be revealed within us. Though to our present conception it is far away, still, that experiencer, that taste, is within us: it is the jivatma. And if we try to concentrate even for a second there, we will find what a dignified position the soul holds. We shall think, “Who are these thieves? The intellect, mind and senses are all thieves and plunderers. They are taking me into the land of misery as if through some intricate conspiracy.” It will seem like that to us.

indriyani parany ahur, indriyebhyah param manah
Bhagavad-gita 2.42

Our senses are superior in comparison to all the things we experience around us. Suppose we were devoid of all our senses of touch, sight, hearing and so on, then we would have no conception of anything external. The world would mean nothing to us. Then again, the central figure of all the senses is the mind. Someone may call but we may find: “He was calling me? Oh, I was unconscious: I was unmindful and did not hear. I have my senses but because I was unmindful I did not hear or see him.” So the mind is in the center. And the mind has two functions, sankalpa-vikalpa—”I want this. I don’t want that—I don’t want that, I want this.” This is mainly the function of the mind.

Then comes the buddhi, intelligence. From the mind we are to go up to the buddhi, the reason. What is it?  Discrimination. “Oh, my mind wants that, but it will bring such a reaction, so don’t go to do it.” The buddhi, the intelligence or faculty of judgment will give the warning, “Don’t go! Don’t listen to what the mind says; don’t obey him.” That is the intelligence.

Then if going up from there, surpassing the intelligence, we search for what is next, what is above the intelligence, backing it and making the function of intelligence possible, we will be able to see, “Oh, this is my real self and everything else is an outside extension in the material present atmosphere is not at all necessary for me, rather it is harmful, a coating, a garment which has been thrust onto me in order that I come in connection with this bad environment.” With this realization, with our soul proper we can go in a higher direction, towards Paramatma, Narayana and Krsna.


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7 Responses to Real Meaning of Anartha

  1. Great presentation. Sridhara Maharaja is always so deep.
    I would make one comment, though. He writes: “But the real cause of our life and the whole satisfaction of our very existence will be found only in connection with the universal wave of the whole Absolute. That is Krsna consciousness. It is the most universal, fundamental wave, and we have to catch that. Our goal, our satisfaction and the very fulfillment of our life is only to be found there, in that layer, that plane, and not in the superficial plane of nationality interest, family interest, social service, etc.—for that is provincialism.”
    It seems to me that if we abandon all of those other planes: “nationality interest, family interest, social service, etc.” we are simply escapists. Krishna did not want Arjuna to be an escapist, he did not want him to join Hare Krishnas and give up his duties in this world. He wanted Ajuna to act on all of these lower planes while being surrendered to the will of the Lord. That is truly surfing the Ultimate Wave – being connected to everyone and everything through spiritual consciousness, Krishna consciousness.

    • All those other planes have nothing to do with the atma, what to speak of Krsna. They pertain to one’s ahamkara. Tending to them is to neglect the dharma of the atma: to serve Krsna—to do what he wants, not to do what we want nor even what the codes of dharama sastra mandate, nor to do them without attachment to the results.

      Krsna is a real person in a real world. Not attending to his world in divine seva is to attempt to escape from one’s duty. The clear teaching of the Gita to Arjuna is man manah bhava mad bhakta mad yaji mam namaskuru. This is bhakti proper: to fix ones mind on Krsna, be his devotee, worship him, pay homage to him. Sa kama or niskama participation in varnasrama, forgoing varnasrama and just doing everything you do as an offering to Krsna, cultivating knowledge of the self and the nature of the illusory relationship between matter and consciousness with the help of bhakti and a view to attain mukti all have little if anything to do with Krsna and the dharma of the atma as nitya krsna dasa. Pursuing suddha bhakti on the other hand does pertain to the full sense of the atma and thus to Krsna. Such sadhana results in the sadhya of prema bhakti rasa. Everything below this is external. That is the opinion of Gaura Krsna in his discussion with Ramananda (Arjuna/Visakha).

      • “All those other planes have nothing to do with the atma, what to speak of Krsna.” Isn’t it rather a question of our consciousness? Why did Lord Krishna want Arjuna to act on an apparently material platform? Was it because He wanted Arjuna to “feel materially/emotionally whole, without which one cannot pursue a life of devotion peacefully leading to spiritual wholeness”? No, this was something Krishna wanted and Arjuna was supposed to facilitate. Seems like a huge difference to me. And a central point of Bhagavad Gita, at least from some perspective.
        Seems to me that this philosophy of labeling social and family planes of activity as material and at best tolerated only because without them “one cannot pursue a life of devotion peacefully” is rather one sided. Krishna is a real person and He has goals and activities in this world as well. If we look at all our activities in this world as devotional service meant to help ourselves and others find their way and develop deep Krishna consciousness, we will be Krishna conscious. Western devotees have nothing to brag about when it comes to creating a situation in this world which actually does that in a comprehensive way. Let’s look at the success (or mostly failure) of our farms, schools, communities, and even family units. Perhaps that lack of success is the result of seeing all those other planes of activity as ‘necessary evil’ where we perform these activities with resentment and bad attitude.
        Maharaja, I know that your sanga has a better record in that regard, so please forgive me for speaking in general terms about these issues in Hare Krishna movement in the West, but I felt that it was relevant in making my case.

        • Krsna wanted Arjuna to do as he asked. He happened to ask him to fight for dharma in this world. That is an aspect of Krsna’s decent, to establish dharma. But it is not the main purpose of his decent. It is secondary. His main reason for appearing is to distribute Vraja bhakti, to interest persons in what he is directly interested in as svayam bhagavan of Vrndavana. We are being asked by him in his encore appearance as Gaura Krsna to follow his example and pursue raga bhakti.

          You say we should look at all of our activities in this world as as bhakti meant to help ourselves and others find their way and develop deep Krsna consciousness. I said that marrying and raising a family may help one to become Krsna conscious. It may also thereby set and example for others. But why does it help some devotees to marry and pursue family? Because of their emotional conditioning. That is not to say that it is to be tolerated, as if a bad thing. It is to say that bhakti is generous and powerful and can turn that which ordinarily leads to bondage into something that leads to freedom. A devotional householder life is glorious. But that does not change the fact that certain psychological and emotional needs give rise to the desires that it is based on.

          What I have said is that there is a way to turn the material into the spiritual in a provisional sense. But in doing so I seek to emphasise that there is something more than this to Krsna consciousness. Preaching is not the goal, but it is an effective means. And it should be done primarily by example, and that in all respects. So I agree with you on that. You agree with me when you say “and develop deep Krishna consciousness.”

          The article properly understood contrasts national interest, family interest, social service, etc.with interest in Krsna consciousness. The two are different. But the former can be engaged in from a Krsna conscious perspective and become part of Krsna consciousness. That would involve what I have written about.

  2. Srila Sridhara Maharaja is discussing anartha, unwanted things. The attachments that cover our soul. Ultimately, all those identities we harbor outside that of a sevaite must be retired.

    The example you cite of Arjuna is not anartha, it is surrendering to Krsna’s will. In Arjuna’s case that was doing his duty not renouncing.

    • Actually, the central point of this article is this definition of anartha: “Anartha means ‘separate interest’”. So for a sadhaka the analysis needs to be about ‘what is a separate interest’? For example, is raising a family in Krishna consciousness an interest which is separate from Krishna’s interest? Is my work to facilitate that endeavor an anartha? If we connect everything we do in this world with Krishna’s interests, we will get rid of the anarthas. So it is not about abandoning activities that relate to family, society or country but about changing our consciousness and focus.

      • Neither is joining the ashrama about escaping. It is possible to live a householder’s life and be a devotee. If one does so properly, one will develop love for Krsna with no separate interest—ananya bhakti.One will cry upon seeing the deity and chanting krsna nama, and a taste fro bhatki will replace any taste for the world, non dhanam, na janam, na sundarim kavitam va. But one should see one’s householder life as something one needs to feel materially/emotionally whole, without which one cannot pursue a life of devotion peacefully leading to spiritual wholeness. In this way one’s householder life becomes integral to one’s progress in Krsna consciousness and tending to it need not be seen as an anartha.

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