Published on July 12th, 2021 | by Harmonist staff1
Love Is the Answer
By Swāmī Śrī Bhaktivedānta Tripurāri
Preoccupation with enjoying the fruit of one’s labor is less than ideal, for there is no love to be found in this orientation to life, and it is love alone that we are in search of. Preoccupation with what one will gain by one’s labor also tends to distract one from the labor at hand, placing one off balance. This may compromise the labor itself, but moreover, it takes one out of the present and places them into a speculative future. Heed the English adage, “Trust no future.”
If we are to love, we will have to live in the here and now. For that matter, it is in the present that both past and future are to be found. In the present, we reap the fruits of seeds we have sown in the past, and how we respond to these reactions with subsequent action, in turn, determines our future. To consciously be here now facilitates the realization of both the nature of our material predicament and our potential to extricate ourselves from it. It enables us to get our bearings in our search for love.
Our karmic predicament is immense. Not only are we burdened by our past that is now bearing fruit, furthermore there is much that lies in our karmic past that has yet to bear fruit, enough to ensure many more births. We are not only bound by deep-rooted tendencies and desires that force us to act at times even against our will or better judgment, but also by karma that has not yet manifested as desires and tendencies—karma that is stored, waiting for an opportunity to extract its tax on our lives. We have taken, and by the law of nature, we will be taken from. Again, there is no love to be found in this circle of exploitation among hunters and hunted.
Neither is love motionless, therefore to cease from acting altogether is not an option. After all, it is we who animate our bodies. Consciousness—the soul itself—is life, elusive as it is. Thus it would seem that we are active by nature. It is we who set our bodies in motion, just as a viewer brings life to the television by sitting before it and turning it on, only to have the television take over their life. Our situation as souls is similar: by the force of desire, we set our life in motion, turning on the karmic machine of material nature. Having done so we are consumed by the movements of matter we have unleashed. We move by the force of desire in an effort to enjoy the fruits of our actions, but the fruits are not always easy to digest.
However, we do, it would seem, have the option to act while sacrificing the fruit of our actions. This approach has merit when our actions have moral integrity. Such work ceases to be binding, for there is no binding reaction to pious acts, the fruits of which are not enjoyed by the actor. As one relaxes one’s karmic bondage by ceasing to further it, the possibility of a life beyond karma comes into view. This is a life in which mystic insight into the nature of the self is glimpsed and action in relation to that which does not endure is seen for what it is: materially binding and devoid of potential to afford one enduring happiness.
Nonetheless, it is difficult to forgo the fruit of one’s work, and for that matter, it is not entirely possible to act in this way. As long as one insists upon doing one’s own work, or acting with moral integrity in accordance with one’s material desire, one must maintain oneself, and the false sense of independence that derives from such action lingers. Such action requires that at least some of the fruit of one’s labor be retained. Furthermore, we are not independent entities. Indeed, we are dependent on every breath we take. Failure to recognize this is at the heart of our material predicament.
Deep introspection reveals that our potential to absolve our karmic debt on our own is limited as best. As debtors, we would do well to connect with greater capital. How can we attract such an investor? Humbled by our plight the best course is to fold our hands. Prayer works. By prayer, I am referring to the yoga of devotion—bhakti, divine service in love.
A servant who does the bidding of his or her master has nothing to give. The part has no existence independent of the whole, no possession of its own. Nothing belongs to such a servitor, rather it is the servitor that belongs. We may give the fruit of our labor, but in doing so we fail to fully acknowledge that we ourselves belong to someone.
Love fosters a sense of belonging, not independence, and such love dynamically bridges the gap between the perfect object of love and the perfect lover in a way that merely offering the results of one’s own actions, however pious, can never do. Dynamic union with the Godhead constitutes a oneness in purpose with the Absolute. In love two individuals share the same interest—each being interested only in the other’s welfare. When our significant other is the Godhead, our potential for solving our material predicament knows no bounds. In divine service, there is no binding material reaction, and stored reactions waiting for the opportunity to bear fruit never come into fruition. Furthermore, and unique to bhakti-yoga, is bhakti‘s power to absolve karmic reactions that are in the midst of bearing fruit. In a life of divine service, we need not worry who will maintain us or who will protect us from ourselves. Love answers these questions definitively. For that matter, one in love is hardly needy or fearful for oneself.
If we are going to do something, as we must, we should do it right. Find the center and repose your capacity to love there. From the heart of that center the Bhagavad-gītā speaks assuringly as to the solution to our material predicament thus:
For those who love only meBhagavad-gītā 9.22
and on me dwell constantly—
wedded to me in bhakti,
I meet their necessity.