Can God give us money too?

God takes care of his devotees’ security and needs. He inserts difficult lessons in our lives, at times, to create ways for our liberation.

While both saints and commoners may believe that God takes care of every being in his creation, desire for money and its accumulation becomes irrelevant for the saints who have learned to think about God fulltime, leaving all worries about their future to him. In contrast, we, the commoners, may find it difficult to leave our liking for money or may be bound by circumstances to work for money.

Spiritual principles more or less remain the same for both saints and commoners. We can bring in certain qualities from the lives of saints, if possible, into our own lives, according to our liking. One such quality is — patience — which, in the context of monetary returns, teaches us that a lag may exist between our hard work and our returns.

According to the Bhagavad Gita, God does take care of his devotees’ security and needs, as promised by him when he appeared on earth as Lord Krishna. But we must remember that God works according to his own calendar, not that of individual souls. And what we gain at the end of the day may be unrelated to the intensity of our craving. In the Bhagavada Gita, God says that he has given us the freedom to work or perform actions but has not given us the right to its results .

To teach us some lessons, God may, at times, deliberately delay the results of our hard work or not fulfil many of our wishes. If we request God to give us chocolate ice cream, God may give us vanilla ice cream. If we ask for vanilla ice cream, God may provide us with chocolate ice cream. The actual choice of flavor becomes only available to the saints who do not want ice cream but can observe that it is God who provides everyone with food. Most saints are trained in leaving the results of their work to God, which is one of the classical paths of yoga (karma yoga) by which individual souls can escape the universe to reach God. The path of devotion (bhakti yoga) takes a somewhat different approach, but we can leave that explanation for later.

While both saints and commoners may believe that God takes care of every being in his creation, desire for money and its accumulation becomes irrelevant for the saints who have learned to think about God fulltime, leaving all worries about their future to him. In contrast, we, the commoners, may find it difficult to leave our liking for money or may be bound by circumstances to work for money.

Spiritual principles more or less remain the same for both saints and commoners. We can bring in certain qualities from the lives of saints, if possible, into our own lives, according to our liking. One such quality is — patience — which, in the context of monetary returns, teaches us that a lag may exist between our hard work and our returns.

According to the Bhagavad Gita, God does take care of his devotees’ security and needs, as promised by him when he appeared on earth as Lord Krishna. But we must remember that God works according to his own calendar, not that of individual souls. And what we gain at the end of the day may be unrelated to the intensity of our craving. In the Bhagavada Gita, God says that he has given us the freedom to work or perform actions but has not given us the right to its results .

To teach us some lessons, God may, at times, deliberately delay the results of our hard work or not fulfil many of our wishes. If we request God to give us chocolate ice cream, God may give us vanilla ice cream. If we ask for vanilla ice cream, God may provide us with chocolate ice cream. The actual choice of flavor becomes only available to the saints who do not want ice cream but can observe that it is God who provides everyone with food. Most saints are trained in leaving the results of their work to God, which is one of the classical paths of yoga (karma yoga) by which individual souls can escape the universe to reach God. The path of devotion (bhakti yoga) takes a somewhat different approach, but we can leave that explanation for later.

God, being the perfect parent, does not make the parenting mistakes that human beings can make. By nurturing the universe according to his own plan and by inserting difficult lessons at times, he creates ways for the liberation of every soul.

Last edited on April 25, 2019.

Who is a Bhakti saint?

In order to answer this question, we will first take a look at the simpler question, “Who is a saint?” and then simply add the element of bhakti to the answer. As my reference, I am selecting the discussion between Garuda and Kakbhushandi in the Ramacharitamanasa [1], where one of the questions asked by Garuda is, “Who is a saint and how can we differentiate a saint from the unsaintly?”

“Saints accept sorrow for the good of others, while wrongdoers accept sorrow for hurting others,” replies Kakbhushandi, adding “Beneficence is the innate nature of a saint.” This answer stresses that it is the capability to experience pain for others that makes one a saint [2]. Though the finest qualities of beneficence (paropkara) may be difficult to obtain without self-realization, saintliness is unrelated to the possession of mystical powers, type of dress worn, or the number of one’s spiritual disciples and followers.

Would Hindus label anyone who has the capacity to experience pain for others and is devotional as a bhakti saint? Not so soon…the individual being’s acceptance by Rama is significant too. And this is where the darshan of Rama comes in [3]. The biographies of bhakti saints show us how they have all experienced suffering for other human beings, possessed the bhakti of Rama/Shiva, and were blessed enough to meet the Divine every once in a while. Birth as a bhakti saint is never easy…it undoubtedly remains the greatest phenomenon in Hindu spirituality.

Goswami Tulasidasa believes that virtues, niyams, meditation, charity, and austerity are all habits worth possessing, but they cannot eliminate material attachments and non-discrimination from our mind; the only actual savior for beings trapped in this universe is — the bhakti of Rama.

[1] This comprehensive discussion in the Uttarkand focuses on our spiritual evolution. It is a must-read for all devotional seekers.
[2] What is the biggest happiness that a person can experience? Meeting a saint, according to the Ramacharitmanasa.
[3] Also check out this post; it explains how Shabri obtained the darshan of Rama.

Krishna’s last lesson for Arjuna

As soon as Lord Krishna concluded his divine play on Earth and left the planet, Arjuna understood that it was not Arjuna’s own power that had won the Mahabharata war but that he was only an instrument that Krishna had nurtured to carry out parts of Krishna’s divine play. It is interesting to note that Arjuna, in spite of his nearness to Krishna, took an entire lifetime to understand this, reflecting the situation of a typical spiritual seeker.

Earlier, Arjuna had seen his own chariot turn into ashes after the Mahabharata war was over and had heard the Bhagavad Gita directly from Krishna’s mouth. Yet, being a human being, Arjuna could not understand some of the important points. Sometimes, difficult lessons in living may be understood by revising the related theoretical concepts again and again; when this approach does not work, we may have to learn lessons by experiencing difficulties and creating our own possible solutions. Now that Arjuna’s time to leave Earth was nearing, Nature delivered the final lesson: Arjuna lost a battle to ordinary thieves who were fighting with wooden clubs and running away with Dwarka’s wealth. To make it worse, Arjuna even forgot how to discharge his arrows from the bow. For a warrior who possessed most of the divine weapons reachable in the solar system, this defeat was a major blow to the ego — the biggest loss that Arjuna had ever experienced. Possibly, this event was much bigger for Arjuna than the destruction of the major Kaurava warriors in the Mahabharata war.

As the Vishnu Purana tells us, when Arjuna visited Maharishi Ved Vyas after losing this last battle and asked why this had happened, Vyas said, “Everyone that is born must die. Everyone that rises must fall. A union always ends in a separation, and all accumulation ends with a loss.” Vyas further advised the Pandavas to renounce everything, leave the kingdom, and spend their remaining days in the forest.

In a temple: Rituals vs. Devotion

If journalists are asked by their boss to visit a temple and find out whether attendants are performing a non-devotional ritual or an act of pure devotion, why would this task be scary for them? Because both events would probably be occurring simultaneously in the temple, and the answer would depend on the intention and desires present in the minds of the participants. While one person may be immersed in the selfless remembrance of the Deity during the ceremony, the other, a job hopper, may be performing the same ceremony for better opportunities. In fact, it takes an antaryami to actually differentiate between sakama karma and nishkama karma [1]. And the universe has only one true antaryami. But we mortals can still discuss the differences between devotion and a ritual to further our understanding.

Assume another similar real-world scenario, where a seeker goes to a nearby temple for worshipping the Deity everyday. But after continuing for a few days, the worship creates a sense of achievement in his mind. With some mutual admiration, the ego (ahamkara) darts off and the individual starts thinking that he, now closer to becoming a saint, is much superior to the people around him, especially the ones not present in the temple [2]. Would you classify this person’s actions as devotional? Wouldn’t directly requesting the Deity for material gains be preferable to this kind of worship?

Many modern intellectuals like to group selfish rituals and devotion (bhakti) together. As a result of their approach, Hindu devotionalism gets wrongly interpreted as being ritualistic. At the same time, the idea of this post is not to follow the experts who label “ritual” as an inferior word, for that would be another mistake. But it only aims to underline that devotion and rituals are not synonyms. What is the take home message? A ritual may be an expression of devotion, but devotion does not need any rituals.

 [1] Antaryami refers to the personality who knows the inner feelings of beings. Sakama karma refers to actions performed with a material desire; nishkama karma refers to selfless actions.
[2] Such phenomena are not limited to Hindu temples but can be observed in the places of worship of all world religions.

Feel free to share your views on rituals and devotion. Don’t hesitate if our views differ.

Nine forms of Bhakti

We have already talked about the Navadha bhakti summarized in the Ramacharitamanasa. For a quick comparison, the nine forms of bhakti from the Puranas are listed in the table below.
 
FORM
FOCUSES ON
AN EXEMPLAR
Shravana
Listening
Kakbhushandi
Kirtana
Chanting
 Valmiki
Smarana
 Remembrance
 Kaushalya
Padasevana
 Lord’s Lotus feet
 Bharata
Archana
 Worship
 Shabri
Vandana
 Prayer
 Vibhishana
Dasya
 Service
 Jambavan
Sakhya
 Friendship
 Nishadraj Guha
Atmanivedana
 Surrender
 Lakshmana

Though the examples selected in the table above are all from the Ramayana, the nine forms of bhakti, being timeless, are experienced by contemporary devotees of all forms of the Divine. Also, because one form of devotion generally attracts the other forms of devotion in the heart, most bhaktas radiate more than one type of bhakti.

And if you are searching for Lord Hanuman on the list, he has been excluded. Why? Because his name can not be placed on a list with others; all beings, mortals and immortals, receive Rama-bhakti solely by his grace.

Please feel free to use the comments section to share the name of your favorite bhakta/saint (Vaishnava, Shaiva, and/or Shakta) and indicate the type(s) of bhakti that he or she focused on.