How to live a balanced life?

After explaining the futility of false renunciation, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur says, “Alternatively, if they place the Lord in the centre of their life while caring for body and house, while eating and sleeping, they then gradually increase their devotion to the Lord through their devotional practice. Finally and definitely, prema (pure love) will be achieved.” (p 60)

One of my mottos is: “Realize your full potential, live life abundantly and love extravagantly.” What is our full potential? We are children of God. We are loved. We are created good, in God’s image. God & Goddess have given us all that we need to live a happy, healthy and enlightened life. Most of all we have the potential to actualize our selves spiritually—developing an eternal spiritual body through our pure love of Radha Krishna or whatever form of God we may be attracted to. This is the highest goal of life.

Too much emphasis is placed on renunciation by many teachers of devotional yoga and other yogas. When we place Radha Krishna at the center of our life, everything becomes spiritual seen in light of their service. Everything can be used in their service. Everything is simply a manifestation of their energy. They created us and this world we live in with all its wonders. Why would they not want us to enjoy it in their service?

Speaking as a Westerner to primarily Westerners, what do we need to care for body and house? I would say we need a basic middle class standard of living. We should have adequate food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medical care and other necessities. Then we may need a little extra for entertainment and vacation. Some money to save for emergencies and old age is also desirable. Some money to give in charity should be there too.

Most of us also desire the pleasures, companionship and support of married life. This often leads to having children. Supporting a family in this manner usually requires one or two good paying jobs with benefits. All of this should not be seen as obstacles to devotional practice but rather as part of our devotional practice.

Of course, we do not want to fall into the trap of materialistic consumerism, selfishness and greed. Rather, a life of voluntary simplicity and moderation is desirable. This is actually more enjoyable too. We should have the necessities, but not over endeavor for material gain. Learn to be happy with what you have, provided you have the necessities. Simply dedicate everything to Radha & Krishna.

Radha & Krishna’s abode is described as being wonderfully opulent and abundant in supplying all the good things of life. Persons there live free of anxiety due to the hard struggle for existence in the material world. Yet even in this world, we can live that way if we learn to trust in the Divine Couple’s goodness and benevolence towards their devotees.

Of course, we still need to work, but when we see that they have provided us with everything, we can open ourselves up to the divine energy and not have to struggle so much. We can learn to work with detachment knowing that we are only here temporarily and that we are destined for much higher things. When we come from abundance rather than scarcity we tend to attract abundance to our lives.

And when we love extravagantly, we tend to attract extravagant love. Radha & Krishna are the epitome of extravagant love. If we are to be their devotees, we have to become like them. We can become channels of their love and spread it to all we meet. This is what the world need most—extravagant love. I and others have said, “Love is the answer.” When we learn to love one another, all the world’s problems will be solved. God & Goddess are love. Their presence is invoked whenever we love. As the love spreads, the whole world becomes spiritualized. As we focus our life on pure love of the Divine Couple, that love grows and will carry us to them.

“To Raghunath Das, Chaitanya said, ‘Be patient and return home. Don’t be a crazy fellow. By and by, you will be able to cross the ocean of material existence. You should not make yourself a show-bottle devotee and become a false renunciate. For the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way but do not become attached to it. Within your heart, you should keep yourself very faithful, but externally you may behave like an ordinary person. Thus, Krishna will soon be very pleased and deliver you from the clutches of illusion.’ Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya 126.237-239” (pp 60-61)

I consider this to be one of the most important scriptural passages for guiding our devotional life. Our spiritual practices are primarily an internal process we perform with our spiritual body. It is a process of adopting the mood, form, love and service of the residents of Vrindaban. This must be done in all circumstances.

However, our external circumstances may vary greatly according to our nature, occupation, place of residence, social standing, etc. We can act according to the standards of society. We don’t have to be in people’s faces with our beliefs. We don’t have to be different. Others may not even know we are a devotee, but hopefully they sense that we seem to be kinder, more loving, more compassionate, more giving than others. Thus, we are able to enjoy a normal life in society and cultivate pure love at the same time. This is a healthy, holistic approach to life.

“All that is necessary is the internal steadiness of the devotee in order to achieve success. A mere external show of steadiness is only a false display for others to see. However, if there is a real internal devotion and steadiness, very quickly the bondage of the material world will disappear. Pure knowledge and pure detachment will certainly increase as that genuine devotion increases.” (p 61)

This is an internal process. One need not adopt all the external signs and practices of Indian devotees. The goal is not to become an Indian, but to become an associate of Radha & Krishna. Therefore, the cultural externals may be given up as long as one maintains the internal practices. Therefore, spontaneous devotional service may be practiced by anyone, anywhere. Gradually, one will see one’s life transformed into the spiritual world.

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