Today we’re going to talk about the core human drives. According to the sages, there are four such desires that rule our lives in this world: bhakti, karma, yoga and jnana. Bhakti is the pure desire to serve the Absolute Truth with the purpose to please Him. Three other types of desires are nothing else but various deviations from love of Truth. They represent different forms of degradation and contamination of consciousness.
It just so happens that we are all a little ‘nuts’. This should come as no surprise. After all, we all came to live in this world of deviation from the norm. So as the phrase goes, everyone has their own little quirks. These are divided into three major categories.
Take, for example, the desire for karma. If I want to serve the Absolute Truth but don’t make it my aim to please Him; if I want to feel pleased and happy myself, this is already the desire for karma, not for bhakti. I want to get big wages, collect my regular salary. So if you pay me less than agreed or not on time, don’t expect me to work further. I won’t even move a muscle. Thus, the desire for karma is the desire to enjoy materially, not spiritually. It’s when we want to enjoy through our gross material senses. We want to possess everything that is sold in the stores – all the stylish up-market stuff our neighbor already has. We want the fruits; without the fruits we won’t take care of the field. We won’t care two straws for it.
What is desire for jnana? This is the aspiration to enjoy subtle matter, craving for prestige or power. Others are obliged to show respect for me, at least to some extent because I’m a well-respected man without doubt… “Do you respect me?” “I do.” “Me too. I respect you from my heart.” “We are most admired people!” drunkards say to each other. So this is probably why people are attracted to alcohol. They hope to feel super respected at least while they are drunk.
In esoteric terms, desire for jnana is seeking relief from material suffering. So many people are craving for knowledge. But they aren’t eager to learn how to serve the Absolute Truth. They only want to know how to gain superiority and release from suffering. I want to become a great scientist, come up with the cure for death. An inventor and a scientist are typical representatives of modern-day esoterics. Hence, there’s so much inventive esoteric nonsense in bookstores! Piercing chakras with the universal piercing gun…
Desire for yoga is the attempt to find and unlock special mystic powers within oneself. What if I can bend a spoon or light a lamp by just taking a look at it? People spend the whole evenings in the kitchen, staring at the matches, hoping to move them with their eyes. But the aim remains the same: to enjoy the physical body and its abilities. This has nothing to do with spirituality. Since people don’t know it’s a deviation, they consider wonders to be the evidence of holiness and chosenness by God. However, deviations of any kind mean only one thing: one engages in spiritual practice to derive benefit for himself/herself. One is not really interested in God and is even less interested in surrounding people. All illusionists today imitate mystic yogis, and mystic yogis imitate illusionists. As a result, instead of happiness, we get a rabbit pulled out of the hat.
Interestingly, as a result of these three types of deviation, one comes to the conclusion that he/she doesn’t need a spiritual preceptor, doesn’t need a spiritual master. It’s because one of the main duties of the spiritual master is to point out these three deviations to his disciple. It appears that a spiritual master hinders such a person from living peacefully, enjoying power, glory and deviation from spirituality. He’s like a school teacher who prevents the pupils from enjoying relaxation. He comes and says: “Stop behaving like hoodlums or you’ll grow up to be dim-witted and useless!” It also seems that our teachers expended little effort; otherwise, why do so many people start feeling stupid and useless at midlife?
If we don’t work on ourselves, the very idea of accepting a guru may seem dangerous. Just see how the contemporary society is afraid of the notion itself. The only reason is that the guru honestly shows us: we live selfishly; we live only for our own enjoyment and are not interested in anything else. Even if a modern man accepts a guru, he prefers to keep distance, without taking advice or associating that much. The picture of a guru seems the safest option. It goes to show that we need a symbol of a spiritual master instead of a real father. A father is always strict – he won’t let the son act stupid. Hence, by choosing and accepting a spiritual master we confirm our readiness to receive chastisement. We just confirm our willingness to hear harsh words from this particular person.
Without the spiritual master, one is prone to mistake hallucinations for real spiritual experience. One counts everything taking place in his diseased imagination as a spiritual insight. Some people claim to hear a voice from God; others claim to talk to God. Some people say that God dictated some new spiritual scriptures to them. If I hear God speaking to me, why do I need to purify myself any further? Why should I follow rules and regulations; pray and study the scriptures? I’m the proclaimer of the will of God myself. I’m the holy scripture: hear me, render honors to me! Make a big fuss over me. Carry me in your arms, or preferably, on a palanquin. This is how one becomes mad with pride.
These dangerous phenomena downgrade the importance of spiritual development. The spiritual path is not easy — it requires great effort. One has to shed an ocean of sweat and tears to reach something really essential. But we don’t want to wait. We have no time. We are busy solving urgent tasks that can’t be shortened to free up at least some of our time for spiritual activities. We don’t want to get purified. We’d like to break into the world of purity being impure as we are now. We excuse ourselves from purification process by saying we simply don’t have time for such nonsense. But we are blind to the fact that we start looking like bums actually. As soon as a bum steps into a subway car, everybody else comes out since it’s impossible to stand next to him. Similarly, so that the residents of the spiritual world don’t scatter in different directions, we simply won’t be let into. At the entrance of the spiritual world there’s face control. Two gatekeepers Jaya and Vijaya strictly check the purity of our heart so that no bum could get into the world of purity, honesty, knowledge and bliss.
Therefore, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati said we shouldn’t try too much to see God, but act in such a way that God would want to see us. But we are too lazy to work on ourselves. We are spiritual layabouts who wait for favors from nature. The mercy comes, though not in the form of miraculous purification but in the form of knowledge that we should make our own efforts to purify ourselves. Kali-yuga is the time when everybody hankers after something they haven’t yet deserved.. This is a harmful thinking pattern that brings nothing except disappointment. This is also the way spiritual deviations appear asserting that spirituality is plainly simple. “Keep thinking that you are a saint, and you’ll become one. To become convinced of something, convince someone else.” Such pseudo transcendentalists tell everyone: “You are a saint. Your children are saints. Your whole family is saintly. We are all saints… let’s go have a drink!”
The desire for jnana is of particular interest. A person is so deeply absorbed in knowledge that he concocts his own logical explanations difficult to make head or tail of. As a result, instead of thinking of the Absolute Truth, one engages in mental speculations. One creates a logical world of his own and lives in it. Such an individual overlooks the essence of spiritual growth completely. He is happy to find someone who would listen to him, someone he can share logical revelations with. But there’s no real spiritual experience in that. These are just intricacies of the mind — and nothing besides! Such people have experienced so much emotional pain in life that they are scared to show emotions on the path of development. Logic has no emotions – it is dry and sad. People just explain their ideas to each other. They like it that they can remain completely unemotional.
Sages explain that all these deviations occur because we suffered much pain in the material world and wish to hide from it somehow. Even when we study spiritual knowledge, we are seeking not the Absolute Truth, but relief from pain. We are looking for relief in Ayurveda, astrology, vastu — in anything. We either want to find a formula to get rid of suffering, or immerse ourselves in spirituality to forget ourselves. Such immersion doesn’t differ much from alcohol or drug abuse.
It is also said in the treatises about contamination of yoga that it’s the attempt to drag the Absolute Truth down to our level. I will do the asanas, breathe properly – and God will come to me. By comparison, contamination of jnana is the attempt to quickly rise to the level of God: decipher Him in the treatises or figure Him out by way of logic. Contamination of yoga is the attempt to enter into business-like relations with God. I will do something for Him, and He will do something for me. These are contaminations that slow down our spiritual progress and may even bring it to a halt. So we should always watch our consciousness so that it doesn’t get contaminated by any of these deviations.
Lastly, I’d like to tell an interesting story about craving for bhakti.
After the destruction of Ravana at Rama’s hands, Nikasha, Ravana’s mother, run out of the palace and fled into the forest for dear life. Lakshmana pointed out to Rama that it was a quite strange way to act. Nikasha was an old woman who had suffered a great deal from the loss of all of her sons, and yet she seemed so afraid of losing her own life that she was taking to her heels! It all looked quite strange. Rama caught up with Nikasha, gave her assurance of safety and asked her why she was running away. And Ravana’s mother said in response that she was longing to see many more things Rama would do on this planet. She was afraid to pass away and not be able to witness His lila till the end. To be born on earth when the spiritual lila takes place is such a rare opportunity. To strive to stay alive is really worth the effort!