One who is regulated in habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system. (Bhagavad Gita 6.17)
We often feel pulled in different directions. We often feel life’s expectations have taken control of us. How to be peaceful and happy while adjusting to the demands of our varying roles? Balance is the answer. A car has four tires. If one of them has too much air, our drive will be bumpy. In the same way, if our life is off balance, we will feel the bumps on the road of life – even if there are none.
Primarily an individual has four areas in life: physical, emotional, professional and spiritual. Sometimes we tend to neglect our health in pursuit of our career goals: money, promotion, power. Other times we compromise our spiritual practices being immersed in our family duties. If we do anything in extremes, our mind and body do not function at an optimum condition. We, therefore, need to learn the art of balancing every aspect of our life based on the principles of the Bhagavad Gita.
Our body is like a car. It needs proper maintenance. Ayurveda recommends three pillars for a healthy lifestyle: proper food, regular exercise and sufficient rest. Bhagavad Gita explains that one should neither eat too much nor eat too little. One should neither sleep too much nor too little. And further, the Gita says that our body is like a machine. We need to oil this machine through some regular exercises to beat the stagnancy of our modern lifestyles.
In the bhakti tradition, the body is considered to be the property and a gift of God. My guru Srila Prabhupada ended every letter he wrote with, “I hope this letter meets you in good health.” Because it is our duty to take care of our body for the purpose of rendering service to God and humanity – as long as we can.
What are the needs of a family? Loyalty, care and affection. Physically, we care for each other by providing with necessities: housing, clothing, and health. But emotional care is equally essential. We have a responsibility to make each other happy through appreciation and encouragement.
Once I was at the home of a rich couple at Illinois. Though extremely rich, they had to work a lot to sustain the wealth they had. Their son, playing in the basement of their huge mansion had toys worth thousands of dollars: high-tech computerized machines, games and weapons. The boy would play with a toy for a while, but soon got bored of it and wanted another one. He was basically dissatisfied because his parents didn’t provide him what he really wanted – attention, affection and love.
Some ladies complain that their husband does not care for them and does not like the food they cook. When I ask the husbands, they reply that they do care for their wife and do like what they prepare. The problem lies in the lack of communication. Sometimes in marriage, we communicate with everybody except the person we are living with. Honest communication – where we express our appreciation and affection for each other in such a way that we encourage each other – is very critical for a loving relationship.
In the bhakti tradition, we see every member of our family as the child of God and ourselves as their caretakers on behalf of God. And when we keep God in the center of our family, we become more committed to each other. A family that prays together stays together!
Greed for wealth, power, prestige, name and fame is a source of misery because it never gets satisfied. Its demand increases more and more, despite of our efforts to pacify it. It is compared to feeding a blazing fire. No matter how much fuel you put in, the fuel gets consumed in seconds.
We tend to become so passionately immersed in our career goals that we eventually suffer excessive mental stress.
At the same time, if we do not work hard enough, we will not succeed. But success is not how much money we make and how much power we obtain. Real success is in the values with which we work.
Many people say that work is worship. But worship of whom? Work becomes worship if it is consciously and lovingly offered as a service to God according to God’s desires. In the Mahabharath we hear about Arjuna and Duryodhana; both had the same occupation—fighting. Arjuna heard Gita and performed his duty as a selfless sacrifice in divine consciousness for the good of humanity. But Duryodhana fought for his own prestige and power impelled by selfish greed, without any respect for the word of God.
In the bhakti tradition, we do not reject the things of this world. We use everything including our resources, talents, skills and abilities in service of God and humanity, without attachment and pride. Bhagavad Gita explains that such work liberates us from bondage to this world, and brings peace and tranquility to our lives.
If storms have never come in our life, they will come for sure, because that is the nature of this world. Just like a coin has two sides, this world is built on the principle of duality: victory and defeat, success and failure, honor and dishonor, pleasure and pain, health and disease. If we are attached to honor, destiny will eventually flip us onto the side of dishonor; if we are attached to success, destiny will eventually flip us onto the side of failure. When destiny flips, we will experience as much pain as we had experienced pleasure.
Bhagavad Gita advises that unless we experience something higher and deeper, we cannot sustain the blows of dualities. A building should have strong foundation to withstand the power of time. Similarly, life should be built on the spiritual foundation of inner fulfillment that comes through our eternal connection with the grace of God. Otherwise, when things do not go our way, our values and integrity will crumble.
A good spiritual foundation consists of three things:
- Our body and mind need food and rest for strength. Similarly, our soul needs the food of spiritual practices for inner nourishment. We need to devote quality time for our spiritual cultivation every day. In the bhakti tradition, we chant the holy names of God, especially the Hare Krishna Mahamantra.
- Birds of the same feather flock together. We need to associate with like-minded enlightened people who inspire, encourage and infuse us with the higher values of spiritual life. We can help each other through discussions of spiritual literatures like the Bhagavad Gita. In such company we can visit holy places like Vrindavan that are permeated with spiritual energy and blessings.
- We need to be determined to live a life of good character and values while we meet the innumerable & inevitable challenges, temptations and fears in this world.
I was once watching through the window of my room. There were different birds flying at various heights in the sky. The little birds were flapping their wings extremely hard but could not fly too high. Flying higher than these small birds was a hawk that hardly flapped his wings. He was just floating. How does he do that? Balance. The small birds seemed to be vigorously working even to withstand the gentle winds while the hawk seemed to do nothing. None of the high or low winds could disturb the hawk, because he had learned that art of balancing. We actually become enlightened in the art of balancing when we base our life on the foundation of spiritual practices, proper association and good character. They give us the strength to access our eternal connection to God that in turn brings inner fulfillment even in the midst of all chaos. Such art of balancing is the key to success for a smooth drive on the journey of our life.