Material progress centers on having what we want; spiritual progress, on wanting what we have
Some people feel that taking to spiritual life means abandoning all efforts to progress in life. But their feeling stems from an unexamined assumption: progress means material progress alone. Spiritual life involves progress too, but of a different kind.
In material life, progress frequently means procuring, possessing and parading the things we want: gadgets, clothes, cars and so forth. But such a conception of progress keeps us perpetually dissatisfied. Why? Because firstly, the world constantly keeps coming up with new-looking things; and secondly, today’s aggressive advertising keeps bringing these things on our sensory pathways. Such glamorization makes the pursuit of material progress an ever-moving, never-reachable target – a mirage.
Does being progressive necessitate sentencing ourselves to perpetual dissatisfaction? No, provided we choose an alternative conception of progress. Spiritual progress centers on appreciating the value of what we have: Krishna, the Lord of the Goddess of Fortune – the all-attractive supreme being who is already present in our heart.
Krishna is eternally the source of the supreme satisfaction. And we can relish that satisfaction if we absorb our consciousness in his remembrance and service. But just as a child infatuated with a toy may turn its mouth away from a delicacy, we unintelligently turn our consciousness away from Krishna because of our desires for worldly things.
We can counter such desires by practicing bhakti-yoga, which redirects our heart towards Krishna. The more we start wanting what we have – the presence of Krishna and the opportunity to remember and serve him – the more we relish sublime spiritual happiness. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (06.22) states that the most progressive spiritualists who have perceived the highest spiritual reality feel that nothing higher remains to be gained. That is, the zenith of spiritual progress makes them perfectly and perennially satisfied in Krishna.
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