Practice dharma for attaining spiritual purity, not material prosperity
Most of the people who practice dharma, in the sense of doing some religious rituals, do so for getting material things. Some people extend this material mentality to the next life; they practice dharma for attaining material prosperity in heaven (Bhagavad-gita (02.42-43).
Practicing dharma for artha (material prosperity) is not unscriptural. To elevate materialistic people to the level of basic dharmic morality, the Vedas provide guidelines centered on trayi-dharma (the material conception of dharma comprised of three phases: dharma, artha and kama [sensory pleasure]). However, the Bhagavad-gita (09.21) warns that, though practitioners of trayi-dharma can attain heaven, they have to come down to earth when their pious credits get exhausted. They are like vacationers living in a hill-station resort who have to return to the grind of daily life once their savings run out.
Practitioners of trayi-dharma like vacationers living in a hill-station resort who have to return to the grind of daily life once their savings run out.
Significantly, material prosperity is not the ultimate purpose of the Vedas – their ultimate purpose is Krishna (Gita 15.15). Krishna is eternal, whereas material prosperity, be it in earth or in heaven, is ephemeral. We are at our core spiritual beings and we can find eternal fulfillment only in pure spiritual love for the all-attractive Supreme, Krishna. Attaining that love is the ultimate purpose of dharma. No doubt, our material needs are important and we shouldn’t neglect them. But nor should we elevate them to life’s – or dharma’s – only purpose.
To protect us from mistakenly practicing dharma for attaining the ephemeral instead of the eternal, the Gita contrasts the fate of materialistic dharma practitioners (09.21) with the eternal and imperishable attainment of devotees (09.20). Both before and after this comparison, the Gita indicates that bhakti is the eternal religion (09.02: dharmyam… avyayam; 12.20: dharmyaamrtam).
By practicing the dharma of bhakti and seeking spiritual purity, not material prosperity, we can gradually relish everlasting happiness in transcendental love for Krishna.
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