Spiritual advancement comes not just by change of activity but by change of mentality
Materialism habituates us to seeking happiness by changing our externals new dress, new car, new job, new house, even new spouse.
When we come to spirituality, we often carry on this materialistic habit of changing our externals. Of course, authentic spirituality does require some external changes, like giving up immoral materialistic activities and adopting the practices of yogic discipline.
But the essential spiritual change is internal the change of our mentality from materialistic to spiritualistic. As the highest spiritual reality is Krishna, the most complete spiritual change is the redirection of the heart from matter to Krishna. This redirection is best brought about by bhakti-yoga, the universal spiritual process that can be practiced in all situations.
However, some people, due to their materialistic obsession for changing externals, may prematurely make the external change of adopting the renounced order. They may mistakenly equate the external change of becoming a renunciate with the internal change of becoming an advanced spiritualist, thereby jeopardizing their spiritual prospects.
That’s why the Bhagavad-gita (03.06) warns that those who merely change their activity by becoming renunciates but continue with the mentality of longing for worldly pleasures are hypocrites. They cheat not only the world but also themselves – they deprive themselves of the spiritual happiness that comes by cultivating the mentality of constantly remembering Krishna.
Of course, the renounced order is a respected part of devotional culture. It provides serious seekers the invaluable opportunity to focus singularly on spiritual activities that help cultivate a devotional mentality. However, what makes those seekers spiritually advanced is not just their renunciation, but their devotion that is facilitated by their renunciation.
And that devotion can be cultivated by all of us by changing our mentality, irrespective of whether we change or don’t change our activity.
“One who restrains the senses of action but whose mind dwells on sense objects certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.”