The essence of bhakti is not moving backward or forward, but moving upward
Some spiritually-minded people, being engaged in mainstream society with its notions of progress centered on science and technology, pursue bhakti for getting peace, meaning and fulfillment – things elusive in today’s world. They see bhakti as a complement to their present way of living.
In contrast, other spiritually-minded people hold that the sociological, psychological and ecological costs of modern progress far outweigh its benefits. Feeling that infatuation with such progress makes one non-devotional, even anti-devotional, they pursue bhakti as an alternative to the present way of living.
Thus, we have two distinct ways of seeing bhakti: as an addition of the missing spiritual component while moving with the times or as a turning back of the clock to return to traditional models of devotional living. Both these approaches have merit and appeal. Some people, especially those burnt out by contemporary society’s super-fast pace and consequent alienation, may seek, along with spirituality, a radical social make-over. Most people, however, may prefer to incorporate bhakti into their established socio-economic patterns of living, feeling that such adaptability will increase bhakti’s relevance and reach.
The essential point of bhakti, whether we live in urban sophistication or in rural simplicity, is the intention to serve Krishna. This intention raises our consciousness upwards from its present level. Without such consciousness elevation, both moving forward and moving backward in terms of socio-economic arrangements are reduced to spiritual irrelevance. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (18.58) spotlights the necessity of such devotional consciousness: it assures that those who become conscious of Krishna will, by his grace, overcome all obstacles. Understandably, “all obstacles” includes the obstacles posed by changing times.
When we focus on the universal principle of service and contribution in a mood of devotion, we will be guided towards the material adjustment most suitable for our spiritual growth.
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