Practical Spirituality

Pṛthu would ask, “What is the practical difference between a person who bases their identity on an externalized, false self, and a person who bases their identity on you, the internal root of their self?”

Having already explained that people with externalized self-concepts exhaust and frustrate themselves with external endeavors, Viṣṇu now explained the fruits obtained by the others. “Those who see me as the eternal essence of their root identity,” he said, “develop sincere interest in me, and great adoration for me. This gradually fills their hearts with satisfaction and peace.

“Their inner satisfaction makes them completely lose interest in external attractions. Their broadened minds see equal value in everything, which brings them into unity with the completely placid state of spiritual oneness.”

“Why do they see everything as being of equal value?” the emperor would ask.

“They attain this beautiful vision,” Viṣṇu explained, “because they know the soul to be the origin of everything in this world – every object, every perception, and every action. Thus everything seems equally valuable, for everything is based on their soul. Yet they also realize that all these things are extrinsic projections from the soul, who can only glance at them from afar. Therefore everything seems equally worthless.”

Viṣṇu recapped his message, “The placid state of spiritual oneness arises when you become indifferent to good and bad. You will become indifferent to good and bad when you are illuminated by the knowledge that everything good and bad is nothing but your soul projecting consciousness into extrinsic identities, activities, and objects that flow incessantly from the fascinating qualities of external nature. You will become illuminated by this knowledge when you bind your heart to me as the root of your very identity.”

The emperor felt a surge of inspiration to strive for this. Viṣṇu cautioned him that it need not involve giving up his important duties as a protector of others. “O Hero,” he said, “You should see everything and everyone as a reflection of me, and serve and protect them all! Your senses and mind should experience the same value in pleasant and unpleasant things and people, regardless of whether they seem to be superior, average, or inferior!”

“What will become of a king who dedicates himself to protecting the people?” Pṛthu might wonder.

“One who truly protects his subjects,” Viṣṇu replied, “receives a sixth of the credit for their good deeds; but one who merely taxes without truly caring for his subjects receives the discredit for all their foul deeds. To truly protects and not exploit his subjects, a leader follows the moral principles established by great philosophers, and helps his followers do the same. The world quickly comes to adore such a person, and all perfections place themselves within his grasp.”

Pṛthu looked at Viṣṇu with eyes that overflowed with grateful love. Viṣṇu looked back at him with the same vivid affection. “O Indra of Mankind,” Viṣṇu said, “I am difficult to captivate by sacrifices. I am not easily attained by self-sacrifice either. And I am merely neutral towards those whose consciousness is neutral towards everything. But I am completely captivated by people who protect others in this manner, as you do so well. Your wondrously affectionate character has captivated my heart. Ask a benediction from me, anything you like. Please.”

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto
[4.20.9 – 16]
By Vraja Kishor []
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