Success. What does that even mean? What’s its definition? This is what we’ll be talking about, the keys to a successful life. It is inseparable from our view of our self. You cannot separate what is success, what is the meaning of success, and how to achieve that success without understanding who we are.
5000 years ago, Krishna spoke to the Pandava prince, Arjuna, who was going through a great struggle in his life. He was filled with doubt and confusion. In this state, Arjuna turns to Krishna who was his charioteer in this particular battle. He asks Krishna “please instruct me, please help me out of this predicament.” In this condition of being overwhelmed with grief, Arjuna turns to Krishna for guidance. The whole Bhagavad Gita is Krishna responding to the questions of Arjuna of how to overcome what he is going through. Similarly, these truths that Krishna spoke to Arjuna 5000 years ago are also applicable to our struggles in life. The struggles are not different to what Arjuna was going through.
500 years ago, Sanatana Goswami asked his spiritual teacher, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, “People tell me I am rich, I am well educated but factually I do not know who I even am. I have no idea. What is the purpose of my life? How do I overcome the suffering I am experiencing?”
These sufferings or problems caused by one’s body and mind. We are troubled by pains that the body gives us. Even trying to sit here in meditation, the body is harassing. The mind can be even more trouble. It is always putting forward some kind of trouble, worry or concern.
Then there are other living beings who are constantly harassing us. Bosses, employees, people on the road, children, partners, parents and even mosquitoes, flies, snakes and so on. Another type of harassment are the forces of nature. Its too hot, too dry, too cold, too icy, volcanoes etc. So what can be done about it? How is it that a materially successful man like Sanatana Goswami is approaching a spiritual teacher about this?
What is the blueprint that society defines for success? There is education and a pressure to do well in school. Being successful in school will mean a better chance of doing well in life. What is doing well in life? Have a good job such as lawyer, doctor, trade. Why is that successful? You’ll have better money and security in your job. We all get swept up in this societal blueprint in someway or other. If we believe that we are our bodies and we have 70-80 years and that the end of the story, then I have a certain amount of time to achieve successful. Then success is inseparable from my body. Name, fame, position in society etc become the benchmarks for success.
There are two ideas in the Bhagavad Gita that shed light and look deeper into this success:
For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.
With this insight from Krishna, we can see our life as being a longer journey and does not end with the end of this body. This is but a spot in time. Being eternal and spiritual, this throws a deeper perspective on success, where to find it and how to achieve it. It’s a longer ‘life’ that the 70 or 80 years.
Success means having a satisfied heart. Nothing temporary or material can satisfy my heart. Why? I am not this body or mind therefore anything connected to this temporary, material world will not satisfy my heart. Even though I have all the material stuff, I am not satisfied in my heart.
The sun ray is inseparable from the sun and emanates warmth and light. In this same way, we are part of the Supreme Soul, the Cause of all Causes, God or whatever name or title you use. Spiritual life means being guided by wisdom and spiritual love. If we are on this platform of wisdom and spiritual love, then our life is successful. In other words, in yoga – in union with the Supreme Soul through spiritual love, this is the goal of life. When we leave this world, these spiritual assets do not get taken away from us. It comes with us and it is inseparable from us. We get to keep these spiritual riches that we have invested our time and energy in accumulating while we have this 70 or 80 years.
In the same way we can go to success seminars – coaches, investments etc, the same is there spiritually. We want to go to those who are successful spiritually where these spiritual portfolios are passed on. This is through parampara, a line of teachers. This lineage of teachers we are teaching from goes back to Krishna, the Original Cause. There are strategies to follow that these teachers have passed on. The central practice is kirtan, hearing, meditating upon and chanting the names of the Supreme. This will bring satisfaction to the mind and heart because I am in direct connection with the Source of all success, the Supreme, through the transcendental sound. If we apply this one strategy to our life, we will actually achieve success. Now it is up to you to apply or not apply. Your success and destiny are in your hands.
I’ll just finish with this one idea. Do I have to give up my career and my possessions? The fact is material riches are all relative. The practices of karma and bhakti yoga means I live a simple life. Simple life will be different for different people. I do what I need to do in life – career, relationships, cars etc but simultaneously I put time and effort and invest in my spiritual success. This is in parallel to whatever else I may be pursuing in life.