kuru kadindriyāṇāṁ sadā
praṇaya-bhañjanaṁ sarvataḥ |
haṭhaṁ na kuru bandhane
nivasa vatsa vṛndāvane ||
Dear friend, don’t try to please everyone. Your senses are a problem, so constantly chastise them heavily and break the relation of affection to them. Don’t insist on being bound to children, wife and friends, but live here in Vrindavan, my child, until your body collapses. (1.58)
As we saw in verse 1.56, associations and attachments to people unenthusiastic about spiritual life are the principal obstacle to spiritual progress, while good association is the most important positive thing to seek out. The Bhāgavatam nicely echoes these sentiments:
apaśyatām ātma-tattvaṁ gṛheṣu gṛha-medhinām||
nidrayā hriyate naktaṁ vyavāyena ca vā vayaḥ |
divā cārthehayā rājan kuṭumba-bharaṇena vā ||
dehāpatya-kalatrādiṣv ātma-sainyeṣv asatsv api |
teṣāṁ pramatto nidhanaṁ paśyann api na paśyati ||
tasmād bhārata sarvātmā bhagavān īśvaro hariḥ |
śrotavyaḥ kīrtitavyaś ca smartavyaś cecchatābhayam||
O King! Those absorbed in worldly life, who have no realization of the truth of the Soul, have so many subjects to hear and discuss related to their homes and families. Their nights are wasted in sleeping or in sex indulgence and their days either in chasing after wealth or in maintaining their family members. Bewildered, they think their impermanent family members, children and wives will always protect them like a troupe of bodyguards; they do not see the inevitability of their death even though it goes on right in front of their eyes. O son of Bharata! One who truly desires to be free of fear should therefore hear about, glorify and also remember the Supreme Lord Hari, the soul of all beings and supreme controller. (2.1.2-5)
There are so many things to talk about in the materialistic life. Truly the intelligence of the unfocused is many branched. Without some focus, no one can be happy, though centering one’s life purely on ephemeral sense pleasures is a wasted life. This is why the Gita begins by telling Arjuna to make his duty, his dharma, the central focus of his life. It gives a life purpose and meaning. The illusion of family life and worldly duties is that it seems to give meaning and purpose to our lives that is ephemeral.
Even the execution of karma-yoga or worldly duties in the sense of serving God without any fruitive goals, is unfulfilling in the long run unless it leads to direct acts of devotion to God, and devotion without prema bhakti is also pale and unsatisfying. And this is most acutely felt when one is aware of his own mortality.
So Shuka recommends to Parikshit the basic practices of devotion — hearing, chanting and remembering Krishna in his many forms — as the most meaningful activity when one is facing death. All these activities are best facilitated in Vrindavan, and so it is the place that gives life meaning, for what is life without a consciousness of one’s mortality?
The senses are a more constant problem. Conquering the pull of the senses is one of the fundamental, all-pervading essential principals of spiritual life. The senses are, as the Gita says, like a strong wind that pulls the boat of the mind off course. The person in knowledge recognizes the inconsequential nature of most sense desires and does not allow them to distract him from his goal.
ādy-antavantaḥ kaunteya na teṣu ramate budhaḥ ||
śaknotīhaiva yaḥ soḍhuṁ prāk śarīra-vimokṣaṇāt |
kāma-krodhodbhavaṁ vegaṁ sa yuktaḥ sa sukhī naraḥ ||
The pleasures that derive from contact with the sense objects are the wombs of misery. They have both a beginning and an end and thus the wise take no delight in them. One who is able to tolerate the agitation produced by desire and anger is fixed in yoga and is happy. (Gita 5.22-23)
These are, again, the basics. All sādhanās, what to speak of that of living in Vrindavan, require this culture.
See previous 1.57