Often spirituality is considered as inaction. Some view spirituality as a resort for the jobless, social outcastes, failures in life. Many consider youth and adulthood is meant for unleashing the passion within, make it big in life and enjoy and spirituality is something that needs to be looked into after retirement. Thus they are apprehensive to take to spirituality fearing that they may lose their passion. Beginners in devotional service are also often confronted by this question – “Am I missing something by taking to Bhakti Yoga too early ?” If I look back in my own life, I had a great zeal and aptitude towards technology, logic from childhood. I completed my bachelors in Computer Science & Engineering in one of the premiere institutes of the nation. During my college days, I was introduced to spirituality. In my initial days of Bhakti Yoga, few of my aquaintances discourage me often stating that spirituality will make you inefficient and less ambitious. A famous media personality quotes – “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you”. Let us validate these claims by studying different aspects of passion, spirituality and the effect of spirituality on passion.
What is passion ?
Passion as the word suggests is a kind of drive within that is intense and often overpowering. Let us study in detail its effect on various aspects of our life –
- Passion is an intense inclination for a particular activity
If we look around, every individual has interest and competence in a particular trade be it science, technology, business, art, commerce etc. One is naturally eager to learn that trade and is well focused in that trade. This is also confirmed by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita (4.13) that an individual according to his personal trait and inclination to activity can belong to either of the four classes – intellectual, administrative, mercantile or artistic. Some discover it and some don’t. As per the survey done by The Conference Board, USA, 47 % of the employees are dissatisfied in their jobs. One of the main reason is many people are not able to identify their niche thus end up doing something which they don’t like. Such dissatisfaction in professional life can potentially percolate to other aspects of life like social, personal etc. Therefore it is important that an individual identifies his passion(as per the above connotation) and engage in pursuing it to have a satisfied professional life.
- Passion is an obsession for selfish sensual enjoyment
It is a known fact that everyone of us have an inner craving for carnal pleasures be it eating, sleeping, sex etc.. And also there is a great craving for earning money and accumulating luxuries that facilitate addictions like smoking, drinking, sex etc.. A major part of the modern economy capitalizes on catering to these human cravings and intensifying them. The nature of this craving is that if one indulges in it, it intensifies. This is described in Bhagavad Gita(3.37). Such a passion is termed as lust. Often it overpowers our sense of discrimination, moral and ethical values, inner conscience. Excessive passion is one of the most prominent reason behind financial frauds, political scandals, sexual violence etc. This is one of the biggest distraction for the modern youth that distrupts their studies. These passions once they go out of control damages all aspects of life – physical, mental, social, professional. Therefore it is highly necessary that every individual becomes aware of the ill effects of over indulgence in these passions and the need and ways to regulate them.
- Passion is an undesirable emotion, harsh behavior
If we take a look into our lives, there were times when we acted in haste which we repented afterwards. In today’s fast paced world and increased self-centeredness, arrogance, impudence, condescendenceare a common place in personal and professional lives. Such attitude and behavior leads to strain in relationships, relationship clevages and even violence and crime. Surprisingly, this kind of behavior is glamorized by the modern media. This also impels one to make snap decisions, snap judgments etc. Therefore it is important for everyone to recognize the ill effects of passionate behavior and develop polite and pleasing behavior.
In summary, everyone of us possess a set of passions within us. A part of them need to be discovered, a part of them need to be regulated and a part of them need to be rejected. For example a newly purchased smartphone comes with various default settings and default enabled features. The user may find some default features distracting and irritating like ads, unnecessary notifications etc.. so the user will disable them. This is similar to situation (c). The user may find some default settings like volume level, screen brightness, vibration intensity are very high, so the user may reduce them to an appropriate level that is comfortable to him. This is similar to situation (b). The user is interested in a few specific features of a smartphone like schedule SMS, profile scheduling etc. In the first instance he may not be able to locate them, it may take some time for him to find them or he may do so with help of his friends or he may end up contacting the support and ultimately locate them. The user is anxious and not content with the smartphone until he locates the features of his interest. This is similar to situation (a).
What is Spirituality ?
Spirituality is a scientific study of metaphysical aspects of our existence and the world around us. It also makes one understand the influence of the metaphysical reality on the physical reality that we experience. It educates one in the process of correcting the misgivings in our metaphysical and physical existence and experience peace and happiness in this life and beyond. Our real identity is we are spirit soul covered by subtle covering consisting of mind, intelligence and ego and a gross covering consisting of physical body with five knowledge-acquiring senses(eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin) and five working senses (hands, legs, speech, anus and genitals)[Bhagavad Gita 3.42]. The perception of outer reality happens through gross body, the perception is captured, stored and processed in the subtle body and the response is again delivered through gross body. The gross body is like a computer hardware, the subtle body is like software and the soul is like user. One can understand that his existence is beyond physical body through few analyses – (i) Biologically most of the cells in the body are replaced every 10 years, but our identity, memory is retained this implies that our memory, feelings etc. are stored in some place which is beyond physical body. (ii) During sleep, the physical body is shut down completely, but still one is conscious and experiencing a reality beyond physical reality.
Now let us see how spirituality influences our passions. Spirituality influences our passions in the following ways –
- Spirituality helps us to look within and unravel our hidden potential
Everyone of us have a certain conception of what we are and what the world around us is about. Our mind is a storehouse of all the conceptions that we acquire through our education, interaction with different people etc.. For eg – in every country there are certain professions that are glamorized which influences the people’s definition of success. Mind is like a dusted mirror that portrays a distorted image of our self. Spirituality helps us to clean this dust accumulated on our mind and helps us to understand and realize our true self. This is described in an ancient wisdom text – Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.20 We are different from what we think we are. Everyone of us is gifted with a certain talent and interest that we can utilize for our benefit and benefit of others. Hence spirituality helps us to discover our passion and engage it in a purposeful way. Everyone of us have something wonderful to contribute to this world. Taking to practice of Bhakti Yoga helps one to move from the mindset of taking for oneself to giving to the world. As one takes to devotional service seriously, the Lord from within helps him to discover his gifted talents that he can offer in the service of the Lord and humanity. In fact this is the way most of us can render devotional service by dovetailing our abilities and resources in Lord’s service than renouncing them. This is also recommended in Bhagavad Gita 18.46 that by worshiping the Lord through one’s work, one can attain perfection.
- Spirituality connects us to real definition of happiness
Everyone of us is pleasure seeking. In general we acquire definition of happiness from the society around us. But the definition of happiness in any given society is transient. We end up pursuing things that initially promise a lot of happiness but eventually end up in frustration and suffering. Oscar Wilde, an Irish poet remarks – “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months”. Unless we know what we are, we cannot clearly understand what can make us happy. Spirituality connects to a source of happiness that is beyond worldly limitations of time and space. It helps us to regulate our sensual urges and not reject them.[Bhagavad Gita 3.41]. Just like our body temperature needs to be at an optimum level, if it goes below or rises above, it causes problem. Hence spirituality helps us to regulate our passions for sensual pleasures.
- Spirituality helps us to choose our response
Our thoughts influence our speech which in turn influence our actions. Our thoughts add up to make our attitude that determines our behavior. Negative thoughts result in negative responses. Spirituality educates us about our real identity as spirit soul and teaches us to see every one as spirit soul and ignore the superficial dualities w.r.t race, color, education, social position etc.. This enables one to have harmonious relationship with everyone. This way positive thoughts are introduced in our mind that eventually crowd out the negative thoughts. Spirituality also enhances our ability to discriminate between positive and negative emotions. For example there is a person who is interested in sports, then obviously he searches online for sports websites etc. that the default auto-fill suggestions in the search engine will be related to sports. Now suddenly he finds an interest in music, then he starts searching for music content in the search engine initially the auto suggestions will be related to sports but eventually they will change to music. In this way positive thoughts can eventually replace negative thoughts. Hence spirituality replaces our passionate emotions and reforms our behavior.
Bhakti Yoga does not emphasise on disconnecting with the world around us. Rather it helps one to be more conscious and concerned of the world around us since everything and everyone belongs to the Supreme Lord and is divine. It helps us to utilize everything we have and everything around us in the serviceof Lord. In Bhakti Yoga the ultimate motivating force is selfless love in contrast to selfish gain that is often the motivating force in the world around. Just as a child can be well taken care by a loving mother than a hired babysitter, similarly Bhakti helps one to contribute better in the world and be more performant.
In my own life I can see how Bhakti Yoga helped me realize my own potent and redirect it for a right cause. After my college, I ended up as a software developer in a MNC. I was caught up in the corporate rat race with hardly any time for myself. Afterwards with guidance of my spiritual mentors, I began to use my technical talents in sharing spirituality over the social media. I oversee a Media department that broadcasts spiritual seminars over social media, manages e-learn courses reaching to several spiritual seekers and practitioners across the globe. Also I discovered a new interest in analytical study of the spiritual wisdom literature like Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. Thus I find a greater fulfilment and meaning in utilizing the talents I am gifted with for a higher selfless cause.
In summary, spirituality does not destroy our passions rather help us discover our passion and direct it in a purposeful way. It does not reject our passions it refines them and regulates them. The following is a step-wise process to make life fulfilling and meaningful by adding spirituality –
- Pursue spirituality with passion(focus)
- Discover your innate passion(interest) by inner exploration and lend it a positive direction.
- Refine and regulate the lower passions(sensual cravings)
- Transform your outlook from one of passion(selfish) to that of compassion(selfless)
Share the message of spirituality with others with passion(interest)