Paramahamsa Vishwananda regularly reminds us of the importance of the Bhagavad Gita. Once a month we'll share insights into the Bhagavad Gita to help you learn and live its teachings. In today's post, we'll focus on Chapter 3, verse 12.
Written by: Mayuran
The gods, pleased by sacrifice, will bestow on you the enjoyments you desire. One who enjoys the gifts of the gods without offering them anything in return is verily a thief.
Bhagavad Gita, 3.12
In this verse, Krishna highlights the importance of responsible living. We are not an island, but part of something much greater. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are constantly enjoying the fruits of so many things and we have a duty to give back. There are countless systems, processes and relationships that govern our situation. Each one showers us with untold blessings. This Earth with all its beauty and resources allows us to flourish. Many of us are in countries that automatically give us liberty and individual rights. Education and health care are at the ready. We have food and entertainment at our fingertips. There are teachers, colleagues and family members who support and nudge us forward. Even more fundamental however, is the very fact that we have life at all. Somehow we exist. We are living and breathing at this moment.
If we contemplate deeply on these ideas, we can feel truly humbled, even undeserving. I sometimes think that perhaps it is me who is receiving the gifts of life without making enough of a contribution. I wonder if I am responsibly using the chance I have been given. How can I be sure that I am not a thief, taking without offering back?
Over time I have concluded that in the finite period available to us, these debts cannot be reconciled. It is impossible to pay back the ‘gifts of the gods’. At every moment we are taking or enjoying things we have not earned. Even if we achieve something amazing, we have done so on the shoulders of others, using ideas and inventions that were there before us. If that is the case, what really qualifies responsible living? Are we not all just thieves?
As pouring water on the root of a tree energizes the trunk, branches, twigs and everything else, and as supplying food to the stomach enlivens the senses and limbs of the body, simply worshipping the Lord automatically satisfies the demigods.
Srimad Bhagavatam, 4.31.14
The life we lead is not merely an opportunity to fulfil our hopes and desires. It is part of something much grander than ourselves. It belongs to a cosmic process and at its epicentre is God.
Responsible living is not about reconciling innumerable debts, it is to serve and honour the ultimate calling in our life. It is to surrender to the road which is inviting and challenging us to unleash our full potential. This is what it means to walk a spiritual path. When we raise our vision to what lies beyond this material world, to God, then we are living life in the highest possible way. It is the peak expression of our existence.
Striving to know the Divine is not just a path, it is a path that benefits all of humanity. Many have the idea that being spiritual, is to be overly self-indulgent, impractical and in denial of the outside world. But the Bhagavatam makes clear that whether we perceive it or not, each individual is giving back in the best way. Our relationships, our job our country and the planet all participate in our progress. A devotee is contacting the Personality who underpins everything and when this is done all of creation is graced.
Since meeting Guruji, there have been unimaginable changes in my life. But one important thing He has given me is absolute clarity. I know God is real and I know it is possible to attain Him. By making Him my goal, everything around me is nourished. All that I have received is balanced. Why? Because I am using the gifts of the gods to glorify the One who is beyond them.
Once we appreciate the value of life, we will naturally turn to the Giver of life. We have been blessed with so much and Krishna is calling on us to have overwhelming gratitude. This is not just a feeling, it is something that causes us to serve; to serve with excellence. It means raising the bar and striving for perfection. It means excavating all our talent and offering it up for the world to benefit. It means digging deep in times of crisis, weathering difficulties and searching for positivity. Life has made us who we are so we can be who we are meant to be. This is dharma.
To be a thief is to ignore our calling, it is to choose options which are easier and more gratifying. It is being satisfied with doing the minimum and getting away with the least effort. Instead of excelling, we become content and mediocre. Stealing from the gods is to stagnate and hold back in our effort. It is to always wait for others to push us or for circumstances to force us into action. Fundamentally, to be a thief is to not offer our heart.
Guruji is not asking us to pay back our debts. He is not asking for perfection, but to manifest what life has called us to do. The Earth is giving, society is giving, people around us are giving and life itself has been given. Responsibility is taking nothing for granted and seizing the opportunity in front of us. It is about using all that we have in longing service. If we are willing to dive deep, to sacrifice and gamble everything for the Divine, then instead of being a thief to the gods, we become the beloved of the Supreme.