Question: In a lecture you said that one cannot achieve 100 or 1000 times the result of their sādhanā in the holy dhāma compared to outside it, because the result of sādhanā is already unlimited and one cannot multiply the unlimited. However, there is a cluster of ślokas in SB. 7.14.29-33, which conclude with the statement “Dharma performed in the holy places produces 1000 times the result.” (dharmo hy atrehitaḥ puṁsāṁ sahasrādhi-phalodayaḥ).
There is no clue from the ācāryas’ ṭīkās regarding this verse. Does dharma here refer to vyavahārika dharma or puṇya karma instead of the paramārthika dharma of bhakti yoga?
Answer: It depends what kind of result you want. These types of statements are for material benefits and are meant to inspire people to visit holy places so that one might get sādhu-saṅga and then take to bhakti. So, 100 times or 1000 times the benefit accrues to a person who is looking for some material gain. See the following verses:
gṛhāt pravrajito dhīraḥ
śucau vivikta āsīno
“A resolute person should leave home; he should bathe in a holy place and sit in a lonely place on a clean seat.” (SB 2.1.16)
The significance of this verse is that visiting a holy place is not for entertainment mixed with some spiritual purpose. It is not an act of socialization but meant to execute one’s sādhanā seriously, regardless of whether sādhanā is to achieve a material or spiritual goal. It is not that one comes to the holy dhāma for a life of comfort. If one’s mood is not proper, one will not get the benefit described in the śāstra.
phala-śrutir iyaṁ nṝṇāmna śreyo rocanaṁ param
śreyo-vivakṣayā proktaṁyathā bhaiṣajya-rocanam
“These statements that describe attractive benefits do not describe the ultimate good for human beings. They are meant to engage a person in sādhanā to bring them to the ultimate good by enticing them, just as one may induce a child to take a bitter pill by coating it with sugar.” (SB 11.21.23)
evaṁ vyavasitaṁ kecid avijñāya kubuddhayaḥ
phala-śrutiṁ kusumitāṁna veda-jñā vadanti hi
“Less intelligent people, not knowing the ultimate purpose of the Veda, become attracted to the flowery words of the Veda that describe material benefits. The knowers of the Veda do not speak in this manner.” (SB 11.21.26)
vedoktam eva kurvāṇo niḥsaṅgo ’rpitam īśvare
naiṣkarmyaṁ labhate siddhiṁrocanārthā phala-śrutiḥ
“While performing activities described in the Veda, remaining detached from its result, and offering the activities to Iśvara, one attains liberation. The statements that describe benefits are meant to entice people to follow the Vedic injunctions.” (SB 11.3.46)
This whole discussion beginning from chapter 11 to chapter 15 of the Seventh Canto is all about varṇāśrama dharma. The topic here is not really bhakti. Verse 7.11.2 explains this:
bhagavan śrotum icchāmi
nṛṇāṁ dharmaṁ sanātanam
yat pumān vindate param
“O Master, I want to hear the eternal principles of dharma for human beings, which is based on the principles of varṇāśrama-dharma. By following these principles, a person attains the supreme goal of life.”
It is like a proverb you may have heard; that chanting one name of Rāma gives the benefit of reciting 1000 names of Viṣṇu (sahasranāma). But sahasranāma itself contains the name of Rāma. So how does that work? The answer is that such statements are related with material goals and not with bhakti.
You have to understand what is service. It means you do activities for the pleasure of the person you are serving. Service is that your intention is that you want to please the person you serve. It is not that I want to gain something from it. Service itself is its own reward. If you are trying to get something then it is not really service. If it has any other motive then you can say it looks like service, but it is not really.
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