As devotees of Krishna we are neither meant to enjoy this world nor are we meant to renounce it. A Vaishnava has nothing to do with bhoga, enjoyment, nor with tyaga, renunciation. I find this a fascinating principle and was reminded of it during a walk yesterday afternoon.
While appreciating the sunshine, the beauty of the autumn season at the lakeside and chanting the holy names, I observed the following scene that made me thoughtful: About one hundred meters in front of me there was a mother with a boy. I could see how the boy dropped something without realizing it, also the mother did not notice that they had just lost something. A third person who witnessed it stopped for a moment, looked at the ground and observed how the mother and the boy continued walking. Instead of making them aware of their lost item, that person just continues walking in the opposite direction, most probably thinking: `ok, they lost something, but anyway this is not my business, why bother about it?` When I came closer I saw the item, it was a blue woolen hat. I picked the hat up and began walking a bit faster to catch up with the mother and the boy and gave the blue woolen hat back to them. Naturally, they were very grateful and appreciated my endeavor.
I then continued my japa walk and reflected on what had just happened. Just as I saw that woolen hat and understood it must belong to that small boy and therefore brought it back to the owner, everything we see in this world actually belongs to Krishna and is meant to be offered to Him.
While a materialistic person believes that everything is meant for his enjoyment, many yogis and spiritualists decide to renounce the world and reject everything as an illusion, but a devotee simply wants to give pleasure to Krishna and that's their only motivation. Srila Prabhupada used to illustrate this fact with the following example, which is closely related to my experience:
„Suppose here is a hundred dollar note somebody left by mistake. Now, what is to be done with that hundred-dollar notes? If somebody takes that hundred dollar notes, "Oh, here is a hundred dollar note. Let me take it and enjoy it," that is illegal. And if that hundred dollar note is neglected, "All right, let it remain there. The owner will find it," that is also not good (..) The best is that find out the proprietor of that hundred dollar note. (..) That is real service. Similarly, if we understand that everything belongs to God, so that sense will lead me: "No, I am not enjoyer." So my sense gratification, my anger, my lust, all finished. All finished at once if I understand that nothing belongs to me; everything belongs to God." (1)
The principle of yukta vairagya, of seeing everything in connection with Krishna and not unnecessarily renouncing things in this world but engage them in the service of the Lord is the highest form of renunciation.
Understanding Krishna to be the ultimate enjoyer and proprietor of everything reminds us of our true position as His eternal servant. With that understanding, how can I enjoy anything? Everything is meant to be used in the Lord's service. Just like a nice flower, do I accept this flower for enjoying the fragrance for myself or do I think: "Here is a nice flower. Let me offer it to Krishna“
And on the other hand, there is no question of renouncing either. If, for example, I proclaim „I have renounced an expansive sports car!“. What's the value of this statement if that car actually never belonged to me? If everything belongs to Krishna then where is the question of renouncing anything?
And as if to confirm my reflections, this morning before publishing this blog, we read from Srila Prabhupada's calendar:
„We are neither renouncer nor enjoyer, we are simply servitor of Krishna. Please follow this principle and you will be never disturbed in any frightening condition offered by maya.“ (2)
1 - Srila Prabhupada, Lecture on Bhagavad Gita 5.29 August 31, 1966, New York
2 - Srila Prabhupada, Letter to Gargamuni, November 22, 1968