Srila Rupa Goswami, in the Chaitanya tradition advises that we avoid niyamagraha. This word has a double meaning: neglect of the rules and obstinate insistence on the rules. By neglect of the rules, one loses their benefit and strays away from the path. By obstinate insistence on the rules one becomes a fanatic or a prig, again losing benefit of the rules, and straying from the path in another way. One should not, therefore, become too righteous. By doing so, one can ruin one’s spiritual life.
The Vedic literature says that one cannot succeed in the spiritual path by trying to figure things out. Rather than the ascending method of trying to know by oneself, the descending method of hearing from realised souls who have in turn heard from realised souls, a disciplic succession whose source is Krishna himself is recommended. This does mean one mechanically accepts dogma. But the path is itself powerful and ignites one’s own self-realisation and Krishna Himself, gradually reveals Himself.
The Bhagavad Gita says: That Supreme Truth exists outside and inside of all living beings, the moving and the nonmoving. Diffusely pervading everything, subtly present in the hearts of all as the Supreme inner guide, that Supreme Truth is ultimately realised as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because he is subtle, he is beyond the power of the material senses to see or to know. Although he is far, far away, he is also near to all. And deep, very deep.
The Upanishads say:
nayam atma pravacanena labhyo
na medhaya na bahudha srutena
yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyas
tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam
The Personality Of Godhead is not obtained by expert explanations, by vast intelligence, or even by much hearing. he is obtained only by one whom He himself chooses. To such a person, he manifests his own form. The Gita also says: The Supreme, the Personality of Godhead, within whom all exists and who exists within all, is attained only by unalloyed devotional service. Because the Supreme chooses to favour his unalloyed devotees, one finds the Supreme by serving the Supreme.
From the Vedic perspective we are all spiritual living beings who misidentify ourselves with our bodies, thereby losing sight of the one inner spiritual nature we all share, and so we sort and grade one another by bodily categories of country, race, class and gender, forgetting our higher identity. The bewilderment by which we turn in this way from spirit to matter, from whom we spiritually are to what our outward bodies are, is what is known as maya, illusion. This illusion is most powerful in the attraction of sex. The Bhagavatam says: The attraction between male and female is the basic principle of material existence. When this attraction brings a male and female together and ties together their hearts, both become caught up with body, home, property, children, relatives and wealth. In this way life’s illusions multiply, and one thinks in terms of “I and mine.” As the Gita says: Happiness in passion is like nectar in the beginning by poison at the end. This sexual attraction is the Lord’s maya and this powerfully distracts us from spiritual realisation. That is why celibacy is advocated in many religions. But for those who cannot be celibate, marriage with Krishna in the center is an alternative and a couple surrendered to Krishna can overcome his difficult material energy.
The Bhagavatam says: A man carrying a heavy burden on his head may seek relief by shifting the burden to his shoulder. Just like this are all our devices for counteracting distress. Shifting the place of the burden does not get rid of the burden. The solutions we invent only shift our miseries around. Though everyone in the world works to become happy, people by their efforts neither achieve happiness nor relief from distress. They simply bring themselves misery. The right course, therefore is to abandon the hopeless pursuit of material happiness and reawaken to our spiritual nature and our relationship with the Divine, with Krishna. Any other course we invent, any other device, any scheme we come up with is sure to fail.
Wisdom arises when one lives in the mode of goodness. Goodness is pure, healthy, joyful and illuminating. The person in goodness will have a naturally shining effulgent face. The Vedic advice is that one should seek a person of genuine wisdom, approach him in a humble and submissive mood, inquire from him, hear from him and serve him. The wise, self-realised person can give us knowledge because he has seen the truth. This transcendental knowledge is sublime and pure and one who has attained perfection by being in connection with the Supreme enjoys this knowledge within himself in due course of time.
In the Vedic tradition, the king was seen as God’s representative and they were wise , noble and gnerous. The Bhagavatam predicted five thousand years ago that in the Age of Kali, the present age of degradation, quarrel and hypocrisy, the kings and heads of state would sink to the level of arrogant plunderers. They will do what they please, will give trifling benefits to the citizens, slaughter cows, wage wars, grab money, land and other resources and virtually devour their own citizens.
This world is a world of maya: where we choose to imagine that our existence is not contingent on an ultimate existence higher than our own, that we are not part of the supreme reality, Krishna. This is also Krishna’s energy. If we turn away from Krishna, illusion is what we want and illusion is what we get. This is strong and powerful and though we may enjoy it for a while, they will always end in failure and frustration. The only solution is stopping from falsely acting as though we are absolutely independent to acknowledging that we are dependent on the Supreme, on Him. Krishna says: This divinely empowered maya is my energy and insurmountable. But one who surrenders to me can easily cross beyond it. The process of surrendering to Krishna is bhakti yoga and that is the solution. We may understand this world to a certain small extent, or think we understand it, but the complex workings of the illusory energy by which God controls this universe are by design, beyond our ability to penetrate. The solution is to surrender to Him and His will and let Him take over our life.
In the Srimad Bhagavatam Krishna says: If I especially favour someone, I gradually deprive him of money, relatives and friends and he suffers distress one after another. He then surrenders unto Me and realises that I am the Goal.