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How to Live Simply and Become Perfect

A life of control and and freedom at the same time, the real use of the human body. An excerpt from "Krsna consciousness, the matchless gift." By his divine grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Some tapasya is certainly required. Without it, one can not advance in spiritual life or knowledge. If we simply engage in the animal propensities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending, not accepting the tapasya process, human life is a failure. If one wants to become an initiated member of our Krsna consciousness society, we first of all ask him to undergo tapasya. In the Western countries especially it is a great tapasya to give up illicit sex life, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling. Although we require only these austerities, it is very difficult to observe them. In England, a wealthy aristocrat inquired from a Vaisnava godbrother: "Swamiji, can you make me a brahmana?" The Swamiji replied, "Yes, why not? You just have to observe these four principles—no illicit sex, intoxication, gambling and meat-eating." "Impossible," the Britisher replied. Yes, it is impossible, for in Europe or in America self-indulgence is the way of life from the very beginning. Indian gentlemen often come to the West to learn these indulgences, and they think themselves to be thus advancing. Indians are automatically taught tapasya through their Vedic culture, but they come to America to forget that culture and accept another type of life. The real fact is, however, that if one wants to advance in spiritual understanding and solve all the problems of life, he must accept this life of tapasya—austerity and restriction.

Restriction is for human beings, not for animals. We encounter restrictions daily in our common dealings. We cannot drive a car on the left or run a red light without risking apprehension by the law. If a dog, however, walks on the left side of the street or crosses against a red light, it is not punished because it is an animal. The law therefore makes distinctions between human beings and animals because human beings supposedly have advanced consciousness. If we do not follow rules and regulations, we again lapse into animalism. Apparently propaganda is being made celebrating freedom as opposed to a regulated life, but one who sees things as they are can understand that freedom from all restriction is animal life. Therefore Sukadeva Gosvami recommends tapasya. If we want actual freedom from the problems of life, we have to accept a life of austerity. Bondage to material life is the only other alternative.

What is tapasya? What is austerity? The first principle of austerity is brahmacarya, restricted sex life. The real meaning of brahmacarya is complete celibacy, and according to Vedic culture in the beginning of life one should strictly follow the regulations of brahmacarya. When he is grown up, the brahmacari can marry and become grhastha, and as a grhastha he can have sex, but in the brahmacarya life strict celibacy is the rule. In the present age people have become degraded for want of tapasya because they are not taught how to execute tapasvi life. Criticism for its own sake will not do; one must be effectively trained in the life of tapasya.

In the Vedas it is said that those who execute a regulated life of tapasya are brahmanas. Etad aksaram gargi viditvasmal lokat praiti sa brahmanah/ etad aksaram gargy aviditvasmal lokat praiti sa krpanah. Everyone is dying, for no one can live here permanently, but one who dies after executing a life of tapasya is a brahmana, and one who dies like a cat or dog, without executing tapasya, is called a krpana. These two words are used frequently in Vedic literature—brahmana and krpana. Krpana means "miser" and brahmana refers to a liberal, broad-minded person. Brahma janatiti brahmanah: One who knows the supreme, the Absolute Truth, is a brahmana, but one who does not know is an animal. This is the difference between animal and man; man, to deserve the name, must be educated to understand the Absolute Truth. Because human life is meant for knowledge, there are schools and colleges, philosophers and scientists and mathematicians. The processes of eating, sleeping, mating and defending need not be taught, for they are learned instinctively. Human life is obviously meant for more. It is meant for tapasya and knowledge.

There are descriptions in the Vedas of brahmacarya, celibacy, which characterize the beginning of a life dedicated to tapasya: Smaranam kirtanam kelih preksanam guhyabhasanam/ sankalpo 'dhyavasayas ca kriya-nirvrttir eva ca (Sridhara 6.1.12). To properly execute celibacy, one should not even think or even talk of sex life. Reading modern literature and newspapers which are filled with sexual material is also against the principles of brahmacarya. Similarly, indulging in sex in any way, looking at and whispering with girls, and determining or endeavoring to engage in sex life are all against the principles of brahmacarya. One executes real brahmacarya when all these activities come to a halt.

By austerity, celibacy, and control of the mind and senses one can advance in pure life. Similarly, advancement can be made through charity properly directed. That is called tyaga, renunciation. If one has a million dollars, he should not keep it, but, as long as it is within his jurisdiction, he should spend it for Krsna. Money or energy is properly utilized when it is directed to Krsna.

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