Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!
The Narada Bhakti Sutra is our guide for a while… the nature of Love (with the capital 'ell') and a full exploration of it. As always, you are encouraged to seek out the full text from Chinmaya Publications (links in side-bar); but for those who prefer e-readers, this version is recommended. Whilst awareness and interest can be raised by these posts on AV-blog, they cannot substitute for a thorough reading and contemplation...and practice!
Chapter Six, Section Two - Obstacles to Practice.
Na t iTsÏaE laekVyvharae hey> ik<tu )lTyag> tTsaxn< c kayRmev.62.
Na tat-siddhau lokavya-vahaaro heyaH kimtu phala-tyaagaH cha kaaryam-eva ||62||
For as long as (Bhakti) is not yet attained, worldly activity must not be abandoned; but at the same time that (Bhakti) must be diligently pursued by the renunciation of the gain (phala = 'fruit') from such activities.
This sutra refers to the advice of the Bhagavad Gita that, for the majority of us, the highest spiritual goal is to be worked for and in order to do that we can utilise our daily work and tasks to the purpose. To do this, we must not anticipate more from the actions than they deserve. Fine, yes, we must earn a wage, but the 'fruit' being referred to here is the more subtle stuff which goes with our actions… expectations of certain outcomes, of praises, of kudos and so on. All these are of the ego and thus the ego must be extracted from our activity and, further, the activity dedicated to the Lord.
There are duties associated with life which must be attended and here the Guru is saying, do not ignore these as you seek the Higher, but rather, transform them into 'sacrifices at the altar', as it were. To leave one's work or family or responsibilities, declaring the abandonment as being for 'spiritual reasons', is rarely a valid thing! All too often it is escapism and not wishing to face up to the responsibilities of life.
Nothing at all need be given up in order to live spiritually! Indeed, it must not. The Omniscient One knows exactly what 'tempering' is required for each individual and living life is the 'pan' in which that tempering takes place. Within each life, opportunities and situations are presented in which we can 'burn' our vaasanas, or be challenged to see if we commit the same mistakes again or have learned enough to move into a higher plane. To protest and complain about our lives is to miss the point of it completely. We have exactly the life we have earned.
No matter if our karmic balance has resulted in our birth into happy circumstances or dismal depths, if we have brought with us sufficient spiritual skill, we will know that we must make the most of what we have and seek to better the situation. The true devotee makes no complaint, neither becomes complacent - the bhakta, regardless of being born to wealth or poverty, will seek to surrender all thoughts and deeds to the Higher and to rise out of the physical life altogether, reuniting with Self Supreme. Even those with excess material wealth cannot be truly happy if they do not have a purpose and meaning beyond the material. Those born to poverty who have the bhakta's heart, will know that the opportunity to rise comes from tweaking the mental attitude to one of service and gratitude without angst or complaint. No matter where we find ourselves, a constant awareness of the Lord and a desire to not be separate from Him is what will drive our days and bring a lightness of being into everything we do. In this condition, we minimise worries and maximise contentment.
The implication of this sutra, though, is that even those who are at the stage of renunciation of the world and who have truly purified themselves, for as long as they live in physical form, ought not necessarily to withdraw from the world. They can still offer much to their families, their community or their nation. Continuing to work in the world keeps the ego - that wily monster - from rising again. Remember, there can even be ego of "I am spiritual"! For as long as the "I" remains, we must remain in action in order to tame it. At this higher level of bhakti though, we may be able to truly apply "phala-tyaga", a separation from desire for rewards from our deeds. Such a one is no longer affected by glory and praise or criticism and condemnation.
Life becomes saadhana; daily practice of offering all to the Higher. Never for a moment think that the goal, having been reached, means that spiritual practices can be dropped. For as long as one is in the world, that self-same world, that mischevious Maya, can reach out and grab you back. Spiritual discipline is akin to that of mountain climbing. One slip can be fatal.
By maintaining discipline and practice, by acting without ego in the world, one becomes an example for others. Even if they are not aware of one's practices and beliefs, the lightness of Being will shine forth and it will be wondered "what do they have that we do not?"