[The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on April 1, 2010. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
What do we usually desire? To live comfortably, eat palatable foodstuff, reside in a spacious mansion, drive an expensive car and all such facilities. So, what is the benefit in observing the āvirbhāva [or tirobhāva] tithis of Vaiṣṇavas? A mansion can be built easily. If one desires a minister’s post, that is possible, one can even become wealthy if one so desires, however, this will not bring peace of mind.
This is often observed [in this material world]. Baldeo Das Birla [a famous Indian entrepreneur and philanthropist who had a net worth of 10 million pounds when he died in 1956] in his earlier days, he would offer praṇāms to the saintly people who were visiting Gaṅgā-sāgara. Feeling dejected [due to poverty], he would inquire, “Will I never be wealthy?” The saints answered, “All the four directions are open. Whichever direction you go, you will find wealth. There is no stopping you from attaining wealth. However, always remember one thing: Never give up performing philanthropic and religious activities. Build temples for Bhagavān and donate to whoever asks from you. If you manage to do this, you will become wealthy”. So in just one lifetime, that same personality became Rājā Baldeo Dās Birla [in 1925, during the British rule, he was awarded the title ‘Rājā’ or King by the government of Bihar and Orissa]. He became very affluent and would make substantial contributions. Additionally, he was warned that if he ever indulged in intoxicants, he would be ruined. For this reason, no one in the Birla dynasty is given to consuming alcohol. He was begging for wealth. Did he not receive it?
Now take the example of Hitler, who had a desire to become a great personality. Anyone who has studied history knows that previously he was an ordinary soldier. When Italy defeated Germany in battle and literally brought the Germans onto their knees, they commemorated that battle by displaying a plaque – “One race was defeated by the other race in a battle and was made to go down on their knees.” Such great humiliation caused Hitler to fume in rage, provoking him to rise to the ranks of becoming dictator of the German empire. An ordinary soldier became the dictator of the German empire. Could he not attain what he desired? Certainly, he could.
Another personality was Bāchā-e Sāqaw [literally known as a son of a water carrier] belonging to the Bhiṣṭīs [A Muslim tribe who were water carriers or water sellers, a profession that existed before the advent of centralized water supply systems]. As a child he used to clean the drains with the help of a mashqi. Have you ever seen a mashqi? It is a bag made from goat's skin. We read about it, but I also witnessed this practically when we were constructing the hall for our maṭha in Vṛndāvana. One person by the name Deep Singh was called; he would carry water to the roof in a mashqi and do the curing [watering which strengthens the cement during the time of construction] and come down again. So that same Bāchā-e Sāqaw later became the Emperor of Afghanistan [King Habibullah Kalakani].
In Italy, Mussolini was a blacksmith who later became the prime minister. A pauper can become wealthy. One can attain anything [in this material world by working towards it], however, one cannot attain peace.
Thomas J. Bata was the owner of the Bata Shoe Company. There is a saying that the sun never sets in a Bata showroom. Because his showrooms are all over the globe so when the showroom in India shuts during the night, the showroom in New York opens as it is daytime there. That same Thomas J. Bata died by committing suicide. Did he die in peace? Was there any scarcity of wealth for him?
Wealth does not bring happiness for anyone. Happiness is attained by sukhamayī vastu, the [supreme] object of bliss, which is Bhagavān. Until one attains Bhagavān, no one can ever become happy.
So how can one attain Bhagavān?
Bhagavān Himself claimed in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [11.12.1-2]:
na rodhayati māṁ yogo
na sāṅkhyaṁ dharma eva ca
na svādhyāyas tapas tyāgo
neṣṭā-pūrtaṁ na dakṣiṇā
vratāni yajñaś chandāṁsi
tīrthāni niyamā yamaḥ
sarva-saṅgāpaho hi mām
[The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Uddhava, by associating with My pure devotees one can destroy one’s attachment for all objects of material sense gratification. Such purifying association brings Me under the control of My devotee. One may perform the aṣṭāṅga-yoga system, engage in philosophical analysis of the elements of material nature, practice nonviolence and other ordinary principles of piety, chant the Vedas, perform penances, take to the renounced order of life, execute sacrificial performances and dig wells, plant trees and perform other public welfare activities, give in charity, carry out severe vows, worship the demigods, chant confidential mantras, visit holy places or accept major and minor disciplinary injunctions, but even by performing such activities one does not bring Me under his control.]
And at another place Bhagavān said the following [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.14.20]:
na sādhayati māṁ yogo
na sāṅkhyaṁ dharma uddhava
na svādhyāyas tapas tyāgo
yathā bhaktir mamorjitā
[My dear Uddhava, the unalloyed devotional service rendered to Me by My devotees brings Me under their control. I cannot be thus controlled by those engaged in mystic yoga, Sāṅkhya philosophy, pious work, Vedic study, austerity or renunciation.]
I cannot be attained by Sāṅkhya philosophy, nor by the practice of varṇāśrama dharma, nor by the study of scriptures, nor by penances, nor by austerity; Then how can I be attained? 'Yathā bhaktir mamorjitā' - only by ūrjita-bhakti, śuddha-bhakti [pure devotion], one can attain Me. And how does one attain śuddha-bhakti? It is said:
bhaktis tu bhagavad-bhakta-saṅgena parijāyate
sat-saṅgaḥ prāpyate puṁbhiḥ sukṛtaiḥ pūrva-sañcitaiḥ
(Bṛhan-Nāradīya Purāṇa 4.33)
[The inclination for bhakti is awakened by association with Bhagavān’s bhaktas. The jīva obtains the association of śuddha-bhaktas by the accumulated effect of spiritually pious activities performed over many years.]
Bhakti, devotion unto Bhagavān, is attained only in the association of devotees. That is why glorifying the devotees and their association is very essential, because Hari-bhakti cannot be awakened by any other method.