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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Bhaktivinoda Thakura > Bhaktyaloka > Six Foults That Desteoy Bhakti > Atyahara


Overeating or too much collecting


In his Shri Upadeshamrita, Shrila Rupa Gosvami has written the following verse:

atyaharah prayasash ca        prajalpo niyamagrahah

jana-sangash ca laulyam ca        shadbhir bhaktir vinashyati

“One's devotional service is spoiled when he becomes too entangled in the following six activities: (1) atyahara, eating more than necessary or collecting more funds than required; (2) prayasa, overendeavoring for mundane things that are very difficult to obtain; (3) prajalpa, talking unnecessarily about mundane subject matters; (4) niyamagraha, practicing the scriptural rules and regulations only for the sake of following them and not for the sake of spiritual advancement, or rejecting the rules and regulations of the scriptures and working independently or whimsically; (5) jana-sanga, associating with worldly-minded persons who are not interested in Krishna consciousness; and (6) laulyam, being greedy for mundane achievements.”

It is most important to consider the deep meaning of this verse. For anyone who wants to engage in pure devotional service, it is especially necessary to follow the instructions of this verse. For one who neglects to follow these instructions, attaining devotion to Lord Hari is extremely rare. We are hereby elaborating the meaning of this verse for the benefit of those who have a strong desire to attain pure devotional service. In this verse six impediments to devotional service are mentioned—atyahara, prayasa, prajalpa, niyamagraha, jana-sanga, and laulya. We will separately discuss each of these six items. In this small chapter only the meaning of the word atyahara is being discussed.

Many people may think that the word atyahara refers only to overeating, but this is not so. It is explained in the first verse of Upadeshamrita:

vaco vegam manasah krodha-vegam

jihva-vegam udaropastha-vegam

etan vegan yo vishaheta dhirah

sarvam apimam prithivim sa shishyat

“A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind's demands, the actions of anger, and the urges of the tongue, belly, and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world.”

In this regard, the urge of the tongue is the desire to taste foodstuffs. The urge of the stomach is the desire to overeat. If we understand the word atyahara in the second verse as overeating, the fault of repetition occurs in this condensed collection of essential instructions. Therefore it is the duty of the learned readers to find other meanings for the word atyahara as used by the most grave Rupa Gosvami.

Although bhojana, or eating, is the principle meaning of the word ahara1, the word bhojana also means to enjoy the objects of the five senses. Form by the eyes, sound by the ears, smell by the nose, taste by the tongue, feeling of heat and cold, soft and hard by the touch—in this way, the five senses enjoy. This type of material enjoyment is compulsory for an embodied soul. Without enjoying the sense objects, a living entity cannot survive. As soon as the living entity gives up sense enjoyment, he leaves his body. Therefore, giving up sense enjoyment is only a figment of the imagination, it can never be applied in practice. Lord Shri Krishna instructed Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita (3.5-6):

na hi kashcit kshanam api        jatu tishthaty akarma-krit

karyate hy avashah karma        sarvah prakriti-jair gunaih

karmendriyani samyamya        ya aste manasa smaran

indriyarthan vimudhatma        mithyacarah sa ucyate

“Everyone is forced to act helplessly according to the qualities he has acquired from the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment. One who restrains the senses of action but whose mind dwells on sense objects certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.”

Since maintaining one's life is not possible without action, one must work to maintain his life. If such activities are done in the mood of enjoyment, then one's qualification as a human is lost and he becomes like an animal. Therefore if one can transform all his bodily activities into activities favorable to the devotional service of the Lord, then that is bhakti-yoga. Again, the Lord says in the Gita (6.16-17, 5.8-9):

naty-ashnatas tu yogo 'sti        na caikantam anashnatah

na cati-svapna-shilasya        jagrato naiva carjuna

yuktahara-viharasya        yukta-ceshtasya karmasu 

yukta-svapnavabodhasya        yogo bhavati duhkha-ha

naiva kincit karomiti        yukto manyeta tattva-vit

pashyan shrinvan sprishan jighrann        ashnan gacchan svapan shvasan

pralapan vishrijan grihnann        unmishan nimishann api 

indriyanindriyartheshu        vartanta iti dharayan 

“There is no possibility of one's becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much, or does not sleep enough. He who is temperate in his habits of eating, sleeping, working, and recreation can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system. A person in the divine consciousness, although engaged in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving about, sleeping, and breathing, always knows within himself that he actually does nothing at all. Because while speaking, evacuating, receiving, or opening or closing his eyes, he always knows that only the material senses are engaged with their objects and that he is aloof from them.”

Although these instructions are effective for jnanis, still, their purport is favorable for devotional service. The concluding verse of Bhagavad-gita explains about sharanagati, or full surrender. Keeping this in mind, one should renounce fruitive activities and philosophical speculation and accept sense objects as the Lord's mercy. This is known as pure devotional service. Therefore Shrila Rupa Gosvami has said in the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (2.255-256):

anasaktasya vishayan        yatharham upayunjatah

nirbandhah krishna-sambandhe        yuktam vairagyam ucyate

prapancikataya buddhya        hari-sambandhi-vastunah

mumukshubhih parityago        vairagyam phalgu kathyate

“When one is not attached to anything, but at the same time accepts everything in relation to Krishna, one is rightly situated above possessiveness. On the other hand, one who rejects everything without knowledge of its relationship to Krishna is not as complete in his renunciation.”

The purport of these two verses is repeated in Shri Upadeshamrita by the instruction to reject atyahara. The purport is that if one accepts sense objects in the spirit of enjoyment, that is atyahara. But if sense objects are accepted as the Lord's mercy and only as far as required and favorable for devotional service, then it is not atyahara. If sense objects are honestly accepted as the Lord's mercy, then yukta-vairagya is easily attained. Shriman Mahaprabhu's order is to accept sense objects without attachment and chant Krishna's name. Don't endeavor for palatable foodstuffs and fine clothes. Accept the sanctified bhagavata-prasada that is easily obtainable. This is the devotee's lifestyle. Whatever is required, take only that. Taking more or less will not yield auspicious results. If the practitioner takes or accumulates more than necessary, his spiritual life will be lost due to his being controlled by material mellows. If he does not properly accumulate, then the body, which is his means of worship, will not be protected.

The purport of the instruction to tolerate the urges of the tongue and belly mentioned in the first verse is this: The materialist easily becomes greedy to enjoy the finest tastes, and being afflicted by hunger, he becomes extremely agitated and enthusiastic to eat the available foodstuffs. This is a material urge. Whenever this type of urge will arise, it should be controlled by the cultivation of devotional service. The injunction to reject atyahara mentioned in the second verse is a constitutional rule for the practitioner. The injunction of the first verse is conditional, and the injunction of the second is constitutional.

There is one more thing to be said. All these instructions have two different types of applications—for the householders and for the renunciates. Householders can collect in order to maintain their family members. They should earn their livelihood and save according to religious principles. With this savings they should serve the Lord, the devotees, guests, family members, and themselves. If a householder collects more than his requirement, then this is an impediment in his devotional service and in his achieving the Lord's mercy. So saving too much and earning too much are both atyahara—there is no doubt. A renunciate will not collect at all. If he is not satisfied by the alms he obtains everyday, then he is guilty of atyahara. After getting nice foodstuffs, if he eats more than he needs, then he is guilty of atyahara. Therefore the householders and renunciates should consider these facts carefully, and after giving up atyahara, when they engage in devotional service they will attain Krishna's mercy.