In Excess of Our Quota

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Though Lord Krishna is supplying all our needs, for our benefit He may choose to sometimes restrict the supply.

Every living being requires air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, a place to live, and some work or activity. Any restriction on these for us is sure to raise our eyebrows, if not our anger.

If that were not enough, we feel pinched even when we get less than what we're accustomed to. One person lives in a mansion, drives a fine car, and eats at a dozen restaurants. Another lives in a hut, keeps a few animals, and feels proud of his stock of grains and potatoes. No matter what providence has allowed for them, neither wants to be limited to less.

The experience of restriction is relative to conditioned expectations. While one person accepts the conditions of a life of constant restriction, another expects or demands abundance. Still, no one's wealth can guarantee happiness and good health.

Why does restriction gnaw at us, and what is the solution? The succinct instructions of Sri Ishopanishad and Sri Upadeshamrita are torchlights to illuminate the complicated matrix of needs and wants in our world of modern material accouterments.

Why Restriction?

The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance. (Sri Ishopanishad, Invocation)

Every emanation from Krishna is a complete unit, and each of us, as pure spiritual beings, lacks nothing for our existence. So how do perfectly equipped complete units experience restriction? When the soul ignores the Personality of Godhead, restriction begins. Our own minute completeness faces limitation the moment we disassociate ourselves from the Supreme. Our full potential for bliss, knowledge, and eternal existence is put on hold.

Consider the example of fire and sparks. Sparks sometimes jump out of a fire, fall through the air, and become extinguished. Similarly, we fall into restriction when we disassociate ourselves from the greatest source of fire and light, the original source of everything that exists. Restriction of God’s resources comes from our being distanced from Him, but Krishna, our ever well-wisher, sends us a quota for living a balanced, happy life.

Our Natural Quota

In his commentary on Sri Ishopanishad Srila Prabhupada gives lucid examples from nature to illustrate “quota.” The cow gives her milk and does not drink any. All she wants is some grass and a place to stand. She's content to accept that as her quota. Another animal, the tiger, never hunts for wheat, rice, or cow’s milk because its quota is flesh. All animals live in strict adherence to the laws of nature. Human beings must also adhere to a certain natural quota. In Sri Upadeshamrita (verse 2, purport) Srila Prabhupada writes:

According to nature’s arrangement, living entities lower on the evolutionary scale do not eat or collect more than necessary. Consequently in the animal kingdom there is generally no economic problem or scarcity of necessities. If a bag of rice is placed in a public place, birds will come to eat a few grains and go away. A human being, however, will take away the whole bag. He will eat all his stomach can hold and then try to keep the rest in storage. According to scriptures, this collecting of more than necessary (atyahara) is prohibited. Now the entire world is suffering because of it.

Only a human being has the freedom to choose to either transgress the laws of nature or dutifully respect them in submission to the Supreme. Krishna has created laws that govern human life, and we must use our intelligence to understand them. In the context of quota, we must ask ourselves, "Exactly how am I implicated in atyahara (collecting more than I need) and prayasa (endeavoring for needless things)?" We can become aware of our needless toil and exploits and inquire about how to transcend them. Srila Prabhupada writes, "If our endeavor (prayasa) is not to inquire about the Absolute Truth, we will simply endeavor to satisfy our artificial needs. A spiritual aspirant should avoid mundane endeavor." (Sri Upadeshamrita 2,Purport)

We all require positive engagement to earn our livelihood, to be responsible toward our family members and society. Responsible action is a requirement of every human being. For the spiritual aspirant, whatever one's occupation, the guide in this regard is the ishavasya principle.

The Ishavasya Principle

Disparity was felt between the communists and the capitalists during the last century. Srila Prabhupada mentions them in Sri Upadeshamrita as examples of the weakness of political ideologies that fall short of sound spiritual insight.The communists wanted to nationalize the wealth of the citizens, while the capitalists encouraged the people in economic development. This led to quibbling over how wealth should be utilized, the cold war, and the arms race (which is still running). Only in a God-centered society can people peacefully agree on who is the ultimate source – and thus the owner – of all wealth, who it should be used for, and how. Srila Prabhupada called this the ishavasya principle. As Sri Ishopanishad (Mantra 1) states: "Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong."

As Prabhupada gave the example of the communists and the capitalists, I would like to present two modern conflicted sections of society – namely, the environmentalists and the industrialists. Like the communists and the capitalists, both groups engage themselves in atyahara, over-collection, and prayasa, over-endeavor. Industrialists serve mankind by combining natural resources with modern technology to produce a variety of desired products, and they glean excellent profit. Environmentalists devise research, projects, and complex legislations to curb human exploitation of the natural environment and protect nature. One party is a clever exploiter of natural resources, the other an indignant rescuer of natural resources. On both sides there is the ardent desire to use for their own purposes what God intends to be used for everyone's welfare. No workable agreement is foreseeable.

However well meaning or not well meaning they may be, when people take more interest in the material side of life, forgetting their real interest of self-realization, they are misdirected. They only quibble and quarrel. Like every unit that emanates from the Lord, the earth planet is a complete arrangement, as we read in Sri Ishopanishad. The complete whole Personality of Godhead reveals how the earth’s bounty is meant for the complete benefit of mankind. Our proper use of the vast, opulent expanse of our planet’s resources depends on our relationship with the one who entrusted it to our care.

The Supreme Supplier

While materialists take more interest in the material way of life, devotees of Krishna take interest in Krishna consciousness. A pure devotee accepts supply and restriction as the expression of Krishna's love. Srila Prabhupada writes in Light of the Bhagavata (verse 3, purport):

We should always know that God is ever kind to us. Despite our gross disobedience to the laws of God's nature, the Lord is kind enough to look after our maintenance. The Lord distributes His mercy in the form of rains on the scorched earth at times of dire necessity. . . . He supplies rain when we are practically on the verge of death for want of water. God is merciful undoubtedly, but He bestows His mercy on us when we need it most. This is so because we forget God as soon as we obtain this mercy. We should therefore remember the mercy of God constantly if we want to avoid distress. We are eternally related with Him, despite the state of forgetfulness already described above. Bhagavad-gita confirms that the laws of nature are stringent because they are conducted by three different modes. But one who surrenders unto the Lord overcomes the stringency of nature easily.

Sometimes we face famine; sometimes nature lavishes us with rich bounty. Sometimes years of drought occur; sometimes springs pour out of mountains, yielding millions of tons of clear water. Sometimes scarcity occurs, such as when mercantile men stock grains to sell at their whim; at other times the same men cannot manage the surplus.

Srila Prabhupada spoke of how, despite artificial inflation, Krishna continues to maintain us.

From my own experience I have seen when first-class rice was selling at 8 np* per kg, and now that is being sold at 8 rupees. That means it is 64 times higher, but still people are eating, and the man who lives in care of the footpath, he is also eating. So the man in the footpath, and the man on the thirtieth floor of the skyscraper, they are living, and still the inflation is going on. Man-made laws cannot work any rupture in Krishna's plan. Better let us remain now under Krishna's shelter fully dependent, and we shall remain unaffected by all the man-made difficulties. (Letter, December 1, 1974)

Devotees are in the know because of a devotional-service connection to the supreme supplier. They know that restriction does not occur in the abode of the supplier. Economic development is not required there. The trees there are pure devotees and, of course, are never cut down. If they wish to, they can move from one place to another to better serve Krishna. Every entity there has only Krishna as its sublime interest, and its needs and desires are fulfilled by perfect spiritual service to the ever-blissful Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. For example, "The cows that followed the Lord within the forest moved slowly because of their heavy, milk-laden udders. But when the Lord called them by their specific names they at once became alert, and as they hastened toward Him their milk bags overflowed and poured milk on the ground because of affection for the Lord." (Light of the Bhagavata, verse23)

In the abode of Lord Sri Krishna no restriction awaits us. The residents there are greatly satisfied to please Him, and any apparent want or lack on their part only serves to sweeten their exchanges of love with Him. The only "lack" they feel is the desire for more service. In Krishna's world there are no conflicts of interest; every interest melts in the harmony of pleasing the Lord. Every tree can fulfill any desire of the residents to serve the Lord. When we enter that realm, our need to be wanted and loved and to offer our service to others is fulfilled by the overflow of pure, unadulterated love in that abode of the affectionate supreme supplier.

Understanding information about the supreme abode is essential for understanding our duty on this planet. Unless the attitude of loving service to Krishna is revived, the frenzied pace of atyahara and prayasa will only serve to further deprave mankind. Krishna has given us each a quota, and exceeding that will not give us the precious love that is what we are actually hankering for. No wonder we feel restriction. In the words of Srila Prabhupada in Sri Upadeshamrita, “a spiritual aspirant should avoid mundane endeavor."

*From 1957 to 1964, the Indian paisa (one-hundredth of a rupee) was called naya paisa (new paisa, or np).

About the Author: 

Karuna Dharini Devi Dasi

Karuna Dharini Devi Dasi, a disciple of Virabahu Maharaja, practices Krishna consciousness in New Dwaraka, the temple community established by Srila Prabhupada in Los Angeles, California. She cooks for and attends to the temple's beautiful Radha-Krishna deities, Sri Sri Rukmini-Dwarakadisa.

Karuna Dharini has participated in ISKCON educational seminars to better understand the fields of  communications, teaching, and child protection. She teaches a course on Vaishnava etiquette to women beginning their practice of Krishna consciousness.