Calcutta, West Bengal, India — Friday, June 30th

Laziness is sinful

The other morning Srila Gurudeva said: "Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, was a materialist, but he had a good slogan: aram haram haya (laziness is sinful). A life of ease is not good for you. An idle life (aram) is sinful (haram)."

I was reminded of my mom's favorite proverb: "the devil finds work for idle hands." We hated that expression because it almost always preceded some chore, but mom was right: whenever we had nothing to do, we invariably got into some sort of mischief.

What is idleness?

When Yudhisthir Maharaj was asked this question by Dharmaraj, the Lord of Religion, in the Mahabharata, Yudhisthir replied, "Idleness is not performing one's duties."

Recently I was listening to an old lecture by Srila Sridhar Maharaj on my iPod when a devotee (who could just as easily have been me!) said: "Sometimes my mind disturbs me and I become very lazy. Sometimes I don't like to get up in the morning; I like to sleep in, and I don't like to chant my rounds. At this time I have very little attraction for any devotional activities. What can I do to not fall into this condition?"

"Good association is the only medicine" for such a condition, Srila Guru Maharaj replied. "If you keep yourself in the association of the higher devotees for whom you have some regard, they will help you to get rid of your laziness. Association is the most powerful means to convert from one state to another. Bad association takes you in one direction, good association in another.

"The shastra (scripture) can also help, but the shastra is passive. The sadhu (saint) is active, and active help is necessary. If you put yourself in the charge of a sadhu whom you admire, you won't be able to avoid his request, his order. If you live with such a sadhu, he will take care of you and guide you towards your destination."

Without good association, Srila Sridhar Maharaj continued, "you may go away because... your former expectations, your spiritual prospects become vague and begin to fade, and that brings despair and depression, but if you associate with a sadhu and get some responsible duty from him, that can help.

"The environment is drawing you towards it for exploitation. Idleness and sleep (tamo-guna) and the exploiting tendency (raja-guna) are enemies. If possible, try to engage in some responsible service under the direction of a devotee that you respect, that you revere. Responsibility automatically engages you in activity, and that will take you up again. Rise up with energy and engage in service!"

We are never advised to stop working, to be idle. In the Bhagavad Gita (3:8), Krishna says to Arjuna:

niyatam kuru karma tvam / karma jyayo hy akarmanah
sarira-yatrapi ca te / na prasiddhyed akarmanah

"Perform your prescribed duty, for action is better than inaction. A man cannot even maintain his physical body without work."

We all have our duty, our seva, our service to Srila Gurudeva. If we try to sincerely discharge that service duty under his direction, we won't be vulnerable to the sin of laziness.

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Layout by iMonk — June 30th, 2006.