What is Yukta-vairagya?
In relation to the question of drilling or no drilling within the holy dhama, there is oft-mention of the spiritual concept called ‘yukta vairagya’. The definition of this term is generally accepted to mean ‘we can use anything in Krsna’s service, and to neglect to use something may be wrong’.
This paper is written with the intention to bring light and thereby some clarification to the use of this term, and how it can be applied to New Vrindavan Community and its’ residents.
Before arguments based on logic and reasoning can begin there needs to be definition of the terms that will be used. In this case the term is ‘yukta-vairagya’. Additionally it should be understood that there can be ‘general definitions’ and ‘specific definitions’, with the latter taking precedence over the former if such a specific definition exists.
The general definition of ‘yukta-vairagya’ can be accepted as “Whatever is favorable for the rendering of service to the Lord should be accepted and should not be rejected as a material thing. Things should be accepted for the Lord’s service and not for one’s personal sense gratification. If one accepts something without attachment and accepts it because it is related to Krsna, one’s renunciation is called yukta-vairagya.” CC Madhya-lila 16.238 purport.
Yukta-vairagya application to New Vrindaban
However, Srila Prabhupada did provide a specific definition of yukta-vairagya in reference to its’ application in New Vrindavan. Because members of the Board of Directors, and community residents, are discussing the use of this term in relation to justifying gas drilling in New Vrindavan, the specific definition must be applied over the general definition; otherwise the term is mis-applied, which may bring about a completely different result than what is expected or hoped for. Indeed, the very question of “will Lord Krsna actually be pleased by this offering?” is a completely legitimate question, and needs to be discussed.
Srila Prabhupada wrote to Hayagriva prabhu on 14 June 1968 the following paragraph. Please read it carefully. The original can be found here in the second paragraph.
The difficulty is that the people in this country [USA], they want to continue their practice of sense gratification, and at the same time they want to become transcendentally advanced. This is quite contradictory. One can advance in transcendental life by process of negativating the general practice of materialistic life. The exact adjustment is in Vaisnava philosophy, which is called Yukta Vairagya, means that we should simply accept the bare necessities of our material part of life, and try to save time for spiritual advancement. This should be the motto of New Vrindaban, if you at all develop it to the perfectional stage. And I am always at your service to help you by practical suggestion and assistance also.
Closer look at Srila Prabhupada’s letter
Let us examine this paragraph in some detail.
1. “The difficulty is that the people in this country [USA], they want to continue their practice of sense gratification, and at the same time they want to become transcendentally advanced.”
a) This statement can be applied to the current situation in New Vrindavan, as well as to the institution of New Vrindavan and most of it’s residents. [we need to distinguish the obligation of the institution of New Vrindavan from the obligation of it’s residents]. We are using the benefits of the oil and gas industry yet get all worked up when the source comes into our back yard. We are, by some accounts, ‘NIMBY’, or ‘not in my back yard’. This position can be defined as hypocritical.
2. “This is quite contradictory.”
a) This should be self-explanatory.
3. “One can advance in transcendental life by process of negativating the general practice of materialistic life.”
a) Here Srila Prabhupada is giving us a definition; specifically, how to ‘advance in spiritual life’. His use of the words ‘the general practice of materialistic life’ he defines in his previous sentence as ‘the continued practice of sense gratification’.
b) We want to continue using, in our service to New Vrindavan Community [the institution], to Srila Prabhupada, and to our understanding of our preaching mission for New Vrindavan, the things we are conditioned to use- the comforts and conveniences of modern technology. To justify doing so, we are trying to apply the generally accepted concept of ‘yukta-vairagya’, rather than the specific definition for how to apply this in New Vrindavan.
4. “The exact adjustment is in Vaisnava philosophy, which is called Yukta Vairagya, means that we should simply accept the bare necessities of our material part of life, and try to save time for spiritual advancement.”
a) Here Srila Prabhupada gives his specific definition of this term as he wants it applied to New Vrindavan. [This will be made clear in his next statement] To properly implement the concept, this definition must be used, and not the definition that is generally understood [anything can be used in the service of the Lord].
b) Here Srila Prabhupada is clearly advocating his intended lifestyle for the Institution of New Vrindavan, as well as the residents- ‘we should simply accept the bare necessities of our material part of life, and try to save time for spiritual advancement’.
- The idea of ‘bare necessities of life’ have changed significantly in New Vrindavan since the mid-‘70’s. Presently most devotees have a car, bank balance, computer, phone[s] and so on- possessions that were rare in 1975.
5. “This should be the motto of New Vrindaban, if you at all develop it to the perfectional stage.”
a) No explanation should be required.
6. “And I am always at your service to help you by practical suggestion and assistance also.”
a) Should this statement be viewed under the influence of the material elements of time and space, or should we take it at face value?
- Under the influence of time and space means ‘Srila Prabhupada is no longer with us, so he can no longer help us’.
- Taking it at face value means “I am always at your service to help you”. Meaning today, or at any time. How? That I cannot say, but it falls under the realm of Krsna’s mysticism, as long-term residents have seen and experienced many times.
In summary, the concept of ‘yukta-vairagya’ applied to New Vrindavan means to minimize our lifestyle to accepting the bare necessities of life, and “try to save time for spiritual advancement,” and not that ‘anything can be offered, and thereby should be offered’ as sometimes understood. To apply the general definition here in New Vrindavan is neither a correct nor proper application. Indeed, it can be seen as ‘neglecting the orders of the spiritual master’.
On May 27, 1977 in a conversation Srila Prabhupada said “In the morning we were reading. How they were happy, the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana with Kṛṣṇa and living and cows. That I want to introduce. At any cost do it and… Don’t bother about big, big buildings. It is not required. Useless waste of time. Produce. Make the whole field green. See that. Then whole economic question solved.” From the letter on 14 June of 1968, to this conversation in May of 1977 Srila Prabhupada kept his vision for a “New” Vrindavan consistent, with few changes
Yours in service,