The thief and the shopkeeper both pray, “God protect me!”
koghuh yehv vahjahraganuh yehrgoussuh gaghohtehn, “Ahstvahdz bah-habahn.”
There was once a shopkeeper. One night, as he closed his shop, he said a prayer, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I pray may the devil be cursed and may My Lord protect my shop from any and all thieves. Amen.” At the same time with the fall of night, a thief was leaving his house. He prayed, “My dear God, I am Your most wretched slave. I have no recourse but to steal for a living to feed my poor family. Let me steal from the greedy shopkeeper. Protect me, Oh Lord, that I may return tonight with enough food to feed my wife and children.”
The question to ask is, “Whose prayer will God satisfy?” It is not an easy thing to be God. Imagine how many prayers He must hear everyday that beg for outcomes that are beneficial for one and detrimental to another.
When materialistically inclined persons pray to God, they ask Him to satisfy their desires. They ask God for desirable things or goals they want to achieve even if it causes loss to another person. Such people want God to become their order supplier. The truth is that God will satisfy our desires to the extent that we deserve, but not as much as we may desire. Pious activities rendered in previous lives and this life result in positive reactions that we are destined to receive. The opposite is also true. Therefore, whatever good or bad we encounter in this life is a result of our previous activities. We are subject to such a destiny as long as we remain mired in material desires, motives and attachments.
Only God knows what deeds a person did in previous lives and this life. His supreme accounting and system of justice determines the outcome. In the example of the shopkeeper and the thief, it could be that the shopkeeper stole from the thief in a previous life. In the present life, the shopkeeper’s destiny will be that the thief will rob his store. Or, it may be that the shopkeeper was a genuinely pious man in previous lives and this life and the thief a bad man. Therefore, God may protect the shopkeeper from theft. The intricacies of karma or the law of action and reaction are very complicated to understand because we do not know the karmic history of each person. Only God knows.
There is another story from the Nasraddin Hodja tradition that presents a different point of view. The Hodja had two daughters. One was married to a farmer, and the other to a bricklayer. One day he visited the one who had married the farmer. She said to her father, “My husband has finished planting wheat. If it rains in the next few days, we will have a bumper crop, and my husband has promised to buy me a new dress. I am praying for rain.”
The following day the Hodja visited his other daughter who was married to the bricklayer. She said to her father that her husband had just finished making a large number of bricks. “He laid them on the ground to dry. If it doesn’t rain in the next few weeks, he will make a lot of money by selling them. And he has promised to buy me a new dress. I am praying that it doesn’t rain.”
Later, the Hodja thought to himself, “The sower prays for rain, the bricklayer for dry weather, and God will give to each his wish.”
Will God give to each his wish? The Middle Eastern story of the Hodja gives the impression that God is an order supplier. But there is a piece of the puzzle missing. Every human being has the ability to desire by his free will. One can desire anything they want. The quality of the desires depends on one’s perception of reality which can range from ignorance to enlightenment. In ignorance, one desires material benefits that are by nature temporary and eventually taken away from us by nature and the passage of time. With enlightenment, we learn to develop spiritual desires that are free of selfish interests and aimed at the unique purpose of pleasing God. The results of such desires are permanent and can never be lost.
As stated above, “The truth is that God will satisfy our desires to the extent that we deserve, but not as much as we may desire.” However, there are many people today who give seminars in which they instruct people who want to believe that the universe can be ordered to supply the desires of ordinary men. One simply needs to pay money to learn the technique of how to think positively and order the universe to supply. The following is an introduction to a course that promises such rewards, “How To Use Universal Laws To Your Advantage – It is vitally important to understand how universal laws work. Only by complying with these laws will you effortlessly achieve health, happiness, love and abundance.”
The attempt to adjust to or manipulate laws for self benefit without paying attention to the law maker and His intention behind the laws is atheism. Laws are made to stop certain types of behavior which are deemed detrimental and encourage other types of behavior which are desirable. In the particular case of universal laws, detrimental is considered anything that takes one’s attention away from God such as selfish sense gratification. New Age teachers purport that man can learn to conform to universal laws so that he can obtain the objects of his desires. This is a more sophisticated method to obtain temporary enjoyment such as sustained sense pleasures, longevity, fame, wealth, power, beauty, etc. But, all these material successes will end as everything material does.
When the teacher doesn’t explain the difference between material and spiritual desires, he misleads the student to think that God or the universe is his order supplier. Material desires are only satisfied to the extent that we deserve by the law of karma. Spiritual desires are satisfied to the extent that they are genuinely free of self-interest and solely for the purpose of pleasing God. Such pure desires are not subject to the laws of karma (action and reaction). This is vividly explained in the Bhagavad-gita,
“One who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth, O mighty-armed, does not engage himself in the senses and sense gratification, knowing well the differences between work in devotion and work for fruitive results (temporary material pleasures).”
“Bewildered by the modes of material nature, the ignorant fully engage themselves in material activities and become attached. But the wise should not unsettle them, although these duties are inferior due to the performers’ lack of knowledge.”
“Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit, with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight.”
“Those persons who execute their duties according to My injunctions and who follow this teaching faithfully, without envy, become free from the bondage of fruitive (materially self-interested) actions.”
“But those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and do not follow them are to be considered bereft of all knowledge, befooled, and ruined in their endeavors for perfection.”
“Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows the nature he has acquired from the three modes (goodness, passion and ignorance). What can repression accomplish?”
“There are principles to regulate attachment and aversion pertaining to the senses and their objects. One should not come under the control of such attachment and aversion, because they are stumbling blocks on the path of self-realization.” (Bg 3. 28-34)
The dualities of attachment and aversion (love/hate), happiness and distress, desire and lamentation, etc. are the result of actions inspired by selfish acts aimed at dominating and controlling persons and material objects for personal gratification. One can understand with proper guidance that nothing in this world belongs to any individual person, but that everything belongs to God, the Supreme Lord. Acting in such consciousness of God, one does not falsely claim proprietorship for oneself, family, ethnic group, nation, or humanity, etc. With such elevated consciousness one realizes that it is impossible to be happy independent of the cooperation of God because the eternal constitutional position of the living entity is to become subordinate to the desires of the Lord.
There was once a mendicant saint who entered the capital city of a king who was very proud of his material opulence. The king was very meticulous about his possessions especially his royal palace. One day he noticed that some poor people had set up a tent in the shade of his palace’s outer walls. He became upset that such rag tag people were daring to live under the shade of his palace walls. The king issued a royal order that anyone who dared infringe even on the shade of his palace walls would be put to death.
When the saintly mendicant heard this stern decree, he decided to camp out under the shade of the king’s palace walls. News of the saint’s defiant act was reported to the king. He became outraged. Accompanied by many of his royal guards, he walked outside his palace to confront the saint. He saw the holy man reclining under the shade of the palace walls in a very relaxed mood. When the angry king approached, the saint smiled and and welcomed him with the words, “Hail to the mighty king of kings, may God protect and bless you with long life.” The king was not impressed. He began to shout, “Why do you defy my royal order? How dare you recline under the shade of my palace walls. I will have your head cut off, you insolent beggar!”
The saint calmly looked at the king without even the slightest trace of fear. He said,
“My dear king, how can you pretend that these palace walls belong to you?”
“Of course, they belong to me. Everything belongs to me in my kingdom,” said the king.
“Did it belong to you before you were born?” asked the saint.
“It belonged to my father.”
“And before that, who did it belong to?”
“My father defeated Shah Abbas whose dynasty ended when he was killed.”
“And when will your dynasty end?”
“Stop talking nonsense you fool.”
“Oh king, the truth is that you are temporarily staying in this palace like a renter. One day another person will replace you and then another and another. Your dynasty will also end like all the others before you. Your claim to proprietorship is an illusion,” said the saint.
The king remained silent. The saint looked deeply into his eyes and a glow of compassion passed from the saint to the king.
The king reflected a moment. He said, “Get out of here before I have you killed.” The saint smiled and walked slowly away.
The saint’s words were poignantly true. We come to this world for a short time and pretend that we own and control material possessions.
For example, there is an interesting story about the Armenian Zeytoun Bible that is the subject of litigation. See the following:
“Armenian Church Sues Getty Over ‘Magical’ Bible
Originally posted Jun 2nd 2010 9:12 AM PDT by TMZ Staff
The Western branch of “the oldest organized Christian Church in the world” is suing the J. Paul Getty Museum in L.A., demanding the return of 7 pages from a “magical” 750-year-old bible that was allegedly stolen during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1918.
In documents filed yesterday in L.A. County Superior Court, the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America claims The Getty Museum “acted in complete disregard” for the Church’s rights in 1994 when it bought “stolen” pages of the Zeyt’un Gospels Bible.
The Church claims the Zeytoun Bible was created for Constantine I by “the master illuminator Toros Roslin” in 1256, and is one of Armenia’s most valued national treasures. The Church believes the book “wielded supernatural powers.”
When the Turks invaded Armenia in 1915, the suit claims, descendants of a royal Armenian family fled with the Bible, with whom it was thought to be safe. Yet, when the Bible was returned to Armenia following WWII, 7 key pages were missing … pages that turned up at The Getty Museum.
The Church claims it learned the Getty Museum had the pages in 2007, but the Getty has refused to return it. Now, the Church is asking the court to order the pages returned, and for damages of $35 million.”
Proprietorship in the material world is temporary and thus illusory. We may believe we own something, but such thoughts are far from the truth. We come in this world empty-handed and we leave empty-handed. The one thing that can sustain us during our short life and after death is faith in God and His instructions. Lord Krishna says, “For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next…One who acts in devotional service, renouncing the fruits of his actions, and whose doubts have been destroyed by transcendental knowledge, is situated factually in the self. Thus he is not bound by the reactions of work…(Bg 4. 40-41)
Reactive work or actions that are performed for self-interest without the desire to please God will always result in entangling reactions by the laws of karma or action and reaction. Such actions bind us to remain in the cycle of birth and death. Take for example the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is an interminable dispute about ownership of land. Two people claim ownership of the same piece of land. Can they resolve this dispute peacefully? If they both understand that only God is the ultimate proprietor, then they may be able to resolve the dispute. If they both claim proprietorship, the problem will never be resolved. They are in an impasse until one or the other prevails militarily.
Previously the Ottoman Turks decided to eliminate the entire Armenian population in Anatolia. They massacred more than three quarters of the Armenian population. Although there are few Armenian families left in Anatolia and very few remains of the Armenian civilization that existed there for 4000 years, still the Armenian people continue to exist with their culture, religion and sovereign country. Massacre or genocide has never been an effective means to erase the existence of a people. The Armenian Question is still a nemesis for the Turkish government one hundred years after the attempted extermination of the Armenians by the Turks. Rather than accept responsibility for the wholesale butchery of the Armenians, the modern Turkish government refuses to acknowledge the systematic, Ottoman government planned and executed genocide.
By nature, people like to carry out the order of a competent and intelligent person. If the mind of an individual is out of control, one becomes the servant of lust, anger, greed, and illusion and serves their whims. If however, one can control the mind and senses, then it is possible to understand that God’s instructions are the best guide for living a productive and peaceful life.
The mind is the focus of the yoga practice. Lord Krishna says, “As the strong wind sweeps away a boat on the water, even one of the roaming senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man’s intelligence.” (Bg 2.67) Later Arjuna tells Krishna, “The mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind.”
The mind should be directed by the superior intelligence. However, the mind can be diverted to the senses that become engaged in sense gratification and it is overwhelmed by the temporary sensations of happiness and distress. A human being has five highly developed senses and anyone one of which can detract the mind from the form-direction of the superior intelligence. In material existence one is subjected to the influence of the mind and senses. The pure soul becomes entangled in the material world because the mind is influenced by the false ego. Ego means “I am.”
It is that subtle aspect of every individual that attempts to identify oneself or affirms a personal identity. When one identifies the “I am” with matter and affirms “I am this body, this family, this ethnic group, this nation, this car, this house, this bank account, this woman’s husband, this child’s father, this music, this type of behavior, this clothing style, this etc.” then the individual wrongly identifies with temporary material things and becomes wrongly directed toward dominating and enjoying such things.
The real ego is identifying oneself as the eternal servant of God as Lord Jesus did by dedicating Himself to serving the will of His Father. Jesus demonstrated the correct identification of self or real ego. He engaged solely in serving His heavenly Father and was liberated or resurrected from the dead and rose to heaven to the right side of His Father for eternity.
The mind should be trained so that it will not be attracted by the glitter of material nature. The senses should be engaged in positive acts of devotion and avoid as much as possible or minimize sensual actives that excite the senses and inflame the mind to excessively gratify oneself. Alcoholic drinks, drugs, pornography, gambling, meat, obsessive desire to get rich and own many gadgets, the attempt to accumulate power, prestige and fame, quest for domination and control over others are all different aspects of the false ego’s attempts lord it over nature and enjoy. A general rule of life is “the more one is attracted by sense objects, the more one becomes entangled in material existence.”
The Vedic wisdom says “For man, mind is the cause of bondage and mind is the cause of liberation. Mind absorbed in sense objects is the cause of bondage, and mind detached from sense objects is the cause of liberation.” (Amrta-bindu Upanisad)
A example of a controlled mind detached from sense objects that leads to liberation, is Lord Jesus, who fasted for forty days in the desert. The devil appeared before Him and tried to tempt Him to forsake His Father God and trust him. Lord Jesus was offered three temptations:
1. The devil said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Mt 4:3 – 4) Jesus responded, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Materialistic persons often challenge believers to show some miracle so that they can be convinced to have faith. The devil similarly challenges Lord Jesus to show a miracle so that he may believe in Him. He asks Jesus to use His Godly powers for himself by turning stones to bread to satisfy His hunger. Jesus’ answer was profound. The life of a servant of God is one of inspiration and faith based on the word of God. If one follows the word of God simply for a living or for a material purpose, his faith can easily be shaken by material adversity. Lord Jesus demonstrates that the life of a true believer is guided not by material motives, but by faith and adherence to the word of God.
There is a beautiful prayer in Bengali by the 17th century saint Narottam das Thakur that says, “My only wish is to have my consciousness purified by the words emanating from his (spiritual master’s) lotus mouth.” The spiritual master is the representative of God who repeats the His words or the revealed scriptures without any change.
Lord Jesus as the son of God was not tempted by the devil’s challenge because He took shelter in the words of the Bible. The Devil demanded to see a miracle before he was willing to believe in God.
The life of a believer however is based on faith in the word of God. He becomes more steadfast by following the teachings through self control, daily practice and good association of other believers. When one is guided daily by the words of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, one sees the hand of God guiding him at every step. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, God gives the knowledge by which one comes to Him to the sincere believer who endeavors honestly to follow His instructions. God’s mercy to His servant is to give the intelligence by which one makes the right decisions to stay on the path leading to Him and not be sidetracked by temporary temptations for sense gratification.
There are three things that can tempt a person: profit, distinction and adoration.
These three desires are prominent in the life of a person who has strong desires for sexual enjoyment. To make oneself more attractive, one seeks profit or money, distinction and eventually worship. The wife of Mao Zedong, Jiang Qing, once said that better than sex is worship (receiving worship). Dictators such as Hitler, Mao, Stalin and others demanded worship which gave them an intense thrill.
Lord Jesus was not interested either in sense gratification, nor its concomitant factors such as profit, distinction and adoration. He was more interested in serving the will of God than serving His own bodily needs. Lord Krishna says, “…without sacrifice one can never live happily on this planet or in this life: what then of the next.(Bg 4.31) Jesus was immune to the devil’s temptations because of His unflinching determination to serve His Father.
2. Next, the devil demonstrated his ability to cite scripture (the Bible) and use it to tempt Jesus. He quoted, “He will give his angels charge of you, and on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91) Satan took Jesus to the highest point of the temple and challenged him to hurl himself down. Jesus refused to put Himself to the test. (Mt 4:5 – 7) Jesus also quoted a Bible verse, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)
The devil, like many people today, wants God to reveal Himself without having the appropriate humility and surrender to the will of God so that such a revelation can happen. The process to create a favorable exchange between the student and the pure teacher is explained by Lord Krishna, “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service to him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.” (Bg 4.34) The student must have preliminary qualities such as humility or submissiveness to show he is free of false prestige. Then he can ask important questions and render service to the teacher. Such qualities as submissiveness, unselfish service and asking important questions encourage the teacher to reveal confidential knowledge to the student. Satisfaction of the self-realized spiritual teacher is the secret of advancement in spiritual life. Unless there is submission and service, inquiries from the learned teacher will not be effective. One must be able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when he sees the genuine desire of the disciple, he automatically blesses him with genuine spiritual understanding.
Passing the test of the spiritual master or teacher is essential. There are two stories that illustrate this crucial point. The first one shows what happens when one fails the test.
There was a disciple of a guru. One day a farmer came with his horse. The horse had a huge bulge in his neck and could hardly breathe. The farmer begged the guru to save the life of his only horse on which his livelihood depended. The guru examined the bulge and called his disciple to bring a wooden hammer. The guru said a prayer and give a loud bang on the bulge with the hammer. The horse seemed to choke and then swallow. The bulge disappeared and the horse was cured of its choking for breath.
The disciple picked up the hammer and immediately left the guru. He wrongly concluded that the hammer had magical powers and could cure all diseases and afflictions. He went to a far off village and set up shop as a miracle cure-all doctor. The next day, a man came with a terrible infection and swelling to get a cure from the new miracle doctor. The disciple said, “I have the cure for your ailment.” He raised the hammer, said a prayer and whacked the swollen neck infection of the man with his guru’s wooden hammer. The force of the hammer strike was so powerful that the man died of a broken neck. The relatives of the sick man called the police who arrested the miracle doctor. The trial date was set. The miracle doctor claimed he learned his medical practice from his guru who was also summoned to appear on the court date. When the day arrived, the first witness was the guru. The judge asked him why he taught his disciple such a crude treatment protocol as striking a man with a wooden hammer. The guru smiled and explained to the judge. “Sir, I am not a teacher of medical science. I am a spiritual master. However, one day a farmer came to see me with his horse. The animal had somehow swallowed a coconut and was choking to death. I simply cracked the coconut with my wooden hammer so that the animal could swallow it. My disciple saw an opportunity to get rich. He grabbed the hammer without understanding what happened and left without my permission. He wrongly concluded that the hammer had some magical curative powers. He is a rascal and deserves whatever punishment you give him for his crime.”
The next story illustrates the importance of genuine humility by the disciple before acceptance of a spiritual teacher. There was once a very famous scholar of astrology in India. He had a reputation of being the greatest astrologer and erudite mathematician of India during his time. The astrologer’s father was a famous and learned holy man. One day the father instructed his son that he should become the disciple of such and such guru. The obedient son immediately approached the guru and asked for initiation as his disciple. The guru informed him that he was not qualified to become his guru because he (the guru) was illiterate and the young man was the most literate and famous astrologer and mathematician. People would laugh that such an erudite young man took initiation from an illiterate guru. The astrologer agreed and left. He returned to see his father and explained what happened. The father became very upset and ordered his son to return and beg for initiation. He warned his son to not return unless he was initiated by the so- called illiterate guru.
The astrologer was dismayed. He had never seen his father so upset and adamant. He became fearful of being rejected a second time. He realized that the illiterate guru was a man of unparalleled spiritual purity. The astrologer realized that the illiterate guru had rejected him not because of his claimed ignorance. He was a fully self-realized soul. The guru must have detected that he (the astrologer) was falsely proud of his education. Such pride blinded him from understanding the spiritual purity and power of the guru. With his father’s help, the astrologer became determined to become the illiterate guru’s disciple.
When the illiterate guru was walking across a bridge that crossed a tributary of the Ganges, the astrologer ran toward him and fell at his feet. He begged him for initiation. The guru insisted again that he was not qualified to initiate such a well-educated young scholar. The astrologer then began to cry. He implored the guru to initiate him. He explained that he was a fool who was puffed with with false pride due to his education. Actually he knew nothing about genuine spirituality. He needed the help and guidance of a genuine guru. He was so desperate to receive the mercy of the guru that he was prepared to commit suicide if the guru refused him again. The guru looked at him carefully with his penetrating glance. He said again that he was not qualified. The astrologer stepped up to put his leg over the fence of the bridge as if to ready himself to jump. He said again, “Please, I beg you, accept me as your most fallen and humble disciple. I cannot live without your guidance. How can I ever overcome my false pride and arrogance unless you discipline me and guide me. The guru was please by his determination and sincerity. He said, “Very well, follow me, my son.”
The second story illustrates the importance of accepting a spiritual guide with humility and submissiveness. The life of Jesus illustrates the seriousness of accepting the instructions of God with humility and submissiveness. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed to His Father, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”(Luke 22:41-42). The word “cup” is interpreted to mean “death on the cross.” Jesus expressed a certain reluctance to be crucified. Yet, when he says, “not my will, but yours” to mean that Christ desired not to go to the cross, but He was willing to set aside his own desires and instead follow God’s will that He be crucified. Jesus manifested the ideal behavior of a disciple who in spite of his own personal preference, is willing to abandon all personal considerations to serve the will of His Father (or the spiritual instructor).
The challenging attitude of the devil disqualified him to receive spiritual knowledge from Jesus. Both the teacher and the student must be qualified by following the spiritual path which requires self-control, discipline, self-sacrifice and a soft heart of compassion, freedom from fanaticism and ill-reasoned opinions not based on scriptural evidence.
The basic discipline to follow is avoiding the four activities of sinful life: illicit sex, gambling and philosophical speculation, meat eating, intoxication. One must replace these sinful activities with spiritual endeavors: regularly reciting the holy scriptures and discussing them, eating only sanctified vegetarian foods offered first to God, reciting and glorifying the name of God and engaging in acts of devotion under the guidance of a genuine spiritual teacher. A teacher or disciple who smokes, drinks, eats meat and philanders cannot understand, teach or comprehend higher order spiritual truths. The devil failed the test.
3. The devil took him (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
The false ego has two aspects: one is the desire to dominate and control nature and men, and two is to enjoy what one controls and in the process become strongly attached to the temporary things or people one enjoys. Thus an eternal individual soul becomes hopelessly entangled with the temporary material objects and mortal persons that he pretends to dominate.
The devil tried to tempt Jesus with dominion and control of all the kingdoms of the world. Such a desire is the root cause of man’s false ego, which is an attempt to own and control part or all of God’s creation. If one has a wrong concept of proprietorship thinking “something belongs to me” when in reality everything belongs to God, such a person will endeavor to “steal” God’s property. Everything in creation is meant to be used for the pleasure of God. When we use things for our own selfish pleasures, we commit sinful activities and become prisoners of our own lust and greed and the laws of material nature entangle us in the cycle of birth and death.
The devil asked Jesus to serve him instead of God, he offered the false promise of dominion over God’s creation. Such a desire is “criminal” and thus punishable if one acts on it. Sinful life begins by forgetting God’s dominion over everything and attempting to own, control and enjoy separate from Him. Our life of suffering begins when we believe such a false premise and use it as the guiding principle of our life.
The correct premise about the purpose of life is the following. Like Adam and Eve, we wrongly used our limited free will and chose to disobey God’s instructions. Our free will is limited to accepting or rejecting God’s instructions. By accepting to follow God’s instructions, we are protected by Him and can live eternally in His transcendental abode without anxiety and fully immersed in the loving acts of reciprocal exchanges with God and His eternal servants. By rejecting, we come to the material world of birth and death where we are given an opportunity to pretend we are a “little god” who tries to establish dominion and control over some small part of the temporary material creation and attempt to enjoy it separately from God. But the truth is that the material world is actually a prison where the inmates are given a chance to correct their false mentality of selfish proprietorship and illicit enjoyment through self-realization and acts of devotion to God.
The beginning of self-realization is understanding that one’s real identity is not the temporary changing body, but the eternal soul within the body that manifests as consciousness. When the consciousness is contaminated with false concepts, the individual tries to compete with God for dominion in the material world. When the consciousness is purified, the individual becomes the servant of God and employs everything material in the service of God for His pleasure. The eternal individual soul within the body is the servant of the eternal individual God who accompanies him as the witness and overseer of everything he does.
Jesus demonstrated that the false of promises of the devil must be rejected when we are trained properly in understanding our real position in this world. We have come here because we turned against God by disregarding His instructions. This errant mentality can be corrected at any time and we can adjust our thoughts and activity to use everything in creation in the service of God without entertaining any false concepts of ourselves as anything but the eternal servant of God. Just as a cashier in a bank receives the cash box in the morning. He proceeds to accept deposits and pay out disbursements all day. At no time does the honest cashier think that the bank’s cash box belongs to him. At the end of the day, the cashier fills out the credit and balance sheet and returns the cash box intact with the correct balance. At the end of the month, the cashier receives a salary for services rendered. If the cashier takes some money from the box for his own enjoyment, he becomes a thief and is prosecuted. If he works honestly never considering wrongly that the bank’s money belongs to him, he is never entangled in legal actions and can live peacefully and without anxiety. Trouble and anxiety is caused by attempting to take something that doesn’t belong to us.
The temptation of Jesus by the devil is very instructive because it demonstrates the ways and means to free ourselves from the cycle of birth and death in the material world. Understanding and following the example of Jesus, the Son of God, and other great saintly persons in Vedic history is the only way we can free ourselves of illusory concepts and rightly be situated in the service of God and eternal salvation.