(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 02 October 2013, Melbourne, Australia, Srimad Bhagavatam 2.3.2-7)
Through celibacy alone, can we get love of God? You can be celibate for a hundred lifetimes, do you think that will give you love of God? No, it is devotional service that will give us love of God! If you are married to a devotee, do you think that will give you love of God? No, you yourself will have to be a devotee as well. You will have to engage in devotional service. It is not automatic. Even a lion has to go out and chase for breakfast. It is not that the deer runs into the mouth of the lion… So, we have to do something in devotional service and that is what counts. Ashram issues are not so important, it is only external. In one or the another, you are going to have to take some tapasya (austerity),tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam suddhyed yasmad brahma saukhyam tv anantam (SB 5.5.1)
That is life in the material world, no matter what you do, there is tapasya. You decide which tapasya you like better; this is what it is all about – the tapasya of being married or the tapasya of being alone. You decide as both have tapasya. Material life has that element of tapasya, of some austerity, inevitably so. No one can avoid it – it is basically the design of the material world therefore Lord Rshabdev pointed this out to his one hundred sons. This human form of life is not meant for sense gratification; it is not going to work. Therefore we should not be TOO particular about how we live but some things have to be suitable.
Krsna consciousness, bhakti, is not denying us these basic comforts. That is for the impersonalists. For them, everything in this material world is only maya. There is only maya in all directions therefore whatever they use has to be minimized… but we just use it for sustaining our Krsna consciousness, so sleep well – nice and warm and cosy, so that we can do devotional service – there is nothing wrong with that. Therefore we do not have to sleep on the hardest bed that we can find and use only a bed-sheet in the winter, no blanket!
I knew a devotee who never wore a kurta in winter, in Vrindavan. It was very cold and he was only wearing a lungi. You know, he lasted for fifteen years and then he got sick. What is the benefit of these things!? Great austerities – fasting, fasting, fasting… “I fast every ekadasi and dvadasi as well, for the last twenty-four years!”
Fine, you can do it for twenty-four lifetimes more and do you think you will make any more progress towards going back to the spiritual world with all your fasting!? Not really. In the Caitanya Bhagavat, there is the example of Caitanya Mahaprabhu who was having kirtans in the house of Srivas Thakur and the doors were closed, only devotees were allowed inside. The one day, Lord Caitanya couldn’t get into the mood and he felt that there was some intruder in the house. It turned out that Srivas had let in this brahmana who had been living only on milk for one year. Lord Caitanya had the brahmana thrown out, “Do you think that just by drinking milk for a year, you can attain me!” But later that brahmana was so excited that he had seen Caitanya Mahaprabhu and he was just praying to get a chance again, then Lord Caitanya let him back in.
So, it is not by austerity that we will attain Krsna! Although, austerity is highlighted by Lord Rshabdev in the fifth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, austerity in itself is not one of the limbs of bhakti. Renunciation and austerity are not limbs of bhakti. They do not give you devotional service.