All activities formed by material conditioning can be purified by the process of Bhakti yoga and changed into spiritual activities.
On my morning walk yesterday I saw two freight trains about a hundred cars each, one entering the city and one leaving, side by side on double tracks. I live on a plateau on the edge of a city of one million inhabitants. From my vantage point, I looked down three hundred feet to the valley floor.
The train entering the city was descending a slight grade, silently gliding as gravity replaced the power of the locomotives coasting at its head. The ascending train grunted with power, pulling the cars forward as gravity added to the burden and the industrial noise of the engines filled the panoramic view.
In the distance, the hills and mountains circling the city basin were partially obscured by light smog that had entered the valley giving it a slightly smokey quality.
Later in the day, reflecting on the sight of the trains, I formed an analogy in my mind comparing my entry into the material dimension with that of the train entering the city.
I, the rebellious living being, desiring to no longer serve the Supreme Person in the spiritual world, became the servant of illusion and she threw me into the material world. Without resisting, I descended like the train coasting down the gradual slope.
The illusory energy of material nature covered me with a body, mind, intelligence, and false ego, made of material energy, a machine not unlike the train engine, carrying the driver within.
On the tracks of material life, I follow the rails of illusion and add one car after another full of accumulated desires, sensory experiences, karmic reaction, good and bad habits. Destination after destination, life after life, this unstoppable train, propelled by the unlimited fuel of material desires, never finds peace, happiness, or fulfillment. In this conditioned state, I helplessly ride this train of desire to wherever the tracks lead.
If I want to stop the train of material life, I need to stop providing the fuel which is my enviousness of God revealed in material desire, anger, greed, lust, selfishness, and countless other addictions. The inertia of my material desires, attachments, habits, conditioning, and ignorance, is as heavy and difficult to slow down as a full throttle train with no brakes, pulling millions of pounds of full freight cars.
It is much easier to give in and simply ride the train of material life wherever it takes me. Or I can, step by step, pull back the throttle, slow the train, remove the cars, turn the engine around, and head back to where I came from. The fuel for this is sincerity, determination, and faith.
First, I listen to the transcendental directions descending from the spiritual dimension I forgot and left behind long ago. I engage in the transcendental process of Bhakti yoga which clears and purifies my heart, my mind, and my intelligence, of all the accumulated conditioning and habits that have covered me on my long journey through the material dimension.
Next, I replace my bad habits with transcendental action.
In this world, every living being habitually lives by killing and eating the bodies of others, thus perpetuating rebirth into another material body. I can switch this habit to a transcendental activity in which I offer approved foodstuffs to the Supreme Lord. The offering is spiritualized by His acceptance and becomes His mercy and free of karmic reaction. I then accept this transformed food and make spiritual progress. My desire and habit for sinful eating gradually disappears if I continue doing this. I have uncoupled one of the train cars I have been pulling for lifetimes.
Habits die hard. I may learn of this method for spiritualizing food and realize it is the right thing to do but procrastinate in acting. Why? Because my addiction to eating bodies which are not acceptable to the Supreme Person is a habit formed and strengthened over countless lifetimes.
To overcome this tenacious habit, I can take small steps and begin by offering one meal a week and then gradually increase. This is the secret of success, to take the steps gradually and gain spiritual strength as I progress. This is just one example of one habit that keeps me in the material world, and how to overcome it. Bhakti yoga reveals the secrets for overcoming all material habits and replacing them with spiritual activities.
Every action I take in this world, if not offered to the Supreme Lord, is a bad habit which keeps me here. Every action is spiritualized by offering it in the service of the Supreme Lord.
All day my mind is active and always thinking about something or someone or some desire I have. I look at and read social media on my phone and computer. I play games or watch movies. I engage my mind at work. At night I dream. I use my mind for thinking, feeling, and willing. All of this is taking place within the material dimension, conditioned and honed by millions of lifetimes.
I decide to leave all of this and return to the spiritual world. How can I possibly overcome all this conditioning of my consciousness and habitual behavior?
All activities formed by material conditioning can be purified by the process of Bhakti yoga and changed into spiritual activities. Spiritual practices in the beginning may be bitter, but in the end become extremely sweet.
From this perspective, attaining perfection and returning to the spiritual world may look impossible. I can again compare it to a train with hundreds of cars, sitting below a mountain, with an engine that only has the strength to cross the mountain without any cars. The spiritual process of Bhakti yoga turns the cars into engines and the mountain of material life into an anthill.