Irrespective of the multitude of philosophies and lifestyles, both contemporary as well as ancient, there are only 2 paths to self realization – Pravritti Marg and Nivritti Marg. In this article, we will briefly draw the main features of each and distinguish between the two. If you would like to read about the path of self realization in general, then refer to this article – What is nirvana?
What is Pravritti Marg?
There are 2 kinds of religious performances. One is called the Pravritti Dharma. It is performed by a person whose goal is sense enjoyment. Such a person participates in religious activities, performs charity, undergoes severe austerity and abides by principles mentioned in the Vedic Scriptures to get some material benefit. Mostly such people pray to demigods or Devas and Devis such as Indra, Durga, Shiva, Brahma, etc. They ask for benedictions in the form of money, job, business, a beautiful partner, cure of a disease, etc.
Actually, everyone who has come to this material world has the sense of overlordship. This is called pravṛtti. After many many births and billions of years such a person gets tired of such enjoyment. Then she looks for a solution to the problem of repeated birth and death. Hence, Pravitti Marg is a long route to salvation. After exhausting all hopes of happiness in this material world a person on Pravritti Marg gets frustrated and looks for a way out.
What is Nivritti Marg?
Nivritti Dharma is to act for the pleasure of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Krishna. A person following the Nivritti Marg has no false ego or sense of overlordship. She does not falsely claim proprietorship of her body, relatives, land, house or any other possessions. She never considers herself God or the master, rather she always thinks of herself as the servant. Such is the process of purifying spiritual consciousness. With pure consciousness alone can a person enter into the kingdom of God or Vaikuntha.
Vedic scriptures advocate Nivritti Marg for enlightenment as it is the shortest path to self realization. The vedic society is divided into 4 spiritual orders or ashrams – Brahmachari (the student life), Grihastha (householder life), Vanaprastha (retired life) and Sanyasa (renounced life). Out of these four only in the Grihastha Ashram a person is advised to endeavour for economic development and regulated sense enjoyment. Rest all three Ashrams focus on self realization and Nivritti Marg.
How does Krishna Consciousness encompass Nivritti Marg?
Personally, I feel as a practitioner of Krishna Consciousness that Srila Prabhupada has simplified the whole process for us greatly. The daily routine as advised by the Founder Acharya keeps the Sadhna bhakt engrossed in direct service of Lord Krishna. Whether it is early morning Aarti or book reading at bedtime; Whether it is making a living honestly or donating a portion of our income for preaching services; Whether it is cooking bhoga or serving prasadam; The Krishna Conscious Movement by ISKCON makes Nivritti Marg accessible and joyful for the common man.