Hare Krishna devotees often say that religion without philosophy is sentimental and philosophy without religion is dry speculation. Religion expresses itself through culture: different codes of behaviour that help us to become aware that we are not this temporary material body but an eternal spirit soul, servant of God.
Although our state of mind is seen through the nature of our activities (how we dress, eat, talk etc.), the type of activites we perform also affects our state of mind. This means we can elevate our consciousness by elevating the nature of our activities. All spiritual activities help us to purify our consciousness and direct it towards God.
Because of this, a Vaishnava (devotee of Krishna) does not take the regulations of spiritual life as restrictions, but rather as ‘regulative principles of freedom’ – a tool for advancing personal character development & spiritual consciousness.
Srimad-Bhagavatam lists four qualities essential for spiritual growth (First Canto, Chapter 17, Verse 24). They are as follows:
Cleanliness (saucam) – Of body, mind and soul.
This means the daily washing of the body, but also refraining from illicit sex (only sex for procreation within marriage). Celibacy, recitation of God´s (Krishna’s) holy names and studying the holy Scriptures help us to keep the mind and soul clean and balanced.
Mercy (daya) – To help living entities (materially as well as spiritually).
True followers of the Vedic (or any other) Scriptures are strictly vegetarians. It is perfectly possible to live healthily and happily without needlessly killing innocent animals. To kill our fellow living entities instead of protecting them, is against the laws of God.
Austerity (tapah) – To take only what we really need, without greed or violence.
Intoxications like alcohol, hard and soft drugs, tobacco, caffeine etc. make someones mercy and friendliness disappear. Addictions are not only unnecessary, but also very harmful (to body, mind and to others). The best alternative for addictions is an awakening of our eternal relationship with God (Krishna) by living in accordance with His laws.
Truthfulness (satyam) – Means that we should not lie or gamble.
Gambling destroys truthfulness because it is an attempt to bypass the laws of nature and obtain material profit without honestly working for them. An honest deed is the best gamble in the world and a sure winner.
Anyone who cultivates these qualities and sincerely chants Krishna’s names can make rapid spiritual progress.
There are many rules and regulations to follow in human life which help us to be healthy, happy and successful. The most important of all is: Always remember Krishna (God) and never forget Him.