05.21 – Does our pleasure have to cost others misery?

by October 5, 2012

Material pleasure never comes free. Among its many costs, a cost that we often fail to notice is the cost that others have to incur.

Our material pleasure is frequently at the cost of others’ material pleasure. Here are a few examples:

  1. When one team wins a sports championship, other teams are automatically deprived of that championship.
  2. When we get or take a large helping of a delicacy, others inevitably have to settle for less of it.
  3. When one person gets a particular attractive spouse, others don’t.

Those deprived not only miss the pleasure but also incur the psychological cost of frustration. As if this were not bad enough, several material pleasures cause the innocent to pay costs that are other than psychological. Let’s look at a few such examples:

  1. When people smoke in public places, others have to inhale the toxic smoke and consequently pay in terms of spoiled health.
  2. When car-drivers ride through crowded streets, those working, selling or living by the roadsides have to breathe the cars’ toxic excrement and consequently pay medical and physiological costs.
  3. When First World countries live luxuriously using technologies that cause climate change, even Third World countries have to pay for the consequences.

Such an analysis makes us think: “What can we do? We can’t live without happiness. Isn’t there any way that we can be happy without causing others’ misery?”

Gita wisdom answers that there is indeed: through spiritual devotion. When we learn to lovingly connect with Krishna through remembrance and service, we start experiencing an inner happiness that far from costing others misery instead radiates outwards to make them happy.

No wonder then that the Bhagavad-gita (5.21) urges us to turn away from outer material pleasures and delight in inner spiritual joys.

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