16.12 – A prison of promises and pretenses
“Purchase this and you will be happy.” “Wear this and you will enjoy.” “Own this and your dreams will be fulfilled.” Ads like these confront us so frequently that we often assume them integral to a normal cultural landscape.
What we rarely realize, however, is that such a landscape is actually a prison – a prison of promises and pretenses. Here’s how.
When we are repeatedly exposed to promises of material enjoyment in seductive, even aggressive, ways, that repeated exposure makes us believe those promises. This belief binds us to working, even slaving, for acquiring those things, as many as possible.
However, most of the advertised things are not necessities, but luxuries. They may at best temporarily titillate our senses or massage our ego. But they can never fulfill our heart. We are at our core spiritual beings who attain fulfillment only through love – eternal spiritual love directed towards Krishna.
Nonetheless, those who have these things appear to be happy. The pressure of social expectations, of appearing to be successful and happy, compels us to put up a façade of peace and pleasure. Little do we realize that we are simply continuing a chain of pretenses. The ads display a pretense of enjoyment and we do the same in real life.
What traps us in this prison of promise and pretense is our own desire. The Bhagavad-gita (16.12) indicates that our own desires for enjoyment act as nooses that shackle us. To break free, we need to cultivate a healthy skepticism towards material desires and an intelligent redirection of our desires towards Krishna and spiritual happiness.
When we experience for ourselves the reality, the beauty and the variety of joys available at the spiritual level, we emerge from the prison, free to march towards everlasting spiritual fulfillment.
“Bound by a network of hundreds of thousands of desires and absorbed in lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification.”