16.12 – A liberty that ends in slavery
Liberty. Freedom. Independence. These words appeal to us for they express the universal longing of the heart.
However, these words have in recent times been hijacked by materialists. They promise to free us from all the cultural, social and religious shackles that purportedly hold us back from uninhibited material enjoyment.
Rarely do they realize that their liberty actually ends in slavery.
Consider for example alcoholics. Many people enter the hell of alcoholic addiction imagining it initially to be an arena of freedom. They often believe that by drinking alcohol, they are breaking free from the regressive tradition.
But what begins as an exploration soon ends as an addiction, for the urge for alcohol gradually becomes irresistible. Alcohol becomes the quick-fix, the easy escapeway when life seems difficult to cope.
The same principle applies to all material desires. Unless they are carefully counterbalanced by dynamic spiritual experiences, passionately-cherished material desires veer rapidly out of control trapping people in bondage and misery. The Bhagavad-gita (16.12) uses the compound word asha-pasha, the shackle of desire to indicate how we become bound by what we crave for.
The nature of all material things is that they can offer at best only temporary pleasure. As our hope for pleasure continues unabated even after the pleasure ends, we crave for more and more of that pleasure till that craving bulldozes past our intelligence and becomes compulsive, even addictive.
Gita wisdom doesn’t ask us to give up all material pleasures. Instead, it urges us to not hope in vain for liberty at the material level, for that level is always limited by the temporariness of everything material. By regulating our material indulgences and redirecting our hope for happiness to the spiritual level in loving service to Krishna, we can actually fulfill our heart’s longing for liberty.
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.