Why do we have to give up material pleasures to experience spiritual pleasures?
Asked in relationship with this Gita-daily article:
Transcribed by: Geetanjali Nath Mataji
Question: Why do we have to give up material pleasures in order to experience spiritual pleasure? This question is based on the Gita-Daily article “Those who give up pleasure for principle gain life’s principle pleasure”.
Answer: That’s because material and spiritual pleasure are based on the direction of our consciousness, just as if a person looks at the back of a painting, the person cannot see the beauty of the painting, similarly if our consciousness is caught up in matter then we cannot relish the glory and the beauty of spirit. Now why? because the two are of different natures. It’s not that we have to become unconscious of matter or that we have to reject matter entirely, it’s simply that we have to direct our consciousness towards spirit and focus it on spirit. So as long as we hope and crave and hanker for essential pleasures, then our consciousness stays trapped at the bodily level. As long as our consciousness stays trapped at the bodily level, we cannot pursue spirit, in the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says,
utkrāmantaṁ sthitaṁ vāpi
bhuñjānaṁ vā guṇānvitam
yatanto yoginaś cainaṁ paśyanty ātmany avasthitam yatanto ’py akṛtātmāno nainaṁ paśyanty acetasaḥ
So in 15.10 and 11, He describes that the soul is enjoying under the pull of the material nature, actually the soul has very little enjoyment, and the soul does not recognize that I am simply being enslaved by the material nature and dragged here and there, into this body, out of this body, and within this body, towards this sense object and that sense object. “vimūḍhā nānupaśyanti”, the person is not able to see all this. But then “paśyanti jñāna-cakṣuṣaḥ”, the person is able to see with the eyes of knowledge that are acquired. And the next verse 15.11 describes why the eyes of knowledge are normally not available? Because people are caught by material desires, they are not directed towards spirituality, so by freeing our consciousness from being sucked and locked in matter we can raise it to the spirit and that’s why there is regulation of material enjoyment that is required. Now regulation does not mean rejection entirely, Krishna Himself said,
dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu kāmo ’smi bharatarṣabha
That Kama, that pleasure which is not against Dharma, is accepted in the Bhagavad Gita also. So by this kind of pleasure one can move forward and attain lasting happiness. It means it is not that we have to give up material pleasures but we should not let our consciousness get caught up in material pleasure, and that’s why give up pleasure for principle; it is not give up pleasure entirely. It is the principle, and the principle is the principle of Dharma, and Dharma ultimately means focusing on the spiritual, on spiritual pursuits, on spiritual happiness. So when we give up pleasure for principle that means we regulate our material indulgence according to our spiritual principles, then we will be able to rise higher, rise upwards and attain lasting happiness. And when we attain lasing happiness in this way, then we will be fulfilling our heart’s longing for happiness, eternally and completely.