Even when we know that worldly pleasures are temporary, why do we still crave for it?
Transcriber: Sharan Shetty
Edited by: Keshavgopal Das
Question: Even when we know that worldly pleasures are temporary, why do we still crave for them?
Answer: There are two ways of looking at this. One is that this world is a place of illusion and like a trap. Gita 8.15 says, this world is dukhalayam, place of distress. Does that mean that there is no happiness in this world? Prahalada Maharaj answers this in SB 7.9.25 using the word madhu lavaih, i.e. the amount of happiness is similar to drops of honey. The illusion is not about the presence of pleasure, the illusion is about the quantity of pleasure. We think there is a lot of pleasure in this material world. Most of the times, we gravely dream about sense pleasure but afterwards it is just an anti-climax and in conclusion, we all feel, “I dreamed so much about it but got so little”.
Interestingly, there is enough pleasure in this world to keep us attached to all the troubles that come with them. If there is only trouble, we would just give it up and if there is only pleasure, we won’t think about anything else. However, there is enough pleasure in this world to make us believe that all the troubles are worthwhile. The worth of such pleasures is open to question but because we are pursuing those pleasures, we think them to be great. Therefore, our way is not just saying no to the pleasures of the world. In bhakti, we focus not so much on renunciation as on devotion. Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita 10.41,
yad yad vibhutimat sattvam shrimad urjitam eva va
tat tad evavagaccha tvam mama tejo-’msha-sambhavam
“Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendour.”
That means Krishna is saying that everything attractive in this world is not false. If we compare an ocean to a few drops of water, then Krishna is like the ocean and the pleasures of this world are like the drops of water. If Krishna is like the sun, then the pleasures of this world are like the sparks.
If we consider the ocean at a distance and drops of water near us, then some drops will lead us towards, and some will take us away from the ocean. We do not deny the presence of the drops, we focus on where those drops are taking us. For example, a brahmana is someone who is intellectually inclined. Therefore, varnashrama recommends a brahmana be intellectual in a way that is spiritually harmonious. A kshatriya is someone who likes to lead and control. Gita 18.43 describes ishvara bhava or the attitude of God for the kshatriya. This is not same as if one is the Supreme Lord i.e. parameshwar bhava but it is like the attitude of controllership i.e. ishvara bhava.
Varnashrama’s principle is that things which are materially pleasurable for us, they take us to the source of supreme spiritual pleasure. Not that we reject all material pleasure, rather we harmonize the material pleasures with our spiritual purpose. The drops are there, and they are real. We do not focus so much on denying the pleasure, rather we understand that this pleasure is a pointer to the ultimate pleasure. That is why bhakti is not about giving up but taking up.
We cannot drive out worldly pleasures from our heart, but we can crowd them out. We focus on what we can do for Krishna and what we are not able to give up, we don’t obsess over them. At the same time, we should “deal with the surges of the urges”. In the process of bhakti, what we are saved from is not as important as what we are saved for. We are saved, delivered, protected for a purpose and that purpose is to serve Krishna more and more. We can find out ways that are needed to serve. If we obsess too much on giving up, then we will be stuck between “I will not do it” and “I want to do it” and eventually we will end up regretting “why I did it”.
Material indulgences are not worth thinking about too much either in terms of how I will give them up or how I will get them. Instead we should focus on the spiritual connection.
End of transcription.