“A pure devotee is constantly engaged-sometimes he chants, sometimes he hears or reads books about Krishna, or sometimes he cooks prasadam or goes to the marketplace to purchase something for Krishna, or sometimes he washes the temple or the dishes-whatever he does, he does not let a single moment pass without devoting his activities to Krishna Such action is in full samadhi.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 12.2 Purport)
The purchase of a new motorcycle is one of the more obvious indications of someone in the midst of a midlife crisis. Reaching the halfway point of one’s life means that one has endured life’s ups and downs. After successfully starting and raising a family, along with maintaining a steady job, people reach a point where they want more out of life. Something is lacking; there is a spark that is missing.
Often times, people going through such a period will make an impulse purchase and buy a brand new motorcycle or high end sports car. Fast cars and motorcycles are the ultimate symbols of freedom and adventure. Since they can travel at such high speeds, they are much more dangerous than a regular automobile. To operate them properly, one must give their full attention at all times. There is a natural thrill built into operating one of these vehicles. Being on the the open road, you feel liberated, with nothing keeping you down…just you and the road ahead.
Similar to the exhilaration and euphoria felt from driving fast cars, religion also brings liberation and bliss, except on a much higher level. According to the Vedas, our souls have been bound up in the repeated cycle of birth and death in this material world. We can only be released from this cycle through devotional service to God. Though religion often has a negative and restrictive stigma attached to it, it is actually meant to be just the opposite. If we lovingly devote ourselves to God, then we will feel complete freedom from all material miseries. We are suffering in this life because we are falsely identifying with our material bodies. We think that sense gratification is the be-all end-all when in fact, we see from experience that our senses are never satisfied.
People generally buy a motorcycle or a fancy sports car because they feel a void in their life. That void is actually a spiritual one, and not a material one. No material possession will fill that void. The only way to make ourselves truly happy is to engage our senses in spiritual activities. Following religious principles actually leads one to the path of liberation. Driving a motorcycle may bring about feelings of liberation, but that experience is temporary. In fact, everything associated with the material world is temporary. There are many philosophers who take the creation and the people in it to be false, so they try to just block everything out through meditation. They sit in a secluded place concentrating on nothingness, in hopes of reaching the stage known as nirvana, where everything material is negated.
In the Vedic system, we are taught that this world is in fact real, but temporary. We cannot block out material impediments through artificial means such as impersonal meditation. Instead, we are told to concentrate our minds on the Supreme Lord Krishna, and dovetail all our activities in His service. Through this process, we can achieve samadhi or complete concentration of the mind on Krishna, even while performing acts which appear to be material.
The life and times of Lord Hanuman is a great example that illustrates this point. Lord Rama was the incarnation of Krishna who appeared many thousands of years ago in India. Born into a family of kshatriya kings, the Lord was the best of fighters. Through a series of unfortunate events, He was forced into exile by His father, who was the king of Ayodhya at the time. While serving His term in the forest, His wife Sita, who had accompanied Him, was kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Lord Rama couldn’t go back to Ayodhya and get His army since that would violate His father’s order. Instead, he enlisted the help of Vanaras, a race of monkeys with human-like characteristics.
Among the Vanaras, Hanuman is the greatest warrior, with tremendous strength and powers. He is the son of the wind God, Vayu, so he naturally inherits all the strength of the wind. According to Vedic philosophy, air or wind is the strongest element since it represents the vital sign of life. As long as one has air in the body, they are alive and able to function. It is the air inside the body that provides strength. For this reason, people striving for perfection in ashtanga-yoga are taught to control the vital life force through the practice of pranayama, which involves various breathing exercises. The real purpose of pranayama is to prevent the mind and senses from engaging in fruitive activity, or any acts not relating to Krishna’s service.
Hanuman has extraordinary strength, but he uses it only for good and not evil. He is Rama’s greatest devotee from birth, so he immediately surrendered unto Him when the Lord needed help in rescuing Sita and defeating Ravana. Hanuman is famously depicted travelling to the island of Lanka by flying through the air at the speed of the wind. Ravana’s kingdom was in Lanka, and it was also where Sita was held captive. Hanuman bravely went there to deliver to her a message from Rama. He met many obstacles along his way and also while in Lanka, but he never wavered from his duty. He was completely liberated throughout the entire process, though it appeared he was involved in material activities. This was all due to his devotion and pure love for Rama. One who loves God and serves Him sincerely will always feel free and happy. They don’t require a fast car, motorcycle, or expertise in pranayama to feel happiness, for just the thought of Rama and His pleasing smile fills their hearts with joy.