“One may become as strong and puffed up as Hiranyakashipu and bring under his control all the three worlds, but there is no possibility of continuing life eternally or keeping the conquered booty forever. So many emperors have ascended to power, and they are now lost in oblivion; that is the history of the world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.17.19 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
“The first thing I did was study hard in school. I didn’t like where I was living. Everything was too simple. People didn’t have enough money for indoor plumbing even. Sure, we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner without issue, but I couldn’t imagine living like that forever. How others settled for such a life of mediocrity is beyond me. Most of them never ventured outside of a two mile radius from their homes. It’s like they were happy with very little.
“As soon as I finished primary schooling, I got into the best college in the country. This was my initial ticket out of my village. Doing very well at the university, I got a job with a top company. They were able to place me in a different country, one that was industrialized. Then I climbed the corporate ladder. Eventually I made CEO of the company, and so today I earn a lot of money. I am known throughout the business community. Members of the board trust me to steer the company, with its thousands of employees and billions of dollars in market capital, in the right direction.
“I hope to have a future in politics. I plan on running for city council, and then from there state governor. One day I may even be president of the nation. All of this because I worked hard and kept my sights high. Thank God I left my hometown, for if I was still there I wouldn’t have been exposed to the rest of the world. I’d have been stuck with a wife and kids at a young age and a job that didn’t pay much. I wouldn’t have enjoyed all that life has to offer.”
This is a common mentality when one is unaware of the true objective of life. Completely denying the existence of a personal God, what else are they supposed to think? To rule the world is the last word in material advancement. But think about it for a second. What if you did reach this end? What if all your work eventually brought the reward of control over the entire population of the earth? Would you be happy? Would you be satisfied?
There are many ways to get answers to this question. One way is to look at past history and see if the different powerful rulers were satisfied. Moreover, how long did their reign at the top last? Another way is to take another hypothetical instance. In this one a person growing up in the same small town decides to stay there. They accept a simple occupation, like say farming. They remain with friends and family in a close knit circle.
This kind of life is certainly not out of the ordinary. In fact, it is more common than the life of climbing up the corporate ladder all the way to chief executive. In the end, is there any real difference between the two people? Both of them are eating. Both of them are sleeping. Both can have a spouse. Sure, one lives in a palatial building with many rooms and thousands of square feet. The other lives in a tiny hut, with maybe one or two rooms. Does living in small quarters automatically equal misery? College students are often crammed together in dormitories. They likely have to share a tiny room with another person. The wealthy person’s closet is often larger than that room, and yet in adulthood one looks back fondly on the college days. All the friends were close by. The room didn’t seem that small because there wasn’t much needed from it. A desk and a small bed sufficed. The majority of the time was spent outside of the room.
The same can be said of the person living in the small village. If they see their friends and family all the time, what does the size of their home matter? If they have plenty of space for their children to roam in the outdoors, what is there to lament over? Indeed, in the urban and suburban areas raising a child is a difficult chore. Money is required for everything, and the new child brings so many new expenses. In a rural area, a new child isn’t as much of a financial burden.
Of course, we know both individuals will die. The ruler of the world will eventually have to relinquish their post. They can’t bask in their opulence forever. The same will happen for the person living the simple life. Therefore how are they any different? If neither met the real objective in life, they essentially lived the same.
That objective is God consciousness. A true understanding of God is where one decides to serve Him with their thoughts, words and deeds instead of serving their own interests. Personal interests bring temporary results. I can work my whole life to become leader of the nation, and from there I may enjoy the post for eight years. After that, I am again left searching for true happiness.
In God consciousness, I get to serve all the time. Service is my birthright. It is my true calling. The question is who and what to serve. In God consciousness, one serves the Supreme Lord by chanting, hearing, remembering, offering prayers and other such devotional activities. There is no check to this. The rich person can serve God and so can the poor person. Whatever one has in life can be used as an offering to God.
“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)
Emperors of the past like Hiranyakashipu worked so hard to ascend to power. Then they lost everything. Every material objective is but a derivative of the goal achieved by Hiranyakashipu and those like him. Thus the lesson from the emperors applies to everyone. The rich and lasting reward of the devotional consciousness is the true objective in life for all living entities. The conditions of this chaotic age of Kali Yuga, where a person is considered great for having a lot of money that can never buy them happiness, make reaching the valid objective very difficult. Therefore in this age the Supreme Lord Himself has said that there is no other way but the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Objective for knowledgeable and fool,
Is to gain materially, the world to rule.
But what then when the goal to attain?
Loss destined despite greatest gain.
For human being single real objective set,
That consciousness of God to get.
Service to Him to continue whether rich or poor,
Like with Prahlada, maintenance of devotee is sure.