“You are a spirit soul, and unless you come to the spiritual platform you will never be satisfied by any sense gratification. You'll simply go on hankering after pleasure, but you will find no satisfaction.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Journey of Self-Discovery, 3.2)Download this episode (right click and save)
If you want to succeed in something, talk to those who have already succeeded. This only makes sense, but the odds are not in our favor. Failing is a lot easier. It doesn’t require any effort. Indeed, if you simply quit, you’ve automatically succeeded at failing. As success is hard, typically there are more failures around to offer advice. And their advice will not be encouraging. They will tell you to quit. Therefore it is more beneficial to take counsel from someone who has succeeded against all odds, who knows the pitfalls and how to persevere to overcome the struggle.
We can take the same concept and apply it to spiritual life. There are those who have succeeded in bypassing material sense gratification. At first hearing, this sounds like maybe the successful were the ones who didn’t have much.
“Oh, they were poor, so they decided to take to religion. They didn’t have much to enjoy so they clung to their guns and God. They had no hope, so the offer of spiritual life gave them a way out of a life spent in misery.”
But again this line of thinking comes from the unsuccessful. Those who have never tasted the true fruit of an existence can never understand the mentality of one who has. The real fruit is not sense pleasure, which the animals already get. They eat, sleep, mate and defend. If we do the same thing as them, how is our life any different? What has the human birth gotten us? Indeed, the human being in this analysis is less evolved; it has less enjoyment in the same categories. The animal doesn’t worry about mortgage payments. It doesn’t need a Xanax when going for a long journey. It doesn’t get panic attacks.
Of those who have succeeded in spiritual life, there are so many that tasted more than their share of sense gratification early on. We see evidence of the limits to the material way of life around us everywhere. Why are the rock n roll singers taking to drugs? Why are famous celebrities committing suicide? Why is anyone getting divorced after having struggled for so long to forge a relationship?
Material pursuits are like climbing a mountain. You’re trying to get to the top. Therefore you’ll do whatever it takes to get there. You’ll sacrifice your time. You’ll put aside enjoyment with friends and family. You’ll spend long hours at the office. You’ll eat, sleep and think success. The goal is to reach the top, where all the enjoyment is.
But take it from those who have already reached the pinnacle of achievement that there isn’t much there. For this reason the ones on the top still look for more. They don’t settle. Thus there is the struggle in reaching the top, and then there is anxiety once the goal is attained. Difficulty is the constant. This example shows that there is more to life. You can climb that last hill, but there will be another one to mount. The cycle continues, without end.
That is until one tastes the true fruit an existence has to offer. Divine love, or bhakti, is that fruit. Bhakti is not like kama. It is not something that lasts for a little bit and then goes away. It is not based on the reciprocation received either. We can tell someone that we love them, but that sentiment is based on how they make us feel. If they cease to provide us happiness, our love quickly goes away.
Bhakti is for life; not only this one, but every successive one as well. Those who have succeeded in spiritual life understand this. They try to tell others about the same secret. They advise us to not wait for practical experience of the limitations of material sense gratification. Rather than waste so much time to see that the top of the mountain isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, they ask that we take to spiritual life right away, while we have our wits about us. Whether we’re young, old, married, single, have many years in front of us or are knocking on death’s door, we can find the fruit of an existence through chanting the holy names of God: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The evidence is there. Bhakti brings eternal life, a constant engagement. The worry over finding life’s direction vanishes. No more is it a chore to find something to do. No more is it a struggle to find meaning to life. Krishna is God, the Supreme Lord in His full manifestation. Bhakti-yoga brings connection to Him, and so it is no wonder that the person finding that connection never wants to let it go, knowing that it will bring them more and more happiness as the days pass.
Just one more hill to climb,
That elusive happiness to be mine.
Not the case sadly,
To crave again badly.
The search on and on to go,
Real transcendence never to know.
Testimony from successful take,
And learn how fruitful this life to make.
With bhakti-yoga senses engage,
Eternal life at divine love’s stage.