Too much obsession with oneself and with the material world makes people mad. It is not an allegorical statement but it’s a hard core fact. People actually become mad.
Once with few devotees I visited a psychiatric rehabilitation centre. Devotees used to conduct spiritual programs there helping patients to come out from their pathetic condition. The program comprised of spiritual discourse, kirtan and prasad (sanctified vegetarian food). The sight wasn’t pleasing. Few of us thought of speaking to some of them. One person who was in his forties looked well educated and was also decently dressed. He was sitting in a corner and appeared to be lost in thoughts. When we tried to interact with him, he spoke normally. I asked about his life and his problem. He said solemnly that he was a work-alcoholic and used to frequently travel throughout the world. His purpose was to earn lots of money. He mostly stayed away from his family and rarely bothered about them. Subsequently his family left him. His wife divorced him and children went with their mother. Today he was all alone with all the money. By the time he realized that his madness for money had ruined his life, it was too late. He was finding it extremely difficult to come out of this difficult phase.
Another was a young man; he said that he was a painter. When we asked him, if he has painted something recently he immediately went and brought his drawing book. He had drawn few decent pictures which we appreciated. After seeing most of his drawings we handed him his workbook. And then he started crying! Every one of us was taken aback. We did not know what to say or do. After lots of prodding he said that we did not appreciate his work. We protested because we had done so. But he felt that our gestures weren’t sufficient enough. He kept on saying that in this world no one likes him and his work. He fretted that no one has ever respected him in his life. We did not have any answer because none of our answers were convincing him.
One wanted to become extremely rich and the other was too self – conscious. Every one of us is also afflicted with the same disease although the degree may vary. Scriptures inform us that we came away from the kingdom of God because we wanted to be like God. We wanted to be famous, rich and powerful like him. So here we struggle hard to achieve these goals but our efforts rarely succeed. We may get something after tremendous struggle but our achievements never remain with us for a long time. Either we lose it in this very life or else the beautiful ruthless death drag us away from them.
Hungry and angry heart moan in pain
Since childhood it is drilled into us that the only purpose in this life is to become extra ordinarily materially successful persons. We dream of a day when the entire world will recognize us, eulogize us and revere us. We get obsessed with name, fame and money. During our struggle we lose peace, sleep, health, family, friends and most importantly happiness. Our dry heart continuously cries for attention and love. But we continue stuffing it up with lots of money, loads of worldly things and tonnes of pride and prestige. These things fail to please the heart. The carnal pleasure in this world is celebrated and so many go for it thinking it to be the mother of all happiness. These attempts instead of satisfying the heart makes it more agitated. It’s like drinking salty sea water upon being thirsty. Not just the taste is disgusting but it increases our thirst.
Here in this world we all are diseased and we need treatment. Krishna, the Supreme God and our supreme well-wisher, has spoken elaborately about the elixir which can cure us. But sadly in spite of His well-intentioned advice we refuse to live as per his expectations and thus we not just prolong our multiple sufferings but in fact worsen our condition. In Bhagavad Gita 16.23, Krishna describes the plight of a disobedient soul, “He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination.”
Calm the heart by culling countless material cravings
Scriptures constantly remind us that it is futile to think that material aggrandizement will ameliorate our life. These historical books ask us to not give in to the demand of the insatiable senses and uncontrolled mind. Slavery of the senses and madness of the mind make all crazy in this world. We today want instant gratification and is ready to do anything and everything to get what we want. In fact today’s society teach people how to become a supreme sense gratifier and become obsessed with wealth, women (or men) and wine.
Happiness and material opulence (or success) is not synonymous. Duryodhana is the best case study. He had succeeded in driving out Pandavas, though cunningly, out of the kingdom. And Pandavas lived frugally in the jungle in huts made of wood and mud but they were peaceful and non- complaining. But Duryodhana in spite of having all the comforts and luxury in his palace was in abject misery and in constant anxiety. Why? Because his heart was filled with envy, hatred and arrogance. Whilst the Pandavas were happy as love and piety dominated their heart. Love satisfies our heart and not lust. Satisfaction calms our heart and not material cravings.
No one is today told that real happiness is in being self-satisfied and in controlling and tolerating the countless demands of mind and senses.
Chaste senses & clean mind satiates the heart
In Gita 2.62 and 2.63, Krishna graphically explains that how a person falls down by contemplating on the objects of the senses. While meditating on sensual stuffs one develops deep attachment for it which gives rise to lust, greed and anger which ultimately opens the gateway to hell.
Scriptures compare senses to venomous serpents and asks us to eliminate all the poisonous substances from it. Lust, greed, pride, anger, envy and illusion are the toxic stuffs which need to be purged. And qualities like simplicity, tolerance, renunciation of the objects of sense gratification, absence of false ego should be preserved and nurtured. We have to ensure that each and every sense gets sanctified because as one snake in the room will fill our heart with fright and fear similarly any one of the unrestrained senses will make us insane. In Gita 2.67 Krishna says, “As a strong wind sweeps away a boat on the water, even one of the roaming senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man’s intelligence.”Similarly we are asked to restrain our mind and not allow it to wander like an unchaste woman.
We can be in control of our life only if we can tame our senses and restrain our mind and not vice – versa. Once our senses become pure and mind becomes friendly then instead of making our life pathetic they will start enthusiastically cooperating with us. In fact each of the senses can be astutely utilized in perfecting our lives. Chaste and controlled mind will open a gateway for blissful life. Our heart will experience supreme satisfaction and our mindless obsession for the things of this world will wither.
Heart celebrates when we gravitate towards Krishna
However in spite of all our plans and preparations troubles and difficulties will do knock at our door because this world is an abode of misery, duhkhalayam asasvatam, Gita 8.15.
A person stuck in a marshy land will definitely get devoured today or tomorrow. If he simply stands there he will go down slowly and if he struggles hard then he will quickly glide down. His only hope of survival is if someone standing on a solid land extends any support and pulls him out. We are also dangerously stuck in this material pool. With our own effort we will not be able to rescue ourselves. Krishna can only save us and He is very eager to help. We just need to positively respond to his gesture. Being a caring father he has spoken elaborately how to get out of all the challenging situations.
Following are Krishna’s advice to smartly confront difficulties:
Krishna has also given us formula to live peacefully in this world:
Life is a series of choices. Our moment to moment decisions decide our destiny. If we become mad for material position and possessions then our future will be marred in miseries. But if we gravitate towards Krishna and live as per His guidelines then we can live happily here and at the end of life can get a ticket to go to the spiritual world, a place of eternal happiness.So, let us give Krishna the charge of our life and start living as per His wishes. We can then be sure of peace and bliss.
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Purushottam Kumar is a member of congregation at Iskcon Kolkata. He works in Tech Mahindra, Kolkata as “Associate Solution Designer”. Check his blog http://krishnamagic.blogspot.in/
Jan 22, 2023
Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies