Author:Vraja Bihari dasa holds a master’s degree in International Finance and Management (MBA). He serves as a full-time resident devotee at ISKCON Chowpatty and teaches Krishna consciousness to students at universities. He also conducts devotional seminars and training programmes for the temple’s congregation members.

Continued from the previous issue…From Superficial attempts to permanent solutions.

Modern Life- speed without direction
 The situation of modern man can be compared to this special traveller in the Mumbai’s local trains. Imagine you struggle to enter a crowded local train and surprisingly you get a place to sit. To begin a conversation with the strange looking, dazed passenger seated next to you, you ask him a question, “Sir, where is this train headed to?” He thinks deeply and says, “I don’t know” Surprised you ask him, “Well sir, where do you want to go?” He again ponders over and reflects, “actually I don’t know where I want to get down” your surprise now turns to curiosity, “Well, my dear friend, if you don’t know where the train is heading to, and where you want to go, why have you entered such a crowded train?” Imagine he confesses to you, “I was standing on the platform and saw many people fight to enter this compartment. I thought this is an important activity and therefore I also entered the train.” What would you call such a person?

We too enter the rat race- MBA’s , IIT’s, IAS, business- but when asked why this career option, we have no answer except that many are doing and there is good money. But can money be a reasonable goal. People with plenty of wealth are miserable; for money is a means of happiness and it can’t on its own give happiness. Besides, money too is a ‘painkiller’ and doesn’t satisfy the deep needs of the soul. The world is rushing at top speed, seeking pleasures and success, little knowing what actually the enduring solution for happiness is. It’s like a pilot announcing during take-off, “Ladies and gentleman, we will be flying at 1000 km/hr. but I am sorry to say we don’t know where we are going” Similarly modern man is rushing to office and back; has deadlines and 16 hour work schedule, but unfortunately hasn’t the vaguest idea of where he is heading to and what’s the goal of his life.

The paradoxes of Life- ‘Life’ it makes you think

I came across a nice poem on the paradoxes of life!

‘LIFE’ it makes you think. The paradox of our time in history is that

We have taller building Shorter tempers
Wider freeways Narrower viewpoints
Bigger houses Smaller families
More conveniences But less time
We have more degrees Less sense
More knowledge Less judgment
More experts Less solutions
More medicine Less wellness
Multiplied our possessions Reduced our values
Conquered outer space Not inner space
Cleaned up the air Polluted the soul
Split the atom Not our prejudice
Higher incomes Lower morals
Become long on quantity Short on quality

We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life;

We’ve added years to life, not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.

We spend more, but have less;

We buy more, but enjoy it less.

 These are the times of

Tall men Short character
Steep profits Shallow relationships
Steep profits Shallow relationships
World peace Domestic warfare
More leisure Less fun
More kinds of food Less nutrition
Two incomes More divorce
Fancier houses Broken homes

It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom

‘LIFE’ it makes you think…

The poem aptly sums the voidness and the shallow pursuits of modern man; how far we are distanced from real, lasting happiness.

Returning Home- the permanent solution for happiness

What then is the permanent solution to discovering lasting happiness?
Our desire to experience happiness is justifiable because each soul is divine and pleasure seeking. The Vedanta Sutra describes each living entity as pure and entitled to permanent pleasure, obtained from reconnecting to God. However human beings are implored not to seek happiness through either our temporary body or through the fleeting pleasures offered by the transient material world. Our seeking happiness in this world is compared to a man looking for water in a desert. Water is a reality but a stream of water exists outside the desert. Similarly the stream of happiness exists outside this desert like material world; unlimited happiness awaits us in the spiritual abode of God, which is our eternal home. The happiness of this world is compared to the trickle of water in a desert. A drop of water in the desert, far from quenching our thirst, agitates us more. Similarly the flickering happiness of this world increases our craving for more, and leaves us eternally dissatisfied.

This world has been described in the Bhagavad Gita as ‘dukhalayam ashasvatam’ ‘a place of misery and temporary’. The word ‘dukhalaya’ is interesting. ‘alaya’ refers to a place. And ‘dukha’ mens distress. ‘Pustakalaya’ means a place where you get pustak or books, i.e a library. ‘bhojanalaya’ is a place where you get ‘bhojan’ or food. When you go to a ‘bhojanalaya’ you can’t expect to get books on philosophy or science. You would be advised to go to a pustakalaya. Similarly you can’t enter a pustakalaya, or a library and ask for pizza or dosas. Just like in pustakalaya, you can get only books and at bhojanalaya you get only food, similarly in ‘dukhalaya’, this material world, we can get only ‘dukha’. This has been stamped by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Once we accept this harsh reality of this world, then our anxieties to seek happiness from temporary things of this world wanes away.

The Bhagavad Gita and other Vedic scriptures further recommend us to revive our eternal relationship with our Supreme father -God-and become truly happy.

Our situation is like that of a young, rebellious and lost child who has abandoned his billionaire parents and lives in the ghettos, and languishes in poverty. Just like a father would be concerned that his child returns home to him, God also eagerly awaits our exercising our free will to return to him. A charitably disposed person may come and give the lost child food, clothes, television; this is compared the scientific advancement and sense gratification (‘S’ of ‘SMS’). Another man may come and pep the child with inspirational talk and encourage him to be positive. This is akin to the mental speculation and ‘positive’ attitude theories that address the pain of sadness only superficially. Another man may encourage the child to perform some ritual puja or go to a tantric baba for happiness. This is compared to the third of the superficial solution, namely rituals and religion performed superficially. None of the three well-intentioned benefactors have done complete justice to the lost child. A fourth person appears on the scene and takes the child to his billionaire parents. Such a person provides food, clothes and shelter to the child on the way home; he also encourages him with sweet words. Similarly the ‘SMS’ solutions offered by the society for a person seeking happiness, is temporary; a person remains dissatisfied even after the help offered by these agents just like a child will be miserable even after a bath, for he isn’t in the shelter of his loving parents as yet.

A teacher of God consciousness encourages all to seek happiness through connection to God. just like a child is excited and happy on his way to his father, similarly a human being is spiritually surcharged and blissful as he is endeavouring to go back home to his eternal parent- God- even as he continues to render his duties in this world. Our existence in this world then becomes a springboard for an eternal life in the spiritual world.

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