From superficial attempts to permanent solution
By Vraja Bihari das
Continued from the previous issue…From Relative to Real Happiness
From superficial attempts to permanent solution
I had a friend who would get recurring boils on his body. His doctor gave him an ointment that removed the boils. However two days later another boil would surface on some other part of the body. Again he tried some medicine and got relief for a couple of days. It didn’t take him long to realize that he was actually miserable. He then tried another doctor. This doctor requested my friend to be patient as the treatment could be painful in the beginning. Then as expected, there was a painful upsurge of boils all over the body. He screamed in agony but kept faith and continued the treatment. Two weeks later all the boils disappeared and he was healthy. He never got boils again. The difference between the two doctors was the first one treated the boils whereas the second doctor addressed the root cause of his boils- the impure blood.
What’s the moral of the story? If we attempt to seek happiness by addressing the ‘boils’- the symptoms of misery- we would never get really happy; we can only experience fleeting relief from distress, and again sometime later sorrow strikes back at another aspect of our lives. If we address the root cause of unhappiness- the impure blood like ‘real problems’-then we can experience lasting happiness. The boil keeps recurring because of the impurity in the blood; our sufferings keep recurring because of our sinful tendency to break God’s laws. We need to lead our lives in congruence with Nature and God’s laws. That’s curing the impure ‘blood’ like consciousness.
In an attempt to be happy we try a variety of pleasures- see a new movie or booze, take drugs or freak out. However these measures relieve us temporarily, and soon the cause of distress bounces back more vigorously. If we seek to address the ‘real problems’ (please refer to the last article: Search for Happiness-part four) then we are permanently cured of distress. Unfortunately the modern society encourages us to seek temporary relief rather than address the real problems.
Seeking Happiness- Painkillers V/S Medicines
Our present predicament is compared to a heart patient who prefers to take a painkiller instead of proper medicine. A painkiller gives superficial relief from the chest pain; real medicine however cures the disease from the root. The painkiller does have advantages; it gives instant relief from pain, and it’s also cheap and easily available. However the disadvantages include side effects, no permanent cure, and the painkiller can make the disease worse in the long run. The first time we get pain in the chest and we try a painkiller it reduces the pain but the next time around the pain becomes immune to the pill; we then need an additional dose of painkiller to subside the pain. Eventually even six to seven painkillers can’t give us relief. Then one unfortunate day a foolish patient who has taken only painkillers so far will die of a heart attack despite swallowing a dozen painkillers. Painkillers aren’t bad; it’s just that we can’t substitute the real medicines for these painkillers.
Similarly the instant relief providers of modern society are movies, illicit sex, liquor, and drugs, to name few- the effective and cheap painkillers that are easily available. However, substituting the real medicine of reviving our relationship with God for these pleasures will eventually leave us disillusioned despite a plethora of sense gratificatory experiences. That explains how the rich and famous, despite opportunities to enjoy their senses unlimitedly, commit suicide. Some years ago Nafiza Joseph, the former Miss India committed suicide due to an overdose of sleeping pills. She had all pleasures at her disposal; yet her heart hankered for more. Similarly we may enjoy our senses unlimitedly and still be miserable because of ignoring the real medicine of ‘bhakti rasa’ (refer to the article ‘Search for Happiness’- part two)
Three types of ‘Painkillers’- ‘SMS’ of modern society
The modern society has three broad categories of painkillers; Sense gratification (based on scientific advancement), Mental speculation and Superficial religion (‘SMS’ to help us remember them). The first category of scientific advancement is successful in providing instant relief and enjoyment to people, but also has left the human civilization disillusioned and unhappy. Over the last hundred years science has advanced by leaps and bounds, with practically discoveries and inventions every year. Man has never had it so comfortable with regards to his lifestyle. Yet the same time period has witnessed unprecedented deprivation and untold human suffering.
Scientific material advancement is compared to a painkiller because it provides temporary solution to problems in society but in the long run gives rise to further problems. For instance invention of automobiles solved the walking problem. Now we can travel comfortably long distances. However, now we have air pollution and a veritable threat of global warming- a ‘breathing’ problem. Which problem is greater- ‘walking’ problem or ‘breathing problem? Today we are surrounded by luxuries- AC’s, I-pod, and laptops but are struggling to get basic necessities like fresh water to drink or clean air to breathe. We have luxuries at the cost of necessities. Thus the solutions that modern scientific advancement seeks to provide gives rise to bigger problems than the original problem that was intended to be solved.
The external razzle dazzle impress our minds and we tend to think that we’d be happier by leading a life centred on sense gratification. For white hair, we have hair dye; if you have wrinkles on face, use a face lift; body pain-pain killers, and for breadthlessness we seek shelter in oxygen tubes. Today we have access to huge information, quick communication and global connectivity. At the same time we also have to deal with health issues, impersonal relationships and pornography. The invention of mobile phones has caused more efficiency, makes one easily available, and has speeded our work. However we have now lost our privacy and stress and heart diseases are on rise. The Washington based “World Watch Institute” in its Press Release (4th May 1999) revealed that the 20th Century is the most violent century known in human history; THREE TIMES more people died in wars of the 20th century than in the entire history of warfare between A.D. 1 and 1899.
Mental speculation, the second category of painkillers refers to psyche up, pep talks that promise happiness based on some positive attitude techniques. These skills are temporary because they do not address the ‘real problems’, rather they encourage us to seek solutions in this temporary world where the seven fold problems are constantly battering us. ‘You can Win’, Neuro Linguistic Programming, and Meditation techniques are a few of such painkillers that deny reality of the world and rather artificially tell us to be positive. Superficial religion is another kind of painkillers that also gives temporary relief through ‘Astha channel’, ‘Bhagavat kathas’ and empty and burdensome rituals. People get some pious entertainment but do not know the goal of these religious rituals. One may watch religious and spiritual programme on television but it could just give us some mental peace, and avoid addressing the real issues burning our heart. People may fight over the rituals and claim superiority of their path; the heart still continues to remain sad due to not addressing the deep needs of the soul to be connected to God through loving devotional service. Empty rituals do not satisfy the deep desires of the heart; they simply temporarily cover up our misery.
To be continued… ‘Returning Home- the permanent solution for happiness‘
The author 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.