-by Hayagriva Das Adhikary
Part two. [Continued from Issue Number 29.]
Pleasure And Pain
Pleasure is a general term which is applied to any feeling of satisfaction which is agreeable to the living entity. This feeling may range from a sense of bodily gratification to a positive sense of spiritual happiness. In psychoanalysis “the pleasure principle” maintains that the living entity automatically adjusts his mental and physical activities to secure pleasure and to avoid pain. Pain is the sensation one feels when hurt mentally or physically. It can be manifest due to a physical wound, distress, great anxiety, suffering, anguish, grief and so on, or it can be caused by the body being attacked, or loved ones being lost, or by disappointments, etc. As far as pleasure is concerned, the position of the conditioned living entity is difficult because he is dwelling in the abode of pain and suffering, the body, which lives in the land of suffering-the material universe. Deluded, the living entity tries to lord it over objects in the material universe but is ultimately always frustrated. It is like a men trying to enjoy a picnic in the middle of a blazing forest fire. In His famous “Fire Sermon,” Lord Buddha paints a vivid picture of the situation:”The ear is on fire; sounds are on fire; the tongue is on fire; tastes are on fire; the body is on fire; things tangible are on fire; the mind is on fire; ideas are on fire; mind-consciousness is on fire; impressions received by the mind are on fire; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the mind, that also is on fire. And with what are these on fire? With the fire of passion, say I, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of infatuation; with birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief and despair are they on fire.”
Ignoring this mighty conflagration, man tries desperately to enjoy himself in this world. He does not seek a Guru who, like a raincloud, can extinguish this fire. Rather, he throws fuel on it by flocking to cities to seek pleasure on all fronts, and despite continual frustration he tries again and again to gratify his desires which are infinite and insatiable. Not only men, but all organisms seek pleasure. The pleasure principle is universal. It extends from microscopic beings in the lowest states of life to the great demigods in the heavenly planets.
This principle is not unnatural. Mundane pleasure is but a reflection of the infinite pleasure which exists in the spiritual worlds. Lord Krishna has been called the Reservoir of all pleasure-satchitananda-Knowledge-Being-Bliss-Absolute. The pleasure that the conditioned being is seeking is really there in Krishna in the spiritual life, but due to a poor fund of knowledge he seeks pleasure in other things. Lord Krishna is called Govinda, the Enlivener of senses, for He gives total pleasure to the total senses of all created beings. Once in contact with Him, the soul becomes satisfied. Otherwise it is always hankering after more and more pleasure. In the material worlds the highest pleasure is derived from sex, or, some may argue, from a psychedelic mental inebriation. But, in either case, sex or inebriation are temporary. The happiness derived from them cannot satisfy because they exist external to the human being and are therefore subject to being used up. Consequently one is always looking for more sex partners or more drugs. Real pleasure is not relative, is not dependent on exteriors, but is inherent constitutionally within the soul. Real pleasure is experienced by the soul when it is in contact with the Super Soul, Sri Krishna. That is an interior pleasure which is eternal. The soul is automatically in contact with Krishna when one chants Hare Krishna, for by dint of the omnipotency and omnipresence of the Divine, the word “Krishna” and Krishna Himself are non-different. So when one chants Hare Krishna, he has Krishna dancing on his tongue, and this is the supreme pleasure. This vibration is eternal, and the soul can partake of it apart from the body, for it is vibrated eternally in the spiritual spheres.
Therefore pleasure or happiness should always be derived from that which is favorable to the cultivation of spiritual knowledge, Krishna consciousness. And that which is painful is that which is unfavorable for the cultivation of such knowledge.
Birth and death here refer to the birth and death of the body, for the soul, being eternally situated, being unborn, is not subject to birth and death, though he may be entangled in them. Lord Krishna establishes this fact in the very beginning of Bhagavad Gita. “For the soul there is neither birth nor death. Nor having once been does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Gita, 2.20)
The jiva soul, though unborn, struggles very hard in the tree of the material body. Under delusion he thinks himself that tree. And in order to enlighten him, his constant companion, the Super Soul, sings the Bhagavad Gita to him. In the Svetasvataro Upanishad it is said that two birds are sitting in the same tree. One of the birds, the individual soul, eats the fruit of the tree, and the other bird, the Super Soul, simply witnesses. The bird who is eating the fruit is so intent on enjoying the tree that he has forgotten his loving relationship with the other bird. The whole purpose of Bhagavad Gita is to awaken the materially absorbed soul to that relationship. As long as he is interested in enjoying the fruits of the tree, he will be entangled in birth and death.
By revival of our relationship with the Super Soul, all desire for enjoying the fruits of the tree of material life is vanquished. Then we are able to enter into our eternal relationship with Krishna in the spiritual world which is the realm of eternality beyond time and pure existence beyond birth and death. The quickest and simplest method for reviving this relationship and attaining this state is the chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna.
Repeatedly in the Gita Lord Krishna says that He is the Super Soul, Paramatma, seated in the hearts of all. “One who sees the Super Soul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies, and understands that neither the soul nor the Super Soul is ever destroyed, actually sees.” (Gita, 13.27) Factually knowing the identity of all living entities to be unified in Krishna, the person in Krishna consciousness does not commit violence against others. “He is a perfect yogi who, knowing that the Self dwells in all, sees the equality of all living entities, both in their happiness and distress, O Arjuna!” (Gita, 6.32) Non-violence does not simply extend to injuring another person physically. One who is non-violent does not put another into misery or confusion. The human body is meant for spiritual realization, and one who does not further this end or who impedes this end actually commits violence on the body. Of course in this age of Kali the whole world is fraught with violence. Violence arises out of anger, and anger arises when one’s lust is frustrated. Therefore non-violence will automatically come when we control our senses and learn to tolerate the comings and goings of lust and desire.
Mahatma Gandhi tried to show that Bhagavad Gita is a treatise on non-violence in order to serve his own political ends, and to do this he had to force an allegorical interpretation on this Scripture. Somehow or other he had to answer for the fact that the Bhagavad Gita was spoken on the battlefield and that Krishna specifically told Arjuna to kill Drona, Bhisma and every other enemy he could get his hands on. In his attempt, Gandhi stated that the Battlefield of Kurukshetra is only a symbol for the human body where the spiritual war between good and evil is waged and that Krishna simply represents the Divine voice in man and Arjuna the mortal voice. The triumph of the Gita then is that the Divine voice wins out. Somehow or other Gandhi ignored the fact that Kurukshetra was a real battlefield and that it is presently existing in India under the same name. Also, in relegating the Bhagavad Gita to mere symbolism he relegates the entire Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavatam as well, for if Krishna is only a character in a fable, then these literatures are no more important than fairy tales. In order for Bhagavad Gita to make sense we must understand that it was not spoken by an ordinary man and that Krishna is not just another ordinary character in fiction. We must come to the understanding that the Speaker of the Gita is the omnipresent eternal Reality who is the very Light of the light by which we presently read His Divine instructions.
Now, should one conclude that just because Krishna told Arjuna to go out and fight that we have license to kill at our whim or at the whims of unscrupulous politicians? Arjuna was a kshatriya. The word kshatriya denotes one who protects others from harm. This is the duty of the kshatriya. It is not that he attacks innocent men and women; rather, he fights for a higher cause against other kshatriyas who are capable of defending themselves. Nor is it that he stays in the back lines and sends his men out to be killed. In the Dwapara yuga, when Arjuna was a kshatriya, the head of the state would fight in the very front line, and at his death the war would cease. Who could imagine today’s presidents, premiers and prime ministers personally engaged in battle? Besides, Lord Krishna is very specific that Arjuna should fight, not for his own sense gratification, but for the sake of the Supreme. “Considering your specific duty as a kshatriya you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; so there is no need for hesitation. O Partha, happy are the kshatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets. If, however, you do not fight this religious war, then you will certainly incur sin for neglecting your duties and thus lose your reputation as a fighter.” (Gita, 2.31-33) Therefore Arjuna should fight because Krishna desires the battle. For one in Krishna consciousness there is no consideration for personal happiness, profit or gain, victory or defeat. Everything is performed for Krishna as a matter of devotional service.
Today there are no kshatriyas, no specific class of fighters. Men are simply drafted out of society from all walks of life and inducted en masse into the armed forces where they are trained to spray napalm on innocent civilians, including children, and even on defenseless soldiers, and to drop atomic bombs to annihilate the population of entire cities. This is not in the kshatriya spirit. Perhaps the only kshatriyas in the West were the knights of the Crusades, for they at least fought in hand to hand combat against other soldiers for religious principles. Certainly the large global wars of this century are demonically inspired and demonically waged.
One who is in Krishna consciousness is certainly non-violent. He knows that he does not have the right to kill even an ant, for he knows that the Super Soul is dwelling in all living entities. He will fight in battle only if he is a kshatriya and only if Krishna or the Spiritual Master tells him to. Nor is it that one imagines Krishna to give instructions according to one’s own desires. It is standard practice to claim that God is “on our side” and that we are fighting for God, when in actuality we are only fighting for our own stomachs or a vague concept. No. The best course in the age of Kali is renunciation of violence because no war is being waged on religious principles. Therefore Lord Chaitanya, Lord Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha, all Kali yuga avatars, advocate non-violence as the best course in this age.
Non-violence does not mean that I will sit idly by and let someone kill me. Why should I permit another person to commit violence against a body that is in Krishna’s service? If I am devoting my life to spreading Krishna’s message, then I should defend it. Self-defense is not considered violence, and according to the Vedas one is allowed to kill the following aggressors: one who attacks suddenly with a deadly weapon, a house-burner, a poison giver, a plunderer or an agricultural usurper and an enticer of one’s wife.
Non-violence, then, does not mean that we become as passive as stones, nor that we wage war for some vaporous cause such as “freedom now” or “down with the Commumst or fascist pigs,” nor for any other political or ideological concept or slogan. Non-violence means that we benefit others by spreading the message of Krishna consciousness and that we protect ourselves and others from senseless violence.
Equanimity refers to freedom from the dualities of attachment and aversion and thus transcendence of the three material modes. This implies an inherent evenness of temper and a disposition which is not disturbed even in the most trying circumstances. In order to attain this, one must be a master of self-control by having his senses engaged in devotional service. Once one engages in devotional service he automatically acquires all these good qualities, such as forgiveness, truthfulness, self-control, calmness, fearlessness, non-violence, equanimity, charity, austerity, satisfaction and the rest. The characteristics of the man who has transcended the modes of nature by devotional service are outlined in detail in the latter part of Chapter Fourteen of the Gita: Such a man is established in equanimity. “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: He who neither hates nor desires the development of the three qualities of illumination, attachment, and delusion, who is transcendentally situated, remaining neutral through all the reactions of the qualities, thinking that they may work, but that he is transcendental; he who looks equally upon happiness and distress, upon a pebble, a stone, or a piece of gold, who is equal toward the desirable and the undesirable, steady and well-situated in defamation or in adoration: he is said to be transcendentally situated, when he treats equally both honor and dishonor, both friend and enemy, and is not engaged in material activities. That is the position of transcendence over the three modes of Nature.” (Gita, 14.22-25)
When one is satisfied, all his needs, expectations, wishes or desires are fulfilled. The English word satisfaction comes from the Latin words satis and facere which mean “to make enough.” When one is hungry and enough food is made, he will be satisfied because all his demands will be answered.
Today in modern America the theme song of the general populace, and especially of the youth, is “I can’t get no satisfaction.” This is because human desires when unchecked are insatiable. When one desire is fulfilled it goes away for a moment but returns shortly afterwards with ten friends. It is especially impossible to satisfy the youth who are demanding a greater variety of sense objects to gratify their desires. We all know of the alcoholic who is no more satisfied with twenty drinks than with one drink, or the LSD user who always needs a few micrograms more to obtain the bliss of paranirvana. American society affords a million daily examples of frustration in a frenetic search for satisfaction. The real hunger is internal, and man is trying to satisfy it by externals. There is no satisfaction outside the satisfaction of the soul in its blissful relationship with the Super Soul Sri Krishna.
One who is in Krishna consciousness is always satisfied with whatever is obtained by the grace of the Supreme Lord. If Krishna sends a palace with unlimited opulence, it can be used in Krishna’s service; and if Krishna sends nothing but a tree, the devotee is satisfied to simply lie on the ground beneath it. Because he is in a transcendental relationship with Krishna and is receiving pleasure from the reservoir of pleasure, his material needs are cut to a minimum. He is therefore satisfied with whatever is available. His real satisfaction comes from simply sitting on the planet earth and having the Names of his beloved Lord roll off his tongue
In the English language, the word “austerity” has negative connotations. It comes from the Greek word austeros meaning “dry or harsh.” One who is austere is expected to be stern, rigorous or harsh and severe. His bearing is expected to be grave and sober, and his morals are expected to be very strict. In fact, in the west the ideas associated with the word austerity are so negative that when we hear of an austere person, we automatically wish to avoid him But this is not what is meant by austerity here. Krishna consciousness is not dry or harsh, but one’s activities are regulated.
First, it is important to understand what Lord Krishna does not mean by austerity. In the Middle Ages, among Christians, self-laceration and flagellation were fashionable methods to purge oneself of sins. But in the Gita Lord Krishna condemns such bodily violence. “There are those who undergo severe penances and austerities not mentioned in the scriptural injunctions; this they do out of pride, egoism, lust and attachment They do such things impelled by passion. Those who torture the material elements of this body and the Super Soul within it are to be known as demons.” (Gita, 17.5-6)
Austerity refers to the observation of specific rules and regulations, such as rising early, taking baths, attending ceremonies of worship and so on. It may be that these regulations are troublesome because someone is addicted to sleep or dislikes bathing in cold water, but one should nonetheless practice them. The trouble that is suffered is called penance or austerity. In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna sets forth a general program for the regulated life. “There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough. He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, working, and recreation can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.” (Gita, 6.16-17) One can easily recognize these injunctions as the principles underlying the Greeks’ metronariston, philosophy of the Golden Mean, the happy medium which is the safe and prudent way between extremes, and the Eightfold Path (right understanding, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right vocation, right effort, right alertness and right concentration) of Buddhism. In fact, Lord Buddha Himself underwent severe austerities almost to the point of starvation and finally proclaimed such self-punishment to be contrary to the Dharma.
In the Seventeenth Chapter of the Gita Lord Krishna says that austerity is basically threefold-austerity of the body, austerity of the tongue, and austerity of the mind. “The austerity of the body consists in this: worship of God, the demigods, the twice-born, the Spiritual Master, and of wise and experienced teachers; and the practice of cleanliness, celibacy and non-violence.” (Gita, 17.14) The Spiritual Master directs the student by example and by specific instructions in the austerity of the body. The body is not created by Krishna to be tortured but to render service unto Him. Therefore the first duty of the body is to worship the Supreme with the total senses like Maharaj Amburish.
“Austerity of speech consists of speaking truthfully and beneficially and avoiding speech that offends. One should also recite the Vedas regularly.” (Gita, 17.15) One should not say things that would cause mental agitation to others, nor should one engage in frivolous, nonsensical speech. In speaking of spiritual matters, one should refer to the scriptures to establish the truth, and one’s speech should be palatable without being compromising so that others can derive the greatest benefit. Fault finding and upbraiding others only lead to emnity.
“And serenity, gentleness, silence, self-control and purity of thought are the austerities of the mind.” (Gita, 17.16) Detaching the mind from the objects of the senses is austerity for the mind. When the mind is removed from the service of the senses by engagement of devotional service, it becomes serene.
This threefold austerity practiced by men whose aim is not to benefit themselves materially but to please the Supreme is of the nature of goodness.” (Gita. 17.17) The whole purpose of austerity is outlined here. In Krishna consciousness everything is done for the pleasure of Krishna. By watering the root of the tree the branches are automatically served. Often people perform penances and austerities to attract the attention of others and to receive honor and veneration as great saints and sages. Such persons who are in the modes of passion allow subordinates to worship them and offer them riches. And although this may endure for a while, Lord Krishna says that the results are not permanent. “Those ostentatious penances and austerities which are performed in order to gain respect, honor, and reverence are said to be in the mode of passion. They are neither stable nor permanent.” (Gita, 17.18) We also have the example in the Srimad Bhagavatam of the great demon Hiranya Kashipu who performed very severe austerities to make himself immortal. Because he underwent great penances to achieve the impossible, namely eternality of the material body, he was finally killed by Lord Krishna in the form of Nrishingha. Lord Krishna proclaims such austerities to be in the modes of ignorance. “And those penances and austerities which are performed foolishly by means of obstinate self-torture or to destroy or injure others are said to be in the mode of ignorance.” (Gita, 17.19)
Austerity, then, is not simply a matter of being harsh and dry or of torturing oneself. Austerity should be performed according to rules and regulations under the guidance of a Spiritual Master for the sake of the Supreme.
One can perform charity, like austerity, in one of the three modes of material nature. Lord Krishna says, “There are also three kinds of charities. That gift which is given out of duty at the proper time and place and to a worthy person and without expectation of return is considered to be charity in the mode of goodness.” (Gita, 17.20) The Vedas do not recommend that one give charity indiscriminately. It is best given to those who are engaged in spiritual activities. Charity is regarded as a means of spiritual perfection, and it is suggested that one give charity at holy places during specific times, such as during eclipses or at the end of the month. It is also recommenced that one have no consideration for recompense. In America there are so many charitable institutions for the poor, and compassion often dictates that we give to them, but most often we see that the poor engage in objectionable activities such as drinking, meat-eating, gambling and sexual promiscuity. Obviously charity will simply encourage them to continue their debasing habits. Therefore the best policy according to the Vedas is to give charity to one engaged in Krishna conscious activities, specifically to one who is spreading the message of Bhagavad Gita.
Charity in the inferior modes is to be altogether avoided. “But charity performed with the expectation for some return or with a desire for fruitive results or in a grudging mood is said to be in the mode of passion.” (Gita, 17.21) When people give charity in order to elevate themselves to higher planets they are expecting some return. This is discouraged. Some people give grudgingly out of a sense of obligation, and their gift is in the mode of passion because it is motivated by social convention. “And charity performed at an improper place and time and given to unworthy persons without respect and with contempt is charity in the mode of ignorance.” (Gita, 17.22) When one walks down the Boweries of America one sees innumerable drunken derelicts and mendicants who are begging for money. According to the Vedas, charity that is given in places where people indulge in intoxication, illicit sex or gambling is considered to be in the modes of darkness. This charity does not benefit anyone, and to give to such persons is to simply commit violence against them, for the gift only encourages their harmful activities. Actually, all mundane charities are harmful because the gifts are given to benefit the gross material body. The real gift, the matchless gift, is the message of Bhagavad Gita. Since the living entity is not the material body but the spirit soul, charity to the body is not directed to the individual, but to his corpse. Real charity is awakening someone to the awareness that he is the servant of the Supreme Lord and that his happiness lies in re-establishing his transcendental relationship with the Lord.
Fame And Infamy
Practically every teenager in America wants to be a famous rock and roll star. It is natural to want to be well-liked or well-known. Actually one of the opulences of Krishna is total fame. Being the totality of everything, complete fame goes to Him alone. Because we are minute reflections of Krishna, that tendency to enjoy the opulence of fame is in us minutely. However, fame is incidental to Krishna, whereas the living entity is always hankering for it.
In the Chaitanya Charitamrita Lord Chaitanya tells Ramananda Roy that the greatest fame to be had in the world is the fame of being known as a devotee of Krishna’s. Being known as anything else is infamy. This should be our standard for judging real fame in the world. Worldly fame, like every other worldly opulence, is temporary. Who were the most famous popular singers of the last century? Who were the greatest actors during Shakespeare’s day? During Caesar’s day? Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage-what are they? Mere dream bubbles. And if empires pass into oblivion, what to speak of personal fame?
All of these qualities and attributes are found throughout the universe in both human and demigod society. If the self of man is to be his friend instead of his enemy, then he will develop the positive qualities and attributes. One who engages in devotional service to Lord Krishna automatically develops the positive attributes. The purport of this verse, however, is that “All these were created by Me alone.” Krishna is the origin of all qualities and all attributes, be they good or bad from the material point of view. What is seen in the material universe is but a minute reflection of what exists in Him in full. In order to become godly, man must develop those attributes which detach him from the world consciousness and establish him in the love for the Divine. This is the real objective of human life.