The Vain Promise
It is the human tendency to follow the direction generally taken by most people. In a world steeped in materialism, most people are intent on worldly goals. Wealth, social status, power, fame etc., are sought out with great gusto. The normal habit of persons in society is to simply follow this trend without question. Success and achievement are defined as the acquisition of exalted material
But, no one observes if anyone following this kind of life is actually happy. On even a superficial scrutiny, we can see people in all strata of the society mired in complex tangles of worries and anxieties. The promised unadulterated happiness of the materialistic way of life is non-existent.
Most often, the duality is embraced and the fleeting happiness obtained after an intense struggle against adversities is deemed victory. The pragmatic question in the world constituted of suffering is, “How can there be any happiness without distress?” “No pain, no gain!” is the motto followed by some more intense churning of the insipid for extracting nectar.
No one asks, “What is the gain that is worth the struggle?” After all, we have limited time and energy. We have the power to discriminate where to direct our resources. Most people follow the general mass and decide in favour of worldly achievements never considering the insubstantiality and woeful ineptitude of these “achievements” in delivering enduring happiness.
Lord Krishna’s Perspective
Lord Krishna, the Supreme Authority, in the Bhagavad-Gita, presents a divergent view. He terms it wisdom to identify ephemeral happiness and shun it. He says,
ye hi saṁsparśa-jā bhogā
duḥkha-yonaya eva te
na teṣu ramate budhaḥ
“An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kuntī, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.” Bhagavad-Gita 5.22
He speaks of happiness that is not a result of fulfilling worldly desires.
vindaty ātmani yat sukham
sukham akṣayam aśnute
“Such a liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure or external objects but is always in trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme.” Bhagavad-Gita 5.21
The Lord clearly directs us to engage our time and energy in seeking out pleasure within rather than struggle with the unwieldy, rigid external reality that never moulds to our wishes and being governed by powerful factors such as material energy, karma and time, often resists their fulfilment.
Hence, one may follow the directions of the all-knowing, Perfect Supreme Personality of Godhead, or one may choose to follow the spiritually blind leaders who urge the pursuit of mundane happiness. The Gita states that most humans can never see beyond the demands of their senses, mind and ego. They never endeavour for perfection. Only some do and of those few, hardly one person knows Krishna and the sublime value of devotional service to Him – the only source of pure happiness for the eternal spiritual being.
To neglect the Lord’s transcendental perspectives and directions and follow the mundane mass of people led by blind leaders is called gadurika-pravaha. Prahlada Maharaja says,
na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇuṁ
durāśayā ye bahir-artha-māninaḥ
andhā yathāndhair upanīyamānās
te ’pīśa-tantryām uru-dāmni baddhāḥ
“Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Viṣṇu. As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries.” Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.31.
The Supreme Lord, His great devotees, the great Acharyas and the divine Vedic literature that includes Srimad Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam exhort humanity to depart from the worldly path and take the road that leads to the eternal, blissful spiritual realm of Krishna!
tataḥ padaṁ tat parimārgitavyaṁ
yasmin gatā na nivartanti bhūyaḥ
tam eva cādyaṁ puruṣaṁ prapadye
yataḥ pravṛttiḥ prasṛtā purāṇī
“One must seek that place from which, having once gone, one never returns, and there surrender to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything has begun and in whom everything is abiding since time immemorial.” Bhagavad-Gita 15.4.