Thorny Pleasure


We spend our lives working hard to secure happiness. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Today’s consumer seems to be moving awayfrom accumulating things toward acquiring new experiences and feelings, collecting mental images with which to fill his life. Thus modern man has realized an age-old truth: enjoyment is only in one’s mind.

The spirit soul, the actual living entity, is captured within a material body. He has at his disposal the intelligence, the mind, and the senses. Because the spirit soul is acting under false ego, which means he thinks himself to be the body, he never gets enough satisfaction and pleasure, however he tries. The example is given of a fish out of water—a pathetic situation. The fish does not become satisfied even if you give it the best food, the best cigar, or the softest bed. Similarly, the spirit soul has a longing for eternity, bliss, and knowledge, and his quest for these things is shown in his construction of hospitals, research laboratories, amusement parks, and so on. But eternity, full knowledge, and full bliss can never be attained by these endeavors, because the body itself is temporary, full of miseries, and full of ignorance. No one can deny that.

The solution lies in getting the fish back into the water—we have to find out the natural position of the soul. All the hospitals, laboratories, amusement parks, and schools are just part of the search for water in the desert. The living entity is by nature superior to matter and thus can never become satisfied with mere material pleasures.

One problem with material pleasure is that its opposite—distress—follows it. This world is full of dualities. No one can say what is darkness without describing its opposite. Nor has “up” any meaning without “down.” So also for happiness and distress, pleasure and pain, love and hate. One follows the other. By embracing material joy, soon enough sorrow will come.

Sense gratification can be compared to embracing a cactus in a desert. I may think. “Oh, here is a nice green plant. It must be full of water!” Because I am very thirsty. I don’t consider the thorns on the cactus. “Let me embrace it! Let me get some juice, some nectar! Yes, I can feel the juice running down, cooling my body.” I become so overwhelmed that I don’t realize that the juice is my own blood and sweat caused by the thorns and the heat.

Similarly, the living entity takes on so much trouble to reach his desired enjoyment. The student spends many years in school to get a degree and a good job. The athlete tortures his body in many ways to become the champion, and almost everyone accepts many mental and physical troubles to attract the opposite sex.

But too soon all one’s hard labor for family, wealth, and fame will prove useless, as disease, old age, and death come, bringing with them the reactions for all one’s deeds in this life. And who knows what one’s next birth will be?

But do we have to meet such an end? Of course, if we seek solutions from those who are themselves entrapped, if we rely on fallible friends and relatives, scientists and economists, then we shall also be eaten up by eternal time. They can’t give us what they themselves don’t have. We have to gather information from transcendental sources.

Bhagavad-gita, spoken by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Lord Himself, and Srimad-Bhagavatam, spoken by Sukadeva Gosvami, a most confidential associate of Krishna, are the cream of Vedic literatures, an ocean of supramundane knowledge and instructions. Their waves wash away all doubts concerning transcendental reality for the sincere reader and seeker of the truth. The Krishna consciousness movement distributes these literatures, which are specifically aimedat helping the bewildered people of today come to the shore of the ocean of transcendental knowledge, where they can drink the nectar of eternity, bliss, and knowledge to their full satisfaction, thus allowing them to end their miserable material existence and return home, back to Godhead.