Modern Life Speed Without Direction
The situation of modern man can be compared to a traveler on Mumbai’s local trains. Imagine you struggle to enter a crowded 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, “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 am not sure where I wish to get down.” Your surprise now turns into curiosity, “Well, my dear friend, if you don’t know where the train is heading to and where you wish to go, why did you enter this crowded train?” He then confesses to you, “I was standing on the railway platform and saw many people fight to enter this train. I thought this is an important activity and so I entered the train.” What would you call such a person?
We too enter life’s rat race MBA’s, IIT’s, IAS, business in a similar way, but when asked about why we have chosen this career option, our answer reveals that we did this because many people do it. The underlying principle is the glamour of money. But can money be a reasonable goal? People with an abundance of wealth are still miserable, for money is just a means of happiness; it can’t on its own give happiness. Besides, money is like a painkiller it 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 the office and back, has deadlines and a 16-hour work schedule, but unfortunately does not have the slightest idea of where he is heading to and what the goal of his life is.
Returning Home the Permanent Solution for Happiness
Our desire to experience happiness is justifiable because each soul is divine and pleasure-seeking. The Vedanta-sütra 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 person looking for water in a desert. In a desert, a thirsty man may find a trickle of water, but this water can hardly satisfy him. Instead by drinking these few drops of water, he feels more agitated. Unlimited water, however, exists outside the desert, and that can satisfy the thirsty man permanently. The happiness of this world is like a water trickle in a desert, which can never satisfy us but increases our craving for more. Real unlimited happiness exists outside this desert-like material world, in the spiritual abode of God, which is our eternal home.
This world has been described in the Bhagavad-gita as duhkhalayam asasvatam, “miserable and temporary.” Alaya in Sanskrit means “a place,” and duhkha means “distress.” For example, pustakalaya means a place where you get pustaka, or books (in other words, a library), and bhojanalaya is a place where you get bhojana, or food. One would not expect to get books on philosophy or science from a bhojanalaya, nor would one ask for a pizza in a pustakalaya. Similarly in duhkhalaya, one gets only duhkha. This world has been rubber-stamped by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita as miserable and temporary. Once we accept this harsh reality of this world, then our anxieties to seek happiness from the temporary things of this world gradually wanes.
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 to live in the ghettos, languishing in poverty. Just as a father eagerly awaits his child’s return to home, God also eagerly awaits our exercising of our free will to return back to Him. A charitably disposed person may come and give a lost child food, clothes, television, etc. This is compared to 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 püja 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. The SMS solutions offered by society for a person seeking happiness, is temporary; a person remains dissatisfied even after receiving all these benefits, just like the lost child. A fourth person appears on the scene and takes the child back 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.
A teacher of God consciousness encourages all to seek happiness through connection to God. The lost child on his way home is excited and happy to meet his father, and similarly a human being is spiritually surcharged and blissful as he is endeavoring 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.