A classsic parallel from ancient history to the discontenment prevalent today in the modern society
What is common amongst the following: Elvis Presley, Virginia Woolf, Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Hendrix, Ernest Hemingway, Guru Dutt, and Nafisa Joseph? – before committing suicide, all of them had their claim to fame. For a lmost all the above cases the cameras flashed, people eulogized, and suddenly it was all over. While diehard optimists might shrug off these examples as an exception to the general rule of money and fame leading to happiness, a careful observation however reveals unhappiness as a common tenet of modern life – ‘successful’ or otherwise. While the rich and famous continue to put up the facade, beaming to the world and assuring “All’s well”, we find a classic parallel to this modern tragedy of discontentment in vedic history.
AN EVENT FROM THE PAST
The most accomplished writer and poet of all time is sitting on the banks of river Sarasvati, with a sorry face, It is Srila Vyasadeva. He has composed not only the voluminous Vedas, Mahabharata, and Upanisads, numbering over a million verses, but has also delineated steps to achieve mastery over manipulating matter. The eight mystic perfections viz. becoming smaller than the smallest, getting any desired product at any time, and the secrets to develop special skills to increase beauty, wealth etc, are all known to him. For the rest of eternity, he will be renowned as the most proficient writer, with no mortal ever coming close to his achievements. Yet emptiness engulfs his heart and he ponders on the cause of his dissatisfation. Logiclly it does not make sense because through his unparalleled works, he has achieved all that one considers as synonmous with success in this world. Just then, Srila Narada Muni, his spiritual master, arrives on the scene.
Srila Vyasadeva humbly offers a seat to his guru and serves him. Narada Muni begins by sarcastically inquiring, “My dear vyasa, you have written so amny treatises on various branches of knowledge. Are you satisfied by your expositions dealing with primarily the body and mind?” Realizing his spiritual master’s ability to discern his state of anguish, Vyasadeva confesses, “I am feeling emptiness within. I don’t know why? I am not able to identify the cause of my despondency. Please help me?” Narada Muni’s reply is prompt, “You have written so many books, but in none of these works have you glorified Krsna exclusively as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All literatures and activities that do not intend to glorify the most attractive pastimes of Krsna and give pleasure to His transcendental senses can never satisfy anybody. I consider such pursui ts to be a waste of precious time.” Narada Muni makes a deep point here. He reasons that we should refrain from squandering away our rare and valuable human form of life by wasting our time and energy in bodily and mental activities. Our real identity transcends these bodily designations and if we connect ourselves to the Supreme transcendence, we can experience a natural state of happiness. A fish when taken out of water will feel suffocation despite being provided with all modern entertainment gadgets. It can be happy only when connected back to a body of water, where it originally belongs. Similarly, we the spirit souls originally belong to the spiritual realm and are God’s parts and parcels. This material body and the surrounding environment are foreign to the living entity and all endeavours aimed at satisfying just the body will only prove more frustrating.
LOOKING FOR ‘PLEASURE’ IN KRSNA
We, the parts of Supreme Lord are constitutionally seeking ‘ rasa’ (or taste). Just as a mango appeals to us not just due to its fragrance or color but due to its inherent taste, similarly every activity and relationship in this world attracts us with its own unique taste. A desire to relish this taste attracts us to enter into that particular relationship or pursue that activity. Unfortunately, the ‘rasas’ we presently seek are centered on bodily extensions and thus are temporary and lose their taste after some time. A child relishes a bubble gum initially, later the taste wan es off and eventually the only source of pleasure that remains is in trying to make a big bubble out of the gum. Finally, the bubble bursts and sticks all over the child’s face. Similarly, possessions and relationships in this world appear fresh and juicy in in the beginning, but sooner or later they become stale and eventually they just stick to our consciousness, making life a painful experience. Not surprisingly then, many seek addictions, sleeping pills, and sometimes even suicide as an alternative. A few other hopefuls, attempt to suck juice in a better way through more determined efforts or different approaches and eventually land up with the same experience of chewing the already chewed. At such a time when the frustrated living entity seeks shelter of Krsna, he experiences a rasa which is strikingly different than all his previous experiences. Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is defined as ‘akhila rasamrta murti’, the source and embodiment of all ‘taste’ (rasa) or mellows. This experience is enduring and provides newer and newer tastes with the passage of time. Far from waning off like it’s material counterpart, this experience increases in quality with every passing moment. Thus, we see devotees in ISKCON chanting the same Hare Krsna mantra or hearing the same pastimes of Krsna for years together and still relishing newer ecstasies each time. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard Dhruva Maharaja’s pastime hundreds of times each day, and with each progressive hearing of the same narrations from Srimad-Bhagavatam, He was increasing His spiritual joys. In contrast, when we watch the same movie or read a glossy film or sports magazine more than a couple of times, we are already fed up and saturated. We then desperately seek to hear some new sensational scandals and thus for years, our search to squeeze out pleasure in this world in some way or the other continues.
SRIMAD BHAGAVATAM – A REVOLUTIONARY WORK
Srila Narada Muni therefore advises Vyasadeva to broadcast the message of Krsna without hesitation. Thus, Srimad-Bhagavatam is composed at the most mature stage of Srila Vyasadeva’s realization. This work contain s ‘nectar’ of Krsna and His dealings with various devotees. In each of the twelve cantos, and especially in the tenth, K rsna’ s most wonderful pastimes are described in great detail. Narada Muni further states that slIch a potent composition will cause a revolution in the lives of the impious inhabitants of the world. He assures that descript ions of Lord Krsna, even if filled with li terary discrepancies, nevertheless will transform hearts and fill our lives with unlimited happiness. Srila Prabhupada reveals his own humble state of consciousness in his purport to this conversation, “We are confident that if the transcendental message of Srimad-Bhagavatam is received only by th e leading men of the world, certainly there will be a change of heart, and naturally the people in general will follow them ….. “. We know that our honest attempt to present this great literature conveying transcendental message reviving the God consciousness of people in general and respiritualizing the world atmosphere is fraught with many difficulties. Our presenting this matter in adequate language, especially a foreign language, will certainly fail, and there will be so many literary discrepancies despite our honest attempt to present it in the proper way. But we are sure that with all our faul ts in this connection the seriousness of the subject matter will be taken into consideration, and the leaders of society will still accept this due to its being an honest aattempt to glorify the Almighty God.” The evidence of this potency of an honest presentation of Srimad Bhagvatam is seen in the sucess of Srila Prabhupada’s own preaching.In America where Srila Prabhupada established his movement in 1966, he was facing an audience, addicted to all kinds of sinful activities and sensuous pursuits. Moreover, his English had a thick Bengali accent and he was almost fifty years older than his students. Yet his sincere attempt to glorify Krsna bore fruit and in less than a decade, Krsna consciousness spread across all the continents.
As the world, overwhelmed by pollution of hearts and darkness of ignorance is desperately seeking relief, Srimad-Bhagavatam has appeared as a beacon light for the suffering humanity. Through this literary appearance of Lord Krsna, all of us have been provided with an unique opportunity to get connected with the reservoir of pleasure, Krsna and thus find a meaningful purpose and direction to our rare and precious human existence.