In the fifth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, Jada Bharat explains the plight of a living entity trapped in this material world.
He explains allegorically that our attempts to seek happiness in this world is like that of a merchant who enters a forest hoping to be happy by the jewels, wood, fruits, honey etc that he could accumulate and then sell them in the city for a profit. However his hopes are dashed almost immediately as he enters it. Not realizing it is deadly and vast he gets trapped and for years remains lost in this huge jungle. Similarly this material world with all its complexities and false promises keeps one miserably lost and entangled for millions of lifetimes.
As soon as the merchant enters the forest, six plunderers attack him. Disguised as friends, they cheat him of all his wealth and possessions. And then they mislead him to the most dangerous section within the forest to be devoured by the jackals, wolves and hungry tigers. While trapped in this life of materialistic existence, our five senses and their leader, the mind presenting themselves as our friend, rob us off our sense of discrimination, which is our most important wealth. Then we are dragged to the trap of family life where tiger like wife or husband devours us and like the jackals that howl the whole night, the children cry, and demand so many things. In frustration, the man runs off to a bower hoping to get some relief. However there lie mosquitoes and insects that repeatedly harass him. Likewise unable to withstand the anguish of household life, a materialistic person seeks shelter of his occupation or business and absorbs himself in earning money. Soon he realizes there are envious ‘mosquitoes’ and insects- the rivals and competitors- that relentlessly torment him. They never let him feel happy.
Wretchedly lying in these bushes, he looks up at the sky and imagines a castle in air that would give him shelter. The grandiose plans of a materialistic person become his hope of happiness in this forest of material world. Just like the imaginary castle, his wishful thinking remains a mere utopia. Then a huge whirlwind almost blinds him, and he runs and falls into a thorny bush. This is compared to the lusty desires of the living entity, who being blinded by his passions, sees his wife as an object of his enjoyment, and that afflicts his heart with more distress.
Desperately seeking relief, he sees a river and jumps in, only to hurt his body because it’s a shallow body of water. Friends and society can hardly assuage the bleeding heart of a soul trapped in this forest. Finally he looks at an attractive bee hive and thinks the honey contained therein would give him happiness. But the swarm of bees sting him, and his beauty, health all diminishes rapidly, and more sadness engulfs his consciousness. Likewise a conditioned soul bound by the three modes, seeks an illicit affair with other women, and that only implicates him in more suffering.
At last one day he sees the king’s party traversing through the forest. Desperate to be rescued, he rushes but the king and his men only loot him. Correspondingly the government taxes and strictures suck off whatever little wealth and hopes the living entity has. He then sees a mountain within the forest, and climbs it desperately hoping he would find something valuable there. But the hilly climb is filled with thorns and sharp stones that pierce his feet. In a desperate attempt to be happy, the living entity climbs the ladder of success and growth, seeking to become the numero uno in his field of expertise. But that journey is filled with more inconveniences, embarrassments and miseries.
He thinks maybe the monkeys are the only beings in the forest that are happy. He joins them in the trees and jumps from branch to branch, but soon gets diseased and wounded. Monkeys are expert in sex life. The living entity takes a deep plunge into sense gratification, hoping that would give him happiness. That only brings disease and more ordeals.
Soon he hears the roar of a lion, and takes shelter of a creeper, hoping the chirping of sweet birds therein would pacify him. However far from helping him, these birds themselves flee away seeing the approaching lion. He then looks up at the vultures and hyenas for help, but they too want to pounce on his flesh. Lion is compared to death. Realizing that inevitable death is approaching, the living entity seeks the comfort of his wife’s creeper like arms, and hopes that her soft, chirping words would soothe his heart. But she herself is insecure and miserable. And the swindler gurus, like the vultures, can do little to save us from the cycle of repeated birth and death.