A friend of mine often argued with me about the local trains of Mumbai. While I found the peak hour travel disgusting, he exclaimed it was all right. I asked him if he never felt that it’s inhuman to travel the way people do so, with barely any space to even stand inside the trains. Isn’t the whole thing sickening? He’d look at me as if I was crazy.
A few months later he was transferred to a remote but scenic place in Assam. Five years later he returned to Mumbai. We again met often and had our friendly exchanges. One day I casually asked him about his office travel and immediately he began lambasting the Mumbai trains. I was amused because I had previously seen him indifferent to the hellish train rides. But now he was animated as he expressed how he finds it disgusting.
It didn’t take me long to understand what had caused this transformation. During his earlier stay in Mumbai, he had no idea what it meant to inhale fresh morning air or watch a beautiful sunshine. But when he went to an idyllic setting, he walked daily to his office and back home, amidst verdant meadows, with exotic birds swarming at beautiful lakes. He experienced a higher taste in life. And then when he returned to Mumbai’s trains, the contrast was glaring.
This incident helped me come to terms with why some people find a materialistic life centered on sense gratification normal. They wonder what’s wrong with drowning ourselves in liquor, drugs, and the sensual passions of this world. They even question the rationale of rising early and chanting of God’s holy names. But the paradox is obvious to one who despite a past of sensuality now takes to spiritual practices.
After a few weeks of rising early, eating sattvic food, chanting and associating with spiritual teachings, a practitioner’s consciousness takes off to an entirely different realm. One experiences tranquility and inner contentment. The taste is rich and profound. Then if he were again put in an environment surcharged with the modes of passion and ignorance, he feels choked. The higher taste is obvious, as the saying goes, ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating.’ Then the previous life of sense gratification appears gaudy and tasteless.
This is confirmed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.”
To be continued…