Skip to content Skip to footer

Can bodily pleasures give lasting happiness?

The more Richard (now Radhanath Swami) tried to fit in with the social norms of his peers, the more he was miserable. He smoked Hashish and Marijuana and flirted more seriously than ever before, yet felt lonely and found his condition deplorable. He realized it was the Lord of his heart that he was fighting in his attempt to seek happiness through sense gratification. Although he was winning the fight in terms of increased sense pleasures, he felt lost and dejected. Sitting on the bank of Thames and looking at the Big Ben, he wondered if he was wasting his time. In a Church, Richard’s heart was filled with a special realization; he was now inspired to lead a life on his own terms rather than of his friends’. He also hoped to one day lead his life on God’s terms.

Radhanath Swami says our repeated attempt to seek happiness through bodily pleasures is like chewing that which has already been chewed. Imagine a bubble gum chewed and spat out. Only a foolish person would pick it up and chew it again, hoping to get some juice out of it. Similarly the great sages of the past have declared that material pleasures do not satisfy the deep needs of the soul; they give fleeting pleasures and even that fades away after some time. Yet we seek pleasures from those very activities.

One of the common themes of Radhanath Swami’s discourses has been that our original nature is spiritual–different from the material body that we presently inhabit. We can never become happy by attempting to satisfy the body. The soul must be satisfied because that’s our real identity. Radhanath Swami gives an interesting example of “Bird in the Cage” to illustrate this point. If the owner of the bird only pays attention to the cage, polishing it carefully, but neglects the inhabitant of the cage (the bird), then the bird will soon die. Likewise, if we simply pay attention to the body, neglecting its inhabitant (the soul), spiritually we will be dead. Of course, Radhanath Swami clarifies that the soul never dies; but he will certainly be very miserable.

Radhanath Swami’s wisdom is realizable in our daily lives. Our practical experience is that even when we obtain some object that we think will satisfy our senses, we soon become frustrated because the happiness is not forthcoming. This world is arranged in such a way that despite all attempts at enjoyment, the conditioned soul is continuously frustrated. Fulfilling the desires of the senses does not bring peace, because even if the senses are temporarily satisfied, they demand newer and newer experiences. They are insatiable. Rather than becoming satisfied, the senses become inflamed by the process of seeking enjoyment. Thus, the living entity alternates between boredom and craving, and is overall frustrated by his existence.

Radhanath Swami assures that spiritual life is however different. If we can lead a life centred on service and chanting of God’s names, the mirror of our heart would be cleansed and we would experience spiritual happiness. Radhanath Swami draws an interesting parallel with a mirror; the mirror of our mind or consciousness is clouded by the contaminated association that we have had in this world; The chanting cleanses the mirror of the mind, puts out the fire of material lust, makes our lives auspicious, situates us on the transcendental platform, awakens us to transcendental knowledge, and gives us the pleasure for which we have been hankering.


Leave a comment