Sun without sunshine, sweet without sweetness and fire without light is unimaginable; similarly a soul without desire is unthinkable. As a soul we are pleasure seekers – ananda mayo bhyasat – and can never ever be desireless. We were originally the residents of the spiritual world but when we developed yearning to become God and enjoy like God then we were sent to this material world to satisfy our non-spiritual desires. Here in this world we fervently search for ways to satisfy our countless cravings. We hopelessly hope that once all our yearnings will get materialized then we would feel deep satisfaction. Unfortunately it never happens.
Insatiable material desires torture us
Our desires are endless, the moment one gets fulfilled, immediately the other pops up. Many a times our yearnings are not for our basic needs, but it is because of social pressure or a longing to prove our worth to others. My car should be bigger than that of my neighbours, my smartphone should be the best, my television set should make people go crazy and so on. Advertisements of today are also tailor made to titillate our egos. Ads like “Neighbors envy owners pride” or “Designed for envy” try to entice people to go after material things. Many think that with age material greed subside. But in reality it doesn’t happen. With age the form of the desires changes but not the yearnings. Many people are so much obsessed with worldly things that they are ready to go extra mile to achieve it. In fact they become the follower of Carvaka Muni, the atheist philosopher, who famously (infamously) said.
His philosophy was, “Beg, borrow and steal but enjoy all the pleasures of this world to your heart’s content because once you die everything will be finished and you will not be held accountable for anything.”
But scriptures clearly explain that as souls we are eternal and whatever actions we perform in our life we are answerable for those. So we have to be always extra cautious whenever we pursue any cravings. In fact even though some of our wishes may get fulfilled but still it never satisfies us. And the wishes which remain unfulfilled torture us every moment and make us go crazy. In order to lead a peaceful life it is imperative for us to get rid of our insatiable desires right now. Even Krishna asks us do the same in Bhagavad Gita 2.70. And he does not specify any age limit for this.
Bhagavad Gita 2.70: “A person who is not disturbed by the incessant ﬂow of desires – that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being ﬁlled but is always still – can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.”
We will be able to overcome the cravings for worldly possessions only by the mercy of the Lord. Just like a touchstone which converts an iron into gold, the Supreme God will spiritualize all our ignoble desires. How this happens have been beautifully explained in Srimad Bhagavatam through the story of Dhruva.
Lord purifies Dhruva’s desires
When Dhruva was humiliated by his step mother and neglected by his father then he was devastated. To his dismay he discovered that none in this world were capable enough to help him to get out of this deplorable situation. His mother too was saddened by Dhruva’s plight but she was also helpless. She then advised Dhruva to seek shelter of Lord Vishnu, the creator of this world. Lord Vishnu being the Supreme Lord could have only fulfilled his desires. Dhruva’s heart was burning with insult, he wanted to get his honour back, he wanted the kingdom and he wanted to become glorious. Although he was just 5 years old but still he courageously took up the challenge to please the Lord. He left the comforts of the palace and went to the forest where he started performing severe austerities to attract the attention of the Lord. In spite of many difficulties and obstacles he remained completely focussed and continued mediating on the Lord for six months. His single minded determination attracted the mercy of the Lord and He personally appeared before him. Lord Vishnu’s effulgent transcendental form immediately attracted Dhruva’s heart. As the sun rises the darkness dissipates. Similarly as the Lord appeared directly before Dhruva all his ignorance immediately disappeared. The material motives which had initially inspired him to worship the Lord no longer looked attractive to him. In fact he felt ashamed of it standing in front of the Lord. The impurities of his heart had completely got cleansed.
In a prayerful mood Dhruva expressed his feelings to the Lord, “Persons who worship You simply for the sense gratification of this bag of skin are certainly influenced by Your illusory energy. In spite of having You, who are like a desire tree and are the cause of liberation from birth and death, foolish persons, such as me, desire benedictions from You for sense gratification, which is available even for those who live in hellish conditions.” SB 4.9.9
We are also having tons of material desires and we are obsessed about it. We even believe that once these get fulfilled then we will experience unlimited happiness. But it is never going to happen. A fish is happy only when it is in the water. If we put the fish in a golden jar thinking that the glitz of gold will satisfy it then it wouldn’t happen. In fact the fish will die there for want of water. Our hunger of heart can be satisfied only when Krishna’s love blossoms in it and not by things of this world. By nature we are spiritual beings and our heart will get satisfied only when our desires are spiritualized.
Dhruva’s heart which was burning because of insult got soothed when he saw the Lord standing in front of him. Similarly our starving heart will experience contentment and fulfilment only when it is filled with Krishna’s mercy.
Spiritual pill to cure material desire
Although Dhruva’s initial motives were non- spiritual but he took the spiritual path to achieve it and so he subsequently achieved the Lord. Likewise we may be having many impurities in our heart but still we should take up the process of Krishna consciousness as Krishna can only transform our consciousness. Initially the devotional path may not excite us because we have been away from Krishna’s abode for millions of years and so we have forgotten all about the spiritual bliss. But still we have to resolutely practice devotional life as per the rules and regulations given in the sacred Vedic books for our own salvation. A patient may not like the treatment meted out to him in the hospital but still he continues with the medication because he knows that to get healthy he need to undergo through the process. Being spiritually sick we also have to continue taking the spiritual pill as this is only going to solve all our problems of life. In this age of Kaliyuga, the age of downfall, chanting the holy names of the Lord like the Hare Krishna Mahamantra is the authorized medicine which simultaneously helps us to develop love of God and also cleanses our hearts of all impurities of lust, great, pride, anger, envy, illusion and false ego. This process has been recommended by none other than Lord Chaitanya – ceto darpana marjanam. Along with chanting we also should hear about the wonderful pastimes of Lord Krishna, about His unlimited glorious and His merciful disposition. Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.17 expounds the benefit of hearing, “Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.”
The spiritual process isn’t troublesome but is indeed very delightful. As we start developing spiritual taste our heart starts experiencing deep fulfilment. Things of this world no longer bother us and neither attracts us. We start understanding the futility of material desires and material pleasures and we develop intense longing for Krishna.
Desire to serve the Lord brings divine joy
When Lord fulfilled Dhruva’s material wish by granting him the benediction to rule the earthly planet for 36000 years then instead of becoming happy Dhruva became morose. He was afraid that worldly possessions would deprive him of love of God. However Lord assured him that he would never forget Him. Dhruva had understood the worth of spiritual life and he expressed his gratitude in these solemn words, "I came into this forest just looking for pieces of broken glass, but instead I have found a great jewel in You, my dear Lord, and now I am completely satisfied and don't want anything."
As souls we are pleasure seeking and pleasure is there where Krishna is. Searching for pleasure in this world is like running after a mirage in the desert to quench thirst. The illusion of happiness which this world creates baffles us and binds us in this world. Our innate longing to lord over the world always gets thwarted. But once we come under the shelter of Lord then we develop a thorough understanding of our inner self and our relationship with the Supreme. A sincere and serious devotee of the Lord wants nothing from the Lord but just fervently try to always serve the Lord because he experiences unlimited happiness in doing so. “O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want Your causeless devotional service birth after birth.” Sri Siksastakam, Verse 4.
Lord will send flying chariot from the spiritual world for us
Lord had also promised Dhruva that after ruling for 36,000 years he will become the ruler of the Pole Star, the planet which exists for eternity. And Lord indeed sent the chariot from the spiritual world to take Dhruva to the glowing planet. While embarking on his spiritual journey the death personified appeared in front of him and Dhruva put his feet on death thus conquering the unconquerable death. He then sat on the magnificent chariot to go to the supreme destination. All the renowned sages and the celestial beings had come to witness this spectacular event. They were showering flowers on him and singing songs extolling the glories of the Supreme Lord and His dear devotee Dhruva.
Dhruva’s life demonstrates that how Lord mercifully transforms the lives of those who seek His shelter. We should also try to follow the footsteps of Dhruva and try our best to please the Lord with our devotional endeavour. In all situations and circumstances we should worship Lord with great faith and determination giving up all our hankering for non-spiritual pleasures. Our efforts and right intentions will attract the mercy of the all – attractive Lord. He has assured us that He personally takes interest in delivering His unalloyed devotees from this miserable world. “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I will deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” Bhagavad Gita 18.66. Devotees of the Lord live happily in this world and become eligible to achieve supreme destination after leaving this world. Scriptures explain that the spiritual world is surrounded with millions of desire fulfilling purpose trees which fulfills all the wishes of the soul. Of course in God’s kingdom a soul just wants to serve the Lord and nothing else. There is supreme satisfaction and inexplicable joy in doing so. If we are willing to forgo our non-spiritual longings and are ready to serve the Lord lovingly then we too will become eligible to go back to the spiritual world. Krishna will in fact send a flying chariot to take us back to His kingdom. Are we ready for it?
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Purushottam Kumar is a member of congregation at ISKCON Kolkata. He works in Tech Mahindra, Kolkata as “Associate Solution Designer”.[ spiritual ]