“Our dear Lord, You are the last word in good fortune and the last resort of all saintly persons; therefore we all consider that we have achieved the perfection of our life, education, austerity and acquisition of transcendental knowledge by meeting You.” (Assembled sages at Kurukshetra speaking to Lord Krishna, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Volume 2, Ch 2.29)
Attending a drug or alcohol rehabilitation center is the last resort taken by addicts to cure themselves of their problem. Due to the intensity of the treatment program, most addicts try to avoid rehab until all other options have been exhausted.
For an addict, it takes a long time to come to the realization that he or she has a problem. Drug and alcohol use typically start off on a casual level. One will have a drink with friends or coworkers once or twice a week. Very quickly the drinking becomes more frequent, reaching the point where one cannot go a single day without being intoxicated. For brief periods of time, intoxication provides a false sense of escape from the senses. The effects of the intoxicants inevitably ware off, forcing one to deal with their senses once again. In hopes of avoiding such situations, addicts try to remain intoxicated all the time. When one realizes that they may be drinking or using too much, they try various methods to kick their habit. They might try abstention for a day or two, or maybe try avoiding certain people or situations. Drug rehabilitation, involving a lengthy stay at a clinic or center, is seen as the most drastic method of therapy. Addicts know that if rehab won’t cure them, then nothing else will.
Many famous celebrities have cured their addictions by attending rehab centers. Two very famous examples are James Hetfield, the lead singer of the heavy metal band Metallica, and Rush Limbaugh, the most listened to radio talk show host in America. Hetfield developed an addiction to alcohol as his band arose from obscurity to world-wide fame over the course of twenty years. He knew he had a problem, but he tried every method except rehab to try to cure it. It was not until his wife had kicked him out of their house due to his drinking, that he decided to take the drastic step of attending rehab. Rush Limbaugh had developed an addiction to prescription pain killers after doctors initially prescribed them to deal with his back pain. Limbaugh is on the radio for three hours a day, five days a week, so staying at a rehab clinic for four weeks would have a great impact on his radio career. Like Hetfield, Limbaugh also tried various other methods for curing his addiction, but they all failed. Finally in November of 2003, the radio host gave in and spent over a month in a rehab clinic. Both Hetfield and Limbaugh have been clean ever since and say that finally going to rehab was the best decision they ever made. Trained therapists not only got them to kick their habits, but they also made them understand the reasons for why they became addicted in the first place.
In the same way that rehab is our last resort for curing our drug addictions, religion is our last resort for solving our material distresses. We all encounter some sort of distress in our day to day lives, for that is the nature of the material world. According to the Vedas, the miseries of the material world are of three kinds. Adhibhautic is the type of misery caused by other living entities. Sometimes someone will be rude to us or say something that will cause us distress. Other times they will directly inflict physical harm on us through aggression. The miseries that arise from such behavior are classified as adhibhautic. Adhidaivic miseries are those caused by material nature in the form of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornadoes. The third kind of misery is adhyatmic, which is caused by our mind and body. Sometimes we hanker after something so bad that it causes us to lose our minds, or we may lament for something lost which causes us to fall into depression. These miseries are of the adhyatmic variety.
We all experience these miseries and our solution is usually the same. We make material adjustments to our lifestyle in hopes that these miseries will end. If someone causes us mental pain, such as a spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend, we renounce that person and seek companionship in someone else, thinking that a new partner will not cause us any pain. If we are feeling down on our luck, we may think of moving to a new geographic location, in hopes that new surroundings will bring us better fortune and greater happiness. Other common methods of dealing with distress include taking up new hobbies or changing jobs or careers altogether.
Do these solutions work? Not usually. Though they may give us temporary relief from our distress, new problems are guaranteed to come up. That is the nature of the material world. Even if we feel completely happy and content, we are still forced to die, an experience which can be very painful. The Vedas declare that a spirit soul that comes to this material world must repeatedly suffer birth, old age, disease, and death. So even if we come to the stage where we are materially happy and not feeling distressed, we are still forced to accept another body after death. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, declares in the Bhagavad-gita that one’s consciousness at the time death determines what type of body they will receive in the next life:
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Bg 8.6)
Making adjustments to our material way of life simply means we find new ways to perform the same animalistic activities of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Dharma, or religion, is our only permanent solution to removing the distresses of material life. Meaning more than just religion, dharma is the occupational duty of mankind. Instead of mere sentiment, it is the requirement of the living entity to know and understand God. Through service to Krishna, one becomes happy. The first stage of any religious discipline is the practice of tapasya, or austerity. Tapasya means regulating one’s activity by voluntarily undergoing penances with the aim of advancing in spiritual understanding. The requirement that one perform austerities is the main reason why religion is viewed as the last resort for those seeking solutions to material problems. As living entities, we enjoy our freedom. We love doing what we want to, whenever we want, without anyone getting in our way. We view austerities as being too restrictive, getting in the way of our fun time. What people don’t understand is that these penances are given to us by God as a way of helping us solve our problems.
Every religion prescribes some sort of austerities and the Vedas are no different. In the Vedic tradition, people are advised to abstain from the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex life. There are many varieties of sin, but these four are the primary ones since they are the most detrimental to spiritual advancement.
Those who follow the regulative principles of life, performing tapasya under the guidance of a bona-fide spiritual master, will surely have their spiritual consciousness reawakened. Tapasya brings about sobriety of the mind, allowing us to focus our attention on serving the Supreme Lord. By chanting His name, offering Him prayers, or reading books about Him, we gradually change our consciousness to the point where our material miseries no longer affect us. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna describes this state of mind as being the brahma-bhutah platform:
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Bg 18.54)
Devotional service is rehab for the soul, for it cures us of our addiction to material sense gratification. We needn’t make it a last resort, for we can start the process today simply by chanting the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.