“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.37)
Nothing brings more joy to parents than seeing their children happy. Once a person becomes a mother or father, their attention and focus shift completely to the lives of their children. In the early years, children simply want to play all the time. If they could, they would play the entire day. Parents also love seeing their children engage in fun activities, for it brings joy to their hearts. However, we see that the elders often invoke rules and restrictions on the activities of their dependents. On the surface, it appears that the parents want to limit the amount of fun their children have, but in actuality, these rules are meant to increase the enjoyment a child feels.
As soon as a child is born, the discovery process begins. Infants love to look around and take in the new world they have been placed into. They quickly discover activities which they find enjoyable. When visiting the homes of parents with young children, it is very common to find a playroom full of toys and other such things. The child is usually quite happy in this room. While the children play, the parents get a much needed break and are able to take care of other household responsibilities. If the child could, it would play the entire day, but we see that is not the case. Good parents, mothers in particular, institute rules and regulations that the children must follow. They must wake up at a certain time, eat at certain time, and go to sleep much earlier than the parents do. These rules and regulations represent real love, for the parents’ aim is to increase the child’s enjoyment of life.
A typical example of this can be seen with the use of mittens, especially those worn by infants. A newborn really has no level of intelligence. In that sense, it is no different than an animal. Through time and discovery, the child matures and starts to understand things better, but in the beginning stages, it is up to the parents to keep the child safe and happy. Fingernails can grow quite long on infants since it is difficult for the parents to cut them off due to the tininess of the child’s fingers. As a result, an infant will often scratch itself when feeling discomfort. This then leads to cuts and scrapes, which in turn leads to crying. Crafty mothers have found a nice workaround for this; mittens. Cover the child’s hands with mittens and there will be no way for them to scratch themselves. Obviously this causes some discomfort to the infant because now its fingers are shackled throughout the day. But in the end, this restriction actually increases the enjoyment of the child, for it no longer has to deal with cuts on its face or other parts of the body.
When children get older, they love to go out and play with their friends. When Lord Krishna personally appeared on earth around five thousand years ago, He enjoyed many such childhood pastimes in Vrindavana. Growing up under the care of His foster parents, Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yashoda, Krishna would go out and play with the other cowherd boys of Vrindavana every day. They did all the typical things you would expect children to do. They ran around, wrestled with each other, and even went on picnics. Mother Yashoda would have to call Krishna and His brother, Balarama, to come home to eat every day. If not for her attention, the children would have stayed out all night simply playing.
Mothers of today have similar issues to contend with. Vrindavana is in India, which generally has a tropical climate throughout the year. In America, the winters are much harsher, especially in the northeastern section of the country. The child’s desire to play doesn’t depend on the weather however, so even in the winter, children love to go out and play with their friends. When there is snow on the ground, it can be even more fun. American style football is a lot of fun to play when it’s snowing. Kids can also build snowmen or get into snowball fights. In fact, the only people who really enjoy snow are the children since it means playtime and time off from school.
During the winter, mothers have to redouble their efforts. Before their child runs out the door and into the harsh cold, a good mother makes sure that the child is properly dressed. Gloves, a hat, and a scarf are a must, otherwise the child is not let out of the house. This is done to prevent the child from getting sick while playing out in the cold. These regulations are imposed to increase the child’s enjoyment.
In a similar manner, we spirit souls are meant to be eternally blissful and happy. That is our true nature, for we are expansions of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Technically known as jiva-tattva, the living entities are meant to associate with Krishna all the time in a loving way, similar to how the cowherd boys of Vrindavana always played with the Lord. Unlike with child’s play, we’re never meant to grow out of our loving propensity towards Krishna. But if we look around us, we see that instead of being happy, most people are quite miserable and fearful.
What happens is that as soon as the spirit soul enters the material world, it assumes a body composed of material qualities. In the conditioned state, the living entity becomes bewildered by maya, God’s illusory energy. Maya has many tricks up her sleeve, but her most potent power is her ability to trick the living entity into thinking that it will be happy engaging in all activities except those relating to Krishna, or God. Hence we see that most people are either engaged in fruitive activity, karma, or in mental speculation where they try to negate material attributes.
The living entities are distracted most by the four pillars of sinful life. Intoxication is very seductive for it tells a person that they will be happy by escaping the senses. This escape is false however, and once a person returns to sobriety, there are many harsh side effects. Gambling has a similar allure. It keeps one’s mind agitated. “Just gamble some more, maybe you’ll win. Once you win, you’ll be happy.” But we see that this is rarely the case. Even those who amass large amounts of wealth are still unhappy, thus they take to acts of philanthropy and charity. Meat eating is very damaging to our karma. Unnecessarily killing innocent animals simply to satisfy the tongue represents unintelligent activity. Karma is only fair, so if we cause unneeded harm to others, we are sure to have the same thing happen to us. Meat eating also keeps us away from eating Krishna prasadam, vegetarian food which is considered holy since it has first been offered to God. Illicit sex is the mother of sinful life. Sex represents the highest material pleasure and also the cause of the greatest distress. Illicit sex provides temporary pleasure but can lead to many problems such as divorce, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and emotional heartbreak.
The spiritual master, or guru, is there to keep us away from the allurements of maya. Similar to how a parent keeps an infant from scratching itself, the guru guards the living entity from the dangers of sinful life. The pure devotees of Krishna advise abstention from the four pillars of sinful life. For most people in the Western World, these restrictions seem extreme. “No drinking? No meat eating? No gambling? What am I supposed to do with my time? I want to have fun.” These restrictions aren’t meant to be punishments. Rather, the guru wants everyone to be happy all the time. They want people to find real happiness, not something false or temporary. Real happiness is that which lasts beyond this lifetime, something that keeps the soul content.
Along with the abstention from sinful life, Vaishnava spiritual masters recommend that one chant the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, at least sixteen rounds a day on a set of japa beads. One round consists of 108 recitations of the mantra, so sixteen rounds means over 1700 recitations of this sacred mantra every day. Again, on the surface this may seem like a punishment. “So I have to sit there and chant this much every day? That sounds boring. I thought life was meant to be fun.” This chanting recommendation is actually more important than the restrictions on sinful activity. The maha-mantra addresses God and His energy in a loving way. At first, recitation of this mantra may seem like a burden, but it actually brings about tremendous bliss. At worst, we get to think about God for an hour or so a day. Chanting by itself is enough to reward liberation, but the other regulative principles are required to keep a person from falling back into conditional life.
Real happiness comes when we reach the stage of bhakti, or pure loving devotion for Krishna. Bhakti yoga, or devotional service, is the eternal occupation of the soul. Through the influence of maya, we have forgotten this fact. The guru and his instructions help us reconnect with our lost occupation. The soul is eagerly awaiting release, for it wants to run outside and play with Krishna. The guru wants us to get the most out of our enjoyment, so he tells us to make sure to follow the regulative principles first. If we please the spiritual master, then we please Krishna, and we can enjoy the limitless opportunities for enjoyment that devotional service affords.
Categories: spiritual master