“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.30)
Question: “If everything is made from God and we have a tendency to enjoy like Him, why can’t I enjoy all of His creation? Why should I have to avoid specific things like drinking and gambling?”
The living entity is a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. At least this is what we are told by the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. The road from the premise to the conclusion consists of continued study of Vedic principles coupled with practical application. Not even considering sectarian beliefs and blind faith lacking confidence, just simple observation alone will tell you that there is an identifiable force within every creature. It has an arrival time followed by a departure time, and in the middle there is autonomous action. The actions can be so endearing that an attachment develops to the resident, and upon their departure sadness follows. In both the attached person and the person to whom the attachment is formed exist a desire for pleasure, and thus in the original entity the same tendency must exist. The desire to enjoy is one way to define life, and through knowing more about the properties of the original person, the proper way to enjoy is revealed.
This is the key after all. The origin of spirit and matter is the father of everything and everyone. The earth, water, fire, air and ether constitute the gross elements of His external energy, and the mind, intelligence and ego constitute the subtle aspects to His infinite expansions. These facts are found in Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita, and they can be validated through our own observation. The many different species are just bodies composed of the various elements. The birds have the element of air to a higher degree, while the human being has a higher constitution of fire. The aquatics can swim in the water without a problem, while the human beings cannot breathe in the same environment. Thus each body type has its own specific features.
The ability to think gives evidence of the subtle aspects to the body. The mind drives the actions, and the mind’s makeup is determined by intelligence. Subtler than intelligence is the ego, which is our identifying source. And then even subtler than the ego is the atma, or soul. This is the essence of individuality; it is the entity which arrives at the time of birth and then departs at death. Where it was prior and where it will go after are mysteries that no one can answer with ontological certitude due to limitations in perception. When the sun sets at night, our natural source of light vanishes. We must wait until it returns in the morning to be able to see everything outside. From this we know that just in our immediate perception we have so many dependencies, and with something subtle like the soul it is impossible to know where it goes unless it has an outer covering that is visible.
These facts relating to the spiritual science are all well and good, but what is the purpose to it all? Why are there different bodies? Why is there a mind? On the basic level it is seen that everyone wants happiness. In Sanskrit the enjoyment is known as ananda. The Supreme Spirit and His abode are described as ananda-chinmaya-rasa, or consisting of the mellows of knowledge and bliss, so His sparks inherit the same traits.
Okay, so if we’re meant to enjoy, why can’t we just do anything to find enjoyment? Why is there such pain in this world? Why are we subject to the torturous behavior of other living entities, the calamities of nature, and the crippling internal enemies known as fear and doubt?
To find the answer, we need look no further than the kitchen. The various utensils in this area of the home can act as a microcosm for action and enjoyment at large. After all, within the kitchen there are players, who can be likened to knowers. There is also a field of activity. But just because there are knowers and a field doesn’t mean that everything will run smoothly. The desire is for enjoyment of course, but you can’t just do anything in the kitchen and enjoy. Take the kitchen knife for instance. An object of the playing field, the knife has a viable purpose. It is meant to cut things. If you train to become a professional chef, one of the first things you learn is how to cut. There are different ways to cut food, and if you’re going to be cooking regularly, you will want to be very skilled at cutting.
Oh, but in order to cut, the knife must be very sharp. Thus the enjoyment of cutting is facilitated through the properties of the knife. Ah, but when something is sharp, it can cut other things besides food. You can slice up your finger very easily, especially by accident. A wicked creature masquerading as a human being can use the knife as their weapon of choice to attack innocent people. The knife can be thrown at someone in this regard as well. In these instances there is no enjoyment; it’s just the opposite in fact. The knife becomes the source of tremendous pain.
In order for enjoyment to manifest, the various objects of the playing field must be utilized properly. This is where dharma, or religiosity, comes into play. We living entities are all knowers of the localized playing field that is the body. Then there is the larger playing field that is the material world. It can be likened to the largest kitchen, with so many knife-like objects. There is ample enjoyment available, provided that the functional purposes are utilized; otherwise there will be pain and misery.
For instance, eating is one of the ways to enjoy. Yet in the Vedas it is stressed that eating is to be limited, or at least utilized only for maintaining the body. Moreover, the eating process is sanctified by first offering prepared food items to the Supreme Lord for His satisfaction. Through an authorized method, the offered food becomes pure and is then returned to the preparer. The remnants are known as prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy. In addition, not any type of food will suffice. The human beings don’t have very sharp teeth or large nails to use in killing other animals. The physical capabilities of the human being are quite modest, but where he excels is in intelligence. And with intelligence comes responsibility, as you can use your brainpower to make a bomb or a garland of flowers. One option leads to mass destruction while another is an offering of peace.
Religiosity is perceived to be very restrictive, so one might wonder why so much of the creation is off-limits for the human being. Actually, in the proper consciousness the entire creation turns into a field of activity for deriving real enjoyment. Illicit sex life is an improper use of the body, but sex life for procreation of children who will be taught how to properly make use of the material creation is completely in line with piety. Intoxication from beer and wine is not helpful, but nectar in the form of fruit juices first offered to God gives so much enjoyment to the taster. Gambling and eating animal flesh are also prohibited, but taking a risk in trying to spread the glories of the Supreme Lord and eating sumptuous foodstuff first offered to God are completely valid uses of the human body.
The key element is the knowledge of how the two spiritual entities are related. We know that we are molded after God and thus inherit His qualities to a lesser degree. But there is also an inherent relationship to Him, and that relationship forms the basis for action on the ideal platform of consciousness. In divine service is where we are meant to live, and that endeavor isn’t restricted to any specific area of the material creation. In any space one can chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and think of God. Any tool of this creation can be used to further the purpose of thinking of God. When unaware of the relationship to Him, however, the playing field is known as maya, which is illusion. With the mistaken vision, the objects are used improperly, and though enjoyment is sought, only pain results.
On the other hand, in bhakti-yoga there may not be a specific enjoyment sought at the outset. Perhaps we avoid meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex out of duty. Out of an obligation to the kind spiritual master, who teaches us bhakti-yoga, we chant the holy names for a prescribed number of rounds each day. Despite the initial cause for our action, enjoyment comes anyway. It’s like learning to use the knife properly when at the outset we have no clue what it is. We may even discover new uses for that knife that we hadn’t thought of before; uses which fulfill a worthwhile objective. The living entity in the human form is granted abilities not found in any other species; hence it is considered the most auspicious birth. The sole way to realize that potential is to follow God consciousness in an authorized manner, wherein the Supreme Lord is contemplated at all times, and the only pressing desire is to please Him. In that endeavor any object of this creation can be used, and when it is there is no shortage of enjoyment.
So many uses there are for the kitchen’s knife,
Can cut food or even take someone’s life.
Must be utilized in way that is right,
As intelligence is human being’s might.
For enjoyment can use creation’s entire field,
But proper functional uses must first be revealed.
From spiritual master get this necessary information,
How to use eating and thinking for divine glorification.
Find happiness you deserve in bhakti-yoga state,
And at end of life be reunited with real soul-mate.