“An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kunti, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.22)
Judy wasn’t feeling herself for the past few weeks. To the outside observer, she had no reason to feel this way. She lived in a happy home with her husband, who was very dear to her. Her children were all healthy. The older ones were married, with one having children on the way. The youngest one just went away to college.
Unable to pinpoint the cause of her melancholy, Judy took a drastic step. She made an appointment with a psychiatrist. Very nervous on her way into the office on the day of the appointment, she felt a little embarrassed while sitting in the waiting room. When the receptionist said those magic words, “The doctor will see you now,” the gravity of the situation finally hit her.
When seated on the couch and facing the doctor, realizing that this was a complete stranger Judy felt comfortable enough to vent some of her problems.
“So why are you here, Mrs. Smith?”
“Well, lately I haven’t been feeling myself.”
“Okay. Can you explain a little bit more?”
“Well, my husband is working all the time. I love him dearly, don’t get me wrong. It just seems that his job, which is very stressful, takes up too much of his time. When he comes home, he really doesn’t feel in the mood to go out or do anything.”
“Okay. Have you tried talking to him about this?”
“Well, I don’t feel like burdening him with my problems. I don’t want to give him another reason to feel stressed. Also, maybe it’s not him. The children are all out of the house now. Maybe I’m suffering the ‘empty nest’ syndrome. The kids would always come to us with their problems. They always needed help. I had something to do all the time. Now I feel empty. I feel without a purpose.”
Judy continued speaking in this way until the hour was up. To her surprise, the doctor reached for his prescription pad.
“You’re giving me pills?”
“Well, these might help. It could be that there’s a chemical imbalance.”
Perplexed, Judy shyly took the prescription paper and went home. In her mind, her problems were not solved and she really didn’t feel comfortable taking any medication. “My problems can’t be related to chemicals, can they?”
A few years back, one of Judy’s good friends had given her a Bhagavad-gita As It Is to read. “This will change your life and answer all your questions. From everything to birth and death to happiness and sadness is covered in this work,” said her friend Jane when handing the book to her. Judy appreciated the gift, but she wasn’t much of a reader. She also thought that Jane was a little more into exploring than she was. Judy considered such things to be “new age” and not necessarily within her realm of interest.
Now more curious and in a little distress, Judy considered picking up the book to read, but the sheer volume of it overwhelmed her. She decided to do the next best thing, meet with her friend Jane. Judy called her to come over the house the next day.
When Jane arrived it didn’t take long for the good friends to get down to the heart of the issue.
“I can tell something is wrong, I can just feel it,” said Jane.
“How did you know? Yes, I have been distressed lately,” replied Judy, who then went into detail about her problems. She repeated practically verbatim everything she had told her psychiatrist. She also explained that he gave her a prescription.
“What do you think? You think I should take these pills?” asked a worried Judy.
“Well, I’m not going to pretend to be a doctor, so I can’t speak on the pills. I will say that your problem sounds pretty common. Remember that Bhagavad-gita I gave you a while ago?”
“Yes, I was actually thinking of reading it.”
“Okay, so there’s a verse in there which says something to the effect that a wise person doesn’t take part in things which are the sources of misery, because those sources have a beginning and an end. It basically means that everything in material life comes and goes. One second we are living in happiness and the next we are in sadness.”
“Oh, okay. I feel that way now. I was happy and now I’m really sad. I’ve done so much and had so much around me, but I still feel a kind of void.”
“Yes, that’s totally natural. The philosophy presented in that book is that we are all individuals, spirit souls at the core. Our natural inclination is to serve, and only in service to the Supreme Soul do we find transcendental happiness. Since we’re born into ignorance, we take the bottom up approach first. We love our parents, our siblings, our pets, our spouse, our children, etc. In the top-down approach, you worship and love God first, and then that automatically makes you affectionate for others.”
“Interesting. So basically that void I’m feeling is the lack of a loving relationship with God?”
“Right. It’s hard to realize. It’s difficult even for someone to accept that God exists. So the void is always there to some degree. You’re very fortunate, if you think about it. Most people will try to ignore the problem, throwing themselves into this thing and that. The least fortunate make the mistake of relying on chemicals to give them a false escape.”
“You know, hearing that from you makes a lot of sense. I’ve always wondered about these celebrities who have everything and then take to drugs and alcohol. It must be that their fame and fortune do not equate to happiness.”
“Yes, so the philosophy is that love for God, which is known as bhakti-yoga, is a fulltime occupation. You can practice it anywhere and everywhere. It is the eternal occupation, sanatana-dharma.”
The two friends continued to converse in this way for the rest of the afternoon. Judy was so happy to have called Jane. As Jane was leaving for home, Judy promised to make time to see her more often.
“I feel so much better now. I’m so glad I called you. Hopefully we can see each other again. You can keep me from going crazy and I can keep giving you questions to answer.”
“That sounds like a deal,” said Jane with a smile as she departed.
Material pleasures with beginning and end,
Wise soul thus takes no part in them.
That initial oncoming happiness,
Bound for ending made of distress.
How with such cycle to cope?
Devotional service the only hope.
A life dedicated to God make,
Hold of better future in hands take.