“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.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.70)
What we consider to be ordinary desire is known as kama in Sanskrit. Kama also covers lust, which we most often mistake for love. Bhakti is the real definition of love, and it can only be directed at the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One way to tell the difference between the two is that kama leaves one always unsatisfied; true happiness remains elusive. Bhakti, on the other hand, keeps one always blissful. When under the sway of kama, one continues to act, looking for that elusive happiness. The same continuation is there in bhakti, but actually the happiness only continues to increase.
One way to see the effect of kama is to study what happens when material objects come into our possession. That one thing that we want, that thing we’ve kept our eye on for the longest time – when we finally get it does it really make us happy? In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that these desires continue to flow in, like a rushing river, and that one cannot find peace by striving to constantly satisfy such desires. Marjorie was explaining this to her friend one day, using some experiences from her own life.
When my husband and I first got married, we lived in a very small apartment. It was all we could afford. Pretty soon, I had my first son, and so we were a real family living in that tiny place. We regularly entertained guests, which included our friends and family. We were at peace, but I didn’t like that our place was so small. Our friends had homes that were much larger. My husband and I agreed that we needed to get a house as soon as possible, a place we could call our own.
After a few years, we finally got it. We had looked around for a while, but we settled on a house that fit our needs. It was in the right neighborhood, had many rooms, and had a nice amount of space in the backyard. When we first moved in we thought we would be happy. But then we had to fill up all this space. It took forever to find the right sofa to go in the living room. Then the dining room set had to be to my liking. I also didn’t like the countertops in the kitchen. I hired someone to come in and replace them.
When I had my second son, we decided to upgrade our cars. We couldn’t fit everyone in a compact anymore, since we also liked to go on vacations now and then. So we bought a minivan, but of course we got a high end one. We weren’t going to settle for second best. At the same time, with the children running around the house, things started to break. My eldest one day located our very expensive china set and accidentally dropped one of the plates on the kitchen floor. It was like the sound of my heart breaking. The set was ruined. We would have to get another one.
Then my youngest one day started to draw on the walls using his crayons. That meant we had to repaint the room. We wanted a better paint; this way we could improve upon the room. But then the color of the room didn’t match with the others, which had a different paint. Pretty soon we were painting the whole house. All of our expensive objects and furniture had to be covered to protect them from damage.
And of course this lifestyle was not cheap. My husband had to take a job many miles away from home, since it paid more. This meant that I hardly saw him. We had all this expensive stuff, but I realized that we were not happy at all. There was no difference between this new life and the modest one we had in the apartment. We had the best of everything, but nothing made us happy.
Marjorie explained to her friend that it wasn’t until she read the Bhagavad-gita that she understood the source of her unhappiness. Such desires were known as material, as they related only to the outside of the soul, its covering. The body doesn’t matter so much, and in the human life the recommendation is to focus on austerity. With controlled senses one can better understand God, who is beyond this realm of duality.
“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.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)
Though she never considered herself to be Brahman realized, Marjorie explained to her friend that in the heightened state of self-realization, one no longer hankers or laments. In a state of peace they take up devotional service, which is known as bhakti-yoga. Bhakti is different from kama. Bhakti satisfies the soul, and it doesn’t require expensive items. It doesn’t require a temple even. She told her friend that famous saints of the past, big authorities on devotional service, sometimes lived under trees. All they had was a tiny basil plant known as tulasi, who is a goddess dear to the Supreme Lord. By chanting the holy names of God in front of her, they achieved full perfection.
Marjorie explained that since she had started to chant the holy names regularly, she had noticed her desires subsiding. Instead of wanting this thing and that, competing with her friends over who had the best stuff, she was only looking for more and more ways to serve God. In that mentality, she was much happier. She was able to tolerate both the good and the bad. She recommended to her friend the same method for achieving peace of mind, the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Chandelier in foyer to shine bright,
In big house large windows for natural light.
Apartment to home to upgrade,
Compact for SUV to trade.
Desires in this way not to subside,
Emptiness in soul despite everything tried.
Brahman realization for hankering to stop,
And no more lamentation over what others have got.
With way for devotional service clear,
Chanting names of beloved Krishna dear.