“Prahlada Maharaja replied: Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krishna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.30)
matir na kṛṣṇe parataḥ svato vā
mitho ’bhipadyeta gṛha-vratānām
adānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁ
punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām
Friend1: Chewing the chewed.
Friend2: You’ve been reading the Shrimad Bhagavatam?
Friend1: No, but I heard that statement in a lecture.
Friend2: It’s from Prahlada Maharaja.
Friend1: I know.
Friend2: A five year-old boy, teaching the highest philosophy to anyone willing to hear it.
Friend1: It’s definitely a think piece. How do you interpret it?
Friend2: What do you mean? Isn’t there only one interpretation?
Friend1: Well, I have a deeper question about how it relates to people, but I’d like you to explain what you think it means first.
Friend2: You’re chewing something that you’ve already chewed. Like taking chewing gum after all the juice has been sucked out of it already, you’re looking for enjoyment from something that doesn’t have any left to give.
Friend1: Okay, that’s pretty good. That’s in line with what I was thinking. How do you apply it to life in general, though?
Friend2: Material life is chewing the chewed. There is no enjoyment left, yet there is the hope and prayer that maybe something amazing will change things.
Friend1: Sort of like the midlife crisis?
Friend2: Exactly. You’ve done so many things already. You’re probably married, with a couple of kids. You probably have enough money saved up and you’re working at a steady job.
Friend1: But you’re still unhappy.
Friend2: Right. There is no enjoyment left. You went into these things ready to chew on them, to extract the juice. After a while, you found that there was no juice left. In the midlife crisis, you move on to something else.
Friend1: You don’t realize that the something else is the same as what you’ve already experienced.
Friend2: There you go. That’s the perfect understanding. It’s already been chewed; you just don’t realize it yet.
Friend1: I’ve heard the analogy to the dog sucking on a bone. It keeps thinking there is meat there, but it’s just a dry bone. And then other dogs come in to fight for that same bone. They don’t know that there’s nothing left to chew on.
Friend2: Material life is full of competition. We’re jealous of someone who is married with children, whereas the married person is also unhappy. The child is upset at having to go to school and the adult is sick and tired of sitting in the same office each day, collecting their paycheck every two weeks.
Friend1: Here is my question. What if a person doesn’t realize that they’re chewing the chewed?
Friend2: What if? By definition, they don’t realize it. That’s why Prahlada Maharaja is explaining it.
Friend1: Right, but what if they don’t realize it after you explain it to them. Let me go through an example. Let’s say someone goes to the Super Bowl every year. They get tickets. It’s in a different stadium and city each year. Super Bowl Sunday is practically a national holiday in the United States.
Friend2: The highest-rated program on television each year. The amount the network charges for a thirty second commercial is mind-blowing.
Friend1: So this person is going to the Super Bowl each year. They get excited. They watch the game. Then they think about the next year. They are just fine repeating the cycle. They’re not thinking to themselves, “Wow, I’m basically doing the same thing, over and over again. I’m looking for permanent happiness in something temporary. I don’t realize the incongruence.”
Friend2: Points for using “incongruence.” Are you asking what to do in this situation? Or are you saying they can’t be chewing the chewed if they’re actually getting some enjoyment out of it?
Friend2: For the first part, you have to keep explaining. Just because they are in ignorance doesn’t mean that they are right. One day they will come to the realization. Prahlada Maharaja isn’t trying to be a buzzkill. He’s trying to awaken people to the true calling, the purpose of the valuable human form of body. There is an endeavor where the taste only increases with time. There is more and more nectar to extract the more time you devote to it. That endeavor is devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. A person can give it a try and see for themselves. The danger is that they’ll soon realize that they were previously chewing the chewed. Soon they’ll never go back to that way of life, while their friends and relatives might vehemently protest the awakening. Nevertheless, devotional service is referred to as bhakti-rasa for a reason. It is full of taste.
Dog excited when given a bone,
That no meat on it not initially known.
Others for the same to fight,
Great analogy for material life.
Chewing that which chewed already,
Happiness never to come steady.
Wise instructions from Prahlada hear,
From bhakti-rasa a higher taste clear.