“Regulations are meant for human beings, not for animals. The traffic regulations on the street, telling people to keep to the right or the left, are meant for human beings, not for animals. If an animal violates such a law, he is never punished, but a human being is punished. The Vedas are not meant for the animals, but for the understanding of human society.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.26.6 Purport)
Friend1: You get this perspective even from people who are so-called religious.
Friend2: Define that, please.
Friend1: They believe in God. They are not foolish enough to consider that everything came to be through randomness or collisions of chemicals.
Friend2: After all, if such collisions could create something amazing like the sun, why not reproduce the result?
Friend1: Oh, they are on their way. Trust them. Give it some time.
Friend1: Anyway, the perspective of which I referenced is that life is meant for enjoyment.
Friend2: How do you define that?
Friend1: Specifically in the areas of eating and sex life.
Friend1: They raise this principle as a kind of objection.
Friend2: As a response to your claim that life is meant for tapasya, austerity?
Friend1: I don’t even have to go that far. Just explaining the four regulative principles is enough.
“You mean you don’t eat meat? Why? The animals are under the jurisdiction of humans for a reason. We have dominion over them. You are aware that they eat other animals themselves? We are just the highest on the food chain, so to speak. There is no benefit to showing unnecessary compassion.”
Friend2: I love that line of reasoning. We are indeed different from the animals. Shastra, whichever one you choose to follow, is meant for the human society. Every book of importance mentions some kind of restriction on eating and sex life.
Friend1: Do they, though? I don’t see other people following any of the regulative principles, except for maybe abstaining from intoxication.
Friend2: Marriage is a restriction on sex life. There is no other purpose. Otherwise, remain as boyfriend and girlfriend. Better still, don’t make any artificial designations. Go the way of the animals, who have no such emotional attachment related to satisfying sex desires.
Friend1: How do you respond to the idea that God gave us this life to enjoy?
Friend2: As opposed to following tapasya?
Friend1: Yes. And I know you can reference shastra. The Bhagavad-gita has enough shlokas discussing this issue.
Friend2: Look to the verses describing proper meditational yoga. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, mentions the vow of brahmacharya. This is avoiding sex life entirely; not even for the purpose of begetting children. Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune, makes a similar mention when arguing in favor of following her husband into the forest. She says that she will follow the vow of brahmacharya and not be a burden to Rama.
शुश्रूषमाणा ते नित्यं नियता ब्रह्मचारिणी।
सह रंस्ये त्वया वीर वनेषु मधुगन्धिषु।।
śuśrūṣamāṇā te nityaṃ niyatā brahmacāriṇī।
saha raṃsye tvayā vīra vaneṣu madhugandhiṣu।।
“Always engaged in serving you, keeping my senses under control and observing the vow of brahmachari, I shall be with you, O great hero, in the forest fragrant with honey.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.13)
Friend1: I certainly subscribe to the same ideals, but with shastra references you get into this game of dogmatic insistence. “My religion against yours,” sort of thing.
Friend2: Again, you can go back to the animal example. These works of higher knowledge, with principles that are applicable to every time period, are specifically meant for the human beings, who have higher intelligence. Why mention eating and sex life at all if not for the purpose of restriction? No one needs to be taught how to eat or enjoy the senses. That is natural.
Friend1: I see. What about the enjoying idea, though?
Friend2: Tapasya is for the purpose of enjoyment. Real religion is dharma, which matches the characteristics of the atma, the spirit soul. Sense enjoyment by itself is artificial. It corresponds to the needs of the body, which does not really identify us. Tapasya is the way towards eternal happiness.
Friend1: Won’t people object that they don’t want to wait for the afterlife to see evidence, that there is too much faith involved?
Friend2: Who said anything about the afterlife? Tapasya brings bliss right now, today. The objective of austerity is restricting the bodily senses in order to please the master of all senses, Hrishikesha. In this age the best austerity is to follow the routine of regularly chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Then every good quality will automatically arise. What seemed like enjoyment before will be spat upon at the mere thought. This is due to having found a higher taste.
In God too I believe,
But for enjoyment to receive.
In this specific life sent,
Not for in suffering spent.
But truth that tapasya configured for,
Nectar after trouble to endure.
Otherwise purpose for mention none,
For yoga shastra’s substance and sum.