“Maharaja Parikshit, just after receiving the news of his death within seven days, at once retired from family life and shifted himself to the sacred bank of the Yamuna River.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.19.6 Purport)
You wish it weren’t the case. It would be great if every person were to sit down in respectful attention, ready to hear and absorb the information, like the ideal disciple that was Parikshit Maharaja. He was on the verge of death, though everything was fine with the body. He decided to forego food and drink to align with the kind of sacrifice taking place, yajna, related to the hearing process.
Atma-tattva is comprehensive and thorough, and yet offers profound and meaningful truths at the beginning of the learning process, as well. Unfortunately, anytime there is a mention of religion or what seems to be religious activity, the outsider to the process, being on the receiving end, has a tendency to focus on the restrictions:
“What are you guys allowed to eat? Do you have anything equivalent with Christmas? You know, something where you get gifts from your parents and stuff? Are you allowed to watch television?”
In this light, there is the restriction on gambling voiced by acharyas like His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Not merely to punish a person as a condemned sinner, to ruin their life of fun, every rule and regulation has a purpose dovetailed with realization of the spiritual side of an existence.
1. Lack of honesty
The corresponding entity in spiritual life is known as the Absolute Truth, among other things. He is the one entity always beyond duality. He is favorable, anukula, for everyone. It is not like He only shines His mercy on a certain group of people, leaving others born in a different part of the world in the dark. He is similar to the sun in this regard, except the sun is part of the material world which features duality.
In understanding the Absolute Truth, it is helpful to be honest yourself. Gambling robs a person of honesty because there is no success there without some lack of candor. In a card game, it is best to not let others know the hand you have been dealt. There is something known as a “Poker Face” for a reason.
In playing sports, the competitors do not reveal their strategy to the opponents. Doing so would hurt the chances of success. For a person looking to go beyond the temporary, it is best to remain as honest as possible.
You work so hard to achieve something. The Sanskrit word is artha. Hopefully there is profit on the other side of work; otherwise no one would do anything. The fruits of activity, karma-phala, should be protected to some degree.
Gambling introduces a risk. Visit a casino and you would be surprised at how quickly money evaporates. In a matter of minutes at the blackjack table you have lost everything in your pocket. This means that the work from the previous week was for nothing.
In the gambling-like environment that is the buy-and-sell fury on the stock market, the value of your portfolio could diminish overnight. There is nothing to guarantee a positive return, though in the long term view of twenty to thirty years the market as a whole tends to increase in value at a higher rate than do fixed income investments.
3. Agitating the mind
This is the most important reason an aspiring seeker of the truth should avoid gambling. As Prahlada Maharaja taught to his friends, there is a limited amount of time to study spiritual matters. This is because of the time that gets used up during childhood, adulthood, and the sleeping hours.
Every remaining moment should be utilized for bringing mangala, auspiciousness. I should not waste time agitating my mind on meaningless endeavors. In gambling, there is always uneasiness and uncertainty, even with success. I purchase a stock whose value skyrockets in a matter of days. I should be happy, but I need to consider when to get out. If I sell now, I don’t want to miss out on potential gains in the future. But if I don’t sell today, the value may dip and I lose my gains.
A more auspicious condition is for the mind to focus on the transcendental sound vibration of the holy name: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Listen attentively to Hari-katha, the way Parikshit Maharaja did. In the daily grind of insanity, try to give the mind a rest by associating with higher topics of interest. That will bring a benefit both in the short term and the afterlife.
With stock position to hesitate,
Gambling unnecessarily to agitate.
Whereas in better time spent,
Instead to worry of loss went.
Prahlada describing limited view,
Since childhood, work and sleep too.
Ideal example of Parikshit hearing,
Obstacles to auspiciousness clearing.
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