The Two Choices We Have In Material Life

[Shri Krishna]“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.14)

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दैवी ह्य् एषा गुण-मयी
मम माया दुरत्यया
माम् एव ये प्रपद्यन्ते
मायाम् एतां तरन्ति ते

daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī
mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante
māyām etāṁ taranti te

The tendency for saintly people is to rescue others. They are more than happy in themselves, taking pleasure from within.

One of the Sanskrit descriptions is atmarama. Translating the compound word, we have the individual soul and satisfaction. The saints of the Vaishnava tradition, belonging to a chain of descending teachers, take pleasure from the spirit soul, which is different from its surroundings.

Material life is typically spent in ignorance of this distinction. As a result, there are two choices for dealing with the everyday problems.

1. Avoid the onslaughts of maya

Can you defeat illusion? If we are seated in a cinema hall, watching a film, do we have any influence over how the events depicted on the screen will play out? If we are upset at the emergence of a bad character, how they cripple the law-abiding and innocent, how they rise to power in the make-believe city, can we do anything to stop them?

In the adventure-style video game, at the end of every level there is a character known as a boss. They must be defeated in order to proceed to the next level. The creators of the game intentionally introduce this difficulty, so that the players will feel a sense of accomplishment upon completion. Nevertheless, there is always the choice to continue playing, to try another game, to remain inside of the make-believe world.

The wise take this entire material existence to be something like an illusion. We can try to avoid the onslaughts, but that approach is akin to asking the master of the illusion to be kind on us. If I escape a bad dream by waking up, I still have the potential for a repeat experience in the future.

If one example of an onslaught from maya is a dreaded disease, I can claim victory by healing myself. Through whatever means, be it change in diet or proper treatment from a world-renown physician, at some point the disease vanishes.

This does not mean that maya will let me free. The next day there could be another onslaught in the form of economic destitution. The power-hungry governor, who previously told his political opponents that they were not welcome in the state, has decided to shut everything down in supposed fear of a virus.

He holds a daily press conference where he cries like a spoiled child about not having any money, demanding that others assist him. In the meantime, the businesses, the tax-revenue producing engine, are closed. The illusion of maya has scared me into believing that society may never recover, that all the work we put in these years went for nothing.

Eventually, this problem will pass, but maya’s illusion will continue. Another showing of another film will play at the hall. It seems I have no choice; that I must be an audience member and subject myself to whatever is shown on the screen.

2. Cross beyond by the cool breeze of Krishna’s grace

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gives the beautiful comparison. The Vaishnava recommends this approach. Break free of the illusion. The first step is understanding it. Know your true identity as spirit soul, atma. Realize that atma is part of a larger, collective energy known as Brahman. The Sanskrit is aham brahmasmi.

More importantly, there is a controller of maya. He is the source of every kind of energy which can be classified. He created this material world to satisfy our desires to be in illusion, which means that He can also help those struggling inside of the dream.

[Shri Krishna]The comparison is to a cooling breeze. This powerful force carries the boat previously stuck in the ocean across the finish line, so to speak. The Supreme Lord, the all-attractive one, promises that His devotees are easily able to cross beyond the difficult material energy. They make their choice to exit known through devotional activities like chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

On repeat in cinema hall shown,
Crippling illusion of maya known.

Where always fear of some kind,
Perpetually agitated in mind.

Instead by that energy fooling,
Cross beyond by breeze cooling.

From one of all-attractive face,
Lifting me out by His grace.

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