“For one who has accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Mukunda or the giver of mukti, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf’s hoofprint. Param padam, or the place where there are no material miseries, or Vaikuntha, is his goal, not the place where there is danger in every step of life.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.14.58)
समाश्रिता ये पदपल्लवप्लवं
महत्पदं पुण्ययशो मुरारे:
भवाम्बुधिर्वत्सपदं परं पदं
पदं पदं यद् विपदां न तेषाम्
samāśritā ye pada-pallava-plavaṁ
mahat-padaṁ puṇya-yaśo murāreḥ
bhavāmbudhir vatsa-padaṁ paraṁ padaṁ
padaṁ padaṁ yad vipadāṁ na teṣām
“What would you say to the people that don’t want anything to do with religion? They are happy with life, as it is. Whatever it is they are doing, they are content. Plenty of enjoyment around. Home, job, family, wealth, nature, adventure – you name it and they have it.
“They think that you are giving up on life, imposing restriction for no reason. Taking the fun out of the amazing experience and boundless potential for opportunities in this world. You are worshiping some imaginary person in the sky, using that as authority to tell everyone else how to live.
“In other words, they think they are enjoying right now. What is your appeal to them? What case can you make to change a way of life that someone doesn’t want to leave?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada accurately remarks that people only think they are enjoying. In truth, every moment within that experience is suffering. There is danger at every step in this world, a truth underscored through the recent developments in the world.
If they were truly enjoying, they would never think to lock themselves in the home for months at a time. They would never consider using a piece of cloth to try to protect against viruses that travel through the air. They would realize that they faced the same level of danger a week ago, a year ago, ten years ago, etc.
At any point in the timeline of existence, whether at home or outside, there is never full assurance of protection against the three sources of misery. These are from the heavens, from other living entities, and from within. In the age of Kali, which has the notable indication of increased quarrel and hypocrisy, not even the child within the womb is safe.
Another indication of the suffering is the widespread use of intoxicants. I think that I will enjoy at the end of a hard day at work by indulging in adult beverages. This is a way to enjoy, but actually the signs point to suffering. If I had a truly wonderful day, if I liked what I was doing, if I were blissful, there would be no pain to dull upon completion.
If I think that I am enjoying in the material world, there is the constant factor of time lurking in the background. I will not get to stay here forever. A wise person identifies this as suffering. Keeping an eye on the clock. Watching the hour glass as the sand falls from the top to the bottom.
Spiritual life is for finding true enjoyment. It is the only way a person becomes happy; no exception. Shri Krishna explains that when engaged in devotional service, bhakti-yoga, there is joy within the work itself.
पवित्रम् इदम् उत्तमम्
सु-सुखं कर्तुम् अव्ययम्
pavitram idam uttamam
su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam
“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)
In the material realm we get offered one remedy after another to deal with the suffering. Get a new job and you will be happy. Purchase that larger home and the problems will vanish. Start exercising to feel better. Take a vacation and the problems will go away. Shoot up the latest concoction from the medical community and you will be immune from illness.
None of these remedies saves us from the hellish experience of knowing that everything we have worked for will vanish in due course. My relationships will not last, but in spiritual life the consciousness carries forward. If I am conscious of the Divine today, it does not have to dissipate tomorrow.
शरीरं यद् अवाप्नोति
यच् चाप्य् उत्क्रामतीश्वरः
वायुर् गन्धान् इवाशयात्
śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti
yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ
vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt
“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)
When immersed in the bhakti culture, the perils of a material existence remain, but the degree of the suffering decreases. It is something like turning off the electric fan. When released from the power supply, the fan still spins for a short amount of time. This is the effect of the previous work.
In the same way, my past karma may come to hurt me, but when under the shelter of the Divine energy I will not suffer as much as I otherwise would have. More importantly, I will experience a newfound bliss each and every day, and no one can offer me a better alternative to the life of strong connection to the transcendental realm: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Life blissful and affirmative,
None better alternative.
Since in other ways losing,
Blessed this opportunity choosing,
Danger here every step,
Never peace of mind to get.
Finally the suffering to stop,
From nectar of devotion a drop.