“According to the shastras, there is shreyas and preyas. Shreyas is the ultimate goal. We should act in such a way that ultimately we will become happy. However, if we want immediate happiness and disregard the future, we want preyas. Preyas is for unintelligent people and children. A child enjoys playing all day; he does not want to be sent to school to be educated. Education is shreyas, the ultimate goal. No one is interested in this. The shastras instruct us to aim for shreyas and not be captivated by preyas. The supreme shreyas is bhakti-yoga.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Lord Kapila, Vs 43 Purport)
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada describes the two kinds of interest or objectives. One is short-term and the other long-term. The difference is easy to understand, and the two terms have applicability to spiritual life.
Preyas is short-term gain or satisfaction. This is seen especially with children. They are not mature enough to know better. In the modern-day, parents may be concerned since there are increased outlets for preyas. A child may grow up with having one short-term interest after another satisfied, not knowing any better when they reach adulthood and come across any sort of hardship or interruption.
“I want French fries. I want it now. I don’t care if I ate it for breakfast and lunch already. I know that the restaurant is open. Go bring it for me. I will not rest until I eat French fries. If you are too tired to drive, then order it. I saw you do that before using your phone. That nice man came to the door and delivered the surprise for me.”
“I want to watch that song again. No, you can’t watch your shows right now. It is my turn in front of the television. Play that song again. The one that goes after it is also good. I know I watched these yesterday, but I don’t care. This is what I want to watch right now. You have to put it on; stop waiting.”
3. 2-day shipping
“I want that toy. I saw a commercial for it. I can’t wait until Christmas or my birthday. I want it right now. I know that you have ordered these things before. They came in the mail two days later. You have free, 2-day shipping. That is what you told me. What is stopping you now? Go ahead and order it. Show me the pictures first, and I will make sure we choose the right color.”
Children don’t know any better. It is in their instincts to look for quick satisfaction. If they are denied, they may cry. They may throw a tantrum. They may become upset for a while, until another interest enters their mind.
The adult ideally learns the value of preyas. This is long-term interest. Working for something, not seeing any positive progress for a long time, but sticking through with the regimen. For instance, if a trusted medical professional puts me on a diet and exercise routine, I can’t very well expect to fit into those old pants immediately.
I won’t necessarily sleep better right away. There might be a lot of pain and misery in the beginning, especially if trying to avoid certain enjoyments. This is known as nivritti-marga in Sanskrit. The restrictions are not meant to be a way to torture. Rather, there is always a close association with a heightened enjoyment, an interest for the long-term.
When applied in spiritual life, preyas is a similar short-term objective, such as wanting good health or money. There are ways to achieve these goals using tools of religion, as passed down in a tradition. An analogous term might be svartha, which is interest of the self, pertaining especially to the current lifetime.
The long-term objective is education in spiritual matters, understanding the Almighty, and being dedicated to Him in service. This is paramartha, or that interest which spans beyond the current lifetime. The mature human being is meant for shreyas; they should be satisfied with simple enjoyments which are already present within the animal birth.
The spiritual master is the blessing from above who provides the insight to even identify the two kinds of interest. They provide the roadmap for achieving ultimate success, which may involve difficulty in the short-term. I may encounter roadblocks in understanding, to which the common response is:
“Keep chanting the holy names. The maha-mantra will reveal everything to you in due course. Stay with the Supreme Lord through His names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
The idea is that success in spiritual life will not necessarily arrive immediately. It may take many lifetimes to know God the person in truth, but the reward is worth the time and effort. Otherwise, the individual remains trapped in the repeated pursuit of preyas, which has no lasting value.
Though these restrictions to hate,
The process worth the wait.
Not that instantly to achieve,
Rather long-term to receive.
Preyas for mature human being,
Who extended time seeing.
Guru this secret revealing,
God beyond maya concealing.
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