“As explained in Bhagavad-gita (15.7), manah-shashthanindriyani prakriti-sthani karshati. When the mind and senses are engaged in material activities, one has to continue his material existence and struggle to attain happiness. In each and every life one is engaged in the struggle to become happy. Actually no one in this material world is happy, but the struggle gives a false sense of happiness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.28.20 Purport)
1. Get educated
“Just see how times have changed. When I was younger, I distinctly remember having a recurring fear. It was that I would be held back from the current grade in which I was enrolled. The worry was that I would not receive a passing mark in the class, and I would be forced to repeat it the next year.
“I knew that it happened to some people, but it was rare. Today, in most of the public education establishment in the area where I live, they move the students on regardless. Whether they pass or not, they are in the next grade, though they are not at that grade level when it comes to comprehension or proficiency.
“Everyone told me to focus on studies. If I did not do well in school, I would not get into a good college. Without proper education in the higher institutions, I would struggle to earn a living. I did not want to let that happen, so I worked really hard.”
2. Keep up with changing technology
“My wife criticizes me for watching instructional videos on the internet in my free time. She says that I work enough at my real job, throughout the day. Why do I need to be obsessed with the profession? Why do I need to keep learning new things?
“Well, that is precisely it. If I don’t keep up, I will fall behind. I will be stuck supporting outdated technology. Then, if the company ever goes bankrupt, I will be out in the field well behind my peers. Who will hire me? How will I earn a living? No, I must stay up to date. It is a requirement.”
3. Travel long distances for work
“We live in a pretty nice area. Low population density. Plenty of trees and parks. You need a car in order to get around, but it is a nice tradeoff. The cost of living is lower than if you moved closer to the city.
“The problem is that my place of business is the city. It is a long commute. On the days I go in, I have to wake up early. I come home super tired at night, only to be met with more responsibilities. It is something I dread repeating in the future, but what choice is there?”
4. Juggle multiple responsibilities
“Stay prepared for work. Travel into the office. Take out the garbage. Clean the kitchen. Do the dishes. Make sure the children are up to date with their school work. Transport them from place to place. Find something good to eat for dinner.
“Then repeat everything the next day. One day after the next, until many years have passed in the same routine. This is modern living, which is supposedly more advanced than what our ancestors experienced.”
5. Fund a retirement account
“Though you think I earn a lot of money, my biweekly paycheck is not that large. This is because so much of it gets deposited into retirement accounts. There are tax advantages. The people in the know, the financial advisors, say that you can never have too much saved up. Therefore, I max out on the contributions.
“You see, once I can no longer work, due to old age, I still have the same daily requirements. In order to survive, there has to be a source of income. It is better to be prepared now than to have the hardship suddenly hit you.”
These are different ways of staying afloat, in maintaining an existence, but how can there be enjoyment? His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the struggle gives a false sense of happiness.
For instance, I may be worried that one day my employer will force me to return to the office routine. Five days a week, in-person, with no exceptions. Given that I could not survive such a transition, I have intense fear over what will happen. How will I continue to support my family if I lose my job?
Fortunately, another employer enters the mix. They offer me an even better job, with higher pay and superior benefits. I can stay right where I am; work from home. I am elated. What a relief! It is like the people upstairs were handling my case and decided to expedite its resolution.
In truth, this is struggle from beginning to end. Even the outcome is one where struggle will continue. I still have to work at the new job. I have to learn new techniques and become familiar with the processes and procedures. I need to prove myself all over again; no past performance to serve as a cushion.
And for what reason? Just to survive. To keep body and soul together. To put food on the table and maintain the roof over the head. I remain in this struggle for decades, until I am forced to exit the body and start all over again.
Spiritual life is the real occupation of the living entity. This business is known as dharma. Unlike material existence, dharma is not a constant struggle. It is neither a temporary solution nor an illusion. The corresponding happiness is real, rooted in the Absolute Truth.
अन्त-काले च माम् एव
स्मरन् मुक्त्वा कलेवरम्
यः प्रयाति स मद्-भावं
याति नास्त्य् अत्र संशयः
anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)
His existence has always been there, in the background. I only struggle because I forget Him, and so spiritual life is nothing more than remembering. I can start today and continue to remember as time moves forward, from lifetime to lifetime.
Daily in struggle to live,
But what happiness to give?
Since competition chase created,
Otherwise useless and outdated.
Only for soul and body maintaining,
But not higher purpose attaining.
Until genuine spiritual life found,
Where for Vaikuntha bound.
Categories: the five