“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)
ज्ञात्वा मां शान्तिम् ऋच्छति
jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati
“I get it that anytime you introduce something new to a particular community or population, you will meet resistance. It is like the IT consultant parachuting in to fix a major problem. It might be that a particular ecommerce website is down. This is preventing sales from taking place that translates to millions of dollars.
“The consultant conducts their initial assessment. They make a series of recommendations. The existing IT staff at the company resists. When pressed on the justification for their objections, they come back with a standard line. ‘Well, that is how we have always done it.’
“If you ask people to give up certain behaviors to which they are accustomed, there is similar resistance. For instance, in the Vaishnava tradition, for the serious student looking to rise to the level of brahmana, there is something known as the four regulative principles. No meat eating. No gambling. No intoxication. No illicit sex.
“Someone hearing these restrictions lumps everything into one category: no fun. You are basically asking them to give up everything enjoyable in life. If you make the appeal that this is for advancing in understanding God, they have their own response.
“They will say that God gave them this life to enjoy. It is the only life they get. Animals are gifts from God, meant specifically for the purpose of eating. Okay, only certain animals. Not the ones that are cute and fuzzy. Yes, God allowed those other animals to experience attachment, love, and pain. Some of them produce milk at the mere sight of their children.
“Nevertheless, it is the human species which is at the top. They are allowed to enjoy life through killing these innocent animals. There is no reason to give up gambling or intoxication. God wants His children to enjoy. Why would you stand in the way of that?”
The simplest response to such objections is a question. If God wanted you to enjoy, why are you suffering? Why are you so unhappy? Why are you so miserable that you think radical surgery to change your gender will make things better?
Why is there divorce if everyone is enjoying? Why do countries go to war, over ownership rights to land that doesn’t travel with them to the afterlife? Why is the population begging to have more forms of intoxication made legal, when they already have sufficient stock?
Why is the wealthy person so depressed that they contemplate suicide? Why is one group envious of another, when everyone is living in something like a bubble, which is ready to burst at any moment?
शोच्या शोचसि कं शोच्यं दीनं दीनाऽनुकम्पसे।
कस्य कोवाऽनुशोच्योऽस्ति देहेऽस्मिन् बुद्बुदोपमे।।
śocyā śocasi kaṃ śocyaṃ dīnaṃ dīnā’nukampase।
kasya kovā’nuśocyo’sti dehe’smin budbudopame
“Whom are you lamenting for when you yourself are pitiable? Why do you pity the poor when you yourself have now been made poor? While in this body that is like a bubble, how can anyone look at anyone else as being worthy of lamentation?” (Hanuman speaking to Tara, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 21.3)
Could it be that God does want us to enjoy, but in a way linked to Him? Could it be that these other animals are also His children? Might it be that He wishes well for every living being, even if they should be unaware?
Taking the point of view reconciling unlimited sense enjoyment as part of God’s plan, they will at least acknowledge limitations and restrictions. Human beings don’t eat their children, for instance. They don’t usually kill cats or dogs. They set up a system of marriage and there are boundaries in terms of right and wrong behavior.
The appeal from the Vaishnava is towards consciousness. Enjoy in such a way that you are conscious of God. Realize His presence in every aspect of life. Understand that vitality is due to Him. In the same way that consciousness is ultimately responsible for the inner-workings of the single body, there is a Supreme Consciousness that facilitates the workings of nature.
Bhagavad-gita provides the peace formula. Understand that God the person is the ultimate enjoyer of every sacrifice. Every ritual, rule, and regulation followed is ultimately for pleasing Him. He is the greatest well-wishing friend, and He is the topmost person. No one is above Him.
This means that God has commanding authority over the entire universe. He is more than the community leader. He wields more influence than the president of the nation. He is the person in charge of even the administrators of the material world, who are known as demigods.
Life is indeed our chance to enjoy, but without knowing the proper way there is one misery after another. Life turns into a hellish experience, even with every facility available. The life of restriction, nivritti, is for the ultimate purpose of enjoying to the highest level imaginable.
At first little appeal,
Troubled by restriction to feel.
That my fun taking away,
And torture in rules to say.
But to higher realm to rise,
With joy unimaginable in size.
Experience with happiness lasting,
When choice for bhakti casting.