Dhanurdhara Swami January 16th, 2017
When things go exactly our way, now that’s a time to worry! That sounds strange. Why would one worry when the world finally conforms to one’s desire?
About seven months ago, just as I was beginning my journey from my upstate home to New York City, a very pleasant thought struck me: “This is rare. My ambitions and desires are fulfilled. I feel completely satisfied.” I searched my mind further, “And wait, I can’t find any major problems either.”
Like everyone I’ve had my trials and tribulations in life. But now, for the first time since I can remember, there seemed to be no major discomfort confronting me. I also thought of the success I wanted as a preacher and how opportunities were now opening beyond my wildest desires. Then another thought struck me. “I’m enjoying what my world is now, but it will not stay this way. What my life is now is beyond my absolute control and what it will be in the future is also be beyond my complete control.”
As I was reflecting in this way, I began to realize something more deeply about the duality of the material world. Even when we get what we want, our happiness is mixed with distress because what we treasure is temporary. It will thus be lost in time and to the extent we are attached to it we suffer. Duality thus means that our pleasures will always be mixed with the fear of loss.
I especially remember the feelings of such duality and fear before I came to Kṛṣṇa consciousness when I had no conception of my eternality, when the sense that everything would end always rested as a heavy weight on my head. Can there be real enjoyment on death row? Isn’t all enjoyment for the person who thinks death is the end of existence like the pleasure of a last meal? I never want to forget the relief I felt after coming to spiritual life when that doom on my head was lifted by the simple realization that I was eternal.
But even for one who knows they are eternal there is still fear and suffering to extent that they are still attached to the temporary. I am not denying that there are basic material needs and desires that must be met to be peaceful. I am just acknowledging that even such attachments are still in the realm of the impermanent and thus mixed with duality.
As I was driving and these thoughts flashed in the mind, I realized that only by being equal in happiness and distress could one become peaceful. Yes, this was a rare moment when the world seemed to be reasonably conforming to my desires. I was happy for that, but still it was clear that I needed to be equipoised or detached, not absorbed in my “happiness”, otherwise I would suffer.
These thoughts may sound fatalistic, but they’re not. I do see happiness in this world, just not where we usually look for it. It rests in our free will, how we respond to the world, as long as we choose to respond by service and devotion, an option always within our control and a choice that is free from duality. But the message I received while driving my car to New York City stands without question:
Happiness in this world is ironically filled with worry. Don’t overly rejoice in the temporary.