The Uniqueness of Transcendental Hunger

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It is up to us to decide which cuisine we want to feast on.

To relish dream delicacies is a fantasy that most fascinates the tongue. Even a flash of the thought of, say, fragrant fried rice layered with chunks of paneer and fresh peas, mingled in a rich, seductive, creamy tomato sauce with a sublime coriander garnish, set out exquisitely on an elegant plate, instantly renders one’s tongue salivating, belly hungering, and mind becoming restless. Now consider having an actual experience of being served such a plate. You will pounce on it in no time.

A Contemplation Worth Contemplating

Clearly, to have one’s hunger satisfied means to have successfully accessed and enjoyed the object of one's hunger. But to have one’s hunger satisfied also means to have one’s longing for the object of the hunger nullified. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.30) boldly defines this nature of material enjoyment as punah punash charvita charvananam. That is, trying to enjoy material pleasures is like repeatedly chewing what has already been chewed.

Suppose in the scenario cited above, the server enthusiastically asks you, “Would you like more? There's an unlimited banquet available especially for you.”

Having feasted enough, you cry, “No, please! My hunger is satisfied. I've had enough. I'm done. I beg you, please don't serve me any more food!”

Hence, having one’s dire hunger for the alluring delicacy satisfied, the very next moment one astonishingly despises the very same object of hunger. This is the nature of material hunger. Once satisfied, one’s material hunger no longer longs for the very same object of hunger thereafter.

Why does one finally say, "I've had enough"? Because the pleasures derived from the material sense objects, for which one heavily salivates initially, gradually fade with time, and then finally fade away completely. Consequently, to try to further enjoy the material sense objects is "chewing the chewed." Material pleasures are limited by nature and at some point fail to offer further pleasure.

"Is there any way I can enjoy unlimited, unending pleasure?" Yes, the science of Krishna consciousness awakens a special type of hunger called “transcendental hunger,” the hunger for an object capable of furnishing unlimited, unending pleasure.

The Heart's Innate Hunger

The Bhagavad-gita (7.7) nourishes our intelligence with the highest education – that the highest, everlasting, factual reality is Krishna. As loving parts of the supreme reality, Krishna (15.7), as pure spirit souls, we are meant to delight in everlasting happiness at its perfection (Vedanta-sutra 1.1.12). Our heart’s deepest hunger for that supremely fulfilling everlasting happiness will be satisfied only by rendering everlasting loving service to the everlasting reality, Krishna. Transcendental hunger is essentially this deepest hunger of one's heart, i.e., the deepest innate hunger for loving and serving Krishna.

The process to express our love and service to Krishna is easy and joyful, as confirmed by Krishna Himself (Gita 9.2). One can do so by soaking one's consciousness in the foundational process of hearing and chanting the pure and purifying glories of Krishna’s name, fame, qualities and pastimes (Bhagavatam 7.5.23–24), henceforth dwelling deep within the nectarean happiness of pleasing Krishna. Essentially, the object of one’s transcendental hunger is this unique nectarean, everlasting happiness.

Krishna's Boundless Sweetness

The Brahma-samhita (5.32) expounds Krishna’s defining characteristic as ananda-chinmaya-sad-ujjvala-vigrahasya: "His form is full of bliss, truth, and substantiality, and is thus full of the most dazzling splendor." In fact, everything in relation to Krishna is so sweet (madhuram) that once the "tongue" that is our heart gets to relish His sweetness, that tongue just can’t help but voraciously salivate for more. Unlike one's material hunger, which gradually gets satiated and mitigated in proportion to each morsel of the paneer-rice dish, one's transcendental hunger gets further aggravated with every morsel of Krishna's sweetness. This is the uniqueness of transcendental hunger.

Everything about Krishna is everlastingly both fresh and sweet and thus has the special capacity to everlastingly offer us unlimited pleasure. Once experienced and relished, that supremely intoxicating bliss renders one's heart helplessly addicted to continue demanding it more and more.

The Oceanic Pleasure-sauce of Krishna's and His Devotees' Glories

This ever-increasing transcendental hunger is sustained by dissatisfaction derived from satisfaction. For example, when a bona fide devotee tells of Krishna's pastime with His dear school friend Sudama, one hears how despite being the esteemed ruler of Dwarka, Krishna humbly bent down and washed the feet of His poor friend Sudama out of pure love (Bhagavatam 10.80.20). One thus derives immense joy at hearing of Krishna's astounding humility, love, and renunciation. And one delights in realizing how glorious Krishna's devotee Sudama is, for the supreme reality, Krishna, is so bound by Sudama's pure love that He is compelled to bend down and wash Sudama's feet.

Thus hearing Krishna's and Krishna's devotees' nectarean pastimes, one gains the glorious opportunity to rejoice in the profound dynamics of pure love and selflessness flowing and floating in those pastimes. One can then feast on the sweetness and purity of the pure services exchanged between Krishna and His pure devotees, services garnished with the infused nuggets of pure love and selflessness. The resulting joy renders such sublime satisfaction that one cannot resist hearing more and more about Krishna. Consequently, one feels dissatisfied if unable to hear more about Him. Hence the satisfaction derived from hearing about Krishna becomes the source of dissatisfaction, and to mitigate that dissatisfaction one wants to hear more about Krishna. The cycle continues, and one everlastingly rejoices in his ever-increasing transcendental hunger.

Aggravated Transcendental Hunger

This is the uniqueness of our heart’s innate transcendental hunger: it can never be satisfied. Once tasted, Krishna’s everlasting sweetness is irresistible. One can never say, "Thank you. My heart's innate transcendental hunger is now satisfied. I am done with it. I no longer long for Krishna. I beg of you, please – no more of Krishna’s love!" Transcendental hunger for Krishna compels pure devotees to breathtakingly long for hearing and chanting His name, fame, qualities, and pastimes ad infinitum (Gita 9.14).

One Tongue and Two Ears Not Enough

"Are there real-life examples to prove these points?" Yes, there are many.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's disciple Rupa Goswami was an erudite scholar and an inspirationally staunch Krishna conscious devotee. He relished the boundless sweetness from hearing and chanting Krishna's sweet holy names. In his Vidagdha-madhava, he intensely craves millions of tongues and ears to relish that sweetness.

Parikshit Maharaja, another staunch Krishna devotee, dove into the magnanimous sweetness of hearing the magnificent Vedic literature Srimad-Bhagavatam. He heard it continuously for the last seven days of his life, fasting from food and water. Throughout its recitation, he desperately begged to be able to hear it more and more.

Krishna's Sweetness Tasted by Krishna's Sweet Mercy

One final question may arise: "How to unlock, access, taste, and relish that supreme sweetness of Krishna's boundless love?" The Nectar of Instruction mercifully reveals the answer, just as a waiter might render guidelines on how to best realize and relish the flavors captured in the delicacy being served. In verse seven it says that Krishna's holy name, character, pastimes, and activities are all "transcendentally sweet like sugar candy." Why then can't everyone taste that supreme sweetness? Because we are afflicted by the jaundice of avidya (ignorance). Essentially, because of ignorance, our diseased tongue salivates only for material sense objects in general and material delicacies in particular. It consequently fantasizes about diving deep into the inferior tomato sauce of material delicacies, being completely ignorant of the incomparable oceanic relish encapsulated in the superior pleasure sauce of Krishna's boundless sweet love.

The verse then mercifully shines a ray of hope by educating us about the easy prescription to cure the tongue's disease: by carefully chanting Krishna's sweet holy names regularly, a natural relish awakens within one's tongue, and one's disease of ignorance is gradually destroyed at the root, by Krishna's mercy.

Having thus reawakened and reactivated its potency to taste and relish the supreme flavor of Krishna, one's tongue then realizes that all the material sense objects are absolutely tasteless and inferior in comparison to Krishna's supremely relishable sweetness (Gita 2.59).

Decide Which Cuisine You Want

The Bhagavad-gita (10.41) further nourishes our intelligence by giving knowledge of the ultimate source of all tongue-charming delicacies, Krishna. By revealing that everything opulent, beautiful, and glorious (yad yad vibhutimat sattvam shrimad urjitam eva va) has originally sprung from a spark of Krishna's splendor (mama tejo-’msha-sambhavam), the Gita encourages us to redirect our search for all the opulences, beauty, and glory to their original source, Krishna. This can be understood as follows.

Anything within the arena of our experience or imagination that we conceive of as opulent, beautiful, or glorious, even the alluring paneer-peas-rice delicacy, offers a few tiny droplets of pleasure, delight, and relish only because it has inherited its minute, limited pleasure-giving capacity from the everlasting boundless ocean of unlimited pleasure, Krishna. Hence a dazzling coriander garnishing spellbinds one's eyes because it has inherited its minute spellbinding capacity from its supremely spellbinding source, Krishna.

The material sources of infinitesimal pleasure thus silently echo the existence of their original source, Krishna, the spiritual source of infinite pleasure. A bowl of the limitedly relishable paneer and peas thus points to Krishna, the original supreme reservoir of unbounded relish.

The explicit use of the word evavagachcha ("certainly know") in Gita 10.41 serves to draw our focus, attention, and consciousness towards this fact of life. Desiring and impelling us to "certainly know" that Krishna is the original source of all that charms and mesmerizes our mind and senses, the verse thus motivates us to reconsider and reformulate our pursuit of pleasure and happiness, from the droplets-like pleasure-giving material sense objects to their original oceanic source, Krishna.

Krishna, being the sole original eternal means of fulfilling the heart's deepest hunger for pure pleasure at its perfection, is factually the heart's final goal (Gita 15.15). Unless this goal is aspired for and realized, one's heart is bound to be helplessly lost in its perpetual pursuit of perfect pleasure in the deluding material sources of imperfect, insignificant, inferior pleasure, rather than in its original source, Krishna.

Food, clothing, and shelter are the core needs of the body, while pleasing Krishna is the core need of the conscious living entity residing within that body. Both kinds of need must be attended to. The process of pleasing Krishna rests on the foundation of the supremely pleasurable service of hearing and chanting about Him and His devotees, under the guidance of a bona fide practitioner of the science of Krishna consciousness.

The Gita (10.41) hence encourages us to not end up getting hooked on running after the inferior paneer-peas-rice of seductive material sense objects. Erroneously considering them to be all in all, we unfortunately deprive ourselves of the real superior pleasure-sauce of their original oceanic source, Krishna.

The Gita's wisdom uplifts our consciousness to allow our intelligence to choose to delight and relish in the ecstatic bliss of hearing and chanting about Krishna and Krishna's devotees. Paradoxically, we can feast on our hunger – on the supremely satisfying dynamics of our heart's innate transcendental hunger to love, serve, and please Krishna.

The Gita (7.3) encourages and inspires us to be one of those rare intelligent human beings who aspire for pleasure at its perfection. And Gita 10.41 offers us a restaurant menu-card, allowing us the free will to choose from two food options. Option one is inferior, short-lived material sense objects, and option two is everlasting transcendental sweet love for Krishna. The cost of option one is exhausting hard work in, say, academics or a job, and the cost of option two is the easy process of the daily attentive chanting and hearing of Krishna's sweet holy names under the guidance of a bona fide practitioner of the science of Krishna consciousness. It is up to us to be intelligent enough to decide which cuisine we want to feast on.

About the Author: 

Osho Raman

Osho Raman serves at the Remuna Yoga Center in Rourkela, Odisha. The Center, a youth-outreach project run by Radheshyama Dasa, temple president of ISKCON Pune, is a spiritual hostel for practicing devotees, mostly engineering students from the National Institute of Technology Rourkela.