By Krsnanandini Devi Dasi
Though our desire to find happiness is natural, our attempt to find it in this world is not.
During a radio interview in London in July 1976, Mike Robinson of the London Broadcasting Company asked Srila Prabhupada, “Can you tell me what you believe to be the meaning of life? Why do we exist in the first place?”
Srila Prabhupada replied, “The meaning of life means to enjoy, but we are in a different platform of life. Therefore we are suffering instead of enjoying. But if you come to the real platform, then you enjoy. Because here we see struggle for existence. Everyone is struggling, but what is the aim? For enjoyment of life. Therefore life means enjoyment. But at the present moment our life is not enjoyment.”
While Srila Prabhupada could have given any number of correct answers from his veritable storehouse of spiritual wisdom, he chose to state the ultimate reality in succinct, unequivocal terms: We all want pleasure, we want to enjoy, we want to be happy. The reality is that everyone tries to avoid illness, distress, and poverty; no one seeks misery or pain. This drive to be happy, to enjoy, is an inherent part of our nature. The Vedanta-sutra (1.1.12) proclaims, anandamayo ‘bhyasat: “[the living entity] is joyful by nature.”
Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita claims every living being in every body as a part of Himself. This truth—that every soul is a part of the Personality of Godhead—means that every soul has the same nature as God.
We find this information in the Brahma-samhita (5.1): “Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body.” Since God is sac-chid-ananda, full of eternity, knowledge, and bliss, every part of Him has the same transcendental composition. A piece of gold, no matter how small, is not just golden—it is gold. Because we are part of God, we are also sac-chid-ananda.
Our Relentless Quest for Enjoyment
Therefore, our quest for enjoyment is unavoidable and has been going on for a long, long time in different bodies, in different ages, on different planets. We’ve tasted sweet, sour, bitter, and salty foods. We’ve touched, handled, and held an uncountable variety of things. Our eyes have sought the attractive, the big, the small, the expensive, the colorful, and still hanker for more. Our ears have given aural reception to sounds that are loud, shrill, quiet, crashing, banging, squeaking, cooing, harsh, pleasing. Life after life, each of our senses has pushed and pulled us in many directions as we try to enjoy, to find pleasure. We’ve been tricked, deluded again and again. “Maybe this time this situation I’ve tried before will give me happiness.” If I just have more money, more fame, if I just get the other job, if I get the other lover . . .
Is there pleasure to be found here in the material world? Some would say yes. “I just enjoyed a delicious meal.” “I live with the love of my life.” “That sunset gave me immense pleasure.” “That book stimulated my mind.” We don’t want these pleasures to end. But they do. We can eat only so much. Our bodies inevitably age. Romances break up. People die. The sunset fades into darkness. The very material body with which we seek pleasure diminishes in its ability to enjoy, while the desire to enjoy remains. The lasting, enduring joy we desire is ever elusive. And just as a thirsty person can never be satisfied by a single drop of water (or even three or four drops), so the soul cannot be satisfied by the nonpermanent pleasures found on the material plane.
What passes for enjoyment or happiness in this world is often only the cessation of frustration, the relief of pain, or the absence of annoyance. If someone’s tooth is aching, is relief from the toothache happiness?
Throughout the ages, songwriters and poets have expressed their realizations about the flickering nature of happiness based on material things. Songs with lyrics like “The love I saw in you was just a mirage” and “Happiness is just an illusion, filled with sadness and confusion” reflect their verdict. Or they’ve written about how happiness is derived from nonmaterial things. For example, the nineteenth-century Scottish writer Alexander Chalmers wrote, “The three grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.”
According to the Bhagavad-gita and the Vaishnava preceptors, the “someone to love” is Krishna, the “something to do” is serve Krishna, and the “something to hope for” is pure, unmotivated, uninterrupted devotional service to Krishna.
In the introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada addresses the issue of happiness: “The material world is but a shadow of reality. In the shadow there is no reality or substantiality, but from the shadow we can understand that there are substance and reality. In the desert there is no water, but the mirage suggests that there is such a thing as water. In the material world there is no water, there is no happiness, but the real water of actual happiness is there in the spiritual world.”
The Reservoir of Pleasure
Real pleasure, real joy lasts forever. It’s eternal, spiritual, and available when we are in contact, through devotional service, with the person whose very essence is joy, who emanates joy from every pore of His being. And that is why the Supreme Lord is the Chief Enjoyment Officer (CEO).* One of His names in this regard is Govinda, “the one who gives pleasure to the cows and senses.” He is the reservoir of pleasure. He is always enjoying. He is always blissful, and those who connect with Him through pure devotional service taste the same bliss. Therefore, many names of the Supreme Lord refer to His joyful nature and pastimes, including Rama, Gokula Ranjana, Kunjavihari, and Radha-ramana, to cite a few.
Love in Person
“God is love.” My mother and grandparents said this time and time again when I was growing up. In Krishna consciousness we have a refined understanding of that laudable sentiment: Krishna, being absolute, is identical with His quality of infinite love. Absolute Love. Absolute Truth. Absolute Knowledge. Absolute Joy. To rework a Christian saying: “Know Krishna, know joy; no Krishna, no joy.” How can there be happiness without a connection with the Personality of Happiness? How can there be joy without a relationship with the one whose very nature is complete joy?
We Can Be Joyful Here and Now
The Chief Enjoyment Officer, Govinda, Krishna, wants us to be happy. After all, each of us is a spiritual being, part of Him, and His eternal relative. Here are a few suggestions for claiming joy now:
* Try to see and acknowledge God in all things. The Bhagavad-gita provides many clues for accomplishing this: When we drink water, we can acknowledge that the taste of that water is Krishna (“I am the taste of water”). When we observe superb talent or artistry or ability in anyone, we can remind ourselves that this remarkable ability is Krishna (“I am ability in man”). We can pray for the vision to realize that Krishna is in every atom and in the heart of every living being. Krishna says that as the Supersoul in everyone’s heart He directs the wanderings of every living being. Pray to see the hand of God even in so-called negative things. What lesson can we learn? The Bible informs us, “Everything worketh together for the good of they that love the Lord.”
* When seeing the sun and moon, we can appreciate that their light is Krishna’s energy.
* Chant the holy names of the Lord loudly in congregation and more quietly in japa every day. Calling Krishna’s names, any of them, purifies the heart and brings joy. “The whole world becomes joyful upon hearing Your name.” (Bhagavad-gita 11.36) In the Qur’an we learn, “The most beautiful names belong to God, so call upon Him by them.” In the Bible we find, “He that calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Lord Chaitanya, the great apostle of love, proclaimed in His Sikshashtaka: “Glory to the Sri Krishna sankirtana, which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years and extinguishes the fire of conditional life, of repeated birth and death. This sankirtana movement is the prime benediction for humanity at large because it spreads the rays of the benediction moon. It is the life of all transcendental knowledge. It increases the ocean of transcendental bliss, and it enables us to fully taste the nectar for which we are always anxious.”
We should accept the profound and prophetic instruction of Srila Prabhupada to “chant and be happy.”
* Associate as much as possible with the sincere servants of the Lord, who consciously hear and chant about Him, remember Him, serve His lotus feet, worship Him, offer Him prayers, consider Him their best friend, and surrender everything unto Him by carrying out His instructions as given by the scriptures and His pure representatives. Krishna’s pure-hearted servants are carriers of joy and instruments of peace.
* Give service, time, and money to devotees and devotional causes. Use your talents and gifts in the service of Krishna. Selfless giving purifies the heart and brings peace and contentment. We cannot have happiness or joy without peace.
* Claim the victory! In his commentary on Bhagavad-gita 1.14, Srila Prabhupada writes that “victory and fortune were awaiting Arjuna, as indicated by the transcendental sound produced by the conchshell of Vishnu, or Krishna.” Like Arjuna, victory awaits all sincere souls who accept the shelter of the all-merciful Lord.
There is much sadness, depression, pain, and suffering in our contemporary world. Yet, Lord Krishna desires our happiness. We have just forgotten how to find it. Therefore, Govinda, the Chief Enjoyment Officer, has sent His name and His devotees to remind us of our natural birthright of happiness and joy.
*The acronym CEO can equally apply to the Supreme Lord as the Chief Executive Officer of all material and spiritual manifestations. He is the director, maintainer, and controller of everything. Krishna is also the Chief Employment Officer, since we must engage either in His service or in the service of His illusory energy, maya.