By Yugavatara Dasa
Devotional service to the Lord cures our sense of dissatisfaction, which impels us to always look elsewhere for happiness.
As my first M.B.B.S. (Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery) exam was getting closer, I was quickly moving away from peace. With shaking hands, dried-up mouth, and insomnia, I was almost into anxiety neurosis. I looked out of my hostel room and felt that everyone in the world was happy but me. I desperately needed some counseling.
The Crow Story
I approached my uncle, a very spiritual person, for help. He called me when he could give me some exclusive quality time. For the first fifteen minutes, he listened attentively as I vented my stress. He then told me the story of the crow. A crow lived in the forest and was absolutely satisfied in life. But one day he saw a swan. “This swan is so white,” he thought, “and I am so black. This swan must be the happiest bird in the world.” He expressed his thoughts to the swan. “Actually,” the swan replied, “I was feeling that I was the happiest bird around until I saw a parrot, which has two colors. I now think the parrot is the happiest bird in creation.” The crow then approached the parrot. The parrot explained, “I lived a very happy life—until I saw a peacock. I have only two colors, but the peacock has multiple colors.” The crow then visited a peacock in the zoo and saw that hundreds of people had gathered to see him. After the people had left, the crow approached the peacock. “Dear peacock,” the crow said, “you are so beautiful. Every day thousands of people come to see you. When people see me, they immediately shoo me away. I think you are the happiest bird on the planet.” The peacock replied, “I always thought that I was the most beautiful and happy bird on the planet. But because of my beauty, I am entrapped in this zoo. I have examined the zoo very carefully, and I have realized that the crow is the only bird not kept in a cage. So for past few days I have been thinking that if I were a crow, I could happily roam everywhere.” This story summarizes our problem in this world: The crow thinks the swan is happy, the swan thinks the parrot is happy, the parrot thinks the peacock is happy, and the peacock thinks the crow is happy.
Our story is similar to the crow story. When we are studying in primary school, we want to grow up and go to secondary school. As we enter secondary school, we think the students of the junior college are happy because they don’t have to follow such strict rules. In junior college we think the students of the professional college are happy, as they have been successful in fulfilling their dream of entering a medical, engineering, management, or other college. In the professional college we think those students who have graduated and gotten the best job, the best car, a good-looking wife, and a huge house are happy. But when we ourselves get the best job and the best of everything, we become engrossed in maintaining it all. As we struggle for existence in this rat race, sometimes we see those small, innocent primary-school children and think, “Oh, they are so happy. They don’t have any responsibilities. They just go to school, study a bit, and play. What a life full of fun!” So we see the story of the crow in action: Schoolchildren think college students are happy, college students think successful professionals are happy, and successful professionals think schoolchildren are happy.
Satisfied or Dissatisfied?
So what is the solution? The solution is to reach an absolute state of self-satisfaction. Of course that does not mean opposing the metamorphosis of a school student into a successful professional. We can give our best shot in every endeavor for success, but we must give up the deeply rooted illusory thought that happiness follows success. Even if success brings some happiness, it is impermanent. So as we endeavor for material success, we should make parallel endeavors for permanent happiness by practicing spirituality. This blend is a perfect formula for long-lasting bliss. The main obstacle to real happiness is the desire for sense gratification. Once we indulge, we end up getting more agitated and eventually far away from the goal of eternal happiness. Thus a small indulgence snowballs into a major agitation of the mind and senses. Spirituality aims at reaching a state where a person is happy with his endeavors irrespective of success or failure. True spirituality nullifies our lamentations about the past and destroys our illusions about the future, thus making our present very pleasant.
Devotional service helps us train our senses and tame our mind. Chanting God’s divine holy name purifies our senses. Presently our senses are impure. The tendency to exploit this world is the symptom of impure senses and mind. This world is the Lord’s property, and so sense gratification means trying to enjoy His property. How can we become happy by stealing His property for our own gains? Devotional service means using God’s property for His service. A devotee offers everything to the Lord and then accepts it for himself. This small change can bring about a paradigm shift in our life. It will extinguish the fire of exploitation and kindle the dormant devotional service in the heart. As sons of God we are the rightful heirs to His property, provided we follow His instructions. Lord Krishna explains this principle in the Bhagavad-gita (5.29):
“A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.” The story of the crow changed my life by helping me realize that I should learn to be satisfied. But it was Srila Prabhupada teachings that taught me how to be satisfied by taking the shelter of the Lord by chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.I would like to proudly say that after I took shelter of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, I was never again tense during examinations. Exam or no exam, I enjoyed the ecstasy of studying as an offering to God.