Despite what our mind tells us, catering to the demands of our senses leads only to a life of inevitable dissatisfaction.
By Vishakha Devi Dasi
“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” – Saint Augustine, Confessions

When I was coming of age, I began to make some disquieting observations. While apprenticing under a world-famous photojournalist, I noticed how disturbed he was on seeing his fame ebb as younger photographers replaced him. I also noticed how the fashion models I sometimes worked with obsessed over their appearance, and the commercial photographers who made ample money photographing those models were stressed and perpetually restless. All in all, the people I was around were clamoring for the same things – fame, fortune, power, prestige, beauty – yet possessing those very things clearly didn’t satisfy them. Whatever they had was never enough and never good enough.

I was confused. Did I want to fit into this posh, glittery, overwrought world? Would I fare any better than the famous, powerful, beautiful, and wealthy people I was working with? There was a certain emptiness, a question mark in the core of my being that nagged and haunted me and would not let me be. What exactly is life for? And what will bring lasting satisfaction?

I didn’t consider looking toward spirituality for answers, and certainly not at religion. But through my then boyfriend (now husband) I read Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is and, even more influentially, spent some time in the holy town of Vrindavan.

The Unsatisfied Mind

When we learn something that’s relevant and makes sense, it impacts us. When we meet others living that knowledge, it makes an even deeper impression. And when we try it ourselves and find it a positive influence in our life, we can be permanently altered. The trajectory of our life can change.

So it was when I read in the Gita (17.16) about the austerities of the mind: satisfaction, simplicity, gravity, self-control, and purification of one’s existence. In his explanation of this verse Srila Prabhupada writes, “Satisfaction of the mind can be obtained only by taking the mind away from thoughts of sense enjoyment. The more we think of sense enjoyment, the more the mind becomes dissatisfied. In the present age we unnecessarily engage the mind in so many different ways for sense gratification, and so there is no possibility of the mind’s becoming satisfied.”

At first, this certainly seems counterintuitive. Ordinarily I would think that to satisfy my mind I need to satisfy my senses, but Srila Prabhupada says that for me to feel satisfied I need to extract my mind from thoughts of sense gratification. Indulging in this way, he says, will only lead to dissatisfaction. I realized it was this sense of dissatisfaction I’d been observing for years that had brought me to question life’s meaning and purpose.

Srila Prabhupada further explains, “Tushti, satisfaction, means that one should not be eager to gather more and more material goods by unnecessary activity. One should be satisfied with whatever is obtained by the grace of the Supreme Lord; that is called satisfaction.” (Gita 10.5, Purport)

Not to hanker for more but to make do with what I had was an alien idea, yet freeing as well. Just the thought of not hankering for things lightened my self-created burden. But I was still left questioning: I have a deep-rooted desire to be satisfied. If material goods and sense enjoyment won’t ultimately satisfy me, then what will?

Toward the beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada clearly answers this question: “The self is beyond the gross body and subtle mind. He is the potent active principle of the body and mind. Without knowing the need of the dormant soul, one cannot be happy simply with emolument of the body and mind. The body and the mind are but superfluous outer coverings of the spirit soul. The spirit soul’s needs must be fulfilled. Simply by cleansing the cage of the bird, one does not satisfy the bird. One must actually know the needs of the bird himself.” (Bhagavatam 1.2.8, Purport)

I needed to search for satisfaction beyond matter.

The Source of Satisfaction

Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has nothing to desire. He is fully satisfied with Himself. As Krishna’s minute yet integral parts, if we simply desire to please Him we also become self-satisfied by His grace. In other words, as we progress in spiritual life we experience increasing peace of mind and self-satisfaction. To use the above analogy, the cage is clean and well maintained, and the bird within it is well nourished, healthy, and happy.

In other words, we do our duties as best we can according to the time and our situation, strength, and financial position, while our only aim in all our activities is to satisfy God, Krishna. Although our activities may appear ordinary, behind them is a profound intent – to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we can please Him even slightly, He will enable us to begin to transcend our activities and feel a growing inner sense of completeness. We’ll become satisfied.

How to satisfy Krishna is not a mystery, nor is it difficult. Krishna unequivocally explains how to satisfy Him in the very center of the Bhagavad-gita, which is the central scripture of all the Vedas.

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaishyasi yuktvaivam
atmanam mat-parayanah

“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Gita 9.34)

If we think of Krishna, we’ll naturally serve Him and become His devotee. And as Krishna’s devotee, we’ll also naturally bow down to Him and worship Him. In this way, absorbed in Him, we’ll be free of discontent.

This process of bhakti-yoga – connecting with the divine through devotion – is a science, the science of controlling our mind and senses by thinking of Krishna and getting a higher taste, a taste for transcendence. Even ordinary science has shown that regular meditation can reduce stress, increase calm and clarity, and promote happiness. Mind control is a powerful tool to make us stronger, more focused, and prepared to face life’s small and big daily challenges.

Meditating on Krishna’s holy names and service allows us to be vulnerable, to acknowledge that we’re fallible and need help. Yet at the same time, we’re not powerless, nor are we escapists. Rather, we seek guidance from one who’s qualified to give it. And we follow the principles and regulations – His principles and regulations – that will enable us to be qualified to receive that guidance. It’s an internal process with external ramifications. And it’s natural.

Srila Prabhupada explains: “To act in Krishna consciousness is the duty of every living entity because all are constitutionally parts and parcels of the Supreme. The parts of the body work for the satisfaction of the whole body. The limbs of the body do not act for self-satisfaction but for the satisfaction of the complete whole. Similarly, the living entity who acts for satisfaction of the supreme whole and not for personal satisfaction is the perfect sannyasi [renunciant], the perfect yogi.” (Gita 6.1, Purport)

By hearing about Krishna we become attached to Him and experience completeness. This feeling is compared to the feeling of satisfaction hungry persons have for every morsel of food they eat. The more they eat while hungry, the more they feel satisfaction and strength. Similarly, by serving Krishna with devotion, we feel transcendental satisfaction as the mind becomes detached from material pursuits. “Devotion, direct experience of the Supreme Lord, and detachment from other things – these three occur simultaneously for one who has taken shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the same way that pleasure, nourishment, and relief from hunger come simultaneously and increasingly, with each bite, for a person engaged in eating.” (Bhagavatam 11.2.42)

Krishna Himself confirms, “The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.” (Gita 10.9) When we’re acting in our normal constitutional position of Krishna’s servant, we’ll be fully satisfied and spiritually blissful. For myself, I’m not fully satisfied and spiritually blissful, but I am much more so than I was many years ago.

Vishakha Devi Dasi has been writing for BTG since 1973. The author of six books, she is the temple president at Bhaktivedanta Manor in the UK. She and her husband, Yadubara Dasa, produce and direct films, most recently the biopic on the life of Srila Prabhupada Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement, and the Swami Who Started It All. Visit her website at