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Fate of the Finger

I remember meeting a peculiar lady when I was distributing books on Bhakti Yoga a few years back in the heart of Sydney. Perhaps in her late 50s or early 60s, she was frail, confused and looking about here and there. As I placed a copy of the Bhagavad Gita As It Is in her hands, I explained to her about how the practical knowledge contained within the book would help her to find happiness within. She haltingly looked at the book and then looked at me... "Do you know, when I was younger, I used to be a great ballerina. I've spent my whole life dancing and that is the joy of my life." Tears then welled in her eyes. "But now I have arthritis in my feet, I can't dance any more. Life to me doesn't seem worth living anymore." I tried to console her and told her to search out a type of contentment beyond the body. She finally agreed and took the book.

Arjuna at the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita confronted a similar situation. He apparently was limiting his conception of happiness and enjoyment in this world to the bodily conception of life. Therefore he broke down before the great battle even started. In Chapter 2 of the Gita, Text 28, Krishna explains to Arjuna that all material things are unmanifested before taking shape, they have an interim period of manifestation and are again unmanifested after they are destroyed - so what need is there of lamentation? Being spirit souls, our thirst for happiness is permanent and ever expansive but if we invest our happiness in the temporary (like our material body or others' bodies) then sooner or later we will loose the "joy" in our life too.

The nature of matter is that it is changeable and it deteriorates. Remember all those ways that you can harm your finger? You can cut it, smash it, twist it, break it, rip it, burn it, bite it... the list goes on. And how many ways can you protect your finger? Not many other than covering or shielding it with something. Even if you protect it that way, time, old age and death will eventually catch up to it.

The pinnacle Bhakti text, the Chaitanya Charitamrita analyses for us the nature of material happiness. Sometimes a criminal is tortured by authorities by dunking his head underwater just to the point before drowning. Then all of a sudden, the criminal is grabbed by the hair and pulled out of the water. At that instant, the criminal takes a big deep breath before he is dunked underwater again. The criminal considers the brief moment where he can take a breath to be happiness when actually the whole ordeal is miserable. In blatant terms, the yoga text explain to the serious spiritual seeker that material happiness is nothing but a slight reduction in material distress. Consider this valuable point.

The Bhakti Yoga lifestyle redirects our aim of the pursuit of pleasure to a platform beyond both the gross body and the mind. When we chant Hare Krishna and hear attentively, we establish our spiritual connection with our best friend, Krishna, and we experience a deep, inner satisfaction beyond all material wants. If we can cultivate this lifestyle then we can remain peaceful, cheerful and fulfilled regardless of any situation we face in life.


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