5.22 Kama or Prema (Lust or Love)?

ye hi saṁsparśa-jā bhogā
duḥkha-yonaya eva te
ādy-antavantaḥ kaunteya
na teṣu ramate budhaḥ

An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kuntī, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them. – Bhagavad Gita, 5.22

What are the sources of misery? Everything and nothing! Everything is a source of misery if we use it to sensationalize our senses. And, nothing can cause pain when we use it for higher good, in serving God and His creation. That said, elevated saints and bonafine scriptures advise that someone, who is not trained under an expert to use the object of senses for the highest good, should refrain from becoming too involved with them. The matrix of Maya is dangerous.  Let’s try to understand this by a simple analogy. Wise parents restrict the use of Internet at home because children imitate what parents do. They help their child understand why we shouldn’t use technology and gadgets unless absolutely necessary. Alongside, the wise parents engage their children in activities that improve their intelligence and help them become good human beings.

We have senses so we use them. Our senses interact with sense objects every moment of our lives. There is no escape as long as we’re in material bodies. However, we have the freewill to channel our interactions in a way that we respond to them in a higher state of consciousness. Srila Prabhupada says, the opposite of Kama is Prema. Lust is a perverted reflection of love. We can use flowers to attract someone or decorate the deities of God. The garlands or flowers when we offer to the deities are transformed into prasad. Gifting such a garland to someone with the thought that this person be blessed is a sign of prema or divine love.

What’s the latest source of misery? Social media, if we don’t use it for the right cause. Glamour, power, money, everything is a source of misery for those who misuse them and for those, too, who are forcefully deprived of them. All that said, nothing can leave us more miserable than an unhealthy relationship between parents and children, between spouses, between friends, between governments and citizens, between nations, between communities.

It’s the lowly state of our consciousness that makes us miserable. When we dress our consciousness with devotion to God—whose natural attributes are compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, and patience—the glamour of this world becomes pale. Radhanath Swami says, “The greatest problem in the world is pollution within the ecology of our hearts – to clean that ecology, to free ourselves from the pollutants of lust, envy, greed, pride, illusion and anger.”

Why do we run after the sources of misery? What’s it that we’ve been looking for? Why don’t sex, money, power satiate us? Radhanath Swami says, “Every living being is inherently seeking pleasure and the only true pleasure of the heart is the pleasure of love.  This is something that universally everyone has in common.  Everyone is seeking the pleasure of love.  And the origin of that experience is the soul’s love for God.  When we forget our love for God we seek that experience in so many directions but never completely satisfied.  But when our propensity for love is once again reposed in the supreme object of all love, the all attractive Lord of all living beings, then we find true fulfillment and eternal joy.”

In astrology, there is a dictum that when Venus becomes retrograde in someone’s horoscope, and if other planetary combinations are supportive, this person turns towards divine love. What makes them turn away from the worldly lust? Millions of heart breaks life after life! These people come to realize that love means service. Serving others with an intention to become a bridge between them and God is what the true love is. Mother Teresa once said that in this world there is more hunger for love than for bread. Feeding our hearts with lust when actually it’s hungry for love causes emotional ingestion and spiritual degradation.

Until four years ago, I used to be a shopaholic and somewhat a binge eater. I had been emotionally starving with a sense of meaninglessness and a lack of genuine love within my heart. On my spiritual journey I find myself shopping only when necessary.  I still love food. But the food I eat is healthy for my body, mind, and soul. Before I started my spiritual journey, on every trip to the market I would shop and eat. These trips were pretty frequent. I used to fill the emptiness of my heart with dead matter. This infected my heart with pollutants. C.S. Lewis’ words best describe how I would feel before Krishna put me on the road that goes to Him and Him alone: “I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy; the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

The love whose glimpse I have found on my spiritual journey has transformed my needs and objectives. And, it’s only a glimpse so far. I’m quite far from the actualization of Krishna Prem. But what keeps me going is its glimpse. When its glimpse is so powerful how would be the experience of Prema! Devotional scriptures discuss its ecstasy in the words of those who drowned themselves in the divine oceanic love.  St. Augustine of Hippo said, “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.” – St. Augustine of Hippo

May we all achieve the highest.

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