The beginning of Spiritual Knowledge

Everyone is hankering for happiness because by nature we are happy: anandamayo ‘bhyasat (Vedanta-sutra 1.1.12). As spirit souls we are naturally happy, blissful. But we are suffering because we have been covered by five gross material elements — earth, water, fire, air, and ether — and three subtle material elements — mind, intelligence, and false ego. Materialists, identifying themselves with these coverings, seek satisfaction through these gross and subtle elements of the body. In other words, they simply seek sense gratification, the happiness of the body.

In the material world everyone is working hard only for this happiness. Some people try to be happy by gratifying the physical senses, and some try to be happy by gratifying the mind in such pursuits as art, poetry, and philosophy. But neither gross nor subtle sense gratification can give us real happiness, because real happiness belongs to the soul. And we actually see that although people are endeavoring throughout the whole world for bodily comforts, for sense gratification, they’re not happy. They cannot be happy, because the basic principle of happiness is missing.

Suppose you have a nice coat. If you simply show the coat and iron the coat and keep it very carefully, you’ll never be happy. Similarly, now you are trying to get happiness from gratifying the coat of the body, but that is not possible. Happiness comes only when you make the soul happy. Or, suppose you have a bird in a cage.

If you simply polish the cage but do not give the bird any food, the bird will never be happy. Similarly, the material body is the cage of the soul, and if we simply care for the body, the soul will never become happy. So, the beginning of spiritual knowledge is to understand that the soul is encaged within the body and mind and that neither bodily comforts nor mental satisfaction will ever bring the soul real happiness.

Ref: Excerpt from the book ‘Dharma: The way of Transcendence’ authored by Srila Prabhupada (Founder-Acharya of ISKCON)

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