Comfortable misery is still misery
We living in our AC homes and offices may pity people of the past who had to work outdoors, sweating profusely under the burning hot sun. Yet we don’t realize that despite our air-conditioners, we too end up sweating, not because of heat but because of stress.
The comforts that our contemporary techno-centered culture has provided us can be so infatuating as to blind us to its cost, especially when the cost is not as visible as the comfort. The comforts are visible because they are largely physical, whereas the costs are invisible because they are mostly psychological – increased anxiety, for example.
As long as people believe that better material things will make them happy, they hardly ever question whether the acquisition of comforts is actually making them happier. Craving and slaving to get comforts, they hardly give any thought to that pursuit’s flip side. That flip side stems from an uncritical adoption of a materialistic worldview, which makes people inordinately dependent on material things for their sense of self-worth and security. When faced with the uncertainties that characterize the ever-changing world of matter, they suffer enormous anxiety. Their physical comforts do little to remove their psychological misery – they end up comfortably miserable.
Gita wisdom explains that we are not physical creatures; we are spiritual beings. So, physical comforts can’t provide the security and satisfaction available in spiritual realization. Seeking material things keeps us dissatisfied (14.12) and sentences us to misery (14.16).
We don’t need to reject comforts, but we do need to realize that comforts can’t make us happy – only realizing our spiritual essence can. For gaining such realization, the most efficacious process is bhakti-yoga, for it connects us with the supreme spiritual reality, Krishna. When we practice bhakti-yoga diligently, we find a sublime inner security and satisfaction that doesn’t depend on external comfort.
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