We can’t avoid being haunted, but we can choose who haunts us

As aspiring devotees, our devotional determination may waver when we are confronted with temptations of material pleasures.

Often these temptations haunt us like ghosts; they keep popping up again and again, possessing our mind and pushing us to act in distressing or even disgusting ways.

If due to this repeated pushing we give up our devotional principles and indulge in those pleasures, we will find them strangely insipid. Even if we seek those pleasures in grosser forms and with greater frenzy, still the same tastelessness will dog us relentlessly.

Such tastelessness, Gita wisdom informs, is a sign that we are haunted by another ghost: the ghost of devotional happiness. The great Vaishnava commentator Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura uses the ghost metaphor to convey the unforgettability of spiritual happiness. Unlike the ghost of material happiness that torments us at the conscious level, the ghost of devotional happiness usually acts at a subconscious level. There, it exposes the emptiness and hollowness of all material pleasures by contrasting them subliminally with devotional joys.

Due to this double possession during our transition from material pleasure to devotional happiness: we will be inevitably dissatisfied – either by the conscious craving for material pleasure or the subconscious longing for devotional happiness. Giving in to the material craving will never make us happy because we have already tasted the far greater devotional happiness. Even if our inner conditioning and outer culture don’t let us realize the superiority of devotional happiness, the Bhagavad-gita (06.44: hriyate hy avasho pi sah) indicates that this higher taste will drag us back to devotional practices – sooner if we cooperate, later if we resist.

Therefore, knowing that the pursuit of material pleasures is now a lost cause, let us gird ourselves to fight the material craving, thereby ensuring that we get the ultimate happiness sooner rather than later.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 06 Text 44

“By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles – even without seeking them. Such an inquisitive transcendentalist stands always above the ritualistic principles of the scriptures.”

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