Work in Devotional Service (summary by Parul S)


Sunday Feast Class by HG Caru Gopika devi dasi on BHAGAVAD GITA 5.22


Caru Gopika Mataji gave a very enlightening class about Bhagavad Gita verse 5.22 this past Sunday. In this chapter of the Gita, called Karma-yoga: Action in Krsna Consciousness, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is instructing Arjuna about work in devotional service. In Verse 5.22, Krsna says that an intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery - which result from contact with the material senses - and that those kinds of pleasures are temporary.

Mataji provided us with many different examples, analogies, and realizations on this topic. She started off the class with a question: What are sense pleasures? Sense pleasures are not a source of happiness. They, in fact, cause misery. For example, the tongue is one of our material senses; some may argue that it is the most important one! Attachment to the tongue and the food that we can taste with it may bring us short-term happiness, but long-term problems. She used a very relatable scenario to illustrate this point: gulab jamun. We might start with three or four gulab jamuns. But, our tongue is still not satisfied. We want more! So we eat 15 gulab jamuns. 20. 50! At the time, we may satisfy our senses and feel happy. But later, we feel the consequences of our lack of control in the form of a stomach ache. In this way, material senses provide us with pleasures and happiness that have a beginning and an end.

If you take some time to think about, you will realize that everything in this material world has a beginning and an end. Whether it is happiness, wealth, or even life, nothing can last forever. The one thing that we can count on to be permanent is Lord Krsna.

Mataji went on to talk about having higher tastes so that we may stop taking pleasure in material things. She said that once we have higher tastes, our lower tastes will disappear on their own. For example, if someone has only ever had stale bread for breakfast, they will think that it tastes good because they have never experienced something higher. One day, if someone gives them fresh, warm aloo paratha, they will realize the aloo paratha is much better. They will automatically lose taste for the stale bread. Similarly, a beggar will fight for a stale roti if someone is trying to take it. But if you give them a thali, they won’t care if the roti is taken away. As Mataji beautifully summarized, we will not care about broken pieces of glass if we are given diamonds.

But our cravings for material pleasures are never-ending if we let them spiral out of control. We will always want more, more, more. Some look at all the millionaires, and think, “Wow, they must be so happy!” But those millionaires look at the billionaires and think the same thing. The billionaires look at the people richer than them, and so the chain continues. Even the richest person in the world can think, “If only I had *insert number here* more dollars…” The more we desire, the more unsatisfied we will be when those desires remain unfulfilled or when they are taken away from us. We can break this cycle of suffering if we detach ourselves from this material world.

For a lot of us, however, reaching a stage where we are completely free of desires seems very hard to do. So how should we work toward this goal? Mataji said that having material desires with a limit - and self-control - is acceptable. The problem occurs when there is a lack of control and one doesn’t know when to stop or doesn’t care about stopping. If we can control ourselves and our desires and dovetail our material desires into spiritual desires, our advancement on the path of devotion will be smooth sailing.

While the material world and material senses bring us only temporary happiness and lead to misery and distress, bhakti and service to Krsna will give us permanent happiness. Take the Bhagavad Gita, for instance. Krsna spoke it on the battlefield of Kurukshetra 5000 years ago, but we still are able to read it and take joy from it today. One can read the Bhagavad Gita over and over again and still get happiness because of it. But can you imagine watching the same movie, over and over again? Even if it is one of your favorite movies, if you watch it more than 10 times without stopping, you will get bored of it (if you don’t end up being sick of it!). And how many times can you reread a book before you have the entire thing memorized?

Mataji also addressed one of the most-asked questions in history: Why are we here? Many people wonder about the purpose of life, and Mataji told us the answer that all our shastras and acaryas have told us: human life is meant for tapasya, or penance for a higher goal. If we don’t strive for something higher, what is the difference between us and animals? Sleeping, eating, mating, and defending. Our life boils down to those four things without bhakti. Animals also engage in those four things, except they don’t have the comforts and privileges we have. We must use this human life for its intended purpose. Luckily for us, Krsna has made it easy. All we have to do is follow the 4 regulative principles and chant 16 rounds every day.

Even after hearing this wonderful class and seeing proof in the Gita, the idea of not having material desires can be hard to fathom and accept. But riddle me this. What do you know of that brings never-ending and complete bliss? If you have an answer, please enlighten me. As far as I know though, the only thing that can do this is faith and service to God. As Mataji said, expectations and material attachments only lead to suffering and anger. To avoid all of this, there is one solution: Chant and Be Happy!

Caru Gopika Mataji’s classes are always relatable, applicable, and wonderful; this one was no exception. I learned so much and gained so much knowledge from her. I can’t wait until her next class! Thank you Caru Gopika Mataji and I hope all of you learned something new today from this summary.

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