‘Real joy comes from within’

Bhaktilila Dasi is a lifelong Chico resident who became a Hare Krishna disciple in 1976.

Editor’s note:
After reading the Aug. 9 cover story (“Are we happy yet?”), Bhaktilila felt inspired to submit this commentary.

In the Western world, people are enamored with the idea of individual freedom and free will. In fact, that is the premise of the founding of the United States, a vision that a person has a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Where has this happiness brought us?

A common theme nowadays is the pursuit of sexual enjoyment, thinking it will bring us the happiness that is so intensely desired. Now we are seeing ideas being tossed around that would have been unthinkable two generations ago, such as recreational sex and polyamory. Is this really advancement, or is this a sign of the degradation of the very fabric of society? Is the happiness derived from this freedom truly lasting, or is it fleeting?

If we look to the Vedas, the ancient scriptures from India, we learn we are not sexual beings but spiritual beings in a body. The pure spirit soul has nothing to do with the material world; the impure soul will act on behalf of senses and desires. The senses are always striving for pleasures associated with the body, but there can’t be any real lasting satisfaction in the material world.

There is a natural desire and need for love. Every living being thrives and grows in the presence of love. Without it one withers away.

But what is often taken for love is only lust. A good example is a couple who is happily married with children and friends; then the wife or husband gets an illness and cannot function normally. The spouse feels he or she is not getting “needs met” and looks for another partner. Did the wayward spouse really love the other?

If one looks to all the great traditions in the world, we see how important controlling the senses is to spiritual advancement. Jesus Christ, Buddha and Lord Chaitanya all lived very simple lives, always meditating on the Supreme Being. They showed society by example and teachings how to revive our natural dormant love for Krishna or God. An important facet was celibacy (in this context, celibacy encompasses sex within marriage). Not only does it strengthen one but society as a whole.

There has to be a discipline to follow each day and knowledge to advance spiritually. That is the reason why there are scriptures to read and prayer to engage one’s senses and mind. By following a bona-fide spiritual path, one can achieve real peace and happiness, not from pursuing the glitter of the material world but from satisfying the inner soul.

We are whole and complete just as we are. We don’t need all the outer trappings the material world has to offer. Real joy comes from within.