Balance Between Taste and Sense Gratification
Illuminations Newsletter 65
What is the motive for sense gratification? It is simply to squeeze the maximum amount of pleasure out of our senses. This is the very essence of material life. This is also the true essence of animal life.
Our senses can also be satisfied by Krishna consciousness, but there is a huge difference in the motives with which we engage our senses.
When a devotee reaches the highest levels of Krsna consciousness, he is not focused on what will or will not make him happy. His only thoughts are how to make Krishna, his guru and devotees happy, and how to give Krishna consciousness to others. Thus, a devotee never focuses on his personal happiness.
Need to worry about Krishna
Nondevotees are often in a state of anxiety, thinking, “Will this work, will that work?” Such worries are, of course, related to personal well-being. However, a devotee is never worried about his personal life. Rather, his only concern is whether anything will work for Krishna’s service. This is a true stress reliever. As soon as you stop worrying about yourself and start worrying about making guru, Krishna, and others happy, your material worries will disappear.
One day, devotees wanted to buy a huge church in Toronto to turn it into a Vaishnava temple. Since it was very expensive, Srila Prabhupada advised them not to buy the building because “you will be making yourself anxious.” When Prabhupada later returned to Toronto, he asked the temple president if he had bought the building.
The Temple President replied, “No. Because it’s so expensive, we’d buy nothing but worry.” Surprisingly, Prabhupada emphatically replied, “We must have concern for Krishna. Otherwise, you will only worry about sense gratification.” Therefore our whole concern should be how we can best serve Krishna and help others become Krishna conscious.
Strive to please Guru and Krishna
By acquiring a taste for Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we no longer hanker after material tastes, and therefore we cease to be egocentric. This raises a reasonable question: “How can we get a taste for Krishna consciousness?” We get a taste for Krishna consciousness if we don’t try to taste maya. Only when we are eager to satisfy guru and Krishna and do not try to figure out what will make us happy and what will not, we become happy in Krishna consciousness. (However, don’t write off the basic needs that need to be met.)
“The amazing qualities of the gopis are beyond our understanding. The gopis do not seek pleasure for themselves, but seeing how happy Krishna is from meeting them, they feel millions of times happier than Him.
Sense gratification is an addiction
Taste is a by-product of Krishna’s sense gratification. Therefore, we should never run away from trying to get real taste in Krsna consciousness, thinking that this is sense gratification. The taste for Krsna consciousness is very different from the taste for sense gratification. One of them comes as a by-product of the purified senses, and the other one comes as a by-product of lust.
“Taste is the seed of devotional service, and one who is fortunate enough to receive this seed should plant it in his heart” (SB 3.2.6, comm .).
“I see that you have acquired a taste for stories about Krishna. This is your great fortune. Immensely happy is everyone in whom such a taste has awakened ”(Chh, Antya 5.9).
The secret of success is in the taste
Taste for Krishna consciousness is not compatible with sense gratification. When we crave sense gratification, or especially when we engage in it, the so-called pleasure we get nullifies our senses’ ability to perceive or desire pleasure in Krsna consciousness. Conversely, a higher taste in Krishna consciousness nullifies the craving for sense gratification. When we have a strong attraction for Krishna, we will feel disgusted even thinking about our past pleasures. Those things that we used to strive for, things that we liked to do, eat, listen to, talk to, watch, etc., will become unpleasant for us.
Devotees often ask me, “How do I know if I’m progressing?” You realize that you are advancing when material life becomes unpleasant for you. Taste hinders the desire to gratify one’s senses. Thus Srila Prabhupada tells us that taste is the “secret of success.”
Maya – the attractive energy of the All Attractive
The problem is that because Krishna is all-attractive, His external potency maya is also attractive (after all, it’s His potency!). Srila Prabhupada said that maya means that other things become more attractive to you than Krishna.
I heard a conversation where a devotee told Srila Prabhupada how some priests meet girlfriends, get married or become homosexuals. It was also not uncommon for some priests to become alcoholics. Prabhupada replied, “Yes, they fall because they have no taste.” So without Krishna, we are guaranteed to be attracted to maya, even if we don’t want to be, and even if we try not to get caught. We do not “fight maya ” with discipline alone. We fight maya by the taste we get from Krsna consciousness activities.
“As the taste increases, so does the desire to serve the Lord in devotional service. ”
Anarthas will not bring us happiness
We are truly unfortunate if we believe that beyond Krishna consciousness there is something that will give us a taste for life. The irony is that the stage of ruci (or taste for Krishna consciousness), which gives us real happiness and pleasure, comes after we have given up our material desires. In other words, the material things that we think will make us happy actually keep us from being happy.
To plant the seed of bhakti in the hearts of others
Once, in a letter written on January 10, 1972, Srila Prabhupada said, “Our business is simply to sow the seeds of devotional service wherever we go and give everyone a taste of this transcendental experience.” If people get transcendental experience or taste, it will strengthen their faith very much, because they will experience pleasure beyond the senses. And after tasting Krishna consciousness, people will want more.
The Chaitanya-caritamrta says that Mahaprabhu first ate the fruits of love of Godhead and then distributed them. “He taught everyone by his own example to enjoy the transcendental mellow of ecstatic love for Krishna” (C-c, Adi 13.39).
Cleansing for Taste
Taste comes from the purification of the senses. Krishna has a certain taste, and only purified senses can taste the taste of Krishna. The Harinama Chintamani says: “When a person’s heart is purified, he awakens interest and taste for the development of bhakti .”
It is essential that we understand taste as the experience of enjoying Krishna consciousness with purified senses, and this taste has nothing to do with material motivation. Taste is the desire of all great devotees. Even the Lord Himself longs for it.
“What to say about others, when Krishna Himself, the son of Maharaja Nanda, descended into this world to taste the nectar of love for God, which is carried by the repetition of the Hare Krishna mantra (Ch, Antya 3.256).
Indicators of the “taste indicator”
In one of his lectures, Srila Prabhupada was asked, “How can you track whether you are becoming Krishna conscious or not?” He replied: “According to your renunciation. By your freedom from sexual desire.” Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, “How do you recognize a mature devotee? He can be recognized by his taste for the Holy Name.
If we notice that we are getting more and more trusting and attached to Krishna, then we are on the right track. However, if we see that we are increasingly attracted to worldly attachments, we need to understand that something is wrong. Thus, taste is a useful indicator to track your progress.
“Therefore, the true indicator of advancement in devotional service is the deepening of the desire to follow the instructions of the guru ” (Ch, Adi 1.60, comm .).
What is the result of chanting without taste? Bhaktivinoda Thakura answers this question in the Harinama Cintamani:
“Although he chants japa every day, if he is drawn to something else, he will be indifferent to the holy name. His heart will be consumed not by the repetition of the Name, but by some material object. What benefit can this bring him? He may chant 64 rounds on his rosary, but in his heart, he has not received a drop of taste for the holy name. This indifference or indifference to the Holy Name is one of the types of inattention. In the heart of a materialist, this is inevitable.”
Descent from the mountain
Ruci is compared to going downhill because at this stage of Krishna consciousness we are guided by the taste for service and not by rules and regulations. Before we can taste, we must constantly make an effort to control ourselves. At the stage of ruci, such efforts are not required, because the motivating factor here is our taste for Krishna consciousness. As the saying goes, “the hardest part is over.”
Don’t run away from the taste
If you have the idea that “I shouldn’t desire taste,” understand that we will always be motivated by taste. So the only question is what kind of taste motivates us. Just as material taste brings us closer to maya, spiritual taste brings us closer to Krishna.
“To taste the fruit of devotional service in Goloka Vrndavana is the highest perfection of life. The four material perfections of piety, economic prosperity, sense gratification, and liberation are nothing compared to him.” (Ch-ch, Madhya 19.164).
We must want the taste, pray for the taste, and crave the taste. We need taste!
“For one who has got the opportunity to enjoy the association of Lord Krishna, material existence, the series of births and deaths, ends” (Cc, Madhya 20.141).
What are you afraid of?
Don’t be afraid to taste Krsna consciousness. Be afraid to enjoy at the expense of Krsna consciousness. We want to serve Krishna, not enjoy at the expense of Krishna. The paradox is that if we serve, we end up enjoying Krsna consciousness. Krishna consciousness does not come from the desire to enjoy. In fact, it is a pleasure that eliminates the very desire to enjoy.
We are ordained to enjoy Krsna consciousness.
Perfection is tasting the nectar of Krsna consciousness.
“There is and cannot be anything sweeter than the nectar of Krishna’s mouth, His divine qualities, and activities. This nectar is impeccable, and for those who do not drink it, it would be better for them to die before they were born. The language of such a person is not much different from that of a frog” (Chh, Madhya 2.32).