With every rising and setting of the sun, the Srimad Bhagavatam says, another day is gone from our life. And each time the sun completes its full annual circuit, gone forever is another of our years.
The Srimad Bhagavatam speaks of the entire world as “the world of names”. Names are ultimately of no more significance than the babble of sea waves. The great kings, leaders and soldiers fight with one another to perpetuate their names in history. They are forgotten in due course of time, and they make place for another era in history. The world’s history and historical persons are useless products of flickering time. They will not be remembered, nor shall we.
Maya, or illusion would recede only in the presence of truth – Absolute Truth, as darkness would recede only in the presence of light.
The word karma actually refers to right or proper meritorious acts that conform to religious principles or higher law and are therefore materially uplifting. The path of karma, then, is the path by which one strives from material enjoyment but does so rightly, even nobly. Enjoyment pursued recklessly, irresponsibly is vikarma, wrongful action, action that is lawless or harmful, and ultimately self-destructive.
In the Gita’s analysis what we do with our life and what we think and feel, reflect a mixture of three modes, or qualities: goodness, passion and ignorance. Goodness is marked by purity, calmness and knowledge, passion by intense endeavour and desire, and ignorance by darkness, inertia, madness and illusion. In the human heart these qualities mix in various proportions, yielding a palette of subtly different temperaments, much as the three primary colours yellow, blue and red blend to form countless colours, tints and shades. Sometimes one main quality -one primary colour prevails in the mix, sometimes another.
When we see great material aspirations and desires, strong endeavours, and attachment to what one has gained or achived, the main colour is passion. It is passion that moves one along on the path of karma, in which one’s pleasure is to work and achieve and to enjoy what has gained.
The Iso Upanishad says:
Whether alive or dull, all within this universe belongs to its controller, the Lord. What you may enjoy is only what he has set aside for you as your portion. One should not strive for other things, knowing well to whom they belong.
From the union of the senses with the objects of desire comes a happiness at first like nectar but at the end like poison. Such is happiness in the mode of passion. And happiness in ignorance, with which passion is so often mixed, is still more dismal: Delusion from beginning to end, arising from sleep, indolence and madness – such is happiness in the mode of ignorance. Happiness in goodness is superior. Though for that happiness one might have to undergo the trouble of self-restraint, of forgoing what might seem like enjoyment, one eventually finds tranquility, serenity, and joy. ” At first like poison but at the end like nectar – such is happiness in the mode of goodness, born of the satisfaction of knowing oneself.”
Desires are ” coming forth from the mind” and ” born of some notion in the heart.” The Gita also speaks of ‘one who desires to desire.” That is, we get some notion in our mind, some thought of enjoyment, and we start ruminating on it, thinking about it, picturing it, letting our imagination run with it, pumping it up, and so the notion grows. This is the process of ” agitating the mind for sense gratification,” stimulating the mind with thoughts of what we imagine our senses might enjoy. The Gita says this can never lead to peace. Our minds agitated with thoughts of enjoyment, we work hard to fulfill our desires – and wind up with nothing.
The Vedic “path of karma” is where one works honestly for the sake of the resulting pleasures one hopes the God one worships will grant one to enjoy. The Srimad Bhagavatam however suggests that living merely to eat, drink and enjoy is a waste of one’s human life because human life has a higher purpose. The Bhagavatam says:Not for pleasing of the senses should one’s desires be aimed but only for gaining what one needs to live, because human life is meant for inquiry into the ultimate truth. Nothing else should be the goal of one’s work.