Simply put, many of us are quite confused. We wish to be free but do just the opposite. Our acts are counter-productive since we are unaware of what is binding and what is liberating. What are the benefits of real liberation ? Answers to these questions should be sought by all serious human beings.
In absence of real knowledge, we consider the physical gratification of our eyes, of our ears, of our tongue, of our genitals, etc, as the highest possible enjoyment in life. There is no doubt that these do provide some form of enjoyment, but at what cost ? Do they fully satisfy ? Still, in our ignorance, we consider them as the only pleasures available to us, not bothering to look for something better. Unfortunately, we are easily captivated by such meagre pleasures. Smoking is a classical example of such a low and addictive type of pleasure.
On the other hand, higher pleasures - that is, of a spiritual kind - are definitely available to human beings. These are ever increasing, highly satisfying and, most importantly, thoroughly liberating since they relate to soul, which we are. Sense pleasures relate simply to the human body, which we are not. The wise seek spiritual pleasures and are liberated whereas the seekers of sense pleasures are increasingly bound.
Shouldn't we ponder over the apparent contradiction in the fact that material richness does not ensure a happy and peaceful life ? Comfortable, the rich may be as far as their living conditions are concerned, but do they feel free or are they bound by multifarious problems ? In our materialistic mind set, we feel that more is better and liberating even though our experience tells us otherwise. Why are we so confused ?
It is simply because we refuse to look for proper knowledge from bonafide scriptures such as the Bhagavad-Geeta, which clarifies, “That understanding by which one knows what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, what is binding and what is liberating" (18.30). Human life is like driving a car on public roads - one needs to know the rules before one can drive properly. One cannot be whimsical about it – that is not permissible. A child going to school has the independence of not paying attention to what is taught at school but such exercise of independence will only land the child in trouble. He will fail and will be put to many inconveniences, which a good student is not put to.
As human beings, we are expected to consider both our short-term and long-term welfare. Our actions should not be short-term pleasing and long-term binding, the way smoking and drinking are. On the other hand, our actions could even be short-term painful, like submitting to the discipline of regular school classes for a student. The human life-span is considered to be around one hundred years and our planning should take this fact into consideration. Then, there is also the next life to consider for us souls.
Our efforts should help us look forward to the future hopefully. This is real freedom, without engaging in actions, which give only immediate gratification. Everything we do has a bearing on our future. Nothing is inconsequential so we must always make the right choices. Most of us are very skeptical about spiritual matters since we need proof. Such proof is available by simply following spiritual practices. lt is wise to try these rather than our intuitions, which are based on our very limited knowledge. Such intuitions invariably attract us to options that are not beneficial in the long run.
Lord Krishna states : “That which in the beginning may be just like poison but in the end is just like nectar is true happiness" (18.37). Conversely , “That happiness which is derived from contact with senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but is poison at the end is not true happiness" (18.38). To be liberated, peaceful and truly happy, one needs to follow these directions very carefully. One can also seek further clarifications from a genuine practitioner of spiritual injunctions.
To make the correct choice, one needs to carefully evaluate each and every present action and all future plans on the yardstick of both long-term and short-term benefits. In the end, one should not waste away one’s invaluable human life. We can either make progress and be liberated or act whimsically and be more bound. Why don’t we choose to be liberated ?