Seek ‘sukha,’ the real one, while enjoying ‘sukha’ of the mundane type
The word sukha has been used extensively in the Bhagavad-Geeta but in different contexts. This word essentially means: what pleases. The English words for sukha are happiness and pleasure. Lord Krishna has spoken about sukha to describe what pleases in three different ways. The first one is what is according to dharma and its only source is God. Let us call this sukha for this article. The second one is: what is according to dharma but brings good and bad results depending upon how it was obtained. This has been called ‘vihara’ in the Geeta. There is just one verse where this word has been used. The third kind is against dharma and brings only misery as a result. The word for this sukha is ‘kama’. I will use this word for this article. There are many verses in the Geeta in this connection.
Beginning with the real sukha, I will refer to some of the verses in their order as described in the Geeta. The first one is: “In a state of having real spiritual intelligence, one transcends the feeling of material suffering.” (2.65) A classical example is that of Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, who carried on his spiritual activities even with throat cancer. Personally speaking, I have accepted some pains, which are inevitable due to my advanced age. They don’t bother me much and I go on with my life. The next verse clarifies where only real sukha can be obtained: “One must be linked with God, and one must have faith in God.” Then, one will be peaceful, which is essential to be sushi.” (2.66) It is quite logical, isn’t it? Peace can only come from God because we, grown-ups, can feel secure only if we have taken shelter from God. How does a small child go to sleep peacefully in the lap of his mother?
The third verse is about control over kama and anger. “Unless that is accomplished, where is any scope for sukha?” This is only possible to accomplish if we are enjoying the shelter of God. (5.23) We can either be in control of kama or of God. For example, if I am indulging in sexual thoughts, I have effectively taken their shelter. The fourth verse chosen is very encouraging. It states, “God accompanies the conqueror of self, who is blissfully peaceful.” (6.7) This means that such a person has fully surrendered to God, and God obliges by being with him or her. The fifth verse chosen tells us about unlimited bliss experienced through intelligence. (6.21) An advanced devotee realizes that God is responding to him; He is even using him as His ‘nimitta’ (instrument) to get important acts done. His sukha knows no bounds.
Now the second level of sukha is called vihar in the Geeta. Lord Krishna states, “One whose eating and recreation (vihar) are appropriate; one who strives appropriately in activities; one who sleeps and stays awake, as required suffers less.” Because: “Contact between senses and their objects are givers of cold, heat, pleasure (sukha) and misery (duhkha). They, being temporary, come and go; tolerate them.” (2.14) If one acts in goodness, it will be like poison in the beginning but in result will be like nectar, which is the result of spiritual knowledge. (18.37)
Now to the last type of sukha, which has been described as kama. Lord Krishna has given sufficient warnings about indulging in this kind of sukha. In verse # 16.21, the Lord warns sternly, “Kama is a door to hell; causes ruination of soul; should be given up.” How? “Kill this difficult to conquer enemy in the form of kama.” (3.43). So what is sensible to do? Seek sukha, the real one by linking with God earnestly. Meanwhile, sukha of the vihara type can also be enjoyed. But one must remember that it must be yukta (proper) at all times, otherwise, misery will be invited. A classic example is that of cricket fans. Not only do they spend a lot of money and time watching matches in person but suffer great disappointment when their team loses.
(The writer is a spiritual teacher; views expressed are personal)