Question: My question is about how to teach and train mind that there is no happiness in the material world. My mind is revolting while accepting that there is no happiness in material things. Is it ok if we will go through these circumstances and get realization that there is no happiness? For example, there is no happiness in consuming alcohol. So, is it ok if we first test alcohol and then get to realize that there is no happiness? Without going through something how we will know that there is no happiness in it?
Answer by Swamiji: There are innumerable things in the world, and each thing has endless varieties. If you go by the modus operandi of experiencing everything first, your whole life will pass in the endeavor. Besides, is there any formula regarding how long you will consume alcohol before coming to the conclusion that there is no happiness in it? There are people who run after money all their lives, and yet do not decide that it does not have the happiness they are seeking. Again, if you finally do come to the conclusion that the world is not a place of happiness, but the mind doubts whether there is happiness in God, then what will you do? You wouldn't be able to demand to see and experience God before concluding that He is an ocean of Divine Bliss.
As human beings, God has bestowed us with subtle intellects that can make this decision even without experience. Broadly, the intellect of living beings can be classified into four categories:
1. The lowest is the intellect of an insect. It is attracted to the fire. On coming near the flame, it gets burnt. But it does not learn, and commits the same mistake again and again.
2. The intellect of a cat is subtler. If it sits on a hot plate, it learns from its experience. In future, it even refuses to sit on a cold plate, in apprehension that it may get burnt.
3. The intellect of sheep is even subtler. They have never been attacked by a wolf. But the moment they see a wolf, they perceive impending danger and run for their lives.
4. The intellect of humans is even subtler. Merely by intellectual discrimination, without seeing or experiencing, they are expected to reach the conclusion that there is no happiness in the world.
Actually, everyone has had experience of the world to a lesser or greater extent. We made the desires of the senses and put in great effort to satisfy them. What was the experience? For a moment the desire was quenched, but then it arose again with redoubled intensity. This is the nature of worldly desires, whether they are the teeny-weeny cravings that you have made innumerable times in your lives or the bigger desires that loom more largely in your mind. The principle is exactly the same. So we should utilize our experience to date, to reach a blanket conclusion about the nature of all worldly desires. That is what God expects us to do, and that is the instruction of the scriptures.
upāsate puruṣham ye hyākāmāste śhukrametadivartanti dhīrāḥ | (Mundakopanishad)
"One who engages in devotion to God, giving up worldly desires, crosses over the ocean of life and death."