On Satisfaction

भोगा न भुक्ता वयमेव भुक्ताः, तपो न तप्तं वयमेव तप्ताः । 
कालो न यातो वयमेव याताः तृष्णा न जीर्णा वयमेव जीर्णाः ॥

bhogā na bhuktā  vayameva bhuktāḥ,  tapo na taptaṃ  vayameva taptāḥ ।
kālo na yāto vayameva yātāḥ, tṛṣṇā na jīrṇā vayameva jīrṇāḥ ॥

Vairagya Shatakam by Bhartṛhari

Pleasures aren’t satisfied, only we are consumed by our pleasures; when penance isn’t done, we are done; time doesn’t pass, only we do; thirst is not ‘over’, only we are.

Yayati was a king in the lineage of the Kuru dynasty, an ancestor of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Legend has it that during his youth, he was cursed by Shukracharya, the guru of the asuras, to suffer instant old age and disfigurement. Yayati, who was ever full of desire, rushed to his sons to beg them to exchange their youth for his old age. Puru (who later went on to be king), agreed, and hence Yayati was granted a thousand years of youth. It is said that during these thousand years of enjoyment, Yayati realised that his desire was only growing, and never satiated. In disgust, he gave up this acquired youth, and retired to the forest, wiser and fulfilled.

Bhogā na bhuktā  vayameva bhuktāḥ – The more we get, the more we want, isn’t it? At the start of my career over twenty years ago, I had thought of a target – a certain amount of money that I would aim to earn , that would fulfil my needs and help me lead a life of comfort. That figure has changed manifold since, in fact, I breezed past that target and didn’t even realise that my wants had grown so much. Every new target turned out to be a gross underestimation, or so it seemed.

Most of us live our lives this way, moving towards targets that just keep extending, until one day, its time to go. We do not consume – instead, we get consumed by our pleasures, our desires that in itself are never ending. na vittena tarpaṇīyo manuṣyaḥ says Naciketā to Lord Yama, when the latter promises him all the wealth in the world in exchange to Naciketā withdrawing his question about death. Man is not contended, even if given all the wealth in the world, so what will I do with this wealth, says Naciketā.

tapo na taptaṃ  vayameva taptāḥ – Tapa is austerity or penance. The hardships we endure – first in getting through our education, then in working 60-hour weeks, day in and day out, until we retire – where does it all lead to?

Most of this penance is not done to improve ourselves, but to stay ahead of the competition

– we want to always be better than the next person, earn more than our peers, and have bigger houses and cars than our friends. These kind of hardships don’t end – we come to an end in this process, and are left with no time for ourselves, our family and friends, all our hard work gone in burning ourselves out..

Time is relative, said Einstein, but we didn’t need him to tell us that. Work days go slow, and weekends breeze by. A lot of us speak of ‘killing time’ – when we are bored, not realising that

you can’t kill time – it is us who are a factor of time, and not the other way around.

Whether you make the best use of it, or waste it, time goes on. It is us who are on the clock, and it’s ticking constantly. kālo na yāto vayameva yātāḥ – time does not pass, only we do!

गिरिर्महान् गिरेरब्धिर्महानब्धेर्नभो महत् । 

नभसोऽपि महत् बह्म ततोऽप्याशा गरीयसी ||

girirmahaan girerabdhirmahaanabdhernabho mahat
nabhaso.pi mahadbrahmaa tatopyaashaa garIyasI

A mountain is huge, an ocean is bigger than the mountain, the sky is bigger than the ocean, Brahma is bigger than the sky and desire is even bigger than him (Brahma).

This subhashita by Swami Kuvalayananda sums up the extent of our never-ending desire. When we are kids, we want an endless stream of chocolates. When young, an endless supply of pleasure, when mature – an endless supply of money..it never ends, only changes in form. tṛṣṇā na jīrṇā vayameva jīrṇāḥ – the thirst never ends, even on the deathbed – we may regret that we didn’t get enough.

It’s time we realised who is the consumer, and who is being consumed. Meditating on this śloka can help us understand this fact of life, and adopt a more sensible approach when it comes to working and living. Work hard, but with the right attitude and goals in mind. Enjoy life, but let’s not get lost in this enjoyment. Spend time, but don’t waste it. And desire, but don’t end up being consumed by it.