Srimad-Bhagavatam 05.14 – The Material World as the Great Forest of Enjoyment

When King Pariksit asked Sukadeva Gosvami
about the direct meaning of the material forest, Sukadeva Gosvami replied as follows: My dear
King, a man belonging to the mercantile community [vanik] is always interested in earning money.
Sometimes he enters the forest to acquire some cheap commodities like wood and earth
and sell them in the city at good prices. Similarly, the conditioned soul, being greedy,
enters this material world for some material profit. Gradually he enters the deepest part
of the forest, not really knowing how to get out. Having entered the material world, the
pure soul becomes conditioned by the material atmosphere, which is created by the external
energy under the control of Lord Visnu. Thus the living entity comes under the control
of the external energy, daivi maya. Living independently and bewildered in the forest,
he does not attain the association of devotees who are always engaged in the service of the
Lord. Once in the bodily conception, he gets different types of bodies one after the other
under the influence of material energy and impelled by the modes of material nature [sattva-guna,
rajo-guna and tamo-guna]. In this way the conditioned soul goes sometimes to the heavenly
planets, sometimes to the earthly planets and sometimes to the lower planets and lower
species. Thus he suffers continuously due to different types of bodies. These sufferings
and pains are sometimes mixed. Sometimes they are very severe, and sometimes they are not.
These bodily conditions are acquired due to the conditioned soul’s mental speculation.
He uses his mind and five senses to acquire knowledge, and these bring about the different
bodies and different conditions. Using the senses under the control of the external energy,
maya, the living entity suffers the miserable conditions of material existence. He is actually
searching for relief, but he is generally baffled, although sometimes he is relieved
after great difficulty. Struggling for existence in this way, he cannot get the shelter of
pure devotees, who are like bumblebees engaged in loving service at the lotus feet of Lord
Visnu. In the forest of material existence, the uncontrolled
senses are like plunderers. The conditioned soul may earn some money for the advancement
of Krsna consciousness, but unfortunately the uncontrolled senses plunder his money
through sense gratification. The senses are plunderers because they make one spend his
money unnecessarily for seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing, desiring and willing.
In this way the conditioned soul is obliged to gratify his senses, and thus all his money
is spent. This money is actually acquired for the execution of religious principles,
but it is taken away by the plundering senses. My dear King, family members in this material
world go under the names of wife and children, but actually they behave like tigers and jackals.
A herdsman tries to protect his sheep to the best of his ability, but the tigers and foxes
take them away by force. Similarly, although a miserly man wants to guard his money very
carefully, his family members take away all his assets forcibly, even though he is very
vigilant. Every year the plowman plows over his grain
field, completely uprooting all weeds. Nonetheless, the seeds lie there and, not being completely
burned, again come up with the plants sown in the field. Even after being plowed under,
the weeds come up densely. Similarly, the grhastha-asrama [family life] is a field of
fruitive activity. Unless the desire to enjoy family life is completely burned out, it grows
up again and again. Even though camphor may be removed from a pot, the pot nonetheless
retains the aroma of camphor. As long as the seeds of desire are not destroyed, fruitive
activities are not destroyed. Sometimes the conditioned soul in household
life, being attached to material wealth and possessions, is disturbed by gadflies and
mosquitoes, and sometimes locusts, birds of prey and rats give him trouble. Nonetheless,
he still wanders down the path of material existence. Due to ignorance he becomes lusty
and engages in fruitive activity. Because his mind is absorbed in these activities,
he sees the material world as permanent, although it is temporary like a phantasmagoria, a house
in the sky. Sometimes in this house in the sky [gandharva-pura]
the conditioned soul drinks, eats and has sex. Being overly attached, he chases after
the objects of the senses just as a deer chases a mirage in the desert.
Sometimes the living entity is interested in the yellow stool known as gold and runs
after it. That gold is the source of material opulence and envy, and it can enable one to
afford illicit sex, gambling, meat-eating and intoxication. Those whose minds are overcome
by the mode of passion are attracted by the color of gold, just as a man suffering from
cold in the forest runs after a phosphorescent light in a marshy land, considering it to
be fire. Sometimes the conditioned soul is absorbed
in finding residential quarters or apartments and getting a supply of water and riches to
maintain his body. Absorbed in acquiring a variety of necessities, he forgets everything
and perpetually runs around the forest of material existence.
Sometimes, as if blinded by the dust of a whirlwind, the conditioned soul sees the beauty
of the opposite sex, which is called pramada. Being thus bewildered, he is raised upon the
lap of a woman, and at that time his good senses are overcome by the force of passion.
He thus becomes almost blind with lusty desire and disobeys the rules and regulations governing
sex life. He does not know that his disobedience is witnessed by different demigods, and he
enjoys illicit sex in the dead of night, not seeing the future punishment awaiting him.
The conditioned soul sometimes personally appreciates the futility of sense enjoyment
in the material world, and he sometimes considers material enjoyment to be full of miseries.
However, due to his strong bodily conception, his memory is destroyed, and again and again
he runs after material enjoyment, just as an animal runs after a mirage in the desert.
Sometimes the conditioned soul is very aggrieved by the chastisement of his enemies and government
servants, who use harsh words against him directly or indirectly. At that time his heart
and ears become very saddened. Such chastisement may be compared to the sounds of owls and
crickets. Due to his pious activities in previous lives,
the conditioned soul attains material facilities in this life, but when they are finished,
he takes shelter of wealth and riches, which cannot help him in this life or the next.
Because of this, he approaches the living dead who possess these things. Such people
are compared to impure trees, creepers and poisonous wells.
Sometimes, to mitigate distresses in this forest of the material world, the conditioned
soul receives cheap blessings from atheists. He then loses all intelligence in their association.
This is exactly like jumping in a shallow river. As a result one simply breaks his head.
He is not able to mitigate his sufferings from the heat, and in both ways he suffers.
The misguided conditioned soul also approaches so-called sadhus and svamis who preach against
the principles of the Vedas. He does not receive benefit from them, either in the present or
in the future. In this material world, when the conditioned
soul cannot arrange for his own maintenance, despite exploiting others, he tries to exploit
his own father or son, taking away that relative’s possessions, although they may be very insignificant.
If he cannot acquire things from his father, son or other relatives, he is prepared to
give them all kinds of trouble. In this world, family life is exactly like
a blazing fire in the forest. There is not the least happiness, and gradually one becomes
more and more implicated in unhappiness. In household life, there is nothing favorable
for perpetual happiness. Being implicated in home life, the conditioned soul is burned
by the fire of lamentation. Sometimes he condemns himself as being very unfortunate, and sometimes
he claims that he suffers because he performed no pious activities in his previous life.
Government men are always like carnivorous demons called Raksasas [man-eaters]. Sometimes
these government men turn against the conditioned soul and take away all his accumulated wealth.
Being bereft of his life’s reserved wealth, the conditioned soul loses all enthusiasm.
Indeed, it is as though he loses his life. Sometimes the conditioned soul imagines that
his father or grandfather has again come in the form of his son or grandson. In this way
he feels the happiness one sometimes feels in a dream, and the conditioned soul sometimes
takes pleasure in such mental concoctions. In household life one is ordered to execute
many yajnas and fruitive activities, especially the vivaha-yajna [the marriage ceremony for
sons and daughters] and the sacred thread ceremony. These are all the duties of a grhastha,
and they are very extensive and troublesome to execute. They are compared to a big hill
over which one must cross when one is attached to material activities. A person desiring
to cross over these ritualistic ceremonies certainly feels pains like the piercing of
thorns and pebbles endured by one attempting to climb a hill. Thus the conditioned soul
suffers unlimitedly. Sometimes, due to bodily hunger and thirst,
the conditioned soul becomes so disturbed that he loses his patience and becomes angry
with his own beloved sons, daughters and wife. Thus, being unkind to them, he suffers all
the more. Sukadeva Gosvami continued speaking to Maharaja
Pariksit: My dear King, sleep is exactly like a python. Those who wander in the forest of
material life are always devoured by the python of sleep. Being bitten by this python, they
always remain in the darkness of ignorance. They are like dead bodies thrown in a distant
forest. Thus the conditioned souls cannot understand what is going on in life.
In the forest of the material world, the conditioned soul is sometimes bitten by envious enemies,
which are compared to serpents and other creatures. Through the tricks of the enemy, the conditioned
soul falls from his prestigious position. Being anxious, he cannot even sleep properly.
He thus becomes more and more unhappy, and he gradually loses his intelligence and consciousness.
In that state he becomes almost perpetually like a blind man who has fallen into a dark
well of ignorance. The conditioned soul is sometimes attracted
to the little happiness derived from sense gratification. Thus he has illicit sex or
steals another’s property. At such a time he may be arrested by the government or chastised
by the woman’s husband or protector. Thus simply for a little material satisfaction,
he falls into a hellish condition and is put into jail for rape, kidnapping, theft and
so forth. Learned scholars and transcendentalists therefore
condemn the materialistic path of fruitive activity because it is the original source
and breeding ground of material miseries, both in this life and in the next.
Stealing or cheating another person out of his money, the conditioned soul somehow or
other keeps it in his possession and escapes punishment. Then another man, named Devadatta,
cheats him and takes the money away. Similarly, another man, named Visnumitra, steals the
money from Devadatta and takes it away. In any case, the money does not stay in one place.
It passes from one hand to another. Ultimately no one can enjoy the money, and it remains
the property of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Being unable to protect himself from the threefold miseries of material existence, the conditioned
soul becomes very morose and lives a life of lamentation. These threefold miseries are
miseries suffered by mental calamity at the hands of the demigods [such as freezing wind
and scorching heat], miseries offered by other living entities, and miseries arising from
the mind and body themselves. As far as transactions with money are concerned,
if one person cheats another by a farthing or less, they become enemies.
In this materialistic life, there are many difficulties, as I have just mentioned, and
all of these are insurmountable. In addition, there are difficulties arising from so-called
happiness, distress, attachment, hate, fear, false prestige, illusion, madness, lamentation,
bewilderment, greed, envy, enmity, insult, hunger, thirst, tribulation, disease, birth,
old age and death. All these combine together to give the materialistic conditioned soul
nothing but misery. Sometimes the conditioned soul is attracted
by illusion personified (his wife or girl friend) and becomes eager to be embraced by
a woman. Thus he loses his intelligence as well as knowledge of life’s goal. At that
time, no longer attempting spiritual cultivation, he becomes overly attached to his wife or
girl friend and tries to provide her with a suitable apartment. Again, he becomes very
busy under the shelter of that home and is captivated by the talks, glances and activities
of his wife and children. In this way he loses his Krsna consciousness and throws himself
in the dense darkness of material existence. The personal weapon used by Lord Krsna, the
disc, is called hari-cakra, the disc of Hari. This cakra is the wheel of time. It expands
from the beginning of the atoms up to the time of Brahma’s death, and it controls
all activities. It is always revolving and spending the lives of the living entities,
from Lord Brahma down to an insignificant blade of grass. Thus one changes from infancy,
to childhood, to youth and maturity, and thus one approaches the end of life. It is impossible
to check this wheel of time. This wheel is very exacting because it is the personal weapon
of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sometimes the conditioned soul, fearing the approach
of death, wants to worship someone who can save him from imminent danger. Yet he does
not care for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose weapon is the indefatigable time factor.
The conditioned soul instead takes shelter of a man-made god described in unauthorized
scriptures. Such gods are like buzzards, vultures, herons and crows. Vedic scriptures do not
refer to them. Imminent death is like the attack of a lion, and neither vultures, buzzards,
crows nor herons can save one from such an attack. One who takes shelter of unauthorized
man-made gods cannot be saved from the clutches of death.
The pseudo svamis, yogis and incarnations who do not believe in the Supreme Personality
of Godhead are known as pasandis. They themselves are fallen and cheated because they do not
know the real path of spiritual advancement, and whoever goes to them is certainly cheated
in his turn. When one is thus cheated, he sometimes takes shelter of the real followers
of Vedic principles [brahmanas or those in Krsna consciousness], who teach everyone how
to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead according to the Vedic rituals. However, being
unable to stick to these principles, these rascals again fall down and take shelter among
sudras who are very expert in making arrangements for sex indulgence. Sex is very prominent
among animals like monkeys, and such people who are enlivened by sex may be called descendants
of monkeys. In this way the descendants of the monkeys
intermingle with each other, and they are generally known as sudras. Without hesitating,
they live and move freely, not knowing the goal of life. They are captivated simply by
seeing the faces of one another, which remind them of sense gratification. They are always
engaged in material activities, known as gramya-karma, and they work hard for material benefit. Thus
they forget completely that one day their small life spans will be finished and they
will be degraded in the evolutionary cycle. Just as a monkey jumps from one tree to another,
the conditioned soul jumps from one body to another. As the monkey is ultimately captured
by the hunter and is unable to get out of captivity, the conditioned soul, being captivated
by momentary sex pleasure, becomes attached to different types of bodies and is encaged
in family life. Family life affords the conditioned soul a festival of momentary sex pleasure,
and thus he is completely unable to get out of the material clutches.
In this material world, when the conditioned soul forgets his relationship with the Supreme
Personality of Godhead and does not care for Krsna consciousness, he simply engages in
different types of mischievous and sinful activities. He is then subjected to the threefold
miseries, and, out of fear of the elephant of death, he falls into the darkness found
in a mountain cave. The conditioned soul suffers many miserable
bodily conditions, such as being affected by severe cold and strong winds. He also suffers
due to the activities of other living beings and due to natural disturbances. When he is
unable to counteract them and has to remain in a miserable condition, he naturally becomes
very morose because he wants to enjoy material facilities.
Sometimes conditioned souls exchange money, but in due course of time, enmity arises because
of cheating. Although there may be a tiny profit, the conditioned souls cease to be
friends and become enemies. Sometimes, having no money, the conditioned
soul does not get sufficient accommodations. Sometimes he doesn’t even have a place to
sit, nor does he have the other necessities. In other words, he falls into scarcity, and
at that time, when he is unable to secure the necessities by fair means, he decides
to seize the property of others unfairly. When he cannot get the things he wants, he
simply receives insults from others and thus becomes very morose.
Although people may be enemies, in order to fulfill their desires again and again, they
sometimes get married. Unfortunately, these marriages do not last very long, and the people
involved are separated again by divorce or other means.
The path of this material world is full of material miseries, and various troubles disturb
the conditioned souls. Sometimes he loses, and sometimes he gains. In either case, the
path is full of danger. Sometimes the conditioned soul is separated from his father by death
or other circumstances. Leaving him aside he gradually becomes attached to others, such
as his children. In this way, the conditioned soul is sometimes illusioned and afraid. Sometimes
he cries loudly out of fear. Sometimes he is happy maintaining his family, and sometimes
he is overjoyed and sings melodiously. In this way he becomes entangled and forgets
his separation from the Supreme Personality of Godhead since time immemorial. Thus he
traverses the dangerous path of material existence, and on this path he is not at all happy. Those
who are self-realized simply take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in order
to get out of this dangerous material existence. Without accepting the devotional path, one
cannot get out of the clutches of material existence. The conclusion is that no one can
be happy in material life. One must take to Krsna consciousness.
Saintly persons, who are friends to all living entities, have a peaceful consciousness. They
have controlled their senses and minds, and they easily attain the path of liberation,
the path back to Godhead. Being unfortunate and attached to the miserable material conditions,
a materialistic person cannot associate with them.
There were many great saintly kings who were very expert in performing sacrificial rituals
and very competent in conquering other kingdoms, yet despite their power they could not attain
the loving service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is because those great kings
could not even conquer the false consciousness of “I am this body, and this is my property.”
Thus they simply created enmity with rival kings, fought with them and died without having
discharged life’s real mission. When the conditioned soul accepts the shelter
of the creeper of fruitive activity, he may be elevated by his pious activities to higher
planetary systems and thus gain liberation from hellish conditions, but unfortunately
he cannot remain there. After reaping the results of his pious activities, he has to
return to the lower planetary systems. In this way he perpetually goes up and comes
down. Having summarized the teachings of Jada Bharata,
Sukadeva Gosvami said: My dear King Pariksit, the path indicated by Jada Bharata is like
the path followed by Garuda, the carrier of the Lord, and ordinary kings are just like
flies. Flies cannot follow the path of Garuda, and to date none of the great kings and victorious
leaders could follow this path of devotional service, not even mentally.
While in the prime of life, the great Maharaja Bharata gave up everything because he was
fond of serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Uttamasloka. He gave up his beautiful
wife, nice children, great friends and an enormous empire. Although these things were
very difficult to give up, Maharaja Bharata was so exalted that he gave them up just as
one gives up stool after evacuating. Such was the greatness of His Majesty.
Sukadeva Gosvami continued: My dear King, the activities of Bharata Maharaja are wonderful.
He gave up everything difficult for others to give up. He gave up his kingdom, his wife
and his family. His opulence was so great that even the demigods envied it, yet he gave
it up. It was quite befitting a great personality like him to be a great devotee. He could renounce
everything because he was so attracted to the beauty, opulence, reputation, knowledge,
strength and renunciation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. Krsna is so attractive
that one can give up all desirable things for His sake. Indeed, even liberation is considered
insignificant for those whose minds are attracted to the loving service of the Lord.
Even though in the body of a deer, Maharaja Bharata did not forget the Supreme Personality
of Godhead; therefore when he was giving up the body of a deer, he loudly uttered the
following prayer: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead is sacrifice personified. He gives
the results of ritualistic activity. He is the protector of religious systems, the personification
of mystic yoga, the source of all knowledge, the controller of the entire creation, and
the Supersoul in every living entity. He is beautiful and attractive. I am quitting this
body offering obeisances unto Him and hoping that I may perpetually engage in His transcendental
loving service.” Uttering this, Maharaja Bharata left his body.
Devotees interested in hearing and chanting [sravanam kirtanam] regularly discuss the
pure characteristics of Bharata Maharaja and praise his activities. If one submissively
hears and chants about the all-auspicious Maharaja Bharata, one’s life span and material
opulences certainly increase. One can become very famous and easily attain promotion to
the heavenly planets, or attain liberation by merging into the existence of the Lord.
Whatever one desires can be attained simply by hearing, chanting and glorifying the activities
of Maharaja Bharata. In this way, one can fulfill all his material and spiritual desires.
One does not have to ask anyone else for these things, for simply by studying the life of
Maharaja Bharata, one can attain all desirable things.

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