Material happiness often takes the form of relieving distress. 
Isn't human life meant for something more?

A lecture in Toronto in June 1976 

sri-prahrada uvaca
sukham aindriyakam daitya
deha-yogena dehinam
sarvatra labhyate daivad
yatha duhkham ayatnatah

"Prahlada Maharaja said, 'My dear friends born of demoniac families, the happiness of sensual pleasure can be obtained in any form of life, according to one's past activities. We obtain such happiness, just as we obtain distress, automatically, without endeavor."' (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.3)

Srila Prabhupada

Every one of us is fully under the control of material nature. There is no question of independence. The scriptures say our condition is just like that of a horse or a bull bound by the nose. The animal has to move according to how the driver pulls on the rope; it has no independence.

So, our so-called declaration of independence "There is no God, there is no controller; we can do whatever we like" is all ignorance. And in ignorance we perform so much sinful activity. In other words, we irresponsibly do anything we like, and then we become entrapped in the karmic reactions and suffer.

As we have experienced in our ordinary life, ignorance is no excuse from punishment. Suppose a child touches fire. The fire will not excuse him because he is a child. No. Whether you are a child or a grown-up man, when you touch fire it will burn. There is no excuse. Similarly, if we do something against the laws of God, knowingly or unknowingly, we have to be punished. Whether in adulthood or in childhood, whether knowingly or unknowingly, we must suffer.

Now, our suffering and enjoyment are due to the senses (matra-sparsas tu kaunteya sitosna-sukha-duhkha-dah). As long as we have this material body, with material senses, two things will be there: suffering and enjoyment. For example, take the sensation of touch. We touch many things with our skin. Sometimes this touching is painful, and sometimes it is pleasing, depending on different circumstances. Cold water is very pleasing to the skin if it is summer, but it is very painful to the skin if it is winter. The water is the same and my skin is the same, but due to seasonal changes, the same water is sometimes pleasing and sometimes displeasing. Therefore, as long as we remain in this material world, or as long as we continue in this material body, two things continue: happiness and distress. You cannot stop them. It is not possible.

Then Krsna says, agamapayino 'nityah: This happiness and distress come and go; they are temporary. Therefore we should not be very much disturbed by distress, nor should we waste our valuable time seeking so-called happiness. Yet out of ignorance, everyone is working very hard for happiness and trying to avoid distress. This is the material world.

Sometimes we see a dog running from one side of the street to the other. He's feeling some pleasure. Similarly, so-called civilized men are also "running" in their cars from this side to that side. It is simply a dog's race. We are thinking that because we are driving a car, we are civilized, but our business is simply the dog's race.

So Prahlada Maharaja's point is that we should try to understand the value of life. We should not waste our time in the dog's race, whether on four legs or on four wheels. That is the point.

Here Prahlada Maharaja addresses his friends as daityas. There are two classes: daitya and devata, or demons and devotees. Daityas do not know anything; they are just like animals, simply after sense gratification. And the devatas are fully aware of the existence of God, of their relationship with God, and of their duty with reference to God. That is the difference between the daityas and the devatas.

Because Prahlada Maharaja was to deliver the daityas, by the will of the Supreme Lord he circumstantially took his birth in a daitya family. Sometimes devotees appear in a certain family to deliver a particular community or society. Here Prahlada Maharaja's classmates were all daityas. They did not take their birth in very enlightened families.

Next Prahlada Maharaja says, deha-yogena dehinam. Deha means "body," and dehi means "the person who possesses the body." In the modern age, in this socalled civilization, people do not understand the difference between deha and dehi, the body and the spirit soul. I think 99.9% are unable to understand the difference. They think the body is everything. But that is not the fact.

There are so many different types of bodies, and each and every body is possessed by a spirit soul. And when a spirit soul is within the encagement of a particular body, he experiences a standard of happiness and distress according to that body. For example, the hog has a particular type of body, and the human being has a particular type of body. Therefore the happiness of the spirit soul encaged in the hog's body is different from the happiness of the soul in a man's body. If you give a man nice halava [a buttery toasted-grain dessert], he'll be pleased. And if you give a hog fresh stool, he'll be pleased. He'll not protest; rather, he will like it: "Oh, this stool is very nice." But a man will hate even to stand near it. Why this difference? Deha-yogena dehinam: The spirit soul (dehi) has a particular type of body (deha), and therefore he's taking pleasure in a particular type of food. As it is said, "One man's food is another man's poison."

So, every one of us is under the control of the laws of nature (karanam guna-sango 'sya sad-asad-yoni-janmasu). We are born in a particular family, under particular circumstances, with particular tastes. Why are there differences? Karanam guna-sango 'sya. The karana, the reason, is that we are associating with a particular combination of the modes of nature. For example, one person will be pleased to come here and understand bhagavata-dharma, the science of devotional service, while another person will be pleased to go to a brothel or a liquor shop. Why? Karanam guna-sango 'sya: Each one is influenced by a particular combination of the modes of nature.

Now, bhagavata-dharma is so nice that even if one is in the lowest stage, by association he can be raised to the highest stage. Therefore the practice of bhagavata-dharma should begin in childhood. As Prahlada Maharaja said at the beginning of this chapter of the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

kaumara acaret prajno
dharman bhagavatan iha
durlabham manusam janma
tad apy adhruvam arthadam

"An intelligent person should take up this bhagavata-dharma from the early age of childhood. This human form of life is very rarely achieved, and it is also temporary but it enables one to achieve the ultimate purpose of life" [Bhag. 7.6.1].

The word artha means "the purpose of life." Those who are not taking part in bhagavata-dharma have a different artha from those who are taking part. The goal of one who is practicing bhagavata-dharma is to go back home, back to Godhead. And the goal of the materialist is sense gratification. This is the difference. Materialists do not know that there is life after death, that there is eternal life, that there is eternal happiness.

Actually, in this material world there is no happiness. Everything is distress. But on account of ignorance, we accept distress as happiness. That is maya, illusion. The word ma means "not," and ya means "that." So when one is in maya, he accepts something for what it is not. Again the example of the hog: He is feeling happiness by eating stool, but it is not happiness, actually. One who is not in maya, who is not in the hog's body, says, "Oh, what nasty food he's eating!" Just in terms of food value, stool is very valuable. Scientists have analyzed it. But simply because it has very good food value, that does not mean human beings will agree to eat stool. In World War II, in the concentration camps, some human beings were obliged to eat their own stool. That iskarma.

So, we must rectify our karma. And if you cultivate bhagavata-dharma, your karma can be changed (karmani nirdahati kintu ca bhakti-bhajam, Bs. 5.54)Otherwise, it is not possible. Everyone is born with the reactions of his past karma. People in modern times also do not understand that what is past, what is future, what is present. Simply animals. Like the animals, the cats and dogs, they cannot understand what is the spirit soul or what is karma. Human life should not be wasted living like the animals. As Lord Rsabhadeva says, nayam deho deha-bhajam nrloke kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye"Human beings should not waste their time working hard for sense gratification like the stool-eating hogs." [SB 5.5.1]

Therefore, the state, the father, the elderly persons, the guru-they must all be very responsible. And what is that responsibility? They must see that every person under their care is trained up in such a way that he can be elevated to the highest position. How can this be done? By bhagavata-dharma. Not otherwise. Not by karma [pious activities], jnana [philosophical speculation], or yoga [mystic meditation]. No. Simply by acting in devotional service to Krsna, bhagavata-dharma, anyone can be raised to the highest position.

Even those who are leading a very abominable life can be raised to the highest perfection by practicing bhagavata-dharma. As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [9.32], mam hi partha vyapasritya ye 'pi syuh papa-yonayah. Papa-yoni means "sinful persons." Civilized human beings, advanced human beings, are called Aryans, and those below that are papa-yoni.

In the Aryan society there is varnasrama, a system of dividing people into four social orders and four spiritual orders. The social orders are the brahmanas [intellectuals], the ksatriyas [administrators and military men], the vaisyas [merchants and farmers], and the sudras [manual laborers]. The spiritual orders consist of the brahmacaris [celibate students], grhasthas [householders], the vanaprasthas [retired persons], and the sannyasis [renunciants]. This is the real Vedic system.

Human life begins when one observes the varnasrama regulations, by which one can elevate oneself to spiritual consciousness, or God consciousness. But people in the modern age do not know this (na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnum). Because there is no bhagavata-dharma, no education, people are kept completely in darkness. This is the modern civilization.

Srimad-Bhagavatam [1.1.10describes the people of this age as follows:

prayenalpayusah sabhya
kalav asmin yuge janah
mandah sumanda-matayo
manda-bhagya hy upadrutah

"In the present age of Kali men generally have a short duration of life. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and, above all, always disturbed."

Although in the Kali-yuga one should live a hundred years, with the progress of this age the duration of life is decreasing. Nowadays almost nobody lives a hundred years. One who is eighty years old is considered an old man. But the time will come when one who is twenty years old will be considered a very old man. That time is gradually coming. This is the effect of the Kali-yuga.

The duration of life, bodily strength, mercy, memory these things will decrease gradually. Nowadays you won't find many people with a very fertile brain, nor are people very strong physically. And mercy? There is no question of it. If somebody sees you being killed on the street, he doesn't care; he'll go on walking. There is no mercy. Even the mother has no mercy killing her child in the womb. This is the Kali-yuga.

So there is a great necessity for preaching this bhagavata-dharma. And this is what Prahlada Maharaja is preaching to his daitya classmates. The daityas, or demons, do not understand that human life is meant for cultivating Krsna consciousness. They do not understand the value of human life. Therefore Prahlada Maharaja is teaching them about bhagavata-dharma.

He says that sense gratification is not our goal in life. He describes sense gratification as deha-yogena dehinam, "happiness in reference to the body." Another meaning of deha-yogena dehinam is "sex." One deha [body] is embracing another deha;they're kissing, they're having sexual intercourse. That is the ultimate happiness in the material world.

Prahlada Maharaja says that you can get this kind of happiness everywhere, whether you are in a human body or a dog's body or a hog's body. Don't think that sex happiness is less for a dog than for a human being. No. Whether one is in a hog's body or a dog's body or a man's body, the pleasure of sex is the same. For example, if you take something eatable from a golden pot and put it into an iron pot, the taste will not change. The taste is the same. It is only our misconception that if I put it into a golden pot the taste will improve. It's not a fact.

So, we are trying to become an advanced civilization by changing the "pot." That's all. But that will not change the quality of our activities. The quality will remain the same. We have to go beyond ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam-eating, sleeping, defense, and sex. These are necessary as far as the body is concerned, but these are also there in the lives of the dogs and cats and hogs. We have to go further. That is bhagavata-dharma. Deha-dharma, bodily activities, are the same for the cats, dogs, and human beings, but bhagavata-dharma, activities of self-realization, are for the human beings alone.

Therefore Prahlada Maharaja declares, kaumara acaret prajnah: "From the very beginning of life a human being should practice bhagavata-dharma. " Here we see these children coming to the temple. It is very good. They are associating with devotees and offering respect to the Deity and the guru. This will not go in vain. It is all recorded, and one day they'll become pure devotees. That is bhagavata-dharma.

Prahlada Maharaja is stressing that we shouldn't try very hard for sense enjoyment because it is available in any condition of life, without any effort. By superior arrangement, daiva, everyone gets a certain type of sense gratification. The hog, because he has been given the body of a hog, must eat stool. That is daiva. Similarly, cows, goats, and other four-legged animals eat grass. They'll never touch meat. But tigers, dogs, and cats will not even touch grass. They want meat. Their standard of eating, their standard of happiness, is already fixed up. It cannot be changed.

But in the human form of life we can change our standard of happiness if we take to bhagavata-dharma. For example, here are these European and American boys. They have changed their habits. How is it possible? Because they have taken tobhagavata-dharma. That is the only way. Otherwise, it is not possible. In America, the authorities admitted, "We are spending so many millions of dollars, but we cannot stop the intoxication habit, the LSD habit. How is it that this Krsna consciousness movement is stopping. it?" Yes, as soon as one joins our movement sincerely, he can very easily give up these four abominable things: illicit sex, meat eating, intoxication, and gambling. How? Because he's taking to bhagavata-dharma, Krsna consciousness.

So if you want to change the mentality of the people in the modern civilization, which at present is the dog's mentality, you cannot do it by passing resolutions in the United Nations assembly. No. You must take to bhagavata-dharma. Then everything will be all right. Otherwise, it is not possible.

Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.