A fable seen in the light of Krishna consciousness
helps a medical student overcome his dissatisfaction.
My first year MBBS exams were getting closer, and I was moving farther from a sense of peace. Symptoms like trembling hands, a dry mouth, and insomnia suggested I was almost into anxiety neurosis, a mild form of mental illness. My hard struggle to build a successful career, to fulfill the expectations of family, friends, and society had taken a toll on my mental equilibrium. I looked somberly out the glass window of my hostel room and felt victimized. It seemed that everyone in the world was happy but me. A sense of hopelessness and fear enveloped me, and I felt I needed help desperately.
The Crow Story
I decided to approach my uncle, an elderly man expert in dealing with mental problems with a spiritual touch. I opened my heart to him and poured out my problems. After listening patiently, he told me the story of the crow.
Once upon a time, there lived a crow who was leading a happy and peaceful life. One day he saw a swan with spotlessly white feathers. He approached the swan and said, “You are so white, and I am only black. You are beautiful! You must be the happiest bird in the world.” The swan replied, “I used to think I was the happiest bird until I saw a parrot. The parrot isn’t plain white like me but has two beautiful colors. I think he is happier than me.”
The crow went to see the parrot, but the parrot explained, “I was happy until I saw the peacock. I have only two colors, but the peacock is multi-colored.”
The crow then flew off to find the peacock. After a long search, he saw the peacock locked in a cage inside a zoo. Many people had gathered around the cage, marveling at the peacock’s beauty. When all the people left, the crow approached the peacock and said, “Dear Peacock, you are so beautiful. Every day people come and appreciate your beauty. On the contrary, when they see me, they get angry and shoo me away. I am sure you are the happiest bird on earth.”
The peacock replied, “I too thought I was the happiest bird in the world. Why not? No other bird excelled me in beauty. But this beauty has become the cause of my greatest misery! It’s because I am so beautiful that I’m trapped in this cage. I can barely move around, and most of the day I am alone. No one puts crows inside cages. Crows are always free to roam where they please. Trust me, you should be the happiest bird in this world.”
My uncle said that our story is similar to the crow’s story. I remember how as a small child studying in nursery school, I used to dream of going to “real” school so I could wear the standard uniform. Then when I began school, I used to look at the secondary school students in their trousers (primary school students wear shorts). While in secondary school I dreamed of starting college and being able to dress however I wanted. But once I started college, I began to look at those who had already graduated because they had jobs and were earning money. A young man earning money is free to live the way he likes. However, after I graduated and took a job, I got married and began a family. Looking back, I now realize my childhood days were the best of my life because I was totally free. I could play all day, and had no worries or responsibilities.
This is the nature of material existence. Everyone thinks someone else is better situated than themselves. The crow thought the swan happy, the swan the parrot, the parrot the peacock, and the peacock the crow.
The Cause of Dissatisfaction
So what is the solution to this constant state of dissatisfaction? We have to reach an absolute state of self-satisfaction, where we find happiness within ourselves rather than outside. This of course does not mean we have to give up all ambition of becoming a successful professional. Work hard, yes, but give up the deep-rooted illusory conception that happiness follows material success. Material success does bring a temporary, flickering happiness, but this happiness cannot instill in us a state of absolute self-satisfaction. So as we endeavor for material success we should make a parallel endeavor for permanent happiness by practicing spirituality. This blend of endeavors is a perfect formula for long-lasting bliss.
The main obstacle on the path of eternal happiness is the pursuit of material enjoyment alone. Material desire usually distracts us from our spiritual goals and convinces us that we will be happy if we indulge in gratifying our senses. Once we indulge, however, we want to gratify ourselves more and more and more . . . and finally we find ourselves far from the goal of eternal happiness. Thus the small indulgence snowballs into a major agitation of mind and senses. Spirituality aims at reaching an ultimate state of satisfaction wherein a person is happy with his endeavors irrespective of success or failure. It nullifies the lamentations of the past and destroys the fear of the future thus making our present very pleasant.
Attaining Complete Satisfaction
Engagement in bhakti-yoga, especially the chanting of the holy names of Krishna, helps us control our mind and senses. Chanting God’s divine names purifies our impure senses, which always hanker to exploit the objects of this world. Sense gratification is the mentality of a thief who tries to enjoy someone else’s property. We each have a thief’s mentality every time we try to enjoy God’s property separately from Him. Thieves can never be truly happy. Devotional service means using God’s property in God’s service.
A devotee uses the property of the Lord, not for the self but for God. He offers everything to the Lord and then accepts whatever God gives Him. Thus we transform ourselves from independent enjoyers to cooperative enjoyers. This small change in the form of offering can shift the paradigm of our life. It will extinguish the attitude of exploitation and kindle the dormant devotional mood in our heart. As children of God we are the rightful inheritors of His property provided we agree to cooperate with His will. The Bhagavad-gita (5.29) gives us the ultimate peace formula:
“A person in full conscious-ness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries.”
Yugavatara Dasa is an associate professor in Anatomy in a medical college in Mumbai. He is a regular contributor to BTG.