Life’s Dilemma
Articles by Satyanarayana Dasa

Life’s Dilemma

bird in cage, parrot

I recently got an email from one of my students. He wrote, “I’m sitting here in a park, looking at the blue sky, and the following thoughts are running through my mind: Why am I working? I feel suffocated, living the same routine every day. Waking up in the morning, making breakfast, going to the office, working, and coming back home, watching some TV, and then going to sleep. I want to be free. I want to drop everything, including my guru. I want to give up my job, buy a camper, and travel wherever my luck takes me, just depending on God. Why worry?”

He further wrote that he has heard me say the following, “God makes arrangements for everybody. It is only human beings who don’t believe this. The animals do not go to school or university, and don’t have to work or earn money—but they are living happily. Before a child is born, there is no milk in the breast of the expectant mother. But as soon as the baby is born, there is milk in the breast. This is true for all mammals, not only for human beings.” My student then referred to the following Hindi couplet, spoken by Sant Malūka dāsa:

ajagara na karai chākari pañchī karai na kāma

dāśa malūka kaha gaī saba ke dātā rāma


A bird never goes to the office. A python never does any work. The poet Malūka dāsa says, “Have no worries. Bhagavān Rāma supplies for everyone.” 

He continued, “I really love the words of this poet. I want to be a free bird and not a bird in a cage. Being inside a cage may grant safety and security because the master supplies food and water and the caged bird does not have to worry about anything. But it is such a boring life. Look at the bird flying in the sky, soaring high and being carefree!”

Similarly, I got an email from another one of my students who is sitting at home for the past ten months. She has no job and thus, no money, and is forced to live with her parents. She is desperately trying to find a job, but it is difficult and even more so during the coronavirus pandemic. She is thinking, “I wish I had a job and then I would be financially independent. I would be like a free bird—able to do what I want! I would be able to travel to Vrindavan to be with my guru and to study under him. I wouldn’t have to feel like a parasite, living off my parents’ money. I would live separately and pursue my spiritual life without any restrictions from my parents. Now I have to eat what they cook and although I am a vegetarian, I still have to sit and eat with my parents, who eat meat, eggs, and fish. This disgusts me. Externally, I pretend that I have no problem with the situation. But I want my financial freedom, and I pray to Kṛṣṇa that I can get a job and move out from my parent’s house as soon as possible.”

This is the story of human life. There is always something missing, something lacking. And we think that if we just get this particular situation, then we will be happy. Those who are financially free still regret as if they had no freedom. And those who do not have a job also regret that they have no freedom. Those who have jobs have to follow a disciplined life. They need to wake up early in the morning, get ready, and report to the office. They may not like it and thus they feel miserable. And those who are jobless may not be forced to wake up early in the morning, yet they also feel miserable.

Those who have to live a disciplined life—they feel suffocated, like a bird in a cage. And those who have no discipline feel that their lives are chaotic and stressful and thus wish that they could discipline themselves. Similarly, some people are in the company of others and complain that they have no solitude. They wish to go away and be by themselves. You hear them say, “I need some space. I am sick of being surrounded by people. I have no time to read śāstra or do my japa peacefully.” On the other hand, others live in solitude and feel completely lonely. They are hankering for some company. The four walls of their houses appear to them like enemies, as if they are going to crush them. They are happy to attend some kirtan festival or some yoga retreat; otherwise, they appear like walking corpses. People who live in cold places, like New England, hanker to go to a warmer place. And those who live in a hot place, like India, breathe a sigh of relief when the hot summer sun cools down. 

This is the dilemma of life. Everyone seems to be dissatisfied with their present situation. Everyone is looking for a perfect balance, but there is no perfect balance in the material world. The material nature is always in flux; it is always changing. We are living on earth, which is always moving. It has two types of movements: one around its axis, and the other in its orbit around the sun. Therefore, change happens from day to night and from one season to another. Our body and mind have to adjust at every moment of our life. And we have to learn to live with this change. In fact, life is changing. Death is the only thing that does not change. The only place where there is no change is the crematorium or cemetery. If there was no change in life, life would become very ordinary, pale, uninteresting, and boring. All the stories we read, all the news we watch, all the dialogues we have with people are about change. If there was no change, what would we talk about? And what would we learn without change? So, we have to learn to live with change, and yet we have to find balance in our life. This is called yoga. Śrī Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gītā:

yoga-sthaḥ kuru karmāṇi saṅgaṁ tyaktvā dhanañjaya
siddhy-asiddhyoḥ samo bhūtvā samatvaṁ yoga ucyate

 O Arjuna, perform your duties while being steadfast in yoga. Having renounced desire for the fruits of your work, remain equipoised in success and failure. This balance of mind is called yoga. (2.48)

In this one śloka, Kṛṣṇa reveals the solution for the dilemma of life. He gives the secret to happiness under all circumstances, regardless of whether one has a job or is jobless, lives in the cold mountains or a warm place. Our happiness does not depend on the external situation, and that is great news! If our happiness depended upon an external situation, then we would never be able to catch happiness, because the external situation changes at every moment. Therefore we have to find real happiness within, beyond the changes of the external world. 


Satyanarayana Dasa





  • Parikshit December 20, 2021

    Independent to deśa and kāla, sattva generates happiness. Sattva IS happiness. Rajas generates the feeling of dissatisfaction. Even the claim of being satisfied or dissatisfied in a particular situation changes as the guṇa one is identifying oneself with changes, during a day. I was dissatisfied partly with my repetitive work, in the exact moments I did the work. A charming woman joined the office and occupied the seat next to mine. Something changed, repeating no more appeared dissatisfying. The downside, her absence would made the whole day appear dissatisfying.

  • Anurag December 20, 2021

    It’s funny as I wanted to reach out to you as well. I’ve been thinking about resigning from my job and moving back to India to pursue my spiritual goals.

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