Is life meant for pleasure alone?

Hidimba was liberated by Bhima after a grueling fight to the delight of all. Now Bhima’s eyes turned to Hidimbi, sister of Hidimba. Bhima is suspicious of her. To everyone’s amazement, she fell in love with Bhima. She is pleading Kunti and Yudhistir with great earnestness that Bhima accept her. Yudhistir and Kunti relented to her appeal noticing Bhima’s unspoken willingness and Hidimbi’s sincere heart. Hidimbi offered them to take the Pandavas to a heavenly land where Bhima and Hidimbi can sport together and the other family members can perform their regular religious duties. Bhima agreed for her proposal with a condition that he will leave her as soon as he begets a child through her. Bhima said that he has many important tasks to accomplish in the world like regaining their lost kingdom. Hidimbi agreed for it. We see that Bhima is seeking pleasure but he is also prioritizing his role in the world. Which is important in life? How to strike a balance? Let us see how to do it.

Pleasure as the only purpose

Every one of us is pleasure-seeking by nature. We want to have good food, listen to a soothing music and watch something amazing and beautiful. Be it a school-goer, a university student or one with an 8-hour job, almost everyone waits for a break, looks forward for the weekend and plans for the next vacation. Many dream and long to be on an unending weekend where they can got lost in a world of mirth and merry. For everyone’s surprise reality has something different to offer. We have a body with several limitations and demands – it needs to be feed, it needs to rest, it gets sick. Adding to it, we are placed in a world of limited resources. There is an unending competition in every field. Most of us need to toil hard even to make the basic ends meet (BG 3.8). We cannot have pleasure at our beck and call. We need to work for it.

A life of purpose and pleasure

Working for acquiring pleasure commodities entails us to take different roles – a citizen, a student, an employee, a homemaker, a family member and so on. These roles force us to adopt several other purposes for our life other than our own pleasure – get good grades, bring profit to the organization and maintain the house. Bhima seems to have adopted this path. For a majority, life is more or less in this way. But there is a pinprick. Since pleasure is the primary aim, there is eagerness for the fruits of work than the work itself (BG 2.44). As a result, the work appears stressful, burdensome. There is frustration and depression. There is a feeling of being pressurized, exploited and burnt out. This kind of experience makes it difficult to relish the fruits of work properly. There is resentment, anxiety and lack of sleep. What is the solution? – a life of pleasing purpose.

A life of pleasing purpose   

A utilitarian view of the world and the people around us brings only one question in the mind – ‘What is in it for me?’ We always wear the shoes of a recipient, beneficiary and a profiteer. Let’s try a 180 degree shift. Let’s keep ourselves in the shoes of a giver, contributor and a benefactor. It is altogether a different worldview. It is seeing our world as a world of relationships. In a relationship, we give and contribute and others reciprocate. This applies for any interaction – be it with a customer, colleague, schoolmate and a family member and at a collective level – community, organization and a country. This helps us to focus more on our responsibilities and commitments than the results and rights. This way, when we put our heart in whatever we do and offer to others, it touches their heart and they will reciprocate from heart. We gain far better than when we do the same thing with a selfish perspective. Making our life’s purpose as a contributor and a giver is far more pleasing than a self-centered life. The pleasures of the world appeal to our body and mind. A selfless attitude appeals to our heart and nourishes our heart. It is possible that we may be selfless on our end, others’ heart may be small and selfish. What to do? There is someone who is unlimitedly selfless and his heart is sufficiently large that he can reciprocate with us anywhere and anytime. He is God. Establishing relationship with God nourishes our heart completely, helps us to increase our selflessness and becoming immunes to the reversals we face in our relationships (BG 18.33). Bhima actually adopted this path. His relationship with God is intact. This relationship enabled him to maintain his virtue intact and contribute to his best capacity in all the circumstances – be it killing of Hidimba, his relationship with Hidimbi, as a king, as a brother and a son.