The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Edited by: Aneesha Chandra
The time has come for us to leave the caves we call home and head out into the world outside. Like early humans, this step outside the cave is filled with the excitement of discovery and the fear of uncertainty. After being held captive by a shape-shifting virus for over two years, we will behold, touch, and feel what it is like to be in our colleges. In this fortuitous moment, our head is filled with differing expectations, fears, and anxieties but there is one thing we all have in common. This is the pursuit of pleasure, perhaps the underlying motivation behind all human activities. However, this pleasure is often sought by some by willfully denying it over long periods of time and then indulging it at a time of one’s own choosing. We will investigate this method of seeking pleasure in detail.
Restraint is a very human virtue; animals have very little cause to show restraint. Though they do show patience, commonly when hunting prey, courting mates, or awaiting their turn in the hierarchical scheme of things. Humans show restraint for two reasons: (i) To deny excess indulgence and (ii) To enhance the quality of pleasure derived from indulgence. The first reason is far too common — it is born of the incessant human need to adhere to ‘morals.’ The second reason is rare, for it is practised only by the true masters of the art of pleasure-seeking. Contrary to popular belief, denying pleasure is in fact the best way to enhance it.
In the Bhakti literature of Vaishnavism, when Sri Krishna hides away from his beloved Sri Radha, it is considered as the prelude to the crescendo of their divine love. For separation from the beloved serves to intensify the longing for the beloved, which in turn increases the joy one eventually feels upon reuniting. While the Gopis, including Sri Radha, are aware that Sri Krishna and them are one and the same, from a Vedantic point of view, they nevertheless ignore this fact and associate with Sri Krishna as separate entities, in love with him. Thus, here too the principle of denial-driven gratification is at play. One could extend this logic to the human condition as well, where our separation from Sri Krishna is superficial and yet essential in order for the genesis of Bhakti or divine love.
The fact that we did not go to campus for such a long period of time, should enhance the pleasure we derive from our final return. In some ways, our university would feel like a promised land of sorts, at least initially. Thus, the collective sorrow and regret of the past two years should not sully the approaching joy. That being said, there is also a case to be made for how joy and sorrow always come in pairs and one really can’t have one without the other. However, that deserves a separate article. For the time being, if one wishes to pursue pleasure then denial of the same is essential. One could raise a valid doubt, which is that building up so much anticipation by denial may also result in catastrophic disappointment. It is a distinct possibility but not one outside our own control.
The fact of the matter is that pleasure and pain are but our minds' perceptions of situations we find ourselves in. These perceptions are strongly entrenched and so seem natural to most of us. However, by regular practice these perceptions can be augmented according to our will. Thus, by denying pleasure or in other words the positive perceptions of our mind, we are in effect deconditioning the mind and gaining control over it. This opens up a novel dimension for the enhanced pursuit of pleasure. Pursuing pleasure by resorting to denial actually puts us in charge of our minds over time, eventually placing us in a position where we can do away with the need for pleasure-seeking entirely.
Pleasure-seeking in a material sense is the shackle which binds us to the world. In the case of the Gopis this is not the case, for their source of pleasure is the goal of those who renounce pleasure-seeking i.e. Sri Krishna. By controlling our minds we achieve the same thing that Gopis do by not doing so in the presence of Sri Krishna. In the Vedantic school of thought, once one reaches the goal of self-realisation, there is no pleasure-seeking for infinity and eternal pleasure is found. Such a state is far for most of us and so we must continue our attrition against our mind. This delay, remember, is yet another enhancement of the eventual triumph.