Autonomy is an interesting concept. It is defined as: “independence or freedom, as of the will or one’s actions.” It is a basic need of the soul to be autonomous, which basically means the soul needs to be free to express itself. Outside of Krishna consciousness autonomy is not possible for the soul.
Why is this? Krishna das Kaviraja Goswami explains this quite nicely in the Caitanya Caritamrta:”Because a devotee of Lord Krsna is desire less, he is peaceful. Fruitive workers desire material enjoyment, jnanis desire liberation, and yogis desire material opulence; therefore they are all lusty and cannot be peaceful.
In other words everyone (other than a pure devote) is controlled by cravings, whether those cravings are for gross enjoyment, liberation, or powers in this world. The experience of cravings is not a pleasant experience. It is an experience that agitates the mind and separates one from contact with one’s original spiritual nature.
Recently I have been observing different cravings that people have in this world. Sometimes cravings are described as addictions when they become especially intense and one feels that one cannot live without the object of desire. Generally we think of addictions as relating to some illicit drug habit.
But addictions are far more widespread than that. For example there are food addictions (sugar, salt, fats, chocolate etc). The proof that these are addictions is that we feel that we cannot live without these things, and we literally have psychological and physiological symptoms of withdrawal if denied these things.
There are other things that one may be addicted to such as the experience of falling in love, adrenaline rushes(winning a competition), conquering an enemy, etc. Even one may be addicted to the rush of enjoying the fruits of one’s preaching (collecting money, disciples, etc). We should be introspective enough to understand when we have these addictions.
We should understand that these addictions are making us miserable. Why? Krishna explains why in the Gita. He explains that intense hankering (being addicted, craving, etc) comes from the mode of passion:”The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and because of this the embodied living entity is bound to material fruitive actions.”
One interesting point about the mode of passion is that the experience one has through endeavors in the mode of passion give one the illusion of happiness (having nectar) in the beginning, but in the end the experience is equivalent to taking poison. So, if we want to fulfill our real need for autonomy-freedom, there is a specific course of action prescribed for us.
If we don’t want to be autonomous then we should continue with our addictions. It is up to us. The course of action is to cultivate the mode of goodness. Of course in the beginning that cultivation makes us think that we have increased our suffering since we are no longer chasing after the objects of our cravings.
But in the end the cravings gradually disappear and one experiences a great relief. Also we find in the Gita that on the brahman platform cravings are non-existent, and one is qualified to transcend this world and perform pure devotional service. Also one experiences true happiness of the self.
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