Vanity thought #772. All you must eat buffet

This is the life in the material world, there are so many planets here, so many species, so many things to enjoy, and we must do it all, no exceptions.

Normally we assume that we must enjoy or suffer what is allotted to us by our karma, and that is more than enough, why do we have to go through the rest of the buffet?

It’s just one curious turn in Srila Prabhupada’s translation of SB 1.5.18, the famous verse spoken by Narada Muni to encourage Srila Vyasadeva to write down Srimad Bhagavatam. There Prabhupada translates it as

As far as happiness derived from sense enjoyment is concerned, it can be obtained automatically in course of time, just as in course of time we obtain miseries even though we do not desire them.

See, if we want some particular form of happiness, it CAN be obtained in due course of time, so we should not apply any special endeavors, whatever is destined to us by karma will come by itself, we can’t stop or hurry it.

When Srila Prabhupada translated this verse again in Caitanya Caritamrita (CC Madhya.24.169) he translated the same line in a slightly different way:

By the force of time one attains whatever material happiness is available within the fourteen worlds, just as one attains distress in due course of time.

See, there’s a difference – here it’s about time forcing us to attain WHATEVER IS AVAILABLE, not just what we might want and hope for.

In the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam translation Prabhupada talks about our desires, explaining “can be obtained” part, and there’s no purport to Caitanya Caritamrita there so there’s only the translation itself.

Can I, therefore, speculate on the meaning of CC translation alone?

Well, if the translation is technically correct than I don’t see why not. If it was just an oversight by the editors and I see something in this verse that is not there, then I’m in trouble.

What’s interesting is that Sanksrit word for word translations are different, too.

In the last line, kālena sarvatra gabhīra-raḿhasā, the last word raḿhasā is “progress” in Bhagavatam but in Caitanya Caritamrita raḿhasā it’s “having force”.

It’s one thing to obtain something by progress of time, which implies just waiting until time catches up with your desires, it’s quite another to be forced.

The word gabhīra is translated as “subtle” while in Caitanya Caritamrita it’s “insurmountable”.

Now instead of subtle progress of time (just wait, it’s coming) we have insurmountable force.

These differences look like a permission to reinterpret this verse as it appears in Caitanya Caritamrita because it’s not just a different wording of a translation anymore, these are different meanings of Sanskrit terms.

In Srila Prabhupada’s books gabhīra is often translated as deep and grave, not just subtle, so insurmountable is more in line with the usual meaning. It’s even more so with raḿhasā which always conveys force and power and translating it as “progress” sticks out and is used only once, in that particular place in Srimad Bhagavatam.

So, we are being forced to live through every bit of pain and pleasure available in the material world whether we like it or not. Simply by the power of time we’ll be put through each and every species on each and every planet.

This blows for the “free will” brigade – we don’t just get to choose and wait, we’ll be forced to experience everything at one point or another by the force of time, not due to our free will.

Nothing comes in this world on its own, everything is the result of our karma and that means everything is the result of our desires. So this means that if, by the power of time, we get to experience everything then it should all come from our desires, too, and it will be determined solely by time. In due course of time we will want that and later on we will get it. No free will, just wait until time forces you to desire your preferred objects and make your “free choices”.

This is a bummer. Not only we have to contend with our present hankerings but we will also have to contend with every other wish by every living form on every planet. I don’t think I’ll ever want branded cat food, for example, so at least I don’t have to deal with that, but wait for it – I’m scheduled to be striving for Whiskas in two lives from now. Great, just great.

Killing and being killed, insulting and being humiliated, raping and being raped – I will want to experience all of it, just wait for it, desires will come.

Oh dear me, before this verse life was so simple and now there’s a mountain of things I never planned on dealing with. Good news the solution is still the same – surrender and chant like crazy. If anything, at least the sense of complacency is gone.

Disclaimer – it all hinges on “whatever material happiness is available within the fourteen worlds” which is not tied up to any particular Sanskrit word and is not present in Srimad Bhagavatam version of translation.

Still, who knows what crazy things we will desire in the future, there’s no reason to assume we won’t be wishing for everything that’s available at one time or another. “Free will” brigade can rest, however, if this verse doesn’t really mean “all that is available will be forced” then there’s still scope for making our our choices and avoiding some situations altogether.

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