Almost everyone feels some degree of emptiness; a feeling that something is gnawing away from within, and thus, we are constantly in search of something to fill up that emptiness.

For many of us, if we come home to an empty house, we simply cannot sit down and relax. There is this agitation within that drives us to do something. We may open the refrigerator and simply stand there looking into it, or we immediately turn on the TV and begin surfing channels, or more commonly, we take out our phone and call or text someone, browse the internet, or go on social media.

But what are we looking for? Something to fill that empty space inside because we are not at peace within ourselves.

Marketing and advertising professionals are fully aware of this reality. They have become experts in shaping messages that promise to fill up this emptiness and make us happy, and therefore, more peaceful.

We have all probably seen Coca Cola’s worldwide ad campaign ‘Open Happiness’. You’ve got to be joking! I challenge anyone to open a bottle of Coke and let all the carbon dioxide (the bubbles) escape, keep the leftover concoction of water, sugar, and flavour at room temperature, and then take a swig. Is that true happiness?  

Yet we all follow these messages like sheep in a herd and are confronted with the reality that no matter what we do or what we consume, no matter how much we improve our body image, no matter how many new friends we make, we still experience an uneasiness within.

But worse, after chasing happiness for so long, that emptiness does not decrease but seems to increase. Our search and our consumption and our attempts to fill this emptiness and to find peace have simply led to a greater sense of unease, a greater emptiness, and thus, we’ve become even more disturbed.

Ancient wisdom warns us of the futility of buying into the messages of consumerism. The pursuit of happiness through materialism never ends well. If there is a fire and instead of putting water, I pour on fuel and gasoline, the result would be a more destructive fire. 

So why is this happening? Why in spite of my attempts to fill the emptiness, do I fail?  Well, it’s simple.

I am a spiritual being—the atma—residing within this body.  I am not this body, which I am temporarily inhabiting/using, nor am I my mind. Although my body and mind may have cravings and desires, if my whole life is simply dedicated to trying to satisfy these cravings and desires and I ignore my spiritual needs, then I will remain empty and unfulfilled.

The philosophy of materialism is based on the idea that the material body is the person and that fulfilling the desires and wants of the body and mind is the purpose of life and will bring happiness, fulfilment, and peace. This is untrue.

There is the ancient example of a man who keeps a bird within a golden cage. The cage may be exceedingly beautiful and the man may constantly polish and clean it but if he does not feed the bird inside the cage, the bird will die. There is no inherent harm in taking care of the body and providing for it.

But we must learn to live a more balanced life by not forgetting our spiritual needs. We have material wants, but we also have spiritual needs. If we sacrifice our spiritual needs in the pursuit of temporary and fleeting wants, then the result will be emptiness and a lack of actual peace.

The Bhagavad Gita proposes another paradigm, another path in our search for happiness:

“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires - that enter like rivers into the ocean which is ever being filled but is always still - can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.”   

Bhagavad Gita 2.70

“Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and to check the force of desire and anger, he is well situated and is happy in this world.” 

-Bhagavad Gita 5.23

If we appreciate these principles, our life will be perfect. We must learn about the actual goal and purpose of life and come to experience our natural condition of completely fulfilling spiritual love, happiness, and peace.

About the author

Acharya das is a respected teacher of Vedic and yogic philosophy, meditation, and kirtan, and a practitioner of the transcendental science of Bhakti yoga. He has taught yoga wisdom for more than 40 years and is a world-renowned speaker. Acharya das is currently in Auckland and holds regular discourses on yoga wisdom. For more information about these discourses, to ask questions, or to read more in-depth articles on these subjects, visit www.Acharyadas.com, www.meditationnewzealand.co.nz