There is a story from the Mahabharata where in there was once a Brahmana who woke up one day and suddenly found himself in a desert and he did not know what to do. The desert was dry, hot, no water, no shelter and no trees. He was therefore forced to look around and he had to survive. Then, as he was wondering what to do next, he saw on the horizon what looked to be like a forest. He became very excited and with logic he understood that there must be trees, fruits and water there in the forest.
After a while he reached the forest and was excited that now I'll get some happiness. But when he got close he saw that it was a huge forest surrounded by a wall. He walked and looked for a gateway but there was no entrance. So, it was a very high wall and he was rather reluctant to climb the wall. However with great effort he tried to climb the wall. He managed to get to the top of the wall and he saw a huge forest with no way out. But he thought being in the forest is better than being in the desert knowing there is no way out.
Then he was expecting that now I can get some peace. When he entered the forest, he saw big trees, thick grasses and as he was trying to get inside, he saw animals like snakes, scorpions, tigers, leopards and all the creatures were very hungry. When they saw the Brahmana, they began to chase him. Then the mosquitoes and bugs were biting him, bigger animals were running behind him, he was getting scratched by the thorns, he was getting tired also. It was a worse situation and he had to keep running. Finally he tripped and fell and he was entangled and was hanging upside down a tree. He was trapped. At the bottom of the tree was a well where there was a big snake. He somehow climbed up the tree and there were black and white rats.
He was wondering what to do. Then there was a bee hive and everytime he moved a little bit, The bees would come out and sting all over his body. Then the Brahmana who was trapped in pain, misery, was hopeless started SMILING. Why is he smiling?
He is smiling because every now and then from the bee hive a drop of honey falls into his mouth and he forgets the situation.
So, the story is symbolic. The brahmana is the spirit soul who finds himself trapped in the material world and once he is in the material universe it is very difficult to get out of it and we cannot trace out the beginning or the end. Like that the forest (material universe) is surrounded by high walls. But the forest (material universe) "looks" very nice but when we actually start experiencing the material world, we understand that it's not a safe place.
The animals represent the sickness, anger, conflicts, problems, no money, food and then we get afflicted and then we have to keep working to avoid all this (running through the forest). Hanging upside down represents getting trapped in a material body and once we get trapped, we have a life span set for us and every second that life span gets shorter. The black and white rats represnt the night and days who are nibbling on the branch which is holding him and then he falls into the well which is death. In the meantime we are in this body, somehow we foget our situation and we think it is very nice in this world, because we get some sort of pleasure, honey or little sweetness which makes us foregt the hopelessness from this world. So when we get pleasure, the pain is also there. We get karma with everhything we do which represents the bee stings.
So Vidura says this is not a very intelligent way of living. We are eternal soul and once we realize that then the pleasure and pain are no longer significant. The goal of life is not avoiding pain and getting happiness. The goal of life is to understand that we are spiritual beings beyond the pains and pleasure having an eternal realtionship with the Supreme Lord. We have to therefore build that relationship and then we get eternal happiness.
This is the solution to the problem. We have to practice to get to that position and by the practice of Bhakti we can withdraw from the bodily attachments and get more involved with our relationship of Krishna. The main process is to chant the names of Krishna.
- HH Bhanu Swami Maharaj (2002-05-19)