In our book “Spiritual Economics” we explain that all living beings are spiritual beings whose nature is fundamentally different from that of the material energy.
The material energy is dead and without consciousness, whereas the spiritual energy is life and is consciousness.
The nature of the material energy is that it is temporary and is always changing. The spiritual energy eternal (never dies) and never changes.
The material energy is impersonal, while the spiritual energy is personal (has personality).
The material energy, having no consciousness, experiences no happiness, but the spiritual energy (in the pure state) constantly experiences total bliss without any experience of suffering.
In other words, the spiritual and material energies are diametrically opposite.
Yet we find that, here we are, spiritual beings living and trying to find happiness in a material world. But the happiness we seek, and sometimes get, is punctuated by distress, suffering and misery. Over and over again we are frustrated and baffled in our attempts to find the happiness that is our nature, becoming confused and bewildered about life as a result of our failure.
The problem is that we do not belong in the material realms. Once we realize this and begin to act according to our spiritual nature, the duality of happiness and distress vanishes, and we are reinstated in our proper spiritual condition of unmitigated happiness. That process is the process of Spiritual Economics—how a spiritual being lives according to his spiritual nature even while in the material world.
This process is explained throughout the works of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, who has given the world the treasure of Vedic wisdom. For an example of his teachings that are just to this point I wish to quote from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.7.5-6) along with Srila Prabhupada’s commentary:
“The root cause of suffering by the materialistic living beings is pointed out here along with remedial measures which are to be undertaken and also the ultimate perfection to be gained. All this is mentioned in these verses. The living being is by constitution transcendental to his material situation but is now imprisoned by the external energy, and therefore he misunderstands himself to be a material product. Due to this unnatural contact the pure spiritual entity unnecessarily suffers material miseries under the influence of the modes of material nature (gunas). This means that the present perverted way of thinking, feeling and willing, under material conditions, is not natural for him. But he also has his normal way of thinking, feeling and willing in his original, spiritual condition.
“It is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita that the actual knowledge of the conditioned soul is now covered by forgetful ignorance. The present conditional state is due to the influence of the external (material) energy, which means that the illusory energy, maya, takes the initiative while the Supreme Lord stays aloof. The Lord does not desire that a living being be put under illusion by external energy, but the Lord does not interfere with the task of the illusory energy because such performances of the illusory energy are also necessary for the spiritual evolution of the conditioned soul. An affectionate father does not like his children to be chastised, yet he sometimes puts his disobedient children under the custody of a severe man just to bring them to order. But the all-affectionate Almighty Father at the same time desires relief for the conditioned soul, relief from the clutches of the illusory energy. The king puts the disobedient citizens within the walls of the jail, but sometimes the king, desiring the prisoners’ relief, personally goes there and pleads for their reform, and on his doing so the prisoners are set free. Similarly, the Supreme Lord descends from His kingdom in the spiritual sky to the kingdom of illusory energy and personally gives relief in the form of the Bhagavad-gita, wherein He personally suggests that although the ways of illusory energy are very difficult to overcome one who surrenders unto Him is set free.
“This surrendering process is the remedial measure for getting relief from the bewildering ways of the illusory energy. The surrendering process is completed by the influence of association. The Lord has suggested, therefore, that by the influence of saintly persons who have actually realized the Supreme others can be engaged in His transcendental loving service. The conditioned soul gets a taste for hearing about the Lord, and by such hearing only he is gradually elevated to the platform of respect, devotion and attachment for the Lord. The whole thing is completed by the surrendering process. Herein also the same suggestion is made by the Lord in His incarnation of Vyasadeva. This means that the conditioned souls are being reclaimed by the Lord both ways, namely by the process of punishment by the external energy of the Lord, and by Himself as the spiritual master within and without. Within the heart of every living being the Lord Himself as the Supersoul (Paramatma) becomes the spiritual master, and from without He becomes the spiritual master in the shape of scriptures, saints and the spiritual preceptor.
“Srimad-Bhagavatam is the summum bonum remedy for humanity suffering in the clutches of the illusory energy maya. Srila Vyasadeva therefore first of all diagnosed the actual disease of the conditioned souls, i.e., their being illusioned by the external energy due to the spirit of enjoying the Lord’s property. He also saw the perfect Supreme Being, from whom illusory energy is far removed, though He saw both the diseased conditioned souls and also the cause of the disease. And the remedial measures are suggested as the process of devotional service, or loving service to the Lord. Both the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the living beings are undoubtedly alike by their nature, but the Lord is the controller of the illusory energy, whereas the living entity is controlled by the illusory energy. Thus the Lord and the living beings are simultaneously one and different. Another point is distinct herein: that eternal relation between the Lord and the living being is transcendental, otherwise the Lord would not have taken the trouble to reclaim the conditioned souls from the clutches of maya. In the same way, the living entity is also required to revive his natural love and affection for the Lord, and that is the highest perfection of the living entity. Srimad-Bhagavatam treats the conditioned soul with the aim to that goal of life.”