भोक्तुश्च दु:खसुखयो: को न्वर्थो विवशं भजेत् ॥ १७ ॥
asvātantryaṁ ca lakṣyate
bhoktuś ca duḥkha-sukhayoḥ
ko nv artho vivaśaṁ bhajet
tatra — in the matter of one’s ability to obtain happiness; api — furthermore; karmaṇām — of fruitive activities; kartuḥ — of the performer; asvātantryam — the lack of independence; ca — also; lakṣyate — is clearly seen; bhoktuḥ — of the one who is trying to enjoy; ca — also; duḥkha-sukhayoḥ — happiness and unhappiness; kaḥ — what; nu — indeed; arthaḥ — value; vivaśam — for one who is not in control; bhajet — can be derived.
Although the performer of fruitive activities desires perpetual happiness, it is clearly observed that materialistic workers are often unhappy and only occasionally satisfied, thus proving that they are not independent or in control of their destiny. When a person is always under the superior control of another, how can he expect any valuable results from his own fruitive actions?
Although materialistic persons reject Kṛṣṇa consciousness and instead pursue temporary sense gratification, even that sense gratification is often beyond their reach. If a person could really control his destiny, why would he create problems for himself? No intelligent person would impose death, old age or disease upon himself or his loved ones. One should recognize that these unwanted miseries are forced upon one by a higher power. Since we are all obviously under superior control, the atheistic philosophy advising one to simply perform fruitive activities and create a happy life is most imperfect.
Due to the influence of time, happiness and misery are created. When a woman becomes pregnant, her husband, relatives and friends eagerly await the birth of the child. As time passes and the child is born, everyone feels great happiness. But as the child grows into old age and eventually dies, that same passage of time is a cause of suffering. Ignorant persons vainly seek help from scientists who work feverishly and fruitlessly in their laboratories to stop death. In modern times, inventions have been created to eliminate the inconveniences of life, but the maintenance and production of such conveniences has proven to be unbearably inconvenient for hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. Only the most foolish person will propose that there is no superior controller and that one can achieve favorable results by expert performance of material activities. Ultimately all material activities are useless because they end in annihilation. If one is driving a car but has only limited control, the situation is most dangerous and must lead inevitably to disaster. Similarly, although we are trying to direct the material body to happiness, we are not in full control of the bodily demands, and therefore there will inevitably be disaster. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (9.3):
aprāpya māṁ nivartante
“Those who are not faithful on the path of devotional service cannot attain Me, O conqueror of foes, but return to birth and death in this material world.” If one is not a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, the eventual result of his activities is simply mṛtyu-saṁsāra — repeated birth and death.