सतुल्यातिशयध्वंसं यथा मण्डलवर्तिनाम् ॥ २० ॥
evam — in this way; lokam — the world; param — next (after this life); vidyāt — one should understand as; naśvaram — impermanent; karma-nirmitam — created from fruitive work; sa-tulya — characterized by (the rivalry of) equals; atiśaya — and superiors; dhvaṁsam — and by ruination; yathā — as; maṇḍala-vartinām — (the rivalries) of minor rulers.
One cannot find permanent happiness even on the heavenly planets, which one can attain in the next life by ritualistic ceremonies and sacrifices. Even in material heaven the living entity is disturbed by rivalry with his equals and envy of those superior to him. And since one’s residence in heaven is finished with the exhaustion of pious fruitive activities, the denizens of heaven are afflicted by fear, anticipating the destruction of their heavenly life. Thus they resemble kings who, though enviously admired by ordinary citizens, are constantly harassed by enemy kings and who therefore never attain actual happiness.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī has quoted the following text from the Chāndogya Upaniṣad (8.1.6): tad yatheha karma-cito lokaḥ kṣīyate, evam evāmutra puṇya-cito lokaḥ kṣīyate. “One’s present status of material pleasure, the result of one’s previous work, will eventually be vanquished by time. Similarly, although by executing pious activities one will be elevated to a higher status in the next life, that future situation will also be vanquished.” The basis of material enjoyment is the particular body one has acquired. The material body is karma-citaḥ, the accumulated result of one’s previous material activities. If one is awarded a body decorated with beauty, education, popularity, strength and so on, his standard of material enjoyment is certainly high class. On the other hand, if one is ugly, mentally retarded, crippled or repulsive to others, there is very little hope for his material happiness. In both cases, however, the situation is flickering and temporary. One who has acquired an attractive body should not rejoice, since death will quickly bring an end to such an intoxicating situation. Similarly, one who has taken birth in an obnoxious situation should not lament, since his suffering is also temporary. The beautiful man and the ugly man, the rich and the poor, the educated and the foolish should all endeavor to become Kṛṣṇa conscious so that they can be elevated to their eternal constitutional situation, which is to reside in the planets beyond this material universe. Originally every living entity is unimaginably beautiful, intelligent, wealthy, and so strong that his spiritual body lives forever. But we foolishly give up this eternal, blissful situation because we are unwilling to meet the condition for eternal life. The condition is that one should be a lover of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. Although love of Kṛṣṇa is the most exquisite ecstasy, surpassing by millions of times the most intense pleasure of the material universe, we foolishly break off our loving affair with the Supreme Lord and artificially try to become independent enjoyers in the material atmosphere of self-delusion and false pride.
Even if one reaches the exalted heavenly planets of this universe he will be afflicted by various types of suffering. Every conditioned soul in the material world wants to become the greatest person. Therefore one is constantly harassed by his equals who have a similar desire. This situation is commonly termed the “rat race” of material existence. Even on the heavenly planets there is a similar rat race for heavenly distinction. Since some persons inevitably excel our own achievements, our hearts burn with envy upon seeing others enjoying the very rewards we have strived for. And because our whole situation is temporary, we must undergo fear, anxiety and death even on the heavenly planets. The example given here is very nice. Minor kings may be enviously admired by ordinary citizens for their wealth, power and fame, but such kings themselves constantly burn with jealousy, resentment and fear due to rivalry and threats from other kings. Similarly, modern politicians are constantly harassed by envy and fear.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura has pointed out that the conditioned souls, being eager to acquire material happiness and avoid distress, take shelter of sexual relationships and thus surrender to the hard labor of fruitive activities. Those who are enlightened, however, can perceive the ultimate futility of such gross materialistic endeavors. One’s so-called wife, home, children, relatives, bank account and so on are all temporary phantasmagoria, and even while manifest they can never give real satisfaction to one’s senses. To acquire wealth in this world one is practically forced to become the killer of his own soul. There is no possibility of acquiring pleasure from materialistic activities, since they are performed with temporary senses in the hot pursuit of temporary sense objects. When the conditioned soul achieves his goal he becomes proud and brags to others as if his achievements were permanent. And when defeated he is submerged in lamentation. Such a tendency to consider oneself the doer is a sign of weak intelligence, since in fact the living entity is merely desiring within the material body. The body itself is moved by the forces of material nature, under the control of God. The relationships of master and servant, father and son, husband and wife entail exchanges of well-wishing and service that give a sense of material gratification, but such ephemeral devotion can never bring about the eternal absolute benefit of the soul. By such temporary gratification, māyā induces the conditioned soul to wander throughout the material world, pursuing the relative rewards of material nature. According to the subtle laws of karma, the living entity achieves happiness and distress. One cannot obtain happiness by force, no matter how strenuously or how long one tries. Therefore those whose intelligence is uncontaminated should surrender at the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa and give up the ludicrous pursuit of permanent material happiness, a pursuit which can be compared to a dog’s chasing its tail.