Updated: Nov 21, 2020
In any given situation there are only ever 2 choices. Both will bring satisfaction; one instantly but not for long and the other you'll have to work a bit harder but it'll be worth it in the end. The Katha Upanishad (ancient wisdom teachings) identifies these choices as Preya and Shreya.
Preya is tantilising pleasure and immediate reward and associates itself with our sense desires. We fancy something sweet to satisfy our desire for a sugary treat so we buy the 5 pack of jam donuts and relish each delicious mouthful. As we screw the packet up however a pang of guilt, a slight sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach arises. That instant gratification fades as we consider the implications of digesting all that sugar. Preya feeds our desire for a quick fix and we may justify this in any number of ways. But ultimately when we allow our senses to dictate our actions, conscious thought out decisions fly out the window.
Shreya is infinitely less enticing, she's quiet, subtle - a very small still voice. Her offerings aren't particularly attractive, in fact what she's selling can look downright painful. That fitness regime you signed up to for instance. Four press ups and three squat jumps in you're starting to wish you were at home watching TV. However,four weeks in not only do you look and feel healthier but you might even be starting to enjoy the exercises as you reap the benefits of your conscious decision to take positive action. Your whole outlook on life improves and you generally just feel more joyful.
In the Katha, the God of death Yama tells us that choosing between these 2 options is easy. When you reach the T junction just don't follow the Preya direction sign. Of course it's not actually easy at all - I mean those donuts have jam in them and you've been eating salads for a week, plus it's been a tough day, you really do deserve a treat - oh go on. To resist the tempation takes some real will power, determination and a dollop of focussed effort. Self-will however needs to be trained to be present and ready at the junction and it's only through the practice of conscious considered choice that we can get him to show up when and where we need him. But the more he does this, the easier it becomes to make good choices in any given quandary. That doesn't mean you can't ever have a donut again, but at least if you do you'll be making that choice rather than letting your senses make the decision for you.
When we let go of the need to fulfil our desires and receive instant gratification we start to become more aware of what really brings sustainable satisfaction, what truly benefits us and those around. Being present in the moment, not always being so eager to catch the butterfly but experiencing the delight of just witnessing and enjoying it's natural beauty. It's eternal freedom a reminder that immediate pleasures sometimes come at a cost and what serves us best is generally worth the effort.