After reading Navasi’s blog on Pain, I thought of my own psychology, which would appear to be the opposite. I don’t do well in suffering and pain. Having grown up in an emotionally and physically abusive environment, I was bent on avoiding upsetting anyone, which to me equaled pain. My psychology helped me become a devotee (which it was meant to do!). I thought after looking at the misery and pain of “normal” material life, that there must be something more to life than this. And indeed there is. Chant and be happy, and sometimes chant and be sad how far we might seem away from Krishna—though it is a life so much better than materialism–and in perfection we will chant and in ecstasy feel separated from our beloved Krishna.
After reading Navasi’s blog on Pain, I thought of my own psychology, which would appear to be the opposite. I don’t do well in suffering and pain. Having grown up in an emotionally and physically abusive environment, I was bent on avoiding upsetting anyone, which to me equaled pain. My psychology helped me become a devotee (which it was meant to do!). I thought after looking at the misery and pain of “normal” material life, that there must be something more to life than this. And indeed there is. Chant and be happy, and sometimes chant and be sad how far we might seem away from Krishna—though it is a life so much better than materialism–and in perfection we will chant and in ecstasy feel separated from our beloved Krishna.The ecstasy of love of God is on another level of experience, and can be difficult if not impossible to understand by an ordinary person.
It is interesting how our environment facilitates our karma. There are so many apparent causes like our parents or DNA (nature, nurture), yet beyond these gross physical causes is our previous life times which have now manifested in our parents, body, good or bad fortune, and likes and dislikes etc. At the basis of everything is our soul’s incompatibility with matter, and ultimately our separation from Krishna—-the root of all our problems, whether economic, physical, mental or emotional.
Prabhupada discusses in many places how we are conditioned by our desires–which is considered a kind of prayer–whether to avoid pain, experience it for some secondary gain, or to focus on ever increasing standards of happiness through people, things or places etc. An animal eats on the ground, a poor human may eat on a leaf or earthen plate, a rich person on a silver or gold one, and a demigod on a diamond plate. The principle of eating is constant, though the type of senses change. All desires save service to Krishna bind one—either by good deeds or bad, with both creating a body to facilitate the reactions.
The root cause on one level is the simplest to understand–we come from God, and now we are in the temporary world of doubt, delusion, and misery and have to return to our spiritual home–while trying to understanding exactly why things are happening in our life in all its’ complexity, is perplexing. The Gita tells us that the intricacies of action and reaction are difficult to understand even for great sages.
In the first Canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam, Maharaja Parikshit, the emperor of the world, came across a man dressed as a king, who was beating a cow and bull, and immediately stopped him. The cow represented Mother Earth, the Bull the personality of religion or Dharma, who was only left standing on one leg (truthfulness). Although it was obvious from the immediate perspective that this low class man was the cause of the suffering of these animals, when the King asked them who was the cause of their suffering, they gave him a long philosophical answer which said in effect that it is difficult to understand who is really the cause of our suffering.
Understanding this is important. Although wrong doers should be appropriately punished, within ourselves we also have to go beyond external appearances to accept responsibility for whatever happens to us. This means to juggle a few levels of cause and effect. We don’t want to be neurotic about our responsibility, and so guilty that we are unable to function, yet if we are philosophical we will suffer within much less in our life. From one perspective there are no innocent victims in the material world–some may appear to be victim or victor, yet in truth we are all guilty in various degrees, our body our prison suit.
There is a time to grieve a loss, and a time to understand that we are a cause in our happiness and distress. As Prabhupada said to a devotee who experience some distress from his interaction with others, “Don’t be unhappy with the instrument of your karma.” In the broadest sense we have chosen to be in the world in the first place, and that choice set in motion karmic reactions to our desires and activities from countless births. Without transcendental actions of service to Krishna, there is no end to all this material happiness and distress because we will continue taking birth on earth, or in heaven or hell. From the spiritual perspective all these births or statuses of life are equal. From a spiritual perspective, what is good or bad? Good helps us spiritually, bad binds us materially. What is happiness or distress for a devotee?—real lasting, happiness comes from service to Krishna, and distress comes (either today or tomorrow) from materialistic activities, and also from separation from devotees and devotional service.
Queen Kunti gives a new perspective on distress by actually praying for distress. No she is not a masochist—a lover of distress, but a lover of Krishna who was there at the time. When times were tough Krishna was there for them and their lives improved, but now Krishna was leaving them. So she reasoned that it was better to have lots of material reverses and distress and have Krishna, then to have material success and prosperity and not have Krishna’s company. She had her priorities in order!
Here is her perspective offered as prayers to him, as Krishna was leaving her.
“O Hrishikesha, master of the senses and Lord of Lords. You have released Your mother, Devaki, who was long imprisoned and distressed by the envious King Kamsa, and me and my children from a series of constant dangers.”
“My dear Krishna, Your Lordship has protected us from a poisoned cake, a great fire, from cannibals, from the vicious assembly, from sufferings during our exile in the forest and from the battle where great generals fought. And now You have saved us from the weapon of Ashvathama.
“I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.”
Now that type of distress is not really distress at all. It gives us the key for happiness amidst calamities which are a given in the material world—remembering Krishna is the way to live our life in all circumstances. That is one of things to be learned through Krishna consciousness. Happiness doesn’t come from things, or status or type of body, but in awakening from our amnesia of forgetfulness of Krishna and returning to our real home, where the love of our life lives. In bhakti we practice that and learn what real happiness and distress are.