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Happiness Junkie

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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.

Combined comments from old site

Sun, 09/28/2008 - 22:13 — Snehal
Material conditions doesnt last forever.

Hare Krishna!
What I have realized till today is, whether be happiness or distress, it will not last for long. If today you are happy, tomorrow you will feel distressed and if today you are distressed tomorrow you will be happy. Material conditions doesnt last forever. So whatever material state I am, I try to ignore it. Meaning, if I am distressed, I try not to feel sad about the situation by increasing the spiritual activities like chanting or serving other devotees. And when I happy, I try not to feel too happy about it, by always remiding me that it will not last for long and again try to increase devotional activities.

Its not always easy to ignore sorrows and happiness. But I try and try to try sincerely as I believe that Krishna helps those help themselves.

Haribol!

Snehal


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Sun, 09/28/2008 - 22:33 — Karnamrita.das
Like the Seasons come and go

You are so right. Material happiness and distress come and go, so in all circumstances we take shelter of Krishna. That is our constant, and where our real happiness lies. The battle is usually with that mind, that wants us to identify with external pain or pleasure. Prabhupada tells us that the soul has given "power of attorney" to the mind (the mind appears to be who we are). If we think some thought we think that is us, or if we feel some pain or pleasure we think that is us. By chanting and serving we are strengthening our faith in Krishna. We are calling out to him for a transformation our consciousness, where we identify as Krishna das or dasi, servant of Krishna, not our mind or senses. We have to be patient, because are habituated to identify with the mind or body. So we keep calling out to Krishna to help us. We are in the material ocean and have to other hope.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


Sat, 09/27/2008 - 11:12 — Go-Seva
I pray to be happy

It has been raining here since Thursday, so I decided to take a walk around in our little woods and the garden to chant and reflect. I am not really a negative person, but it seems that no matter what is going on in my life, it seems to be distressing to me. I guess there is always stress in one's life as a grihasta: money worries, projects around the house that need to get done, naughty children, various obligations, etc. It seems that I am constantly reminded of the woes of material existence, and I am unable to be happy. Even if I am distracted by a positive experience, it is short-lived and I am back to the same woeful place I was before. The only solace I have is chanting, and when I am chanting, sometimes I wish the Lord would just take me back to Godhead right then so I won't have to live through anymore material misery. A few moments ago, as I was chanting and crying, I stood by a large tree and held onto a branch, hoping and praying that the ominous cloud passing overhead would send down a lightning bolt so everything would just be finished.

Is this normal? Does anyone else experience this constant grind of material -vs- spiritual existence? I constantly feel a yearning of just wanting to be done with this body and this life. I only want to serve Srimati Radharani and Lord Sri Krsna, forever and ever, instead of serving everyone here as well as my senses...


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Sun, 09/28/2008 - 07:58 — milan
Dear Lisa, you are not alone...

H a r e K r i s h n a ! ! !
Dear Lisa, you are not alone. I don't see anything strange in your reactions. If I may notice, your remedy for all distress - chanting - is the best solution. From my point of view, your condition looks like position of Gopis in separation from Lord Krishna. Your "naughty children" ARE your service to Srimati Radharani and Lord Sri Krsna. Sonja and Ivan (such a beautiful names - I believe they are your choice) will be great devotees one day, with their own families and teach other devotees how to perform family life in KC. How do I know? Because they are learning from you! You are not saving only few souls, but you are building society in KC. What can be more than that? What this planet needs else? I'm always admiring to devotees that perform family life for service to Lord Krishna. It's your last life in material world and it'll take only few decades more... You're doing well and, please, keep it going :-))

It's nice to be your friend!!!

Your humble servant,
Milan


Sun, 09/28/2008 - 04:27 — dru
Hare Krsna, After reading

Hare Krsna,

After reading through this all I can say from my experience is, when I pray for happiness and I do get that I start getting restless because I tend to forget Krishna, and so next I hope for sorrows to approach me. I've figured out that I'm most closest to Krishna when I've a sorrowful situation and my philosophical potency is at peak. It might seem to be weird but amidst happiness I experience sadness and amidst sadness bliss!! As soon as this so called worldly happiness is there I feel a pull towards materialistic life, indulgence; but something in my minds makes me pause and pray to Krishna "why I'm not thinking about you now, why have you brought this upon me". I reckon this is a process to surpass both happiness and sadness.

Further, it is said that it is never possible to be happy in this material world. What we define as to be happiness is entangled with reactions of other's karma. It's a complex web we have woven. As each thought has particular reaction just imagine all our life we not only had so many thoughts but also so many actions. Also, it is said that whatever we have to suffer we will suffer, only the difference being it will be reduced to a great level once we devote ourselves to Krishna. So death ain't solution, we will come back again to suffer our unfinished account and if unaware instead of settling the account we might add to it. To serve others I believe is as good as serving Krishna Himself, He is my creator your creator and is present in everybody. Some have lost their memory as to who their creator is and few realize. As long as we are in this world we have to face this, the matter of fact being how we choose to face is up to us.

Obviously, in sorrowful situations no solution seems real, and it seems as if world doesn't understand our thoughts etc. And, a person like me would definitely and I do think as you said, but then no one can pacify me but only Time. I hold on just thinking about Krishna. We all are learning and we all have different ways to take Krishna's shelter. Only you and Krishna knows what is better for yourself or the complete truth!!

I hope I haven't said too much here, and makes sense a bit at least.

Hari Bol.


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Sun, 09/28/2008 - 08:45 — Karnamrita.das
Appreciation for Tekisui

This post is not in the proper order after your comment, but as sometimes happens to me, I got a duplicate comment. Anyway I appreciated your practical analysis of life. There is a very helpful verse in the 11th Canto of Shirmad Bhagavatam that Bhaktivinode Thakur has paraphrased to say that, "Knowing your true position and acting accordingly is true beauty". And the opposite is true as well. Unfortunately it can take many years of spiritual practice and maturity to really, honestly be able to make an assessment of where one is materially and spiritually.

What I think is Krishna conscious now regarding the details of what is important and what I can do, is very different than when I was a new devotee and 20 years old. It is good if we can all keep this in mind, because what might have worked for us as a single young person living in an ashrama might not work as a married person working and living in the world with a family. One of the points in my mind of this discussion is to see how life is about change, both within and without, materially and spiritually, and we have to be open to make changes while going deeper into our understanding of what KC is.


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Sun, 09/28/2008 - 08:28 — Karnamrita.das
One persons' food, anothers poison

It is interesting how our various psychologies and stages in life and spiritual life change what we might find useful. I appreciate how "material" happiness might make you want more of the same. At the same time if you are endeavoring to see your life as all about service, distress or disease may distract you from your service--it deepens on the circumstances of your life, though there is no escaping some distress and disease, and we may not have any control externally how much.

If we are KC preacher---or really anyone who is a devotee and is always morose, we won't be very effective in convincingly speaking about how great KC is or being enthused to practice it personally. The soul is by nature pleasure seeking, so eventually if we are not getting pleasure from devotional service we will search of it somewhere else. That has been the history of many bhakti practitioners who left after some time.

For me misery helped me come to Krishna and to seek real, lasting happiness. In the beginning my preaching was mainly how bad everything material was---this is maya, this is Krishna, which was a very all or nothing, black or white perspective. Gradually the old "sour grapes" presentation didn't work for me because I still had material desires that needed to be addressed. At first I thought I would soon go back to Godhead, and that my past was irrelevant. After some years, when I was more in balance with myself materially, I realized I had to take my material conditioning into account and act accordingly, in order to be peaceful to practice my spiritual life.

I think the bottom line is to accept whatever helps us situate our self in enthusiastic service. We do have to be convinced about the material miseries and what is most important in life, yet we have to develop a real taste for spiritual practices like chanting Krishna and other types of service. When we love Krishna or even have a lot of attraction for him, then other things drop away.

Sometimes Prabhupada would say if you are not happy in your life, then something is wrong. So we can ask our self what we might do differently or add to our life in terms of spiritual support---or changing or giving up something which is diverting us. He also compared sense gratification to salt, we only need a little bit, but most of us need some. How much will depend on many factors.

Again, to repeat, the important thing is be endeavoring for a life of devotion, and having daily spiritual practices where we can develop a taste for the Name and service of Krishna and the Vaishnavas. Our taste for Krishna will lead us to Krishna, and our miseries where we don't want to go!

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


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Sat, 09/27/2008 - 11:46 — Karnamrita.das
We are Desperados or Fugitives from Vaikuntha

Krishna consciousness is a kind of absorption--in Krishna. So how to do that and meet all your obligations? One way people in general experience happiness is to work for a cause greater than themselves. For devotees that could mean some type of outreach, say having a home program with kirtana, prasadum and class--it could be everyone reading together, or hearing a lecture and discussing. Invite neighbors or friends. You could invite some devotee from the Baltimore/Washington area to your home for holding such program. You can come to see your home as a way to help bring Krishna to others. We can speak more about that, yet that is a way to get out of your "just maintaining" mode which is not very enlivening. See your depression as feedback to do something different!

Feeling despondent being in material existence is quite normal for everyone, including devotees. From time to time people think life is too much, and that it would be better to end their life. My wife is a therapist so she could tell you better than I! However, our life is not our own but Krishna's so we need to make the best use of a bad bargain and serve Krishna. I would again say that you need a change, a spiritual shot in the arm of devotee association. Think about the idea of a home program.

No harm in praying for happiness, but pray for the happiness that comes from KC. We all need to pray for taste, or ruchi! And try different things. Save some money and create a better altar. You could get some Deities of Gaura Nitai and think of ways to cook for them and decorate the altar.....now it is Their house, and your family is Theirs! Find some service you could do on Krishna.com. We are only as limited as we think, so be a possibility thinker for Krishna. Seek the cause of your lamentation. I have given some hints.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


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Sun, 09/28/2008 - 08:30 — tekisui
The grind

In his talk What surrender really means Hridayananda Goswami says something that strikes a chord in me - "If you're not blissful, it must be that Krishna is not happy with your practice. 'Come on, you can do better than that,' He says."

I think "doing better" can mean a series of things here, depending on the individual and his or her situation. For example, it can mean that one ought to chant more, go to the temple more often, talk more to devotees, and so on. But I think it can also mean to become more honest about one's practice. Sometimes, we act in blind faith, or in some sort of spiritual vanity, or out of competition with other devotees, or out of boredom (and in such cases, we actually act to please ourselves) - and so take upon ourselves more practices, a tighter practice schedule than we actually have time and energy to maintain, or falsely presume we understand this or that teaching when we actually don't, or we even presume to have more faith in Krishna than we actually do.
I think becoming free from rebelling against Krishna is a very demanding task. But if we don't admit to ourselves our less than noble motives - and being human, we tend to have them - progress is difficult. And I think only by admitting them, can we find ways to do our part to counteract them, and to meaningfully and accurately formulate our prayers.

This is what I think about this, at least.