Gratitude Amidst Reverses, and as a Spiritual Practice
For some people it is easier to be religious when times are good, and often a test when they suffer (although from another angle it is natural for many to call on God in distress, though only officially acknowledging him in happiness). Sometimes even knowledgeable devotees may blame God for their problems in their intense grief and sorrowful emotions, yet in more thoughtful moments they can remember that souls are here in the material world to try to enjoy apart from Krishna. In addition they know that their suffering is being minimized by the mercy of Krishna, and due to the purifying effect of devotional service (or activities performed in love, or in pursuit of love).
I am working more this week and the next and I can't spend the time I would like writing. Writing as I have shared is very personal for me. It is hard to express how I feel about it, though my writing is in many ways an extension of my heart and well wishing. It is an opportunity for me to offer service to you as well as providing me an creative outlet. I 'm also blessed to be able to share what I am with you, and what I find is valuable and uplifting. According to Shri Krishna in his Gita (18th chapter, vs 68-69), sharing knowledge about him to devotees or spiritually inclined persons, is the most pleasing service. "For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed,and at the end he will come back to me. There is no servant in this world more dear to me then, nor will there ever be one more dear."
I don't know how it came up for me to write on Krishna.com, but I didn't go looking for it. I had been blogging here on MySpace and somehow I was asked to blog there. Many things in my life are like that. Ingeneral I am not a "manifesting" type of person (who frequently endeavors and is often successful in obtaining great goals or desires).Though I have to say that the few things in my life I really endeavored for were some of the most important things I have been rewarded with--these include becoming a devotee, marrying my wife, and working at various jobs. People have different natures and strengths, and mine is more going with the flow as I look for Krishna's direction.Thankfully for all of us our Guru, Shrila Prabhupada was a big"manifestor" and created communities of devotees to support and nurture current and future generations.
Gratitude is very important for everyone. We all struggle in various ways and experience our problems, though we can't let that eclipse our appreciation for the many gifts, facilities and blessings that enable us to live and strive to be Krishna conscious. When we are down it is easy to see life as dark and cruel--we see evidence all around us and on the news. However, that is only a filter or lens, not the true reality. Externals are only part of the story as they are an effect of consciousness and our pious or impious actions.
For some people it is easier to be religious when times are good,and often they experience a test of faith when they suffer (although from another angle it is natural for many to call on God in distress,though only officially acknowledging him in happiness). Sometimes even knowledgeable devotees may blame God for their problems in their intense grief and sorrowful emotions, yet in more thoughtful moments(which can bring detachment) they can remember that souls are here in the material world to try to enjoy apart from Krishna. In addition they know that their suffering is being minimized by the mercy of Krishna,and and the purifying effect of devotional service or activities performed in love, or in pursuit of love.
Though we try to enjoy our body and its possessions to our hearts content, we have to live under many undesirable conditions. Our eternal free soul becomes covered by the restrictions of living in a limited physical body subjected to birth, disease, old age, and having to leave our so-called happy life at death to take another body--and ironically the happier we think we are the more difficult it is to leave. We can be enthused to try to enjoy the prison of material life, only if we are forgetful of our true happy spiritual life of service. That is one meaning that "ignorance is bliss". It isn't really bliss, but seemsthat way due to our forgetting our real lasting happiness. Keeping the soul's perspective in mind is important--not thinking our material perspective is of lasting value.
If we could really remember Krishna, how could we live apart from him--the true love and purpose of our life--for even a few minutes? We read of the life of great saints like Shri Chaitanya, who fell unconscious in love sick separation from Krishna, their beloved. Lord Chaitanya although God, exhibited what is referred to as "acharya lila"or the pastime of playing the part of a great devotee, teaching us byhis practical example. Everyone is an actor on the stage of life, but our roles are performed in ignorance, while the Lord's role is for his divine conscious purpose of removing our ignorance. There is a world of different between the two.
Life is truly a fascinating journey, and when we come to Krishna it goes to another level beyond fascinating. Being blessed and uplifted by the holy name and divine service, we awaken from our dream of folly,discovering our blissful spiritual free self and our true home and family. When we are away from home we may live in a hotel and buy our meals, but when its time to go home we loose whatever attraction we had for our temporary living arrangements. Then we live our life joyously,as an offering for the service of our teachers or gurus, who reveal to us the nectar we have been hankering for through lifetimes of "space travel" to different planets in the material world. We behold the divine lila or the wondrous activities of Lord Chaitanya and Nitai,Radha--Krishna and their different forms.
The only way to really appreciate the great value of Krishna consciousness is to immerse ourselves in it, thus gaining a natural understanding. This means reading about it, hearing advanced devotees share their understanding of it, and putting into practice what we have heard by attentively chanting the holy names of Radha and Krishna,serving Krishna and his devotees, and cultivating a serving attitude.To understand any spiritual path we can observe those who live by its teachings, since they are a testimony to the effects of practicing the ideals. If we see that they have what we want we can follow their footsteps, obtaining the same results, and eventually our highest aspirations for perfection.
There are so many recommendations to assist us in always remembering Krishna and never forgetting him. Shrila Rupa Goswami (one of the principle disciples of Shri Chaitanya) lists 6 in his Shri Upadesh-amrita: "There are six principles favorable to the execution of pure devotional service [bhakti]: 1) being enthusiastic,2) endeavoring with confidence, 3) being patient, 4) acting according to regulated principles (such as shravanam, kirtanam vishnu or hearing,chanting and remembering Krishna), 5) abandoning the intimate association of non-devotees [we become like who we spend quality time with], and 6) following in the footsteps of the previous acharyas [teachers]. These six principles undoubtedly assure the success of pure devotional service." We can be grateful that we have so many great teachers to help us, both from long ago, and presently.
Whatever we focus on expands inside us. Gratitude opens our heart and helps us see the positive things all around. Gratitude also allows us to feel abundant in all circumstances, since real wealth is our spiritual life. The six Goswamis of Vrindavana who were the principle followers of Lord Chaitanya slept under a different tree every evening, rarely ate, and had only a few possessions, yet they were the most abundant of persons as their meditation was always on the pastimes or activities of Krishna and his devotees. In their state of loving rapture (prema) and spiritual abundance they shared the greatest treasure of knowledge of Radha and Krishna and how to awaken love for them. Where would we be--those of us who are on the path of Krishna bhakti--without them, and those devotees like Prabhupada and his followers who represent them? Others can benefit as well by studying the great spiritual literature they left behind.