Gratitude Amidst Reverses, and as a Spiritual Practice

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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).

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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.

Combined comments from old site

Thu, 01/08/2009 - 09:38 — Radhikesh
Seeing reverses as Krishna's mercy

Hare Krishna Prabhu. I also go thru the experiences you describe here:

"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..."

When the going gets tough, I ask Krishna why is He preventing me to focus on Krishna consciousness. I am one of those people for whom it is easier to be religious when times are good (which is rare) . If that is true, I wonder, why should there be difficult circumstances that makes practicing KC harder. Then I think about the difficulties that advanced devotees are put into before Krishna intervenes and solves them. That makes Krishna a problem solver and not a problem eliminator - there is a problem which is solved/destroyed by Krishna, and not 'No problem' to begin with. The Vrajavasis had to contend with one demon after another. Srila Prabhupada had to undergo so much difficulty before successfully establishing the Bombay temple.

Kunti preferred having problems and that way she could always see Krishna instead of asking for a trouble free life where Krishna need not have to intervene. She says that only those who are materially exhausted can approach the Lord easily and feelingly address Him 'O Govinda, O Krsna'. Bhagavad gita also confirms this by saying for those who are too materially attached, the resolute determination for devotional does not take place (BG 2.44).

And as you said it is natural for many to call God in distress. Of the four types of pious people who approach the Lord for shelter, the majority are those who are in distress. It is also natural for devotees to turn to Krishna for help during distress just like Nanda and other cowherds did. Visvanatha Cakrvarti Thakura in his commentary to the anyabhilasita sunyam verse in Bhakti rasamrta Sindhu comments:

"In this verse the phrase anyabhilasa-sunyam has not been used. Instead, the phrase anyabhilasita-sunyam has been chosen. This means 'devoid of other desires which are as deep-rooted as one’s nature.' In death threatening situations, a devotee may say, '0 Lord! Please save me, Your devotee, now from this danger.' Because it is a sudden, temporary desire, it is not harmful to his bhakti. That is because this desire arises beyond his control, opposite of his devotional nature That desire is not his nature".

Reading all these gives me great hope that the Lord is always looking out for His devotees and we can always depend on Him to protect us and our bhakti. Indeed He alone knows what is best for us.

Radhikesh das


*Reply*

Thu, 01/08/2009 - 14:12 — Karnamrita.das
A different question

Hare Krishna Radhikesa Prabhu!

Thanks so much for sharing! I have a few ideas in response.

This is a point I have made a few times, but it is still powerful. After all, repetition is the mother of skill. An idea is only as good as it is applied. Sometime just changing our questions can change our focus, our life and the answers we get. There is a saying that someone is "begging the question"--and certain questions limit the responses we get. Our questions reflect our beliefs about our self, our life, Krishna or whatever our interest is. I would suggest that rather than asking Krishna "why should there be difficult circumstances that makes practicing KC harder", you might ask what you need to learn from the presented problem, or what the gift or blessing is for you.

Another helpful perspective is that there are no problems, only service opportunities!

If we develop a vision that somehow what happens in our life is meant to benefit us spiritually and we look for that, we will get a different answer. Is the glass have empty or half full? That is an old saying yet still true. I have met people working the same job who had completely different perspectives of the work: one was so grateful for the job and very happy, the other resentful and miserable and it showed in the lines on both their faces. It is said in pop culture that it takes more effort to frown than smile. I don't know if its true, though it makes sense. Even putting a smile on our face makes us feel better! I try to wear a smile on my face, and it does amazing things for others, since in daily life most people don't appear joyful.

There is so much to be grateful and happy about, that we can remember that in different less then ideal circumstances, and feel joyful. We can ask ourself, "What am I focusing on?" After all we are a particle of Krishna who is supreme joy and love, so it is not false to be happy or loving. It is just manifesting the truth of who we are. Or we can associate with joyful people or go to uplifting spiritual environments or even esthetically beautiful or scenic areas and feel better. Happiness, joy and love are really a choice! Abraham Lincoln said it well that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. So much of how we see life is our perception and attitude. Such power we all have!

In addition, I think if one has a person specific mission it is also easier to tolerate reverses, since they are seen in light of that, and not that we are just suffering for nothing or from cruel fate.

Ultimately our joy comes from our spiritual advancement and absorption in K.C., so to the extent that we are seeing things in relationship to Krishna we will be more or less happy. The lamentation of the great saints is a different thing, although for them that is happiness. No harm in being pained by our lack of K.C., yet only if it is an impetus for our service, and we shouldn't ALWAYS be sad about it. I also don't respond well to distress (though I do remember Krishna), so why should I allow myself to stay sad? That doesn't help me, and can lead to depression. What is favorable for our service, what is not favorable?

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


*Reply*

Fri, 01/09/2009 - 05:50 — Radhikesh
Thank you...

Karnamrita Prabhu for your enlightening perspectives. You are really a big help to many devotees here.

When unpleasant things strike me and I feel down, I do remember the many times that Krishna has saved me and I feel grateful. I have indeed asked the 'different' questions about what Krishna is trying to teach me thru these problems.

Sometimes I realize it is simply the mind putting on a false ego getting absorbed in the problem just like the song of the Avanti brahmana suggests. Sometimes I dont understand what the lesson is. Sometimes I understand and take appropriate action and feel thankful. Sometimes I understand but unable to do anything to rectify the situation. Sometimes I understand but due to material attachment ignore the solution and continue to suffer. But in all circumstances there is an underlying joy that I am able to remember Krishna, who eternally remains the Lord of all circumstances. As you pointed out there is so much to be grateful and happy about, that we can remember that in different less then ideal circumstances, and feel joyful.

I agree that the lamentation of the great saints is a different thing and it is happiness for them. I am sorry I gave the impression that great devotees see the problems in the manner I see them. I should have thought about it more and clarified it better. Thanks for correcting me. Indeed the highest bliss is the separation experienced by the gopis from Krishna.

And yes to be absorbed in being sad is the other side of the coin of being absorbed in material happiness.

Thank you for responding to my comments.
Your servant
Radhikesh das


*Reply*

Sat, 01/10/2009 - 08:35 — Karnamrita.das
Repitition

I was sure that much of what I shared was not knew to you, yet I still repeated it for the benefit of everyone. Of course it doesn't hurt to hear these things repeatedly. Such is the nature of this medium that I try to say things for the questioner and everyone. I also wasn't think you were comparing yourself to the great saints. I was only pointing out the distinctions since some devotees have a difficult time understanding how to apply a standard that seems beyond them. At least we can aspire to have those spiritual feelings of insignificance or great ecstasy--to pick two--obtained from realization of Krishna rather then false humility, egoic happiness or any number of ways we may try to imitate. We are students and teachers of each other.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


Fri, 01/09/2009 - 02:09 — Go-Seva
Both ways

Hare Krsna prabhuji~ Your statement that "if one has a ...specific mission, it is easier to tolerate reverses...." really rings true. I feel that way generally, as I don't really remember when "times were good", and I was unable to remember Krsna due to reveling in great fortune. I am sure that sounds pitiful, but good times for me have been over for many years (the trials and tribulations of raising children tends to make this so.)

When something worse or more challenging than usual happens, I tend to think, "Hmmm.... I wonder what the outcome of this will be?" and "What is Krsna trying to teach me here?"

Also, I was thinking (and discussing with my husband) your statement about being a "manifesting" type person. Are people who don't endeavor to change things (the non-manifesting type) better situated than those who do? Should we all just chalk everything up as being the will of Krsna? I mean, it is all His will anyway, so will our "endeavoring" or "manifesting" move things along? Or only if Krsna is the goal anyway?

Just wondering if this trait is considered favorable or unfavorable to the path to KC.

Thanks, as always, prabhuji. Haribol!

your servant,
Lisa


*Reply*

Fri, 01/09/2009 - 13:50 — Karnamrita.das
Every person has a different nature as well as life experiences, and although it is good to try to "walk in another person's moccasins" to empathize with them it is not always easy. So does your statement about your kids, mean you were in bliss before you had them, but now you have no freedom, being tied to such "eternal" responsibilities? I don't mean to put you on the spot in a public forum, though from my perspective our discussions here are for the questioner, myself, and whoever may read this.

Many people have kids, and there is a wide variety of interpretations of it. I am sure most devotees and people in general would say it is a mixed experience. From a spiritual perspective it is one way to retire our desires for having children and enjoying the pleasures of married life. We only had one son, and it wasn't a difficult time for me--we wouldn't have dreamed of home schooling him either, so I am sure that makes it harder for you!

From my experience it is great when the kids are grown and out of the house, though we still miss our son. Having children is often one of our strongest attachments--they are one with us, yet they are their own people and make it abundantly clear as they grow up. It is where you need to be now as I am sure you well know--though we sometimes want to run away from it.

In my opinion there are no "good old days". Today is all we have. Again, easy to say, but we have to "be here now" and be present for the lessons. Love means sacrifice, so we are practicing loving and sacrificing for our children so we can love and sacrifice for Krishna---actually as much as possible we try to offer our household life and all the services we do for our family as service to Guru and Krishna.

Arjuna didn't want to fight, but to give it up and live by begging. He thought it would be easier live by begging then having to fight with his family. This dilemma was the basis for his existential crisis, for which the Bhagavad-gita was spoken. Then Arjuna accepted Krishna as his guru and Krishna told him his duty was to fight and he explained the whole science of bhakti.

There is a famous quote that if we can learn to take pleasure in doing our duty we will find happiness---or something like that. Of course we would add that we will find happiness by doing our ordinary duties for Krishna, and the ultimately doing Krishna's work alone. [see the Gita's 12 chapter]

Sorry to go off on tangent here, though I thought it might be relevant to speak about family.

As far as which is better--being a "manifesting" type or a "go with the flow" type, I would say it depends on many factors. Both types of persons are needed in the world. I mentioned how we should be grateful that Prabhupada was a manifesting person. So if you are one that is not bad. The difficulty is if you think you are the doer and the cause of your success or failure, and if you are attached to the results. We want to do it nicely for Krishna, and we endeavor to our full capacity, while depending on Krishna. Even if we are not successful the endeavor to work for Krishna is purifying.

Some people are workaholics and "have to be manifesting" and often burn out. It is all a question of balance. If you are called to make things happen, like a business, farm community, temple or what have you, then go for it, depending on Krishna, knowing that you are only an instrument:

"Therefore get up. Prepare to fight and win glory. Conquer your enemies and enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasaci, can be but an instrument in the fight." [BG 11.33]

"You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty." [BG 2.47]

If we consider ourself the cause of the results of our work that binds us karmically. Understanding our duty is very important, though in the modern world that is often not very clear--though we learn through experience and introspection. We may criticize the ancient social systems, yet one's occupational duty used to be clear. Today we are a real mixture of so many tendencies and the social system is chaotic. So we do the best we can by studying the scriptures and consulting devotees with practical experience and spiritual standing. Uncommon common sense is key, as is doing the needful.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


*Reply*

Sat, 01/10/2009 - 02:14 — Go-Seva
Different life

Hare Krsna~ While I am very happy to have the opportunity to raise children in Krishna consciousness, it is a mixed blessing. I am always questioning my decisions about how to teach or correct, how to present things in the manner that children can understand, or if I am doing the right thing at any given time. These days, I feel like a referee, as having two small children who are determined to enjoy independently (and don't know yet that they cannot) occasionally ends up in a full-blown yelling/arguing match. This is just one example of the sort of daily challenges parents face. I suppose as with anything in life, there are ups and downs.

I do take pleasure in practicing and presenting Krishna Consciousness to the family, striving to improve a little every day and help others improve as well. I love serving Vaisnavas! The only thing that bothers me is that my sadhana is erratic at times, and my progress feels hindered. I see this as Krsna's mercy overall, but while in the day-to-day minutiae, it is excruciatingly frustrating and slow-going. Sort of like watching a train wreck in very slow motion sometimes, you know? Sometimes someone (!) has to remind me that Krsna is giving me exactly what I need at the time, little tests and the like.

I think of my life as "BK" and "AK": before Krsna and kids (the two coincidentally came into my life around the same time) and after Krsna and kids. It is hard to distinguish good times and bad, as I generally had all the freedom I wanted before kids but would squander it, so I suppose I consider this "good times." This is not to say that some of the most excellent experiences of my life happened AK; they absolutely have. It's like when you realize what a miserable situation you are in languishing in this material sorrow, it isn't good at all. Then, a realization or glimmer of spiritual life comes about, and it erases all of the misery from the slate and wipes it clean. I am still trying to live in balance, as I strive to take happiness and distress in the same manner by being as tolerant as a tree. Small children who sometimes conspire to trip you up in some way tend to test this tolerance! Yet another way to always remember the Lord..... And I am very determined, above all else, to always do that.

Haribol!

your servant,
Lisa


Fri, 01/09/2009 - 04:42 — Snehal
Determination

Hare Krishna to all of you!

I went through all the discussion above and thought of sharing my perspective regarding this.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu prayed to Lord saying, "whether you kiss me or kick me, You are the only object of my worship." I first came across this statement in Dec 2006 while reading intoduction section in Srimad Bhagvatum first Chanto I really liked this outlook. Since then I have always tried to keep this perspective. And to my good fortune, I soon had an oppurtunity to actually understand and practice this.

"Whether you kiss me or kick me, You are the only object of my worship."
This one statement from none other than Lord Himself tells us, that to walk on this path of devotional service, one really has to be determined. Adverses that come in the way, are the oppurtunities to show Krishna how determined I am to please you and have your love. So every time I face an adverse situation, I increase my spirutual activities specially chanting and serving other devotees to gather strength to tolerate it and keep my determination going.

In adverse situations, I get very anxious and very low, but I always remember this statement from Shri Chaitnaya Mahaprabhu which helps me remain focused in my devotion.
In good times, I pray to Lord to give me strength to face the hard times and tolerate it. The awareness that the good circumstances can change any time, help me remain focused in good times. Thus I try to live upto the teaching of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.


*Reply*

Sat, 01/10/2009 - 08:41 — Karnamrita.das
Important to hear and speak!

Yes, it is super that you are sharing your realizations. You have a good understanding and I find it inspiring that you are using the good intelligence Krishna has blessed you with. Prabhupada told us that hearing and explaining is more important then just reading. If we don't share what we value we may loose it. K.C is meant to be shared, and the more we share it the deeper we go into it.

The philosophy of Krishna consciousness is meant to help us deal with the world in all its complexities, in it happiness and distress and what have you. People suffer needlessly without the proper understanding of the soul, the material world, Krishna and their interactions. And we are meant to help each other by sharing our realizations and verses and purports we find inspiring.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


*Reply*

Sun, 01/11/2009 - 00:32 — Snehal
I agree

Hare Krishna!

I agree to what you say regarding sharing our realizations. In fact I think Krishna gives us different realizations and teaches so many things not just for our benefit but by doing this He enables us to be used as His intrument to help others. So I strongly believe, that realizations and teachings are not meant only for the one who gets it but it is for the benefit of others. When we get any realization we must like responsible devotees share it with others as by sharing relazations and inspiring teachings we are severing Krishna to shower His mercy on others.

Haribol!

Snehal