Relationships--in sickness and health

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My wife and I share many things. Sometimes we share sickness, and today we are both "under the weather" with some type of flu or the like. I rose after my usual sleep quota of 7 hours to put wood on the fire and take some ginger root and lozenges for my throat, but went back to bed. After that we got up late to chant (mantra meditation or prayers). As we sat together with our tissues and my ginger tea before our beautiful Deities (scripturally described forms of God fashioned in material elements), I thought about my relationship to chanting as similar to my commitment to my marriage vows. They are both a relationship with a person and require constant dedication and determination amidst many diverse situations.

Part of the standard marriage vows in most religions is for the couple to promise to stay together in happiness or distress, sickness or health etc. So we also want to "stay with" (God) Radha and Krishna and their holy name (the Maha or great mantra) in all variety of material circumstances--rich or poor, young or old, success or failure, happiness or calamity, healthy or sickness. As devotees of Radha Krishna (the Divine Couple) we want our relationship and affection for them to be the center of our life and our most cherished aspiration, keeping the company of those with similar feelings and desires. With that core foundation in place in our life we can deal with--by Divine help--anything that may come our way.

What is really important anyway? The external world and our desires for things, relationships and status is just like the ephemeral will-of-wisp in the forest, which comes and goes and has no staying power. Part of Krishna consciousness is gaining a philosophical understanding of the temporary, miserable nature of the material world, and understanding where the real shelter and lasting happiness is through uncovering our love for God. According to our realization we apply these truths, hopefully in a progressive way as we mature as a person and go deeper into our spiritual practice on the path of prema (love of Krishna).

At one time (about 25 years ago), due to my desires to enjoy the world and my destined difficulties, I thought the Krishna Consciousness (bhakti-yoga) philosophy was very negative and restricting. I couldn't hear Prabhupada (my guru or mentor) speak or even pick up a Vedic scriptural book--it was too much for me at this time in my life. You could say I was overcome by the negativity going on in my life and the world of devotees of Krishna or Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Thus my personal "world" was in upheaval and I became very cynical and critical. Never the less I continued to chant the Hare Krishna mantra on my beads, go to the temple, and consider myself some kind of Krishna devotee.

I couldn't forget my youthful existential crisis (see my bio here on my profile), my out of body experiences, or the spiritual taste I experienced living the life as a devotee. In spite of that remembrance, I was very confused and didn't know which world I fit into. It was my most difficult time on my spiritual path. I got through that period by Krishna's (Krishna means the all-attractive and irresistible form of God) mercy, and so I firmly believe that whatever difficulty you--or anyone--may be going through can be overcome in time. My experiences of overcoming adversity also helps me have compassion for Krishna devotees in crisis or anyone who may appear to be covered by materialism. I know that, "This too will pass", as Krishna is expert at getting our attention to bring us back to his shelter. Though we may apparently forget him temporarily, he never forgets our service to him or his devotees.

Being sick is a fabulous metaphor, since it is a helpless condition, and if truth be told, our material body and mind are a diseased condition for the soul. Think about this. We can't stay in our body, or in our family, place of birth or material situation. We will go after death--which may come any time--to a situation which corresponds to the state of consciousness we develop in this life. That is the spiritual law of existence.

If we love Krishna (or whatever our conception of God is) and are attached to his service and his devout, we return to him or at least to a life circumstance to continue our unfinished spiritual service. If we love matter then we return to another material, temporary situation. Our mind and awareness can be our friend or enemy. Our human life is great opportunity to awaken to our real healthy life of serving God or devotional service. Without Krishna consciousness (or spirituality), our body and life is a bad bargain for the bound soul, but with Krishna consciousness everything and every situation works to help us turn toward (Spirit) Krishna and see him as our life's shelter and goal. We are defined in the material world by our faith and attachments--and we go there at death.

What is good or bad? Some materially unfortunate situations--though we don't want them--can be the best thing for putting life, material desires, disease, or death into perspective. So good or bad for a devotee is not on the material platform, but is determined by what fosters our dependence on our guru (spiritual mentors) and Krishna. We have to discern where our true lasting shelter is and act accordingly. We begin understanding this truth where we are and build on that.

The idea is to gradually construct a Temple in our heart for the worship of God, or (in my spiritual tradition) Shri Radha Krishna, or Shri Chaitanya and Nitai etc. We want to enthrone the Lord in our pure clean heart. This "Heart Temple" will carry us to the land of no return, or the land of eternity and bliss, (the spiritual world) Goloka Vrindavana, where we love and serve our most worshipable Deities through our special relationship with them. Krishna consciousness (bhakti-yoga) is the process of developing spiritual faith and gradually realization of this ideal, regardless of our material situation......Time for more ginger root!

Combined comments from old site

Sun, 02/22/2009 - 03:50 — piyush misra
hare krishna

obesiences,
A touching experience of life,really worth sharing. such a deep truth stated in so simple words,thank you.
love certainly needs both commitment and sacrifice.it is a give and take that act like all for all,bhakta wants to empty himself by giving all he has and lord also. again both lord and their devotees are inseparable and an asset to each other. the commitments made in love are altogether different from worldly ones, what a mother gets in lieu of breastfeeding her child?does not even she sacrifices her sleep? which option will be pleasurable to her - hungry child for sound sleep ( will she get?) or sleepless night for satisfying the child's need? which option is prudent?

what is good or bad?

"Burden of sins committed in millions of births come to an end at the moment the creature looks towards me"
- Lord Ram in Ramcharitmanas

it is self evident that what is good and again nothing is bad because of this commitment of all blissful lord. lord expects us to do as per the capacity he has granted to us.
Your servant


Thu, 02/19/2009 - 11:28 — PerpetualDawn
True love..

True love manifests as our willingness to extend ourselves for the benefit of the other.Relevant both your wife and Krishna in this post.


Wed, 02/18/2009 - 09:40 — DBB
Karnamrita Das Prabhu,

Hare Krishna!

As usual I liked your post. Found it very educational and inspiring - when you said that we should continue our relationship with Krishna in all ups and downs of life. Right. If relationship continues only when we are happy and breaks when we are not happy, then such a relationship is not good one. You gave me another realization, another dimension of devotional wisdom.

Durga


Wed, 02/18/2009 - 14:23 — Karnamrita.das
Fair Weather Friends

You might have heard the expression, "fair weather friends". It means those who are friends when things are sunny, but don't stay when we often need them the most in the storms of our life. Many religious people are cozy with God when their life is going well, but tend to become mad at him when there is some reverse or especially a traumatic upset. It brings up an age old question of who to blame for evil or suffering in the world or in our life.

Understanding karma and reincarnation go a long way in making inexplicable suffering or reverses in life understandable at least in theory. Then there is the deeper implication of our choosing to be in the material world in the first place--once upon a timeless past! We have to come to a place where we accept personal responsibility for our life--not in a dysfunctional way--but in a way that we can make changes in our life--if possible--though certainly in our consciousness and where we see our shelter.

We can't do much about our being in the material world--we are here. However, there is much we can do about our future destination. This is the most important thing. We have to change what we can change, and that only happens in the present, moment by moment. A drowning man doesn't debate how he fell in the water but gladly accepts the rope.

Another very valuable perspective to adopt is that Krishna is our dear-most friend and well-wisher, and that whatever happens to us as devotees is meant for our highest good. We tend to notice what we focus on, or according to our faithful or doubtful perspective. Look for the pearl, the nectar, the silver lining. That in itself will change your life.

It is not WHAT happens to us, but how we INTERPRET what happens to us that make the difference in our life. Some people see a purposeless universe, or angry punishing God, or some see the kind, loving hand of Krishna, who is minimizing our suffering and helping us to take shelter of him in all circumstances. Every situation can be favorable for service, and there are no material impediments. There are no problems, only service opportunity. Our life is the arena to practice these perspectives. Faith builds up, doubt tears down. Associate with faithful, realized devotees, and avoid the doubters and criticizers.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


*Reply*

Mon, 02/23/2009 - 08:56 — EternalMuser
Your words are like nectar...

Hare Krishna Prabhu,
My humble pranams.
Your 'fair weather friend' concept is so true with so many people. And yet I beg to point out, there are some ungrateful people like me who conveniently forget Krishna in times of joy and remember Him in times of pain e.g. illness.
I confess that for many days I was deeply submerged in materialistic enjoyment and had completely forgotten Krishna. Until yesterday when I was diagnosed to have a non-dangerous but painful abdominal condition which requires surgery. I was suddenly made aware, as if a bucket of ice water had been thrown on me, that how wretchedly undependable and disease-prone this physical body is and HOW MUCH I endeavor to pamper it!!
Also the idea of surgery sacred me a bit. So as usual I turned to Krishna and in consequence, Krishna.com And lo! There was your Blog with advice so apt to my situation, that you may have well written it for me. Your words have been for me like water for a thirsty man in a desert. And it is all His Mercy! Because now, not only will I chant again regularly, but when I'm lying down on the under those lamps in the Operating Room surrounded by masked people, waiting to be knocked out, I'm confident I won't be alone. My dear Friend Krishna will also be my side...
Thank you Prabhu, a countless times!
Your eternal servant,
Eternal Muser


*Reply*

Mon, 02/23/2009 - 10:27 — Karnamrita.das
In happiness or distress

It is true that some turn to Krishna more easily when things are going well, and some in great reverses. Queen Kunti prayed for life difficulties not because she like to suffer, but because during their great problems Krishna was there to help them. At the time she made her prayers, Krishna appeared to be leaving them--and to her, although their lives were apparently happy, separation from Krishna was the greatest unhappiness. For advanced devotees service and association with Krishna and his devotees is really happiness. Anything else is misery--whether externally successful or prosperous!

When some of us we were first traveling our spiritual path we were "bottomed out" in a material sense and that brought us to take shelter of Krishna. In a way we were forced by our past life's spiritual practice (which created the necessary miserable conditions) to again take up the path. We had to realize that we had no lasting shelter in matter. As souls we are by nature pleasure seeking, so when we see no happiness in the world we look for it spiritually.

Whatever way we can see Krishna as our true loving friend and shelter. Life is tottering and we can be forced to leave our current body and family at any time. Sometimes we are fortunate to be reminded.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


Wed, 02/18/2009 - 06:58 — Aruna Locana
Good Comparison

Hare Krsna Karnamrita prabhu, thats a very nice post. I liked the comparison you made about relationships with japa. It's easier to understand the way you presented, I have never thought in this way. In one of my articles I wrote about how our relationship with the family members can help us to understand our relationship with Krsna.
Also the results of our chanting reflects on our every day life, I was reminded of that today and its something I didnt think about either.
Nice topics here, thank you for this service.

May Krsna always bless you and your family like that.

Hare Krsna
yr servant

Aruna dd


Wed, 02/18/2009 - 14:31 — Karnamrita.das
Life as our teacher

We can learn from everything and everyone in our life if we are open to learn. Even from a seemingly simple situation like sitting to chant while being sick can spark our deep contemplation.

Our attentive or inattentive chanting--our time with Radha and Krishna--make all the difference in our life and each day.

Thanks for your well wishing. We all need to pray for and bless each other, regardless of how insignificant we feel ourselves to be. At the very least it is good for us, yet Krishna works through even his beginning devotees. Prayer is powerful.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita