Relationships--in sickness and health
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!