Smiling in the Face of Difficulties
I was inspired to write this blog in the face of my intense pain preceding my tooth extraction, and my wife's present illness. Everything which we experience is meant to be thought about deeply and seen in relationship to God. According to Shri Prahlad Maharaja, a saint whose great devotion caused the incarnation of Krishna as Lord Nrisimhadeva, there are two main problems with the material world: experiencing that which we don’t want, and separation from our loved ones. These two might be considered a general outgrowth of the Gita’s analysis of “the fourfold miseries” of birth, disease, old age and death. I think it safe to say that we can all look at our life and expand these basic categories. Our list of miseries seems to be greater than our list of pleasurable activities, and everyone’s struggle is to tip life on the positive pleasurable side. The main trust of the force of illusion, or “maya” is thinking that in the future we can be happy by merely material adjustments or through science and technology.
The human condition is to want to be happy, fulfilled, feel good, make a contribution, and to avoid the opposite. Many visitors to Krishna.com want to get out of some distressful condition centered around insufficient money or earning power. How can worship of Krishna get them out of their material problems and bring them material happiness? Thinking about this, it is natural for me to remember another list of four which are what the Vedas are generally considered to offer those who follow their injunctions. Beginning with religion and pious life, we realize economic development, which is required for sense gratification (material happiness of home, occupation, possessions, family, society, love, etc). Finally, when one is frustrated with the previous three items, we seek liberation (salvation) from material bondage which we have experienced as problematic and temporary.
To be a theist is better than to decry God, and certainly one can worship God for a variety of reasons. We should understand at some point in our spiritual awakening that we are a small spark of God, and not the center. Thus there must be a higher purpose outside our tiny desires for material things and security. Usually we all see the world according to our agenda, thinking we are the subject while the world consists of objects for us to enjoy or exploit. However, the Supreme Source or God, has his own agenda, and we are on it! He is actually the Supreme Subject and we his objects or parts meant to cooperator to serve his divine purpose. That is our eternal function and will enable us to realize our real, lasting happiness.
Therefore, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the great mercy incarnation for this age and the propagator of kirtan to realize our true self, has emphasized the 5th and true goal of Vedic study and practice: Krishna prema, or love of God. This also means reestablishing our primal relationship with God or Krishna. For many people that may seem abstract, theoretical or a luxury even, in the face of poverty or some kind of lack, limitation, or suffering. Sometimes Hindus are afraid to worship Krishna, also known as “Hari”, who takes everything away, and they may prefer to worship some other form of divinity that is thought to give material boons more easily. This is really a mistaken idea based on a false conception of who we eternally are. Actually, the true meaning of “Hari” is one who captures our heart by his charming character and beauty!
The fact is that a big part of people’s motivation to practice religion is to secure material prosperity. Certainly we all require some material facility to keep our body alive, yet more importantly we need spiritual food. Why? Because it is not that we “have a soul”, but we are the soul, or the conscious perceiver and experiencer of life. From this perspective, the root cause of all our dissatisfaction is not lack of material resources, but our inner existential hunger for loving God. Without fulfilling this love nothing we do or possess will fulfill the spiritual vacuum in our heart. Our original love for Krishna is covered by our bodily identification which forces us to hanker for temporary things and relationships, and to fearfully try to avoid death. Such material endeavors I would call a spiritual diversion. To avoid it, it’s necessary to become philosophical and understand our spiritual nature and the purpose of the Universe and life.
We don’t want to just be religious people who color our life with a Godly brush, but to be spiritual people whose primary goal in life is to serve and love God. If we strive for this purpose, all other purposes will be served. And in the process we will understand why this website is called, “Krishna.com” and not “God.com”. As I have blogged about before, there is one spiritual system in the Universe, and many different aspects and forms of God. Be curious to look for the similarities between religions, rather than to dogmatically assert that yours is the one and only true faith. And examine me and other devotees of Krishna and ask us questions. Are you ready to discount our inner experience and believe that we aren’t having any spiritual experience of God or Krishna? Become a spiritual researcher and understand your eternal soul and your relationship with God. Don’t begin with the conclusion or doubt that you want to find, but be open to learn and expand your understanding
To be able to be joyful spiritually and to actually smile in the face of material setbacks and adversities, we have to become mini spiritual philosophers by studying Bhagavad Gita and other Vedic literature as well as by associating with those who live their lives by following their tenets. In other words, we don’t want to be merely armchair philosophers, but to be joyful devotional mystics who understand that the spiritual is the true dimension of existence and lasting happiness. I am convinced of this, and I encourage you to find out for yourself.