Could You Know Your Soul, and, In Pursuit of God, Joyfully Embrace Problems? Part 1

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Author: 
Karnamrita Das

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With or without spiritual life, we will experience the miseries of the material world such as disease, old age, the death of our body or a loved one, seemly untimely. Unexpected stuff happens—guaranteed! Our car is totaled, we are injured, our house burns down or is submerged in water, or someone steals our possessions. People disappoint us. Leaders act inappropriately or give up their spiritual practices. Someone who inspires us dies. Relationships go sour. Chronic diseases plague us. Money is scarce, or we may experience any number of problems—and after we have dedicated our life to becoming Krishna conscious! Such events may make us question our connection to bhakti or to Krishna and we feel discouraged or depressed, as human nature tends to blame God for our suffering. Thus, it is essential to be conversant with the scriptures and note the apparent reverses suffered by great souls, and how they go through them and depend on Krishna throughout. In fact, they are teaching us how to live in all circumstances.
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If you could know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were an eternal spiritual being mixed up in a material body and mind that had nothing to do with your soul, and that real happiness wasn’t possible through your senses, physical achievement, or by accumulating things, how would you live differently? If you became convinced that the real problems of life didn't revolve around merely maintaining your false sense of material identity, but in realizing your soul by waking up to your true self, how would you see the goal of your life? In addition to your new awareness of yourself as eternal consciousness, if you could know that you had an everlasting, ecstatically loving relationship with Krishna—that He was the true love of your heart and soul—and that all other relationships were but a dim reflection of this primal relationship—how would you think about your material attractions, and what would be aspiring for?

And if you could understand that the key to comprehending all the preceding premises could be realized by living your life according to the principles of bhakti outlined in devotional literature such as the Bhagavad Gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, and in chanting the holy names of Krishna in saintly association, in what spirit would you read these scriptures and how would you endeavor to follow them; in what mood would you chant; how eager would you be for being with those of spiritual standing? In short, who would you then be, and want to become? When we discover a new spiritual light, we then pursue that with full earnest.

Although the above questions are meant to outline Krishna consciousness and pique the interest of someone new to Krishna, they are also a reminder for those already on the path. The beginning of a journey (in this case, our journey to Krishna) is just that, the beginning, not the end, and we must continually remember in gratitude why we came to Krishna, the shortcomings of matter, and what our life was before becoming dedicated to bhakti. Otherwise, we can become complacent, or caught up in the drama of life as we pass through our desires and difficulties (I speak from experience!). After our initial enthusiasm for the path, that may be likened to anything new, similar to an infatuated “love” relationship which at first seems effortless and perfect, but is later tested by the fire of ordeal and commitment, so too is our walk with Krishna tested.
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In the long haul of a lifetime of our divine aspirations, our everyday “routine” endeavor in spiritual practice will be challenged, and we must go deeper to gain a spiritual taste and deep realization of what we are striving for. We can only tread water for so long, and we will eventually have to go backwards or further up the spiritual mountain. To continue to make progress we much revisit our dedication, and revive our vows to stay on the path. Feeling our “spiritual pulse” we must look at our interests and deep desires—in our heart of hearts, not just my “shoulds,” or the profile we display socially? To know this requires continual self-examination and help from experienced elders, since our conditioned nature and desires may remain dormant for some time, and only seek their food at a certain age. This is why formal renunciation is only recommended for very advanced devotees, who are mature in realization, and generally, in years.

With or without spiritual life, we will experience the miseries of the material world such as disease, old age, the death of our body or a loved one, seemly untimely. Unexpected stuff happens—guaranteed! Our car is totaled, we are injured, our house burns down or is submerged in water, or someone steals our possessions. People disappoint us. Leaders act inappropriately or give up their spiritual practices. Someone who inspires us dies. Relationships go sour. Chronic diseases plague us. Money is scarce, or we may experience any number of problems—and after we have dedicated our life to becoming Krishna conscious! Such events may make us question our connection to bhakti or to Krishna and we feel discouraged or depressed, as human nature tends to blame God for our suffering. Thus, it is essential to be conversant with the scriptures and note the apparent reverses suffered by great souls, and how they go through them and depend on Krishna throughout. In fact, they are teaching us how to live in all circumstances.
Bilvamangala Thakur
The suffering of advanced devotees in the scriptures, or in our experience, glorifies and beatifies them. No life or story is compelling, instructive, or interesting without an antagonist, or reverses to overcome. Are there any notable books about people who were always successful, never faced any obstacles, and always had everything go their way? Is that even possible, or desirable? If the Pandavas had no rivalry with their cousin-brothers and had not had their rightful kingdom usurped, there would be no Mahabharata or Bhagavad Gita. If the great emperor, Maharaja Parikshit, wasn’t cursed to die in seven days, compelling Shukadeva Goswami to come to us aid and prepare him for his death, there would be no Shrimad Bhagavatam.

Without Prahlad’s demoniac father trying to kill him and his constant remembrance of Krishna, Lord Nrishmadeva would not have appeared, and we would know nothing about him (see Seventh Canto or Shrimad Bhagavatam). If the young prince Dhruva were not insulted by his step-mother and thus motivated to successfully seek God in the forest, who would have heard about him (Fourth Canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam)? In my experience, I can think of all the difficulties my guru, Shrila Prabhupada, faced in gaining permission from the Indian government to come to America—obstacle after obstacle successfully overcome—and then after he came, he struggled for a year in establishing the Krishna consciousness movement. During the remainder of his life, his struggles and successes in the face of them continued, and we read in wonder about his life, and his glorious death. A soldier is glorified on the battlefield, not in the office, and so great devotees, or spiritual persons, are glorified and known by the obstacles they surmounted—either internal, external, or both. (Continued in part 2: http://www.krishna.com/blog/2012/03/1/could-you-know-your-soul-and-pursu...)
Prabhupada in Butler PA

A positive approach

Hare Krishna prabhu ji
Pranams and dandavats
Thanks for the ever inspiring approach which we need to remember continuously.
Please keep on posting such blogs

Hare Krishna
Your dasa

Seeing reverses as mercy

A devotee isn't disturbed even in reverses, as outlined in Shrila Prabhupada's purport to SB 3.16.37: "When something is arranged by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one should not be disturbed by it, even if it appears to be a reverse according to one's calculations. For example, sometimes we see that a powerful preacher is killed, or sometimes he is put into difficulty, just as Haridasa Thakura was. He was a great devotee who came into this material world to execute the will of the Lord by preaching the Lord's glories. But Haridasa was punished at the hands of the Kazi by being beaten in twenty-two marketplaces. Similarly, Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, and Prahlada Maharaja was put through so many tribulations. The Pandavas, who were direct friends of Krsna, lost their kingdom, their wife was insulted, and they had to undergo many severe tribulations.

Seeing all these reverses affect devotees, one should not be disturbed; one should simply understand that in these matters there must be some plan of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Bhagavatam's conclusion is that a devotee is never disturbed by such reverses. He accepts even reverse conditions as the grace of the Lord. One who continues to serve the Lord even in reverse conditions is assured that he will go back to Godhead, back to the Vaikuntha planets. Lord Brahma assured the demigods that there was no use in talking about how the disturbing situation of darkness was taking place, since the actual fact was that it was ordered by the Supreme Lord. Brahma knew this because he was a great devotee; it was possible for him to understand the plan of the Lord."