Could You Know Your Soul, and, In Pursuit of God, Joyfully Embrace Problems? Part 2
One of the original and great motivational speakers in the United States, and the father of “positive thinking,” was Rev. Norman Vincent Peale. He tells many interesting and instructive stories concerning his responses to people who approached him for help and spiritual counseling. One person in particular he recalled so poured his heart out complaining about the countless problems he seemed to always encounter, that Norman considered he needed a profound teaching example. The man expressed that if only he would be free of his nasty problems, then surely he would be happy. At a certain point, Rev. Peale told him that he knew a place where the people had no more problems, and he enquired if the man would like to visit there. The man replied with an enthusiastic “yes.”
They drove silently for 15 minutes, and pulled into a long driveway. “Here my friend,” said Norman, “is a place where the people have no more problems.” It was a graveyard! In other words, without problem or difficulties, we are like dead people. Rev. Peale told the main that if he had no problems in his life, then he felt the Lord didn’t trust him with the sources of his personal, spiritual growth—and so he prayed for a “man-sized” problem! Queen Kunti speaks in a similar way in the Shrimad Bhagavatam when she prays for continued calamities, if the Lord would continue to be with them. She preferred this to a quiet, peaceful life in Krishna’s absence! She is teaching us what is important and what is spiritual happiness—Krishna consciousness—and what is actual distress—separation from the Lord and his devotees. This is irrespective of whether our circumstances could be labeled on the surface, as good or bad, happy or sad.
By spiritual practice and knowledge, we are meant to gain a new relationship with the material world, and what we might be conditioned to think are those damn problems and disappointments. Many people have correctly said that problems are opportunities. This isn’t just a cliché, but is a fact for all, and especially for those in the loving hands of Krishna. Are we “fair-weather” friends with Krishna, who will serve Him only when things go our way, and are ready to jump ship when we are smacked by calamities or problems? Life’s reverses or tribulations give us the opportunity to demonstrate our realization in depending on Krishna and always remembering Him. You don’t have to pray for them, since they are inevitable, but we have to come to the stage of actually welcoming them when they come, and seeing the hand of Krishna in all events in our life.
For a devotee, the universe is friendly, which is a paraphrase of the important verse in the Tenth Canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam where Lord Brahma prays: "One who seeks Your compassion and thus tolerates all kinds of adverse conditions due to the karma of his past deeds, who engages always in Your devotional service with his mind, words and body, and who always offers obeisances unto You is certainly a bona fide candidate for becoming Your unalloyed devotee.” In the commentary to this verse we read that “although a devotee has surrendered to the Lord's devotional service, until he is completely perfect in Krishna consciousness he may maintain a slight inclination to enjoy the false happiness of this world. The Lord therefore creates a particular situation to eradicate this remaining enjoying spirit. This unhappiness suffered by a sincere devotee is not technically a karmic reaction; it is rather the Lord's special mercy for inducing His devotee to completely let go of the material world and return home, back to Godhead.”
To conclude, by studying the scriptures, engaging in devotional service, chanting the holy name, and hearing from saintly persons, we can realize our spiritual joyful nature and loving relationship with Krishna. To remain fixed on the path we have to continually recommit to our basic spiritual practices, being aware of, and becoming free from, those thoughts or activities which deviate or distract us, or weaken our faithful resolve to make devotional progress. As we increase our affection for serving Krishna and His devotees, our relationship to life and other people change. Rather than being self-centered and looking for ways to please our senses and material self, we will find our happiness in service. We will gradually see whatever happens to us, or the results of the choices we make as either good or bad, not by the activities themselves but to the extent that they do, or don’t, foster our dependence, remembrance and love of Krishna. [if you missed part 1 you can read it by clicking here, as it sets the scene for what you just read: http://www.krishna.com/blog/2012/03/1/could-you-know-your-soul-and-pursu... ]