More Suffering, Please …
Last I checked, the death rate is still 100%. The only thing we’re taking with us is love and the current state of our progress in this life in learning how to love.
If God is all about love, then why do people have to suffer? This seems contradictory and, perhaps, even a bit hypocritical.
When you think about it, though, suffering is a very subjective experience. The perception of misery completely depends on our angle of vision. Sometimes people endure physical pain for the sake of psychological happiness, such as giving birth to a baby. Sometimes we take on a psychological austerity for the betterment of our physical body, eg. diet and exercise.
I’ve been to the dalit “slumdog” sections of major Indian cities and, more than once, seen some guy cooking dinner for his family in a hubcap; but he had a smile on his face. I’m not talking about a painted on social anxiety driven smile, but a real ear-to-ear expression of joy. Conversely, I’ve also had very wealthy friends with home tennis courts, maids, concept cars and a massive house who live in a state of misery, unable to form relationships due to anxiety over who their “real” friends are and who are the gold diggers.
It really does come down to perspective and our association. To resentfully blame God for our perceived suffering is short-sighted and emotionally driven. We can elevate our perspective on this common outlook with some philosophy.
For the sake of analogy, if we are looking towards the sun, we don’t see the duality of light and shadow. These are only experienced when looking away from the source of light. Similarly, if we are looking towards Kṛṣṇa, or God, we will see everything in our experience as illuminated with the light of His love. Our suffering can then take on a new context as being gifted to us to help teach us, guide us, grow us and preserve us on the path of divine love. Moreover, our happiness in this world is seen less as a destination, but more as a passing favourable breeze and temporary relief from the tribulations of life. Perceived good and bad come to us as a result of our own actions. We reap what we sow, aka. karma.
Kṛṣṇa advises us in Bhagavad-gītā (2.56) to not get too carried away with the coming and going of happiness and distress in this world:
duḥkheṣv anudvigna-manāḥ sukheṣu vigata-spṛhaḥ
vīta-rāga-bhaya-krodhaḥ sthita-dhīr munir ucyate
One who is not disturbed in mind even amidst the threefold miseries or elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.
Sounds great, right? So how do we become all of this amazing stuff like undisturbed and free from fear and anger? It must be nice for some but, for the rest of us, what to do?
Our perspective depends almost entirely on who and what we spend our time with.
Devotees of Kṛṣṇa deep dive on this principle of seeing suffering as being given to us by Kṛṣṇa and take it personally; not in a negative sense, but as His love pulling us closer by showing us where not to look for satisfaction. Last I checked, the death rate is still 100%. The only thing we’re taking with us is love and the current state of our progress in this life in learning how to love. There was a country song popular when I was a kid, “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.” Well, that’s us.
The brilliant literature Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.8 ) gives us this example to think about:
tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam
hṛd-vāg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te jīveta yo mukti-pade sa dāya-bhāk
My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.
This isn’t a cute sentiment, but an outlook that we eventually will need to come to terms with if we’re going to make any substantive progress in our devotional life. Not being able to go deep leaves us at the surface of the ocean where waves crash and we get tossed about just trying to survive.
A master-class in this deeper outlook is given by our female guru Kunti Mahārānī whose words (śikṣā) Śrīla Vyāsadeva felt were essential enough to be preserved for us in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.8.25):
vipadaḥ santu tāḥ śaśvat tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darśanaṁ yat syād apunar bhava-darśanam
I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.
She had been through so much with her family, but was in rapture by seeing Kṛṣṇa face-to-face when He came to help them out, so she prayed to Him for more suffering just so she could cast her eyes on His beautiful transcendental form.
Next level! I’m blown away just thinking about it; but then I wonder how to apply this to my own life.
Going back to our analogy, Kuntidevi was so absorbed in “looking at the sun” that she saw suffering as something desirable, were it to keep her absorbed in the sunlight of Kṛṣṇa’s presence.
Suburban Mysticism is free, but if you feel inspired and want to share some love, consider buying Ekendra a broccoli.
No part of this text was generated with artificial intelligence; just “flawsome” human thoughts here … with, of course, homage to The Algorithm that abides over us all.
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