Saturday, February 11, 2012

Living Well

Lord Rama's hand“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)

“How can God exist if so many bad things happen to good people? The struggles from cancer are a glaring indication. The fact that the body could grow something that starts to attack you from the inside - spreading to the vital organs and sapping your energy until the life is extracted from you, forming a slow and painful death - how can any loving God allow that to happen? What about the people who don’t worship the Lord at all, who think they are the doers in action, responsible for every single result that manifests - how are they able to get everything handed to them in life if they don’t even acknowledge God’s existence? Doesn’t that represent a flaw in the theory of theology? Shouldn’t you have to worship God in order to succeed?”

These are certainly important issues that when left unaddressed can derail the progress of even the most sincere spiritualist. Fortunately, if the proper set of information is consulted, not only will the Supreme Lord’s position be properly known, but what was previously erroneously considered good fortune and favorability will be understood to be hellish life. When there is hellish life, there is no question of favoritism from any higher power. Since the Supreme Lord’s actual position is that of the reservoir of pleasure, the fountainhead of all beautiful forms, a vision that is so sweet that the living entity purified through proper exercise of penance, austerity and sacrifice can’t get enough of it, it is understood that any forgetfulness of this person automatically creates an unpleasant situation, regardless of what the external conditions may say.

Picture living in a palatial mansion. You worked hard to acquire enough money to live comfortably. You didn’t worship at all; you didn’t think of God except for the times when death affected a close friend or family member. Everything is there for you in this house: a spouse, children, appliances, a steady dose of food and entertainment. Now ask yourself this: are you happy? Is securing the amenities in life the ultimate goal? You may have been inclined to think so previously, but now that you have everything, you’re definitely left feeling a little empty. There has to be more.

Why is that? The animals, those without the intelligence to deny the existence of God, let alone conjure up His image, never have to work for anything and yet they get the same amenities. The bird is happy living in the nest on a branch, the pig in its slop, the tiger in the jungle, and so on. In fact, the basic conditions are present from the time of birth; they don’t have to be created through hard work.

The human being may not realize this, but they are meant to transcend the base instincts of the animal, for that is why intelligence exists. If this weren’t the case, then living like an animal would be the right way to go. Just eat, sleep, mate and defend to feel the pleasures of life. What need is there then for culture, education, philosophy, science and so many other things that stimulate the mind?

The person lacking the spiritual association lives miserably. They may have billions of dollars in the bank and no financial worries, but that supreme happiness eludes them. Moreover, they can lose everything in a second, including their own life. The spirit soul exists through the many shifts of the body, thus it is the essence of identity. At the time of death, the soul continues on, but the body just lies there. The soul continues to roam from body to body, while the inanimate material possessions can’t do anything on their own.

iphoneWith a life focused only on material enjoyment the mind turns feverish. With each new object acquired comes a new attachment. It may be neat to fly in an airplane to visit exotic destinations, but what if you didn’t need that to be happy? If one person is satisfied with a little and another with a lot, the former is automatically superior. They live a more efficient lifestyle, as they require less to operate. With each new requirement comes the difficulty in acquiring and securing that object. For instance, if I can’t live without my cell phone, I need to make sure to work enough to pay the bill for it each month. I also must back up my contacts, email, music, books and videos. These tasks are made easier with the increased use of the cloud, but even that requires a connection to the internet, which must be paid for by someone.

Each attachment brings a new obligation, which gradually builds up to a hellish life. The vacation is preferred to time at work because of the lack of obligation. Reduced work equates to increased freedom, thereby giving the person with less attachments more freedom. In the Vedic tradition, the topmost spiritualist is the sannyasi, who is in the renounced order. More than just a way to stay free of attachments and the allures of sex life, sannyasa allows for freedom of motion, a limit on obligations to free up time for fulfilling life’s ultimate purpose.

And what purpose is that? It is to connect with God. For that to happen, He must be understood. To know Him properly, one must follow a bona fide path, one laid down by past spiritualists who attained the proper realization. We know that they were successful based on their experiences which are documented. Though we have trouble accepting information not experienced personally, through applying a little faith and exercising the principles espoused, the same experience of spiritual happiness can be had within this very lifetime.

PrabhupadaThere is still the issue of misery and pain, which makes it difficult to accept the fact that there is a God. How could God create cancer? How can God allow such horrible things like murder and rape to happen? These are the negative reactions that are obvious to notice, but the actions that led to them are overlooked. In karma, every reaction arrives at the proper time. The planting of a seed brings a flower sometimes many months later. If the impatient person were to chastise the plant for not producing the fruit right away, would their behavior be intelligent? Is it wise to yell at an unbaked pie before it goes into the oven?

The reactions to work come at the appropriate time, like the blossom of flowers on a tree. The nature of the reaction is commensurate with the intensity of the action. You can look at so many examples to see how this works. If you stay awake all night, you may think there are no repercussions, but when you have difficulty waking up the next morning, the negative reaction is coming your way. The more ghastly acts like murder, rape and so on bring the worst type of reactions, though again at the proper time.

As far as God sanctioning the negative reactions, if He were to eliminate the unfavorable consequences, then there would be no action. Moreover, sometimes what we think is unfavorable turns out to be favorable. If we miss an assignment in school or say something hurtful to someone else as a child, our superiors will scold us. Getting yelled at is never fun. At the time it is considered the most miserable experience. Should the child yell at God for allowing that admonishment to occur, would the behavior be wise? When the same person grows up and learns to avoid the behavior that caused the scolding, they will reach a more positive condition. Thus what was previously unfavorable turned out to be favorable. What you were cursing God about before, you now appreciate as a valuable life lesson.

Lost in the complexity of action is the reality that any outcome can occur. For instance, if I decided to play a video game for fun, there is every chance of me playing that game over and over again and never winning. After my repeated failures, is it wise to lament how miserable life is, how God never allows me to win? The decision to play the game was in my hands, and I knew going in that success wasn’t guaranteed, and yet somehow I am blaming God for my problems after the fact.

The entire material creation operates in a similar manner. The system of karma is the most fair, as it is meant to distribute the proper results at the appropriate time. The desire to exercise freedom in the absence of God’s association results in the creation of a playing field where there is every type of possible outcome. If not for the full range of possible outcomes, there could not be material activity. Everyone would just sit in silence, not doing anything the whole time.

Lord KrishnaThe spirit soul is meant for activity, however. This property is built into its constitution. The soul’s dharma is to serve, and the more pure the beneficiary of that service, the higher the benefit to the worker. No one is more pure than God, whose original form is so sweet that it is addressed as Krishna, which means all-attractive. Stare at the beautiful youth, who holds a flute in His hands and wears an enchanting smile. Dedicate your life to remaining by His side. Chant His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and fill your ears with transcendental nectar. Purify the tongue through transcendental recitation and get nourishment through Krishna prasadam, sanctified food first offered to the Lord.

In the many good and bad outcomes, if there is no Krishna consciousness, the situations are identical. Thus for someone who avoids bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, there is no chance of finding supreme auspiciousness. Rather, their illusion through attachment to material objects only further diminishes their opportunities for connecting with the reservoir of pleasure. The ghastly outcomes that affect the body so severely are also temporary, having no bearing on the spirit soul. In a world filled with illusion, there must be duality. For every healthy person there is a sick one as well. For every person of prominence there is another lacking notoriety. For every success story there is a person who has failed miserably.

In karma the extremes of life arise constantly, but in God consciousness the dualities are removed. Instead, every situation becomes favorable, even those previously thought to be horrendous. Knowledge of the time of quitting the body, whether voluntarily or through succumbing to the effects of disease, brings an increased eagerness to at least contemplate the position of God and whether or not He exists. Maharaja Parikshit, a famous historical ruler, was unfairly cursed to die within seven days by a brahmana. Rather than get angry at God for his ill fate, he used the opportunity to hear about the essence of spiritual life, devotional service to Krishna. Shukadeva Gosvami then spoke to the king the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the crown jewel of Vedic literature. The pious king heard and thought about Krishna while He was dying, which meant that His next destination would include Krishna’s constant association.

Anyone who has the opportunity to contemplate the meaning of life and why God would create this world is very fortunate. Through following a few simple instructions, like chanting the maha-mantra for sixteen rounds a day and avoiding the most sinful behaviors, the doubts that pervade the mind will soon dissipate. In an otherwise miserable world, the beacon of light is the holy name and the person it represents. One who always hears that name and understands the transcendental features of the entity it addresses will be living extremely well.

In Closing:

Why do the evil seem to get away?

No pain for the harmful things they say?

How can God create cancer, the worst disease?

Should not the suffering of His children He ease?

Incorrect is our assumption of living well,

Soul’s fortune is what counts, as the Vedas tell.

Every reaction comes at appropriate time,

Severity matches error’s nature in kind.

Beyond duality find condition,

Chant Krishna’s name, reach highest position.