Life is not all struggles, failures, pain & suffering!

QUESTION
Very often the learned speakers in ISKCON try to broach the point that this world and life are full of sufferings only. This way they want to bring home a belief that the world and life here are worthless and have been imposed on us because of our birth. I, however, do not get convinced by this logic. This life is not all struggles, failures, pain and suffering. There are great many moments of joy, success and happiness as well. In fact it is a beautiful mix of the positives and negatives and this makes it attractive. The reality is that only through this body can we worship Shri Krishna, chant His name and also attend to our daily responsibilities towards family and society. Life on earth may be transient but why to always condemn this as merely a burden and suffering? I wish that we could preach to do our best in our responsibility towards family, society, nation and humanity at large in a virtuous way and at the same time regularly devote some time in service of Shri Krishna.

REPLY
Face-to-face with reality. That struggles, failures and pain are an inescapable component of life in the material world is not just a philosophical point presented by different ISKCON speakers during their talks; rather it is an undeniable reality very much confirmed by our own experiences here. Lord Krishna asserts this truth in Bhagavad-gita 8.15 by calling this material world as dukhAlayam (home of miseries) and aShAShvatam (temporary). Deliberating on both words together, one can easily infer that periods of distress here will undoubtedly be interspersed by moments of joy and happiness but the primary experience here is that of miseries and dissatisfaction while one’s primary thirst is always for lasting happiness and contentment. One might question – why this dichotomy? why this harsh contrast?

False home away from home. Life in the material world is not worthless because it is characterized by struggles and failures. It is worthless because as an alternative abode from our original home in the spiritual world, it keeps us away from the happiness and contentment that we deserve in the spiritual world but keep desiring in the material world. The adverse experiences we continue to undergo here are actually a grim reminder of the futility of trying to accomplish utopian expectations of eternal joy while being encaged in in the temporary material world. The denunciation of the material world is not due to the adversities that we face here; it is due to the deceptive sense of security and pleasure that it offers to us and separates us from our true well-wisher, Lord Krishna who is waiting for us in His abode – the spiritual world.

Correct perspective. However, if perceived as a harsh but well-wishing teacher, these struggles etc. can also act as a most immediate and irrefutable impetus for us to turn towards the Supreme Lord. One of the four categories of people who turn to the Lord is the distressed (ref. Bhagavad-gita 7.16) who seek refuge in the Lord for relief from their anguish. A mature devotee is not one who accepts the harshest realities of life mutely but  is one who tries to convert such experiences into some worthwhile stimulus that will impel him towards Krishna.

Best use of a bad bargain. Worship of the Supreme Lord in the material world thus becomes the best use of a bad bargain. What is the quality of our service to the all-deserving Supreme Lord with our present imperfect senses, ever-flickering mind and polluted intelligence? The desire to serve the Lord can actually reach its pinnacle in the spiritual world where the facilities (viz. our senses etc.) are pure, people around us are encouraging to us for serving the Supreme Lord, and the environment is fully fine-tuned to serving Him. We can get only a glimpse of what lies in store for us there when we make feeble attempts to serve Lord Krishna here in association of sincere devotees. In such positive association, serving Krishna even with our handicapped senses, unstable mind and frail intelligence turns out to be a source of great joy to us. Interestingly, such genuine spiritual pleasure that we experience simultaneously provides imperceptible inspiration to others around us.

The original (spiritual) family. So yes – we should give our best for our family responsibilities but not just of this one transient life – we should rather give our best for our family responsibilities with Lord Krishna as our Supreme Father and all other living entities as our brothers and sisters. Some people in this world wish to serve the brothers & sisters and forget the Father. Some others get busy in serving the Father and forget the brothers & sisters. Some intelligent people first serve the Father and keeping Him in the center of their lives also weave a network of relationships with those around them seeing them as children of the same Father that is so dear to them.

A sincere devotee is a benchmark for service to humanity not by the dint of his endeavors to serve humanity (independent of the Supreme Lord) but due to the purifying effect of devotional service to the Supreme Lord that unknowingly robs him of all his anarthas (unwanted dirt in one’s heart) viz. pride, lust, illusion etc. Characterized by purity, a pure devotee of the Supreme Lord is thus automatically a distinct gentleman capable of not just benefiting humanity but all forms of life.

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