It is Already Settled
BY: RAGAPUTRA DASA
Oct 22, USA (SUN) Regarding our allotment of happiness and distress in this life, Srila Prabhupada would often state that “it is already settled”. In other words, there is nothing one can actually do to increase his enjoyment or reduce his suffering. That is preordained in accordance with one’s previous work. The example he sometimes gave was that of the hog. A hog’s body is so constituted that he may eat anything and everything, including human waste. Giving the hog halavah does not improve his eating condition. The hog will certainly eat halavah, but he has no power to discriminate whether it is superior to stool. In fact, the hog may prefer to eat stool.
So we are being forced to act in certain ways because of the bodies we have received. We have gotten these bodies because we wanted them, and Krsna is so kind that he fulfilled our desires. We were hallucinating that we could be happy in a certain way, and thus we received bodies appropriate to experience the varieties of enjoyment we envisioned. The body is actually inhabited by two souls. One is the individual soul, the other is the Supersoul, or Paramatma. The individual soul is driving the vehicle of the body, and Paramatma, the owner and controller of the body, is directing his activities: “you go here, you go there”. In this way Krsna creates all the conditions necessary for the individual soul to realize his destiny. But even though we are obliged to act in so many ways, we are not relieved of responsibility. Responsibility is there because we desired to have these bodies.
Everyone’s life contains a mixture of happiness and distress. Distress comes of its own accord without anyone’s desiring it. Similarly, a certain quantity of happiness will also come, even without seeking it. In reality it is not happiness. It is only called happiness by those who have forgotten their spiritual existence. Bodily happiness and distress are devoid of any relationship to the self. Actually, it is all distress. Material happiness is like a mirage in the desert. One imagines there is water because he has experience of water. But actually, there is no water; only heat, air and sand creating an optical illusion. Because we are mad with thirst, we may chase after this illusion, but we will not obtain anything to satisfy our desire. Yet, driven by such mad desires, we persist in committing the same mistakes over and over, expecting a different result. This is called “chewing the chewed”.
Consequently, we are admonished not to endeavor for mundane things which are difficult to achieve. Rather, we should be satisfied with whatever comes of its own accord. Neither should we be overly anxious to ameliorate our suffering. The way of devotional service is tapasya, or the voluntary acceptance of life’s inconveniences. Sometimes it is difficult to bathe in the morning due to the cold. But still we take our baths because it is our duty. Formerly, ascetics would light a fire all around themselves and sit down to meditate in its midst in the heat of summer; or, stand up to the neck in freezing water in the dead of winter. But Lord Chaitanya has given us a different form of tapasya: chanting, dancing and feasting. Even this we are reluctant to accept. Sometimes we may find it difficult to chant our rounds, but we should always remember the example of Haridas Thakur who never failed to complete his vow, even at the point of death.
The miseries of life are like waves on the ocean. They are incessant and innumerable. Just as one cannot quell the waves on the ocean, one cannot adjust his circumstances to be free of material miseries. We simply have to tolerate them. Even if one has a very seaworthy ship, his position is not secure. The Titanic was billed as unsinkable, but on her very first voyage, she sank to the bottom of the sea and so many people lost their lives. The only remedy is to get out of the ocean of misery as soon as possible. We may think our position is very secure, but we may be vanquished at any moment. One strong wind can immediately wipe out all of our arrangements.
Actually, if such miseries remind us of Krsna, they are welcome. The life of the Pandavas is exemplary in this regard. Arjuna was Krsna’s intimate friend, yet he and his brothers experienced so many difficulties. They lost their kingdom, they were exiled to the forest, they were nearly burned alive in the house of shellac, Draupadi was insulted and so forth. The extent of their apparent misfortune is unimaginable to us. Yet, they were most fortunate, because in whatever circumstance they found themselves, they were remembering their beloved Lord.
Furthermore, Arjuna was instructed by the Lord to kill his friends and relatives on the battlefield. He told Krsna that although he understood that those friends and relatives were not their bodies, but spirit souls, still he was reluctant to kill them because of material affection. Krsna advised him that he must simply tolerate his unhappiness in that regard. He told Arjuna to always remember Him and to do his duty. In this way, he would become free from all material attachments. So the devotee can see that such miserable conditions are also the mercy of Krsna.
How are such conditions the mercy of Krsna? First, difficult situations give us an impetus for remembering Krsna. Kunti prays that she may experience difficulties again and again, for by those difficulties she was able to see Krsna again and again. Second, Krsna is so kind that whatever suffering conditions we are experiencing are minimized by His grace. For instance, one may have deserved to be killed for his sinful acts, but instead he gets a little cut on his finger.
Sometimes people are reluctant to become devotees of Krsna because it is widely acknowledged that He is the exclusive property of the materially exhausted. One cannot simultaneously retain material attachments and possess Krsna. We must release the one to embrace the other. We should not expect that because we are practicing devotional service, there will be no difficulties. In fact, Srila Prabhupada has instructed us that if Krsna wants to bestow special mercy on His devotee, He will forcibly divest that person of all his entanglements to clear the way for unalloyed devotional service. Srila Prabhupada would occasionally point to his own life as one such example.
We will be tested over and over, in so many ways. One of the duties of the material energy is to ensure that only sincere seekers gain access to the Kingdom of God. Those who are simply trying to create a disturbance will be denied admittance to Vaikuntha. Although we may be very unhappy if our so called possessions, wealth and position are taken away, we should be very careful not to disturb Krsna with pleas for material amelioration. Likewise, we should be very scrupulous to employ everything we obtain by the grace of Krsna in His service. Otherwise, we are simply thieves. This is the real meaning of renunciation. In reality, there is no question of renunciation. If a man walks into a bank and declares “ I renounce all the money in this bank”, he will be considered a madman.
Thus, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, whether a brahmacari on book distribution, a householder laboring at his occupation, or otherwise, we should simply chant Hare Krsna and remind ourselves that Krsna has given us this work to do. Therefore we should do it to the best of our ability and dedicate the results to Him, while tolerating all manner of happiness and distress with an even mind. In this way we will eventually become free from the entanglements of matter and make gradual progress on the path back to home, back to Godhead.