By Karnamrita Das
In the lives of great persons there is always opposition and apparent road blocks in accomplishing their goals or mission in life. Whether through another person, an accident, their own body or mind, or some natural disturbance, what appears on the surface to be an impediment is passed through and the glory of the person is revealed.
Practically we can see that great success in any undertaking or field is not accomplished without passing through many setbacks and even failure. In the personal growth or success literature such perseverance and determination in the face of what seem insurmountable odds are part of any great person’s story.
In Christianity we have Judas who betrayed Christ but was actually a facilitator of his mission to sacrifice his life to benefit others. Haridas Thakur being whipped in 21 market places, or being tempted by a prostitute sent by a envious person, only added to his glory as the great teacher of the holy name.
Without the atrocities of Hiranyakashipu, Prahlad’s glories would not have been revealed, and we would have never heard of him. Dhruva Maharaja’s step mother forbidding him to be favored by his father helped him realize the strength of his determination and his eventual favor by the Lord. What would have happened if Krishnadas Kaviraja, the author of Chaitanya Charitamrita, had not left his brother’s home? Without the devastating rains sent be Indra, Krishna would have had no necessity to lift Govardhan Hill.
Imagine Prabhupada easily receiving his first visa and other papers for travel, or if instead of sailing on the Jaladuta he would have just hopped on a plane and was met with instant success in America. We glorify great persons not for the ease of their lives but because of the great odds they overcame. Without Arjuna’s dilemma, or dark night of the soul, there would be no Bhagavad Gita to light our path out of darkness. Had Emperor Pariksit not been cursed to die, we would have no Shrimad Bhagavatam to lead us on the path of bhakti…and on and on, as the examples are many in scriptures, biographies, and life….
Keeping this in mind we can look at our own lives and see reverses and difficulties as opportunities for personal growth and dependence on the Lord. On one level they are our karma which we are meant to go through, and we can take personal responsibility for the challenges we need to face. On a spiritual level we can know that our difficulties and suffering are actually minimized by the Lord, and not merely punishment but mercy to show us the naked form of material nature with the potential to help us be stronger in our devotional resolve. What is our alternative?
We can be angry or humbled in a helpless condition and understand that by our attitude we can choose how we want to label anything. Is it a lamentable calamity or great opportunity? Is it good or bad? Praying to apply Shri Chaitanya’s 3rd verse of Shikshastakam we can practice forbearance in the face of provocation, humility and patience on our spiritual quest, and become appreciators of the good we find in life and in others, realizing that seeking external glory from others is superficial and impermanent. Our devotion, love, and service attitude is our real reward and that which carries us upward, in spite of our shortcomings.
That we are imperfect practitioners of bhakti is a given. Get over it! We are where we are on the path of pure devotion, but we are on the path! Within ourselves there isn’t only darkness but much light as well. The question is, which do you want to highlight and focus on and let define you? That will determine your state of mind and happiness or depression. I am not speaking of complacency but a positive focus that helps you live day by day, wanting and praying to spiritually advance, and which is also encouraging to others.
No one wants to be around a sourpuss (within or without), so we all have to practice being the best person we can, and praying to increase our good qualities and devotion. Most of us have had difficult pasts and many bad days, but let us not be pulled down by that, but use it as a springboard to rise up spiritually. Read inspiring books; listen to uplifting talks; seek positive and encouraging association. Don’t settle for misery and mediocrity.
May we all pray to change our angle of vision to one that always supports our progressive path and is helpful to others! This can be challenging at times and yet it is our journey to wholeness and spiritual positivity. What is the alternative? This attitude of finding the gems in misfortune has never been more evident in my life than in still facing cancer, which I consider Krishna’s loving embrace. It has fueled my writing, and speaking around the country. Most importantly, it has given me a new life to make my mission to give what I have been blessed with.
I still struggle to move out of my comfort zone of complacency, so in a sense my dark night of the soul isn’t from the cancer journey itself, but that I so easily forget my initial enthusiasm which fostered so much inspired writing and speaking. I can effortlessly find myself gravitating to the easy and comfortable, which can be rather depressing. However, I keep dusting myself off, and rise up again by my attempt to attract grace, by my prayers and endeavors. As it is said, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” I remember the determination of the sparrow, and her attracting the help of Garuda! In another sense our endeavor is meant to be its own reward and regardless of whether we are successful or not externally, our real success is our devotional attitude and desire to please our gurus and Krishna!