Chakra Discussions

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Perceiving World As Miserable is Not Bhakti

by Gaurav Mittal

Posted July 16, 2012

Recently I met a devotee who was visiting from Southern California. We started talking about the beautiful weather there. The devotee commented that all those people who are enjoying the beautiful beaches and weather are going to get old and die.

My immediate response was that those people are ātma (spirit soul) and that the ātma does not die and does not get old, but because of our faulty vision (illusion) we see people dying and getting old.

The devotee responded that Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita: (13.9) janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi-duḥkha-doṣānu-darśanam ("perceiving the fault of the distresses of birth, death, old age and disease").

I have met many devotees who have quite a pessimistic and hopeless attitude towards the world. They feel anxiety and sadness in this world, and they blame the world as the cause of their suffering. They want to get out of the world and go to some Utopian place which is without any misery. In most cases, I believe, this hopeless and pessimistic attitude is due to depression, and the devotees justify this depressive attitude with the teachings of the Gita.

On the contrary, the person who realizes the teachings of the Gita is always happy, no matter what the situation is. The Gita is very clear that the self (ātma) is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. Due to illusion, the self identifies with the body and considers oneself as perishable, unhappy and ignorant. The body dies, but the self does not die. The body gets old, but the self does not get old. The body gets diseased, but the self does not get diseased. The body takes birth, but the self is unborn.

What does the verse janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi-duḥkha-doṣānu-darśanam mean? It means to see faults (doṣa) in the sufferings of birth, death, old age and disease. What is the problem or fault in them? These states of birth, death, old age and disease are different states of matter, i.e., the body. The body is undergoing those changes.

The problem is that the self identifies with those states and thinks: "I am suffering due to birth, death, old age and disease." But the self does not suffer, as it remains aloof from the body. Therefore, Krishna advises us to understand the problem with identifying oneself with the states of the body.

People who are in knowledge know that the self does not undergo any change or modification. They remain established in their original svarupa as a separated part of Krishna amongst different states of the body and world. They don't blame the world, as the world does not cause them to suffer. The identification of the self with the world and considering the world as "me and mine" are problematic, not the world itself. For such people who are established in their true nature, the world cannot cause any suffering; i.e., it becomes Vaikuntha (the abode of Krishna) while living on the earth.

Next time when you start feeling overwhelmed with pain and suffering, don't blame the circumstances. Understand that those circumstances cannot make you, the self, unhappy, as you are beyond them. They will come and go; you will stay the same, so understand your true nature and live life with equanimity.

Even after understanding these teachings, you may still feel anxious and sad. Don't try to justify such emotions by using the Gita, and don't let negative feelings overcome you. Just be patient, and — like winter and summer — those feelings will go away. You will remain as it is amongst these changing circumstances.

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