What is a problem? Are there really any problems? When we see everything as Krsna’s mercy, we see that “problems” are meant to help us; they are simply opportunities to learn and grow. This means there really are no problems; there’s only mercy. Thus, the only problem is that we think there’s a problem.
So what’s the problem? Good question. That’s what this issue is all about.
May you always think of Krsna,
It’s All Mercy, Prabhu
Is it really possible to see everything as Krsna’s mercy and thus see how everything is helping us become more Krsna conscious? I think we can. After all, the material world is designed to rectify us and thus get us back to Godhead. Therefore everything here is ultimately meant to help us.
Of course, it’s easy to see the material world as a place of suffering and distress, a place where mercy is scarce. Prabhupada however describes this distress as another aspect of mercy.
“We should not be disturbed, even superficially we see that a devotee is in distress. Devotee, real devotee, he does not take anything as distress. He takes everything as Krsna’s mercy. Tat te ‘nukampam susamiksamano… SB 10.14.8]. Otherwise that is not pure devotion. Actually devotee’s never in distress. People may see that he is in distress.” (2/23/72 SB class)
“But Prabhu, I have to deal with so many problems, obstacles, and difficulties. I definitely experience regular distress, and it often causes me to forget Krsna.”
Fooled By Krsna’s Gift Wrapping
We all deal with this “distress” and the forgetfulness of Krsna it sometimes causes. So how do we see it as mercy? On a morning walk Srila Prabhupada said, “If we understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Absolute Truth, then this is understanding, that either suffering or enjoying, it is all Krsna’s mercy. There must be some purpose. When Krsna puts me into suffering, there must be some purpose. So we should welcome because it is Krsna’s mercy. Tat te ‘nukampam …. [SB 10.14.8]. It is Krsna’s mercy that He is reforming me.” (May 2, 1974 morning walk)
Srila Prabhupada is saying that it may appear to be suffering, but it’s not; it’s really a gift from Krsna meant to reform us so we can further advance in devotional service. It’s just that sometimes Krsna’s gift wrapping can fool us.
(Before going further, I wish to make one disclaimer. Prabhupada said when you do something foolish and get a negative reaction, don’t blame it on Krsna’s mercy.)
Krsna Uses Our Karma
When we become devotees our karma is dissolved, but it happens gradually, and it happens in a way that best helps us advance. Krsna can use our karma to teach us what we need to learn. That’s because sometimes the only way we learn is through suffering.
So when you are in distress, instead of lamenting and asking why does this have to happen to me, or instead of pointing the finger at someone, it’s best to ask, “What is Krsna trying to teach me? This will enable you to see how adversity is actually helping you, how it is really Krsna’s gift on you – and how you really need it.
One time Srila Prabhupada became practically like Lord Nrsmhadeva when chastising a devotee. He was so angry that another devotee who witnessed this was terrified. This devotee asked Prabhupada what we should think when the spiritual master chastises us. Prabhupada said you should think you are very fortunate because out of billions of people in the world the spiritual master is taking the time and care to correct you.
Similarly, if we see how our so-called suffering is meant to correct us, we will feel Krsna is taking special care of us.
Special Mercy for Mahatma
I was once in a lot of anxiety and distress because of my service. I had to deal with an unending list of problems, many of which could never really be resolved. In addition, the service went totally against my nature. The result was that I had little energy or enthusiasm and all I could think of was how to get out of that temple. I was so disgusted with the situation that I remember thinking that if I were to die today, I would be the happiest person in the world because then I wouldn’t have to deal with any more of these stupid problems. A big realization then dawned on me: this service is making me more detached than I have ever been in my life. I then realized that this was Krsna’s mercy on me. Also, I was forced to develop massive amounts of internal strength and tolerance to cope with all those problems. As a result, I am much more equipped to deal with the trying circumstances I often face today. So I was actually fortunate to have “suffered.”
I am sure you have also gone through difficulties that have made you stronger, wiser and better equipped to deal with the difficulties you face today. Is that not a gift? Is that not Krsna’s mercy on you?
When going through a difficult situation, asking a question such as, “Why do I have to suffer like this? will make things worse. You need to ask empowering questions. Ask how it’s Krsna’s mercy and what you’re supposed to learn. This enables you to receive the special gift Krsna is giving you – the gift of utilizing the situation to learn an important lesson.
Who’s on Your List?
Make a list, either on paper or in your mind, of some of the people that have helped you in your life (gurus, devotees, parents, teachers, authors, historical personalities, etc). Next make a list of some of the people who have hurt you.
Now go over the list of those who hurt you. Did any of their behavior cause you to learn a lesson or become stronger? If so, move their name to the list of those who helped you.
The point is obvious. The “enemy” is often the friend. Similarly, the “negative” situation may really be a positive one. When seen this way, so many “negative” situations can actually strengthen you. Srila Prabhupada says, “if one is serious to become Krsna conscious, then all these material impediments cannot check him.” Not only can they not check him, they increase his determination to be Krsna conscious. So when you confront what you perceive as material impediments, understand that it’s only your perception. There are no material impediments. There are only opportunities to become more Krsna conscious.
For example, if someone offends, victimizes, or betrays you, you’ll probably feel hurt and angry and want to blame him. So in order to tolerate the situation or forgive him, you have to rise to a higher level of Krsna consciousness. Thus he actually helps you become a better devotee and teaches you a great lesson through “suffering.”
After all, in the end it’s all mercy, Prabhu.
Exercise – Turning the Bad Into Good
Take a look at something you perceive as bad or undesirable, something that is causing you unhappiness or distress, or that you feel is an impediment to your bhakti. Then ask yourself any or all of the following questions and see if you can’t uncover Krsna’s mercy disguised in His own brand of unusual gift wrapping.
What’s good about this?
What am I supposed to learn from this?
How can this help me (how is this helping me now)?
Why is it important for me to go through this?
It’s important to note that I am not saying that you don’t make an effort to change yourself or improve your situation. One of the things you might discover by doing this kind of questioning is what you need to change in your life and how a negative situation is really providing the impetus to make the change.