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By Rasanand Das

Nature of this material world is suffering: Everyone from a lowest level of living being up to mankind in this material world is suffering. Lord Krishna has declared in Bhagavad-Gita dukhalayam asasvatam (BG 8.15), that the nature of this world, when we are in ignorance of our true self, is suffering. Since everything is emanating from the Lord, it cannot be denied that there is no enjoyment in this material world, but the enjoyment of this material world is temporary, flickering & ultimately coupled with sufferings.

Types of sufferings: As per Sankhya philosophy, Lord Kapila explains that there are three types of suffering: Adhyatmika, sufferings of one’s own body and mind; Adi-bhautika, sufferings due to other living beings; and Adi-daivika, sufferings due to natural circumstances like heat or cold, or earthquakes. These sufferings are always there, potentially posing threat to the physical body at any moment. Sufferings may further be classified into two categories i.e. at gross level and sufferings at subtle level. Sufferings at gross level can be perceived in the form of birth, death, old age and disease & sufferings at subtle level can be perceived at the level of mind, intelligence and false ego.

Nature of sufferings:

  1. A question that arises before us, if God created this material world, why there is suffering? Is God is not a perfect creator? Answer to this question is, if God would have created this material world perfectly then no one will aspire and cultivate a desire of going back home back to Godhead, our permanent home, free from all sufferings and miseries.

  1. Suffering of this material world serves as an impetus to not just theoretically try to understand what is beyond, but to feel the urgent need to do something about it, to realize and experience the essence of the self and to contemplate on something beyond this material world, where everything is real and free from sufferings.

  1. It also brings a question in the mind of some serious thinkers to make a further inquiry that there must be something beyond this defective material creation, where everything will be perfect and real. This fact is further corroborated by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita na tad bhāsayate sūryo (BG 15.6), that supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never returns to this material world.

  1. Sufferings may be at different levels for every living entity. Someone may suffer too much and someone may not suffer much based on his action-reaction pattern of previous lives. Externally we may perceive Oh such and such person is very rich, so he must not be suffering but it may not necessarily be the truth. There is a saying Grass is always greener on the other side. It may be that the person on the other side may be suffering more than what we suffer. These different levels of sufferings also give us an opportunity to raise a quest to understand the action, reaction pattern of this material world i.e. theory of karma (as you sow, you shall reap). Also Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

  1. Root cause of sufferings within this material world is that we have forgotten our eternal relationship with God and suffering creates zeal to re-establish our relationship with God.

Devotees of the Lord, who are sincerely practicing Krishna Consciousness also go through these sufferings in various forms and take them from a different perspective. Let us analyse some of the points which can be helpful for all of us to progress in devotional life, when we are going through these sufferings:

  1. An opportunity to surrender to God: Just like a child suffers, he submits and cries before his parents and the child only needs them in such situation. Similarly, for a Lord’s servant, when he is in a miserable condition of life, he doesn’t have any option except to surrender to God. Lord Krishna declares the same in Bhagavad-Gita caturvidhā bhajante māḿ (BG 7.16), that four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto the Lord and one of them is one who is distressed.

  1. A chance to cultivate detachment with this material world: Sufferings gives one a chance to loose taste for various sense gratifying objects with this material world and realize that this material world is hellish, nonsense and not a place to live.

  1. An impetus in developing his attachment to render service to the Lord: Mind always needs some engagement to get attached to and when a devotee cultivates detachment with this material world by renouncing various sense gratifying objects, the mind naturally gets inclined and attached to render continuous and uninterrupted service of the Lord.

  1. As tests: Tests are meant for our upliftment in any sphere of life, just like a child, when passes one class exams moves on to the next level and so on and so forth. Similarly, sufferings are the tests arranged by the Lord in a devotee’s life, so that he can gradually progress in the journey of spiritual life and achieve the purpose of this human form of life. But we are never alone in our tests and Lord gives us necessary strength and intelligence to pass the tests, provided we surrender in rendering service to the Lord. There are many examples in the history like Prahlada Maharaj, Pandavas and Srila Prabhupada etc, they passed through many tests in their life but they never compromised on their dedication and commitment to render continuous and uninterrupted service to the Lord.

  1. An opportunity to be humble and down to earth: Sufferings also gives us an opportunity to realise that we are not the doer and there is someone beyond our controllership, who is controlling all of us. We keep Lord’s will on the top of our own will. We understand that this material nature is under the control of the Lord, which in turn makes us more and more humble and down to earth.

  1. Helps in learning the art of tolerance: Sufferings helps in learning the art of tolerance against the external dualities of this material world and it is a very basic requirement for progress in Bhakti. Our acharya Srila Rupa Goswami’s first instruction as per Nectar of Instruction is: vāco vegaḿ manasaḥ krodhavegaḿ jihvāvegam udaropastha-vegam… i.e. A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind’s demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world.

Conclusion: As conditioned souls within this material world, people who are averse to God, lament and aggrieved when they suffer but devotees of the Lord worships him with full faith and devotion and take these sufferings as gifts of the Lord and they understand that these sufferings are temporary and external. Sufferings are gifts of the Lord for a devotee, which apparently seems bitter but in reality its blessings of the Lord. Queen Kunti prays to the Lord in Srimad Bhagavatam (1.8.25) as: I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths. Internally they remain very cheerful and they are so much occupied in rendering services to the Lord that they do not have time to even think about sufferings.From a spiritual perspective, it’s good that a person gets an opportunity to suffer within this material world, so that he can easily cut the binding ropes of this material world & cultivate a strong bonding attachment to render continuous and uninterrupted service at the lotus feet of the Lord and it’s a sum & substance of this human form of life.

A devotee can pray to the Lord to get rid of his sufferings, if those sufferings are becoming an obstacle on his path of rendering service to the Lord. Otherwise prayers are not necessary as Lord understands our heart and he gives us an opportunity to surrender through those sufferings.

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