The Bhagavad-gita teaches, “O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” Gita 2.14
There are many emotions we feel throughout the day; sadness is one of them. It often sweeps across us like grey clouds on an otherwise bright day. It may be triggered by a memory, or some loss or pain inflicted on us, or by seeing the pain and suffering of others. It may last a moment or two, or a long time.
The Gita teaches us how to live from the perspective of the soul–knowing we are not the body, but in the body. Thus the happiness and distress we feel through our body and mind don’t ultimately affect us, the soul. So although sadness is a natural response to a difficult moment or event, it’s temporary and therefore not truly real.
When the Gita says – ‘tolerate them without being disturbed” – what do we not want to disturb? Despite the whirling emotions around us, both happy and unhappy ones, we don’t want to disturb our greater sense of self connected with Krishna. We want to be anchored to a deeper core, a transcendent place, while we are are living through and coping with the summer and winter seasons of our everyday life.
When we read the Gita we are inspired. The words of wisdom nourish us and we think “Yes!” When something happens and we have to apply the teachings, then it’s not so easy. We struggle, forget, get swept away and overwhelmed. The following can help us hold our ground when sadness shows up.
Feel it – let the feeling stay a while and be sad for the loss or pain. Honoring the sadness helps us let it go. Sadness can help us slow down. It can help us be experience being vulnerable, alone, and soften our heart making it easier to take shelter of Krishna. This can help us become better people, more compassionate and spiritually mature.
Ask it – sadness has lessons to bring us. Why am I feeling this way? What do I need to change? What do I need to move away from or closer to? Do I need to ask forgiveness? Do I need to forgive? Do I need to own up and take responsibility? Asking is where transformation happens. If we don’t transform our pain we will transmit it, and that’s not good for any of us.
Understand it – seek to step back and know the bigger picture. We are living our karma (the results of our activities) and our happiness and distress are connected with that. Prabhupada once said, “Don’t be upset with the instrument of your karma.” As spiritual practitioners, we know that things are happening to us for a reason, even though it may appear otherwise. Sadness can be transformed into a deeper trust in Krishna. Let sadness move us closer to who we really are: bright sparks of spiritual energy, wandering this world in search of our true and complete selves.