“A pure devotee of the Lord like Brahma and persons in his disciplic succession are always unhappy to see the perplexities of the conditioned souls, who are suffering the onslaughts of the threefold miseries which pertain to the body and mind, to the disturbances of material nature, and to many other such material disadvantages.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.9.8 Purport)
“It’s strange if I think about it. When I was younger, I was under constant pressure. I had this nagging fear that I would be left back in each grade in school. I always wondered how I would handle such failure. Because of this fear I made sure to work hard. I studied in a timely fashion and finished all of my homework as soon as I came home from school every day. If I had a paper or a project due, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was like this nagging problem that followed me wherever I went.
“I enjoyed the summer vacations precisely because of the relief in pressure they brought. No more assignments due. No more worry over passing the grade. I could just sit at home and relax. These summers were okay until I got a little older. Though I thought life would be easy after completing school, it wasn’t. It only became more difficult. The pressures were there constantly instead of just during the school year.
“When I finally got a job, I thought it would be smooth sailing. A steady paycheck, some responsibility, and the ability to buy things that I wanted – who could ask for more? And yet the pressures continued. I thought I would be happy in the association of a member of the opposite sex. I enjoyed time spent with such people, but I noticed that the more time I spent with them, the more in anxiety I became. I thought friendship would be nice as well, but as familiarity increased, so did the arguments. If I failed to agree with a single opinion or just one time didn’t feel like doing what the friend wanted to do, an argument would arise. In thinking back, I was probably happier before venturing into these territories. And yet going in I thought I would find so much happiness.”
Indeed, these are the perplexities of life. We think we solve one problem, but in fact another one arises immediately. This holds true for both our own journey through life and the journeys of others. The miseries are due to the forces of nature, the influence of other living entities, and the effect of the body and mind. The Vaishnava knows that these miseries are always there, so the remedies they provide are a little different.
A Vaishnava is a devotee of God in His personal form. Vishnu is the name of the object of devotion, and this object isn’t a personality assigned worshipable status only out of sentiment. There is a Supreme Controller; otherwise there wouldn’t be intelligence to the workings of the universe. Since we are able to decipher patterns and then predict events, it means we have intelligence. Since we had no hand in creating ourselves, there was a higher force that is more intelligent. The foolish choose to ignore the existence of this higher force because they purportedly can’t see it. The slightly envious try to gain the favor of this higher force in order to improve their own condition.
The truly non-envious worship such a force without any personal motive. They only want to continue to worship, which in their case is in the mood of love. Hence they get the adjective “pure” attached to their devotion. Part of this pure devotion is helping others. This help is not intended to keep one baffled by the perplexities of life. Instead, one is helped in overcoming them. This help is in the form of offering the tools to practice the same devotion. And in that devotion one understands the perplexities a little better.
One way I can help someone is to give them an air conditioner. Especially if the affected party is stuck in a building without cooling, in the summer months an air conditioner would really help. So I go to the store, buy a unit, install it in the home, and then leave feeling satisfied. I helped someone else. But did I really? Because they have a comfortable climate in the room now, have all their problems in life suddenly vanished?
The air conditioner is a small example, but take something more significant, like curing a disease. If someone is stricken with a deadly disease, and I help them to beat it, surely I’m doing something worthwhile, no? But again, the perplexities of life will continue. Some disease will crop up again. Moreover, in the healthy condition the living entity needs worthwhile activity. Otherwise the miseries from the mind will crop up, making the healthy condition just as hellish as the diseased one.
The Vaishnava is unhappy to see this constant misery, so they try their best to give the most glorious activity, bhakti-yoga. This is a way of life, not just a once a week profession of faith done to maintain an institution. In its English form, bhakti-yoga can be taken to mean Krishna consciousness. Krishna is the name for God that means all-attractive. Consciousness means constant awareness. Bhakti-yoga can thus also mean “always seeing God.” And since God is all-attractive, wouldn’t seeing Him all the time be really great?
Seeing the all-attractive God would be better than seeing an enemy. It would be better than seeing the constant miseries from the past. It would be better than worrying over the future misfortunes that are bound to come no matter what. It would be better than arguing with a friend over a trivial issue. It would be better than working so hard to get enough food to eat. It would be better than trying to drink yourself into oblivion because you have nothing better to do.
The Vaishnava knows that God consciousness is better than all such things. It is above the perplexities of life because it is spiritual. The only perplexity that remains is how from just chanting a specific mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” the all-attractive supreme power’s presence is granted, thereby automatically changing consciousness.
This consciousness is the most precious gift, because it carries over from lifetime to lifetime. It continues into the future, unlike the temporary goals we strive for today. With superior longevity, this consciousness is the most valuable asset, and so the Vaishnava tries to create it in as many people as possible. It is the original consciousness, so keeping it isn’t that difficult once we’re reminded of where to get it.
Pain from others, disease, and the weather,
Without God keep digging for something better.
Original consciousness Vaishnava helps us to find,
Solves perplexities, including pain of body and mind.
With daily all-attractive God seeing,
Vibrant in activity always being.
All problems previously never were solved,
To practice bhakti-yoga now I have resolved.