Feeling Your Pain

Prahlada Maharaja“The most important characteristic of a pure devotee is that he is not lampata, or licentious, and another quality is that he is always eager to mitigate the miseries of suffering humanity. The most obnoxious misery of a living entity is his forgetfulness of Krishna. A pure devotee, therefore, always tries to evoke everyone’s Krishna consciousness. This is the panacea for all miseries.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.14.49 Purport)

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The power hungry politician is able to amass power through passing legislation that actually hurts people without them knowing it. The people directly affected in each instance may be acutely aware of the effect the new law will have, but others, who are not directly affected, will remain apathetic. The politician seizes upon that apathy to bypass principles of fairness, ultimately leading to a condition where so many are miserable. The truly wise person understands principles and therefore can see with an extended vision. They also have compassion on others, and because of this they try to rescue them.

Let’s take an example of a proposed law that will only affect a few. This law says that beverages of a certain size and sugar content will be banned from sale in convenience stores. The people who currently purchase these beverages will be outraged. They will raise opposition. Then there are those who are not affected. Their reaction to the legislation might be as follows:

“Oh, that’s the new law being proposed? That sounds terrible. Why are they legislating this? People will just buy two of the smaller size drinks going forward. This is not going to stop anything. Oh wait, you say this only applies to drinks with sugar in them? Oh, then I don’t care. I only buy diet soda. This law doesn’t affect me, so I’m not going to be bothered by this.”

A more egregious version of this mentality gives a blind eye to the neighbor’s home being raided by burglars. After all, the thieves have avoided that person’s home, so why should they care what happens to someone else’s property?

The New YorkerAh, but the wise person sees the principles behind actions. The law affecting beverage purchases may not affect me today, but that shouldn’t matter. The people affected are ordinary people just like myself. In addition, some day there will be a law passed that does affect me directly. Will I like it if others are then apathetic to my plight? They will have every reason to not care since I didn’t show any concern for their issue. If the burglars one day should happen to break into my home, would I like it if my neighbors didn’t do anything? Would it be nice of them to ignore the issue?

The devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead understands principles because they know that the root principle is the Supreme Lord Himself, who is known as the Absolute Truth. He is the lone force that is beyond duality. He is all-pervading, so His influence is to every single person. He is present within the heart of the cat, the dog, the elephant, the ant, and the human being alike. Therefore no one should ignore Him. In fact, all perils are due to the original mistake of ignoring the Supreme Lord, who is the best friend of every living entity.

Lord Krishna with cowsThe devotee sees the suffering someone else will face as the result of action. Therefore they feel compassion. Beyond ringing their hands, they try to alleviate that suffering. This is the superior method since it applies to all situations. If I ignore someone else’s pain because I’m not directly affected, others have reason to behave the same way towards me. On the other hand, if I don’t ignore them, then others may follow suit and help me when I need it.

The greatest suffering is forgetfulness of God. Every miserable condition we encounter in life is originally due to this. We see young children starving in foreign countries. The narrator of the television announcement tells us to give only a few dollars a day to help feed the needy. But how did such people become destitute? They live in areas which have plenty of fertile land. They could produce so much food on their own. Why are they hungry?

We investigate further into the situation and see that the government has confiscated the majority of the land, using the excuse that the previous land owners were greedy businessmen. So instead of people working to earn a profit, the land remains unused for the most part, while the leaders in government take everything for themselves. What, then, is financial aid from anyone else going to do?

Indeed, the unlawful confiscation of another’s property is due to forgetfulness of God, for the Lord is the original proprietor. He owns everything. When we think we own something, we have only a temporary lease on it, and this only for the purpose of coexisting peacefully with our fellow man. When one remembers God for real, then all good qualities emerge. The devotee is peaceful, kind, tolerant, humble, knowledgeable, and always looking to rescue others from misery.

If others don’t want to be rescued, why waste time on them? Why ruin your own devotion in the process?

In the crusades to stop hunger, eradicate poverty, and stamp out disease, if others do not follow the recommendations, there is some failure. If I get my struggling neighbor a job and they then refuse to go to work, my effort at helping them has not worked. The same goes for trying to feed others who then refuse the food. With devotion to God, however, no effort is wasted. The principal method in the present age for awakening everyone’s dormant God consciousness is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

SankirtanaKrishna and Rama are names for the Truth, which is the highest principle in all spectra and time periods. Therefore just in chanting this mantra out loud there is so much benefit. Even if no one else wants to hear it, there is no loss on the chanter’s part. Since there is no failure, there is no cause for lack of enthusiasm. Since Krishna is the Supreme Spirit, work done for His benefit only brings more pleasure with the passage of time. More pleasure brings a stronger conviction, which means that eventually at least someone else will be rescued from the miserable condition of birth and death, which sees so many smaller dual conditions, like heat and cold and victory and defeat.

In Closing:

New law passed seems not right,

Not to affect me, so why to fight?


But then what if the tables to reverse?

How to feel when others to help are averse?


Devotees with extended vision to see,

Attempt for others’ miseries to set free.


Since on reception success not based,

In devotional life no effort a waste.


Categories: mercy

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