“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
You’re preparing for international travel. This requires time on an airplane. When you were young, such journeys were not a problem, but now that you are older there is great anxiety. “I better remember to bring my passport. If I don’t, I won’t be allowed in the country.” Then there is the trip to the airport. You need someone to drop you off. You’d rather not drive and leave your car in the parking lot to accrue fees that you don’t want to pay.
By the way, this trip is for fun. It is not compulsory. It is to attend a family member’s wedding. You are looking forward to that aspect, for sure. You can’t wait to see everyone gathered together again. You likely won’t see everyone at the same time like this for many years. For seeking this pleasure, you’re suffering great anxiety, though. Once you reach the airport, there is trouble with the luggage. You’re over the weight limit. Now you have to pay the extra fees, which you think aren’t warranted. You feel as though the airline is taking advantage of you.
Finally, after anxiety throughout, including for many weeks prior, you make it on the airplane. This is only the beginning. Now you start freaking out about sitting in such a tiny space for many hours. You are a wreck. There is no peace. Many people have made this journey before, and they mostly all reached safely. In the grand scheme, the time required for travel is not very much. It will go by very quickly; you know this in theory. But realizing this at the moment is very difficult. Therefore you are in great anxiety.
All the suffering in the material world is like this experience. Everyone dies. We know this. There is nothing that can be done to prevent death once birth takes place. And yet there is constant worry over this impending event, which is doomful. And actually, the individual can never be killed. They cannot be destroyed. Even at death, they remain vibrant, simply shifting from one residence to another. For such reasons, the Vaishnavas attempt to glorify the Supreme Lord and explain His teachings to others. They know that this is the only way to cure suffering.
“If you are not Krishna conscious, you will suffer.” This simple statement says it all. Why is it true? Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Consciousness of Him is always beneficial. It’s like remembering that you have so much money in the bank. It’s like recalling that your past journeys were safe, so that the chances for another successful trip are high. It’s like remembering that your best friend is someone who is very powerful, capable of doing anything for you.
If remembering such a person is good, then forgetting Him is bad. Goswami Tulsidas says that forgetfulness of the holy name of Rama is the greatest loss. The name carries the presence itself. Rama is the same Krishna; simply addressed with a different Sanskrit word. To debate over which name to call isn’t a good use of time; the connection is what counts. The connection comes through the name, and in that connection there is consciousness.
“Tulsi emphatically says, ‘O mind, hear what I am saying and always take it to heart, for this will benefit you. Remembering Shri Rama’s holy name is the greatest profit, and forgetting Him is the worst loss.’” (Dohavali, 21)
Cancer is a kind of suffering. So is torture at the hands of others. The tornado running through town is another misery. Will Krishna consciousness cure these? Will there no longer be scorching heat if I am conscious of the Supreme Lord? Actually, these miseries will occur regardless of one’s consciousness. The effect is different when there is consciousness of God, though. The dying soul who keeps the lotus feet of the darling of Vrindavana at the forefront of their mind will pass away in total bliss, ready to take up service to Him again in the next life.
“Hiranyakashipu could not kill his son by throwing him beneath the feet of big elephants, throwing him among huge, fearful snakes, employing destructive spells, hurling him from the top of a hill, conjuring up illusory tricks, administering poison, starving him, exposing him to severe cold, winds, fire and water, or throwing heavy stones to crush him. When Hiranyakashipu found that he could not in any way harm Prahlada, who was completely sinless, he was in great anxiety about what to do next.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.43-44)
A long time ago, a five year old boy was tortured in quite horrible ways. He was a special soul in Krishna consciousness, so he did not suffer at all. But even if he were to perish, he had no fear. He would not suffer since his consciousness was right. It is this consciousness which is most important. It is more important than religious affiliation, signed statements of allegiance, or outer dress. Consciousness is what determines genuineness in spiritual life, and so it is not surprising that those who are conscious of God try their best to get others to be the same. They do this through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They also speak the philosophy of Krishna which is found in the Bhagavad-gita. They know others are suffering, and they know how to cure it. Therefore their work is the most important.
For one event anxiety and pain,
Know that for all experiences the same.
If to material world you drop,
Suffering surely you have got.
Only one way to permanently end,
Consciousness towards divine realm to send.
Prahlada whether in fire or off a cliff,
Mind fixed on Krishna, always in bliss.