“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
Friend1: The threefold miseries of life.
Friend2: Coming from the heavens, other living entities, and within.
Friend1: We are not the doer.
Friend2: Yes. Under the influence of the false ego, a person thinks that because certain consequences follow certain actions, that they are completely responsible for the chain of events. But actually, the three modes of material nature must first cooperate.
Friend1: Along these lines, I’ve got an interesting dilemma for you.
Friend2: Are you sure it’s not a conundrum?
Friend1: What’s the difference?
Friend2: In a conundrum there is more than one option. A dilemma is an either/or situation. At least that’s what someone told me one time.
Friend1: I see. I think this is a dilemma, then.
Friend1: The idea was sparked by some reading I did on the history of electricity. Did you know that lightning rods were controversial when they were first invented?
Friend2: I’m sure people didn’t know much about them. Were they worried that they wouldn’t work?
Friend1: There were some skeptics on that side. Some were worried that by grounding the electricity from the sky, it increased the chance of earthquakes.
Friend1: The objection that caught my interest relates to God. Some religious people objected to the use of the lightning rod because it seemed to thwart the divine will.
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: Basically, thunder and lightning were punishments coming from the heavens. By trying to avoid the negative consequences, the people were fighting with God.
Friend2: That’s just silly. It rains, doesn’t it? Do people purposely go outside to take their punishment? Do people not look for shade during a scorching hot day?
Friend1: You’ve pretty much given the counterarguments used during that time period. It’s reasonable enough, I must say. But it got me to thinking on a higher level.
Friend2: About what?
Friend1: Punishment coming from God through the system of karma. Should we try to avoid it? Also, the Vedas do mention that lightning is controlled by higher authorities.
Friend2: The demigods. That’s why natural disasters fall into the adhidaivika category of miseries. Daiva refers to the devas, who are celestials. They are living entities, but have greater powers than ordinary man. They are still conditioned, and thus go through the cycle of birth and death.
Friend1: They are not God Himself.
Friend1: So could you say that those miseries aren’t directly related to God? The system of karma takes care of punishment and reward.
Friend2: You could say that. Are you asking if we should try to alleviate bad situations or just accept them as the will of the Divine?
Friend1: Exactly. Should we fight back? Is it better to just let nature run its course? What’s the answer to that question?
Friend2: Listen, the human birth is significant. It gives the unique chance to understand God. You can only understand Him when you are alive. Therefore just accepting pain and misery that increases the chances of death is not a good idea. There is the old saying that an empty sack can’t stand up straight. If you’re constantly in pain, how are you expected to have the focus necessary for success in spiritual matters?
Friend1: Okay, but how much resistance should there be? If we fight back too much, aren’t we succumbing to the illusion of thinking that we are the doer?
Friend2: There you go. You’ve basically solved the problem. Do as much as possible, but don’t over-endeavor. Don’t reach the point where you think you can actually remove all miseries on your own. That is never possible. Only the Supreme Lord can bring liberation. The idea is that when there is birth, there must be death. Since death will come eventually, there must be a misery that acts as a catalyst. We are really puppets in the hands of time, which spares no one.
Friend1: I understand what you’re saying. How do we tell if we’re over-endeavoring?
Friend2: Stay conscious of the Supreme Lord. Know that He is not directly involved in karma. He sits back, as a neutral witness, residing in the heart as Paramatma. In His full feature of Bhagavan, He intervenes. He removes the karma of the living entity, and they remain karma-free for as long as they want only devotion to God. As long as they stay on the devotional path, then even death is not something to be feared. It represents the time of ascent to the spiritual world, where the devotion will continue and flourish even more.
Miseries from higher forces come,
How much to avoid should be done?
Instead of over-endeavor to make,
Like man our punishment should take?
Since human form most precious gift,
Best to preserve so to higher nature lift.
Worship Krishna, direct protection will give,
So that always in auspicious conditions to live.