How Do We Understand The Pains And Pleasures Of Others

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]“Anyone can understand what is spread all over the body: it is consciousness. Everyone is conscious of the pains and pleasures of the body in part or as a whole. This spreading of consciousness is limited within one’s own body. The pains and pleasures of one body are unknown to another. Therefore, each and every body is the embodiment of an individual soul, and the symptom of the soul’s presence is perceived as individual consciousness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.17 Purport)

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Friend1: Do you ever feel misunderstood?

Friend2: Only when I’m talking to you.

Friend1: Very funny. I’m serious.

Friend2: Do you mean in general or from time to time?

Friend1: The latter. Especially if it’s something important that you want people to understand.

Friend2: Oh, of course. I think everyone has that issue to some degree. Why do you ask? Did something happen?

Friend1: I was just thinking about it. My friend got mad at me the other day.

Friend2: What did you do?

Friend1: We were watching television. It was a few hours after we had eaten a large meal. As you might know, after consuming a heavy meal that has certain oils in it, I have some difficulty breathing later on.

Friend2: Right. You and your cause and effect theories.

Friend1: Anyway, at one point while we were watching the game, I took a deep breath. To my friend it sounded like a sigh.

Friend2: I see.

Friend1: And so they got really angry at me. “If you’re so bored, why don’t you just go home? How many times have I sat through your stuff? I never complained.”

Friend2: That’s funny. Did you tell them what was going on?

Friend1: No point. It’s too lengthy an explanation. What’s funny is that this has happened to me many times. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I’m not sure I’ve ever even sighed out of boredom or frustration. It’s always the breathing thing.

Friend2: Interesting.

Friend1: It got me to thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone understood each other?

Friend2: Of course. That would solve a lot of problems.

Friend1: Exactly. Problems. No more wars. No more riots. People getting along with each other. I guess if they took the time to communicate, to really listen to what people are saying, they could get an idea.

Friend2: Still, the experience is not there. No one knows about your sighing problem caused by eating unless they experience it themselves. They understand what it might be, but real empathy will be lacking until they go through it themselves.

Friend1: Sort of explains the difference between the individual soul and the Supersoul, right?

[Prabhupada]Friend2: Great transition. That is absolutely correct. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada talks about this a lot. Consciousness is an indication of spirit. Consciousness is spread throughout the body of the living being.

Friend1: My fingers, my toes, my nose, my stomach – they all communicate with me.

Friend2: That’s because the soul is present. Shri Krishna even refers to how the soul goes through the entire body. He says that the soul is indestructible.

“Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.17)

Friend1: Then I guess that helps to explain what death is.

Friend2: The indestructible soul leaves the body. That explains the sudden shift, from consciousness everywhere to no consciousness at all.

Friend1: It also explains how that consciousness is limited to a particular body. It can’t spread to another body without leaving the first one.

Friend2: There you go. You get some exceptions with advanced mystic yoga, but even that is kind of magic. The ability won’t last forever and you still can’t spread consciousness to every single person.

Friend1: Are we doomed, then? No chance at peace.

Friend2: Well, it’s not like the Supersoul is absent a form. It can speak. It did so to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Friend1: How does that help?

Friend2: The Supersoul witnesses the pains and pleasures of everyone. It experiences everything. It is all-pervading and a single entity. Therefore when the Supersoul speaks, it brings the highest knowledge.

Friend1: What does Krishna say that helps to bring peace, to help us understand each other?

Friend2: I’m going to pretend that you didn’t mean to ask that question, because the answer is, “what doesn’t He say?” Everything He teaches is for the benefit of every single human being. Though He was talking to a warrior belonging to one side of a conflict, the words would have benefitted the other side, if they were to listen in. That’s one reason the Supersoul is known as the impartial witness. God does not make judgments on material endeavors. Good and bad are relative. The only real good is returning to His lotus feet, serving Him in lifetime after lifetime.

Friend1: Whereas the individual soul speaks only from personal experience. That experience might not be beneficial to everyone.

Friend2: Understand that everyone in this world is struggling. There are the six senses, which include the mind. There is birth and death. There is attachment and loss. There is material desire, kama, and then anger and loss of intelligence. Everyone suffers from these things, whether rich or poor, young or old.

Friend1: So I am no better than you and you are no better than me.

Friend2: That applies not just to humans, but to all species. The humans have the advantage of the potential for intelligence, to understand God to the point that they can get out of the cycle of birth and death. Still, potential in intelligence doesn’t make me any more of a spiritual fragment expanded from God than a cow, a dog, an ant, or a bird.

Friend1: I see.

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]Friend2: Solve world peace by hearing from the greatest teacher. If you can’t access His words directly from shastra, then listen to someone who represents Him. The bona fide representative will understand the difference between individual soul and Supersoul, never thinking that the two can become identical or merged into each other. There is years and years of human experience available to consult, to help us understand each other and what our real purpose in life is.

In Closing:

My behaving a certain way,

How properly to say.

So that my perspective you’ll understand,

And not argue, escalate until out of hand.

Individual soul pervading body throughout,

Still of outside experience without.

Only from Supersoul witness to hear,

Krishna teaching life’s struggles clear.

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