“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)
One side is upset with the election results. They can’t believe who the new president is going to be. “Not my president” is their slogan, even though it has as much meaning as saying man isn’t going to die or that the sky isn’t blue.
The other side is upset with the protests. The issue is with the disagreement. They can’t understand why someone wouldn’t be happy with the change in leadership. “How does no one see what has been going on for so many years,” is the question they keep asking.
Another person is upset that they don’t have enough. Another person is troubled by all the money that they do have; not knowing how it should be spent or where to find happiness. Seeing the tragedies around the world and the general lack of happiness, a person has a difficult time believing in God. “If He really exists, how could He allow all of this to happen?”
From a higher understanding, these distresses, which are known as duhkha in Sanskrit, are really no different than the prick felt from a pin. Duhkha exists in this world, and sometimes it is in a protracted form. The magnitude is determined by the length of time and perceived impact.
Post-traumatic stress disorder. You see something terrible happen, like soldiers killed on a battlefield. This is not normal. One minute you were talking to your friend and the next they are gone forever. How can something like that happen?
This extended form of duhkha is difficult to drive away. The trauma is there for a long period of time, and it affects every aspect of life. Nothing is ever the same again.
This is duhkha of the mind. In Sanskrit the category of misery is adhyatmika. The combination of gross and subtle covering that is the body can cause so much trouble. Eat the wrong thing and you get sick. Don’t eat enough and you won’t feel well as a result.
In depression there is a prolonged period of sadness. Sometimes there is no cause, while other times the culprit is failure, defeat, or lack of hope for the future. Depression can get so bad that it claims the life of the victim.
3. Harsh winter
This comes from the category of misery known as adhidaivika. The devas, or heavenly figures, are in charge of material nature. Sandwiched between the events of birth and death, which themselves represent duality, are conditions in duality. The rain arrives to nourish the crops, but it also causes distress to the commuters. One person is happy to land a job, while another is upset that they were denied.
The winter is an extended period of duhkha, where the cold temperatures are not welcome. Neither are the snowstorms and general lack of sunlight.
4. Harsh summer
This is another misery caused by mother nature and her superintendents. It is the complete opposite of the previously mentioned misery. In the harsh summer, the temperatures soar to unbearable levels. Without air conditioning, it is difficult to stay cool. Just imagine that some places in the world don’t even have electricity. Somehow the people manage.
5. Birth in a lower species
From Vedic philosophy we learn that an existence is meant for serving God, happily. There is pleasure that results. The magnitude of the happiness is beyond measure. It is more than just sukha, which is the opposite of duhkha. As Shri Krishna states in the Bhagavad-gita, happiness and distress come and go like the winter and summer seasons.
Taking birth in a non-human species is a kind of misery. The duration can be quite long. Just consider the plight of the tree. It stands naked and tall for many years. It tolerates everything coming against it. From the blowing of the wind, the changing of seasons, to the arrival of the axe to cut it down, the tree does not protest.
Only in the human life is there the opportunity to contemplate the swinging of sukha and duhkha. The idea is to try to rise above. Don’t get dismayed over the changes. Don’t get bewildered by even the protracted forms of distress, which will get erased in due course of time. Punishment to a lower species even has a remedy eventually. The spirit soul continues in the evolutionary journey, coming back to a more auspicious body.
We are fortunate since that kind of body is already ours. The human being has the chance to understand God. Part of that understanding is knowing the temporary nature of happiness and distress. Permanent happiness is found in the shelter of the Divine, who can be known through consulting sadhu, shastra and guru. The saintly person, the scriptural works, and the spiritual master all say the same thing: be devoted to God the person and rise out of ignorance.
In the present time period the path has been made easier. If you’re distressed, bewildered, or depressed, you can rise above through a sacred sound. Chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. If you are so inclined, read the Bhagavad-gita. Learn of Arjuna’s plight. See how he remedied the duhkha of starting a war and seeing the future of mass deaths. See how he found the highest happiness again by directly engaging in service to the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna.
On battlefield in distress to be,
From future mass deaths to see.
Learning for changes to tolerate,
That instruction worries to ameliorate.
In this world different forms just,
With time to eventually fade trust.
Better to make the most and God find,
In His shelter live with peace of mind.
Categories: the five