“I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.” (Queen Kunti speaking to Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.25)
विपदः सन्तु ताः शश्वत्
तत्र तत्र जगद्-गुरो
भवतो दर्शनं यत् स्याद्
vipadaḥ santu tāḥ śaśvat
tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darśanaṁ yat syād
“Something I was contemplating the other day. I’ve noticed that the people pushing religion, the belief in God, the reason to look above instead of only around, tend to have the justification rooted in personal experience. Moreover, it is a positive one.
“Let me try to explain. They believe in God because they can’t understand how so much good fortune fell into their life’s experience. If they were blessed with comfortable living, fame, positive notoriety, wealth, or just general happiness in day-to-day life, they feel support from a higher power.
“They want others to believe on the same basis, that God will benefit them immensely, if they only were to allow Him into their lives. The issue I see is that this tends to push away those in the reverse. I think Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura mentions this, as well. If God is great because He benefitted me, does that mean He is not great to those who are struggling?
“Not everyone is pleased with how life turned out. If there is struggle, turmoil, chaos, tumult, difficult times, or despair, wouldn’t that provide a person sufficient justification to go against religion? Would that not then invalidate the first position, where a person believes only after receiving, where they attribute the honors to the man upstairs?”
It is only natural to look to higher authorities for meeting desires. We think we are in control. We think that through human effort, paurusham, we can completely effect outcomes, directing them for our benefit. Shri Krishna confirms in the Bhagavad-gita that we are indeed not the doer.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“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)
As we quickly learn that outside help is necessary, why not turn to someone who can make anything happen? If God were to exist, He could surely assist. He would be able to hear my prayers and answer them in a timely manner. He would be kind upon me based on my allegiance, on my having approached Him for help.
The problem is that God is meant to be much more than an order supplier. Prayer is not for conducting business. Worshiping is not for a temporary benefit, one that will be erased with the unstoppable passage of time.
In the bhagavata tradition of spirituality, the Supreme Lord is known as Hari. One of the meanings to this word is a person who takes away. That is correct, if I worship Hari, I might actually lose everything dear to me. This is for my benefit, as I don’t really know what is good for me. How can I, since I have been in illusion since before I can remember? If I can mistake a rope for a snake, I am surely vulnerable to misappropriating priority to that which will cause harm.
In Shrimad Bhagavatam, we have the wonderful prayer of Kunti Devi. She and her sons have been through a lot. Being close to the avatara known as Krishna did not pay off for a while. Following dharma only made them sitting targets for those following adharma. They lost home, honor, prestige, and control of a kingdom that was rightfully theirs. They came close to losing life, as well.
Despite the difficulties, Kunti looks back on the story fondly. This is because the distress increased her devotion to Krishna. She was more with God during those times than she could remember otherwise. She prays to continue in distress, if it means further remembrance and reliance on the Supreme Lord.
Whether good or bad, in times of abundance or scarcity, in total freedom or forced captivity by a tyrannical government, Hari is our greatest well-wisher. The association is enough to purify, and whatever He chooses to do is accepted happily, with the situations used for further worship, which is blissfully performed.
If only for my benefit to be,
Then just the fortunate to see.
Others not then to believe,
Since gifts never to receive.
From Bhagavata better understanding getting,
That God not just for our orders setting.
Whether falling low or reaching high,
Best on Him to always rely.