“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
पुनर् आवर्तिनो ऽर्जुन
माम् उपेत्य तु कौन्तेय
पुनर् जन्म न विद्यते
punar āvartino ‘rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
1. Someone stole all my napkins
“There was a fire in the office building at which I worked. No one was hurt, but they made a policy change, as a result. No more heating food in the office. They did not want to take the risk. This meant that most people had to visit a local restaurant for lunch.
“I noticed that they tended to give extra napkins with each order. More than I ever needed. I started to amass a pile. I figured this would save me money in the long run. I would never have to buy napkins again.
“Lo and behold, I show up to my desk one morning and the napkins are gone. Someone had taken them. I guess there was a spill in one of the other rooms and they were in quick need of something to clean it up. My stash ended up being the victim, and my hard work went to waste.”
2. They didn’t accept my coupon
“I specifically waited until we were almost empty. Both vehicles in the home. I received this amazing deal from the local gas station. I found a way to fill up two tanks, simultaneously, under the same discount code.
“Well, at the end of the month we went to get gas, but the store said they were no longer honoring the coupon. What in the world is going on? We have limited our driving. We have altered the way we live in order to take advantage of this deal. And they reject us like this? Unacceptable!”
3. They’re forcing us back to the office
“Many of us moved to different areas. We are no longer where we previously were. This is due both to convenience and necessity. Everything is closed where we previously lived. At least in the new place we are allowed to leave the house, to play in the park, to dine-in at restaurants, and so forth.
“Well, everything is changing again. The company is forcing everyone back into the office. How am I going to manage? I have to find another job, it seems. I don’t want to do that. I hate sending out resumes and interviewing. This is the absolute worst.”
4. They’re placing an assessment on the community
“We live in a condo community. I specifically chose this area because of the lack of general maintenance. Someone else takes care of the exterior. I don’t have to cut grass or shovel snow. There is a monthly fee to cover the maintenance, but the taxes are also lower. Basically, I would be paying the same amount in total if I purchased a comparable single family home.
“Our monthly budget incorporates these fees. Well, everything just got thrown for a loop recently when the community levied an assessment. They need to repave the roads, it seems. I think that is a waste of money. This is a significant expense that none of the residents previously factored in.”
5. I’m too ill to leave the house
“Friends and family are visiting for the weekend. We had so much planned. We were going to go to this place and that. We were going to have so much fun.
“Sadly, I have fallen ill. I think it was something I ate. It hurts to breathe. I can’t get out of bed. I just keep praying for the pain to go away. What a nightmare.”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the false independence of materialists gets vanquished every second by the superiority of nature. This is not difficult to understand, as there is the wonderful symbol in the hand of Durga Devi.
She is the superintendent of the material world, and she holds a trident in one of her hands. The three prongs of the spear represent the three primary categories of misery while within her jurisdiction. These are adhidaivika, adhibhautika, and adhyatmika.
We have miseries inflicted by the devas. These are commonly referred to as “acts of God” within insurance policies. Flood. Earthquake. Tsunami. An unexpected storm. The damage is too great for the general policy to cover. There is also little that can be done to mitigate. For instance, can you make sure that your home is flood proof or entirely secure from an earthquake?
We have miseries from other living entities, bhutas. I plan to finally enjoy the outdoor patio that came with the house. The winter was longer than usual this year. I am sitting outside, with the perfect temperature at night.
The problem is mosquitoes. They keep biting me. I try to sit outside during the day, instead. Suddenly, my eyes turn red and I can’t stop sneezing. I am allergic to the nearby grass and the trees with leaves. Then there is the sound of cars and motorcycles rushing by. I get so fed up that I finally return back inside.
We have miseries from the self, atma. A panic attack. Heightened anxiety. The onset of disease, occurring after years of neglect in the area of health. We can escape others, but we still have to wrestle with the mind, which can turn into an enemy.
आत्मैव ह्य् आत्मनो बन्धुर्
आत्मैव रिपुर् आत्मनः
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur
ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ
“A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.5)
In this way, we easily refute the idea of independence. Everyone is practically helpless to the workings of material nature. There are strict laws that must be followed. No one can go without sleep, for instance. Everyone has to eat. They must keep a constant eye on politics, which impacts everything from gas prices to the availability of supplies at the local supermarket.
Since devotees are aware of the fallacy to the concept of independence within the material world, they avoid the subsequent frustration by always remaining engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord. They take His shelter alone, and they accept whatever occurs, as a result.
माम् एकं शरणं व्रज
अहं त्वां सर्व-पापेभ्यो
मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
There is always a small amount of independence, manifesting in the choice of activity. The choice is to serve maya or serve Krishna. Maya is the illusory energy in this material world, with the ability to fool an otherwise intelligent person into thinking they are fully independent.
Maya works at the direction of Krishna. This means that working for Krishna is superior. As Shri Hari, He might first take away everything from me, to remove that which is in the way of achieving success in the human form of body. Whether He gives or He takes, it will be for my ultimate benefit.
Whether everything away to take,
And my desperate pleas to forsake.
Or with immense riches to live,
Such that every wish to give.
For ultimate benefit providing,
When in His shelter confiding.
Only true independence known,
Relying on Shri Hari alone.
Categories: the five