Spiritual Life Hampered
When all things go well, then our spiritual life also goes well. But why is our spiritual life hampered when we fall into some material difficulties?
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Our reply: Even if we’ve taken to the process of Krishna consciousness, we still have to face the consequences of our previous actions; we still suffer difficulties because of karma. It’s important for aspiring devotees to have the right attitude in the face of difficulties. As Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to Bhagavad-gita (12.13–14): “Whenever a devotee is in distress or has fallen into difficulty, he thinks that it is the Lord’s mercy upon him. He thinks, ‘Thanks to my past misdeeds I should suffer far, far greater than I am suffering now. So it is by the mercy of the Supreme Lord that I am not getting all the punishment I am due. I am just getting a little, by the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.’“
I should think that any difficulties Krishna is sending my way are for my spiritual benefit. Maybe you’ve heard this principle but are having a hard time understanding it. Difficulties seem to make spiritual life more difficult, you wonder, so how is that helpful?
There are many possible answers. One is that we can make spiritual progress just by acknowledging that the difficulties are Krishna-sent, because seeing Krishna in everything is important aspect of Krishna consciousness. Material difficulties can also inspire us to become more serious about Krishna consciousness so we can leave this material world forever. Difficulties that seem to hinder our spiritual practices can in fact strengthen our desire for our spiritual practices, and that’s purifying. Sometimes hindrances to specific practices can force us to take shelter of other practices. For example, if something in my life makes regular temple attendance difficult, I can look for other ways to increase and improve my chanting and hearing about Krishna.
We must have faith that Krishna wants to help us. Difficulties are one way He can get our attention and inspire us to turn to Him and cry out, “Dear Lord Krishna, please help!” That kind of heartfelt plea is the key to our spiritual progress.
It’s important to guard against the tendency to resent Krishna for sending difficulties. We should always feel that Krishna loves us more deeply than we can understand, that He has unlimited intelligence, and that whatever He sends our way is meant to draw us closer to Him.
Devotees’ Apparent Sorrows
Why does it seem that intense sorrow follows all those blessed with a personal association with the Lord – Dasharatha, Radharani, Yashoda, Devaki, Sachi, and Sita, to name a few. And why should I really aspire for such likelihood?
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Our reply: We should not make the mistake of equating the experiences of the Lord’s most exalted devotees with our own. Everything about these devotees takes place on the transcendental platform, the essence of which is pure love for God, or prema. The quality of prema is ecstatic spiritual bliss. Everything that goes on in the relationship between the Lord and His liberated devotee is of the nature of pure happiness.
Because we are conditioned souls bound by the material energy, our vision is defective and we see sorrow in spiritual existence. But there is no sorrow there, only various flavors of happiness.
In the Chaitanya-bhagavata (Madhya 9.240), Srila Vrindavana Dasa Thakura writes, “Know for certain that whatever worldly distress is seen in a Vaishnava is actually spiritual happiness.” In his commentary, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura writes, “By seeing a fully engaged devotee’s scarcity rather than external opulence, sickness rather than good health, poverty rather than wealth, and ignorance rather than scholarship, those who consider such a Vaishnava afflicted by various deficiencies and who therefore hanker after gold, women, and fame, like the karmis – and thus consider him distressed – should be understood to have lost their intelligence.”
The word Vaishnava here means pure devotees of the Lord. If we think their experiences are the same to ours, we are mistaken. Pure Vaishnavas are far beyond the reach of mundane sorrow. To fully appreciate this truth, we must purify ourselves through the practices of Krishna consciousness (bhakti-yoga) as given to us by Srila Prabhupada. When we attain the transcendental state of pure love for Krishna, we too will taste the uninterrupted spiritual happiness of our eternal relationship with Him.
The Position of Lord Shiva
Why is Bhagavan Shiva considered the most powerful of the Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva? No matter who you speak with, the general idea is that Bhagavan Shiva can give his sincere devotees powers that even Krishna cannot. So, doesn’t that make Bhagavan Shiva the Supreme Personality of Godhead?
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Our reply: No doubt Lord Shiva is very powerful. He is in charge of the destruction of the material world. Many people consider the power of destruction to be the greatest power. Because they are afraid of the material energy, they regard Lord Shiva as the most powerful because he can destroy that energy.
But consider this: The president of a country appoints a minister who appears to be very powerful to those in the area of his jurisdiction, but in fact the president who appointed the minister is even more powerful. Although he may not be obviously in control, he is behind the scenes controlling everything. Such is the position of Krishna, who appears in the Trimurti as Vishnu, His plenary expansion.
What you will hear depends on who you ask. You say “no matter who you speak with,” but when I look in the Srimad-Bhagavatam or the Bhagavad-gita, I don’t learn that Lord Shiva is the most powerful. Lord Brahma, in Brahma-samhita (5.1), clearly says, “Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, and He is the prime cause of all causes.”
The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.28) says, ete chamsha-kalah pumsah krishnas tu bhagavan svayam: “All of the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead.”
In the Seventh Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says that He is the origin of all the demigods (including Shiva), the source of their power, and the bestower of any reward one might obtain by their worship.
In spiritual matters, it is very important to hear from reliable, realized, and learned sources guided by the Vedic scriptures.
By worshiping Lord Krishna one makes Lord Shiva very happy, because Lord Shiva also worships Lord Krishna. In fact, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.13.16) says vaishnavanam yatha shambhuh: “Lord Shiva is the greatest Vaishnava.”