By Indra Krishna Dasa
The author discovers that all our problems are the manifestation of one single problem. If you know it you can solve it, and make your life successful.
It’s 7:00 a.m., and I’m standing on the balcony of my flat looking at the busy street below. A school bus comes and picks up children. Seeing their children off to school, the mothers are waving to them, happy that the school will train them to face the problems in their future life. Some fathers, having seen their children off at the bus stop, are rushing home to get ready for work. I see cars, buses, pedestrians, and cyclists rushing here and there as people try to solve the problems confronting them every day. I take a moment to reflect on my life, also a constant struggle between my problems and my efforts to solve them.
Problems Remain, the Types Change
As a child growing up in a small town in India, my major problem was the streetlights in the evening. I dreaded their glow, signifying the end of my playtime. When I reached home, washed my hands and legs, and gulped down some snacks, I faced a bigger problem – studies. I looked at the people who did not have to study, such as the older boys who had more freedom. I believed that when I grew older, my problems would be solved. I wanted to grow up fast; that would solve my problems.
As I grew older I got some freedom from the strict routine given by my parents. I could stay out longer in the evenings, but I had a new set of problems – getting good marks and getting into a good college. Gone were the innocence of a child and the freedom of thinking like a child. In came a more complicated mentality brought about by my attempt to understand the world around me.
I entered college, the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, a dream come true. I thought all my difficulties were behind me. It would be smooth sailing now. But college life brought new challenges. I lost the shelter of my home and moved into a hostel and had to do everything on my own. Though I was now free to sleep or get up when I wanted, and no one was closely monitoring me, I was not totally free. I had to attend classes. I had to self-discipline. I had to study for exams. Money was scarce. These were my problems. I told myself that my graduation would solve all my problems. I would not have to depend on my parents. I could be self-sufficient. And I would not have to study.
I graduated from college and landed in a decent job. I was looking forward to this chapter in my life with the hope of fulfilling all my desires and solving all my problems. I could spend my money as I liked. The initial period was good. I found new freedom in my new position. I bought things I had long desired. I could now buy gifts for family and friends. I could give some money to my parents. I was enjoying the power of money in my hands. But it was too short-lived. I noted that my needs and desires also grew, and soon my money was not enough. So I believed more money would solve all my problems. I worked harder to make more money.
I read books by various authors on different subjects. I explored the world through their writings, laughed and cried with them, judged the world through their eyes. I speculated, forming my ideas of good and bad. I read books on religion, philosophy, self-help. Television, movies, magazines, chatting, and endless gossiping filled a major portion of my life. I wanted to learn as much as possible about the world around me. I worked hard to improve my job skills to rise up the job ladder, and looked for better job openings.
Life moved on. Everyone was searching for happiness, but the search basically translated to nothing but sense enjoyment and more sense enjoyment. I was also naturally attracted to women, and that caused a great deal of trouble and heartache. Constantly kicked around by the world, I was sometimes successful, sometimes a failure, happy and sad, elated and depressed, lonely and sociable. The more I tried to be happy, the more the carrot at the end of the stick moved away. Though tormented by these dualities, I accepted them because this is what everybody calls life – something to be endured – and I was no different.
Eventually I got married and was blessed with two sons. We are a loving and caring family, and yet there are many problems. As the age-old proverb says, marriage is like a Delhi laddoo – whether you eat it or not, you regret. The problems popped in and out. Solutions also came, but the problems only mutated, just as a virus mutates when hit with medicines. I thought there must be some way to solve all my problems, but was always frustrated.
The Quest to Find a Solution
In looking for a solution, I was a little like Einstein; he was looking for one theory to explain all the forces of nature – electromagnetic, strong, weak, and gravitational. This would demystify the world and make physics so much easier. He coined the term “Unified Field Theory” and spent the latter part of his life searching for it, but was unsuccessful. Many physicists today devote their lives, careers, and reputations to finding such a theory. Einstein’s expectation of finding it may have come from understanding that there is one God and everything comes from Him.
At some point I was exposed to the Hare Krishnas. I started reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, chanting, and attending Hare Krishna programs. These activities brought about a marked change in my consciousness. I wanted to find the root cause of all our problems through the very promising path of Krishna consciousness. It took me a little time before I landed on this beautiful verse from the Padma Purana, quoted in Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 22.113):
“Krishna is the origin of Lord Vishnu. He should always be remembered and never forgotten at any time. All the rules and prohibitions mentioned in the shastras should be servants of these two principles.”
And there it struck me – the root cause of all my problems is forgetfulness of Krishna, and remembering Krishna is the solution I had long been looking for. I really have only one problem: how to always remember Krishna.
Unlike Archimedes, I did not shout “Eureka!” It took some time to absorb the significance of the truth that everything else is subservient to remembering the Lord. The dictionary defines remember as “recall something to mind, or become aware of something that had been forgotten.” For all of us, “the something that had been forgotten” is Krishna. Forgetfulness of Krishna is not our original position. We have only to bring Krishna back to our mind. Forgetful of Krishna, a living entity wants to lord over the material nature, whereas his true identity is that he is an eternal servant of the Lord. He tries to usurp the property of the Lord, declaring that he owns the land, the air, and the water, and he will slay anyone who challenges that. This has created boundaries between people, nations, and faiths. People on this side of the boundary are our friends, and those on the other side are our enemies. Human energy has been wrongly directed to the concept of “I and mine.”
Suffering the Threefold Miseries
Conditioned souls become servants of lusty desires, and when these are not fulfilled, they become angry, lose all intelligence, and suffer the threefold miseries of life – miseries from our own body and mind, from other living entities, and from nature. I realized that not only was I suffering but everybody was. For a sincere seeker of truth honestly trying to solve all problems, Srila Prabhupada gave perfect answers. And he had to begin by defining the problems. We do not even know what our real problems are, so how can we solve them? Under the influence of maya, we are trying to solve our self-created and self-inflicted problems, with no endeavor to permanently solve our real problems of birth, death, old age, and disease.
Would I like to wish away all my problems? No, because even problems have benefits. Every problem encourages us to find answers; every difficulty is a hidden opportunity. Driving on a busy road in slow traffic, I take the opportunity to chant or listen to kirtanas, lectures, and conversations with Srila Prabhupada. Whereas everybody else is stressed out trying to somehow squeeze through traffic, I am more composed because unlike others my time is fruitfully used. As a beautiful butterfly comes out of the larva after its successful struggle to break the covering, we come out better through our difficulties and travails. Unfortunate are those who pass through life without tackling their problems.
I considered that I was exploited by my bosses, by the organizations where I worked, by the people around me. I soon understood that my bosses thought they were exploited by their bosses and all the people around me thought they were exploited by another person or persons. This knowledge helped me stay calm at work. Many of my colleagues are stressed and suffer stress-related diseases, but I am much less affected. My spiritual life is a great stress-reliever and enables me to retain a healthy detachment. As an engineer, I can tackle design problems objectively and look at them from a different angle of vision, allowing me to give solutions that others could not.
Difficulty Remembering Krishna
Though I understand that remembering Krishna is important, it is difficult. He is adhokshaja, transcendental, beyond the reach of our material senses. For us, conditioned to understand the world through our senses, this transcendental science of Krishna consciousness does not come easily, especially when the whole world considers pandering to the senses the aim of life. As I chant, my mind often drifts and my ears do not always hear the mantra. Chanting without remembering the Lord is like idling a car’s engine without the gears engaged. It may make a lot of sound, but the car does not move an inch. Remembrance of the Lord is the lever that connects the mind to the chanting engine that can take us to the transcendental realm.
For the ever-liberated devotees there is no forgetfulness of the Lord. But for conditioned souls like me, remembrance is extremely difficult. Thus we are perpetually in this material world and subjected to material tribulations brought about by different bodily forms life after life in different hellish conditions. We have to beg for the mercy of Krishna and His devotees. Krishna consciousness is the science of remembering Krishna always and never forgetting Him. Even a moment’s forgetfulness is a great loss. Although remembrance is difficult, anybody can learn it by practice. One does not need great capability or education; one needs only sincerity and humility.
Remembrance: The Pain and the Balm
Those who take to remembering Krishna may have to go through a period of opposition, stiff resistance, and humiliation from the people around them, including near and dear ones. In my early days of chanting at home, I had to hide my beads. One day my wife caught me chanting on the balcony. She feared I would become a renunciant and leave home or lose all interest in caring for the family. It took a huge effort to explain everything not only to my wife but to everybody around me. Due to my perseverance and patience, my wife’s understanding, and the mercy of the Lord and my devotee friends, matters improved with time, and today my wife and children are engaged in sincerely serving the Lord. Some of the people around us are trying to follow our path, but for others, our transformation is nothing short of a miracle – an easy excuse for them to not follow our example.
As devotees’ remembrance of Krishna goes deeper, the so-called pleasures of the world taste more and more bitter. In the lives of the faithful, remembrance has often caused havoc, such as physical torture by governments or psychological torture by friends, relatives, and colleagues. On the other hand, advanced devotees may undergo a different type of torment, one given by the Lord, whose remembrance may cause intense yearning. Such a sentiment was prominently displayed in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the gopis of Vrindavan, but even in the stage of devotion in practice, devotees may taste the pain of separation from the Lord minutely or sporadically.
In this pain is the greatest pleasure. Only a devotee can experience it, and it is difficult to explain. Sometimes remembrance of the Lord evokes in me emotions I did not even know existed in my heart, and the deep love that flows from my heart, like the tears that flow from my eyes at such moments, cleanses and cools everything. The love of my Lord is my greatest wealth, and no one can it take away. It is wealth that can be tasted, relished, and shared with others, yet becomes richer every day. The whole world is longing for such love but can’t find it.
In appreciation, Krishna weeds out the desire for illusory material enjoyment from within the hearts of the faithful. Then we become immune to the pains inflicted by the world around us. Remembrance of the Lord is the greatest balm. It makes us internally unaffected by the trials and tribulations, the onslaughts of various agents of maya. We experience peace where others are subject to stress. We are the fortunate ones who have been released from the grasp of maya. The rest of the world is hopelessly pursuing money, power, and position, going in the wrong direction. Their endeavors are like beating a husk devoid of rice.
The Lord provides for everybody – their food, water, air, life breath, everything – and He protects everybody. Nobody else does, and nobody else can. A chaste wife depends on the provisions and protection of her husband and naturally always remembers him. Our relationship with the Lord should be similar. He does not demand anything for His mercy, but for our own sake we can remember Him in gratitude.
Remember Krishna at the End of Life
As we remember the Lord when we chant, His holy name tastes sweeter and our meditation on the holy name goes deeper. When we no longer depend on the external world – where maya tantalizes and deceives – for happiness and solutions to our problems, we are more in control of ourselves. When we depend on Krishna only, we save ourselves from harassment by others. The constant practice of chanting the holy names while remembering the Lord absorbs us day and night even though outwardly we carry on with our duties.
Lord Krishna advises Arjuna to remember Him while fighting, as that will protect him (mam anusmara yudhya ca, Gita 8.7). Similarly, remembrance of the Lord will protect us in our day-to-day struggles and battles. It purifies our activities and constantly guides us in the right direction. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Lord Himself in the incarnation of a devotee, declares in Shikshashtaka, niyamitah smarane na kalah: for remembrance, there are no rules or consideration of time, making it easier for us.
Finally, are we prepared for the ultimate test of our life – to remember Krishna at the end? We should be prepared at every moment, as death may come anytime without warning. If we pass the test, we become entitled to enter Krishna’s spiritual world, where there is no anxiety. Will we be able to remember Krishna when our throats are choked, when the pain is like the biting of millions of scorpions, when we are fighting for every breath? We invest in a lifetime of chanting His names and pray that we remember Him at the end. The all-loving Lord will help us. We are not such exalted souls as Bhishma, for whom God personally came. But we pray, “Please send Your ambassadors to take me back to You, and not the horrible assistants of Yamaraja. Then I will have conquered the greatest fear – the fear of death. I pray that I will not have to come back to this mortal world, but will enter into Your eternal pastimes, where there is no fear of forgetting You.”