09.33: The discovery of the democracy of misery

by April 8, 2012

When problems assault us unexpectedly, we generally feel that life has singled us out for a raw deal. A strong sense of indignation and resentment at this unsolicited “special treatment” scorches our mind. Close on the heels of this indignation is the haunting fear that the suffering connotes our inferiority. We dread the prospect that people may see the reversal – be it financial or familial or whatever – as an evidence that we are inferior to others. The combined momentum of these feelings of injustice and inferiority propels our mind to lock us in the doleful imagination that we alone are suffering, while others are having a good time.   

Gita wisdom frees us from this misconception in one sweeping stroke of insight. The Bhagavad-gita (9.33) declares that misery is an inherent, inescapable feature of the world that we live in. So everybody living in this world has to suffer; the difference between us and others is only a matter of when and how, of the form and time of the attack of misery. This principle that misery is the unavoidable fate of everyone in material existence can be called the democracy of misery. 

The moment when we discover this principle for ourselves is a life-defining moment. We discover this principle when we realize either through our experience or through our intelligence that those people who we imagined were happy – our favorite movie star who makes millions swoon or our damned competitor who gets all the right hunches at the right time or whoever else – are all, in their own ways, suffering.  

The discovery of this democratic nature of suffering is life-defining because it disempowers the gnawing feelings of injustice and inferiority from sucking our mental energies. The resulting inner freedom releases our energy to materially do whatever is best possible for dealing with the suffering. And most importantly, it redirects our initiative from the fruitless quest for a better place in this world to the fruitful quest for the best place beyond this world: the eternal abode of Krishna. 

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