02.06 – Our problems introduce us to ourselves
Problems. We often dread them. We feel that we already have enough of them. And yet life keeps piling more.
In and of themselves, problems are undesirable. But in life’s broader perspective, they serve a desirable purpose: they introduce us to ourselves.
We often go through life without pondering life’s deeper questions, most importantly, who am I? We don’t ponder this question because we are satisfied with the stereotyped answer that society provides: You are so-and-so, essentially, you are your material body.
Problems forcefully show this answer to be unsatisfactory. They remind us of our limitations (there are many things that I can’t do) and our imperfections (even among the things that I can do, there are many that I can’t do too well). Over time, problems smash our inflated self-conceptions of who we think we are at the bodily level. They introduce us to the reality that we are finite, fallible, flawed beings.
When such problems threaten us, we may seek strength from material sources – relatives, friends, self-help books and the like. With these, we may even manage to deal with the problems temporarily. But our introduction to ourselves will remain incomplete.
Sometimes, the problems become so overwhelming that nothing material helps. That was precisely Arjuna’s situation at the start of the battle of Kurukshetra, as he admitted in the Bhagavad-gita (02.06). This crisis forced him to probe deeper, beyond the material level of reality. That was when he actually understood his spiritual identity. At that level he gained devotional strength through his spiritual connection with Krishna and successfully confronted the problem. The problem came and went, but the gain of deepened self-realization stayed.
When we learn to see problems as impetuses for seeking self-realization and devotional strength from Krishna, they become not distractors but redirectors in our spiritual journey.