Overcoming resentment amidst difficult situations
[Evening program at Charlotte, USA]
As it is mentioned, today I speak on the topic of overcoming resentment amidst difficult circumstances. The world is so arranged in a way that even the best plans sometimes get disrupted, but we need to make plans because things do not usually work in an orderly way. But even after making plans things sometimes gets disrupted, and when things get disrupted. When things don’t go we envision they would go, at that we get disturbed, and one is that the things don’t go the way that we want them to go. The other is, things go exactly opposite the way that we want them to go. The other is, things go exactly opposite the way we want them to go. So, there is some sort of strain in a relationship, we meet that person to try to resolve that strain, and then actually the misunderstandings pile up. The accusations and the recriminations go further, and things become worse, instead of becoming better. So, when such a thing happens one of the natural tendencies of the mind is to become resentful. So, resentment basically means that we begrudge whatever is happening, and broadly if we look at life whatever happens we can attribute it to various causes.
Sometimes we may blame people, ‘Because of you this happened, because of him this happened, because of her that happened.’ So, we may blame others, or we may hold others responsible and we may resent others for the way they are behaving.
Second is, we may resent ourselves. One is why are you like that? The other is why am I like that? Why do I get angry like this? Why do I forget things like this? Why am I so careless like that? That kind of resentment may also come, and sometimes that same resentment… it may go outwards, it may go inwards or it may go upwards, where we become resentful of God… ‘Why is God doing like this? You know I am doing so much for God. Why is He doing something like this to me? So, does God exists, does He care, you start getting questions of that kind.
So, in all these three cases when resentment comes in our mind, at one level the feeling is natural. That yes, we wanted to do something, we wanted things to work in a particular way, and they have just gone the other way. To feel upset is natural; to feel disturbed, to feel even resentful is natural. At the same time, we human beings have been given the capacity not just to feel emotions but we also have been given the capacity to choose emotions. That means certain emotions will come upon us, and they natural but what do we do with those emotions is up to us, and we have the capacity to choose. So, that is a defining difference between humans and animals.
All living beings feel hunger. When the hunger is felt, there is sensation that comes… there is a emotion that I feel, ‘I am hungry now.’, and the normal response to the sensation or the emotion… sensations in the body that comes in the mind also… ‘I am hungry.’ A feeling comes. The natural response to that response of hunger is, I eat. So, normally speaking… so, that’s how say animals work. Animals they see some food item. They feel hungry and they pound on it and eat it. So, there is a natural coupling between sensation or emotion and action. Sensation and emotion comes in and action comes out. There is a natural coupling between them. So, if a cat sees rat, the cat can’t think, ‘Oh today is ekadashi.’ (laughter) The cat will simply pounce on it.
Last year after America I had gone to U.K. So, I was invited to the Cambridge University to give a talk on Science and Spirituality, and while coming back we went to the tree where Newton is said to have seen the fruit falling. He saw the fruit falling or he felt the fruit falling… whatever is the story, but then here if you consider that in the history of science, Newton’s brilliance has been appreciated, that by seeing something so ordinary as a fruit falling he came up with the theory of gravity. That definitely is brilliance. At the same time how did the brilliance come up? Instead of Newton if some monkey would have been sitting over there… if the monkey would have seen the fruit falling, the monkey would have picked up the fruit, eaten it and gone its way, and no one would have blamed it for that. What to speak of monkey, even most of the human beings would have done the same thing, and you would not blame them, but the thing is that instead of just doing the instinctive thing of picking up the fruit and eating, Newton thought, ‘Hey what made the fruit fall?’ So, there could have been an instinctive reaction, ‘Oh there is a fruit, let me eat it.’ But he did not go along the line of that instinctive reaction. He chose not the instinctive path, but the intelligent path.
So, the special capacity of the human beings is that we human beings as compared to animals… lower species is that, we can decouple sensation or emotion from action, we can decouple emotion from action. That is how for example, we can fast. Now we feel hungry but for maybe it is a holy day, for religious purposes we fast or sometimes we want to lose weight, for dieting we may fast, whatever it is, but there is a sensation that comes in, there is a emotion that arises because of that, and there is natural action that comes, but we can decouple emotion from action, and that is a special privilege of the human being. This privilege is exercised through intelligence. To the extent we can use the intelligence, we can feel the emotion but we can decide whether to act accordingly or not or act in a different way, and this decoupling of emotion and action… Coupling means to join together, decoupling is the separate. This decoupling of emotion and action is vital for dealing with resentment. Now when resentment happens, when we become resentful…So, at one level when things go wrong it is natural to feel resentful, but just because something is natural doesn’t necessarily make it desiring. It is natural at that time, ‘Why did this go wrong?’ So, why is resentment not desirable, I will give three examples to illustrate it. Say, if you are driving a car and while driving, suddenly we hit a pothole… this bump, this jolt is there, and we move forward. Now if unexpectedly we see a pot hole, so we may look back. We may pull over also and look back, we can slow down and pull over. There is a pot hole. How did I not notice it? And then we may learn something from it. ‘Ok, next time I will be very careful. I will have to avoid this pothole.’ And that way we will move on. We will learn and we will move on.
Suppose somebody kept looking back, glaring back at the pothole. Where did this pothole come from? He keeps driving and keeps looking back. Now the pothole itself cause oneself a jolt. Now their looking back while driving ahead, that can cause an accident, that can cause a disaster. So, in real life very few people would actually do something like that when it comes to driving, but if you compare life to journey we often do this thing. What happens is that, when something goes wrong in our life… say we run into a pothole and suddenly get a jolt, and then we start looking back, ‘Why did that happen? Why did I do that? Why did he do that? Why did she do that? Why? Why? Why? And we keep looking back, glaring back at it, feeling frustrated about it, resenting it, and now unlike a car journey where we can stop the car, in the life’s journey we can’t stop, the life keeps moving on, but we are caught looking behind. So, what happens is, there is the hindsight and there is the foresight. Foresight is what we see ahead, hindsight is we see after the event… what happened.
So, now it is good to learn from the past. If certain things have gone out in an unexpected way, then it’s good to learn from the past, but learning from the past is different from living in the past. When we leave in the past that time we are mentally consumed by whatever has happened in the past, and then it’s like a person looking back while they are driving, they just can’t do anything. They can’t utilize their present in fact, they create further trouble because of the absent mindedness, the distractedness, the negativity that comes up. So, when we are resentful we are learning from the past, we are living in the past.
What is the primary difference? The primary difference when we are learning from the past is that we are in control. Ok, I am right now here. I will take my thoughts back in a guided way, look at the event, and see what could have been done better, but when we are lamenting the past, when we are living in the past, when we are resenting the past, at that time it is not that we are in control, it is the mind that is in control, and the mind just goes back to the past, and it just keeps going round and round and round over there, and the more we think about the past, we don’t learn anything from it, we just feel more and more frustrated. So, it is not that we are going to the past. The mind is simply taking us to the past. So, when this happens it simply dissipates our energy.
Another way of understanding this is like… as I said like the mind takes us to the past… the mind goes in a perpetual auto-replay mode, you know. Sometimes say we are watching a Youtube video and at the bottom there is a replay, play it again. Sometimes that replay setting is automatically put. The same video keeps playing again and again and again and again. So, like that when the mind becomes resentful of something then it goes into a perpetual auto-replay mode. Again and again the same thing we keep thinking, ‘Why did he do that, why did she do that, why did I do that, why did this happen, why, why, why?’ It just keeps replaying the event again and again and again, and it consumes our mental energy. We just can’t do anything, because the mind is consumed with that continuous replaying.
Another may be more practical example… in Youtube such a autoreplay doesn’t happen so often. Another more practical example would be sometimes say if you are working on a computer and the computer hangs. Now if the computer hangs, essentially what happens? It’s like one program is caught in a repeat mode. Somewhere some program is there which is caught in an endless do-loop13.16?? and it going on and on and on, and it consumes all the C.P.U, all the memory power, and then because it consumes all the processing power, the other programs can’t function, and then after that the whole computer stops functioning. So, similarly when we become resentful, at that time the same one event it just goes round and round and round, again and again and again, just keep going again and again in that way. When it keeps going again and again in the mind it consumes all our mental processing power, we just can’t think about anything else, and we just become paralysed, we become powerless.
So, now resentment can express itself in two ways. One is it express itself outwards or it expresses itself inwards. When it expresses itself outwards we lash out at others, ‘You are such a terrible person. Now because of you…’ ,and then we go on a campaign telling everyone how bad that person is. We demonise the other person. Now irrespective of what is true or false… that is not the important thing… maybe true also but it doesn’t really solve the problem. The other is we go on a attack on ourselves… ‘You are so foolish, you are so useless, you are so irresponsible, you are so careless, you are good for nothing, you are doomed and damned.’ We start beating ourselves internally, and in both the cases essentially what happens is that we dis-empower ourselves. When we think that, that person is a problem… ‘Ok, what can I do, that person is bad, what can I do.’ , and if I think I am the bad guy, then also ultimately if I have to improve it is I who has to work to improve, but if I start thinking that I am hopelessly bad, I am irredeemably bad then I can’t do anything to improve. So, both ways resentment chokes us.
So, now how do we deal with resentment? When a computer starts hanging what do you do? We restart or reboot the computer. So, similarly we need to reboot. Now what does rebooting mean? Rebooting means changing the questions that we ask. Now, in life sometimes the Why questions just have no answers. Why did this happen? Now, why did they act like that? Why did she do like that? Why did he do like that? You know the Why question has no answers. So, when I say that the Why question has no answers, we may say, ‘No, we understand that the philosophy of karma is there, bad karma things are happening.’ Yes, from a philosophical perspective that is ok, but from a practical perspective it doesn’t… whenever we talk about karma we have to understand that there are multiple levels of causation, that whenever anything happens there are three levels of causation. Say, one level of causation is say I find that I have got malaria. Now why did I get malaria? Because a mosquito bit me. Now, that is one level of causation of malaria, but then if I consider that in the house five of us are staying and it was not that the mosquito had some special love for me. Why did that mosquito come and only bit me? The mosquito bite can explain the occurrence of malaria, but the mosquito bite alone cannot explain, why did malaria come only to this person and not to that person. Sometimes we find that this person has lower immunity and that person has not got malaria. Somebody has good immunity, but still they have got malaria. So, the biological cause or the specific material, physical cause, that is important, but that is not sufficient. It is one part of the causal chain. Another part is our own karma.
It is by our karma that that particular mosquito bit us, and it bit us when we were vulnerable, when our immunity was down and that is how we got malaria. So, karma is the second level cause. The third level cause ultimately Krishna’s plan, Krishna’s sanction…. upadrasta anumanta cha, where Krishna is the overseer, Krishna is the permitter. Now when we say that Krishna is the third level cause, we have to understand that Krishna is not having some agenda against us. It’s not like Krishna wants us to fall sick, it is our own karma coming to us and Krishna is sanctioning it. So, in everything that happens, we can have these three levels of causation, and at different times we deal with things differently.
In the first level of causation… ‘Ok, I have got malaria, I will take some medicine, so that that mosquito, that particular infectant that is there, it’s influence on me decreases, and even in the vedic tradition there is Aurveda for this purpose. Ok, this is the material, physical cause of the disease and this is the material, physical solution to this disease. ‘Your stomach is upset, ok you take this peal, take this herb or potion or whatever it is.’ So, sometimes we work at a material level to address a first level material cause, but sometimes even when we address the material level of cause to our best capacity it doesn’t get addressed. Especially those who are in the medical field, they know that sometimes, some people, they have this disease and you give this medicine, you expect them to get cured but they don’t get cured. When an ordinary disease is there, we see it as ordinary but we just don’t get cured. So, when we do our part and still things are not set right that means that there is something more involved over there. So, the karmic cause is also there over there, and by the karmic cause, by destiny, sometimes we may just have to suffer for a particular time. So, at that time our material effort to resolve the cause, to resolve the material cause it doesn’t work, why because at that point the karma is coming into play, and we are meant to go through some difficulty for some time.
So, I am talking about this to understand from a philosophical perspective why resentment doesn’t help. Resentment doesn’t help us, resentment simply hurts us because as I said resentment does not solve the problem, but it also prevents us from doing anything else in our life. When I am resentful of this person, that person, whatever it is then my mental energy gets consumed and I can’t just do anything. So, we need to reboot. Reboot means what? Change the question. Instead of asking why, ask how… how can I act now? And if you go to the ultimate level, Krishna is always in control. So, how can I serve you Krishna? What do You want me to do in this situations Krishna? How can I serve you? When we have that attitude, how can I serve? Then we can always find some way to move forward because when we ask the why question, basically when we get no answer it is like a door being slammed in our face. ‘Now why did this happen? This doesn’t make sense. This explanation doesn’t make sense, that explanation doesn’t make sense.’, and we just feel, so many doors are slammed in my face and we don’t know what to do, but the how question opens the doors…. ‘How can I act now, how can I serve now?’ When we ask this question, at that time essentially what happens is that in every situation that we are in there is something that is in our control and there is something that is not in our control… any situation… even if there is some conflict with someone, whatever it is that has gone wrong, in every situation there is something in our control and there is something that is not in our control. The why question shifts our focus to that which is not in our control. Why is he doing like that? Why is she speaking like that? Why are they doing like that? The why question shifts the focus to that which is not in our control, and thus it dis-empowers us, because what is not in our control what can we do about it…we can’t do anything. The How question shifts our focus to what is in our control. How can I serve now, how can I respond now, how can I act in this situation, and just the fact that there is something in my control. At the very least my own consciousness, my own emotions are in my control.
Sometimes we may fall sick. Say we are going to go for a picnic or a yatra or a outing, and we are looking forward to that, and when we are looking forward to the outing, and just the night before that we start trembling and we find that we have a fever, and then we have to stay in bed for the next three days. Now we may resent, ‘Oh all my friends are going out and enjoying and I am lying in this bed.’ Now if we consider there is flue… if it is an ordinary flue, the flue doesn’t really cause much physical pain. There is weakness, you have to sleep more, and you have to have a regulated diet, but there is not so much physical pain over there. But that resentment, it causes far greater pain. So, if we look at life resentment of reality often hurts more than reality.
There is a particular reality that hurts, but our resentment of reality hurts us more. Yes, I couldn’t go for the picnic… that hurts, but if I keep thinking, ‘They are all enjoying, why is this happening to me….’ that hurts us much more. Better say, ‘Ok, I can’t go right now, so what can I do, maybe I will find some good book to read, maybe I will call up someone and talk with them, maybe I just need some rest… let me take some rest.’ You know, we can do some constructive activities even while we are in the hospital bed. That means that if we recognize that at least my consciousness is in my control… where if nothing else in my control, the world can take away all power from us, the world can even take away the power to speak, the world can even take away the power to see, the power to hear, but the world can never take away our power to think. Our power to think… we can always choose what we think about. That power is always there with us, and the whole process of Krishna Consciousness is ultimately meant to increase our power to think. The power to think means, power to direct our thoughts, power of choosing what we think.
So, a devotee can be lying in a sick bed but a devotee is thinking about Krishna, remembering Krishna’s pastimes, chanting Krishna’s name, hearing Krishna’s kirtan, and the devotee can be not just tolerating the pain, but the devotee can be joyful at that time. So, the power to direct our thoughts is something that the world can never take away. But when we become resentful, that is the very power that is take away from us… it is not taken away. We let it be taken away. That means that we let our thoughts get locked in one particular situation. ‘Why is this happening, why is this happening?’ So, resentment often is like beating our head against the wall. We simply hurt ourselves by that.
So, by changing the question that we ask ourselves from why to how, we can free ourselves from that resentment, not entirely but at least we can shift our mental focus, we can fight, ‘Ok there is something that I can do, this I can do, that I can do.’ And sometimes when things go wrong, it is like… the power suddenly goes off. Everything which is well lit suddenly becomes dark. Say we are going on the road in the night.. it is on a well lit road, and suddenly the power goes off. We may groan, we may curse, we may rant, but after a few minutes, after a few moments what we will do, we will take out our flash light, our phone, we will turn on our flash light, and we will see around us.. the phone flash light does not replace the street lights, but at the same time it can show us one step forward. We take one step forward and afterwards the flash light shows us the next step, but we take one step forward. If we are going on the wrong track and we find that there is a ditch on the road and we are falling off, then we turn around and we come back on track. So, we can keep taking one step forward, and that way if we do, we can cover substantial distance.
So, similarly when we shift the question from why to how… how can I serve? Krishna how can I serve? Srila Prabhupada was asked, ‘What is the best prayer that we can offer to Krishna?’ Prabhupada said, ‘Ask Krishna, please give me the strength to serve You.’ So, when we ask that question, that question itself becomes like a flash light. ‘Yes I can do this, yes I can do that.’ We keep taking one step forward, and as we keep taking one step forward gradually we can cover a substantial distance, and the good thing in life is… the good part of life in this world is that everything is temporary. The bad part of everything in this world is temporary is that the pleasures here are temporary, but good part of that temporariness is that the problems are also temporary. So, nothing lasts forever. So, no matter how problematic a situation may seem to be, nothing is going to last forever. So, we keep moving forward and the lights come back.
So, by shifting our focus from why to how we can take a tangible step to breaking free from resentment, to not letting our mental energy be choked in resentment but to move forwards. This is simply from a point of practical perspective, ‘How can I serve?’ Now going deeper we understand that Krishna is always our benefactor, and Krishna is always our benefactor… that means that Krishna can bring good even out of the bad.
Sometimes bad things happen if life, and it is not that as devotees we are meant to think that everything that happens is for good. Some people say that, there is a Gita sar, which people put sometimes in shops or houses, ‘Jo hua wo accha huan, jo ho raha hain wo accha hon raha hain, jo hone wala hain wo bhi accha hi hoga.’ Now, I have read the Gita hundred of times, I never found any verse which comes anywhere close to this. (laughter). There is no verse in the Gita which says this.
Now, everything that happens can be for good. It is not intrinsically good. It can be good. Sometimes bad things happen. When Draupadi was disrobed, nobody in the Mahabharat tells, ‘Jo huan accha huan..’ (laugh) Nobody tells her that. It is a bad thing, it is a horrible thing that had happed to her. So, it is not that as devotees, even if bad things happen we are meant to think that it is all good. We can’t do that, we are not expected to do that. Sometimes bad things happen in life, and we acknowledge that we are bad, but Krishna’s expertise is that He can bring good even out of the bad, and for that He needs our cooperation. If we are resentful, then we don’t play our part. When we don’t play our part, then Krishna can’t help us. Just like a patient who is sick. The doctor needs the cooperation of the patient. The patient is suffering and the doctor needs the cooperation. To the extent that the patient cooperates, the doctor’s work becomes easy. The doctor can treat, the doctor can cure. So, similarly we … if we understand that, yes Krishna is still in control and He can bring good even out of the bad, but then Krishna can… we will see that, actually we can have that faith, we can have that release, ‘why such terrible things have happened?’ Yes, terrible things have happened but somehow Krishna can bring out good out of the bad. We can see this in nature throughout.
Now actually God breaks clouds to give rains. God breaks the ground to give grains but we have to plough the ground. God gives grains, God has arranged in such a way that grains need to be broken, so that bread is formed, and then there is further arrangement that the bread has to broken when we can eat it so that we get energy. So, often things have to be broken down so that something more usable, something better can come out of it. So, similarly sometimes our plans are broken down, but something better will come down from it.
So, firstly simply at a practical level, resentment will choke my mental energy, it will close doors for me, if I want to open the doors let me shift the question from why to how. That is the first level. Second level is if we turn towards Krishna. We understand that it is not I just alone now trying to imagine, how can I serve in this situation. You know, Krishna is also there, Krishna is also helping me, and Krishna will take care of things ultimately. So, let me try to serve Krishna. So, it is not we alone who are working. Krishna is also there to help us.
In the Mahabharat when Abhimanyu is killed, at that time Yudhisthir feels terribly guilty because the whole chakravyuh had been set up to arrest Yudhisthir. When Drona became the commander, at that time when Bhisma fell, Drona expected that Karna will become the commander, because Karna had not been fighting earlier…Karna was the trusted friend of Duryodhana, but Karna said that Drona is like my teacher… the teacher of all of you. It will not be appropriate… people will not respect me if I am the commander when he is there. So, you make him the commander. So, when Duryodhana approached Drona, and Drona was delighted. He said, ‘O Prince, you have honoured me and I will like to bestow some boon upon you for having giving this honour to me. What do you want?’ Now Duryodhana knew this… Duryodhana said, ‘I want that you arrest Yudhisthir alive, and bring him in front of me.’ Drona’s eyes opened, ‘Yudhisthir is such a ajat satru, that you don’t even want to kill him, you want him arrested alive.’, Duryodhana just sardonically shook his head, and he said, ‘If we kill Yudhisthir, Bhima and Arjuna will go wild with rage and they will destroy our army. So, my plant is that after seeing them fight for ten days, after seeing them fell Bhisma, I have understood that we can’t win this war. So, my plan is if you arrest Yudhisthir and bring him in front of me, I will challenge him to another gambling match, and I will defeat him and have him go to the forest for another 12 years.’ So, Drona said, ‘You will never learn.’… he didn’t say that.
So, the next several days… 11 and 12 days, so Drona said that, ‘Arjuna is my equal in every way, and move over Arjuna has got celestial weapons. So, If Arjuna protects Yudhisthir I will not be able to protect him. You get Arjuna out of the way, I will arrest Yudhisthir.’ So, 11,12 days, both days he tries to his fullest capacity and Yudhisthir is both times very severely disadvantaged, but Arjuna comes rushing in the last moment and saves the day. So, on the 13th day, they formed the chakraview, and the idea of the chakraview is, their goal is to trap Yudhisthir in the net, and that is why they have Arjuna side tracked by Susarma… Trigartha King who challenges Arjuna and takes him on the other side, and then the only person who can break the chakraview is Abhimanyu. So, when they sent Abhimanyu inside, he tells in advance, ‘I don’t know how to come out.’ The Pandavas say that… Bhima says, ‘Don’t worry, you can break it, you know if you can penetrate inside we will destroy from inside, we just don’t know how to go inside.’ Now for Bhima it is an infuriating situation, because sometimes what happens we have a lot of strength but you know strength alone is not enough, because the enemy is attacking in a particular way… there may be a big body builder, but the enemy is shooting with machine guns, what you will be able to do. So, Bhima is feeling very frustrated. He says, ‘You just help me just get inside. I will destroy this from inside.’ So, Abhimanyu does that. Then Jayadrata comes in the way. Abhimanyu is trapped, and eventually Abhimanyu fights heroically but at the end of the day he is killed, and at that time Yudhisthir is filled remorse, he says, ‘Abhimanyu was like my son. I am meant to protect him, but what kind of father am I, what kind of uncle am I that I sent that 16 year boy to his death?’ He is completely shattered. He says, ‘When Arjuna comes back what face will I show to him?’ Yudhisthir is so shattered, that he says that, ‘I cannot face Arjuna. I will avenge Abhimanyu’s death or I will die myself.’ Yudhisthir charges towards the Kaurava to attack them, and when he was charging towards them, at that time Vysasa Dev comes over there, and although Yudhisthir is so disturbed, but when Vyasa Deva comes he knows. So, he gets off his chariot and offers his respect to Vyasadev, and he confesses his heart, ‘Arjuna’s son has been killed so brutally, and I sent him to his death. I am overwhelmed. You tell me what to do, what can I do?’
So, then Vyasadev tells him many valuable things. The first thing he says is, ‘Oh king, know that no one in this world can violate the law of death. Everybody who is born has to die.’ So, there were many kings who were far more virtuous than Abhimanyu, and they also had to die.
But somebody may say that, ‘Oh but Abhimanyu had to die so young. There is a full life in front of him.’ He says that, ‘Actually this world is always a place of temptation. No matter how virtuous and glorious a person may be they can be tempted at any moment, and they can fall but by laying down his life in a virtuous cause Abhimanyu has ascended to the place that is beyond temptation, and thus it is not that we should lament his condition, we should pity our condition that we are still in this word of temptation and distraction. He resides in a divine form in a higher realm. He has attained an auspicious destination, and the purpose of the lives of the heroes is to attain a destination like that, and he was further counselled and then he says that the inscrutable will of the Lord is ultimately for the good of all the living beings. The Lord’s will is inscrutable. We can’t understand why certain things happen, but still it is for the good of all living beings and he said, ‘If you do his will, you will understand this in due course. How the Lord’s will is for our good, we will understand it in due course if we do His will. If we do His will means that he consoles… that five days from now the earth will be yours and this war is soon going to come to an end. A great victory is due for you, to not lose your cool now. One man thing he says is, ‘Oh King! Give up grief, because grief and lamentation achieves nothing except to sap the energy of the lamenter. When we lament we achieve nothing except to sap the energy of the lamenter. Give up your lamentation, and arise to do your duty. So, Yudhisthir is consoled by those words of wisdom.
So, here actually again what is he saying? He doesn’t get into… Vyasadeva doesn’t get into Karma. He doesn’t tell that in the past life Abhimanyu had done this, and because of it he had to die. There are times when karmic explanations can be given, and there are times when karmic explanations are not appropriate. When something bad has happened, that time our purpose is to be by the purpose to help and support the person. Nobody tells Draupadi, ‘It was because of your karma that this happened to you, that you were dishonoured.’ No. Even Krishna says that… ‘Terrible things would have happened, If I had been there I would have avoided it, I would have stopped this gambling match, I would have never allowed this things to happen.’ Krishna was there to support Draupadi.
So, like that when we speak our purpose is not just to speak the truth, our purpose is to speak the truth in a way that inspires people to come closer to the truth, and so in this way by shifting the question… what Yudhisthir has told is, ‘If you do His will, in due course you will understand this.’ So, like that if we shift our attitude, ‘How can I serve in this situation?’ Then we can actually break free from resentment.
I will conclude with one last point about handling not just specific resentment, but the mind’s attitude to be resentful. We can develop another habit. The habit of cultivating aggressive gratitude. What does that mean? Normally, is something good happens to us, we feel thankful. Somebody does something good for us, we say thank you, if some desire is fulfilled we say thank you to Krishna. On the other hand normally we think, how can aggressive and gratitude go together? What does it mean?
Normally aggression means that say… this is a territory that belongs to someone. That person goes out of the territory and occupies somebody else’s territory or tries to occupy someone else’s territory, that is considered as an act of aggression. So, aggressive gratitude means that there is a territory, there is certain set of events which if they happen, we will feel grateful, but aggressive gratitude means we go out of that territory and look for reasons to be grateful. So, there are certain things… at a particular point of our life we may feel, ‘Oh you know, there are so many things wrong in my life. What is there to be grateful for?’ But we actively, aggressively even look for what is right in our life, and if we all look at our life we will see that there are so many things that are right. For example, it is said that every time…sometime our stomach gets upset, and then we complain that our stomach is paining and I am not able to eat properly. So, actually speaking if we see, the only time we think of our digestion is when it doesn’t work. When it works we just take it for granted. So, it is said that God gives and forgives, we get and forget. So, if you actually look we will find that there are so many things that are right in our life.
Let’s look at three levels. At the material level we can see that there are so many people in this world who are suffering far, far more than what we are suffering. According to statistics almost one out of every five people in the world, they sleep hungry in the night. They are malnourished. Most of us, we don’t have that problem. There are so many people who do not have the basic necessities of life. So, if we consider from the material perspective, the current culture, the media, the advertising industry it always shows us all the things that we don’t have. ‘Oh, this new phone has come, this new car has come, this new product has come.’, and because of that we always see what we don’t have, and we feel dissatisfied, but if we shift our vision we will see that there are so many people who don’t have the things that we have.
So, if we really wanted to count our blessings we are blessed far more than what many other people have. So, if we look to be grateful we all have things that we can be thankful for and further this is again at a material level itself that there are so many things which so many people don’t have, and especially if we look at things that we value. See, what happens it that sometimes our faith in God can limit God. Even how can anyone limit God….. Actually what I mean by that is that, we have faith in God only when He gives a particular thing to us, and if He doesn’t give that thing, ‘God doesn’t exist, God doesn’t care.’
So, sometimes when we are attached to a particular thing and we just want that thing and if that thing doesn’t happen then we think, ‘Oh, nothing is happening.’ Just like say sometimes, if children sometimes want a toy, and if the parents don’t give that toy, the children say, ‘You don’t love me.’ Now, actually the parents are providing with so many things to the child, but just that one thing is not provided they become blind to everything and they say, ‘you don’t love me.’ So, actually it is easy to laugh when we think that our children are doing like that, but often we like that with Krishna. We all have something that we just want, and if that one thing doesn’t work the we say, ‘Krishna doesn’t love me, Krishna doesn’t care for me, Krishna doesn’t do anything for me.’ Well, Krishna has done so many things for us.
So, if we cultivate aggressive gratitude. That means that we look for the things that are right in our life. At a material level we will see that there are many things that are right. At a more personal level… personal level also we may feel that I don’t have this ability, I don’t have that ability. If only I had that ability I could do so much. If I had that ability I could do so much. So, here also actually all of us have been given what we need for our growth, all of us have been given what we need for our growth.
So, if God had wanted us to be someone else, he would have made us into someone else. He has made you you and He has made me me. There is a purpose for it, and if we just instead of looking at socially glamorized models. Some people may be looking better than us, some people may be speaking better than us, some people may be more of a crowd pullers than us. There are certain qualities that are glamorized in today’s world, and everybody wants to have those attributes and those who don’t have them, they feel just as if I am nothing, but it is not like that. Those features that are glamorised, yes they may attract some attention, but we all can make a contribution irrespective of whether we are attracting attention or not.
So, it’s like say after this program there is Prasad. Don’t suppose, Prasad is really there. (laughter). Suppose there is some arrangement for Prasad, and everybody is getting different items. So, all of us have got different items on our plates, and all of us have got good items, and I get a feast and instead of savouring what I have got I look at what he has got. (laughter), and I keep lamenting, ‘Oh I don’t have that.’ You have a feast. You eat your feast. So, like that all of us have a feast in our plate. All of us have talents, all of us have abilities. Some of us may have talents which are more easily visible, more easily glamorized in today’s world, others may not have that…
So, even in our personal aspects if we learn to look at ourselves objectively rather than based on the social mirror. Social mirror means what is glamorized in society. Instead of looking at it in that way, we look at ourselves, ‘I am good at this. I like this. I can do this well.’ And we can develop that, and by looking at what we have we can use that, and we can all make constructive contributions. This is in terms of our personal attributes, and third level is at a spiritual level.
Actually the ultimate happiness in this world comes by connecting with the source of this world, which is Krishna, and the opportunity to connect with Krishna is very rare. Very few people have it, and even fewer people take that opportunity. So, if whatever be the situation that we are in, if we connect with Krishna, if we absorb ourselves in Krishna we can rise above the stress.
Krishna says, if you become conscious of me, you will pass over all obstacles by my grace. This means that He is not saying that obstacles will not come, but you will pass over them by His grace, because we will understand that Krishna is there, Krishna will help guide me, Krishna will take care of things. So, when we become resentful we become problem conscious, instead of being Krishna conscious, and the more we become problem conscious what happens is, problems derive energy from our thoughts, and the more we think of the problem, the problem seems to become bigger and bigger, and then you know that, ‘I can’t do anything.’ It’s like the problem is there like the reality. We don’t deny the problem as a reality, but how much we think about the problem that is up to us. ‘Ok I have got some disease, I have got some relationship issue with someone, I lost my job, I got some financial insecurity.’ All these needs to be dealt with, they are problems and they need to be dealt with but we can’t be dealing with them 24 hours a day. We have a life to go on, but unfortunately the problem comes… the problem comes with a mental glue, it sticks to our mind and constantly we are thinking about it, and then the more we think about it without actually doing anything to do with it the more the problem seems to become bigger and bigger. As it becomes bigger and bigger, we feel ourselves smaller and smaller, and we can’t do anything.
So, it is like say if I have to carry a five kg bag. Now five kg is not a very heavy weight, I can carry it, but if I am told, ‘You have to carry this five kg bag for the next 24 hours or carrying this five kg bag is your 24/7 job from now onwards.’ If I think that I have to carry this five kg bag for the rest of my life, that five kg will appear like 500 kg. I will not be to carry it. So, the problem of today are always manageable today, it is only when we extrapolate the problems of today and think that they are going to be there all the time or we take a problem of yesterday and let it dominate us today, then life becomes unbearable.
So, the whole problem is that we are problem conscious instead of Krishna conscious. So, don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big God is. If the problem is big, Krishna is bigger, and Krishna can guide us to deal with the problems. Even if the problem remains, by taking shelter of Krishna we can get inner strength, we can get inner stability… When we remember Krishna we can experience bliss, we can experience relief, we can experience strength, and then that’s when thing is right in life, and then with that one thing right in our life we can come back, we can reorient ourselves, rejuvenate ourselves and come back and deal with the problem intelligently.
So, thus by cultivating aggressive gratitude for the opportunity to remember Krishna…that opportunity is not there for many people, we have that opportunity and if we tap that opportunity even the toughest of problems can be dealt with.
So, when a problematic situation comes in our life, we can see that as an opportunity to experience for ourselves how tough Krishna can make us. We think that this problem is so big. We can’t deal with it, I am crumbling under it, but if we take shelter of Krishna we will find that actually Krishna can make us so tough that problems which would have caused us to crushed we can still go through them. So, say somebody is coming and beating and I feel like I am going to be knocked down, my skull will break apart, my bones will break apart, somebody is beating me, but the remembrance of Krishna is like an armour. When we remember Krishna, actually we discover, ‘Hey, this problem before I was a devotee five or ten years ago, if this problem had come I would have crumbled, but now still I am surviving, I am going on. So, if we take shelter of Krishna we will discover… now in the Mahabharat when Gandhari told Duryodhana that this blessing that I have given you I will put an invisible armour on you, and nobody will be able to destroy except at your thighs. So, he didn’t know how strong it is, and then at one time Bhima hit him, and Bhima hit him with such force that actually it would have practically rent a bolder apart, it was such force. Duryodhana’s body should have cracked open. The force was so great that Duryodhana was thrown away to a considerable distance, and the Pandavas were about to erupt in victory, and Duryodhana was flung far away, fell in the ground and he got up and he completely unhurt. Bhima was stunned, what happened? So, at that time Duryodhana discovered how powerful that armour was. A blow that could have killed him… the blow still had the force. It flung him away but it didn’t hurt him anymore. So, like that at an external level we may be tossed by problems but internally if we are remembering Krishna we will be protected.
So, we can see problems as opportunities to discover how tough Krishna can make us, and if we see it that way we will discover resilience that we can develop by Krishna consciousness, and thus our faith in Krishna can increase much more. That this Krishna consciousness is for real. It has tremendous potency to shield me from life’s problems, and the problem will come and the problem will go, but if our faith in Krishna is deepened, that is a lasting asset for us, that will prepare us for no matter what problems comes in our life. That will ultimately take us beyond this miserable world to Krishna’s eternal abode where there are no problems.
I spoke about overcoming resentment. So, I started by talking about how when things go wrong, we become resentful either of somebody else who is the cause of the problem, or ourselves… ‘why did I make this stupid mistake?’ Or God… ‘Why is God doing like this?’, and this resentment, it simply chokes us, it paralyses us. It’s like we…instead of… we get caught living in the past like a person who hits a pothole while driving a car, and instead of… they can look back and learn, where is the pothole and how to avoid it. But instead of that if he keeps looking back, then he will meet with an accident. So, like that when we become resentful we live in the past, and we make things worse for the future.
So, another example I gave is that, when we are resentful it is like our mind goes into a perpetual replay mode. ‘Now why did this happen, why, why, why, why…’ and it completely consumes our mental energy, like a computer program that hangs, we just can’t do anything at that time. We just have to shut down and reboot the computer. So, like that similarly when we become resentful, that one problem that is there, we just keep thinking about it, and we just can’t do anything else. We become reduced to emotional wrecks. So, at that time rebooting the computer means we change the question that we are asking. Instead of asking Why… Why is this happening, we change the question to How… How can I serve now? The Why question is disempowering because it focuses on… it shifts our focus to that which is not in our control, and on the other hand the How question shifts our focus to that which is in our control, and no matter how big a problem we are facing there is always something in our control.
So, when all my friends are going for a picnic and I fall sick, at that time what is in my control? My own thoughts, my own consciousness…. So, if I keep resenting, why can I not go for that picnic, then resentment of reality often hurts more than reality. So, the world can take away many of our powers, but the world can never take away our power to direct our thoughts, and this is this power that is specially tapped and trained by the practices of Krishna consciousness. So, to overcome resentment the first step is, we can change the question from Why to How… Second point is, I talked about how we can know that… Krishna can… we can have faith that Krishna can bring good even out of the bad. So, shifting the focus from us to Krishna, and it’s not that when something bad is happening we have to imagine that it is good. Rather we understand that it’s a triple level causation, that there is an immediate cause to the problem, I am trying to fix it but it is not getting fixed. That means that there is some past karma, that is the second level cause. Because of that past karmic complication this problem will be there for some time, but like everything in this world even the problem is temporary. Therefore, ultimate is Krishna… by Krishna’s sanction that it is happening. Krishna is not causing this, but it is my own karma which Krishna is sanctioning or allowing it to happen. So, Krishna can bring good even out of the bad. So, let me surrender to Krishna’s plan, let me try to serve Him using my God-given intelligence.
I discussed about how Yudhisthir was consoled and counselled by Vyasadev. He said that actually… he just shifted Abhimanyu who has gone beyond the line of temptation. So, we should lament for ourselves instead of lamenting for him. That lamentation achieves nothing except to sap the energy of the lamenter, and the inscrutable will of the Lord is surely for the good of all living beings. If we do His will, we will understand in due course, and the third step I talked about for overcoming resentment is – Cultivate aggressive gratitude. So, aggressive gratitude means we don’t wait for good things to happen to be thankful. Rather we go out of the normal zone of gratitude to look actively for what I can be thankful about?
I discussed at three levels, that at an external material level… food, clothing and other necessities and facilities of life which millions of people don’t have but we have. We can be grateful for that. Instead of just looking at what materialistic culture around us shows us… it shows us many things which we don’t have… it advertises them. We can just shift our focus and think about many things that we have which others don’t have, that can bring us gratitude. At a personal level again, the society glamorizes certain talents and certain abilities because of which we may feel that I am not good enough, but we are good enough for what we are meant to do. If God had wanted us to be someone else, we would have been someone else.
So, all of us have like a feast, but with different items in each one’s plate. Instead of looking at what is in others plate, we learn to understand and savour what is in our plate. We should develop our talents and we can make our contributions, and lastly at the spiritual level… now whatever problem is there we can be sheltered from that problem by remembrance of Krishna. It can give us strength and it can give us security, it can give us serenity… and the opportunity for remembering Krishna is also not available for many people. We have that opportunity, and with this opportunity available if we just tap it, then the problems can become impetuses for us to discover how tough Krishna can make us. So, we have an armour around us, but just as Duryodhana discovered when Bhima hit him how strong that armour was. So, like that when life hits us, rather than resenting why life has hit us, we can remember Krishna, absorb ourselves in His remembrance and we will discover that, not only can I survive actually, I am protected even in the situation.
So, when we become problem conscious, then the problems of yesterday’s burdens us today, and the problems we think will be there forever, and thus we feel disempowered, we feel that the problem is too big and I am too small, but instead of looking simply at the problem and thinking I am too small we can look at the reality which is bigger than that problem, that is Krishna.
Don’t tell Krishna how big your problems are, tell problems how big Krishna is. By becoming Krishna conscious we can be sheltered from the problem, and with the sheltering calm that comes, we can use our intelligence to act wisely and to resolve the problem or the endure the problem, whatever works out, but ultimately by taking shelter of Krishna we gain conviction about the reality and the potency of Krishna’s shelter, and that is life’s greatest gain, that gain, that conviction in the reality ant the potency of Krishna’s remembrance…. that will enable us to weather any stone that life sends our way. Ultimately it will take us beyond this stormy world to Krishna’s eternal, blissful abode.
(Transcription by Sadananda Krishnaprema Prabhu)