How can we deal with life’s dualities?
Question: How can we deal with life’s dualities?
Answer: Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita 5.20:
na praharsyet priyam prapya, na udvijet prapya ca apriyam
sthira-buddhih asammudhah, brahma-vit brahmani sthitah
(A person who neither rejoices upon achieving something pleasant nor laments upon obtaining something unpleasant, who is self-intelligent, who is not bewildered, and who knows the science of God is already situated in transcendence)
Do not become elated when there is happiness and do not become dejected when there is distress.
It is interesting to note that Krishna is not saying – do not feel happiness or distress. Distress and happiness will come, and one will have to experience those. Sometimes good and sometimes bad will happen. We cannot blind ourselves to this material reality, but we should not become elated in happiness and should not become dejected in distress. We can do so by not denying the duality but by focusing on the spiritual reality or supreme brahman.
Ultimately, the supreme brahman is Krishna. When we study spiritual knowledge and practise bhakti-yoga, we start connecting with Krishna. Metaphorically speaking, we can consider connection and absorption in Krishna as a five-million-dollar gain. Let me explain.
Consider a man is walking on a road to meet his ancestor, who has passed down five million dollars to him in inheritance. The condition is that he has to reach there within a particular time or else the money will be given to the government. While walking down the road, this man finds a five-dollar bill which he tries to pick up. But as soon as he tries to do that, the bill starts flying away in a different direction. The more he tries, the farther it flies. If the man keeps chasing the five-dollar bill then he will lose the five-million-dollar inheritance. In a slightly different situation, consider the same man walking down the road already having a five-dollar bill in his pocket. Suddenly a thief comes and grabs that five-dollar bill but is luckily stopped by the man. If this man gets busy arguing and fighting with the thief, again he may lose the five-million-dollar inheritance.
Similarly, for us, life’s pleasures are like the five-dollar gain and life’s distresses are like the five-dollar loss. However, our devotion and absorption in Krishna is like the five-million-dollar gain.
Bhagavad-gita 6.22 says:
yam labdhva ca aparam labham, manyate na adhikam tataḥ
yasmin sthito na duḥkhena, guruṇapi vicalyate
(Upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difﬁculty)
About 20-25 years ago when I was introduced to bhakti-yoga, this verse really inspired me very much to focus on Krishna consciousness.
This is the state of spiritual absorption and its characteristic is that if you achieve it, you will not long for anything else. Achieving this will free you from craving for anything more and even if great distress comes, it will not disturb. It will free you from lamentation.
There may be many things important to us but the underlying question we forget to ask ourselves is,
“Is there anything, after achieving which, we will not crave or lament for anything?”
We might become the wealthiest person in the whole world, have our dream job, our dream home etc. but will it free us from craving for more? It won’t.
It is not that pursuing or achieving material things is wrong, but we need to do such endeavour in the right proportion. If we are too consumed by these things, then we may end up like the man who lost his well-deserved five-million-dollar gain. Spiritually speaking, Krishna Consciousness is like that five-million-dollar gain. When we become conscious of Krishna, we will be free from craving and lamenting.
The five-dollar bill is not worthless but compared to five million dollars, it is insignificant. Thus, by keeping things in perspective, we can deal with life’s dualities with equanimity. Although good and bad things have happened and will continue to happen, we still keep moving towards Krishna. By such focus, we will be able to transcend duality.
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