When natural calamities disrupt our lives beyond tolerance point, what can we do other than pray?
From Rekha Mathkarr Mataji
I believe and trust Krishna and follow all the scriptural regulations, but what we are experienceing weather wise in united States is beyond tolerance. Since last two wks.there are snow storms after snow storms. People are striended at airport unable to rich there destination. Schools are closed. People are unable to go to work. Elderly people like me are unable to see Dr.and stuck at home unable to get groceries.
How do you apply Gita wisdom in such situations?
Is there anything left to us other than keep praying?
Transcriber: Suresh Gupta
Edited by: Keshavgopal das
Question: When natural calamities disrupt our lives beyond tolerance point, what can we do other than pray?
Answer: These are very difficult situations which sometime come upon us by the very nature of this material world. As devotees, we can see this at three different levels. At first level, we see it as a practical problem which requires practical solution. Devotees should not live in a eutopia thinking that problems will not come upon us and be prepared to deal with them. When devotees would go out in cold for harinam sankirtan, Prabhupada would ask them to wear proper clothes to keep warm.
Secondly, at a philosophical level we see how this is confirmation of the Vedic teachings that this world is a place of misery (dukhalayam) and things can go wrong at any time (ashashvatam). Our situation can be reduced from “comfort” to “misery and helplessness” in a moment. However, such teachings do not mean that we develop a pessimistic attitude towards life. Rather, we should become intelligently realistic.
Vedic culture has two aspects – (i) practical preparedness and (ii) philosophical preparedness. Practical preparedness means that when natural calamities come, we do not reason that it is due to past karma, rather do what is required. We see this in the example of Prithu Maharaj in Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 4. Philosophical preparedness means that we have a realistic outlook towards life. Krishna consciousness is not just a cosmetic philosophy offering rosy picture of life. Rather, it can be emetic, where it purges out our misconceptions and forces us to understand the reality of this world. Calamities can act as eye openers and educators, in this regard.
At a practical level, there will be inconveniences and we will have to deal with them in all possible ways. Vedic culture did not just have brahmanas who gave philosophical education, but also had kshatriyas who would make sure that administration is taken care off. ISKCON, at this stage, is primarily focusing on developing brahmanical community. However, as the spiritual culture starts to spread, there will also emerge a kshatriya community of responsible administrators who will administer society competently to ensure that society is prepared for calamities.
Thirdly, at a personal spiritual level, we can see this as an opportunity to pray and take shelter of Krishna. There is nothing wrong to pray in emergency situations. It is not considered contamination to pure devotional service. Along with that, we can also take the situation as an opportunity to experience the limited power of non-material shelter which we seek (money, knowledge etc.).
The process of spiritual advancement essentially means relocating our shelter to Krishna. This happens only when we are forced to do it. In a normal situation, the extent to which we take genuine shelter of Krishna may not be much. In critical situations, to the extent we are internally disturbed, to that extent it is a reminder that our internal shelter is not yet in Krishna. Srila Prabhupada, a pure devotee of the Lord, during the second world war, was thinking that the falling bombs are Krishna, but not in a very palatable form. People are attracted to the beautiful three-fold bending charming forms of Krishna, but Prabhupada saw bombs also as Krishna (kaalosmi – Time I am).
One devotee was in Gujarat with some of his relatives and unfortunately their place was hit by floods. They were staying on the fifth floor of a five-story building and the poor detection system could not detect the floods. Initially, the water was at first floor but eventually started rising to second, third and fourth floor. The family (they were not devotees) realised the severity of the situation where the water may rise to the fifth floor and drown them. The devotee in the family thought that now they have no refuge apart from taking shelter of Krishna and decided to start doing kirtan. All of them did kirtan continuously for seventeen hours in turns and they did it very intensely because they needed help desperately. Fortunately, they were saved, and the water subsided. This experience gave them a glimpse of – how dangerous material world can be and how wonderful Krishna’s shelter can be? The faith of other relatives in Krishna also deepened and they began the process of bhakti and later became serious devotees.
We can see calamities not just as troubles but also as opportunities that impel us to take real shelter of Krishna and relish the security. Hence, such events can become an opportunity for spiritual advancement. At the same time, if we are in trouble, we should not be utopians. If others are in trouble, we should not be insensitive, where the only thing we tell them is to take shelter of Krishna. Whatever is practically possible should be done in order to help and deal with the situation at a practical level.
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