Happiness and Suffering

Happiness and Suffering

Happiness and Suffering

The world today promotes instant gratification over long term spiritual achievements. It is often a mystery and even more often a dilemma about how one can practice any form of spiritual practice in the world where spirituality is sometimes even looked down upon. If one looks deep enough, it becomes apparent that the externals have nothing to do with one’s internal spiritual practice. Often, it is just a matter of adjusting one’s activities and environment to complement one’s inner principles.

Of course, but it doesn’t last forever. Both heaven and hell are places where we experience the accumulated reactions from our life and we enjoy or suffer according to our stock of good or bad deeds. Once having experienced this we then take birth in this world again with a fresh opportunity to choose our activities correctly and make spiritual progress.

The source of all heavenly experiences is the realm of God Himself. That place does not involve any coming back down to any form of life. It is the highest heavenly place. In Sanskrit it is known as Vaikuntha, the ‘place without anxiety.’ Once there, we never return to this world of birth and death. In the kingdom of God there is no pain or fear; there is only an unending, blissful awareness of His presence. In that Spiritual Sky we live with God and enjoy with Him eternally.

The laws of nature are very stringent. When we break them there are consequences. When we stand in the rain we’ll get wet, and may catch a cold. And when we put our hand into the tiger’s cage there’s a very good chance we’ll be bitten – we can’t blame God for our foolish choices. In the same way, when we use our phone while driving we break the law. If we’re caught there’ll be consequences and we’ll be punished.

Suffering comes as the inevitable consequence of not following the laws of nature, or the laws of the country. But what if we’re travellers and don’t know the laws of a country? There are no excuses; we should have known the laws before visiting that country. In the same way we are all travellers in a strange land. We may not know all the laws of karma, but still there will be consequences. We can make this world a heaven or a hell, just by choosing our response to it. Nothing belongs to us; it all belongs to the supreme source, the one who made it, so we can only take what we need, and no more. When we take more than we need, we suffer.

Suffering may be regarded as a way for us wayward souls to be corrected. We are constantly being put back on the straight and narrow by a compassionate higher power who wants us to return to him. We can’t really change what happens to us in this life as most things are beyond our control. What we can change however, is how we react to it.

Happiness and suffering are inevitable in this world, and our best approach to solving these problems is changing our attitude towards life. When we understand that both happiness and suffering are temporary and focus instead on cultivating our relationship with God that brings us eternal happiness, then we can rise above the problems in this world. The suffering of this world is a prompt for us to aspire to leave it. This is not our real home.

Every soul creates its own future, action by action. Sometimes an entire life goes by with no reactions to bad deeds; that soul does many bad things, but he seems to escape any form of karmic reaction. Then, in the next life, from his very childhood, he begins to suffer. When we see that life we can’t understand why bad things are happening to an apparently innocent child.

There seems to be no apparent cause or reason for their trouble. However, our response should never be a self-righteous one of attributing blame to anyone for their suffering; that is the prerogative for a much higher order. Rather we should be thinking compassionately: “How can I help this person?” So the reason for someone’s distress is their karma, but our response must always be dharma.

We can never know all the intricacies of karma, samsara and the grace of God. Neither can we know what happened to your aunt in her past life. It is sad, but true, that life is indeed short, painful at times, and the remote causes of the things that happen to us – the detailed reasons we suffer loss and pain – often remain hidden. God has infinite compassion and helps each one of us in different ways. Ultimately He draws every soul towards Him along his own path.

We are born with what is termed sanchit-karma, the aggregate of accumulated reactions to all previous deeds. The portion of that accumulation that has now manifested in our current bodily form and tendencies is known as prarabdha-karma. Our previous karmic reactions will gradually manifest as we pass through life, and at the same time, as we continue to act, we will generate fresh reaction.

The results of previous activities appear in three concurrent stages. One is called bija (the root), another is called kutastha (the desire), and another is called phalonmukha (about to fructify). The manifest stage is called prarabdha (already in action). Karmic reaction causes us to become attracted to certain activities, and our activities then create fresh reactions. But the fact of the matter is that this chain of action and reaction can be interrupted by the process of bhakti-yoga.

The chain of cause and effect is a system of education over many lives. It continues for as long as it takes for us to re-orient our focus from selfish action to selfless activity. Yoga provides us a meditative experience and allows us to see the difference between our mental desires and our real selves, so that we can effectively control our thoughts and subsequent actions.

Meditation and prayer also connects us immediately to God, the ultimate source of the cause and effect and creates a by-pass to the painful educational process. It is therefore a direct method of re-directing our future.

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