The sufferings we go through in this world is compared to blazing fire of material existence. Why? Because just as a person bunt by fire always reels in pain, similarly in this world everyone constantly go through physical or mental pain.
We might have heard about devastating forest fire. In forest, fire occurs automatically. It is difficult to figure out how fire started. But soon it engulfs the entire forest devouring flora and fauna.
Similarly in this material world, we find ourselves in the midst of insurmountable trouble. And those sufferings come on its own. Why it happened and how it happened, we fail to figure out.
Problems come out of the blue
Sometimes our life will be going on smoothly and we may feel that everything is in control but suddenly there is turmoil in our life. We may face severe financial crisis or health issues. Sometimes there might be marital dispute.
We may think that we are doing our marital duty in best possible way. And in fact, we may also be doing our best but still our partner will be dissatisfied with us. Nothing can please him or please her. We are emotionally torn apart.
We find ourselves utterly helpless. All our plans go haywire. All our hopes of enjoyment are dashed. We cry in pain, but no one is there to wipe our tears.
People may be indifferent to our suffering, or some may even blame us for our situation. And who knows some may even enjoy seeing us suffering.
This is why the holy scriptures again and again say that it is utterly foolish to look for pleasure in this world. Everyone is suffering in this blazing fire of material existence. Searching for pleasure in this world is like looking for fresh cool water in a desert.
Attitude during difficulties
So, in this difficult situation what should we do? Should we continue suffering? Or should we do something to alleviate our suffering?
The choices we make in our life determines our destiny. So, if we make right choice during that difficult phase of our life then we will be able to overcome the difficult situation.
One of the best ways to figure out what choices to make is by reading the life story of great devotees of Lord. Just like a beacon light guides a ship in turbulent ocean, similarly life of saintly personalities guides us when we are struggling in the ocean of material existence.
I get very much inspiration from the life of Srila Prabhupada. If we read his life, we will see the difficulties he went through and most importantly his attitude during the difficult phase of his life.
Lesser mortals like us get torn apart during adverse situations and circumstances. In fact, during that difficult phase of life if we commit any blunder then our suffering will perpetuate and become more severe.
But great saintly personalities like Prabhupada knows what to do and what not to do if they are in unpleasant situations.
It could be possible that he may be criticized by all his near and dear ones for his actions, but he goes by the scripture. And the Lord seeing his determination and conviction eventually removes all inauspicious things from his life and bestows his choicest mercy upon him.
Srila Prabhupada’s life’s challenges
Srila Prabhupada’s life was not smooth. He got married to a woman with whom he did not get along nicely. Or we can also say that he married a woman who did not have much respect for his feelings. Once, he wanted to remarry but his father cautioned him against remarriage.
As a householder, he did his duties diligently. He never neglected any responsibility. He established a successful pharmaceutical business and took care of his wife and children in a nice way.
But Prabhupada also had interest in spiritual life especially after meeting his guru. He wanted to be a serious spiritual practitioner. But he did not want to do it alone. He also wanted his wife to participate.
The wife is called better half because she makes her husband complete. When they both cooperate with each other then married life is successful. But his wife was not interested in spiritual life. Prabhupada would face difficulty in practicing spiritual life at home.
Family members did not cooperate
Along with his personal sadhana, he also wanted to preach the message of Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. But his family members were disinterested, or we can say that were opposed to it. His father-in-law would criticize him telling him that he only talks about spiritual life and neglects his other responsibilities.
At home he faced difficulty in practicing devotional life and preaching the message of scriptures.
His wife once sold his favourite book, Srimad Bhagavatam, to buy tea biscuits. During those days getting a book was not easy because printing press were very limited. When Prabhupada asked her why she did so, she said casually that because she could not find anything to exchange for tea biscuit.
And once when Srila Prabhupada asked her that if she has to choose between him and tea then what will she choose? Without much hesitation, she said, tea.
But Prabhupada continued with his Krishna Conscious life.
Along with the difficulties in family life, Prabhupada also had started facing difficulties in his pharmaceutical business. Though he tried his best, he suffered huge losses. His partners and workers betrayed him.
Once, one of his workers stole all money, medicine and valuables from his Allahabad pharmaceutical company and fled away. He suffered great loss. It became impossible for him to continue with the business.
When Prabhupada came to know about the theft then what did he do? Did he cry? Did he file police complaint? Did he lament on his fate? Not at all. He just laughed and recited a verse from Srimad Bhagavatam 10.88.8.
“The Personality of Godhead said: If I especially favour someone, I gradually deprive him of his wealth. Then the relatives and friends of such a poverty-stricken man abandon him. In this way he suffers one distress after another.”
Prabhupada has set an example for us
Prabhupada was not overwhelmed by blazing fire of material existence. During his difficult phase of life, he remembered Krishna. Having firm faith in Krishna, he was convinced that Krishna can do nothing wrong.
From Prabhupada’s life, we can understand that irrespective of external situations and circumstances, we should never give the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. His life teaches us how a devotee of Krishna should act during trying circumstances. He has set an example for us. We just have to follow his footsteps.
Finding root cause of our suffering
Nothing happens by chance in our life. If we are going through difficult phase in our life then it can be due to our past karma or it can also be Krishna’s special arrangement to bring us closer to him. We don’t know the fact.
However, one thing which every serious and sincere devotee do is that he utilizes all the available opportunities to seriously practice devotion to Krishna.
Now most of the time when people face material problem, they try to find a material solution for it. That could be one approach. However, I think we should try to find the root cause of our suffering. It could be possible that material solution can mitigate our current material problem. But the material world is such that after some time a new problem comes.
So, we should try to think out of the box. We should look for a solution which is permanent and not temporary.
When Prabhupada’s business collapsed then he did not decide to establish a new business. He could have done it. But he knew that such types of material problems keep on occurring. Being a pure devotee of the Lord, he clearly understood that it is Krishna’s calling. So, he thought better to engage his time and energy in pursuing higher spiritual goals.
At home front too he did his best. But it is not always easy to change other person’s thought. Even one’s wife and children have free will and they like to act independently. So, Srila Prabhupada did his best and later took a bold and strong decision to renounce everything material and got totally involved in practicing and preaching Krishna Consciousness.
Attaining freedom from blazing fire of material existence
In the purport of Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.25, Srila Prabhupada writes,
“As one cannot stop a blazing fire by constantly pouring ghee upon it, one cannot satisfy oneself by increasing plans for sense enjoyment. The blazing fire is bhava-mahā-dāvāgni, the forest fire of material existence. This forest fire occurs automatically, without endeavor.”
In this world troubles will keep on coming. Just like the stars are countless in the sky, similarly the problems are countless in material world. So, Krishna says that transmigrate from this world and go to the spiritual world which is free of all sufferings.
Srila Prabhupada has set an exemplary example for all of us. We need to look at any material problem with a spiritual prism. In this world there is no end to material sufferings and if we continue being caught up in this vicious cycle then we would remain bereft of spiritual pleasure.
Human life is very precious. It in in human life only, we can completely free ourselves from all the sufferings and perfect our life.
So, we need to be extremely cautious about the decisions we take in life. We have to decide if we want to burn in the blazing fire of material existence or we want to attain freedom from it. Our actions and endeavours will either confine us to this material world or it will take us back to the spiritual world. Choice is ours!“
“The influence of material nature has covered the living entity, and thus it is as if the living entity were always in a blazing fire. But by the process of seriously discharging devotional service, this influence can be removed, just as wooden sticks which cause a fire are themselves consumed by it.” Srimad Bhagavatam 3.27.23