Every time we turn on the News, look at a Newspaper or open up our Web browser, we are bombarded with news of natural disasters; forest fires,flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Some people blame it on climate change or global warming, others say it is a result of to much sinful activity. But whatever the cause, it is clear we are all in danger, and are all susceptible to the threefold miseries; miseries caused by the mind and body, miseries caused by other living entities, and miseries caused by natural disasters.
The following post deals with the threefold miseries and a spiritual approach to understanding “What am I, and why am I suffering from the threefold miseries?”
All schemes are only useless scraps of paper in the face of war, famine, earthquakes and other disasters. All these disasters are warnings from Mother Durga, and by them she confirms her eternal superiority over the illusioned planmakers. [Excerpt from Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Ch 3]
It is the duty of a disciple approaching a spiritual master to inquire about his constitutional position. In conformity to that spiritual process, Sanatana has already asked, “What am I, and why am I suffering from the threefold miseries?”
The threefold miseries are called adhyatmika, adhibhautika, and adhidaivika. The word adhyatmika refers to those miseries caused by the mind and body. Sometimes the living entity suffers bodily, and sometimes he is distressed mentally. Both are adhyatmika miseries. We experience these miseries even in the womb of our mother. As we well know, there are many types of miseries that take advantage of the delicate human body and give us pain. Miseries inflicted by other living entities are called adhibhautika. These living entities need not even be large, for there are many—such as bugs—that can make us miserable even while we are sleeping in bed. There are many insignificant living entities, like cockroaches, that sometimes give us pain, and there are also other living entities who are born on different kinds of planets and who give us miseries.
As far as the adhidaivika miseries are concerned, these are natural disasters that originate with the demigods of the higher planets. For instance, we sometimes suffer from severe cold or hot weather, from a thunderbolt, or from earthquakes, tornadoes, droughts and many natural disasters. In any case, we are always suffering from either one or a combination of these three kinds of miseries.
Sanatana s inquiry was therefore an intelligent one. “What is the position of the living entities?” he asked. “Why are they always undergoing these three kinds of miseries?” Sanatana had admitted his weakness. Although he was known by the masses of people as a greatly learned man (and actually he was a highly learned Sanskrit scholar), and although he accepted this designation, he did not actually know what his constitutional position really was and just why he was subjected to the threefold miseries.
Approaching a spiritual master is not just a fashion but is a necessity for one who is seriously conscious of the material miseries and who wants to be free of them. It is the duty of such a person to approach a spiritual master. In this regard, we should note similar circumstances in Bhagavad-gita. When Arjuna was perplexed by so many problems involving whether to fight or not, he accepted Lord Krsna as his spiritual master. It was also a case of the supreme spiritual master instructing Arjuna about the constitutional position of the living entity.
In Bhagavad-gita we are informed that the constitutional nature of the individual entity is spirit soul. He is not matter. As spirit soul, he is part and parcel of the supreme soul, the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead. We also learn that it is the duty of the spirit soul to surrender, for only then can he be happy. The last instruction of Bhagavad-gita is that the spirit soul surrender completely unto the supreme soul, Krsna, and in that way realize happiness.
Here also, Lord Caitanya, answering the questions of Sanatana, repeats the same truth. There is a difference, however. Here Lord Caitanya does not give the information about the spirit soul that is already described in Bhagavad-gita. Rather, He begins from the point where Krsna ended His instruction. It is accepted by great devotees that Lord Caitanya is Krsna Himself, and from this point of view He begins His instruction to Sanatana from the point where He ended His instructions to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita.
“Your constitutional position is that you are pure living soul,” the Lord told Sanatana. “This material body cannot be identified with your real self; nor is your mind your real identity, nor your intelligence, nor false ego. Your identity is that of eternal servitor of the Supreme Lord Krsna. Your position is that you re transcendental. The superior energy of Krsna is spiritual in constitution, and the inferior external energy is material. Since you are between the material energy and the spiritual energy, your position is marginal. Belonging to the marginal potency of Krsna, you are simultaneously one with and different from Krsna. Because you are spirit, you are not different from Krsna, and because you are only a minute particle of Krsna, you are different from Him.”
This simultaneous oneness and difference always exists in the relationship between the living entities and the Supreme Lord. From the marginal position of the living entities, this conception of “simultaneously one and different” can be understood. The living entity is just like a molecular particle of sunshine, whereas Krsna may be compared to the blazing, shining sun itself. Lord Caitanya compared the living entities to blazing sparks from a fire and the Supreme Lord to the blazing fire of the sun. In this connection, the Lord cites a verse from Visnu Purana (1.22.52):
jyotsna vistarini yatha
parasya brahmanah saktis
tathedam akhilam jagat
“Everything that is manifested within this cosmic world is but the energy of the Supreme Lord. As fire emanating from one place diffuses its illumination and heat all around, so the Lord, although situated in one place in the spiritual world, manifests His different energies everywhere. Indeed, the whole cosmic creation is composed of different manifestations of His energy.”
The energy of the Supreme Lord is transcendental and spiritual, and the living entities are part and parcel of that energy. There is another energy, however, called material energy, which is covered by the cloud of ignorance. This energy, which is material nature, is divided into three modes, or gunas (goodness, passion and ignorance). Lord Caitanya quoted from Visnu Purana (1.3.2) to the effect that all inconceivable energies reside in the Supreme Personality of the Lord and that the whole cosmic manifestation acts due to the Lord s inconceivable energy.
The Lord also said that the living entities are known as ksetrajna, or “knowers of the field of activities.” In the Thirteenth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita, the body is described as the field of activities, and the living entity as ksetrajna, the knower of that field. Although the living entity is constitutionally conversant with spiritual energy, or has the potency to understand spiritual energy, he is covered by the material energy and consequently identifies the body with the self. This false identification is called “false ego.” Deluded by this false ego, the bewildered living entity in material existence changes his different bodies and suffers various kinds of miseries. Knowledge of the living entity s true position is possessed to different extents by different types of living entities.
In other words, it is to be understood that the living entity is part and parcel of the spiritual energy of the Supreme Lord. Because the material energy is inferior, man has the ability to get uncovered from this material energy and utilize the spiritual energy. It is stated in Bhagavad-gita that the superior energy is covered by the inferior energy. Due to this covering, the living entity is subjected to the miseries of the material world, and, in proportion to the different degrees of passion and ignorance, he suffers material miseries. Those who are a little enlightened suffer less, but on the whole everyone is subjected to material miseries due to being covered by the material energy.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu also quoted from the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita in which it is stated that earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and ego all combine together to form the inferior energy of the Supreme Lord. The superior energy, however, is the real identity of the living being, and it is because of that energy that the whole material world functions. The cosmic manifestation, which is made of material elements, has no power to act unless it is moved by the superior energy, the living entity. It can actually be said that the conditioned life of the living entity is due to forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Lord in the superior energy. When that relationship is forgotten, conditional life is the result. Only when man revives his real identity, that of eternal servitor to the Lord, does he become liberated.
[Excerpt from Elevation to Krsna Consciousness, Ch 5]
Therefore we should know that our aim of life should be to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We should make every arrangement—social, political, philosophical or religious—but the aim should be to approach the Supreme person. In the Vedas it is stated that the learned advanced people, the demigods of the creation, simply look to the lotus feet of Krsna. The aim should be the same with human civilization. Without looking to Krsna s lotus feet, all religious, social or political endeavors will fail. It is not possible to make progress as long as our desires are anchored in the material world.
In this regard, there is a story of a bridegroom s party who had to go to the bride s house down the river. It was settled that they would start at night by boat and reach the destination early in the morning. Therefore at night, after supper, the jubilant party got aboard a boat, made themselves comfortable and instructed the boatmen to start. Since all the members of the party were seated comfortably, and since the river breeze was very pleasant, they slept soundly that night. In the morning they all got up early, but to their astonishment they saw that the boat had not moved an inch toward the destination, even though the boatmen had rowed vigorously all night long. Finally, after inquiring, they found that despite the boatmen s rowing, the boat had not moved because they had failed to raise the anchor. The marriage ceremony was thus spoiled because of a foolish mistake.
Our present civilization is therefore a mistaken civilization because the mistaken leaders have forgotten to raise the anchor of attachment. Instead, the anchor is being more and more firmly fixed because they have structured the social order on the basis of sense gratification. This sense gratifying social and political set-up, maintained by various plans and schemes, has been described in Bhagavad-gita as follows:
kamam asritya duspuram
cintam aparimeyam ca
etavad iti niscitah
“The demoniac, taking shelter of insatiable lust, pride, and false prestige, and being thus illusioned, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent. Their belief is that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus, there is no measurement for their anxiety.” (Bg. 16.10.11)
The leaders, like the boatmen, are all illusioned. They mislead us into taking some temporary benefit, but how long can their plans and schemes go on? If they persist until they die of heart failure or are killed by assassins, then another just like them takes their place. Even the so-called philosophers of modern society are captivated by material name and fame, and so they do not lead the general populace in the proper direction. Thus the anchor of life remains deeply fixed in the waters of nescience for the purpose of sense gratification, and thus our so-called civilization rots in a stagnant pool. Because we are not moving, we are always in the same port of problematic life.
All schemes are only useless scraps of paper in the face of war, famine, earthquakes and other disasters. All these disasters are warnings from Mother Durga, and by them she confirms her eternal superiority over the illusioned planmakers. The different weights on the anchor which keep us grounded in material life are our attachments to the material body due to our ignorance of spiritual facts, our attachment to kinsmen due to bodily relations, our attachment to our land of birth and our material possessions, our attachment to material science and our attachment to religious forms and rituals without knowing their true purpose—all these anchor the boat of the human body in the material universe. Sri Krsna, using the example of a strongly rooted banyan tree, advises us in Bhagavad-gita how to get rid of this attachment once and for all:
na rupam asyeha tathopalabhyate
nanto na cadir na ca sampratistha
asvattham enam suvirudha-mulam
asanga-sastrena drdhena chittva
tatah padam tat parimargitavyam
yasmin gata na nivartanti bhuyah
tam eva cadyam purusam prapadye
yatah pravrttih prasrta purani
“The real form of this tree cannot be perceived in this world. No one can understand where it ends, where it begins, or where its foundation is. This banyan tree must be cut out with determination, by the weapon of detachment. Thereafter, one must seek that situation from which, having gone, one never comes back. One must surrender to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything has begun and is extending since time immemorial.” (Bg. 15.3,4)
The personality of Godhead, who is fully cognizant of everything in His creation, informs us in our best interest that we must desire to get rid of this material existence. We must detach ourselves from everything material. To make the best use of a bad bargain, our material existence should be 100% spiritualized by constant association with Krsna s message, His devotees and His names. Therefore everyone who ordinarily engages in material affairs can derive the highest benefit from this Krsna consciousness movement. All kinds of spiritual endeavors are more or less tinged with material contamination. However, pure devotional service is transcendental to all pollution. We need not artificially adopt principles of materialism; we need only fix our minds on the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna.