Everyday Bhagavad-Gita: The Formula for Curing Lamentation.
Verse 2.28: All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?
Everything in the material world has a beginning, middle, and an end.
Whether we’re talking about life, relationships, career, hobbies, hunger, happiness; it doesn’t matter. Everything starts, remains for a bit and then ends. However, instead of understanding this truth, which we’ve all experienced first hand, we still act surprised every time it happens to us.
It reminds me of an incident within the Mahabharata.
As you may know, Arjuna is one of five brothers who were collectively known as the Pandavas, of whom Yudhisthira was the eldest. At one point in time, the Pandavas princes were exiled to the forest for thirteen years. Humbly, they accepted their fate. Despite being banished to the forest, they still helped anyone that they could.
One day, a sage asked them for their help to retrieve some special sticks that a deer had taken by mistake. Searching and searching for the deer without success, the five brothers became tired and were overwhelmed with thirst.
Yudhisthira, noting his brother’s sunken spirits and need for water, asked the youngest to search for a nearby lake. Spotting one, the youngest brother went to the lake and cupping his palms brought water to his lips to drink. Just then, a voice suddenly spoke saying “Stop! This is my lake. You cannot take water without my permission or else you will die.”
Paying no heed to this warning, the young prince drank the water and fell down dead.
Some time passed and when their brother did not return, Yudhisthira sent another of his brothers to investigate. Another brother went and suffered the same fate. Over and over this happened until Yudhisthira was left alone and went on his own search to discover what happened to his brothers. When he saw his all brothers lying dead by this lake, Yudhisthira was overwhelmed with grief and left wondering how anyone could harm them.
When he too went to drink some water, the voice issued the same warning and told Yudhisthira that the reason why his brothers were dead was due to the fact that they had drunk the water without this person’s permission.
Now, Yudhisthira was compassion and righteousness personified and realizing that his brothers had acted inappropriately, he inquired how he may set things right. Revealing himself, the guardian of the lake said that if Yudhisthira could answer a series of questions, then his brothers would be returned to him. The final question put to Yudhisthira was, “What is the most wondrous thing?”
To which he responds, “The most wonderful thing is that although everyday innumerable humans and animals go to the abode of death, still a man thinks he is immortal.”
Even after hearing this story for many years, it still amazes me. It makes me think about how if we are all intelligent persons, then why are we so surprised that things which begin will eventually end? This is simply the way of nature.
So, why do we lament? Having read the Bhagavad-gita, I can only come to one conclusion. The soul is eternal and is never subject to birth or death. This is who we really are. Therefore, when we encounter the temporary nature of the material world in all its facets, it feels artificial and doesn’t sit right with us. Since we don’t know what to do, or how to get out of this cycle of “beginning, middle and end,” we lament.
But, pragmatically speaking, there is no need for lamentation.
The practice of bhakti yoga teaches us the way out. It opens our eyes to the brilliant truth—we are eternal and therefore we should only seek out those things that are eternal since it is only these things which will make us truly happy.
And what is it that is eternal? God and our relationship with him.
This is why bhakti is the cure for all lamentation.
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Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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