Everyday Bhagavad-Gita: Healing our Wounds.
Verse 2.36: Your enemies will describe you in many unkind words and scorn your ability. What could be more painful for you?
Pain is a type of suffering, distress. It comes in many different forms, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. Everyone has experienced it and almost everyone agrees that pain should be avoided at all costs.
However, people tend to differ greatly in their attitudes toward and perceptions of pain.
One man’s pain can easily be another one’s pleasure. Along with perception, people also tend to have various thresholds of pain. For example, some may be able to tolerate high doses of physical pain, but may fall to pieces when exposed to a hint of emotional pain.
In this verse, we get a glimpse into how pain is perceived differently depending on the individual. Specifically, Krishna is pointing out for that person who is a warrior/leader/protector, such as Arjuna, the greatest pain is derision and defamation. It’s not insult or injury to the body that such a person feels afflicted by, but insult to one’s character and example.
The real insight to this verse though lies in recognizing that pain and suffering surrounds us everyday in the many ways that we so easily and unconsciously hurt each other. We forget that pain is not limited solely to the physical, which while hurtful more often than not, heals faster and more easily than the emotional scars and traumas that we cause by our careless words and actions.
In this vein, one great bhakti practitioner said that we should aspire to become “spiritual warriors.” Instead of arming ourselves with insults, derogatory remarks, and flippant sarcasm, we should arm ourselves with compassion, well-wishes, and words of encouragement for one another.
There is so much pain in the world today.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Do we want to help heal it?” It’s so easy to point fingers at one another and say “You did this!” However, this just perpetuates the cycle. Instead, we need to want to change things by adopting the path of the spiritual warrior. Spiritual warriors that, as the great bhakti text Srimad Bhagavatam describe, aspire to the ideal of becoming such sincere lovers of the Lord that “even though they are defamed, cheated, cursed, disturbed, neglected or even killed, they are never inclined to avenge themselves.”
Admittedly, that’s a pretty high standard. In fact, for most of us, it may seem impossible. However, it’s important to have an ideal, or a goal to strive towards. Whether we only imbibe one percent of that statement or 90, the fact is we are transformed by attempting to become such empowered individuals.
Why not aim for the moon? After all, even if we fall, we’ll land amongst the stars.
With respect to becoming a spiritual warrior, it’s important to recognize and remember the saying, “Physician, heal thyself.” We first need to recognize the scars and hurt we’ve experienced and let go of it. It’s hard to help others when we ourselves are suffering. However, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Such is the beauty of bhakti. Bhakti not only helps the process of self-healing, but also helps one to recognize and help others simultaneously.
In a world that’s becoming more and more impersonal by the day, this is an invitation to become more personal and more loving. Are you in?
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Editor: Thaddeus Haas