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VEDANTA KESARIHow to face Problems of Life? - A Vedantic Approach  






     How to face Problems of Life?

     - A Vedantic Approach





     Swami Prabuddhananda



     Swami Prabuddhananda, a senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order, is the Minister-in-Charge of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco, U.S.A. This is the text of his speech delivered at Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad, India.




     Why Do Problems Arise?



     In many Indian households the expression 'Oh it is my karma' is used in a very negative way, as if nothing can be done about it. That is not true. Karma can be wiped out.

     Spiritual seekers believe that sanchita karma, agami karma and prarabdha karma can be wiped out through spiritual practices and the grace of God. That is freedom. Patanjali makes his own analysis. Why do we have problems? Because we cling to them and do not let them get resolved. For instance, I may have quarrelled with someone and afterwards that person might have made amends. But still I do not leave, it being my psychological problem, abhinivesha. If that capacity to drop things is not practised, the problems start or multiply. Problems are also caused due to the habit of cultivating likes and dislikes. Certain things come but I may not like them. On the other hand, I like certain things but they do not come. Thus people create problems due to asmita or egocentricity or self-centredness. There is another dimension to our character. Sometimes we have broken the law relating to health. We become weak mentally, and mental problems arise. It is a simple logic. Wherever there is weakness, problems are bound to come. Swamiji's message is that if you are strong, everything will be all right. Again, because of our weakness we develop fear. Thus Swamiji's diagnosis is that weakness and fear are the causes of problems.




     How to Overcome Problems?




     Whatever may be the cause, we have to find a solution. The solution is to accept the problem calmly and transcend it. Accepting it does not mean that you are complacent, not doing anything. To give an example, when a doctor comes to the hospital and sees the patient, he accepts 'Yes, that person has broken his leg or his heart is weak/ He won't complain or reject saying, 'Go, get well and come/ but he accepts. That is the advice given by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita: 'It is true that Kauravas are there. They have come to the battlefield. Face them.' In other words, 'Accept and Transcend.' When you accept a challenge and do not run away, you are strong.




     Wanted an Attitudinal Change




     There are two parts to a problem. Let me give an example. My leg is paining often. That is a health problem. That is the first part. But the second and the more important part of the problem is, 'How do I look at the problem?' When you see people who do not have any problem, you start thinking, 'I have my leg problem. Why me after all?' The second thought brings more pain than the first one. So the perspective - how to look at the problem - is very important. If your perspective is right you have solved the problem. I will give you some more examples. One branch of psychology is called 'Philosophical Psychotherapy'. The psychotherapist admits that s/he is not a religious person, and is not talking about philosophy. S/He says, 'I am a psychiatrist, and I have done this experiment with my patients successfully. According to that, if there is a psychological problem, you must change your worldview - that means how you look upon the world as such, the people, the work, etc. If you have a positive outlook towards all these and change the perspective, you will be cured of your disease.'

     Psychological problems come because of our wrong way of looking at situations. The psychiatrist gives some case histories. There was a young minister appointed to a big church. He had to replace a very senior, much respected and well-known minister who was also a very good speaker. A minister is like a bishop or swami-in-charge. He became very nervous and thought, 'How will the congregation accept me? I am very new. I am not a scholar and also I do not know how to speak well. What to do?' He became so nervous that he came to the psychiatrist and explained the problem. Then the psychiatrist asked, 'Have you come to this church to impress people or to talk about God?' The minister said, 'Yes, I have come here to talk about God.' The next question was, 'Where have you come? Have you come to a forest or to a church?' He replied, 'I have come to a church. This is the house of God. I have come to the house of God to think and to talk about Him.' Then the minister concluded, 'I feel better now.' That little change in attitude worked. After that he never went to any psychiatrist. In another case, a young man lost his friend in an accident, became thoroughly disgusted with life and was angry with God that such a thing should happen. His deceased friend had a young wife. The young man got frustrated and had to go to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist heard all this and said, 'You are right. You are upset over things that have happened. But there are two ways here. One is your way of blaming God and everyone and getting upset. The other is to view it differently. As you know, your friend who is no more has a wife and children. Being his friend, sympathize with them, help them, take care of them. Can you not do that?' Then the young person felt relieved.

     These are some extreme cases. The idea is that by changing the perspective, the problem gets solved. This is not new. In our spiritual life we do that. We have to treat parents and teachers as God: matridevobhava, pitridevobhava, acharyadevobhava. Wife and husband and all others are God. If we develop that mental attitude, then everything will change.




     Taking Help from Scriptures and Teachers




     There is another side to this, namely, to take help from others, our friends and companions. First, one may take professional help. People go to counsellors if there is a problem. The scriptures are the counsellors. Keep in touch with scriptures like Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji's Four Yogas. Mahatma Gandhi used to say, 'Bhagavad Gita is like a dictionary to me to solve problems. When you do not know the meaning of a word, you refer to the dictionary. Similarly in life, if there is any problem I run to my dictionary; that is Bhagavad Gita and I get the answer.' Then there are teachers. Tadviddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya - discuss with teachers, serve them with humility and then you will know.




     Lord Krishna's Advice




     Lord Krishna gives this simple instruction in the Gita. Likes and dislikes and such reactions create so much of unrest in us. What is the solution? Be duty conscious. If you perform your duties, you will lessen your problems. We say that duties are difficult, and duties themselves create problems. But if you are negligent, not performing your duties properly, you will create more problems. Therefore, do your duties properly.

     The Lord further speaks about buddhi yoga, i.e. use your discriminative mind, buddhi. Buddhau sharanamanvichcha - take refuge in buddhi. One must develop the capacity to reason, to analyze and think. In Vedanta, great importance is given to the function of buddhi or vichara or enquiry, as a means to resolve problems. Thus all our external and internal problems can be solved by proper use of buddhi.

     There is this yoga of 'skill in action' in the Gita. Yogasthah kuru karmani sangam tyaktva dhananjaya - engage yourself in action with mind steadfast in yoga. Through yoga you can quicken your growth, solve problems and overcome obstacles. 'Yoga is skill in action/ When you live, live skilfully. Our problems come mostly with our working area, be it home or office or social circle. One area is work and another is human relationships. In this, problems come because we are not using that skill. Lord Krishna speaks about skill in action. Without getting caught anywhere, without making a mess, keep yourself clean, free. When the hands are not clean we contract some diseases, likewise we contract mental diseases also. The whole of the Gita deals with that.

     Mahatma Gandhi used to say that yoga of non-attachment is the main message of the Gita, and that when the problems arise one should take them to God by Buddhi Yoga. Problems have come from Him, so let them go to Him. We are devotees of God and hence should turn the problems to God. Why should we own problems? They are not ours. If you accept, they will become yours and if you do not accept them, they are not yours. One should develop the attitude of being an instrument. Nimitta matram bhava savyasachin - 'Be thou but an instrument thereof, О Arjuna.' I am only a nimitta, I am not the problem-bearer. Problem is of my Master. I am only an instrument, a puppet. Take refuge in Him. When we are with the Mother we are very strong, as strength comes from Mother. Shankara says in a hymn, Matastadanu-shamnam kleshaharanam - 'O Mother, by following you, by being with you, all the klesha has gone, all problems and sufferings have gone.' Mother's lap is all peace, all love, all protection and it is safe. No problem comes there.

     Tasmat sarveshu kaleshu mamanusmara yudhyacha. Therefore the Lord asked Arjuna to remember Him and fight the battle. When you have problems, do not run away but hold on to Sri Ramakrishna. When you are busy doing work, hold on to God with one hand and do your jobs with the other. When you are a little free, then hold on to God with both the hands.




     Buddha's Method of Right Mindfulness




     Lord Buddha used to speak about 'right mindfulness'. One must be mindful, otherwise it will create more problems. This has been discussed in Sanatsujatiya and Vivekachudamani and other places at length. Inadvertence and carelessness are to be avoided. Lord Buddha's last message says how to attain nirvana: just be vigilant - Apramadeva sampadeuam. By being vigilant, you will attain nirvana.




     Remember Your True Nature




     There are other Japa Yoga methods. Remember that you are the Atman, ever free. Therefore you never had any problem. Atman is ever pure - nitya shuddha buddha mukta. Your true nature is ever pure, ever free, ever blissful. Call it God or Atman, your true nature is untouched by all these problems. You are like the sky and all these are like clouds. Let them pass on. Even serious problems may be there but all of them will pass. They will all go like the human bodies. Brahman alone is true, brahma satyam. That's why the problems are said to be mithya. They are psychological problems. Mana eva manushydndm kdranam bandha mokshayoh. The mind alone is the cause for all the bondage and also for liberation. In fact our true nature is all peace, love and joy.

     'I belong to Mother. How can I be deprived of anything? There is no fear for me. My Mother is with me.' Holy Mother tells devotees, 'Whenever you are in difficulty just think you have a Mother.' That is enough. Similarly Swamiji says, 'Each soul is potentially divine.' Remember we are all divine and so enjoy peace.

     Prabuddha Bharata

     Vedanta Kesari

     Vedanta Mass Media


International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015








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