Reversals, even of the most difficult kind, have the potential to be the greatest opportunities in our life. The nature of material existence, even when we come to spiritual path, is that we are conditioned that things should go our own way. Material existence is a consciousness by which I am the controller, I am the enjoyer, I am the proprietor. And therefore we very much are accustomed to expect things to go our way. And if things don’t go our way, depending on our nature, we may become angry, may become vengeful, we may fight, we may give up, become depressed, commit suicide, withdraw from society, these are among the different ways the conditioned soul deals with they emotional crisis that “things are not going my way”. When we come to spiritual life we still have our same conditionings. It is not that as soon as we come to the path of bhakti we are pure.
When we go to the hospital it doesn’t mean that when you walk in the door you are free from disease. Usually after you walk into the hospital there is more pain than before we walked in. I walked into a hospital last week. I was feeling quite good when I walked in. But soon I was on an operating table, they were cutting organs out of me and they were sawing me up and soon I was lying there and they were asking me how many painkillers I want. A lot of pain, so many restrictions, so many problems. So when you go into a hospital as a patient, you can expect that things are going to get worst before they are going to get better, because that is the process of taking out the disease. Restrictions of diet, restrictions of movements. And then you are not even allowed out until they discharge you. Very difficult. So similarly spiritual life is like coming into a hospital for the heart. And there are going to be a lot of difficulties that we wouldn’t have to deal with if we just remained in the diseased condition without trying to solve.
One of our diseases that we come into spiritual life with is that we expect things to go our way. We also apply this to our spiritual life. I am serving Krsna and this is the way Krsna should deal with me. I have done these many pujas, these many sacrifices. He should make my children scholars, he should make them obedient to me. He should give me good health and in fact he should give all my family members good health. And my business, of course, because it is for him, it should flourish, it should prosper, without any impediments. And as far as my relationships, people should give me the honor and respect I am due, for being such a sincere and saintly person. More or less we all expect like this. But the problem is if Krsna gave you what you wanted, you probably you wouldn’t grow much at all.
Because bhakti is not about getting, bhakti is about seeking shelter. You only get Krsna when you seek shelter, you only get Krsna when you give up hope of anything else. If you want other things, that is the karma kanda mentality. You can get other things but you will not get the goal. So reversals come. And one of the problems is that the reversals are not the ones we like. It is our tendency to think that “I know reversals will come and I know if I take shelter of Krsna I will make advancement, but I will give my list of which reversals are acceptable.” But the problem is that Krsna has His own list. You made your list, but what you have on your list won’t work. Definitely the difficulties that Kuntidevi got were not on her list. But she thanked Krishna. Because she understood it was perfect. What appears to be a curse is a blessing if we simply appreciate the inner essence of the possibility of how to connect to God in that situation.
Therefore one of Srila Prabhupada’s most common and favorite of all verses is from the Tenth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam spoken by Lord Brahma.
tat te ‘nukampäà su-samékñamäëo
bhuïjäna evätma-kåtaà vipäkam
håd-väg-vapurbhir vidadhan namas te
jéveta yo mukti-pade sa däya-bhäk
One who seeks the compassion of the Lord with folded palms, even in the phase of the most difficult possible adversity, seeking the compassion of the Lord, and bows down thinking “I deserve much worse, Krishna is just giving me this much, just to help me to turn to Him”, and if we do this with a grateful heart, däya-bhäk, that means it is our natural inheritance to go back home to the spiritual world, to attain the perfection of liberation. We have to see deeper than what appears. – Radhanath Swami