Published on April 2nd, 2020 | by Harmonist staff7
Everything is Out of (Our) Control
By Swāmī Bhakti Praṇaya Padmanābha
Beyond being human and pragmatically cautious, as spiritual aspirants we must be philosophically sober in the face of the coronavirus. Moments like these should cause us to turn inward. Yesterday, I came across an interesting quote from the Mahabharata (12.330.15), about how to deal with catastrophes:
As for those calamities that have manifested themselves in entire states and provinces, no one should resort to anxiety. Free of anxiety, one should implement any solution that is available at that time.
Thus, we see how sastra is both practical and wise: we must do what we can do, but not worry unnecessarily about those things that lie outside the range of our control. Unchecked, this generates anxiety beyond our control, or panic. So the real problem is not so much what happens or does not happen, but how much we insist on solving something far outside of our control. Instead we should dedicate ourselves to accepting the plan of the Supreme in our lives.
I do not wish to invoke passive resignation in anyone but I encourage the sober capacity to accept what is happening around us. As aspirants to devotion, our focus should be on the Supreme Being and his will—and on increasingly accepting his agenda in our lives, rather than trying to forcefully impose our own agenda. In this way, increased anxiety should be redirected by reflecting on the fact that we have not yet given up enough to the Supreme, to the point of accepting, willingly and cheerfully, Krishna’s plan in our lives. In this regard, yesterday I also came across an interesting comment by Vallabhacarya:1
Praying to the Lord in situations of calamity (for him to modify them) only demonstrates how little faith we have in the arrangements he is making in our lives. The Lord arranges everything in the life of his devotee by his own desire, without being influenced by any other factor. Why should a devotee then unnecessarily ruin his attitude of service, by praying in this direction and thus try to modify the mind of the Supreme Being?
This statement is intense, but challenging and necessary for most. We are encouraged to become more and more interested in divine desire, rather than imposing our own judgment on a situation. For example, when Krishna Himself was on this Earth 5,000 years ago, millions and millions of people died in Kurukshetra, the Pandavas went through countless calamities, the sons of Arjuna were killed by Asvatthama, Vidura was thrown out of the kingdom of Hastinapura, and other similar events. But no one at that time even thought to blame Krishna, let alone ask him to do something about it. So, instead of wishing someone “the best” (without a clear idea of what is best for each specific case), we could wish “that you are able to accept whatever God considers best for you in this particular moment.” This is the true meaning of “I wish you the best.”
Saranagati (surrender) represents the very foundation of the temple of bhakti that we wish to build in our hearts. And among its six central expressions, the most important of them involves accepting that I am being maintained by Sri Hari (goptritve varana). This anga of saranagati comes after raksisyati visvaso, or trusting in the protection of the Supreme, all of which is an absolutely necessary parameter to engage in bhakti properly. This trust should be absent of the thought that non-practitioners are guilty people or that the world is unjust.
We are encouraged to contemplate “the bigger picture,” or a broader and deeper perspective of reality. Especially in difficult times, our surrender and faith will be tested. We need to be tested to find out where we really stand in our lives, beyond what we can imagine when we are not being constructively challenged.
“The bigger picture” includes the fact that there is far more beyond our control than we can put under our control. This reality is presented by the coronavirus and viscerally demonstrates our vulnerability. And although it may seem somewhat tragic, the moments in which when we feel weaker and more fragile are those moments we can receive more empowerment in our lives. That empowerment comes by reposing ourselves unto that person who has and will always remain in control. This is actually where we belong—in a position of dependency in relation to the Absolute. Ultimately that is bhakti. Not trying to enjoy or control, but recognizing the supreme enjoyer and controller, and passionately loving him.
In this way, the coronavirus can be seen as a great blessing. It generates a whole situation of extreme lack of control and vulnerability. We are therefore invited to recalibrate our priorities, reorganize our orientation towards all life, and finally turn our gaze in the direction of our only and permanent refuge.
- This quote is a mixture of Vallabhacarya’s Sodasa-grantha, Viveka-dhairya-asraya verse 2, combined with the commentary of Sri Gopisvara. Vallabhacarya’s verse: prarthite va tatah kim syat svamy-abhipraya-samsayat: “What is the use of praying to the Lord in such situations? His desire is never known to anyone in any situation.” Sri Gopisvara’s comment: bhagavan svecchayaiva dasyati, nanyatheti. kim artham sva-dharma-hanih kartavya: “The Lord arranges everything by his desire, being uninfluenced by any other factor. Why should a devotee unnecessarily spoil his service attitude by praying and trying to change the mind of the Lord?” [↩]