Pain pain, go away please come back another day…
I was visited by a bout of pain I had never seen before. My body is starting to age and every couple of years I occasionally feel my joints reacting to a change in the weather or something but never before it was so severe. Not only I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even stay in bed and had to pace up and down the room trying to distract my mind from the pain in my shoulder.
And I still haven’t figured out how to deal with it. Pain is not an activity, I have no idea how it could be offered to Krishna for His satisfaction, so what to do about it? Tolerate it?
Somehow I don’t think that being more tolerant than a tree means having a high threshold for pain. The capacity to tolerate pain is a quality of the material body, some have more of it some have less and some can be trained to withstand even torture. Wasn’t Karna once called out when he pretended to be a brahmana pupil of Parashurama but could tolerate agonizing pain without twitching a muscle in his body?
Somehow I also had enough wits about me to remember that praying to Krishna to relieve one of his suffering is unbecoming any aspiring devotee, it’s totally materialistic and bounds one to his bodily consciousness.
It is possible to ignore pain by directing consciousness to something else, that’s what I did by walking around and chanting japa, but I also have to admit that any other activity that distracts the mind works just as well. Of course it’s more beneficial to distract oneself with the Holy Name or reading Srimad Bhagavatam but it’s still a material distraction for the material mind.
A liberated person simply does not associate the pain of his body with himself, an advanced devotee can even subject his body to pain if it’s pleasing Krishna in any way, but none of that had ever happened to me, I was still fully on the material platform.
I also remembered that Bhaktivinoda Thakura had quite a fragile health and a significant part of his autobiography describes his dealings with various illnesses. That side of his life was running in parallel with his preaching and writing, sometimes he couldn’t even complete his books because of pain and still Krishna didn’t relieve him of it.
Comparing to that I shouldn’t even hope that Krishna will magically make my pain disappear because of some unseen importance of whatever it is I am doing.
I remembered that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati never took any medicine, completely relying on Krsihna and Lord Chaitanya instead. I considered it for a moment but then I thought that providing me with medicine is also the most likely way for Krishna to take care of my pain – it’s still manipulating the matter – the interaction between pain sensors and external objects activating them.
In the end I decided to let the nature take its course and continued with my japa, then went to the pharmacy at the earliest chance and stuffed myself with ibuprofen and I don’t feel particularly guilty about it.
Pain does pose some difficulties in executing regulated devotional service and I can see how people in hell don’t have energy to cultivate their Krishna consciousness but real devotional service and whatever is happening in the material world are two completely different things, they run parallel to each other and don’t ever intersect. The body (and mind and intelligence, too) will always try to seek relief, the soul should always try to seek service.