How does Kṛṣṇa help with managing pain and bad karma in general? As I said yesterday, the usual solution that I was somehow scheduled for tooth extraction by Russian “bratva” but instead was sent to a dentist, like normal people, isn’t very satisfying, for several reasons.
The main one is probably the amount of interference the Lord would have done on my behalf. Even if I had to undergo even a slightly different procedure in the same clinic it would have required changing karma of lots of people. The doctor would have spent more time, nurses would have done different things, the clinic would receive a larger payment, someone else had to wait for his turn a bit longer, meaning he or she could have posted more comments on twitter and possibly started a flame war. There’d be also different consumption of resources – pliers instead of drills, dental cement instead of gauze, meaning the next order would either be different or come at a different time. It’s not a big deal in any of these cases but practically the entire universe would be affected, in as much as faster consumption of Earth’s materials affects the solar system and the galaxy.
Why would Kṛṣṇa go to all this trouble? Just because of my whining? And how much trouble exactly? Does He have to prepare for every contingency? If I whine a little more He prepares this level of change, if I whine a little less, another change is at the ready. And what about affects on all the other people who’d put forwards their own demands when their lives change unfairly? This would quickly snowball out of hand, with infinite number of scenarios appearing instantly, all guided by my reactions? I don’t think it’s how the universe is supposed to work. I don’t think Kṛṣṇa interferes as easily.
Of course one could say that I’m applying my material restrictions to the Absolute, as if saying that Kṛṣṇa can deal with two-three adjustments easily but a thousand would be a strain, and fixing the entire universe would overload Him. Still, I don’t think it’s how the Lord takes care of the things.
He is known to be partial to His devotees and ready to protect them, but I would argue that these cases are always planned well in advance. Lord Nṛsiṁha’s appearance, for example, was clearly scheduled even though to us it appeared spontaneous. Both the demon, Hiraṇyakaśipu, and the devotee, Prahlāda, had to be placed within the universe in advance, in the case of Hiraṇyakaśipu the back story started in the spiritual world. Or, from the example of the life of Lord Brahmā, we know that it’s the position, not a person, and it’s filled by a suitable soul who then goes on to relive the entire history of the universe, including all the interactions with the Lord in multitude of incarnations.
We normally think that karma is impersonal but it isn’t so, it, and the entire universe, are always connected to the Lord, who then appears at appropriate times to remind us of this connection. It is all planned, it’s the same pastimes being replayed again and again, in each day of Brahmā. So, the Lord doesn’t turn up out of order to fix my toothache, partly because my reaction to the toothache is NOT out of order itself. The Lord knows exactly how I would react and how much pain I would feel, there are no surprises for Him here. This time there was no need for His personal involvement, it wasn’t scheduled and it didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean that the Lord wasn’t involved, though.
So, apart from medication, I tried to deal with pain mentally. First thing I noticed is that I don’t feel it when I sleep. The pain is still there, in as much as pain is the objective reality, but probably it isn’t – it’s my perception of the objective reality. The infection is still there but my perception of it is turned off during sleep. Hmm, “so this is manageable,” I thought to myself.
Next thing I noticed is that I forget pain when I think of something else. Of course it’s easier to forget little pain than throbbing toothache but it’s still possible, it’s a question of how far the mind is taken away from the body. Wifey droning on in the background is probably not going to distract me much, I’d rather concentrate on pain than listen to her nagging, but a bomb falling in the backyard would probably make me forget about toothache in an instant. In this case, reading an engaging news story was enough most of the time. As long as I was there, the pain was absent, as soon as I returned to reality, the pain was throbbing again.
Great, so all I need is distractions? Not really, because pain is karma, it will always come around, and engaging in distractions is a karmic activity as well, it will come back to bite me, probably by distracting me from chanting, digging up the memories and reminding me how engaging it felt. There is an easily solution, though – get distracted by Kṛṣṇa! Read Bhāgavatam instead of news. Simple. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.
I don’t think we are supposed to abuse Bhāgavatam this way. It’s not a story book to read ourselves to sleep or to use to manage pain. As a story book it’s not very exciting either, considering how little happens during reading word for word translation, for example. Philosophy can be distracting, too – when you discover something you haven’t thought of before and go on exploring all the options, but how often does it happen when we read the Bhāgavatam? Hardly ever, most of it we have heard before. Our problem is not with learning but with realizing it.
Realization means Kṛṣṇa’s grace, though, and if He had offered it I would have certainly been distracted from pain but I can’t order it around, it doesn’t come from simply reading the book. Bhāgavatam is an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa and it takes us directly into the spiritual world but it doesn’t happen all the time, practically never.
I tried to misuse our books as tools for mitigating pain and it didn’t work very well for the purpose, nor should it have. What I got instead is that Kṛṣṇa is totally aloof from this world and approaching Him must be done on His terms, in HIS consciousness, not ours. If I worry about pain I’m still captured by illusion, meaning I can’t approach the Lord. Whatever actions I do to avoid the pain are still born out of illusion and pursue selfish purposes, I shouldn’t even think of coming to Kṛṣṇa with these complaints. He is not there to improve the conditions of the material world, He won’t be interested. And He ignored me, I now have my personal proof.
So, whatever I did to reduce the pain was all on me, my karma, probably sowing seeds of future reactions. Kṛṣṇa is completely out of touch with it, it stinks, and I shouldn’t bring it to Him. Sometimes cats find dead mice and drag them into the house. Nope, the mice are not staying, and the Lord, being omnipotent, will not even allow us to bring our dirty, selfish desires into His presence.
Actually, He is protected by our fellow devotees and it’s them who’d stand in our path. If we offend them in return we’d condemn ourselves to even more suffering. The cycle needs to be broken, we can’t invest all our consciousness in battling illusory pleasure and pain, Kṛṣṇa is never to be found there, so just leave it alone, it will somehow all work itself out and we would eventually die, which will probably be much more painful than a toothache. It’s not what we should worry about at all. It’s not the real us and it’s not our real lives.
How to come in touch with this out of touch Kṛṣṇa is a different matter. So far I only know what doesn’t work.