To be able to digest spiritual subject matters and chant the Holy Names of the Lord with attention and devotion, we need to be sometimes shaken from our slumber. When we are put in desperate, calamitous situations, a hunger for spiritual enlightenment awakens in the heart.
During desperate situations in life, a person is open minded and keen to learn and experience a higher reality. We can appreciate food when there is strong digestion and hunger. Similarly we can appreciate spiritual life when we are hungry for truth. Tragedies often compel us to question our aspirations in life, and we wonder about what should be our ideals and goals in life. Arjuna was put in a desperate situation; doubts engulfed his mind and he was confused about his duties. As he cast his bow down, overwhelmed with weak heartedness and unwillingness to fight, he was a fit recipient for spiritual knowledge to penetrate his heart. In that situation he could understand Bhagavad Gita and sought shelter in sublime spiritual principles.
We often seek shelter in fallible things of this world. A child holds on to a teddy bear or a blanket; when it’s taken away, she will cry and won’t accept anything else in exchange. Even as grown-ups we have an innate tendency to hold on to things or people that give us any form of shelter. Sometimes we could be so blinded in our situations that we may accept even ethically wrong forms of shelter. Had Germany won the First World War, Hitler’s rousing, hate filled speeches wouldn’t have been taken seriously by the masses. But given the situation of loss of honour and shame, and poverty, people were desperate, and Hitler influenced them. Even agents of hatred and illusion can influence us when we are desperate. Therefore calamitous situations make the heart a fertile ground for influence. Spiritual sermons and experiences on the other hand not only fill our hearts with love and peace but also help us transform the tragedy to an event of spreading love and peace in other’s lives.
The Srimad Bhagavatam describes the story of little Dhruva, a five year old boy who felt insulted when his father refused to take him on his lap. His step mother chastised him, and the events led him to go to forest to worship the Supreme Lord, as he determinedly sought a kingdom greater than his father. His mother had instructed him to take shelter of the Supreme Lord for He is our true well-wisher and friend. If Dhruva’s father had taken him on his lap, Dhruva wouldn’t have taken his mother’s instructions seriously. Another episode is of Emperor Parikshit who was sentenced to die within seven days. During this period he took exclusive shelter of the Supreme Lord and absorbed himself in hearing the Lord’s pastimes from SukadevaGoswami.
As Dhruva experienced shelter of Krishna in the forest, through his meditation and internal absorption, he transcended bodily demands of hunger and thirst. He didn’t need anything external of this world as he found deep, satisfying relationship with God. Such is the power of absorption bought about by setbacks.
Therefore Kuntidevi prays in the SrimadBhagavatam, “I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.” (SrimadBhagavatam 1.8.25).