What is the attitude of devotees of Krishna towards suffering?

Purushottam Kumar - 8.2 2022

Everyone in this world has to suffer but our attitude towards suffering determine how much we are going to suffer. Devotees of Krishna suffer too. But Krishna’s devotees are sure that if they continue practicing unflinching devotion to Krishna then eventually, he will become free from all the sufferings. But as long as we remain in this world, we have to suffer for the sins which we committed in past.

Devotees patiently tolerate suffering

Materialistic people are heart broken when suffering befalls upon them, but devotees of Krishna do not become disheartened. Because they know that Krishna is always with them whatever may be the situation or circumstances. They do not give up their Krishna Consciousness in adversity. In fact, they become more serious in their devotional life understanding very well that the current suffering is because we forgot Krishna and forgot to live as per the instructions of Krishna.  

Srimad Bhagavatam 10.14.8 beautifully explains devotees attitude towards suffering. The verse says that devotees tolerate suffering and continue his spiritual journey even during difficult circumstances which makes them eligible for liberation. “My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.” 

Suffering does not go immediately because

Srila Prabhupada explains, “A devotee should not expect immediate relief from the reactions of his past misdeeds. No conditioned soul is free from such reactionary experiences, because material existence means continued suffering or enjoying of past activities.” So, in this world we will have to suffer. But our suffering will eventually end, we should have faith in Krishna. But suffering will not go away immediately, we need to have patience.

For example, if we switch off a ceiling fan then it does not stop immediately. As soon as we press the off button the speed of the fan gradually starts reducing before it completely stops. Similarly, as soon as we start practicing Krishna Consciousness then our suffering starts reducing.

For example, for a particular sin we might had to suffer a terrible reaction, but Krishna mercifully reduces our suffering. So, when we are suffering, we should be thankful to Krishna that he has minimised our suffering. During our suffering phase we should continue practicing Krishna Consciousness with sincerity and should patiently suffer the reactions of our sins. And we should also have complete faith that Krishna will ultimately end all our suffering. 

My Experience with suffering

Devotees of Krishna experiences that how Krishna intervenes and minimizes the suffering of his devotee.  I have also personally experienced this. Once I fell off from my bike on the road. There was heavy traffic. Somehow people who saw me falling down signalled the vehicles which were coming at high speed to stop. I would have met with a fatal accident but was fortunately saved. However, my leg got crushed under the bike. I had to go to hospital and the doctor said that the entire muscle of my foot has got crushed.

Doctor said that there is no medicine which can develop the muscles. But he said that these muscles will grow on its own and my foot will gain strength and I can then walk normally. I was bed ridden for many weeks. There used to be terrible pain in my foot, and I could not do much about it. But as the doctor had said, slowly the muscles of my foot got build up. And today I can walk normally and can again ride a bike.

As per my past sins I was supposed to suffer a lot. I may have lost my life or would have become handicapped. But Krishna mercifully reduced my pain and my suffering. I am extremely grateful to him.

To reform us, Krishna gives token punishment

In my day-to-day life there are many challenges which keeps on coming. Sometimes it is relationship issue with my spouse. Sometimes it is work issue or financial issues or health issue and so on. I have observed that sufferings keep on coming in different ways. And actually, I am responsible for all my suffering. Because in the past I misused my free will and I committed sins for which I am suffering now. After coming to Krishna Consciousness, I realize that if I do not want to suffer then I should not do anything which is against the scriptures. For my past sins, Krishna is giving me token punishment just to remind me that I should never commit any sins. So, even during suffering, we should never lose hope, should have faith and positive attitude.

Devotees great hope while dealing with suffering

To devotees, Srila Prabhupada gives a lot of hope when he says, “A devotee who is not perfectly freed from the resultant actions should therefore continue to act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness seriously, even though there may be so many impediments. When such impediments arise, he should simply think of Kṛṣṇa and expect His mercy. That is the only solace. If the devotee passes his days in that spirit, it is certain that he is going to be promoted to the abode of the Lord. By such activities, he earns his claim to enter into the kingdom of God.” Nectar of Devotion, Chapter Ten, Techniques of Hearing and Remembering

So, by suffering patiently and practicing Krishna Consciousness with determination in adversity devotees become qualified to return back to Krishna. This is the reason that even during suffering devotees have positive attitude.

As long as we are in this material world, we have to suffer because this world is full of miseries. This is confirmed by Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 8.15 when he says that this world is duḥkhalayam asasvatam. “After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogīs in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.” Bhagavad Gita 8.15.

So, when suffering comes, we should become more serious in our spiritual life. This is the only way by which we can free ourselves from suffering. Also, we should remember that if we want to lead a sin free happy life then we should do our best to return back to the spiritual world which is our original home. Because in that spiritual abode there is no suffering. There is only bliss.