Eye, Pain, Suffering, Child

I Am the Cause of my Problems

We tend to think that only poor people suffer, and incorrectly assume that the affluent do not. However, the fact is that everyone suffers, rich and poor, though we all suffer in different ways. 

Poor people tend to suffer at a more physical, tangible level. The rich seem to be better off there, but they continue to suffer inside, on a mental level. We may think this is “less severe” but the interesting thing is that suffering itself is an inherently mental experience. Tangible, physical difficulties don’t really cause suffering unless they disturb the mind. So, the suffering of an affluent person is, in the end, just as “real” as that of the destitute.

Suppose you asked all the rich people in the world, Are you really happy?” How many would answer with a confident and honest, “yes”? And, if you asked the same question to poor people, would the percentage of positive answers be significantly different? 

Śrī Kṛṣṇa describes our conditioned, saṁsārika existence as “an abode of misery” (duḥkhālayam – Gītā 8.15). Since the rich and the poor both exist in saṁsāra, it is to be expected that both groups experience suffering. 

Who do we blame for this? Almost everyone blames someone else: their spouse or lover, ex-spouse or ex-lover, their children or parents, boss or co-workers, siblings or friends, teachers or students, and so on. People often berate one another, “Why are you so selfish?”, “Why can’t you understand me?”, “How can you be so ungrateful?” It is very rare that anyone’s ego (ahaṅkāra) allows them to take responsibility for their own problems. 

The immediate result of blaming others is self-disempowerment. When we believe that our happiness or suffering depends on others, we forfeit our own control over it. Since we cannot really control what others do, say, and thinkand it is exhausting to even trythe end result of putting our happiness in the hands of others is that we will probably never be truly happy and will instead be exhausted by the constant struggle for it. Thus the ego protects itself at the expense of our own happiness. 

We should try instead to embrace happiness at the expense of our ego. This starts by accepting the fact that we are responsible for our own happiness and distress. 

External situations are beyond our control and are influenced by others. But since suffering is a mental experience, if we take control of our own mind and not blame others for our problems, we will become impervious to suffering, under any external circumstance. 

Even our external situation will change if we take responsibility for our lives. External reality is, ultimately, a result of our previous actions. Those actions result from our desires. Those desires result from our state of mind. We are not very aware of this causal chain. So we focus only on the external situation as the source of our troublelike a mother blaming her baby for labor pains, forgetting that it was her own desire and actions that started the whole thing. If we are more aware of the causal chain, we will know more confidently that changing our state of mind empowers us to change our desires, actions, and ultimately even our external situation.  But until we clearly understand that we are the cause of our own happiness and suffering, we will keep on blaming and criticizing others and thus remain disempowered and stuck in the network of karma. 

Understanding that we are responsible for our actions is the first step. It empowers us to make choices. Next, we need wisdom, because wisdom empowers us to make wise choices that truly lead to happiness. Śrī Kṛṣṇa gave this very practical and important advice to Arjuna, “Wisdom will enable you to completely relinquish the shackles of karma” (Gita 2.39). 

We have numerous opportunities every day to observe whenever we blame or criticize others instead of looking at our own mind as the cause of the problem. If we are sincere, we can probably see how much we try to manipulate external circumstances through gossip, slander, and so on. We should therefore make every effort to desist from such things more and more thoroughly, apologizing to those we have tried to control. This is very difficult at first, because our empowered ahaṅkāra gets in the way. But it is rewarding in the end.     

Satyanarayana Dasa



5 thoughts on “I Am the Cause of my Problems”

  1. It is really important to know oneself. Thanks a lot for the advice!

  2. From psychology to coaching, in today’s world, the suffering individual is usually blamed for the circumstances that surround him and for his particular psycho-emotional state. In one way or another, even Vaiṣṇavas tend to blame the sufferer or victim for his painful condition.

    However, between the suffering individual and society there is a very intricate connection. Thus, the well-worn notion of personal karma or causal chain should be just a basic foundation on which we can place our reason in order to reach a more encompassing and inclusive dimension. No personal failure or achievement is just individual but communal; no causal sequence is composed of a single thread but of multiple filaments.

    Is there a broader and collective understanding of karma within Gauḍīya philosophy? That is, is there an understanding of karma more conducive to the idea of mystical sharing or mystical community?

    1. According to Gaudiya Philosophy, a devotee is free of karma. His favorable and unfavorable situations are either the grace of Krishna or an outcome of offense.

  3. Sufferings are divine gifts. We have to welcome them. Through sufferings only we came closer to the God. Gurus ask all the sufferings of people are to be given to them. Because their lives are the targets of sufferings. We have to accept and embrace the Godly gifts.

  4. “Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities.” – Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.20.27-28

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