Might we be shooting the messenger instead of pondering the message?
In the past, despots would routinely shoot messengers who brought bad news. Today, shooting is replaced by labeling; those who raise discomforting issues are often sidelined or silenced by pejorative labels.
This trend of labeling dubs authentic spiritual teachers as pessimists whenever they reportthe Gita’s message (8.15) that this world is a place of intrinsic and inescapable misery. Might such labeling be a modern form of shooting the truthful messenger?
After all, doesn’t the daily news confirm that psychophysical, interpersonal, and environmental problems (adhyatmika, adhibhautika and adhidaivika klesha) routinely cause misery? Can’t we see objectively how disease and old age embarrasses, immobilizes and oppresses people around us? Can we deny that death devastateslives all over the world? Thus, if we think objectively, the so-called pessimistic Gita teachers are just stating facts.
“But as those facts are so negative,” we may wonder, “won’t we be happier by not dwelling on them?”
No, they reply, because those negative facts are just the beginning of a positive message. The Gita doesn’t deny our desire to be happy; in fact, it recognizes that desire as our intrinsic right. It explains that we, being souls who are by nature sat-cit-anand(eternal-enlightened-ecstatic), are innately joyful. We can re-experience ourjoyful nature by reviving our spiritual love for Krishna. When we mistakenly seek joy at the material level that is filled with misery, we unnecessarily frustrate ourselves. Gita teachers point to the misery inbuilt at the material level so that we don’t let vain hopes for material enjoyment cheat us of our right to happiness at the spiritual level.
Thus, if we can just stop labeling the messenger and start pondering the full message, we will discover that its essence is not pessimistic, but optimistic – sweetly, sublimely, supremely optimistic.
“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.”