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Problems: Real and Relative
Everyone in this world faces varieties of problems. But most of our problems are very relative as we are living in a strange relative world. For example, after Diwali, if there is a long queue of toothache patients outside the dentist's clinic, the patients are in agony, but the dentist is overjoyed or, in other words, the patient's pain is the dentist's joy. Thus one man's food is another man's poison. These problems are relative; that is, they may be of concern to one but not to another. A problem can be considered real if it fulfils the following three criteria:
*It is common to all
*Nobody wants it
*Nobody can avoid it
In this light, the real problems of life are birth, old age,disease and death and the threefold miseries - miseries caus by one's own mind and body, miseries caused by other living entities and miseries caused by nature
Birth: Birth is an extremely painful experience for the living entity. For ten long months, the human fetus lies cramped within the darkness of the womb, suffering severely, scorched by the mother's gastric fire, continually jolted by sudden movements, and feeling constant pressure from being contained in the small sack, which surrounds him in the womb. This tight,
constricting pocket forces the child's back to arch constantly like a bow. Furthermore, hungry worms in the abdominal cavity torment the unborn child. The child passes stool and urine in the same pocket. Such is the misery of birth.
Old Age: There is indescribable suffering in old age. No one wants to grow old. But by the force of inevitable time everyone is forced to grow old. No one cares for an old man. His relatives are constantly thinking: "When will this old man pass away? " This is the harsh reality. An aged person becomes an unwanted property in the family. These days many youngsters prefer putting their old parents and grandparents in old age homes. There these old people don't get any love. So they try to love cats and dogs in order to have something to live for. Besides having to helplessly endure the intolerable mental agony of neglect people are also inflicted by their bodies with an ever-increasing variety of painful and debilitating diseases.
Disease: Today people are proud that medical science has prolonged the average human life span. But although we may be living longer than our ancestors, we are not happier than them. By prolonging our life, we are only increasing our pain. There are so many different kinds of diseases and medical science is trying to find out remedies for them. But medical history shows that by the time science finds the cure for one disease, another even more deadly disease comes up, as has happened in the case of cancer, syphilis, gonorrhea, AIDS etc. We may cure one disease for some time, but we cannot cure disease per se. The pain suffered through disease is a common experience for everyone and needs no explanation.
Death: In the Garuda Purana, one of the ancient Vedic scriptures, it is mentioned that death is extremely painful and the dying person experiences a pain that is equivalent to 40,000 simultaneous scorpion bites. The great sage Kapiladev informs his mother about the ghastly nature of the experience of death, "In that diseased condition the dying person's eyes bulge due to the pressure oi air from within, and his glands become congested with mucus. He has difficulty in breathing, and there is a rattling sound within his throat...Thus he dies most pathetically."
(Shrimad Bhagvatam 3.30.16-18). The soul is so habituated to living in the body that he must be forced out by the laws of nature at the time of death. Just as a person suffers greatly when he is evicted from his home, similarly the soul suffers immensely when he is forcibly kicked out of the body. In nature, we see that even the tiniest creatures display amazing abilities and techniques for escaping death when their lives are threatened. But as death is inevitable for all living beings, so are the fear and pain associated with it. So it is very important to perceive the evils of birth, old age, disease and death.
Some people may argue, "The problems of birth, old age, disease and death come only once in a while. We can just ignore them and enjoy life for the remaining time." But at every moment everyone is suffering due to at least one of the threefold miseries. These are:
Miseries caused by one's own mind and body (adhyatmika klesha): The body and the mind give rise to innumerable problems. In America, for example, one out of three people is forced to consult a psychiatrist due to mental frustration. In old age, the deteriorating body gives varieties of problems. For example, once a person grows beyond 80 years, generally he can't even sit or stand without backpain.
Miseries caused by other living entities (adhibhautika klesha): Even if you have a healthy body and mind, others will not let you live in peace. Even if everything is nicely arranged in your life, some other living entity, such as your enemy, boss, colleague, relative, family member or friend, or, if no one else, then a mosquito or a virus is sure to make your life miserable Sometimes we see even so-called educated people living in apartments in cities fighting for a common verandah in the building in the court for years together. Thus their lives become miserable due to unnecessary anxiety caused by each other.
• Miseries caused by nature (adhidaivika klesha): Floods, droughts, famines, earthquakes, hurricanes etc are devastating calamities imposed upon us through the agency of nature. Even if these come only occasionally, they wreak havoc whenever they come. And moreover, we are being constantly tormented by the changes in the weather such as scorching heat, freezing cold, untimely rains. Who can say that they are not being harassed twenty-four hours by these problems? The very fact that more than a dozen tranquilizers or painkillers are advertised on TV shows that there must be some suffering.