If you ever meet a Hare Krishna devotee on the street you may want to brace yourself. It’s likely that within the first 5 minutes of conversation topics such as suffering, old age, disease and the futility of material enjoyment will surface. I was once giving a Sunday lecture at the temple and could see some uncomfortable faces when I started speaking about the reality of death. I guess they had come along with their kids for a casual afternoon at the temple. They probably weren’t expecting some guy to start talking about such deep and depressing matters. It all may seem a little pessimistic, especially if that’s all you hear before you decide to leave. Surely there must be a brighter side to life.
When it comes to the harsh realities of life we try not to turn a blind eye. Flick through the newspaper, turn on the TV, click onto the web and the stories speak for themselves. I always found it amazing how we can see such suffering and then automatically put it to the back of our mind and get on with life without a second thought. How can it be pessimistic to talk about what is actually happening in front of our eyes? These things are real, and the spiritualist faces them head on without any fear or inhibition.
Someone once said, a pessimist sees problems in every opportunity, whereas an optimist sees opportunities in every problem. The spiritualist doesn’t have to dodge and ignore the acute sufferings of this world out of fear that it will launch him into some depressive state. Why? Because in the midst of all the problems that we face in this world, the spiritualist is seeing an amazing opportunity. Through enthusiastic and determined spiritual practice one can actually elevate the consciousness to a level where they are living and functioning in this world, but experiencing something far beyond. One can achieve lasting peace, happiness and real fulfilment – but only on the spiritual plane. Thus, a spiritualist could be described as simultaneously an optimist and a pessimist; pessimistic about the opportunities for happiness from material externals, but optimistic about the power of spirituality to awaken the deeper happiness within.