Vanity thought #979. Holidays

Last week I went on a little vacation, was off the grid for a while including a day without even a cellphone coverage. It did not turn out as I expected.

First of all, traveling is stressful. I was supposed to have a couple of days of rest but instead I couldn’t get enough sleep. I just couldn’t relax in unfamiliar places and there was always a pressure to go somewhere next. Reasoning was that since I’ve traveled so far already I cannot afford to miss all the sights and attractions. There was always somewhere to go – planes, buses, cars, markets, temples, shopping etc etc. At the end of each day I was exhausted like a horse and it took me a very long nap back home to finally recover my lost sleep.

Situation with food was not easier. I was always hungry, thanks to my special diet no one could ever satisfy. Luckily there was no ekādaśī, because my chanting suffered a great deal, too.

Overall impact on my spiritual practice was very very bad. I don’t think Kṛṣṇa would bother listening to my chanting for a long time to come. He heard the indifference, He saw my interest in all these new things, He won’t believe me even if I try to be sincere. For that matter, I don’t believe even myself anymore.

Still, there were lessons learned from all these troubles and they might just help me to plow along.

The best lesson, I believe, was that suffering and pleasure are universal. I saw how it affected each and everyone in our group personally but it was still the same story for all of us, often shared without even asking.

At one point, for example, we got stuck in holiday traffic for two hours. It would have been faster to walk but we couldn’t abandon the car. So we sat there, sometimes not moving an inch for fifteen minutes. There were smokers in our group and they just went outside, had their cigarette, and then hopped back in because the car would never move. Some wanted to order pizza delivered to the car, too – on the corner of this and that, half an hour delivery time is no problem.

I saw how it affected everyone and how those who were less patient were very eager to share their anxiety. Sometimes anger was bouncing around like a trapped electron. One person didn’t answer some question with proper attitude because he was pissed, the person who asked thought it was undeserved and let it be known to someone else, and so it was passed around like a hot potato and there was simply no place to put it to rest – everyone was in the same car suffering the same problem.

When I thought about it I realized that ALL our problems are similarly interconnected. Bad day at the office affects family relationship at home. Conflicts at home affect how we rest, lack of rest affect our job, and so on.

The key here is that it’s not MY troubles that bother me, it’s me tapping into the universal trouble bank.

Happiness and distress exist here just like hot and cold or day and night. They are not ours, they are not personal. We only get our share of the whole lot, like eating soup from a common pot – it’s the same soup for everyone but everyone also gets something different and in different quantities.

Usually we assume that it’s our senses interacting with their sense objects that produce our pleasure or pain but now I tend to think that it’s global sense organs governed by demigods for the whole universe that experience things, not ours.

Of course we can localize both our sense organs and their corresponding objects, like nose and sources of smell, for example, but this localization is illusory, it’s not really there. It looks differentiated due to our conditioning that grants us our particular perspectives but in reality it’s one big ball of things and we have nothing to do with it at all.

Look how creation and destruction is described in our literature – one element emerges out of another, from subtle to gross, and then they wind down in exact same order. It’s nothing like evolution or even creation in the Bible when God made one set of things on the first day, second set of things on the second and so on.

I might be very wrong about this, mind you, but once I saw that parts of my body were getting their pleasure or pain according to their karma and that karma was the result of our total communal actions I can’t bring myself to see my bodily life as something separate from the rest of the universe. It’s just one little part of a huge machine, one drop of water in an ocean, with waves of happiness and distress rising and falling all the time.

All I personally do is to arbitrarily decide when these rises and falls are going to affect me. It’s like “Look, there’s this big wave coming, do you feel it yet? Do you? Now? Yes? No? Did it pass you? Did it cross with another wave coming from different direction? See, next one is coming. Come, ride with it, catch its crest, stay on top of it.” And it’s the same thing with going down and being overwhelmed with suffering.

We choose to be affected because we want to identify with particular spots in this ocean but really it’s just a universal cacophony and we can distance ourselves from it altogether.

Think of it – we can share happiness of others and we can empathize with pain, too. Korean ferry sank over the weekend and before that Malaysian airplane got lost in the sea – thousands if not millions of people got emotionally affected, and totally voluntarily. Nothing has happened to us yet we choose to feel for those other people. It’s one big pile of pleasure and pain for all of us, I tell you, there’s nothing personal in it.

Anyway, I don’t think it was my last vacation or my last trip, I’m pretty sure my karma has many more in store for me, and I can say so by looking at other people reactions and desires and by knowing that I will also have to be the part of it. I can even predict when and where and what kind of pleasure and pain it will bring me – one more reason to personally distance myself and see “my” body as nothing more than another cog in a universal mechanism.

As a spirit soul I have nothing to do with it. “I” do not even exist, it’s just an illusory projection on my polluted consciousness.

Without knowing Kṛṣṇa, however, all this knowledge is useless. Without knowing real “I” and engaging my real self in Kṛṣṇa’s service there’s no point in knowing or realizing anything. This vacation didn’t bring me closer to Kṛṣṇa so it was a waste, after all.

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