Vanity thought #1376. Making of the past

As I argued yesterday, it’s the past that is all important. We think we create our future but that’s only an illusion, what we actually do is dwell in our past, all the time.

It doesn’t mean that our actions do not create future karma, they most certainly do, but my point was that future karma is unimportant. Karma doesn’t work according to our desires and we have no control over it. We are forced to act according to our nature and according to the influence of material guṇas and there’s nothing we can do about it. As spirit souls we are not the party to the process, the world will keep rolling on its own with or without our willing participation.

We can try to predict the future but we can’t change it. Astrologers always tell us about remedies and counteractions to alleviate our bad karma and increase our good fortune but it’s a fool’s errand. Whichever way you look at it, it makes no sense. If we have the possibility and means to change our astrological destiny, it should be reflected in our horoscope, too. If it’s not there then no matter how much we try it won’t happen. And if changing our future was as simple as wearing a ring with allegedly precious stone then other things might influence it as well, and that makes mockery of the entire prediction business. What if the astrologer looks and my chart and sees something that has been remedied decades ago? The chart is still the same, but “destiny” isn’t.

That is not to say that precious stones don’t work. They do, but they don’t change the future, which is cast in another kind of stone, immutable and impossible to break, metaphorical but still powerful.

There’s also an argument I made a couple of days ago that the future and the past are so closely linked together that separating them doesn’t make a lot of sense, it’s like solving a chicken and egg problem. The past and the future are inseparable and the distinction is observed only by those under the illusion of time. Outside of time the difference doesn’t exist, it’s all kind of the same, with our relationships with the Lord being the only thing that matters.

Does our relationship with the Lord change with time? Possibly, we can see signs of spiritual progress, signs of awakening from the illusion, but even this process can be explained outside of the frame imposed by passage of time. Sometimes it is said that the only thing that matters is coming into contact with the mercy of the devotees. Once it happens, the soul is as good as liberated. Surrender could happen tomorrow or next year or even in the next life but it’s inevitable, and sooner or later, maybe a hundred lives later, the soul would return to Kṛṣṇa.

We think that these hundred lives matter and we’d rather complete the process in a few days but our perception of time is relative. Once we develop required patience time will fly without even noticing. Hundred human lives is less than a thousand years, nothing compared to the reign of just one Manu, and there are fourteen of them in the day of Lord Brahmā, and one day of Brahmā includes only one Kṛṣna’s appearance. I once heard that sages who became gopīs in Kṛṣṇa līlā had to try FIVE times to be with the Lord before they were allowed into the rasa dance. Five days of Brahmā and our desire to see Kṛṣṇa today are incomparable.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that devotees had to wait five days of Brahmā, they could be transferred to suitable universes right away, but even five lifetimes WITH Kṛṣṇa but without obtaining full mercy is a lot comparing to our present impatience.

Anyway, the future is unknown but unchangeable and unavoidable, and so focusing on the future is a waste of time. The future is created by our past, and so if we want to change our destiny we should change our past.

Is it possible? Not really, but as conscious beings it’s the only area of action available to us – observing the world around us, which is always observation of our past. Both in a sense that the star light shows us what happened there billions of years ago and in a sense that we can’t actually catch the present moment, everything we deal with is always in the past, however close or distant.

So, can we change the past? Quantum mechanics suggests we can, as I described yesterday. Our observation determines what happened.

It flies in the face of the idea of objective reality and truth and facts. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts, as they say. There’s only one true version of events and it must be uncovered, our subjectivity is the enemy of knowledge, and so on, one argument after another.

It’s all very well, but the only objective person in the world is Kṛṣṇa, and we are not Him. The fact is that all our lives we live and act subjectively. When our versions of reality align with versions of other observers it’s just that – temporary sync of two subjectivities, possibly leading to a shared karma.

These days it’s very easy to find examples of people stubbornly clinging to their opinions regardless of all kinds of facts and arguments. Current wisdom is that debates only strengthen people’s respective positions. It might not have been designed that way initially but this is where we are now – the more people argue the better they convince themselves. Their own subjectivity always, always takes precedence.

And once their opinions are cast, so is their destiny. They are free to hold all kinds of views but they are not free from the reactions.

So, my point is that we, as devotees, can take full advantage of this situation and create a selective view of the past that would bring us closer to Kṛṣṇa.

Once again, by past here I mean everything we see and remember, all our memories and experiences, all our ideas and opinions and choices. We can choose to see only those of them that are related to the Lord and ignore all others. It would make us subjective but so what? It’s exactly the kind of subjectivity we want.

Others might say things like “remember this one time when you…” or “didn’t you tell me you wanted that…” and they might conclude that we are hypocrites lying even to ourselves but so what? Selecting memories of Kṛṣṇa over our moments of weakness is totally worth it. Even Kṛṣṇa picks and chooses only our service form our lives.

Dwelling on negatives, on the memories when the Lord wasn’t there, OTOH, would only lead to further enslavement by the material nature. Who needs that?

By picking only certain moments from our history we forge our new identity, once the karma from past deeds runs out this new identity will start bringing its dividends and will become obvious to all, that’s how karma works. Habits and characters don’t change overnight, patience is still required.

The real question is – do we have freedom to choose what to remember and focus our consciousness on? I would say no, not really, but in as much as we feel we have this freedom we should use it. People telling us to do this are not changing our destination, they are fulfilling it. Kṛṣṇa said He would bring us back to Him and He does so through the help of the guru and the devotees. Every class, every advice, every casually dropped instruction affects our mode of thinking and slowly but steadily captures our minds. If we are free to resist this pressure it would be the most foolish thing to do, but that’s where our real independence lies, so we better not to abuse it.

Bottom line, if we take responsibility for developing our devotion then we should focus on how we view our past instead of dreaming about future.

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