Yesterday I talked about how choosing events from our past determines our future. Stated like this it doesn’t sound controversial at all but I also propose snapping out of our illusion that future is important. Then focusing solely on the past starts to look differently.
The argument against the value of the future is that it’s unknown and immutable at the same time. There’s nothing we can do to actually change it and so thinking about it is useless, it will happen anyway and on its own terms, not ours.
I can add that thinking about the future keeps us anchored in karma-kanda mentality – we do something and expect certain results. Karma kanda is not bhakti, at best it can be a karma-miśra bhakti, but neither karma nor miśra part of that term are of any interest to the Lord, they are anarthas we should eventually give up, not foster. Giving up karma mentality means giving up thinking about the future.
We can also think of Kṛṣṇa’s promise to protect His devotees, ma śucaḥ, He says, don’t worry. It means that once we surrender to the Lord we should stop caring about what happens to us, meaning that we should stop worrying about the future.
Sannyāsī, for example, should not worry about where his food is coming from. If a person makes preparations for tomorrow – keeps salt in a jar, for example, or makes ghee, or gets a cow, or buys a refrigerator – he is not a renunciate and should return to the status of gṛhastha, a householder.
Renunciation means giving up thinking about tomorrow’s food, tomorrow’s shelter, tomorrow’s source of income – giving up thinking about future.
It is true that renunciation is not for everyone and in this day and age it is not encouraged, considering that only very few people are capable of living such a life, but it doesn’t mean renunciation is not valuable. It is, and partly because it frees one from slavery to his future.
It is also true that many of the followers of Lord Caitanya were householders, and so was Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, but they weren’t householders like us, they weren’t attached to their material positions, meaning they didn’t worry about the future, they simply acted according to their nature without any claims to things they “deserved”.
The argument can be made that in devotional service we must ensure that the outcomes are pleasing to the Lord, we must take responsibility, and so we must worry about the future. Not for ourselves but for Kṛṣṇa. Okay, but Kṛṣṇa is not pleased by the outcomes, He is pleased by attitudes in our hearts. If we think that outcomes matter – collected donations, sold books etc then we are slipping back into the karma-miśra-bhakti mode.
The argument can also be made that while Kṛṣṇa might be indifferent to our external achievements our guru clearly isn’t. Śrīla Prabhupāda clearly loved the results. True, but not if they were achieved without proper devotion. He loved the outcomes because they were results of his disciples’ devotion. We can’t try to cheat our guru or the Lord here – claim that because we have results we must also have bhakti. No, the guru sees devotion in his disciples and waits until this devotion fructifies. Buying these fruits elsewhere does not please him. If they are not results of bhakti they are worthless.
But enough of that.
If we realize that future doesn’t matter and concerns about it fade away from our consciousness, what is left? Only our past. It’s hard to explain how it feels, and it’s hard to maintain this attitude, but once the burden of worrying about the future falls off our shoulders one will never forget the feeling. We are so used to being under this stress we can’t imagine life without it. It exists, however, and it’s very very pleasant even without bhakti – it’s life in the mode of goodness, free of passion to achieve things in the future.
Life in goodness supposed to exist in the present, however, not the past. Past is for the mode of ignorance. That’s not how I mean to treat our past, however. I proposed to choose only what is related to Kṛṣṇa and forget everything else. A person under the mode of ignorance would dwell on the opposite set of memories.
On the spiritual plane a devotee feels the Lord’s presence all the time, it comes to him naturally. We, however, must force ourselves to remember about Kṛṣṇa. We don’t get to see His pastimes in real time, we have to refer to what we have read in Kṛṣṇa book or what we have heard from other devotees, and all these things come from our past.
I have a feeling that once we get actual spiritual realizations and actual appreciation for the Lord we’ll stop “remembering” stories, stop putting them in organized fashion, but rather focus on certain aspects of Lord’s nature, like Kṛṣṇa’s playfulness or His care about His devotees. I mean we won’t have to explain to ourselves all the events preceding the situation and so won’t need to remember how the story was told, we’ll only care about that particular moment.
We are not there yet, however, and so, instead of dreaming about the future, I propose to concentrate on our past while waiting for the past to fade away, too.
The central point of yesterday’s argument was that things we select from our past determine our reality. It will be subjective, but so what?
It was exactly a year ago that I wrote a few good words about Donald Rumsfeld. However unusual his conclusions were, his arguments made a lot of sense, too. Today it’s the turn of another Bush era strategist – Karl Rove, who is believed to be the aide in this quote (NY Times):
The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.
The quote continues but it’s these words that interest me here. The common reaction is that Rove is a right wing neo-con lunatic and dismiss it out of hand but actually this position makes a lot of sense. When we act we create our own reality.
The problem with accepting this view is that people expect the same results as from their “objective” reality. Perhaps Rove expected the same results, too. Perhaps he thought that they could do whatever they want, create their own reality, and still come on top. It’s not how it works, however – their administration created their own reality alright but the results were unexpected.
We, however, know what the results of thinking about Kṛṣṇa are, and we are totally fine with them. Outsiders might measure them by their own yardstick and talk about us ruining our lives but we shouldn’t care. Let them have their “objective” reality and study and dissect it all they want, however judiciously. We WILL create our own reality, develop devotion to the Lord, and then skeptics can study that, too.
We should remember that solutions in Kṛṣṇa consciousness do not come from studying and weighing choices but from acting. Life is short, we can’t spent all of it on arguing why saṇkīrtana is theoretically better, that’s not very intelligent – we should take a chance, see that it works, and dedicate the rest of our lives to practicing.
Bottom line – we should create our own reality regardless of what the world thinks, and we can do it by meditating on Kṛṣṇa related memories.