Ironically, one dictionary meaning of being at rest is death. We need to give up our lives to finally find the truth of our existence, our purpose. This approach, finding rest, might sound non-devotional because we know the living entity cannot stop his desires so life will always go on, but it needs to be put in proper context – the context of Kali yuga.
I assume that we all have some sort of svabhava, as Kṛṣṇa was speaking in Bhagavad Gītā, but the difficulty is in finding out what it is. We have too many distractions, to many external impositions on our minds, which drown out that existential urge to do something in this world we call svabhava. In a way, even our svabhava is only a false ego but we shouldn’t forget that we came to the world with a purpose, we had this purpose in mind before false ego tried to accommodate it, so trying to rule over the world IS our svabhava. We have to learn to deal with it, convince ourselves that it’s against our best interests, purify our consciousness, and return to eternally blissful service of the Lord.
Having said that, we haven’t come here to become barbers, metal workers, or farmers, so when Kṛṣṇa talked about svabhava He must have meant the goal of our current incarnation. This particular goal is a fulfillment of a desire that is not principally different from the desire to become a fire fighter after watching a TV ad but it was certainly important enough to determine the nature of our body. It might turn out that it was a collection of several desires but so what? Whatever determines the nature of our incarnation imposes certain dharmas and we have to follow these dharmic rules regardless.
So, by being at rest I mean not the cessation of all the desires but giving the opportunity to the most deep seated ones to finally come out and manifest themselves. Basically, it would mean establishing priorities in our lives and not wasting time on the fluff.
How to be at rest? It’s much much easier for devotees because of our sādhana and because of our chanting. Two hours a day of emptying one’s mind ought to establish the baseline for anyone so that we can easily classify whatever emerges in our heads and hearts as important, less important, and irresistible. We don’t even have to act on those emerging desires but let the holy name do its magic and decouple our consciousness from them. Once we see them as external to our existence it becomes a lot easier to tolerate or ignore them. One who doesn’t even realize that he is not his sexual urges, for example, has no hope whatsoever, he must follow them because he honestly thinks “That’s who I am.”
When Kṛṣṇa was speaking to Arjuna people still had enough sattva in their lives to know their svabhava without any special techniques, no one was confused about their nature, at least not the characters mentioned in our books or in Mahābhārata. It became a problem only a relatively short time ago, when people got caught up in frantic pace of the modern life. With the internet on our phones we’ve become hopeless and really need to disengage ourselves to find out what was it we wanted that brought us here.
Someone might get the impression that as soon as we learn to meditate and discover our inner self life would suddenly become beautiful and full of meaning. They might be hugely disappointed. Modern people hide themselves under mountains of data and cat videos on purpose – they know that the truth about their real life is ugly and they can’t stand it, it drives them to despair. They’d rather check that other tweet and like that other instagram photo.
I’ve seen it first hand – when forced to discuss serious, uncomfortable matters some people instinctively open games on their phones and start moving blocks or shells or sweets on the screen hoping that no one asks them to speak. They know the reality of their lives is ugly and they are helpless in the face of it, so they might as well spend their time playing games, it hurts a lot less. I’m not even sure I can blame them for that, it’s just another self-defense mechanism.
The point is that being at rest can be very discomforting for a lot of people and they would totally freak out if they are forced to face their inner self. The soul might be beautiful but our incarnations in this world aren’t, that is the fact of life.
Again, for devotees it’s easier to accept their imperfections because we know we are deeply fallen and the only source of purity in our lives is God. Others might see purity in science or in the universe or in some undefined higher reality but there are people who have absolutely nothing and so the image of their ugly selves is all they will see at first. With some practice they will hopefully start searching for shelter and find it somewhere.
Spare half an hour of your life and watch this sermon by a young female pastor from some New York church. It looks like a TED talk and powerpoint quotes on the screen remind me of a business presentation but it’s an actual sermon, that’s how they do it there nowadays. See for yourself what they have to deal with there.
Come to think of it, that sermon deserves its own post, today I just want to say “Those poor Christians, trapped in New York, of all places…” I hope we don’t ever put ourselves in a similar situation, it’s spiritually unhealthy.
Just see how much difference daily sādhana, chanting, reading books etc can bring to our lives. As devotees we should be constantly “at rest”, compared to these people. It’s just like gopīs who always thought of Kṛṣṇa no matter what they did externally – washing, cleaning, churning butter, taking care of their families and husbands – their consciousness just wasn’t present in this world. Our consciousness is still here and not with Kṛṣṇa but if we follow with our program of simple living and high thinking we should clearly know our place in this world and our goals, both immediate and long term, and say to those New York dwelling Christians: “Dude, just give it up already. Enough. It will never work. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” Perhaps some of us will realize that this also applies to our own lives, so no reason to be proud.
Anyway, when distractions are removed and the knowledge is finally there, our consciousness becomes steady and we will be well on our way back to Kṛṣṇa.