I have an ongoing battle with remote control and wireless keyboards and mice batteries in my house and so I was surprised that while eveready is a household name for me it hasn’t made it into dictionaries yet. The meaning is self-evident, the usage in hyphenated form is established, I don’t know what’s missing. It’s like nevermind being spelled as one word, I guess. Sometimes you see it, sometimes you don’t, and corrections seem to be pointless.
Whenever we want to use batteries, they are ever-ready. No matter what time of the day, as long as they have some juice left, they are ready to serve, no need to boot or warm up. This should be our condition, too, but we all know we are failing here.
What makes it less poignant for us is that our service is not meant to be eternal and uninterrupted, we have time to start and time to finish and do things in certain order so if someone isn’t ready for a particular service at a particular time we don’t even notice. You’ll get into it, just start singing, praying, chanting, cleaning, whatever is it that you are supposed to be doing.
Come to think of it, this arrangement of sādhana is build around our abilities and not around demands of the Lord, who is not bound by limitations of space and time. We have a schedule from the moment we wake up until the moment we put our heads back on the pillow because that’s how it’s most convenient for us to do things. We engage in spiritual practices at suitable times, we start work when everyone else starts working, too, we eat when stomachs are primed for digestion and so on. It’s all has been laid out for us to suit our physical incarnations, we have limits like that and Kṛṣṇa can wait, time doesn’t matter to Him so we rely on His patience.
It’s a bit different with deity service because when appearing as a deity the Lord expects a certain schedule when to be bathed, clothed, and fed, and then we have to structure our lives around His preferences, but everything else is just external rules and social conventions.
Social conventions are important, don’t get me wrong. If we think brahma muhurta is just for us we are underestimating the value of its effect when amplified by congregational chanting. In any case, congregational means social, we need to find common time to chant with others, and this will mean that sometimes we aren’t going to be ready, we need to plan ahead.
I suspect this doesn’t work for Kṛṣṇa, though. Sure, He can appreciate our chanting at any time, but if we are not ready to do it on His terms it’s not in His service either. If He’d appreciate a few kind words coming out of our mouths but we are busy plotting revenge against someone then we are missing the opportunity and can’t really call ourselves servants. Nevermind, we have an excuse for this, too.
We say that Kṛṣṇa doesn’t demand a lot, in fact very little, and His demands are laid out in our sādhana. If we follow it with steadiness and without deviations it’s enough. Sooner or later the process WILL start bringing fruits. This means that we don’t consider the possibility of Kṛṣṇa wanting us to do something when, according to our sādhana, we must be on the phone or disciplining our kids. “Not now, Kṛṣṇa, I’m busy,” we think to ourselves. Actually, we don’t even think, we KNOW that we are busy and Kṛṣṇa is not supposed to disturb us now.
How much are we caught up in our lives? Do we have even a rough estimate? Save for some very special souls, our program is simple – chant, do your service, and then, at the moment of death, Kṛṣṇa will come to claim us back. That is the deal offered by Śrīla Prabhupāda and our gurus. Fine, but when is this moment of death going to be? Are we ready for it? What if it was offered right now?
Typically, when we say that we can die at any moment we mean accidents. A gas tank explosion, a car crash, that type of thing. Ideally, we should be ready for those but it’s hard to keep this kind of contingencies in our minds at all times. I’m not sure we are even supposed to carry awareness of imminent death always in our consciousness, I don’t think it’s a requirement. Whenever someone tells us about it the proposed solution is to engage ourselves in constant thinking of Kṛṣṇa so when death catches us by surprise we will be aware of Him, and in any case it will be easier to remember Him in our last seconds if our mind are used to thinking about Kṛṣṇa.
But what if death was not an accident sneaking out on you but Kṛṣṇa’s straightforward offer? Will you take it?
I can think of a couple of devotees who died unexpectedly, right on the spot in the middle of something. I don’t know what doctors ruled as the cause of their deaths, though, but it was certainly not a debilitating illness. I bet they simply recorded whatever means Kṛṣṇa used to stop their bodies from working, heart failure or something. Are we ready for this kind of death?
On paper it should be straightforward – who’d say no to Kṛṣṇa? If we think about how we would react, however, we might realize that we have tons of conditions attached. For some the first question will be “How would I look when they find me?” In this case the attachment to one’s bodily image will probably give Kṛṣṇa a clue that they are not ready to leave it yet.
Then come questions about effects of our death on people in our lives. Will they survive? Will they have enough money to go on? Will they have enough will power to go on or will my death stop them in their tracks and derail their careers? What about that person who will certainly be devastated? Will me dying be fair to him/her? Will they have to drop everything and pay through the roof to buy last minute plane tickets? What will happen to my house and my car? What will happen to my bank accounts? Should I write a will? What will happen to my twitter and facebook? Maybe I should leave my password with instructions to post my last words. I guess some are concerned about fate of their porn collection and how its discovery might affect people’s memories of them.
If any of that really bothers us then we are simply not ready to take Kṛṣṇa’s offer. Who do you think we’d be bothering for answers? Kṛṣṇa, of course, who else will be there? No one who is even slightly interested in what happens after we die.
Kṛṣṇa is all knowing, He’d just take one look at us and what He’d have to go through to assuage our worries and the offer will be off the table, not worth the trouble. If we love our lives so much and think they are so important then we should stay here a while longer.
But do we really have to? Why can’t we become ready? Is it a question of devotion? A question of knowledge? A question of detachment? A question of karma? A question of patience? A question of trust? A question of surrender?
A lot of stuff to ponder about, a lot of self-examination to administer. Maybe that’s what self-realization ultimately means, I don’t know.