Last time I think I made a convincing case that our ordinary understanding of freedom is inadequate and misleading. At least I convinced myself, at least on some superficial level. What next then? Where does real freedom lies? Don’t say “spiritual world” – we are not there yet, we need to make steps in that direction, but which direction is that?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, Kṛṣṇa grants self-realization out of His sweet will and we can’t force Him. We might sit and wait, we might run, it doesn’t matter, Kṛṣṇa is not going to be convinced by externalities, we need to make a personal connection and a personal plea. How to make that personal connection? Kṛṣṇa is guarded very well against intruders like us. We can say it’s due to guru’s mercy but guru doesn’t act independently of Kṛṣṇa either. A material mind might see a possibility of a shortcut here – around our guru and directly to the source, but it’s foolish. Guru and Kṛṣṇa are non-different in this regard, we can’t get to one without passing through another, guru’s presence is a manifestation of Kṛṣṇa’s interest in us.
What can we do in the meantime? That’s the question on my mind today.
We can approach it from two sides. One is from the POV of a struggling soul trying to make his life better, another is from the POV of a devotee trying to perfect his sādhana. Personally, I constantly oscillate between these two. Most of my actions are selfish but occasionally I remind myself that I can do things for Kṛṣṇa, too, and not just special things like offering food but everything I do, everything can be connected with the Lord, I just don’t remember or don’t know how.
Whatever approach one takes it will make his life better, and the struggling soul approach can appeal to non-devotees, too. It’s not a direct path to Kṛṣṇa consciousness but almost everybody has to pass through these stages on the way and realize the futility of the material struggle even when one feels like he is finally winning. Winning not just the war for sense enjoyment but the war with one’s mind, too.
So, seeking freedom to act is no freedom at all, as I argued yesterday. It gives only hopes and just enough confirmation to keep us going, but in the end we can never be as free as we want, eventually this race will come to an end. We need to define freedom differently, if value it at all.
Normally, we feel like freedom is our innate desire, our inalienable right, we have the entire civilization built on this principle now, and it’s the only civilization most of us have ever known. It sounds convincing but our experience and knowledge of history is still limited. Other values commonly assumed are sex and drinking, for example, but they don’t mean anything to us as devotees, we are past that, just as we are past meat eating. People’s addiction to bacon is the same as their addiction to freedom. We can easily reject the first one but the second one still holds over us, just as sexual desire will always be present as long as we have these bodies.
We need to stop valuing freedom just as we stopped valuing steaks. The fact that everybody loves it is not a reason for us to go along. They are all miserable because of it and helpless to stop themselves – not a good role model for us to follow.
What we need instead is peace of mind, the concept that cuts across all religions and all cultures. It is nearly lost in the modern age but we do have plenty of self-proclaimed Buddhists and other new agey types who can be considered as our companions on this path, they just go about it in the wrong way.
What we need is not following our mind wherever it wants to go but keeping it in one place, happy and content and not giving us any trouble. In this state the desire for freedom (to act) melts away, it just stops being a question. In this state we realize that chasing freedom is slavery in itself.
Peace of mind gives us what the chase is supposed to give – happiness and content, the happily ever after where the thought of further improvement doesn’t even cross our minds. In our speak it’s sattva guṇa, not the end but a solid starting platform to strive for bhakti.
This is what the wannabe yogis don’t understand yet and maybe are not ready to appreciate – that there’s life beyond sattva and beyond “non-existence” and “unity with the Universe”. Envy gradually disappears on that stage so they’ll come to appreciate devotional service soon enough, converting them is not our biggest concern. Instead of arguing with them we should encourage them to follow their path, wait until humility develops, and then make our pitch, but that’s a different topic.
How do we attain this peace of mind? How do we bring our mind into this peaceful place? Well, it’s not literally a place, we should realize this first. Ordinary people think that peace of mind is a result of creating nice external arrangements, cushy and comfortable life with fast internet, cheap TV, healthy food, and unlimited amount of very satisfying sex, with your soul mate – for the romantic ones.
We should know better than that and tell people so, too. It won’t work. Peace of mind is a state of consciousness that should persist in all external conditions. We might never achieve this absolute ideal but we should try to achieve it at least in conditions imposed on us, whatever they are.
Some would object that it’s impossible, that we should try being in their shoes before offering suggestions. This might perplex us for a while – what if “their shoes” are indeed different and impossible to fix? We should remember, however, that this is a typical defense. They say the same thing when we tell them about meat eating or about the necessity to chant. “Not for me”, “I don’t have time for this”, “Maybe when I get my life in order but not now” – we all heard those. They are not real arguments.
First of all, Kṛṣṇa always helps. If we express a desire to follow His instructions the universe complies, or He wouldn’t be God. Secondly, the impression of “impossible” is the result of us being locked in into our desires. When we want something else the mind naturally finds the way to think of it as possible – it’s what it’s there for, to make impossible look possible, we just have to let it do its work. Just plant the desire and it will naturally grow.
So, these are the first steps – start wanting the peace of mind, look at the possibilities offered by the mind, observe the universe turning around and providing us with opportunities. It might not look like a solution to scientifically minded atheists but we know that’s how the world actually works – desire, thought, action, results. It works all the time.
It’s only a start, though, there’s still plenty of work ahead and bringing mind into a happy place will contradict a lot of our long held assumptions, and the old karma will catch up with us, too. Not to worry, though, it’s all has been seen before and there are solutions and fool-proof methods, but more on this later.