Vanity thought #1615. Lights out

Japan might be a country with the most pronounced set of problems but it might not be the first one to go down because underlying their “democracy” is the ancient foundation of monarchy and religion. As long as they are doing that part right the universe is obliged to support and provide, that’s just the law of karma. I have no idea whether it will be enough to pull them through when their society crashes, obviously not for everyone anyway.

The West proper – Europe and America, have dispensed with their monarchies and religions and put all their trust into science and democracy. The UK is a curious mixture of both but elsewhere monarchy is just for decoration, and religion is in terminal decline all across the board, even in the US. The point is – the universe owes them nothing, even to Christians because they believe mostly in either the afterlife or the second coming, none of which will alleviate aftershocks of US default on its debt obligations.

The issue of US default is a confusing one because there are plenty of people who would argue that it would never happen. I can’t keep all their reasons in my head but, generally, it’s along the lines that the US can simply print more money whenever anyone comes to collect. Greece didn’t have this option, they say, so Greek tragedy can’t happen to the Americans.

Well, this is what the US has been doing so far – issuing new debt to repay the old one, and so people say that since it hasn’t defaulted by now it won’t default forever, it will just keep printing money, much of it on computer screens, which is even cheaper than printing it on paper.

Another popular answer is that the US has a much higher level of debt at the end of WWII and it paid it off just fine. The don’t mind the difference between the situation then and the situation now. Post WWII period was, perhaps, the most productive era in human history. People were breeding like rabbits and everyone was full of hope. That’s not what we have now at all, there’s no prospect of the US economy growing out of its debts. Someone done the calculations – it needs to grow at 6% a year only to pay for creation of new debt, forget about repaying the existing one.

The US creates new debt related to necessary spending every day to the tune of billions. Then it has to create new debt to rollover the old one every four years, too, which also happens practically very day now. All in all, it creates debt the size of Exxon and Microsoft every month. Their economy can’t sustain this black hole.

There’s another issue that is often overlooked – people talk about about 17 trillion in debt but that is not total liabilities of the US government. It does not include obligations under social security and health care. If those are counted in, too, the debt would shoot somewhere close to 150 trillion territory.

Most of these obligations are explicitly tied to inflation so inflation can’t be a solution, if it goes up the debt pile will grow correspondingly.

Another popular argument is that the US debt is manageable, that it’s just abstract money, it keeps the economy going but it can’t harm it in any way. There’s a matter of regular interest payments, however. At this point these interest payments swallow about 10% of the government budget but if the interest rates return to the normal levels from near zero, where they are now, the burden of interest payments will shoot up to 20-30% and that would really squeeze government ability to meet its obligations elsewhere and force it to create more debt to meet them.

The pressure to raise the interest rates is there, the first raise came to pass last month and the US promised to raise rates again at least twice this year. If they fail to meet these expectations they will undermine market faith in its ability to manage their situation and loss of faith will be compensated by demand for higher interest on US bonds to account for risks so the rates will be forced to rise anyway. At some point the US won’t be able to keep up with its commitments either as debt or as its projected image.

The US might not default to other countries but it will inevitably default to itself or to its own citizens when it won’t be able to provide promised healthcare and social security payments.

People don’t plan for it and it won’t happen overnight but when it does there will be no way out. They are like frogs in a slowly heated pot of water. Unlike post WWII there will be no injection of fresh human capital and hopes are not going up, all they have are the ageing baby boomers with mounting health and retirement costs and the millenials who’d rather spend their lives staring into their phones, which is a lot less productive than buying houses and cars and building families.

The West can alleviate some of this inevitable suffering by taking in immigrants who would work their socks off to build good new lives but this solution is only temporary and pretty soon these immigrants will realize they are working not so much for themselves but for golden retirement of the natives. In the past decade even Mexicans stopped coming to the US and decided that they’ll have a better life by staying home. There are also immediate political problems with immigration but I don’t want to talk about it now, they are not helping the West here, that’s for sure.

I don’t want to turn it into an argument against capitalism because that would resurrect the ghost of Marx and strap us into a different framework. I’d rather say that western societies have run out of passion. Passion for life, even passion for sex. They are still oversexed, of course, but they want it cheap and easy, they are not going to put time and energy into it anymore.

The West has seen several hundred years of rising mode of passion but now it’s running out. In Kali yuga it’s unlikely that it will transition into goodness even though they might be able to maintain relatively comfortable lives for a while – until their governments run out of money to pay what they promised their citizens.

This transition might happen very fast, too – in a manner of years and decades, and when it hits a certain point the system will collapse completely.

The international dimension to the US inability to meet its obligations might get real ugly if the US withdraws from providing security to its acolytes. Islamists will figure out that the US has no money to start a real war, NATO will become toothless, too, so Russians can theoretically take as much of Ukraine as they want. Chinese will assert themselves in Asia and possibly beyond and there will be no one to challenge them. So far Europeans think that they are militarily safe but a couple of battlefield losses coupled with American inability to provide a backup will reverse this attitude very fast. As Syrian refugee crisis shows, geography won’t save them. The whole world might go down in flames when the global policeman is forced to retire.

Once again, I don’t think it’s fixable, life as we know it will come to an end and the only hope for us to survive is by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. If we do that the universe will be obliged to provide us with bare necessities, it has no choice because chanting is the yuga dharma. Cars, houses, mobile phones and the internet will all go, however. It will probably be back to cows and our own gardens. Personally, I think I’ll be old enough not to notice anyway, but I have to wean myself from modern amenities all the same. This dependence has to go.

Vanity thought #1614. Sunset in the East

The other thing that stirred my mind lat week was also prompted by the news but it wasn’t about news per se, it was about long term prospects of the modern civilization. As the title says, it happened in the East, specifically in Japan.

I don’t know why but the news of Bank of Japan announcing negative interest rates got mentioned on the first page of my local paper. There are a lot of technicalities involved depending on the type of funds and what not but, basically, Bank of Japan would pay you the interest rate if you borrow from them – quite opposite of the what the banks usually do.

The idea is to stimulate domestic business activity there. If we use carrot and sticks analogy then negative interest rates are both. For those who keep their money in the bank it’s a stick because instead of adding interest to your funds they’ll be deducting it and your funds will grow smaller and smaller every year. For those who start a business it’s a carrot because when you borrow the money you don’t have to pay it back in full plus interest, as usual, you pay minus the interest. Basically, Bank of Japan pays people to start businesses instead of saving their money.

Historically, the negative interest rates to spur economic activity has been a hit and a miss and no one is sure how the policy would work in Japan, they still keep their “Quantitative Qualitative Easing” or whatever they call printing money these days, too. In short, they print money and pay people to take it but how long can they do it before they’ll be forced to give up is anyone’s guess. Abenomics did wonders for corporate bottom lines and stock market but the effect on real economy so far has been negligible. Japan is still in stagnation/deflation and not growing anywhere. This is what prompted me to think about long term future.

I think Japan is a perfect example of what is going to happen to the rest of the western world even if technically it’s not a western country. After WWII it was drawn into a western sphere of influence and was rebuilt according to western models of capitalism and democracy, and in many ways Japanese did it better than the original. They don’t invent stuff so much but they pick up western inventions and run away with them, implementing them a lot better than westerners themselves. They did it with cars, consumer electronics, computers etc and this model of development then spread to Korea and China, and Singapore and Taiwan, and now is pursued by Vietnam and Myanmar. Japanese themselves almost retired, however. They still keep an edge in car making but everything else is done faster, better, and cheaper elsewhere, often with Japanese money.

They’ve build a very nice, prosperous, rule based society for themselves, a source of envy for all their neighbors. They were the trailblazers and everyone looks up to them. Westerners might not care about Japan so much but the fact is Japanese are on par or ahead of them in many areas, too – general level of development, rule of law, social policies, and all the problems that come with western model of development.

Every western country is going to face the same problems but Japanese did it first. They are the fastest aging society, the fastest shrinking society and so on. In Europe Germany is probably the closest. They are both technologically advanced, both very orderly and well managed, and face same demographic problems of shrinking population. Old people don’t die and young people don’t breed. They both are also very heavy into porn. In case of Japan porn substitutes people’s sex lives altogether and they are just not interested in meeting real people in real life, their online fantasies are so much better than messy human relationships.

Another thing Japanese are at the front of is internet and internet on mobiles. They had their 3G and 4G phones years ahead of the west, for example, the smartphone revolution first happened there. As a result they’ve altered their lifestyles first, too. What it means is that a little device in their hands is all they need for successful and fulfilling lives. It’s a source of news and entertainment, it’s a source of and platform for maintaining relationships, it’s a distraction from stress, it’s a hideaway from personal problems, it’s a substitute for friendship and families, it’s the focal point of their lives. Nothing else matters.

Combine this with affluence and you can easily see why Japanese people can’t be bothered to go to the bank, borrow money, and start businesses. What for? They don’t have kids to support, they don’t even have wives or husbands. They don’t need bigger houses and bigger cars, they are perfectly content with only basic necessities and rich online experience. The other notable news from Japan I’ve seen in the paper is their new trend of absolute minimalism – a one bedroom studio with no furniture whatsoever.

It’s good for simple living and high thinking, even though they use it to watch porn and read anime, but it is not good for capitalism and I believe that’s why Japanese economy has been stuck in neutral gear for a quarter century now. They simply do not have the impetus to work more, produce more, and consume more. They don’t want to grow, not in their personal lives and, as a result, not as a society either.

This is the bug that has been eating away at all other westernized countries, too. People just can’t be bothered to make an effort anymore. People used to work themselves to exhaustion for the sake of their kids but with family planning no one is going to commit themselves to such a life anymore. People used to move mountains for their loved ones but their relationship have been reduced to plain sex which they prefer to get without commitment so that they don’t have to get off their behinds. As a result the old normal growth rate of 4% is unthinkable anymore, 2% is the new high and 0% is a new normal.

They’ve been trying to break this dry spell and they blamed it on the aftermath of 2008 financial crisis but it’s a structural problem that is not going away. It rather eats away at the very foundation of western societies. They have no reason to exist anymore. It used to be about ideals and achievements and changing the world but the mode of passion has gone and it’s not coming back. Much of the western world is still in the mode of goodness but without passion their capitalist economy cannot be sustained and without constant growth they can’t meet all their debt obligations, either to other countries or to their own citizens.

Last year Greece was the bad boy with unsustainable debts but Japan’s debts are a lot higher than Greece’s. Japan is able to get away with it because it owes to its citizens rather than foreign banks and governments, but, unlike institutions, people need to be paid when they need the money and when they need the services. The services also needs to be provided by someone but they have very few people of working age left, maybe not enough to sustain even themselves what to speak of caring for those annoying ninety year olds. Lack of services also means they become more expensive, which means even higher expenditures by the government to fulfill their obligations.

For now it still looks good and wholesome but it’s only an illusion, the eventual doom of western civilization, starting with Japan, is rather near, many of us are going to see it in their lifetimes. It’s also unfixable and there’s no way for us to save our bodies, only our souls, and only by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa.

Vanity thought #1538. Evernow

Saw this word on TV, it’s about some video game and I don’t think it means anything special there. For us, however, “evernow” is an interesting concept.

I don’t know much about Buddhism but I like their understanding of reality as illusion. It might not be a correct representation of Buddhism but that doesn’t matter, it works equally well across all platforms. The future is not real because it hasn’t happened yet, the past is not real because it’s already gone, the only reality is the present moment but even our present is made of connections to either the past or the future. We need to strip the present of these connections to appreciate its true value and see it for what it is.

Things we see around us are results of previous activities, they were made some time ago, given color and shape, and they constantly change, even if changes are imperceptible. Whatever we observe is, therefore, not the reality as it is but reality as it was and that reality doesn’t exist anymore. This means that relying on our senses to interact with “reality” is a delusion and nothing exists objectively.

Making plans is illusory, too, because plans are driven by desire to enjoy things that don’t exist yet. We think we can shape the reality in a way that pleases us but that pleasure doesn’t exist yet. It might come out satisfactory or it might be disappointing. Chasing it is not the reality.

The only reality, as I said, is now, our current state stripped of references to the past and projections into the future. I’m sure there’s a lot more to Buddhism explanations of this than that but it’s enough of a starting point for me.

There could be a big discussion whether what we feel now is real or illusory. Buddhists and advaitins would say that feelings are not real, we would say that feelings and their corresponding senses exist but they are not ours, and, furthermore, we also have our own eternal spiritual senses which are waiting to be engaged and experienced in service to Kṛṣṇa. The point where we could agree on is the importance of now.

When under the influence of the mode of passion we direct our consciousness into the future and make plans. Future doesn’t exist yet and when it comes it will happen according to the plans of the Lord, not ours, so hoping to extract pleasure from it is like a lottery. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but we get enough small victories to get hooked up and keep buying tickets. We think that we can become richer that way, that our lives will become fulfilled and that we’ll have enough memories to die in knowing we didn’t live in vain.

It might work – if we ignore the elephant in the room, the death itself, which is like the moment when you get thrown out of the casino. Yes, you might have good times there before that happens and even win something but in the end you always run out of credit and lose. “I’m going to gamble away all my money but I’ll have fun while doing it” is not a particularly clever life plan.

So, making our own plans for something that is going to happen according to somebody else’s will is gambling and it will end the same, in a big loss. That’s for placing our faith in the future.

Dwelling in the past is more of a mode of ignorance thing. It doesn’t lead even to creating future karma and earning future brownies. People in this state only try to relive their past moments again and again. As time passes by their memories fade and then they’d have good memories of the time when their memories were good. “I remember thinking about my wife made me feel warm but now I don’t even remember her name” – that type of thing. These days conversations like this are more likely revolve around “remember that time we got high and …”

People try to replay those old feelings and experiences even though they can’t actually feel them anymore and they can’t get off their asses to do anything about it. That’s dwelling in the past and it’s a very subpar way of enjoying your life even by materialistic standards.

Now is governed by the mode of goodness. One sign of it is knowledge – only people in full knowledge can let go off the past and stop worrying about the future. Why make plans when Kṛṣṇa has already made them? His plans are perfect and they have been put into practice an infinite number of times in the infinite number of universes. Trying to improve on them, which is what materialistic planners are doing, is futile. Even trying to predict them is pointless because things will happen anyway and in their own time and we can’t stop them from happening, nor can we protect ourselves.

That’s what trusting Kṛṣṇa means – we can finally stop planning our own lives and surrender to His superior will. It doesn’t mean that our minds stop working. Universe will keep on rolling and our minds will roll with it. Heart will continue pumping blood, lungs will continue inhaling and exhaling, hair and nails will continue growing. People in full knowledge don’t worry about that.

Kṛṣṇa also has His own cunning way to place us under the illusion any time He wants so that we continue acting out His plans. That won’t be the same kind of illusion that covers ordinary living entities, though, it won’t be controlled by cold karma but administered by Kṛṣṇa Himself, and sometimes He’d do it for His personal enjoyment, too, like He does with devotees in Vṛndāvana. I mean we shouldn’t worry that if we surrender to Kṛṣṇa our lives will suddenly stop. They won’t.

What should happen when we disassociate ourselves from both the past and the future, though? Will we cease to exist, in the Buddhist sense of the word? Maybe, I’ll tell you if it ever happens to me, but for now the best engagement I can think of is chanting the Holy Name.

Most of the time we chant while still thinking of either past or the future, mulling over things we said and done, dreaming up alternative scenarios, role playing future conversations to get ourselves ready, or feverishly exploring new ideas and inventions. All these things distract us from listening and add colors of passion and ignorance to the pristine form of the pure name. We’ll never hear the name as it is as long as we divert our consciousness away like that.

So, we should stop doing it, let it go, drop the plans, stop thinking about revenge and injustice, and simply concentrate on the name. Let the name speak to us instead of us shouting at it with angst or begging it to fulfill our desires. These desires aren’t even ours, they are born out of the false ego and directed by the material modes.

One could say that as eternal souls we can’t stop our desires but our real, spiritual desires will not manifest without the Lord revealing Himself first. We can’t have them without connection to the Lord, without the Lord being present, either personally or in the name, so we must learn to hear the name first and wait until it reveals itself. All desires manifesting before that happened are material and worthless, we should led them go.

Then we can discover the bliss of living in the eternal “evernow”.

Vanity thought #1377. Creating reality

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.

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.

Vanity thought #713. Stuff they don’t teach you in school

The worst thing is that actually they kind of do, in science classes, but they can’t bring themselves to apply this science in real life. Ironic, isn’t it? Considering that they pride themselves on their rationality you’d expect them to follow through on the most famous theory of all time.

I’m talking about relativity, of course. It’s been around for over a hundred years and Einstein is probably the most popular icon for modern science but when it comes to making simple conclusions everyone is busy with something else.

Admittedly, relativity is fairly difficult to grasp but we have plenty of down to earth explanations of how it works. Speed of light is constant, instead it’s time that speeds up or slows down to maintain light’s velocity. This gives rise to the twin paradox where one of the two brothers, the astronaut one, comes home to find that he has now become younger because his time slowed down.

The physics of it are complex but the concept is easy to visualize. Twin paradox is not the only curious side effect of relativity and here is the video that explores these time adjustments in a different and, I admit, very striking way.

This video plays on the idea of “now”, ie both observers start at the same point in time and then check the space around them at a predetermined interval. Because of the time dilation one’s “now”, however, becomes the other’s “past” or “future”, depending on the direction of their travel.

The video illustrates this by slicing the bread of space and time at an angle. I don’t know if it’s scientifically plausible, I mean two travelers on the opposite sides of the universe can’t communicate instantly to observe the effect themselves so you can’t really cheat time and ask what is going to happen to you in the future but that is not the point.

The point is that the future that we think is uncertain and subjected to our manipulation ALREADY exists. I’m tempted to say that it’s visible to the dude on the other side of the Milky Way but it’s not, thought if he could look at it he would have seen it.

So, what we call “future” exists objectively though we are restricted from accessing it. We have no choice but to live through the motion of time and experience it sometime later but it’s there already, waiting for us to arrive.

Just as Krishna says – I know past, present and future (BG 7.26). We accept it because it’s said in the Gita but now there’s an example of scientists coming to the same conclusion, except they don’t know Krishna.

Why don’t they teach this to the kids right from the start? Why do they fill their minds with notions of “free will” and “everything is possible” and “follow your dreams” crap instead? Why don’t they accept science that they profess to love so much?

Why don’t they accept that science demonstrates futility of our existence? Why are they in denial?

I guess it’s because they think that if are going to live through predetermined future anyway we might just enjoy it and pretend we are control. This is what we do for entertainment already – watch the movies where hero always wins at the end or go on rollercoaster rides where we know exactly where we would be at each point of time, where cameras would snap a picture of our distorted faces, and where it would eventually stop. It’s all predetermined yet we still enjoy the experience.

That might not be such a bad solution in the end, but before we accept it we should realize that it’s all just a game, that there is no freedom, no options, no real control. There’s no “future” and all our worries, hopes, and attempts to improve it have no effect on it whatsoever. We indulge in such stuff only to entertain ourselves.

That’s what we should remember when we chant the Holy Name, when our minds wonder off to revisit the past or to scheme some improvements to our future. We do this only because we like it, not because it would have any real effect.

There’s no real reason to worry about our jobs, about our income, about our health, about our pleasure or pain, we can’t change anything, just experience it when it comes. Is it the best experience in the world? No, it isn’t, we’ve been told. Much better experience comes from serving Krishna, much better taste, much more enjoyable rasa.

At this moment we can’t feel it yet but if we abandon our interests in enjoying the illusion of control, which has been demonstrated scientifically, there’s a chance that Krishna will eventually reveal Himself because serving Him is our natural position.

If only we would stop worrying about things that are going to happen anyway.

Vanity thought #593. Future, present, past

This is not related to yesterdays’ post even though the title suggests so. I was actually thinking about how much sleep I’m getting these days, how much sleep I had last night and how much sleep I’m going to have today.

Will I wake up rested and refreshed, moments before my alarm goes off, or will hit snooze a couple of times cursing everyone and everything? Will I enjoy my sleep or will I suffer from a bout of insomnia? Will I have an obsessive idea that would switch me off like a robot for a few hours and then turn me back on in the morning with no recollection of any dreams? Will I have dreams?

I’m not overthinking this, I’ve been sleeping every day for many years already, I know the subject, I know how it works, and I’ve got some unusual insight from my findings.

It turns out I can predict my sleep patterns rather well. By analyzing what happened in the past and what happened today, the amount of nap I snatched during the day and other details I can predict what will happen at night with striking accuracy and as the night approaches my estimates get better and better.

This is where I realized that future and past are linked together very very tightly. One does not happen without the other and in their interdependence they don’t allow for any variations.

It’s natural for us to spend a lot of time analyzing our past, why things happened and what were the reasons and how they could have happened differently. Well, at some point these same “things” were in the future, and all our rationalization is nothing but proving strong, unbreakable links between events on the time line, so, if we take these two points into account when we prognosticate events in our future we should see that there’s absolutely nothing special about. There will be the same links, the same reasons, the same laws and the same conclusion that things couldn’t have turned any differently given the circumstances.

Future events do not come out of the blue, they are results of preexisting conditions. Future does not exist without past and we call it “future” only relatively to our chosen point on the time line. In regards to our own lives we do not get to choose out point in time but that’s because we are conditioned souls, if we were free from bondage of time we would also be free to “relive” our lives in any direction, from birth to death or from death to birth, it would be an abstract exercise just like we contemplate history.

Sometimes we tell stories from the end, sometimes from the beginning, sometimes we jump back and forth, make loops and shortcuts – that’s how our lives would appear to us when we finally achieve liberation, that’s how we would retell them to anyone who cared to listen.

What is the meaning of present then? Nothing, it’s just an elusive moment between past and future, or it’s just a duration of time, rather short, that we can process using our brains’ RAM before we dig into long term storage or call the CPU to calculate complex future possibilities. Either way, it’s not important and it’s not that different. We constantly see our future become our present and our present becoming our past.

The important point is that mystery and expectations surrounding our future are an illusion, they are baseless. It’s just titillating ignorance, nothing more. We, of course, are attached to this illusion and we enjoy having hopes but actually, if you think about it, it’s all deeply boring. We are just being entertained like little children who are told a story or shown a cheap trick.

So yes, ignorance is bliss, literally, and rather crappy bliss at that. Hopefully, by becoming Krishna conscious we will be granted a superior source of happiness, the real one, the one that won’t get spoiled if we are told the ending.