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 #592. Past, present, and future

I was listening to a lecture by His Holiness Bhakti Vidyapurna Swami and he mentioned one very interesting concept. When we dwell in our past and lament all the things that have happened we take shelter of the mode of ignorance. When we dream about our future and imagine all the wonderful things that can happen we take shelter of the mode of passion, and only being in the present is governed by the mode of goodness.

It’s a very Buddhist approach to life, to live in the moment, but it has a solid foundation in shastra. Just look at descriptions of the modes of nature in Bhagavad Gita or elsewhere and it becomes very clear. Those who can’t let go of the past are unable to move on, they become lazy and inert. Their consciousness becomes filled with sorrow and regrets and their life becomes one long, uninterrupted suffering. I don’t know about people who dwell on happy memories, I guess their spell of ignorance is marginally better but because they still cannot move forward it would ultimately turn to suffering that even happy memories cannot diminish.

Those dreaming of their future are clearly guided by passion, there’s no need to explain it. It’s better than ignorance but because they put higher priority on things that don’t yet exist they tend to dismiss blessings they have in the present or offend somebody due to inattention. Like ignorance, passion blinds us to real life and so leads to suffering.

Now for the goodness – it implies having clear knowledge and awareness of the world around us, about mistakes of our past and about dangers of indulging our senses in dreams about future. People living in the present are not irresponsible towards their future, they know what they have to do to ensure their wellbeing but they are patient and they wait for the appropriate time to act. When that time comes they are not lazy either, they perform their duties and feel very good about it. People under passion or ignorance always do something either too early or too late, never what they actually have to be doing.

What about Krishna consciousness, can we do one better over Buddhists? We sure can. Under the influence of vishuddha sattva, transcendental goodness we are aware not only of our place and duties in this world, we are aware of our spiritual position and spiritual responsibilities, too. In fact we stop caring about the fate of our bodies here and fully absorb ourselves in devotional service.

We do not dwell in the past, we do not dream of the future, and we hardly care about present, too. We know that the Supersoul and the material nature will take care of everything, and we know that our material lives ultimately have no value whatsoever, whether they bring happiness or distress.

People in the mode of goodness are still concerned with being happy here, devotees, on the other hand are only aware of Krishna’s happiness. They outsource knowledge to those who have to act on it – the material nature and the Supersoul. Think of it – why should we be aware of everything around us, physically and on the time line? We can perfectly act on a need to know basis and rely on Krishna completely – that would be a sign of mature faith.

The practical application of this is self-evident – do not give in to urges to dream or to replay past events over and over. Even on a conditional platform we should always seek shelter of goodness, we can’t go wrong there. Eventually we might also learn to rely on Krishna to provide us with everything we need to know, we don’t have to make separate efforts. He, after all, has promised to supply us with intelligence already, we just have to learn to trust Him.

Then our human form of life would bring ultimate perfection.