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.

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Vanity thought #574. How to defeat time

Time is the driving force of material nature, as long as we are “looking forward to it” we place ourselves under the control of the illusion. Our attachments to things from our past also bind us to this world. Likewise, we cannot possibly reach the spiritual platform as long as we indulge in the movements of material phenomena under the influence of time.

Recently, however, I figured out the way to disregard and escape time. Not defeat it, of course, just escape, even if for a brief moment.

It happens when we chant.

Every time we start the Hare Krishna mantra from scratch we disregard all our previous experiences and we lose interest in our all future happenings. We just go perpendicular to past-future line of time movement.

To illustrate – back in January I was looking at future with amusement mixed with apprehension. Two months have passed since and if I try hard I think I can retrace the evolution of my concerns, but when I simply start “Hare Krishna” all that memory flies out of the window, by karma’s grace it didn’t leave a very deep impression on my soul so it’s easier for me to recollect the feelings of January than to remember what happened since then.

I guess we all know that “where did the time go?” moment and some of us worry about that, but if we just start “Hare Krishna” it really makes us disconnected from our experiences through time. It would require a conscious effort to condition ourselves back into our memories, and if we don’t even try that we become truly free.

Will the karmic reactions of the past two months catch up with me? Certainly, am I interested in meeting them? Not so much – every time I start “Hare Krishna” I replace that interest with a plea to be engaged in Krishna’s service.

Same experience can also be scaled down. Sometimes during japa my mind become obsessed with some argument or an idea and suddenly I discover that I’ve chanted three-four rounds but have no recollection of it. I see it as if I was drowned in time, but if I consciously start “Hare Krishna” again I discard those memories, purge them from my head and start a new chapter in my life, so to speak.

I can be scaled down even further – every time I start chanting “Hare Krishna” I discard my interests in all things temporary.

The key to the effect is to have the proper attitude in chanting, without any underlying desires for fame or pleasure or for relief of suffering. This attitude is best absorbed from other devotees, in my case I saw it in Prabhupada’s chanting, how even in kirtan he starts every round absolutely afresh, without a build up in his pleas to the Lord.

I mean it’s not like the first time you chant Hare Krishna you beg for permission to chant, the second time you beg forgiveness for your offenses, the third time you chant for the pleasure of the guru, the fourth time for the pleasure of Lord Chaitanya and all the way up. There’s no progress like this at all. Every mantra starts with exactly the same attitude and at no point Prabhupada implies that he had reached a higher, more advanced position in praying.

There’s some progress, of course – there’s a tune to be sung, it has it’s own progression, also the kirtan supposed to build up in strength and intensity but that doesn’t change Prabhupada’s inner mood, at least that’s what I hear.

All this kirtan progress is registered on the time line, to use the earlier analogy, while the spiritual progress is made on the perpendicular axis that cannot be seen by us, mere mortals. What we can see, however, is that Prabhupada is pushing “up” even while his body and his voice continue moving from left to right.

So that is a mathematical formula for beating time – direct our consciousness, our attention away from X axis of time to the progress on the Y axis of spirit. Our bodies will continue moving, sure, but our consciousness won’t register horizontal movement at all because if it looks strictly upwards it doesn’t see points of reference in the past or in the future – to the left or to the right of it.

That is also why we should keep our siddhanta as pure as possible – pure siddhanta points up, apa-siddhantas allow for some horizontal inclination, too.

Of course our chanting will never be mathematically pure but that should not be an excuse to actually plan for some deviations, i.e. we should not consciously seek leeways in our practice, that would be anti-devotional.

We should try to keep our chanting as pure as possible.

Vanity thought #53. The curse of Isa.

I don’t know what is happening, but this little book Sri Isonapanishad has been giving me a lot of grief lately. This is at least the third time I looking at it in a new light and it makes me reassess a lot of long held assumptions.

Today it’s mantras six and seven. There’s nothing special about them, just a general description of a transcendentalist, one who see everything related to the Lord and who sees the Lord in everything, who sees all living beings as parts and parcel of the Lord etc. In the commentaries Prabhupada describes this person in a greater detail, introduces the concepts of kanishtha, madhyama and uttama adhikaris. Isopanishad talks about how this person doesn’t hate anybody and how he doesn’t suffer from anxieties or illusions. In short, trinad api sunichena, amanina manadena – essential qualities for chanting the Holy Names.

Prabhupada talks about the way to see all living beings as spirit souls, how one should look at them from the point of view of the scriptures, how the Lord is actual source of everything and center of all enjoyment, how all our suffering stem from our illusion of our actual position and so on – kindergarten stuff.

Then he drops the bombshell – such mahatma is very very rare and this position is achieved only after many many births. End of purport.

Bummer, I had always assumed that simply by chanting sixteen rounds and following the sadhana one can achieve this position in this life time. I was led to believe that one can approach this position after only a few days of chanting, ok, maybe few days of chanting the way Bhaktivionoda Thakura meant it, for us it might be a few years of chanting, but it was something not very far away for devotees in the sankirtana movement.

“Many many births” is simply not something I expected when I joined this movement.

I think this revelation is not a coincidence, I had too many similar thoughts for it to be a coincidence, that’s why I’m starting to think that it’s the curse of Sri Isopanishad. Any curse of a scripture is a blessing in disguise, perhaps all those years ago I was simply not ready to face this sober reality – it will take many many births, not years, to achieve any semblance of perfection on the path of devotional service. Perhaps if I realized that reality from the start I wouldn’t have even bothered, perhaps my youthful enthusiasm would have been deflated like a punctured beach ball on the day one.

Perhaps God was saving it for the moment when I’m too deeply invested to give up. And that’s a good news – means I’m stronger now even if all my enthusiasm has gone. And it’s also a blessing – any spiritual revelation is a blessing, even if dampens my spirits, and they are pretty low right now.

It will be a long, long time before I take any kind of vrata, I have absolutely no powers to keep any resolutions. Twenty years ago I could have done anything, but probably for the wrong reasons and with the wrong attitude. Today I feel scared like a beaten dog. I feel scared subconsciously, without even giving myself a rational explanation, I just instinctively avoid certain things, certain vows or indulgences, certain trains of thought.

I still have no idea whether it was my own stupidity and arrogance or if it was a lesson from Krishna (or Paramatma). If it was a lesson, it was probably administered so that I avoided certain unfavorable things, but  – what is unfavorable about taking vratas, for example? I heard it was a very favorable practice if done in the right frame of mind. Now I am sworn of it totally, the whole concept shudders my soul.

I hope I get over it. In the meantime I’m afraid to read Isopanishad any further – God knows what other discoveries are waiting for me there. I still haven’t prepared myself mentally for many many births of very very hard practice before I even approach the platform of pure chanting. I still concern myself with daily, mundane and routine stuff that refuses to fade away. I still don’t see the big picture.

At least I don’t believe in quick fixes anymore, that should count for something.

Also the thought of me being stronger than many years ago is warming up my ego already.

Vanity thought #41. Fighting failure.

By truly causeless mercy of the devotees I came across two very valuable pieces of advice that I hope can help one under attack of desperation.

It’s one thing to theoretically know that nothing is lost on the path of devotional service, it’s quite another to realize it and keep faith in it in the times of great stress.

God knows how many times I caught myself secretly wishing for my rounds to finish soon, stealing a glance at the watch, fingering the counters, even trying to distract myself with something else, hoping that time will fly faster and I finish my rounds “sooner”. Eventually it leads to disappointment with myself, disappointment with my lack of taste in chanting, desperation of never ever achieving anything. Why can’t I continue chanting beyond the required sixteen rounds? I’m a failure.

What one should try to do in this situation is to focus not on what we can’t do but rather focus on what we can – and that is the struggle against all odds to finish our daily sacrifice. That tremendous effort we sometimes put in accomplishing our quota of rounds is our sacrifice and that effort is what really counts. It doesn’t count not how far advanced we are on the infinitely long road, the level of advancement doesn’t make any sense comparing to the infinity of potential service a soul can render to Krishna, what really counts is how much we’ve sacrificed today, how many steps we’ve taken.

Ultimately, only time separates us from the success, and time is a tricky illusion of the material world, it has no power over the soul. Time has no place in the spiritual realm and it is only an illusion that we are moving “slowly”. The only real feature about time is that it always changes. One day you cry, the other day you laugh, just live through it, whether you like it or not, it WILL end sooner or later -just like people with broken hearts simply need to let time take its course. Same goes for happiness, btw.

And worrying about “losing” the race to perfection is nothing but the frustrated false ego demanding extra attention.

But what if you can’t finish even the required sixteen? Wouldn’t that count as a failure?

Not really. It isn’t surely a success but there’s no point in lamenting over it either. Just resume where you left off next time you get a chance. Failure shouldn’t discourage one from continuing, ie one shouldn’t give up chanting just because he failed at it yesterday. The only way to remedy the failure to chant is to chant more.

There’s no other way, remember?

Sometimes it feels like you can’t resume chanting. Great – the real problem would be if you feel like you DON’T need to chant anymore, and I don’t think it affects anybody against their will so they won’t be frustrated.

After all, what is a lost day, a lost year, a lost lifetime? We’ve had thousands and millions of those. Yes, we can’t afford to waste time either but that should be measured against individual conditions. One person might delay chanting by ten years while another might delay by five minutes – these numbers have no value whatsoever in the face of eternity.

Don’t worry about how much time has passed, be glad you want to resume chanting again – now that’s the attitude!

Hope this helps.