Stages in your ages

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Understanding our self comes in layers. It’s meant to be that way, and only gradually unfold. Therefore you have to be patient and not impetuously jump to conclusions about yourself in youth and young adulthood. You are only just beginning to understand yourself in your body. It is a life long endeavor, and we need to act accordingly while we pursue understanding of our eternal spiritual identity.

I just returned from a trip to the ocean. I spent time thinking of some lessons I learned during my life which I wanted to share with you. As we age and hopefully mature we have to apply the spiritual principles of Krishna consciousness in different ways. At the same time, in our pursuit of spiritual perfection, we also have to apply different material strategies of support (i.e marriage, living in an ashram, occupational development, etc.) in order to be peaceful, satisfied, and able to remain fixed in our goal of loving and serving Krishna for our whole life. We don't want to be a shooting star, but a brilliant sun in lasting service.
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As we mature we will have a much different idea of what spirituality is than when we were young and inexperienced. In fact we may very well see what we once thought was Krishna consciousness, was only a shadow, or a beginning layer of a much deeper, broader, nuanced view.

Your conceptions of Krishna consciousness, and what you thought was your level of advancement will in time be challenged—so never be complacent and think you have gone somewhere by only a head full of knowledge or some years of chanting and service. The quality of our practice is much more important than the time spent. We may obtain Krishna in a moment, or not for a million births.

Nectar of Devotion (Prabhupada’s summary of Rupa Gosvamis’ Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu) describes “shadow attachment” where you experience some ecstasy or apparent realization from a higher stage to encourage you of what is possible, that is soon withdrawn to test our sincerity.

One of the biggest dangers in our spiritual life is getting stuck in a rut where we may be comfortable, but we don’t make significant advancement due to not being challenged to go deeper. There is a common saying in the business world that we can also apply to our spiritual life: “ If we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always gotten.”

Desires for material enjoyment will remain with us for our whole life. Only if we experience a deep taste for chanting, serving, and all KC activities will we give them no energy to attract us. Otherwise we may make a show of detachment, but only have aversion (the other side of attachment).

The soul’s nature is to be dependent. Either we continue to be dependent and ruled by matter, or we learn to revive our being ruled and dependent on Krishna. That is true freedom, though to the untrained eye, this point is missed. Materialists think that in their ordinary life they are free to do whatever they want, not knowing that their body and mind, and the desires born of them, are only temporary coverings for their soul. This mentality is called bondage, and continues our transmigration from birth to birth.

We are creatures of feeling—we generally do what we feel and love, even if we think another way is better. Therefore, until we feel for and love Krishna more than sensual enjoyment, we will continue to struggle with sensual desires, yearning and hankering.

It is true that we can have anything we want, yet we had better be clear who we really are. The material world facilitates our material desires until we learn that our soul is our real identity, and can’t be happy with temporary illusory, and external things of matter.

We are all defined in the world by our attachments and faith. As long as we see our prospect in physical arrangements and desires we have to continue on, birth after birth to facilitate these plans and desires. Only when our desires are spiritual and can no longer be met through matter, can we leave this plane of misery and death.

The 1st step in spiritual life is becoming convinced intellectually that the material world is not our home and cannot satisfy our deepest yearnings. In the beginning we may think we have realized this, yet that idea will be tested. At different ages we have new material needs and specific tests accordingly.

When we are young it seems this life is very long, and when we are old it seems far too short and limited, and we may lament the wasted years of youth.

When I was 20 years old I thought it would easy to remain a celibate student (brahmacari) my whole life and that perhaps I could take the renounced order of life (sannyas). In my late 20's I realized how immature and ludicrous this idea was.

During our teens and 20's we can do many things we can’t or won’t do later in life—join the military, peace corps (in America they travel to other countries to teach needed skills), attend years at college, live a renounced life in an ashrama, or in general live a life of self-sacrifice for our future life, or to benefit others.

In our late 20's or early 30's or at some level of physical maturity we may discover that our personal desires or necessities will evolve (or be revealed after being dormant), which changes our view of who thought we were, and what we need to do with our life. What this means among other things, is that in our teens and 20's we shouldn’t think that we really understand our self fully or our boy or girl friend, or spouse if we are married. The rule of the material world is change.

Understanding our self comes in layers. It’s meant to be that way, and only gradually unfold. Therefore you have to be patient and not impetuously jump to conclusions about yourself in youth and young adulthood. You are only just beginning to understand yourself in your body. It is a life long endeavor, and we need to act accordingly while we pursue understanding of our eternal spiritual identity.

Most people will need to marry and raise a family in order to channel their creative energy and need for loving relationships. When the children are grown and out of the house, you will naturally be able to focus more on you own spiritual development if you have cultivated it throughout your married life. What we do during our free or extra time, tells us much about what is important to us, and in our older years, we will gravitate toward that which we have been absorbed in previously.

If we want to fly high in the sky of Krishna seva (service) then we will have cut our material roots with the weapon of detachment. We become detached from material things to the degree we are attached to Krishna in love. Married life is one way to see that these material roots can’t satisfy us. Our selfish and lusty desires for material enjoyment are like weights that keep us earthbound, and present to us so many reasons why we can’t surrender to the Lord of our heart.

We may have the best quality hot air balloon, with strong flames to heat the air, yet without cutting or releasing the ropes binding us to the earth, we will only rise a few feet and keep bouncing on the land.

Ships are safe in protected harbors, but that is not what ships are meant for. They are meant for crossing the ocean as we, in our human body, are meant for crossing the ocean of material existence.

The Vedas declare that this human body is a good vehicle [compared to other bodies] for crossing the ocean of material existence. The Vedic scriptures are the favorable breezes, and the spiritual master is the expert captain of this ship.

We should be pessimistic about a life without Krishna consciousness, and very optimistic about a life with KC.

Having the faith that everything that happens to us is meant for our highest good is life transforming. It is like a seed that must be searched for and planted. What we search for we will find, whether a negative or positive view!

Krishna consciousness is the process of converting the illusory material energy into the spiritual energy. Krishna uses his energies for his purpose. His internal energy has the power to liberate us and gives us shelter, while ordinarily his material energy binding us to to matter. It all depends on what our attachment are, whether to the world, or to Krishna.

Combined comments from old site

Mon, 08/11/2008 - 03:15 — abrennan
A lifelong endeavour

I like this idea of recognising the lifeling endeavour that we participate in.

This I think is the part of your blog that most resonates with me: "We are creatures of feeling—we generally do what we feel and love, even if we think another way is better. Therefore, until we feel for and love Krishna more than sensual enjoyment, we will continue to struggle with sensual desires, yearning and hankering"

We all spend a lot of time and energy dealing with our 'thinking selves' whilst all along our 'feeling self' is driving the bus.


Sun, 08/10/2008 - 23:01 — Snehal
Please explain

Hare Krishna!

Thank you for this wonerful and helpful blog....

But would please explain this point
"Nectar of Devotion (Prabhupada’s summary of Rupa Gosvamis’ Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu) describes “shadow attachment” where you experience some ecstasy or apparent realization from a higher stage to encourage you of what is possible, that is soon withdrawn to test our sincerity. "

Does it means that at every stage of advancement our sincerity will be tested and as a result we spiritually mature?

Haribol!

Snehal.


*Reply*

Mon, 08/11/2008 - 10:59 — Karnamrita.das
Dreaded Tests?

I would say that there are indeed "tests" all along the path of Bhakti, but they are not like dreaded finals nor to they have trick questions, and are not intended to make your life difficult. Tests are a way we get feedback about our level of spiritual obtainment. They are meant to help us prepare to move to the next level.

There are many references in the scripture and Prabhupada's purports how the Lord or our Guru gives us tests. Here are a few:

Our life is tested at death.

"According to a Bengali proverb, whatever spiritual progress one makes in life will be tested at the time of death. In Bhagavad-gita (8.6) it is also confirmed: yam yam vapi smaran bhavam tyajaty ante kalevaram/ tam tam evaiti kaunteya sada tad-bhava-bhavitah. Those who are practicing Krsna consciousness know that their examination will be held at the time of death. If one can remember Krsna at death, he is immediately transferred to Goloka Vrndavana, or Krsnaloka, and thus his life becomes successful." SB 4.23.13 pp

The Guru's test.
1)
"The process of bhakti-yoga is simultaneously very difficult and very easy to perform. Sri Narada Muni, the supreme spiritual master, is testing Dhruva Maharaja to see how determined he is to prosecute devotional service. This is the process of accepting a disciple. The great sage Narada has come to Dhruva under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead just to initiate him, yet he is testing Dhruva's determination to execute the process. It is a fact, however, that for a sincere person devotional service is very easy. But for one who is not determined and sincere, this process is very difficult."
SB 4.8.30 pp
2) "Unless there is submission and service, inquiries from the learned spiritual master will not be effective. One must be able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when he sees the genuine desire of the disciple, he automatically blesses the disciple with genuine spiritual understanding. In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned." Bg 4.34 pp

Krishna's tests Arjuna on the battlefield.

"For example, Arjuna's prescribed duty was to fight, and the perfection of his fighting was tested by the satisfaction of Krsna. Krsna wanted him to fight, and when he fought for the satisfaction of the Lord, that was the perfection of his professional devotional duty. On the other hand, when, contrary to the wish of Krsna, he was not willing to fight, that was imperfect." SB 3.27.21 pp

Krishna tests Arjuna sense of duty regarding Asvatama.

"Lord Sri Krsna encouraged Arjuna outwardly just to test Arjuna's sense of duty. It is not that Arjuna was incomplete in the sense of his duty, nor was Lord Sri Krsna unaware of Arjuna's sense of duty. But Lord Sri Krsna put to test many of His pure devotees just to magnify the sense of duty. The gopis were put to such tests as well. Prahlada Maharaja also was put to such a test. All pure devotees come out successful in the respective tests by the Lord." SB 1.7.40 pp

The great devotee of Lord Chaitanya, Haridas Thakur, tested by Maya.

"When Haridasa Thakura was a young devotee of the Lord, he was similarly allured by the incarnation of Maya-devi, but Haridasa easily passed the test because of his unalloyed devotion to Lord Krsna. As illustrated in the above-mentioned verse of Sri Yamunacarya, a sincere devotee of the Lord shuns all material sense enjoyment due to his higher taste for spiritual enjoyment in the association of the Lord. That is the secret of success." Bg 2.62 pp

These are a small sampling. There are also many verses which speak of how we might test our self to see how we are advancing.

"The crucial test of hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam is that one should get positive enlightenment by such an act." SB 2.4.5 pp

"The test of a yogi, devotee, or self-realized soul is that he is able to control the senses according to his plan. Most people, however, are servants of the senses and are thus directed by the dictation of the senses." Bg 2.58 pp

"As for actual advancement in spiritual science, one should have a test to see how far he is progressing. He can judge by these items. [then the 18 items of knowledge are listed such as this one:) Naturally, when one is adapted to the spiritual way of life, he will not want to mix with materialistic men. That would go against his grain. One may test himself by seeing how far he is inclined to live in a solitary place, without unwanted association." Bg 13.8-12 pp

We need to do our best, yet ultimately ours is a path of mercy, and we have to learn to be dependent on Krishna's mercy and expect it. That is part of surrender, seeing no material shelter.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


*Reply*

Mon, 08/11/2008 - 21:35 — Sneha
Experiences

Hare Krishna!
Thank you for this wonderful explaination.

I would like to say something more on spiritual maturity and would be happy to have your thoughts and comments.

Well, I think spiritual maturity depends on what expierences we get in life and how we learn from them. There may be someone who at the age of 25 has gone through so many tribulations that he is spiritually ,more mature than someone who is elder to him. Or this could also be a case where someone has seen so much in life but yet not learnt his spiritual lesson and so not matured enough...

Sometimes just one expierence is enough to lift us spiritually and sometimes many expierences are not enough. Expierence need not be devastating one....But its important how we take it. Wheather we look at it as Lord's mercy and get our realizations or just losse faith and slip down.

So I feel spiritual maturity depends on our expierences and realizations that we get from them....

Haribol!
Snehal


Sat, 08/09/2008 - 00:01 — Navasi
Beautiful

Dear Karnamrita Prabhu,

Thank you so much. This is wonderful.

I have nothing to add or say.

Only, thank you.

Hare Krishna,
Navasi

(I guess I could say that I really hope everyone reads this carefully, and takes it very seriously, and I do mean everyone)

(and after that, it would be a good idea to read it again a few times, at least ;)

: )


*Reply*

Sun, 08/10/2008 - 11:14 — Karnamrita.das
School of Hard Knocks

As we "mature" it is natural to want to share with others, including the up and coming generations. I am still trying to figure out the best way to do that by judging the number of hits our blogs get. Teaching through stories is often the best way to demonstrate one's points. So far my personal experiences told through the background of my life seem to be the most popular, though it seems if I am truly inspired to write (and I am not always) that is also very helpful. We will see what the verdict of my audience is for this blog. I am glad that you appreciated it. I am sure you have many experiences to draw from as lessons as well.

There is no shortage of topics, and I have a lot to say about many things. My writings give me an outlet to speak my mind and heart. I love to write what I am going through, yet better than that is to tailor make what I write for a particular audience who may benefit. Being relevant to my audience is very important, though I am not quite sure exactly who that is. It is quite a mix of native East Indians in India and in the States, and "European Americans", African Americans, etc, living here as well.

Receiving the readers questions helps me choose topics, and I often answer a person through my blog so others can also benefit. What I say is not just for the reader, but is equally for me. Hearing the KC philosophy is enlivening, even if it comes from me.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita