Stages in your ages
[The theme of this blog is very much on my mind and was originally published in 2008-08-08--I spruced it up a bit and added pictures to make it more consistent with my current blogs.]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. The following are points for your contemplation:
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 we experience some ecstasy or apparent realization from a higher stage to encourage us of what is possible, that is withdrawn at some point to test our sincerity.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 Krishna conscious activities (bhakti) will such desires have no energy to attract or divert us from spiritual practice. Otherwise we may make a show of detachment, but only have aversion (the other side of attachment). We can also use them in relationship to Krishna, or as Shrila Prabhupada taught us, "dovetail" them.
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 as a by-product of our taste for Krishna centered activities. 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 Krishna Consciousness.
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 by the mercy of his devotees. We become like the company we keep.