Change Your Life Through Gratitude, Giving and Intention
On our journey toward Krishna it would be so very helpful if, while we live, study, work and interact with others, we bring more of who we really are spiritually into our human life. It is possible if we practice and really believe this is who we truly are. I will share some simple practices which I have found helpful.
Although from one perspective we are only tiny, insignificant beings in relationship to our unlimited Source, Shri Krishna. From another understanding we are so much more spiritually then who we think we are, or how we act materially. Even though we may accept in theory that we are eternal spiritual beings, we tend to buy into our conditioned embodiment and suffer accordingly. It is true that in order to fully manifest our spiritually we have to realize our soul in relationship to God. However, even now we can begin to act in a more spiritually powerful way to benefit ourselves and others. We can become part of the solution to our own, our families and the world’s problems.
First of all, we can affirm our divinity as part and parcel of Krishna. Imagine—we are “sat, chit, and ananda”, or eternal, full of knowledge, and blissful by nature! You have in your soul all good qualities, similar to God, and we only have to gradually uncover it. Everything we could possible aspire for is there within our soul and in our relationship with God. We don’t have to become “somebody”--we already are somebody, spiritually.
I am not saying to puff up our chest out of material ego, shouting, "I am great". Rather our greatness comes from acknowledging our absolute dependence on God, knowing that we are his energy and share his qualities in our spiritual state. A machine part on the floor has no value. It becomes valuable in its natural position in serving the whole machine. This is a simple analogy of course used often by Shrila Prabhupada--God is much more than a machine, yet it is meant to illustrate that our value is in relationship to acting in relationship to the Supreme Whole, Personality of Godhead. We are designed for that, as our finger is meant to serve our purpose.
Spiritual life is about realizing that we don’t have to add anything on to our life, but we only have to uncover who we are. This involves attachment for Krishna and subtracting those things that are unfavorable for this—which is the detachment for the Gaudiya Vaishnavas or Bhakti-yogis.
As spiritual beings we are not poor, ugly, bad, (or any number of undesirable qualities) and we don’t have to buy into the status quo of materialistic values and judgments. Let us make the decision to not accept these illusions--it takes time, but we must begin somewhere, and by the grace of God, all things are possible. Instead of arguing for our faults, we can focus on our dormant good qualities. We can decide to believe in ourselves as part of God, not put ourselves down as a member of a particular dysfunctional family, clan, race, community, nation, or even the whole world.
Next we can start to realize the power we have be given to change our life and that of others. A huge part of life is our attitude. Every day we can practice gratitude for the many blessing in our life. We have to appreciate what we have to invite a change in our consciousness. In addition, we can pray to see that even what may appear to be curses or difficulties, are actually meant for our good. Go to the most basic facilities that people tend to never think about while they complain about other things.
Are you alive?
Do you have health, at least mostly?
Can you see, hear, speak, feel, or move about?
Do you have hands and feet and the various essential organs?
Do you live in home; have a family; possessions, a computer to read what I am writing?
Do have the time and ability to think about your existence and wonder about God, life and death etc?
Although we all may be missing some of these basic things, what should be focus on?
Have you ever met persons doing the same job, where one is complaining and miserable, while the other sees the bright side and is happy? This is a choice, which we can learn with practice.
Happiness is a choice. Abraham Lincoln said that he thought that people were about as happy as they made up their mind to be.
And as I have said so many times (forgive me)—but please remember that life is like a drama or story that isn’t who we really are. As Shakespeare wisely said, life is like a stage drama where we all have our temporary parts—but we are not our parts. When we go to the play or movie, we are involved in the action, tragedy, happiness, violence, romance, etc, until the presentation ends and we get up and go back to our real life.
Whether people like you are not, that is not who you are. Of course people are like mirrors who reflect back to us clues about how we are acting, and we should endeavor to be kind, caring, compassionate and vital human beings—still some people may not like us. As Prabhupada said, “Don’t be unhappy at the instrument of your karma”. Some may wrong us, or bless us. They are instruments of our karma.
Look into the mirror or at anyone you see. Our bodies are the consequences of previous actions, and we are reaping what we have sown. What happens to us is our past karma coming into play, how we react or hopefully respond, is our future karma. So in all circumstances give thanks to Krishna, even if you don’t understand how your situation is meant for your ultimate good. Our attitudes are like colored glasses that give us a certain reading on life--whether the glass is half empty or full, or a circumstance is good or bad.
As a great devotee prayed, “When I have unfortunate circumstances, I give thanks that my sinful reactions are playing out, and when I fortunate and happy, I give thanks that my good karma is being retired.” And as Prabhupada speaks of in the Gita’s second chapter vs. 56 purport, we should consider that by Krishna’s mercy our suffering is being minimized, and when we experience good fortune and happiness we give credit to the Lord and thank him for such facilities for service.
Therefore we should begin and end each day thinking of what we are grateful for, and give our sincere thanks for Krishna’s mercy. Remember that what we focus on or give energy to expands. The more you are resentful and unhappy, or grateful and joyful, the more those emotional states will increase.
Next we should set our intentions for the day. I am a firm believer in the power of intentions—for the day, and before any activity—whether work, study, classes, recreation, school or going to the Temple. Besides maintaining our existence we should strive to help others—to have a selfless cause bigger than ourselves. For many unhappy or depressed people, this effort to help others can transform their lives.
So set your focus and positive intentions for the day, and strive to benefit others—spiritually if possible, but anyway you can. Krishna is the greatest giver, as he sustains the Universe and our lives, and giving is also our true nature as part of him. I have written extensively on this theme: Give to Live. As we give our sense of self expands; when we are in the taking mood, our self diminishes.
Intention is a kind of prayer—focused desire or thought. And never underestimate the power of your well wishing and prayer to benefit others--and yourself as well. As part of Krishna, you also share his loving nature, so you can extend not only your intention and prayers, but your love and desire to help others.
So practice an attitude of gratitude everyday. Believe in yourself and in your goodness as part of Krishna—not as your bad conditioning, and always look for the good and the best in yourself and in others. Embody and focus on your strengths; don’t argue for your faults. Be a love finder, not a fault finder. Set positive intentions for your life, soon after you rise each day, and before every activity. And find a way to give and benefit others spiritually and as a human being. Send your love and prayers before you, as you live your life and as you interact with others.
Krishna consciousness plays out Universal truths to the highest degree because it includes the supreme source of goodness, Shri Shri Radha Krishna. So, although you will get similar advice from many places--truth is truth. As an aspiring devotee of Krishna, do these practices as service to him--that is watering the root of existence and serving all purposes.
Aspire and pray to be the best person you can. Find your highest source of goodness and strength through your spiritual practices such as chanting the holy name and devotional service, and offer everything to Shri Guru and Lord Krishna—who in this age has come as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his devotees.