Being Present in the Moment—Rather than Thinking of the Future Part 2
In this part of our series about being in the present, I wanted to share some thoughts I had over the two days I spoke of in my previous blog—going to the clinic and running errands. Before I do, I wanted to clarify what could be confusing. It might seem that what I spoke of before were two contradictory perspectives. One, of offering our day and its activities to Krishna and being fully present, and two, keeping a detached, observers eye, in order to learn what the day and the people we meet or see might teach us.
Sometimes to make a point we have to separate what are really parts of the same activity, or that need to be emphasized. As foolish as it might sound, in my younger days, when doing service at the temple or householder (married) activities, I never had the idea that I should learn from my environment or from people. I was rather one dimensional in my outlook, which means it took me a long time to learn, and my “teachable moments” had to be very dramatic. I share this fact to highlight the need to be conscious and observant while we engage in activities that we try to connect or offer to Krishna. There are no material impediments for devotional service, and Krishna can use anything or anyone as his agents to instruct us. For most people our direct experience seems to be our best teacher.
Going to the local medical clinic is always an interesting study of humanity, and usually the lower modes of nature. While we should not be judgmental or think we are better than others just because we have a better body, or are spiritually more aware, we can none the less be aware of the consciousness and interests of those around us. Consciousness is really what determines “class” or species, or what is good or bad—not as in today’s world, where wealth makes people think they or others are superior.
The mode of goodness is meant to be a background or support for Krishna consciousness because it is the most favorable for spiritual life. However, it needs to be tempered, by the humility of spiritual practice, lest we feel proud that we are in a superior position and happy. If we are proud of our material position, we become stuck in that mode and we may be pulled into lower consciousness. Three of the principle attributes of the quality of goodness, are knowledge, peacefulness, and happiness. Needless to say, the mode of goodness is not prominent in the clinic or at the places I shop.
I sit in the waiting room with a number of families consisting of parents of small children or infants and a few grandparents. The background to everyone’s waiting is the terrible world of soap operas. While I try not to stare at it mindlessly, and sit with my journal to take notes of my thoughts, I can’t help but notice that there are about four stories being told simultaneously, and nothing very good is going on—someone is in jail who was double-crossed by another, someone is in the hospital on life support, someone is sleeping with someone else’s wife, and so on.
Perhaps the idea is that people who watch these shows feel better about their own life, because it can’t be as bad as these persons sordid lives. What this show really is—at least to me—is a meditation on fallen people engaged in terrible activities—who happen to be beautiful and attractive. The characters are never ugly or extremely old, which is why their unsettled lives have special attraction to the viewers. Of course, no one who is waiting here seems to have any interest in watching it. This makes me wonder why the T.V. is even on. And amongst the ordinary and often overweight people here, the characters on the screen present a stark contrast.
I return to the idea of consciousness. While I sit here, I ponder questions, as I watch the people interact with their families. Although in principle there is no bar for anyone to take up spiritual life, only a very few people will have any interest. Generally it is said that no one will be inclined to take up Krishna consciousness unless they have some previous spiritual “sukriti”, or we could say a background in it—a spiritual bank account if you will. This is one reason why devotees of Krishna try to chant the holy name on the streets (sankirtana), distribute holy food (prasadam), or engage people in service.
These are all ways people gain some beginning spiritual standing, which will be continued in their next life. However, in the situation I am in here, there is not much I can do to help my co-waiters at the clinic. I do pray that everyone can gain some spiritual insights and understand the existence of God. Personally, I am very thankful, that I have the blessing of the holy name and the process of Krishna consciousness. I can’t imagine life without it!
My shopping expedition was uneventful. Although, as I mentioned last time, I do set the intention to be aware of my surroundings and be open to learn lessons, it doesn’t always happen. I pray to be a “good will ambassador”, and keep a smiling expression from a well meaning heart, and practice kindness and consideration. I also do my best to remember Krishna or chant the holy name (within or without). I am basically a positive person, yet I still have to admit that I always notice the imperfections of life and people. After all, this is kali-yuga, and most people are very unfortunate, even (or perhaps especially!) in Western countries. Suffering is really the universal path if a person has no spiritual life. I spoke about this at length in an old blog about imperfections: (http://www.krishna.com/blog/2008/03/5/physical-imperfections-perfect-arr... )
The soul is pure and perfect, but our embodiment leaves much to be desired. Although human life out of all the types of bodies we could have is considered a good boat for crossing the material ocean of suffering, we are also advised by Prabhupada, to “make the best use of a bad bargain”. So we can keep both perspectives. Personally, I need to be reminded about the shortcomings of the material body and world. Even people with so-called good karma, can enjoy their body and life for only a short time.
When I see old people, who are not that far ahead of me in age!, I imagine them as a youth full of vitality and hope, running around without a care. And now, they have to drag themselves around. We may be a vital senior citizen, like my parents-in-law, but without using our remaining years for spiritual advancement, what will be our future? We have to always remember that today will create our future—in this body and the next. In each life we have to begin all over again, or we can choose to make progress toward the land of no return, that place of unending happiness and fulfillment, Krishna’s abode, the spiritual realm. If we do, we will be happy now and in the future. Krishna consciousness is the real “life insurance policy”.