Searching for Our Authentic Story—The Holy Grail of the Seekers Quest
Each person is a walking story—or many stories walking, or blending together. We could think of our combined story like a painting built of layers, upon layers of mixed colors, creating something totally new, and yet the result of what has gone before. Our current life’s narrative is informed and in response to past stories, both our foundational background of growing up, and how we have adapted that story to various stages of our development, leading up to our sense of “now.” Our current now becomes our forthcoming story and is the intersection between the past and future. This is important to consider from the spiritual perspective because our identification with our material story defines us, covering our soul, and keeps us building new stories, or looking for others more appealing.
Think of how you define yourself. Isn’t a big part “who you think you are” your personal story, or the past emotional drama that has created the lens you use to see, or sense, the world? Although our previous lives have scripted our current story (our parents and others are instruments of our karma), we have to deal with our current life’s manifestation of that past karma, and live in present. While it is true that we may have to look back to resolve certain life issues or relationships, our main focus should always be in the present, informed by our spiritual goal. This means that everyone is responsible for their present actions, regardless of karmic inherited tendencies. Otherwise we can always blame the past, cruel fate, or someone else, and be powerless to change, or move forward. Ultimately the problem and solution to all problems is within us. We can choose what story we allow to define us and what story we aspire to be part of spiritually, or everlastingly.
Many people have a dysfunctional relationship with their accumulated life stories (often unconsciously), making it difficult to deal with life on its own terms rather than in the negative shadow of the past. Or we may have a love/hate relationship with our life defining stories. Either way, our ignorant identification with our stories as who we are imprisons to manifest new material stories in response, which is what the cycle of repeated birth and death is constituted of. While we have to work out the unresolved details of these stories, without spiritual practice, there is no end to our material adjustments. We don’t need a different or improved material story. We need to discover spiritual truth, which is the real story of our soul.
Therefore, part of spiritual advancement means having the introspection and purity from spiritual practice to unplug from our past stories, which are like weights keeping us materially entangled. Then we won’t be bound, or as bound, to material places, persons, or things, and be forced to take another birth to resolve our attachments and desires. By unplugging from our false bodily stories, our future births won’t be primarily ruled by karma, but will be mostly about facilitating our growth as a soul, which for a Gaudiya Vaishnava, means increasing in our love for Krishna, and our serving ego. Having a “serving ego,” means our nature as a divine being, involved with giving, serving, and loving Krishna and all souls, rather than selfishly exploiting people, places, or things, for our limited personal narrative and the characters in it.
The "details" of our life are primarily with other people whose stories have intersected ours—like our parents, spouse, children, friends, enemies, and associates in work, sports or what have you. The search in the material world is always for improved and unique stories, the desires for which are the fuel for reincarnation, or future situations to facilitate our hopes and dreams. An attractive mate or friend is a person's who story intrigues, inspires, or excites us, brings out our compassion to help them, or to whom we think will complement our story or agenda. We could say that our karma is simply our attachments to various stories—our own, others, in the past, present, or in potential, or in fantasy.
Although relationships with other human beings are foundational to freedom or bondage to matter, we have to also consider the influence of things or places. Even inanimate things, like a house, car, computer, furniture, clothes, or a particular place, have a story. I was thinking about this as I looked around our house, remembering how we have obtained various kitchen and household items. The story of any item or place is its history, and can be understood as the energy that surrounds it, as much as the energy of our stories surrounds us. My wife and I have experienced the uncomfortable, creepy energy of in an antique shop, where it was obvious that the previous owners of these items were still connected to them, either subtly, or in person. Certainly places also have good or bad “vibes” or types of energy, that greatly affect us. For example, a battlefield where many people have died, carries a very negative story or energy that needs to be resolved or healed—or a home where someone was killed, or place where people were tortured or imprisoned. On the positive side, we have areas which emanate peace or psychic power, or holy places where saints reside, which uplift us by going there and hearing from such spiritual adepts. Everything and everyone is a story in progress, and we can think of story, history, and energy, interchangeably, which intuitives or psychics can read or sense.
What stories attract and excite us tell us much about the person we are, and the person we will become. For example, I remember many years ago speaking to a young friend who had fascination with the hero’s quest in fairy tales, medieval knight epics, or sci-fi adventures, who later became a humanitarian and human rights worker, always working for the oppressed and poor. We could think of such stories as desires (ie, future births) to be realized, which tells us why they are so important to look at. What stories capture your interest and imagination? From a karmic perspective, where might it lead you? My point here, and in this blog, is that our search for a better story, or better interpretation for our story, is actually masking our innate search for the primal story that will give meaning and happiness to our lives. This is another way to understand that we are eternal souls caught up in an external, foreign, material world drama.
Souls require spiritual stories in order to feel complete, and can never be satisfied with temporal ones that have a beginning and an end, and don’t really touch the heart. Every religion has their inspiring stories. In Krishna consciousness, or bhakti yoga, we have the great stories of saints who lived (and live) to teach us about the eternal story of Shri Radha and Krishna, or the pastimes of Shri Chaitanya. By chanting the holy name, and hearing about the Lord’s glories or divine stories (lila), we can gain the true and lasting benefit of love for Krishna (prema). Then we can enter into the spiritual story most suited, and satisfying, for our soul’s unique relationship with God, and never need another material stage performance, endlessly morphing into other ones. [background music is from the song "Nisha" in the CD "Water Down the Ganges" by Joshua Prema and Manish Vyasa]