Give to Live (The Book)
(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer)
This was originally the introduction for Give to Live, but we decided to cut it, since the size of the front matter and whole book, had to be reduced. Still, I think it gives a good introduction for the book for those of you who don’t have a copy. Adding further to the mystery of this piece of writing is that somehow it disappeared after being posted last week. So I am reposting it again. Do keep an eye on it for me. Additionally, there is a 15 video at the end giving a glimpse into the journey of creating the book.
As an introduction to my book, Give to Live, I am thinking about the blessing (or curse) of being a writer. Part of being a writer is the desire to share experience, which is equally true of photographers, artists and the like—people who try to share their perceptions, feelings and thoughts with others through some different medium of one or more dimensions. Yet, sometimes thinking of an experience (or extracting the creative angle) as it is happening makes one less present in the moment. I have taken photos and videos at some temple functions, and felt like I missed the whole thing!
My usual means of sharing experience is what you are reading—words. I think I am very balanced in my “observer’s eye” in that I really have to work at turning it on. It doesn’t come that naturally for me like with some writers. A friend sent me a book about a poet/gardener now in his 90’s who has always loved words, and writing about nature and his garden. His mood of observation and being in the moment is very impressive to me, as I was such a dull, unobservant, and uncreative child. In my current “later years” I am much more present than I could have ever dreamed as a child, though still very inferior to this poet! It is always good to take the humble position regarding our Krishna-given abilities. We are always dependent on His mercy and help in any endeavor and yet we will always find people much better than we are in anything we do. Never the less, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to use our talents and desires in the service of the Lord, his devotees, and people in general.
I have reasoned that had I been more “with it” in regards to life, I might not have become a devotee of Krishna. I mean this in the sense that due to my perception of personal suffering I didn’t have much attraction or attachment for the world, thus propelling me to seek alternatives. I remember thinking, “This can’t be all there is to life!” I don’t mean in any way that everyone has to be like me in order to take to Krishna consciousness. For instance, our Shrila Prabhupada was fully present in the world, yet focused in the spiritual reality. That was useful for him in his service to others.
My particular conditioning has been both favorable and problematic for my spiritual growth. It is better to be “with it” and a devotee, then to have to burn out and then, almost by force, come to Krishna. This was the way I and many devotees of my era came to Krishna. Although we all have to understand the shortcomings of material life and the true solution of the holy name and bhakti practices, we don’t have to all, “bottom or burn out”. One person’s food is another’s poison, and whatever way we come to Krishna is a good way.
I do share my past and present experience because I think it could be valuable for my readers who are either on the path of bhakti or trying to decide if they want to explore it. “Sharing experience” on the Internet is like water in the ocean—ubiquitous—yet the sharing by a devotee is different since it has some connection to Krishna and his service. On public sites like Facebook (which I also frequent) the sharing is often banal and boringly mundane, though—rarely—sublime, and everything in between. I do a lot of writing about the tradition of Gaudiya or Chaitanya Vaishnavism, and its spiritual practices and special observances.
Yet even in my more descriptive writing or free verse, I do my best to include some connection to spirituality and seeing things in relationship to Krishna. From my perspective if my writing has no spiritual knowledge it has little value. Although I do write as a means of creative expression, I want to do so in such a way that there can be some transcendental benefit to my readers, or something to make the readers think in a different way. Learning to think differently, especially in a spiritual context, can change our life. In addition, spiritual life is about change or transformation, or awakening to who we truly are—eternally!
One of the main problems with modern entertainment is that in movies, TV or video games, the characters rarely (practically never) pray for help, or refer to any kind of spiritual, divine, or even religious perspective. These actors seem at best agnostic, and at worst atheistic, though they are usually quiet about it. How many conversations in movies have you heard about the miseries of material existence and the spiritual alternatives?
Nightcrawler, a character from the X-Men film franchise, prays the rosary when nervous, yet he is portrayed as a very peculiar fellow. Modern Cinema is full of sad stories and miserable dilemmas, but spiritual solutions and heroes rarely emerge to save the day.
As far as my blogs on Krishna.com (which have been collected in this book) are concerned although a steady number of people read them, I perceive a problem. I have very little idea to whom I am speaking. I have a handful of regulars, and then it is anyone’s guess.
This reminds me of giving a Sunday feast lecture in many large ISKCON temples. Every week, many new people visit, often from India, who have different understandings of religion and preferred manifestations of Divinity. Saying something that maintains cross-cultural relevance can be difficult for me. I want to connect with the audience in a way that makes Krishna consciousness appealing and universal—because it is! Since I have my own style of speaking, I do not know if it is always appropriate. Nonetheless, I do my best in these situations, and make the same attempt with my writing.
I am also aware that my blogging is a gift that could be withdrawn at any time, or some calamity could happen where I would be unable to write or express myself. Krishna is very kind to me (and all of us), and I regularly give thanks for my many blessings. When reverses happen, we also need to understand that they are meant for our good. In intense grief, we may not be able to hear this. At some point, we will find the pearl, if (and when) we are willing to look for it.
My desire is to share my life as a devotee of Krishna with you—my struggles and successes and also whatever I know about Krishna consciousness. I relate my experiences, along with what I have found to be useful wisdom for living in the world while keeping spiritual connected.
As I have stated in many blogs and in the title of this book, life is about giving, and I see my writing as my humble attempt to give to you, and make the esoteric path of Krishna consciousness accessible. The attempt is good for me, and I pray it will be for you, the readers, as well. In a Krishna conscious discussion, both speaker and hearer are important. Of the two, the necessity and inquisitiveness of the hearer is more important. Without a listener or reader, a speech or book has no meaning. Ideally, the speaker is superlative, yet even if he or she is not—as in my case—the urgency of the listener will enable them to discover the truth, and find what is needed for his or her spiritual advancement. Krishna reciprocates with the sincerity of our search. Material impediments to our spiritual advancement do not exist!