Leaving Aside, or Letting Go, of the Unessential
(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so to not listen, mute your speakers.)
This morning, after rising, folding up my sleeping bag, and taking care of some natural necessities, I read some of Shri Chaitanya’s lila in Chaitanya Bhagavat. Such a nectar book of spiritual delight! Regular reading of scripture is one of my benchmarks for a successful day. I read about Lord Chaitanya’s (so-called) “birth,” heralded by the resounding chanting of the holy names, which was the custom during a lunar eclipse; how child Chaitanya, or Nimai, would cry and only stop when the ladies chanted the holy name; how mischievous he was as he grew older; how two thieves tried to take him away to steal his ornaments only to find themselves back in front of Nimai’s house; and how Nimai revealed his divinity to a visiting Vaishnava holy man staying with his family. These are very sweet lilas (pastimes), full of deep meaning, and providing me a great way to begin my day!
I have had continual interruptions, or necessary duties, in my regular attempt to write. Writing is a joy for me, but also a discipline; even though I find the effort relishable, setting priorities is required to make it happen—as we must, in the accomplishment of any valuable goal. Those who are devotees of a particular manifestation of God, or who have a spiritual orientation, will see the value of hearing about the activities of the Lord or great saints, and yet they are often understandably less interested in sharing about their own lives. However, everyone’s life is full of important lessons and inspiring events. We only need the right attitude to see this played out as we generally see what we are looking for. This is one of the reasons I write about my life—to show that even a regular person who is trying to live a devotional life has much of value to share. “Ordinary” or “extraordinary” are labels from a state of mind. We notice what we value, so what is going on in your life, right in front of you, that may be trying to get your attention?
Due to the fact that many people are bored or disappointed with their lives, they often spend a huge amount of time either hearing about the lives of the rich and famous, or vicariously living through novels, movies, or television. While there is a time and place for most things, the lion’s share of our time will be best used in finding, and living, the life we were born to live, or in other words, from a bhakti perspective, using our conditioned, karmic nature, to make a contribution to our soul’s growth in service to both God and the world! Then our life will be both exciting and meaningful, and we will know what is most essential and important in our lives.
With this point I am introducing the idea of having a life of focused and joyful purpose, and thus letting go of the unnecessary. While I have spoken above about this in a subtle way regarding what we give our time and energy to, this is also true in regard to our possessions. One of the best ways to reevaluate what is truly important in regard to our “stuff” or possessions is when we have to move and thus need to go through our things to decide what can be left behind, or should be kept. Sounds easy enough, but not for everyone! Of the many ways to classify people, one of them is in being a “collector” or “thrower-outer.”
For those like myself, who are collectors, throwing things out is a very long process and not a pleasant one—which I would rather avoid. Now I am not a hoarder, but I love reading and having books for reference because I value spiritual wisdom and anything that can improve the quality of our lives. Admittedly, I used to purchase “cool,” at least quasi-spiritual stuff, or as my wife referred to them, knickknacks. While I no longer purchase knickknacks, I continue to live with my choices from the past (don't we all?). Add to this the fact that I am just plain uninterested (read, lazy) to spend the painstaking time to go through things. Thus, as we were moving to North Carolina ten years ago, I put off making—what to me—were difficult decisions of what to keep or not. I stuffed a lot of small, possibly useful, items in my dresser and desk drawers, and catch-all trunk, supposedly to be gone through soon. Well, it never happened!
However, upon having to replace our worn-out and damaged wall-to wall carpet, I had to remove everything from four rooms and closets, which included putting 6 book cases of books into boxes, taking down all our devotional pictures, and removing my heavy dresser drawers. This was like a move, but now I had some time to really go through things. Wow, we have no idea how much stuff we have till such times—as it is said, “Out of sight is out of mind!” One of the few differences with my wife and I is that while I am a collector, she is very Zen and loves to cut loose with things—any item not used in a year goes to Goodwill, or is given to someone. I suspect that a major reason for the carpet change was her desire to simplify and throw out. Looking over my sky high boxes full of books, stacks of paintings, and misc. stuff, she lovingly reminded me that we are going to die, and asked me, “Do you really need all these things?”
She also reminded me of the time we spent with my mom as she died, or as we devotees say, “left her body,” since the soul moves on. This was a very profound experience for both of us, and I blogged a great deal about it in April and May 2010. One minute her possessions were very valuable and she was worried about them, and then, when her body stopped breathing, all her possessions meant nothing to her soul, but were a headache for us to get rid of, either throwing them away or giving them to charity. It was a very radical contrast and illustrated the power of the soul to invest itself into the body and its possessions. Our material “I” is made up of so many “mys,” or what we consider to belong to us: spouse, family, possessions, and all types of bodily identifications, etc. The items were the same, but now the “owner” was gone, and it was time for them to pass into someone else's care, or become garbage, eventually returning to the earth. Thus, ideally, we don’t want our kids to have such headaches in going through our things after our bodies are burned.
While I haven’t let loose with anywhere near as much stuff as my wife, I have thrown out five trash bags of stuff, and have a few boxes of clothes and books to give away, with more to come. Three weeks have passed, and I have a few days of work remaining to return my room to its normal state. After ten years of living in our home this continues to be a very thorough spring cleaning where we are going through every closet and cleaning it, and allowing it to be accessible and more useful again. As we have to regularly reassess our spiritual standing and practices to determine what is helpful, or not, we will also benefit by taking stock of what possessions we really need, and what will be helpful to clear out, and let go. Though this may be a more "Western" problem of having a lot of things, it is a question of degree, and we can all benefit from the process of being a thoughtful person, willing to reassess what is needed in life, whether in a large house, or humble dwelling. Whatever our standard of living from an external perspective, the test for the spiritual aspirant is how much are we attached to Krishna and absorbed in his loving service, and where is our true shelter?
I will end by sharing some affirmations that set the mood for letting go:
Shri Guru and Gauranga, or Radha-Krsna, etc, are blessing us all to completely release and let go of everything that we need to release and let go.
Radha-Krsna are freeing us from all attachments to persons, places, things and wrong conceptions that are not part of Their plan for our lives, that are not for our highest good and are not conducive for the development of pure love for Them. Radha-Krsna are blessing us to let go easily, smoothly, lovingly and joyfully.
Radha-Krsna are now adjusting, harmonizing, and prospering everything in my mind, heart, activities and life that needs to be adjusted, harmonized and prospered, and in the minds, hearts, activities, and lives, of everyone that is dear to me.
I am open and receptive to my new and highest good!! I happily and easily let go of the old to make way for the new! Whatever I need in order to grow and serve comes to me in the perfect way and perfect time.
Radha-Krsna are blessing us to immediately accept every wonderful blessing that They want to send our way. They are blessing us to accept Their blessings and mercy in the future as well, by our being open, ready, and able to give, receive, and share our good fortune Their Divine Plan manifests fully in our lives right now!!