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Realizing Our Personal Life Adventure--Part 1 and 2

Karnamrita Das

(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 if you don't want to listen, mute your speakers.)
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Today has brought beautiful fall weather, with a cold morning, and now a warm—but not hot—day at 12 noon. I sit on the deck under a bright cloudless sky and appreciate the wonder of Krishna’s material energy, and his many blessings to me, pondering what is on my mind to share with you. I have been reading some fantasy and adventure novels to imagine what I might do with a book idea that has been percolating within me for quite a while now. This has been a useful exercise that has given me hope that I can write a novel meant for teaching about life and spirituality. Though I read many acclaimed books in their genre, I haven’t been very satisfied with them. Even when the characters, or the story line, are interesting and can hold my attention—and some don’t—I still feel sorry for want of a spiritual theme. Only occasionally God is mentioned, and usually not as a guiding principle of life.

Sometimes I think: “All that invested time for this ending?” or there is no ending, but just a lead-in to the next volume. To me, other than in devotional literature, I find there is little of specific spiritual merit, or personal benefit other than “entertainment,” or at best some moral message or social commentary. That has value, but is never enough for me, as a person concerned with meaning and purpose in everything. Yes, there are spiritually themed books which can inspire readers, but at this stage of the writing project, I have avoided them for contrast, and this endeavor has borne fruit, albeit, in ways I never imagined.

From my readings I became curious why we feel compelled to seek out entertainment and adventure—while I was reminded of my attraction for adventure stories and the search for treasure, especially of the mystical variety. In a general sense what we have intense attraction to, or interest in, gives us hints as to an important aspect of our life direction. Part of the work of the spiritual aspirant is to make whatever we want or yearn for, part of our spiritual/Krishna conscious /yogic practice. Some spiritual paths shun all attachments and action, but in bhakti, we use our attachments and inclinations in relation to service to Krishna, and in that way purify them. Otherwise we may be diverted from self-realization by our unfulfilled natural propensities or inner conditioned compass.
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Growing up I was not very excited about anything, and spent summer vacation months being bored and not knowing what to do with myself. Attending school was slightly better as it offered a disciplined focus and something to do with my time, but nothing to get excited about. There always seemed something missing. One of the reasons I remember this lens, or filter, so well is that this tendency has been lifelong. Life leads clues, and this clue has become a major prodding for my life work, step by step, over decades, as I see patterns and obvious messages for me. I have to make my life mission and spiritual practice my exciting adventure and magnificent obsession, or I will tend to search that out in the world.

As I have often shared, as a kid I was in the survival mode to endure a difficult upbringing. Additionally, I was a rather dull, unimaginative, unassertive, uncreative child. The combination of all these factors was not helpful for being materially happy and busy with finding meaningful, interesting, endeavors. We don’t generally see what we don’t believe exists. Yet with my existential crisis in my late teens, I was prepped to search beyond the “normal” educational, relationship, or vocational tracks in order to take up spiritual life.
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I never felt I quite fitted into the world. The message of that feeling only came to me when I embarked on my spiritual quest and understood that being a soul living in a material atmosphere is something like the feeling a fish has living out of water. I wish I could tell you that my embarking on a spiritual path was the end of my material angst and struggles, but after the initial enthusiasm of my transcendent search, I have still struggled with being as enthused as I would like. Fortunately, I never blamed my spiritual path for this, but looked for other reasons within myself.

There are advantages with being neutral or detached, and this tendency helped me fare much better from my childhood than one might expect. While I have worked at, and been successful in, being much more engaged and present in life, I often come up short on enthusiasm. If I had a choice between reading a book on gardening, and gardening, I would prefer the later and likely wouldn’t even finish the book! What about you? Do you crave enthusiasm and adventure, or know someone who does? What do you think might be the hidden message? You might consider that faith means taking action, while doubt keeps us on the fence of indecision with a reluctance to go forward—this is why Shri Krishna says in the Gita that we are our faith [Bg 17.3]. When we have a mission we are enthused by, we are much more likely to happily work toward its fulfillment.

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Part 2

Despite my inner struggles, which I avoided by traveling all over the world in temple communities for 12 years, I finally discovered another journey I needed to travel on—this one for wholeness, balance, and a life direction that could sustain me for the long haul of my life. As a result, in addition to my interest in making spiritual advancement by loving Krishna and developing my “serving ego” (as contrasted to a material exploitive ego), I discovered the essential need for personal or emotional growth and depth centered on understanding my “karmic mission” and life lessons.

By “karmic mission,” I mean the natural course our life is designed to take—if we can get out of the way and not be our worst enemy. We could call it our “sva-dharma,” or occupation (or "varna"), but I’m not speaking of just a “job,” but a real feeling of calling, or mission. Life lessons often prompt us to change directions, and consider different alternatives, so rather than blame life or others for our difficulties, we have to see everything that happens in our life as feedback to give us guidance. Becoming angry or resentful isn't helpful; we could truly benefit by practicing curiosity about what we are supposed to learn. If you have read my book, “Give to Live,” or my blogs for some time, you know this is a frequent theme in my writing, and I advocate it to anyone who will listen. Repetition is the mother of learning.
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In other words, we must know who we are, and who we are meant to grow into, in our body and mind, and act accordingly in relationship to our ultimate spiritual journey. Today many people know this in theory. The more difficult part is to recognize the inner obstacles to understanding and living our life mission—which is sometimes obscured by religious dogma, or what we "think" we should do. Even if you are doing all the right practices in regard to bhakti, if you are not in alignment with your “karmic mission,” or are not sufficiently spiritually advanced, you will not be satisfied and will feel something is missing in your life.

From my personal experience and observing devotees who gave up their spiritual practices, I would say that combining our karmic and spiritual missions is one of the most important pursuits in remaining on the path and being truly satisfied for one’s whole life. A small number of devotees are very advanced from previous lives, and can be satisfied living a renounced life focused on spiritual practice—but this is the exception, for exceptional devotees. Whether formally renounced, in a relationship, married, or single, one must find their life calling or mission and live that, not because they “should,” but because they must.
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My present blogs are my attempt to explain bhakti yoga, or pure devotional service, in a way that is helpful to devotees of Krishna to make spiritual advancement through a balanced, long range approach. I also aspire to write in a way that is accessible to the average open minded reader who may be touched and attracted by the possibility of taking up bhakti spiritual practices. Buddhism has become successful in the West in part because it has stressed the psychological benefit of its mediation practices, and it has packaged itself less as a religion and more as a way of life. We can learn from them.

The need is great in the world’s population for psychological balance and spirituality. In presenting what is for us the ultimate spiritual solution for life’s problems we need to offer both personal growth and spiritual tools. I see the need for books that teach this through story and adventure—this is my way of using my interest to help others on their spiritual journey.
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So my advice to you, if I may suggest something, is to find your greatest interest and propensity and formulate your life mission through prayer, focused introspection, personal growth tools, and if possible, expert advice you have faith in, in a way that fosters your spiritual growth. Knowing that we are eternal souls, how can we settle for only material adjustments that give temporary happiness, unless they’re combined with our soul’s interest?

In such a life endeavor we have the best of both worlds. Materially, we become happy by using our nature and desires with a sense of personal mission, and we become spiritually fulfilled when we use this as part of our loving service to our gurus in the line of Shri Chaitanya, and to Krishna—the means and end of perfection. As I finished the previous sentence the wind swirled all around the yard, “playing” the trees like a celestial wind instrument, and the leaves fell all around me. As there are seasons in Nature guided by spiritual laws so we have natural propensities and seasons within ourselves that are meant to be acknowledged and used to serve Supreme Law Maker, who Gaudiya Vaishnavas know as Krishna, the all-attractive loving friend of all. As above, so below.
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