Karnamrita Das

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WAITING FOR ETERNITY WE FORGET TO LIVE TODAY: When I was a new devotee I often reflected that within a few years that special flower airplane would take me back to Godhead, and so I had no worries. Ten years later I realized my thinking was wishful and I had to deal with living in the world. Gaudiya Vaishnavism, or living with a consciousness or remembrance of Krishna, isn’t life denying but life affirming. In the beginning we may be overly anxious to get out of the material world to the extent that aren't able to be present and aware of our life lessons and what is required for the long haul of a life time of service.

For those who came to this path of bhakti in great distress, having bottomed out materially, our personal necessities take a while to embrace because we are able to put them on hold to facilitate our spiritual practices, and then we may continue to be more more comfortable denying, than facing, them. In such a condition we relish hearing how bad the material world is, which confirms that we aren’t crazy for experiencing our distress, frustration, or depression in what appears to be a pointless, miserable world. However, there are two side to sharing our spiritual lives--one is the shortcomings of material life, and two, the bliss of devotional service and chanting the holy name. Both are important and have to be embraced in a balanced, mature way, depending on our stage of life.

Many classes by young brahmacari monks emphasized this negative aspect of life while extolling the spiritual world and a life full of meaning and devotion there, and that we needed to save the world as our first duty--even at the cost of our own spiritual advancement. Prabhupada shared his sense of urgency to help others, knowing he had only a short time to set up his mission. This was tremendously motivating and helpful to us to be busy in bhakti. The downside to this occurred because we were all so young and immature and had no elders to guide us. We didn't know the value of engaging the world and our attachments in relationship to Krishna's service.

Perhaps we needed a somewhat one-sided focus at first in order to gain a foothold in bhakti, yet this view and practice was not sustainable. Some of us failed to understand our full potential and what we needed to do for the long term. We weren't able to access our inner guidance. Everyone has to come to terms with their physical necessities and spiritual practice and live their lives accordingly, and it isn’t always easy, especially without mature guidance.

Prabhupada taught us, “made the best of a bad bargain,” or to use our body, minds and conditioned nature in Krishna's service. Rather than focusing on what was maya or bad about the world, we additionally need to see the beauty in the world’s design, and our life of devotion in response. If we don't see Krishna’s hand in all the details of our lives--in the temple and out--we will often feel disconnected and unhappy, and, in effect, be waiting around for the next life without really living to what we are capable of. This is both a personal loss, and a loss for the world of bhakti and larger world.
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Following in the footsteps of great souls, I have referred to the miseries of material existence elsewhere as the negative impetus for bhakti. At some point, after we felt relief from our suffering, some of us asked, “and then what?” In other words, just the emphasis on the negative wasn’t enough to get us out of bed in the morning. We had to have a more positive orientation or impetus for bhakti to keep us moving forward, and being relieved of our distress, we discovered we had to address our personal necessities and calling in life.

Some left this path all together to pursue that direction because they didn’t have support from wise, experienced, elders who had already made the transition from monk to householder with family and careers. Or persons like me struggled for years to create balance and an interface with the world in terms of occupation, home, and family.

At present, I feel the urgent necessity to share what I have learned to help devotees find what is required as material support, and to increase their spiritual practice and necessity for progressing through the stages of bhakti.
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Facing my death, either today, tomorrow, or sooner rather than later, has been life transforming for me, as I have already shared. Now my attempt is to help you have same that awareness—die before dying—even if you are young, strong, and on top of the world.

When I was with my mom in hospice, knowing that she was in her last days, I became very introspective, questioning everything. We felt closer than ever before, and realized the past didn’t matter, or our considerable differences, even hostility toward one another, had no meaning now, and so we did our best to reconcile our relationship.

In my language, we were cutting the karmic cords that bind people together through materially possessive love or hate. We were one as human beings who must die. The fact that material life is temporary isn’t an accident, but is purposeful, and it is up to us to find that purpose. Our apparent mortality and the miseries of life beg the question, “why?”

Their purpose isn’t to give us pain, but to get our attention by helping us search the solution to our predicament. Some people just write it off as just the way it is seeing this life as all and all, but those with a spiritual bend, will find God, and attaining his grace and service, as the answer to the death and pain “problem.”

For devotees, this solution involves living our life to the fullest and using our nature and goals as a devotional offering, and looking to see everything as the grace of Krishna meant for our good. In this way we develop reverence for all things and feel grateful for each day. As someone said about their cancer, which I’m adopting, “cancer concentrates the mind wonderfully,” as to what is most essential in life, and for the soul’s purpose.

HEALING FROM OUR PAST TO LET OUR LIGHT SHINE: Sometimes in our pain, hurt, betrayal, abuse, or debilitating disease, we may feel like damaged goods, that we are broken and irreparable, with no value and nothing to contribute to anyone, not even ourselves. However, we can discover the truth that it is possible to heal from any great suffering we have endured--or in the case of a disease that we can't heal from, to make peace with our upcoming death. If we are able to reclaim and uncover our spirit and see our inherent value as souls and human beings, our great trails can be transformed into our great strength, and we can shine our light, live with grace and gratitude, and both acknowledge our gits, and share them with the world.

[ A note written a week later from publishing this: I find it fascinating to understand why certain blogs are favored over others. It remains a mystery to me. I think that sometimes I am misunderstood as favoring a casual approach to bhakti. I am not. I am promoting pure devotional service, being fully engaged in our bhakti practices, and aspiring for the highest stages of prema. However, speaking from my long experience and observation of others, I am stressing that devotees shouldn't neglect or repress their physical/emotional requirements in the name of spiritual advancement. I have seen too many devotees leave on account of this extreme position.

Thus when I write, I also speak with a certain caution, that although we should stretch ourselves, we should be careful not to break, or go beyond our limits, and this requires considerable maturity--and sometimes we may even attract a certain disease to force us to slow down and also do our personal inner work or fulfill our mission and service to our Gurus and Shri Chaitanya. As I mentioned in other blogs, giving and receiving must go on simultaneously, or we will often "burn out."

We are recommended to be "active listeners or readers" and not just be passive, but do our best to understand what is being said, and also ask questions to help us go deeper. As I have often said I share so much of my personal story so you can better understand my thinking. Every speaker and writer has a certain angle of vision and perspective from their life experience and personality as well as their level of spiritual advancement. I find this very helpful to understanding what is being presented. ]
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