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The Currents of Life, Part 1 and 2

5
Author: 
Karnamrita Das

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The Currents of Life, Part 1 and 2 (reposted from FB on April 16th, 2013)

Part 1: Have you noticed the invisible currents of life? My experience currently, (using this as an excuse for my not writing for a few weeks), and upon reflection on past events, is that sometimes it is apparent that I seem to be swept along, lifted up as it were, beyond my will into the air of destiny, on some already decided course, which it is best if I accept, and not fight. I have come to see that our free will and power of choice though very small, can be applied, at least, to the attempt to be as present and introspective as possible.

Thus, I feel it is an important practice to develop the wherewithal to be as aware as possible, like a third-party witness, doing our best to accept what is beyond our control, with the hope to learn. Through “mistakes” or trials by fire, learning and growth are essential outcomes, regardless of external results. Furthermore, as an aside to the main topic here, as an aspiring devotee of Krishna, I know now to also add—or look for—Krishna to help me be present in the moment, by chanting the holy name, or remembering his form, pastimes, or instructions. This is “the life” for those on the path of bhakti.

I am applying this truth, which could be seen as awareness of destiny, or synchronicity, first to a recent, seemingly ordinary event, when I was volunteered, as is done in Facebook groups, to be part of an attempted reunion of Prabhupada disciples, and secondly to the events of my past life, which practically forced me to take up the path of bhakti. A few weeks ago I was implored upon visiting this FB site to share my devotional history. Fair enough, and yet, when I began attempting this, the scope of the writing took on a life of its own, as I have found is often the case, turning into more of a detailed autobiography.
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Presently, it is over 6,000 words, which I have shared some years back in 5 blogs. Putting this into perspective, my blogs are generally about 700-1,000 words. In the midst of being absorbed in this way, I was asked to give a talk for our Sunday feast program. Not having a lot of time, and realizing I had never given a presentation of my “how I became a devotee” story, I opted to speak on this topic, since I can speak about it with feeling, which is the key to a good presentation.

As it turned out, a number of youth were in attendance, and thus my talk, which came so naturally to me, was very appropriate, personal, and, I was told, moving and potent. Some themes I touched on were how my life seemed to be leading up to the point of accepting a spiritual path, and how bhakti continues for many lifetimes, only surfacing after the scene is set to foster that awakening.

For a casual observer, or from a superficial external perspective, upon looking at my life as a child and teenager, no clue seemed apparent as to its spiritual or even religious potential. However, upon retrospect through examining my inner life, it was a “perfect storm,” culminating in the calm and joy of bhakti yoga, or the path of divine loving service. I will spend the second half of this blog, recounting a crucial juncture in my spiritual awakening, which I outlined in my talk.
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Part 2: The beginning of my spiritual journey, or my search after the purpose of life, took place in the late 60's in Berkeley California, and in the redwood forest of Mt. Tam in Marin County. My life naturally unfolded toward the spiritual direction, and I lost all interest in the normal course of life centered on college education, getting a "good job" etc. I was influenced by the hippy values of the time. I became vegetarian and dropped out of so-called "normal" society.

I began my quest for the holy grail of self-realization, and read every spiritual text I could find. I especially like Lao-tze and his Tao-te-ching. I also studied the I-Ching. I wanted to be a sage or superior man, and I didn't think my college professors fit the bill. I felt I needed to become a monk in some tradition to be more deeply absorbed in contemplation.

I remember a vivid experience I had one dark rainy day in Berzerkeley (as it was sometimes called back then) I was sitting in my room in the Derby dumb (the name of our old hippy Victorian house on Derby street) in front of a gas heater. A light bulb dangled from the ceiling. I was unemployed and on welfare. In our house we on "rent strike" 'cus we didn't want to pay the "pig landlords." I was in a very thoughtful mood with nothing in particular to do. I reasoned that I had all my necessities taken care of without my having to do anything. Why was that? I was being taken care of----by who or what force???
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Those types of questions were a theme for me during those times. I used to hitchhike over to Mt Tam and take psychedelics with a couple of friends named Byron B, and Phil S., and sometimes I was alone. We camped around Bootjack camp, and every day for me was a search for the Truth about the meaning of life on this planet and universe. I had out of body and near-death experiences and also a type of temporary ego death. These experiences shook me to the core but fueled my spiritual search for a lasting reality, as this one seemed be to be so unstable.

I would rise with the sun and consider it another glorious day to search out the purpose of life. I would experience the changing seasons and phases of the moon. I noticed that on the forest floor, the new redwood trees were growing out of their fallen brothers and sisters. The cycles of life were revealing themselves to me. There was some force causing all these laws to work, and I wanted to find them. Growing up, I never considered such perspectives about Nature (simple as they seem today) or even that there was something called “Nature,” and certainly nothing about transcendence, being only carried along with the culture of the time.

The old ways, or the values I grew up with, didn't make any sense. I had to find real meaning in my life. I had really quit everything else—job, college, girlfriend, reasonableness. I had nothing really to do to distract me—and no money to speak of. Simple living in my case brought about an inward search. Such a life wouldn't foster an existential awakening for everyone, but those with a past history of being on a spiritual path will take again to that path in the right circumstances and the right time. Truly timing is essential.
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Past history in this case means past lives, which our family and life circumstances continue. Of course there are materialist ways of explaining what I went through and why, which I have examined before. Regardless, from Bhagavad-gita’s perspective, which is really the primer book on the real purpose of yoga (in the 6th chapter), we learn that the unsuccessful yogi takes birth in a family situation that fosters their further practice. There it mentions that the "Search," or spiritual quest, practically comes looking for you, almost without your endeavor.

The most favorable stage of one's life is set to deliver the continuing mission of self-realization. This awakening is one major example of being swept along in the current of life. Please consider your own life up to this point. Where are you being led, and is a spiritual awakening of interest to you? What can seem like insanity to others, may be the awakening of your soul. “What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage.” [Bg 2.69] Or as a common expression teaches us, “One person’s food, is another's poison.”
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