Karnamrita Das

THE WORLD IS A BLAZING FIRE: All of the material existence, the universes, outer space, galaxies, stars, planetary systems, planets, continents, countries, cities, and everyone’s body, are all on fire. In worldly consciousness our illusory task is to deny this fire at every turn, or recognizing the fire partially, to create structures to protect us from being burned, keeping that fire “over there,” overseas, or in another neighborhood, and not in our view. However, as much as our societies, elders, and parents are trying to reassure us that there is nothing to worry about, we find clues everywhere about this all-consuming fire, if we can read the signs. We can’t combat what we deny.

Great devotees come to this world to warn everyone about the fire that is consuming all physical life and every aspect of the material world. Religions are begun around such saintly speakers of cutting truth to reveal the fire, but in course of time, religions also become deniers of the fire, or they teach people how to work with the fire so they can be happy with it until they die with the promise of going to heaven, which is just another type of fire--not giving the real solution.

We can properly deal with this fire with a different type of fire. Though we can’t stop the material world from burning, since everything material is meant to change, transform, and eventually burn to ashes, we can overcome or transmute the fever of material existence with the transcendent cooling firepower of life-giving divine wisdom and spiritual practice.

I grew up, as we all do, in a life punctuated with fire. Bowing down to him now, my father was my first clue bearing messenger, as he created fire in my home, by drinking firewater, and spewing his pent up fire-anger and resentment into our family. The back of his hand to my head, or to my bottom, was my initiation to fire--trial by fire. Watching him beat my mom was another fire, as I was helpless to intervene. [Please think of your own clue-bearing messengers of fire.]

I never knew what would cause an outpouring of his violence. Living in fearful anticipation of pain, his hand coming out of nowhere to meet the back of my head, I did my best to make sure I didn’t assert myself in ways that might upset him. To avoid fear and emotional pain, I withdrew into myself, and thus, like the myth of an Ostrich escaping danger by sticking its head in the sand, in my protected walled-world of no emotional connection, or being "shut down," there was no longer any fire. I became as invisible as possible, on hyper-alert for anger or possible causes of pain. Distractions of the culture were another way to keep the consuming fire of my life at bay, at least temporarily.

Then came the fire of the ‘60’s and I realized that the fire wasn't just in my family, but the whole world was on fire. I tried to fight this outer fire with other material fires, like the student protests, but I became disillusioned with its fire filled leaders. Psychedelics, although a distracting or damaging fire for many, were for me a positive, though very intense fire, burning my old foundations of security promises to the ground.Coming close to death I came to understand that the outer fire was only a reflection of my inner fire.

I couldn’t help the larger societal or world fire if my own fire was blazing. Denial of our inner fire blinds us as to the cause of our suffering. Some people never realize this and continue, year after year, life after life, to try to make material adjustments to extinguish the all-encompassing fire of “samsara,” or birth and death.

I am fortunate, as are all who come to spiritual practice, for the true solution to the fire. First I found relief from the worldly blazing fire within and without by studying the world’s religious and mystical literature and by living with my beloved redwood tree teachers in a forest of peace and serenity. That led me to my current spiritual path centered on the holy name, bhakti scriptures, and devotional processes. In the midst of my spiritual practice, I also had to revisit the fires of my turbulent upbringing to make peace with it, and forgive everyone. I also had to learn to dismantle the walls which kept emotions out, and learn to be, at least as much as I can, emotionally present in my life and in relationships.

Now, propelled by the final fire of impending death, by cancer or a discarded banana peel, I am attempting to share what I have learned to be true remedial measures, both material and the ultimate spiritual practices, for counteracting the fire of material existence and unplugging from karmic bonds. To me this is "universal spirituality," which can be applied by anyone who has to die! I recommend everyone analyze their own personal inner and outer fires, and the one's we all face, and seek the true solution.

From the bhakti perspective, while we live in the world, knowing we are not of it, we can make progress to awaken our soul with its loving, serving nature. Leaving the plane of destructive fire, we will gradually travel and remain in the land of loving service and uplifting, illuminating light, where every word is a love song, every step celebrating the beauty and sublimity of Lord of our hearts, Shri Krishna, who charms all.

"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance." [George Bernard Shaw]

"And as soon as one understands that he has nothing to do with matter, he at once ceases his material hankerings and becomes enlivened as a spiritual being." [from Prabhupada's purport to SB 1.2.20]

"The root cause of devotional service to Lord Krsna is association with advanced devotees. Even when one's dormant love for Krsna awakens, association with devotees is still most essential." [Cc Madhya 22.83]

"The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision which no one could have dreamed would have come their way." [W.H. Murray]