BEING MINDFUL AND CENTERED, EVEN AS WE STRIVE TO ACCOMPLISH IMPORTANT GOALS: The Vedic literature provides a way to understand the workings of the material world through categorizing them into three broad qualities, similar, though different, from the Chinese philosopher's division of yin and yang. The intersection of the two systems could be the balance of yin and yang, which could be analogous to the quality or mode of goodness. The other two qualities given in the Bhagavad Gita, as many of us know, are the qualities of passion and ignorance. I am thinking of these qualities today in terms of myself and what I just observed. My primary influences, considering these 3 qualities, are goodness and ignorance, with very little passion--which means in conventional terms that I am not much of a doer or "manifestor" type of person. However, we all require a bit of focused energy to accomplish or be successful in our endeavors.
With my new sense of a possible very limited time left in my body, I want to be very efficient in my use of it with the projects I have given myself. However, I saw yesterday that if I try to be too focused on accomplishment, then I am sloppy in doing my daily tasks--like putting things in the frig which don't belong there, etc! Mode of passion means being too focused on getting results and making great endeavors. I watched myself knock over things and not be "mindful" of what I was doing as I thought of the future.
Even thinking my days are numbered--as they are for everyone--I still must act according to my nature, and as carefully and conscientiously as possible. Though I work as efficiently as I can (which may be slower than someone else with a different nature), I have to be conscious and present as I work, and as a Vaishnava, to remember Krishna or God in all my activities.
WHAT IS ONE ACTION YOU COULD TAKE THAT WOULD IMPROVE YOUR LIFE? As I contemplate my upcoming talks with the title, "Facing Death to Live More Fully Today?", I have realized that this is more of a workshop than a lecture. My talk can't just be words, but has to be an extension of my heart and how I live my life. That, and the empowerment from above/within, will give my words the power to connect to the audience. I have to speak to each person in the assembly.
What I have done in preparation is to make a list of the most important practices and actions that I have found to be essential for living a life worth living and being able to not only remain on the path of bhakti, but also continue to make advancement our whole lives--or to not be simply coasting on our past service and enthusiasm (which is so easy to do!). I also can't possibly cover all the points I have listed, so it is turning into at least two talks which I see as only a preparation for a series of workshops where the participants actually do exercises to put these points into practical action.
Guillotine over my Head:
In my current daily reflection, I feel the guillotine over my head, and so this changes everything. I know it may sound ominous, but it is really a marvelous meditation. In other words if we had to sink or swim spiritually according to our present consciousness, how would we fare? My excuses or attachments just have no meaning...but, but, but....forget that, just what is. Who am I really, and what is my true self-interest? What is my absorption--and does it carry any spiritual currency? What is important, and what and who do I really care about? What moves me to get out of bed and live my day and breathe and see and interact with others? Material agendas seem pale. And naturally, as many teach, the NOW has supreme importance, even as I reflect on my past and how I have come to my current position. Everything is about my spiritual potential and praying my heart out to be who I must--for me and my gurus and Gauranga--but also so I can give the most and help others. "Shoulds" don't matter, only what is, and what I aspire for in my heart of hearts.
In addition to attempting to help others, one of the reasons I continue to write is to better understand myself. Looking at my basic desires and insecurities, I ask why? Why do I want to love so much and have others love me? It seems obsessive. Ah, the quest to be understood as I am, and to fully understand others as they are—and additionally, to fully understand myself and encourage others to understand themselves as well. Self-introspection and awareness are essential.
On one level, perhaps the deepest level is the spiritual desire for total love, connection, and oneness with our “Maker” as they say, or our “Source,” “Creator,” etc., etc., or more personally on my path of bhakti, to Krishna with his Radha, or Chaitanya and Nitai, and all their energies, and associates, like my gurus and previous acharyas.
I understand the purpose of the false ego (though I don’t much like it) as a protective mechanism for souls who want to enjoy and exploit the material world and think of themselves as separate and independent—all in their own way and to varying degrees. By nature our sense in a material body and mind is to feel incomplete and in need and this fuels our search for love and fullness, and thus our continual attempt to do this, birth after birth, in countless different forms and circumstances until we learn that souls can only be happy outside the confines of matter.
DOUBLE PARTIALLY GOOD NEWS AND THE CHINESE FARMER: First, after examining the PET full body scan, the only cancer that was revealed as the source of the secondary tumor in my neck was in the area of my nasal passage, called the nasopharynx. This is rare in the Western countries, but is mainly seen in Asia.. So it is a localized cancer that appears to not have metastasized to other places in the body. This is very good. However, even from Western treatment protocols it difficult to treat since it is a slow growing cancer. A 60% success rate isn't very inspiring or is anything to do with Chemo or radiation.
The second piece of good news, is that the tumor in my neck has shrunk to less that half its size, and is noticeably smaller after my lying on a type of mat that the gives of far-infrared and negative ions. However, for the last 2 weeks it has now stopped any noticeable change. I will continue everything else I am doing, and schedule at least one session lying on this mat for some time, in addition to other practices I do. I will keep you posted, and also monitor my progress and consult with my Ayurvedic doctor after I visit a cancer clinic in Mexico... I am not planning on celebrating with ice cream and cake any time soon--if ever--and remain diligent in doing everything I can for prevention and care.
If I continue to improve, the main credit is to all those devotees who have been praying for me. Prayer is powerful and everyone is benefited by it. Thank you all! Thanks you all! Thank you all so much! Now I have to endeavor to give back to all of you.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE: We have been eating healthy organic food for 4 or 5 years as part of my wife’s Ayurvedic wellness program due to her long struggle with weak health. Unfortunately, because of my rare encounter with serious health problems and a strong “kapha” constitution, I have been more cavalier about taking care of myself. Her weak constitution and immune system has forced her to be much more conscious of the importance of diet, sleep, exercise, balance, and peace of mind. So now I am also being forced to do all the things I should have been doing as maintenance for health, and more so with a special diet and treatment for cancer.
I am no evangelist about any topic, yet I can speak with some conviction about a few subjects, and am sharing them with you—gently, as food for thought. I hope you take it in that spirit. I feel I am putting love and prayers into my words and pray they may have the power to bless my readers. I have expressed this many times in my writing. Wishful thinking perhaps, and yet, for me, this is my intention in writing and living. Every day I feel compelled to share my inspiration with the prayer that it will be encouraging and meaningful to you. I feel this is what it means to be a spiritually oriented person.
It takes money and time to eat right and exercise, and even if we do, we may still attract some catastrophic illness. I remember reading an account several years ago about a health enthusiast and advocate for a strong wellness program who was shocked when she was diagnosed with cancer. She was saying, “How can this be happening to me, since I am doing all the best things for my health, and have been for twenty years?” The better thought is, “Why not me?”
Apparently some friends of mine think I am in denial by my expressed attitude in regard to my diagnosis. Maybe! While it is true that I don’t yet know the level of severity of my cancer, I don’t consider myself Pollyanna by any means. It is 2AM now, and I have a doctors appointment at 8:30 to have a PET scan which may reveal the primary cancer(s). Some may not believe me but I am feeling elated my whole experience so far, and consider my diagnosis one of the best things that have ever happened to me. Admittedly this is strange, but that is how I feel. It just seems auspicious, like an answer to my daily intense prayers for spiritual advancement and a way to better connect to others.
I am serious about doing everything I can to get better, and my wife and I are doing extensive research about possible protocols which have shown themselves effective in treating cancer. I looked it up on the Internet and for those who have a secondary cancer like mine, it’s thought that their primary cancer is at least stage three. Even if it turns out to be stage 4 or the worst possible stage or type of cancer, is my only response sadness, worry, or depression? I have encouraged everyone to pray for me, but not just to get better, but that this may be for my highest good and the highest good of everyone. That sounds like a pretty good outcome, whatever it looks like from the material perspective. Death (of the body) is certainly not the worst thing that could happen!
By Phalini Devi Dasi
At 7:00 a.m. on August 22, 2015, my husband and I climbed into the car with Sarva-drik dasa and his wife Sudevi. We all drove to the Petersburg (Virginia) Federal Correctional Complex where we all had gone for a kirtan and preaching program in September of 2014. Our first trip there had been such a positive experience that we were eager to go again.
[originally published on July 7th, 2010]
This topic came to me when I was on hold on the phone. Dealing with customer service representatives or those who deal with people on behalf of companies can be very instructive. It is a testimony about how challenging it can be to deal with the stress of working with the public, or doing a difficult job. Although some manage to be reasonably kind, considerate and thoughtful, many seem like they don’t really care about you or their work.
(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
[Originally published on January 13th, 2012]
While there are many ways to frame, or lead into, speaking about the root cause of the problems of the world, or of the country I live in, looking more closely at the concept of selfishness will be helpful. I have often thought that fanaticism is the real enemy of the world, since people’s inability to consider other viewpoints is at the root of most world or local conflicts. To me, fanaticism is a type of selfishness, or the result of a very narrow vision. Both come from bodily identification. My guru, Shrila Prabhupada spoke of selfishness, and extended selfishness. We are all eternal souls, yet we have the power to invest ourselves into matter. So although in the ultimate sense, or spiritually speaking, we have nothing to do with matter, due to false ego, we (the soul or consciousness) become duped or fooled by the illusion of the material world (maya), to think we are a particular body and mind, separate from God, others, and Nature.
Material life is a process of expanding this basic delusion, through the qualifier we give to persons or things by calling them “mine,” which could be called my-ness, or mine-ness (or mind-mess!). When things or persons become mine, it sets up the possibility of conflict with others: my body, gender, race, ethnicity, house, neighborhood, family, possessions, money, religion, sport’s team, community, nation, species, etc. We will think someone crazy who says they are Napoleon, Jesus, or Joan of Arc, but saying we are Joe Smith or Ravindra Gupta, man, woman, or gay, American or Indian, white or black, Christian or Hindu, is no less insane.
Realistically, for most of us to function in this plane we have to acknowledge these conditioned labels and act through them, since their influence upon us is so strong. However, we should note that material designations will frustrate us at some point and certainly at death, when these temporary constructs evaporate like the fog they actually are. To realize peace, purpose, and cooperation in the world, we have to cultivate spiritual knowledge of who we are (consciousness) and our spiritual propensity to serve the Supreme.