The Thin Red Line and quotes about Success

THINKING ABOUT THE "THIN RED LINE" IN RELATIONSHIP TO LIFE'S DUALITIES, quotes about SUCCESS from various sources : This was a title from a movie about the horrors of war that comes from an old Midwestern saying, "There's only a thin red line between the sane and the mad." This title first came to mind some years ago as I was dealing with the flu for many weeks and couldn't seem to get much better, and then again with my cancer diagnosis and simply observing myself and others, both family and friends, as they experience their own diseases, and the process of aging, and the apparent finality of death (which most people don't want to think about!). I thought of the thin line between sickness and health, and then extended this idea to see the small difference between any of the dualities of the material world.

So we begin with the thin line between health and illness, and then between biological life and death. We can further extend this if we go down the list of material dualities: happiness and distress, fame and infamy, cold and heat, courage and cowardliness, pleasure and pain, and perhaps most interestingly as posited by some, deep spiritual experience and insanity.

My basic life theory, based on my experience and through life and scriptural study, is that real lasting happiness comes from the soul, our real, unchanging self, or we could say, our consciousness. Life on the spiritual path is a Course to show us beyond the theory we study that we can not find what we are really looking for in matter,


QUESTIONS ARE THE ANSWER: My "Question for the Week," got me thinking about the power of the questions we ask ourselves or others. Some verses came to mind, as well as my limited understanding about what the questions we ask tell us about ourselves and our absorption. Many of us know, from such verses as follows, the importance of asking relevant questions to great sages or gurus, but what do our personal, internal questions tell us about ourselves? "One day, after finishing their morning duties by burning a sacrificial fire and offering a seat of esteem to Srila Suta Gosvami, the great sages made inquiries [i.e. questions], with great respect, about the following matters." [SB 1.1.5] / "O sages, I have been justly questioned by you. Your questions are worthy because they relate to Lord Krsna and so are of relevance to the world's welfare. Only questions of this sort are capable of completely satisfying the self." [SB 1.2.5]

Although I read the above verses many times, I didn't understand the importance of my personal questions. Years later, I first contemplated the power of questions in terms of personal and spiritual growth when I heard from Tony Robbins that "The quality of our lives depends on the quality of the questions we ask," which brought home the power of questions in understanding who I was as a person, and what I was really interested in.

Thus, the power of our questions is a very multifaceted and profound idea which is right in line with spiritual philosophies I have studied, including my own of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and one which can be practiced on many different levels. It is a fascinating nutshell of human psychology.

The Power of Words to Change our Life

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed) [reposted from 1-4-2012]
I have studied many alternative healing methods, yet I feel our healing power is also transmitted through the written or spoken word, through which I personally share my struggles, and successes on my spiritual journey. Our words increase in potency by our purity, sincerity, and surrender along with spiritual backing from our gurus and the merciful Lord. As important as hearing scriptural stories and spiritual philosophy are for helping awaken our sleeping spiritual self, I feel it is important to do so in a very personal way—to put a face on the path of devotion, not one with angel wings, but with warts, shortcomings, and injuries.

Learning to be real, or honest with ourselves, and with others, is essential to call our spiritual progress. If we can’t uncover and face our darkness, how can we ask for help, or pray to overcome it? While socially we may feel pressure to look good, we have to actually be good. We may not be good in every way, but at least we can pray to gradually become better human beings, and better spiritual people. Divine life should always inform and guide our humanity, since the perfection of human life is to realize our nature as souls, and our loving relationship with God, who we Gaudiya Vaishnavas recognize as Krishna (in His original, most loving aspect).


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.

The Conclusion of the Bhagavad Gita

THE CONCLUSION OF THE BHAGAVAD GITA (reposted from 1-19-11 and added to): In Krishna’s final chapter of the Bhagavad Gita there are a number of places where Vaishnava commentators consider the book could have ended. After the first of his possible endings in verse 63 of the 18th chapter where he tells Arjuna to deliberate on his instructions and decide for himself upon his course of action, Krishna wants to make sure Arjuna—and we readers—have understood his hope for all souls to choose the path of pure devotion. Thus, he summarizes in subsequent verses his ultimate instruction, as the powerful conclusion.

The idea that his book—it is “his” book after all!—of perennial wisdom has a conclusion is often surprising to the casual reader looking for generic spiritual wisdom to add to their lives or personal agenda. We conditioned souls have a very ego-centric view of the world and any information or knowledge we come into contact with. Sometimes people like the Gita because they think it recommends many paths and one can choose one that appeals to them according to their personal criterion.

Jiva Goswami (one of the famous six Goswami disciples of Shri Chaitanya) also speaks of the thought current even during his time (over 500 years ago) that the Gita was a book recommending many paths. He refutes this theory by stating that Krishna brings up many paths as a way to contrast them to his ultimate recommendation of bhakti or pure devotion.


ENCOURAGING ONE ANOTHER TO STAY THE COURSE OF BHAKTI AND GO THROUGH THE INEVITABLE GROWING PAINS AND AND EVEN DEPRESSION plus A FREE VERSE RAMBLING, "FAILURE IS THE PILLAR OF SUCCESS": As I was waking up I was dreaming of having a conversation to encourage someone who was feeling discouraged and hopeless about their life and their practice of bhakti. I like to think that I write to encourage devotees or in general, the spiritually minded, to have a positive attitude in spite of difficulties, reverses, or just low points in their lives. In the case of clinical depression some people may need professional help, yet many just need friends to confide in or a way to normalize what they are experiencing. Knowing that others have gone through what we have can help us stay the course to the other side of darkness.

Somehow to remember that we are souls in a temporary human situation. The true solution to the uncertainly of life is to work on the ultimate spiritual solution to karma and difficulties/suffering by the long haul of a lifetime of spiritual practice regardless of the upheaval, disappointments, or life reverses we may go through. If you can't chant on your beads, then do kirtan, and read something inspirational. Or find a japa buddy with whom you can share your spiritual practices, or a confidential friend who can listen to you in loving friendship. There is always something you can do if you don't give in to hopelessness.

I remembered this purport by Prabhupada in his Gita translation: "But an ordinary man with firm faith in the eternal injunctions of the Lord, even though unable to execute such orders, becomes liberated from the bondage of the law of karma. In the beginning of Krishna consciousness, one may not fully discharge the injunctions of the Lord, but because one is not resentful of this principle and works sincerely without consideration of defeat and hopelessness, he will surely be promoted to the stage of pure Krishna consciousness." [BG 3.31 purport]


(photo by Laura Fasulo) KEEPERS OF THE FLAME: Although this expression is most often used by our Christian brothers and sisters, I totally relate to its exclamation in relationship to what or who I am, or at least, aspire to be: A Keeper of the Flame of Bhakti, or A Keeper of the Flame of Spirituality. Personally, I see this as a responsibility for all followers of Shri Chaitanya and those who represent him. I visualize a flame burning brightly in my heart, or raising a torch in my hand to dispel darkness. To me, this is inspiring! "Lead me from untruth to truth! Lead me from darkness to light! Lead me from death to immortality." [Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad 1.3.28] This is my meditation and affirmation on being a keeper of the flame.

More than ever before in my life, this is what I want to stand for, and share, and be, and promote. Though admittedly this has waned in the last year, I keep being reminded of it, and now this is the direction I want to take. With this new year, I am reaffirming my commitment. Thus, I write and speak with the prayer to do this service of giving light and encouragement to deal with our worldly desires and nature in the context of spiritual growth—transforming our human life into the life of the soul. Easy to say, I am well aware, yet for me, I need to keep high aspirations always in mind and in my prayers for my highest prospect. Otherwise I may just settle to get by as I have for so many years.


THE POWER OF QUESTIONS and MEDITATION ON WHO WE THINK WE ARE: A natural process for me, almost like breathing, is my daily and frequent contemplation to question myself as to what I am truly absorbed in, focused on, and desire more than anything else, and also my aspirations and highest ideals, or what I want to be absorbed in, and become.( My prayer life is full of sharing this with Krishna, and praying for the empowerment to best serve others by who I am, and who I am becoming.)

The answers to such questions are essential to understand as it tells us who we are, and what we are becoming, in this life and beyond. There are so many ways to say this from many spiritual traditions and also in the Success literature of our time. To me, this is one of the many benefits of facing inevitable death of the body, either today, or tomorrow. Here is a short free verse rambling from last year which expresses this:

What do you believe about your self
and what do you actually have faith in—
that is so much a part of you
it’s invisible, hidden, yet constant
like the air you breathe?
You hardly perceive it
but it’s your sense of self
that gives you a life attitude
like the scent of your body
which life, people and dogs can smell.

It follows you everywhere
like your shadow
determining how you think
what you give energy to by attention.
Coloring your outlook
it’s what you project onto life

The Quest for Power over Things and Others

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
[Originally published on November 26th, 2012 and reposted here]

Superior soul energy lives within
animating matter’s lower vibration
being naturally unfulfilled in a body
driven to search for fulfillment.

Oblivious to its real nature
looking without instead of within
trying to be somebody special
in a fool’s make-believe paradise.

Covered by illusion’s dictates
trying to be pleasured
repeating the hackneyed routine
avoiding pain by numbing.

Positive and negative impetus for Bhakti

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
[Reposted from 10-29-2007]
In the Gita's 7th chapter Shri Krishna tells us that four kinds of pious people approach him to render service: the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of he Absolute. And once we have come to Krishna, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur describes four levels or motivations for service: fear, prospect, duty, and love. One point in these two types of analysis is that there are many ways people come to Krishna, and different stages to aspire for once we do---the highest being serving out of love.

Another way to look at how we are motivated to serve Krishna is by dividing them in two broad categories, of positive and negative.

Negative impetus for serving Krishna is by our experience of the miseries of the material world. Preaching based on this emphasizes how bad the material world is, entangling its' relationships, simply awful and gross the body is plagued by, bad smells, imperfections, disease, old age, death, and even birth (which is touted as being such a happy thing).

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