The Path of Perfection Can become our Absorption

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Absorbing ourself in worship
Modern culture is big on goal setting, the best career path, and making a contribution—all important things, no doubt! However, the idea of perfection—what to speak of anything spiritual—is not in the general vocabulary. People's vocabulary is important to consider since it reveals their education, awareness, values and what they are absorbed in.

The word "absorbed" makes me smile. Why? I worked in a warehouse as an hourly worker for 12 years. My co-workers generally only had a high school education at best—I had just a few years of college myself which is why I worked there. More importantly they certainly didn't have any type of spiritual education or understanding of the soul and God, though perhaps a religious orientation.

I found a number of words, common for a devotee of Krishna, unknown to my co-workers. I am not talking about esoteric or Sanskrit terms but descriptive language. Two words that I especially remember confused them were: "absorbed" and "opulence". (In my estimation they wouldn't have related to the word perfection either.) Thinking over the matter I thought this lack of familiarity rather telling. Though some people might be familiar with the idea of being absorbed in a book or some activity, few would speak of it in terms of the entire life.

The average person is mainly living their life in a struggle to earn money to provide for themselves and their family. In their spare time they seek entertainment (very different from enlightenment!), diversions, or types of material enjoyment. With no spiritual knowledge to inform their life, they are informed by the current of their particular Nation, fashioned by the government, advertising establishment, and popular media like TV, cinema and the Internet.

We become what we think about

If these are the only sources of knowledge it is difficult to evaluate the value or shortcomings of our life path. Perception requires contrasting views or lifestyles to be meaningful and truly be an "informed" perspective. It is also helpful to consider that today we are awash in "information" but have little accurate knowledge or wisdom. True religion connected to deep spirituality can help us all have a deeper perspective, yet unfortunately sometimes modern religions are fanatical interpretations of ancient scriptures only fueling violence, intolerance and hatred toward other faiths, sects or people.

Perhaps today we could say that being able to evaluate or even discuss our absorption is opulence! Personally, I would think it rather essential and am sad that we have to call it an opulence. Yet this is a good way to introduce this word in our discussion. Of course even knowing the ordinary use of opulence as the dictionary does, as: luxury, riches, wealth,splendor, prosperity, richness, affluence, voluptuousness, lavishness, sumptuousness, still doesn't give us the use the word as I learned it from Prabhupada, my guru and mentor. When one's goal in life is spiritual that changes our world view, perspective of the value of anything, and how words are used.

Prabhupada often used the word to demonstrate that even materially our current generally Godless civilization is wanting in many basic necessities like clean water, air, abundant organic produce, pure milk products, precious jewels and minerals—all what we might term "Nature's gifts". Today they are"opulences" when long ago they were basic requirements for living. He joked that instead of having real gold and silver coins we have paper; instead of silver or even pure clay or leaf plates and utensils, we have plastic. His point was that often our contemporary march toward "progress" is actually just a bill of goods sold to us by materialistic merchants who only want endless consumers to fill profits. He would say that "we can't eat nuts and bolts" and how machines and machine tools were making people jobless and thus idle.

nature's gifts

Truth be told, the beauty and opulence of the world can only be enhanced by the grace of the Lord and not by any man-made planning or manufacturing. We do have our part to play but that doesn't involve trying to be the lord of all we survey and having an exploitive mentality. Human society can be happy and opulent in every way through loving worship offered to the dear-most friend and well-wisher of everyone, Shri Krishna. Then, as was the case when Krishna personally walked the Earth among many Godly people, the rivers, seas, forests, hills and mines, which are the supplying agents for the necessities of men and animals will abundantly provide for the Godly residents.

Knowing this secret about the power of the Lord's presence on the Earth and in our lives, we should take up in earnest the method for invoking his presence for the peculiar time we live in. In spite of the huge pollution and contamination of our current age, called in the Vedas, Kali-yuga, we have been given a special benediction by Lord Chaitanya to associate with the Lord through his holy name.

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The Lord, being omnipresent, can be present with us if we want Him, even slightly. The process is to become attached to His devotional service by hearing, chanting, and remembering about him, or any of the nine methods outlined for such service. Since there is nothing in the world with which the Lord is disconnected, the only thing we must learn is how to excavate the source of our connection to him. This will enable us to associate with him and thus revive our eternal nature as his loving assistants. The primary method for doing this is pure chanting and singing the holy name or the Hare Krishna mantra.

The offenseless chanter of the holy name of the Lord, being spiritually absorbed, is considered as auspicious as the Lord Himself. Thus the unity and associations of pure devotees all over the world can at once change the troublesome face of the world. We can be immune from all effects of the age of Kali especially by the propagation of the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. If we have faith in the holy name and keep it as our constant companion, what greater opulence is this? It is opulence and the path of perfection.

The perfection of chanting

So now we have come to the word of perfection mentioned in the title. This implies that currently there is something missing from our life that needs to be strived for. Though everyone is trying to improve or at least maintain the quality of their life, we see there is a pin prick of dissatisfaction in materialistic cultures. This pin prick and much worse can be removed by knowledge of the soul, service to God or Krishna, and associating with those devoted to him. Such association is one of the primary ways we gain faith in Bhakti or devotional service, since their absorption in faithful chanting and loving service effects our heart and inclinations. However, people with no knowledge, faith or realization about God, if they speak of perfectionat all, could only come up with something very superficial and temporary. Although we may obtain some material happiness and think we are doing better than others, our life in this body is very temporary.

If you are convinced that material happiness can't come from worldly adjustments or obtaining novel ways to stimulate the senses then this is considered a good beginning qualification for spiritual inquiry. The Vedas teach us that unless a human being inquires about the nature of their suffering, they are not truly using their human intelligence. Yet being a"rational animal" isn't enough to qualify us as using the full potential of human life. We only become fully human when we love God. This is using our heart and life for its ultimate purpose.

If we are blessed then our life gives us many "teachable moments" (often distress or reverses) when we are primed to search out a solution to the perplexities of life—as Arjuna was on the Battle of Kurukshetra. This type of intelligence is really essential to discover so we may live happily in the world, find lasting peace and fulfillment and truly help others. It is the beginning of unfoldment on the path of perfection, which is true opulence. We discover how material absorption brings us misery, while spiritual absorption gladdens our heart and soul. If you haven't already, I encourage you to embark on this path and find your true value, purpose and everlasting love. Or if you have been on the path for sometime, please keep praying to intensify your practice and go to the next level. Find devotees who have what you aspire after and associate with them. Complacency is one of our enemies. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting experience! The more faith and taste we have in Krishna consciousness, the more advanced we become.

The Supreme Subject to be Absorbed with


Combined comments from old site

Sun, 08/22/2010 - 16:50 — Karnamrita.das
Understanding the difference between details and principles

Perhaps you can think of many other words that might not be understood or used in the same way that Krishna devotees do by people in general. By pointing this out I wasn't making fun of anyone--just bringing up an important point that we must be able to communicate Krishna consciousness in a way and with words that people can relate to and understand. If we study the history of Gaudiya Vaishnavism or our tradition begun over 500 years ago by Lord Chaitanya and his followers, we will see that each generation of devotees has had to retool or re-express the same teachings toward particular audiences.

There should be devotees of Krishna in every field, and they should explain the science of Bhakti to their colleagues or co-workers by using examples and terminology from their cultural mileau. In my guru Prabhupada's words this is presenting Krishna conscious according to the "time, place, and circumstances" or the current culture we find ourselves in. This does require some realization of what Bhakti is, yet this is not rocket science, just years of study and purification in applying the teachings, and understanding the difference between "form", or external details, and "substance", principles or the spiritual essence or purpose of our spiritual practices.

Although Prabhupada said he didn't change anything, we see that he meant this in terms of the substance, since he changed or rather adapted the exterrnals of KC to the Western and modern culture. He kept the purpose in mind while adjusting the details. This does create an essential dialog as to what are the most essential aspects of the bhakti spiritual path and what things only create conditions for those to emerge, and are not ends in themselves. For instance to always remember Krishna is a principle of Krishna consciousness, whereas exactly how one does this is a detail.

If each generation of devotees doesn't present KC in a way that addresses the pulse of the times it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant, and may become fanatical by forgetting why we perform the rituals we do (like so many religions). Though some examples are timeless, others lose their edge after some time. We don't want to preach "at" people but speak to their unique needs and problems. We can use the particular culture and times we live in as an asset, or just curse the wind without giving any practical solution. Everything can be favorable to Krishna consciousness if we are fixed on giving it to others. May proposes, Krishna disposes. For his faithful devotees, Krishna carries what we lack and preserves what we have.