On Changing the Influence Acting Upon Us
In Grammar School, I thought it strange that certain schoolmates were forbidden by their religion to play cards or games, or go to the cinema. When I asked them about it, I never received very satisfying answers. I was told something like, “These bad things were works of the devil,” “idle distractions”, or that it was just part of their religion. I sort of shrugged my shoulders, thinking it odd, and forgot about it. Fast forward to my practice of Krishna consciousness, and I would agree with the idea of refraining from certain activities, but now I have deep philosophical and spiritual reasons, and a positive alternative. Since for people in general, and some devotees, these seem like innocent enough activities, I thought I would speak about why it is a good idea to be selective about what media we subject ourselves to. I don’t do so with my nose in the air in the mood of condemnation, but from my practical experience, as there was a time in my life as a devotee when I wasted much time on such entertainment. Most of us aren’t perfect in our practice of Krishna consciousness, and we could all stand to improve by increasing our spiritual absorption.
We learn from studying the Bhagavad Gita, that whatever state of mind we are absorbed in at the time of death, we will obtain in the next life. The sum total of our attachments, desires, and pious or impious activities crystallize into a predominant mode or quality of nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance, which creates our next body: “When one dies in the mode of goodness, he attains to the pure higher planets of the great sages. When one dies in the mode of passion, he takes birth among those engaged in fruitive activities; and when one dies in the mode of ignorance, he takes birth in the animal kingdom.” [Bg 14.14-15] This is the general principle, though there are many factors all working together from this and previous lives that determine our future. Krishna conscious practice is meant to take us beyond the influence of material qualities, and if we are absorbed in remembering Krishna in love throughout our life, that is spiritual consciousness, and will take us to Krishna's world at death.
The impressions, or samskaras, we take in from our senses affect our consciousness, and what think we want. Like attracts like, so the general principle is that material impressions create attachments and desires for more of the same, whereas spiritual impressions create an affinity for pure spiritual activities. The activities of sadhana bhakti, or the practice of bhakti regulated by Vedic scriptural injunctions, as outlined by great saints, are meant to purify our consciousness through association with various manifestations of Krishna, or God.
For example, Krishna’s holy name, His Deity forms, the holy scriptures, and pure devotees who carry the Lord in their heart, are all considered manifestations of Krishna. By associating with these potent manifestations of the Lord, in the consciousness of service and love, we gradually awaken our dormant spiritual awareness, by changing the energy that is acting upon us. That is why it is recommended to refrain, or limit, our exposure to material music, or worldly talk and visual images, in the lower modes of nature. They are produced by persons absorbed in trying to enjoy and exploit the material world. From these types of entertainment, we imbibe the message that we can be happy in the material world without any connection to the spiritual dimension. It is true that we won’t die if we watch movies, and we may be entertained, but we also won’t make much spiritual advancement. What we give our time and attention to, reveals what we consider important, and who we are.
Life is energy, and people emanate their own type of energy, and put that energy into their home, the food they prepare, the words they speak or write, the songs they sing, and whatever else they do. We become influenced by the energy we surround ourselves with, or take into our conscious awareness. Understanding this is the secret of transformation, and will determine what we achieve, our future in this life, and where we go at death—to the lower, middle, or upper planets, or the spiritual world.
Our nature as tiny jiva souls, or the Lord’s marginal energy, is that we are a product of our association—whether material or spiritual. In the material world we identify with matter, being influenced by her energy, laws and qualities, and thus becoming matter-like—dull and forgetful of our true spiritual nature. In spite of appearing strongly rooted in material consciousness, we can remember our spiritual nature and love for Krishna by spiritual association. In a nutshell, that is what Krishna consciousness is about, and we have to choose what we want to be influenced by and put our attention on. If we are convinced we are spiritual beings having a temporary human experience, it will be easier for us to focus our life on Krishna, and dedicate our energy toward Krishna in bhakti.