Utilizing the Time of our Lives for the Best Purpose: Appreciating the Value of Prema Part 2
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[for information about the above painting please visit: http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/12406215_jose-maria-romero-the-writers-muse]
My Muse, Sara: Hey, Karnamrita. Haribol! Thanks for publishing part 1. I found it very clear and concise, but I see that you’re having problems finishing this series.
Karnamrita: You would know, as by the grace of my gurus and the Lord of my heart, along with prompting from you, I have generally been inspired to write my blogs over the last seven years. However, these days my writing is going slower than usual. I know there must be some reason for this, and so I have been praying for guidance to understand my next step. I have learned that in making spiritual progress we have to practice both elimination of the old, and acceptance of the new, in order that we may grow into our full potential, and not remain stuck in old habits. In this vein, I have a number of possible book ideas that I haven’t spent time on. While this is an untried venue for me, it may have a wider audience. What do you think? I am wondering if I should focus more on writing books.
Sara: That is an area to be explored, and I am sure you will gradually know what to do—but for now, why don’t you complete part two. I have a few questions which might help you finish. Human life without some type of connection to God through religion or spirituality is similar to animal life in meeting survival needs.
Karnamrita: Your questions would surely help, but should I say anything about you, or not?
Sara: Why not, as the readers may just consider this a writing ploy, or think that it is interesting that you have a muse you can converse with. Anyone who has had to write will at least appreciate the idea and possibility.
Karnamrita: Well, you're usually not that easy to speak with, and mainly give inspiration, but I like the idea of having talks with you, and adding that to my posts. Thank you for helping! In any case, go ahead and ask.
Sara: What is it that causes an ordinary person to take up some type of practice centered around God?
Karnamrita: As you mentioned, without some connection or awareness of God or a higher spiritual power, human life is only a polished version of the animals with a focus on biological survival. In ordinary life people are interested in worldly happiness, relationships, possessions, various kinds of power, and yet they often search for an experience of something beyond their normal life, or higher possibilities. This last fact hints that we are more than our physical, limited existence. Do to some good fortune, such persons become attracted to religious observance by seeing the value of coloring their lives with a Godly brush, or take up religion merely by family tradition. They glorify, and give thankful appreciation to God as their order supplier, feeling blessed now, with the assurance of attaining heaven after death.
In such a preliminary religious conception one still considers themselves the center actor of their lives though God is involved indirectly by giving them strength, good fortune, and perhaps in heaven, being the benevolent ruler who they wave to from afar. To be fair, there are degrees how the religious see God, as some people have the idea of surrendering to God’s will, or being his instrument in the world to benefit others. However, there is little, if any, knowledge of the soul’s intrinsic identity as a conscious unit of serving disposition, or as a particular type of Godly servant, living for his pleasure. Generally, knowledge is also lacking as to what God and his kingdom are like, the type of relationship possibilities that exist, or the extent we can share loving reciprocation with the Supreme, apparently on an equal level (similar to relationships we are familiar with).
Sara: How do religious people learn about their soul and its relationship to God?
Karnamrita: After lifetimes of religious practice, if a person receives the blessings of someone of spiritual standing who has spiritual purity, awareness, and realization of the truth—a saint—one goes beyond merely religious formularies or dogma to understand that that no position in any material sphere can bring the joy and fulfillment they seek. Before this time people continue to try to enjoy the material world but through religion and praying to God as they comprehend him. However, by understanding the shortcomings of the world and the temporary nature of sensual enjoyment, a natural detachment from worldly life occurs, and a receptivity to spiritual knowledge.
By studying the esoteric, or deeper spiritual, knowledge of a religious or spiritual tradition, one begins the spiritual pilgrim’s quest to realize the self and find one’s Source—not as recreation, but as one’s prime mission in life. Again there are many strains and colors of this, but I am just attempting to give a basic idea from which to build on. Much depends on our interest, association, and corresponding understanding of the goal of spiritual practice.
Sara: What are some of the goals of spiritual practitioners?
Karnamrita: On the path of self-realization there are different goals, or aspects of Divinity one can aspire for, which correspond to one’s eligibility and the type of guidance the spiritual aspirant receives. One’s inner aspiration, or the goal of one’s spiritual practice, also determines one’s destination. Thus the same actions can bear various results due to differences in intention. “Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramātmā or Bhagavān.” [SB 1.2.11]
In modern terms we could call these stages, being, knowing, and loving. The entry level transcendentalist sees One Spiritual Substance, everywhere present, without form or personality, and desires to merge into this energy and give up what they consider a false identity as a person. In India, these philosophers are classically called “jnanis.” They love to “be,” but they only “be,” or exist, as a conglomeration or undifferentiated spark of Brahman, without any activity, by identifying their soul with what they believe is the sum total of existence, the all-pervading spiritual energy, called in some traditions, the Clear, or White, Light.
Compared to materialism, even the preliminary philosophical stage of monism or undifferentiated oneness, is very high, and yet it’s the easiest to obtain of the three given above. At the same time for a theist, or worshipper of the Bhagavan feature, such a goal merging into Brahman is compared to spiritual suicide, since there is no conception of any distinction between the part and the whole—and for love and worship, at least two are required. In my experience, many spiritually inclined persons are first drawn to this conception, since it seems universal, being hinted at in every religious or spiritual literature, and is beyond what they see as the sectarian differences of varied conceptions of a personal God.
A higher conception is that of the yogi’s who are interested in complete knowledge, control, and power, by meditating on the Paramatma (the Oversoul of the universe) feature of the Absolute. This is a transcendental feature of God within every atom, and within everyone’s heart. Yogis are known variously depending on their stage of practice and conceptual orientation. Some see themselves as the Paramatma and want to merge into this form of God, while others worship this feature of God with awe and appreciation—like the beatific vision of Catholic mystics. There are also yogis who practice bhakti and meditate on Krishna.
These two features of God (Brahman and Paramatma) are included within Bhagavan, or the aspect of God outside the material spheres, in his spiritual world of love and service. In these spiritual planets, the inhabitants all worship God by either mediating on him, or more prominently, by worshipping him in active service. There are also divisions of worshipers and manifestations of Divinity within the Bhagavan feature—beginning with Lord Narayana in Vaikunatha, and progressing through the higher spiritual realms of Lord Rama, and the various forms of Krishna in Dvarka, Mathura, and Vrindavan—depending on the degree and intensity of love.
In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, we emphasize the highest stages of prema, or love of Krishna. We may aspire to be a das or servant of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in his Navadhivpa lila where the perfected devotees (siddhas) play the role of sadhakas (spiritual practitioners), and in Krishna lila, aspire for a love like that of the gopis, or of the cowherd friends of Krishna in Vrindavan. Whatever type of love one has for God, one considers it the best, though objectively, the love of the gopis, and ultimately, Shrimati Radharani is the fullest and most complete expression, and our ideal. The love of Radha and the gopis is totally selfless—total self-forgetfulness— as they only live to please the love of their hearts, Shri Krishna.
Remember that Shri Chaitanya is Krishna in the mood of Radha, so Chaitanya lila is intimately related to the worship of Radha and Krishna, and some devotees have identities in both lilas. This is all very high theology, but is given only in brief, as a way to glorify prema, and fuel your study of this goal, with the possibility of taking up the path, or deepening your existing practice. On this path, we are students forever!
Here is part 1 if you missed it: http://www.krishna.com/blog/2014/07/10/utilizing-time-our-lives-best-pur...