I can't believe it has been a month since I posted. Time flies when you are busy. So much as happened in my life, and so many different emotional states, in those 4 weeks and a day! After I finished my 31 day bodily cleanse of my various organs I felt disassociated from life and had to regroup and recommit to my life mission--which is the subject of this short blog poem--and my wife and I helped facilitate the Grihastha Vision Team 4th Annual Couple's Retreat in Gita-nagari PA. I wrote and thought a great deal about my life, and the value of keeping death in mind. I realize I've already written a lot about it, but as I share in this poem, my tendency is to forget the urgency of my spiritual life, in my case, when my health seems to be getting better.
I must continually remember that I will die
perhaps today or tomorrow, but soon
because if I forget this truth
I return to complacency and the easy life—
this has happened to me, yet again...alas!!
I must recommit to spiritual life, continually.
Otherwise I may die distraught and resentful
which I have been shown by cancer’s mercy.
[For a couple years I’ve had the pleasure to do service with Yahna, who has been steadily volunteering to type letters for IPM. She has been very quick to type the letters I send her and she is so humble that when I asked her if she would share her realizations from this service, she emailed me the following response, “I've written a little something, but is that okay as I am not really a devotee of Krsna Consciousness and just want to be of service?”
Below are her reflections. She’d rather not disclose her last name and location.]
sri-jivam satatam vande
sri-rupa - Srila Rupa Gosvami; carana-dvandva - the two lotus feet; raginam - strongly attached; vraja vasinam - the topmost resident of Vrindavan; sri-jivam - Srila Jiva Gosvami; satatam - constantly; vande - I offer my obeisances; mandesu - dull headed and lazy people; ananda - bliss; dayinam - the bestower
THE MIRACLE OF FORGIVENESS: Much has been written in spiritually themed literature, Vedic scriptures and Prabhupada's translations, and personal growth/self-help books about forgiveness. As a young person and devotee I had no idea how important forgiveness could be. It was only after years of introspection and prayer that I personally understood how important it was for me to forgive important persons in my life and myself.
The topic came up in my reading of the last few days, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts about it. I have done much work with forgiveness—with my parents, for how I was raised, and for myself, for my many personal failings and what I should or should not have done. I looked at all my significant relationships in as much honesty as possible, and also considered that I may have some anger toward Krishna, and my guru, Shrila Prabhupada.
I did find some anger toward Prabhupada and I had a long talk with him to uncover it, and let it go. I have written somewhere about my, in contemporary terms, gestalt type conversation with him. Whatever it may be called, to me it was a very real talk before the Prabhupada murti in Berkeley almost 30 years ago. Before him, I shared and examined my anger and doubts, and I received a simple though compellingly powerful answer to my angst with his physical disappearance.
MY PRESSING QUESTIONS IN LIFE: Examining my heart, how are my material attachments still impeding my full practice of bhakti, or causing me to remain a mixed devotee? What do I want in my heart of hearts, and how is that causing me to act, or not act? In deep honesty, what truly moves and inspires me? As a result, what do I actually want to be absorbed in, demonstrated by my consistent thoughts and actions? What types of people I do think about or are attracted to in my daily life? Who do I want to become now, and forever? Knowing I will die, today or tomorrow, what must I give up, and what must I adopt to make my life a true success?
Having an ordinary materialistic upbringing until I was 19 years old I was still blessed with spiritual practices for many years. However, I have recently noted that I developed a cavalier attitude that I was “saved” and in the back to Godhead program. Being forced to face death has brought to light honest introspection of what is my true shelter. I have found that the old conditioned voices run deep below the surface of my consciousness. At present, those voices are much more prominent than I have dared admit, like an old disease waiting to manifest when the conditions are right—like herpes, or hepatitis.
I have found that I have been too willing to accommodate, or compromise with my materialistic tendencies rather than truly root them out. Now, praying to move beyond my complacency and comfort, I realize I can’t keep feeding the causes of my embodiment. Seeing my conditioned nature, I must keep casting those tendencies away which are unhelpful for my real life of spiritual progress, seeing them as ugly degrading darkness, and not to be simply tolerated. In my understanding this is what we devotees have signed up for, right—not the life of ease? I don’t want to only remember my spiritual connection when convenient, or to either get out of a jam, or obtain some desirable object.
Celebrating the holy day of Krishna’s appearance in this world five thousand years, or Shri Krishna Janmastami, is one of the many “high holidays” (to borrow from Judaism) which devotees of Krishna observe. What is known today as Hinduism includes what is called Gaudiya Vaishnavism, or the bhakti (devotional) movement inaugurated by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which Krishna.com represents. My spiritual master, Shrila Prabhupada, wasn’t fond of the word Hinduism since it is an imposed term created by those not familiar with the tradition and is a word not found in any Vedic literature.
Be that as it may, for the sake of convenience, we sometimes say we are part of the very diverse and inclusive Hindu tradition of India. Irrespective of the various Hindu theologies, all sects of Hinduism celebrate Janmastami as an important day, and glorify Krishna in various ways. Whether they think he is one of the many Hindu gods, or that the Ultimate Truth is “The One,” or the formless, impersonal Brahman source energy, they still glorify him as the wise speaker of the Bhagavad Gita, and are charmed by his depiction in the Shrimad Bhagavatam as a carefree cowherd who lived an idyllic life amidst the simplicity and beauty of Nature, surrounded by those who loved him.
This evening we read from the Krishna Book, and discussed some of Krishna’s pastimes surrounding his so-called “birth” in the world. I was reminded of watching how excited Prabhupada was when he was presented with advanced copies of the Krishna Book during the 1970 Rathayatra, and how he personally sold and signed copies.
yad bhAvi tad bhavaty eva yad abhAvyaM na tad bhavet
iti nizcita buddhInAM na cintA bAdhate kvacit
What is destined to happen does definitely happen. What is not to
occur shall never occur. Intelligent people who come to this decision
are not worried by any anxiety. (NArada PurANa 1.37.47)
The ego [primarily] pure has been defiled on account of the external passions since the beginningless past, (359) and what has been added from outside is like a [soiled] garment to be washed off. As when a garment is cleansed of its dirt, or when gold is removed from its impurities, they are not destroyed but remain as they are; so is the ego freed from its defilements. (Lankavatara-sutra, Sagathakam 755-756, D.T. Suzuki, London 1932)
After a rather depressing day yesterday for reasons that we needn’t get into, I woke up this morning feeling much better, with the resolve that I would pray to Krishna from now on to either heal me, or kill me, physically speaking of course, since there is no death for the soul. In a way the status of my cancer, namely not getting worse or better, is a metaphor for how I see my life—mediocre, and that just isn’t acceptable any more. I am called to physically, mentally, and emotionally leave my comfort zone, and do what I must.
We are admonished in the Bible to be either hot or cold, but not half-baked. I have been half-baked, with some notable exceptions, about most things my whole life. If I am going to continue to write, speak, travel, minister and help others, than I have to really do it, and by the grace of my gurus and Gaura Nitai, excel at it, or make my best effort and prayers to that effect.
As a number of motivational speakers have discovered and shared, “Reasons come first, answers some second.” Thus I have to have the proper motivation to write, speak, and help others, and then Krishna and his agents will help me find the ways to practically manifest it. I don’t have to know how, just that I must.
Therefore I am going to spend every day chanting, praying, and doing self-healing. I have studied for years in the past and spent thousands of dollars studying healing methods, and even practicing them, but never feeling strong enough about them to really pursue them. So now I have to use them or lose my current physical self.
Life in the material world is difficult and challenging for everyone to different degrees. While we may see in the world great misery and take some consolation that ours are much less, still, initially in the thick of our personal misery, we are still effected and challenged to keep our positivity. Can we use our distressful situation as a negative impetus for spiritual practice? In other words, human life is favorable for spiritual practice when we understand its glaring shortcomings and thus use them to our spiritual advantage by taking shelter of Krishna and his holy names. Prabhupada taught us to "make the best of a bad bargain."
Whether we are able to remain positive even amidst difficulties depends on our personality type, general attitude toward life, and spiritual development, which such small or large misery brings to light. We are called to improve ourselves through the crucible laboratory of suffering or pain.
The following two incidents in the scheme of world suffering are tiny difficulties, and yet they still add a shade to the general color of our lives. Our reactions to even small miseries teach us about ourselves and how well we have dealt with suffering in the past. If we are on an overload of general suffering even a small pain or problem can be overwhelming or we could be so callous that we barely notice. However, if we have handled life reverses well, have a generally stable life situation, and see problems or material miseries as meant for our highest good, we will meet them in our stride. I am sharing this as an opportunity for you to think about your own life and evaluate how you deal with reverses and small or large difficulties, pain, or miseries.