Thursday, January 26, 2012

Spiritual Television

Krishna's hand“The Absolute Personality of Godhead is not different from His transcendental name, form, pastimes and the sound vibrations thereof. As soon as a pure devotee engages himself in the pure devotional service of hearing, chanting and remembering the name, fame and activities of the Lord, at once He becomes visible to the transcendental eyes of the pure devotee by reflecting Himself on the mirror of the heart by spiritual television.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.6.33 Purport)

As Goswami Tulsidas so nicely notes in the opening verses of his beautiful work titled the Ramacharitamanasa, it is less common for a person to appreciate words composed by someone else than it is for someone to love what they have written themselves. The psychology of this fact should make sense, as the analysis applied to the written word is different in the two perspectives. On the one side you are critically assessing the composition that someone else has written, deciding whether or not the premises and conclusions are valid and whether you are uplifted in some way through the association. In the case of your own work, skewering your vision is the amazement arising from the fact that you were even able to craft anything at all. “I can’t believe I wrote this. Look at how I cleverly placed that truth into there and how I brought everything together in the end. Wow, nice job.” Though in most cases this natural inclination may give the writer a false sense of prestige and an inflated ego, if the subject matter is sublime, then even the unwarranted attachment to one’s own work can be used for bringing the highest good.

“You are born alone and you die alone”, is the common refrain of the person suffering through a rough patch in their relations with other human beings. If you are scorned from a relationship that was built on a strong attachment, concerns over the future will surely come up. “Will I ever find someone to make me happy? How will I live out the rest of my days if I don’t have anyone by my side?” The cure for loneliness appears to be simple enough: seek out companionship somewhere else. The wise seer, however, knows that life within a specific form is temporary, for that is the nature of both the large and small playing fields.

What is the large playing field? Think of the entire world and its collection of matter. Everything we can see is composed of combinations of earth, water, fire, air and ether. Depending on the desires of the inhabiting individuals, these material elements are used for different purposes. The sandbox and playrooms of young children are there to occupy their time, but when the same children mature the activity doesn’t change all that much. The playroom may get larger and the games played may involve stocks, card tables, and large arenas, but the manipulation of matter is still present and it remains the perceived vibrant way to occupy time.

The smaller playing field is the body itself. The form of the living being changes at every second, for otherwise how could hair and nails grow? We know that when we get a haircut, however, our identity does not change in the least. The subtle change may affect how others look at us and how we feel about ourselves, but our identity is not altered. The identity remains intact from the time of birth all the way up until the time of death. In this way the body is a sort of playing field, with the living being residing within considered the knower, the person in charge.

“Arjuna said: O my dear Krishna, I wish to know about prakriti [nature], Purusha [the enjoyer], and the field and the knower of the field, and of knowledge and the end of knowledge. The Blessed Lord then said: This body, O son of Kunti, is called the field, and one who knows this body is called the knower of the field.” (Bhagavad-gita, 13.1-2)

Krishna and ArjunaAs the knower inside the body is eternally situated, at least from our perspective of observation, there is an ideal companion who bears the same property. At this point, can’t we say that the relationships we form with others are also connections between two knowers? After all, other people are knowers, with their bodies changing but their identities remaining the same. But if the relationship is held together by attachment to the playing field, there is no real connection with the knower. For instance, if I am attracted to someone based on their fame, we know that the fame is attached to their localized playing field, which will either diminish in stature as time passes or be completely renounced at the time of death. This means that the relationship is limited and that there is no attachment to the knower.

There is one Supreme Knower who is so amazing that there is no difference between His field of play and His identity. Indeed, He is owner of both the large and small playing fields. He resides within every single one of us and yet is untainted by the actions taken. His form never changes, though He has a body that is gigantic. He also has a body that is small, as He can take many forms if He so chooses.

Connecting with Him is the ultimate cure for loneliness because His company never has to be renounced. Around the world He is spoken of through His different features and energies. Those completely attached to the temporary playing field refer to Him as nature, the almighty force for change. Those with a little inclination towards spirituality refer to Him as God, and those who are slightly more advanced call Him Brahman.

Only those who truly know Him refer to Him as Bhagavan and try to connect with Him through His many spiritual manifestations, including His original form of Krishna. Lord Krishna, the all-attractive Bhagavan, possesses the attributes of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge and renunciation simultaneously and to the fullest degree. Since He owns the playing field, these attributes never leave Him. Despite the passage of time and the travels through boundless space, Shri Krishna retains His position as Bhagavan.

Krishna's lotus feetSince He is the most attractive, who wouldn’t want to connect with Him? Since He lives eternally in His spiritual body that is full of bliss and knowledge, why wouldn’t we want to maintain an attachment to Him? Thus we see the real purpose behind the ancient system of yoga. At its root yoga means a connection, an addition of two operands. The two entities are the living entity, who is the knower of the individual playing field, and the Supreme Lord, who is the entity to be known, He whose spirit and body are not different.

How do we connect with Krishna? Is there a place we can go to find Him? If we have to travel, doesn’t that require using our playing field that is the body? Is not that body then subject to destruction? So how can we make sure that we find Krishna before we leave our body? Also, what will happen once the playing field dissipates? Will Krishna stay with us? Thankfully Shri Krishna has addressed these issues in the famous work called the Bhagavad-gita, where the science of self-realization is explained succinctly and thoroughly at the same time. Paradoxical combinations are no match for Shri Krishna, who is greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest.

The best way to connect with Krishna is to hear about Him. We can only harbor an attachment for another living entity if we have somehow come in contact with them. When people read the news and hear that a famous celebrity has died, their sadness is the result of an attachment formed through prior hearing and seeing. The majority of the readers of the news have never met the celebrity in question, but they feel sad at their passing because they had a connection with them in some way. That connection was so strong that it caused pains of separation to return when it was learned that the person in question would no longer provide new outlets for connection.

Lord KrishnaYou can hear about Krishna by reading works like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. You can also listen to those who have spent their whole lives hearing about Krishna. The latter option is considered superior because then at least the proper mood to apply in hearing about Krishna is created. No one can fully understand God, but the more that is learned about Him, the greater the chances are for harboring an attachment to Him.

The playing field that is the body is temporary. Because the human form is the most advanced temporary form, the keepers of the faith, who glorify Krishna constantly, consider the human form to be the most auspicious. Despite whatever playing field we enter, the material elements will have to be renounced at some point. The lower animals also get playing fields, and the life forces within them are also the knowers. There is no potential for knowledge acquisition in the lower species though. That benefit is reserved for the human being, who thus has an obligation to make the best use of that opportunity.

To find Krishna before we leave our body we have to locate a person who is speaking about Krishna in the proper way. Association with their words is the most important, for physical association can dissipate within a second. If I can speak about Krishna in a room there is a benefit for the people in the immediate vicinity. If I can speak about Krishna through published words that can travel all across the world, obviously the benefit will be larger. In the advanced technological age, there is every chance to find the association of someone who has connected with Krishna. They may not even still be on this earth, but their preaching continues through their recorded words.

“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.8)

Lord KrishnaThough the playing field is renounced at the end of life, consciousness stays with the individual. It carries from one life to the next, so if there is an attachment in consciousness to Krishna, that association will not dissipate with the exit from the body. If our cure for loneliness is to always think about Krishna now and stay attached to Him, He’ll stay with us in this life and the next.

How can we stay attached to Krishna when we have so much work to do, so many obligations to fulfill? We can hear about the Lord for a few hours a day maybe, but what do we do with the rest of our time? Thankfully the holy name is just as good as Krishna; it carries all of His glorious features. In any time period, in any situation, one can simply chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and be in the Lord’s company. Regularly reciting this mantra is so powerful that it will start to automatically play within the mind even during times where other work is being performed.

The devotional writer finds yet another way to keep Krishna by their side. As the tendency is for the individual to prefer their own writing to the words of others, if one can write about Krishna regularly, remembering His pastimes and describing His sweet form, the attachment to the resulting work will allow for Krishna’s association to continue. Krishna will remain with the writer during the time of composition and also during the time of reading. If the author is very proud of their work and likes to read it over and over again, they get to see Krishna every time through the descriptions found in the pages.

Hearing, chanting, remembering, talking, travelling to places important to Krishna; there are so many avenues available to cure the most acute loneliness. Every other attachment formed in life is an attempt to alleviate the pain of separation we feel from the dearly beloved Lord, the most attractive entity who also holds the most amount of love for us. Through the many processes of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, Krishna can be seen within the heart, a place wherefrom He never leaves.

In Closing:

Interest from writing of others sight,

But still your own work more do you like.

Use that penchant for your highest benefit,

Immerse in thoughts of God before body you quit.

Know that Shri Krishna is the reservoir of pleasure,

That His vision within the mind is greatest treasure.

Let not a moment pass by with this opportunity,

From cycle of birth and death gain immunity.

From those who know Krishna knowledge take,

Then write yourself, a cure for loneliness make.