Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Best Use of Time

Radha and Krishna on a swing“A living being, especially the human being, is seeking happiness because happiness is the natural situation of the living entity. But he is vainly seeking happiness in the material atmosphere. A living being is constitutionally a spiritual spark of the complete whole, and his happiness can be perfectly perceived in spiritual activities.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.17 Purport)

There are many ways to define a saint, but if we look at the core of the individual, what it is that makes them tick, it’s uncovered that someone who knows how to best extract that quality and direct it towards the proper area can be considered the most saintly. The saint under this definition is the kindest welfare worker, and despite the negative reception they may receive on occasion, they stand tall and have a positive, lasting influence.

How do we determine what makes someone tick? What is that single property that gives a meaning to our existence? As a famous philosopher once said, “I think therefore I am”, the ability to do something on your own indicates that you have an existence. A sleeping man isn’t capable of solving complex equations, preparing an elaborate dish, writing a computer program, delivering a groundbreaking speech, taking care of dependents, or serving the right person. Granted, sleep is still an activity, a necessary one at that, but it is not until one is awake, full of ability to consciously direct thought and perform intelligent action, that they can really make a difference.

So, the ability to act defines our existence, but breaking things down further, the difference between a dead body and a living one is the presence of the spirit soul. The soul is the essence of identity, and its features are kindly described in the Vedic scriptures, whose most brilliant and concise work is the Bhagavad-gita, spoken by the delight of Maharaja Nanda and mother Yashoda, Lord Krishna. That is just one way to describe the blue-complexioned chariot driver of the Pandava warrior Arjuna, but since He is the oldest person and also the wisest, He has countless names, which each address a different feature. As He is the origin of life and matter, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Naturally, His instructions would then prove to be the most valid and worthwhile.

“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.24)

Krishna speaking to ArjunaFor argument’s sake, let’s say that we aren’t familiar with the teachings of the world’s original preceptor. Let’s say that we don’t even know about the soul and its ability to transcend birth and death. In ignorance of the laws of the spiritual science, we still know that the awake human being has the potential to act. Therefore the primary question is on how to use that ability, and not necessarily on studying from where the ability came or where it will go in the future. Granted, familiarity with the properties of that spirit is helpful in directing activity, but we can tell right now from the results we see that so many activities do not make the best use of the individual’s ability.

For instance, it is seen that in the absence of knowledge of spirit, time is spent doing things like playing sports, gambling, and drinking to get heavily intoxicated. In remote areas, there is even cow-tipping and other strange games invented to pass the time. We also know that young children are given an education. The adults provide this instruction, and yet they are the ones using their free time for these other pursuits. Therefore we can conclude that the instruction is guiding the pupil towards a destination where the same activities of the adult will take place.

The emergence of extreme sports and odd games played out in rural areas shows that the human being craves activity. He has the ability to act, but without knowing where to direct that ability, he will look for new ways to pass his time. At the end of the day, there is no difference between the person who plays sports and the person who doesn’t. Both are trying to fill the void created by endless amounts of free time. Whether one spends that time in quiet or in noise is of no difference, as the mind is occupied in both situations.

Prabhupada teachingThe saint arrives to guide man’s energy along the proper channels. Man is capable enough to do crazy tricks in extreme sports and creative enough to find new ways to spend time, but these efforts don’t extract the true potency of spirit: the ability to love. That love can continue uninhibited and uninterrupted, but only when the target is pure. Not surprisingly, that ideal object of service is God, who can be understood with greater clarity through the Vedic texts, which are the oldest scriptural tradition in the world.

The mere mention of “religion” will introduce fears pertaining to law codes and harsh condemnation of specific kinds of behavior. Actually, only in ignorance are these fears present, for a bona fide system of spirituality intends to focus on a notable destination, which when reached doesn’t signal the end to activity. Typically there is interruption with our projects because at the time of completion the work stops. That is the whole point after all. The desire to reach completion also represents the motivation, which then must vanish at the attainment of the end goal.

Spirituality followed under authorized guidelines takes the worker to a place where motivation never runs dry, which in turn creates a condition devoid of interruption. Sure there are temporary respites from work, but in this higher plane of consciousness, service continues even during rest. There is action in inaction and inaction in action for the devoted soul.

“One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.18)

The saint can teach the divine principles to others because he follows them himself. He knows that man has amazing abilities, the potential to love to the highest. The wonderful innovations created in recent times could not have come about without great intelligence and capability for work. When those capabilities are applied to a system of spiritual practice that aims to please the Supreme Lord, the result is ananda, or bliss, that is in such high supply that there is plenty to go around.

Lord Chaitanya worshiping Radha and KrishnaThe saint takes the ingenuity that goes into inventing a new sport like truck racing and directs it towards finding new ways to please the Supreme Lord. At the heart of a loving relationship is association, and since Krishna is full and complete in His name, chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is as good as being in the Lord’s presence. Of course we can’t understand this fact in the beginning, but since the saint follows the prescribed regulation of chanting this wonderful mantra for sixteen rounds a day on a set of japa beads, others can see a valid and functioning prototype to copy.

But imitation alone isn’t fun. Instead, there is the competitive spirit which tries to add on to what others are doing, maybe even surpassing them. Rather than be threatened, the saint is warmed to the heart when this attitude is directed at them in the realm of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. The same sportive tendency used to race against other cars can be applied to chanting the holy names more and more, to writing about the glories of the darling of Vrajabhumi, to preparing the most sumptuous food dishes to be offered to Krishna and then distributed to others.

The competitive attitude is sometimes even used to try to please the saint, who acts as the kindest teacher. He expects a lot from others because he knows that others are capable of amazing things if they apply themselves. If prizes are won throughout a process, then incentive is always present. There is no greater reward than Shyamasundara’s association, which comes through His holy name, so the more one follows bhakti the more they are inclined to cling to the process, which is initially supervised by the guiding hand of the saint.

An individual is considered saintly when they extend the fraternal attitude beyond themselves. In fact, the further out that vision of kindness spreads, the more their sainthood increases. The Vaishnava extends the vision of equality to all creatures, large and small. The human beings should have compassion for one another because they are all in the same boat, and they are also the elder brothers of the lower species like the animals, birds and aquatics.

Prabhupada chantingYet the Vaishnava, the devotee of Krishna, doesn’t stop with the gentleness extended to all creatures. Real compassion is showing others how to properly direct their energy. Therefore the Vaishnava kindly speaks of the glories of God in public forums, personal conversations, written words, and beautifully sung songs. This way they show others the proper destination, which is a newer consciousness more than a different physical location. The person connected to the divine consciousness can find a pleasurable situation wherever they go.

The end of life will come eventually, and when it does every person must ask themselves whether they spent their valuable time wisely. Time can be passed through any endeavor, but only when consciousness develops properly is the time well spent. By following bhakti-yoga, by devoting your life to God in any way possible, large or small, consciousness makes lasting progress for the better, and from that right way of thinking the vibrant force that is the spirit soul can get the most out of its energy.

In Closing:

What to do today, on my hands I have so much time?

What activity will keep active and also pacify my mind?

 

Should I gamble or play video games for fun?

Or on the fields chasing animals should I run?

 

If adults who play as such others do teach,

Guaranteed that same position pupils will reach.

 

Know that the individual within is a vital force,

Through intelligence place action on proper course.

 

For that, from the most saintly characters learn,

So that with work residence in spiritual abode to earn.

 

Saint does more than just affection to all extend,

Shows others proper way, to state of bliss man to send.