“The many past births you spoiled can be rectified right now, today, if you start chanting Shri Rama’s holy name and renounce bad association, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 22)Download this episode (right click and save)
Riots in the streets. No jobs. High taxes. Lying politicians, working in concert with the media to cover up scandal after scandal. Opposing candidates buckling under the pressure, being persecuted for telling the truth, for speaking frankly. The destruction of the environment. Further dependency on drugs and alcohol. Children growing up spoiled, not able to handle tough situations when transitioning to adulthood.
There are lots of reasons to be pessimistic about the future. The Vedas describe this to be the age of Kali, after all. Quarrel and hypocrisy have a stronghold over good sense. Dharma and adharma switch. What is actually pious gets labeled sinful. What is the most harmful to the soul in its travels gets labeled beneficial; by vote wrong becomes right.
Despite the many challenges, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future. The hope is rooted in the intrinsic nature of the individual, who is spirit and not matter. Shri Krishna and the Vedas that spring from Him speak glowingly about spirit.
1. We have committed so many mistakes already
And since we are alive right now, we can tell about it. That bad memory. That troubling experience from childhood. That failure on the biggest stage, where the pressure got to us. The experiences were real, but they are still only temporary. There have been so many mistakes, as to err is human. The Vedas say that man has four principal defects: committing mistakes, cheating, imperfect senses, and the tendency to be illusioned.
The fact that we are still alive today means that there is a chance to correct things. Shri Hanuman a long time ago ran into difficulty when sent on a mission. He was by himself, and everyone back home was relying on him for success. He thought about just giving up and not returning. In his subsequent mental deliberation, he concluded that to remain alive was better, since with life there was a chance to succeed.
“There are many faults associated with ending my life, and if I remain alive I can find all-auspiciousness. Therefore, I will keep my life-breath, for by living success is assured.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.47)
2. Spirit is everywhere
The spiritual science of the Vedas, so succinctly and nicely presented by Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita, says that the true identity of the individual is spirit. They are jivatma. There is a choice in association, between the spiritual energy and the material. From the material energy we become illusioned.
One byproduct of that illusion is to create friends and enemies. In reality, every living being is in the same position as us. The friends act favorably towards us and enemies the opposite, but everyone is struggling all the same. The rich person is just as much Brahman as the poor person. Brahman is everywhere. The difficulties of life are not exclusive to me.
3. Paramatma is inside of me
Another byproduct of illusion is to think of myself as the doer. I decide to move my hand, and the result quickly manifests. A keystroke is a decision made by the mind to place the fingers in a certain place. Yet the results to these choices only manifest when there is first sanction from a higher authority.
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
That higher authority witnesses everything in His role as Supersoul. Jivatma is encased within the material covering of gross and subtle elements. The indication of the existence of jivatma is the consciousness spread throughout the body. The all-pervading witness is Paramatma, and He rests within the heart right next to the jivatma. The difference is that Paramatma has consciousness in all bodies. One entity spread through the universe and beyond. I am never alone, and as Paramatma sanctions the results to material activities, He is ready to help in the success for spiritual activities as well.
4. The struggles of past devotees
Souls from the past who were much wiser than me also struggled in life. They knew what they wanted to do. They were not in illusion. They received help from a spiritual guide, known as a guru. They were prepared to take all risks in the path of bhakti-yoga, devotional service.
Yet even they had to struggle. Prahlada Maharaja was persecuted by his powerful father. Hanuman faced many obstacles in his journey to Lanka. Valmiki had fallen into a terrible occupation. The Pandavas were homeless and always on the run from the lethal aggression of Duryodhana and his family.
Those great souls succeeded because they were surrendered. The same potential is there for me and everyone else in this world. Just a simple turn in the direction of God the person is all that is necessary. He takes care of the rest. That turn can be made at any time, day or night, in this life or the next.
5. The path to success is made easier today
At the dawn of creation, the path to success in spiritual life was meditation. The conditions were ideal for extended contemplation, done free of distractions. In the next age, the path was elaborate sacrifice, done in honor of Vishnu, whose name is synonymous with yajna. In the next age, the recommended method was worship of the deity, the merciful form of the Lord appearing before the eyes of the conditioned souls.
In this age of Kali, the process is simple. Just chant the holy names. The name of God is a sound that is non-different from Him. We get proof of food by eating, proof of aroma by smelling, and proof of beautiful visual art through seeing. The holy name is the acoustic proof of God.
In this age the best names to chant have been placed in an easy to remember and repeat sequence of words. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is known as the maha-mantra.
Take the authorized name of choice. You can chant Vishnu. You can chant Rama. Goswami Tulsidas says that the mistakes from the past births can be corrected immediately by chanting Rama’s name and giving up bad association. Attachment to the first automatically leads to the second. Have love for God, make that your activity of highest priority. In maintaining that most important practice, you’ll steer clear of things that get in the way. Thus the future suddenly turns bright, as the clouds of Kali part to reveal the bright effulgence of the Supreme Lord.
So much despair and destruction to see,
Elected politicians lying to you and me.
Alcohol and to drugs addiction,
Kali Yuga matching shastra prediction.
Reason to be optimistic there is still,
All-pervasive spirit, all areas to fill.
Path to success easier made,
By to holy names honor paid.