“Although the two birds are in the same tree, the eating bird (jivatma) is fully engrossed with anxiety and moroseness as the enjoyer of the fruits of the tree. But if in some way or other he turns his face to his friend who is the Lord (Paramatma) and knows His glories, at once the suffering bird becomes free from all anxieties." (Katha Upanishad)
No matter how hard we may try, lost time can never be retrieved. Once an event happens, it’s over. We can try to relive experiences in our mind, thinking about how we felt and where we were at the precise moment of certain events, but in the end, that moment is gone. No amount of money can bring it back, and for this reason time can be considered the greatest loss.
Advancements in technology have brought new ways to relive past experiences. VCR and DVD players and still and video cameras allow us to document our life experiences and those of our children. Parents love to watch home movies of their own childhood and those of their kids. Watching these videos and looking at old pictures lets us reminisce of days gone by. For many of us, these were the halcyon days of our lives, a time remembered very fondly. Perusing through old photo albums helps us go back in time, allowing us to see how we have changed over the years. There is something comforting about bringing our minds back to the past. The present is usually a time for great anxiety. The Vedas describe this world as a place full of miseries, dukhalyam. We have absolutely no idea how events will play out. This uncertainty brings about worry, sochati. On the other hand, the events of the past already took place. We know how everything turned out, so it’s very comforting and safe to go back in time with our minds.
Nothing lasts forever. Anyone with a little intelligence realizes this fact eventually. As soon as we take birth, the dying process begins. Birth, old age, disease and death; these four things are guaranteed for the conditioned living entity. The rules of karma dictate what type of body we are put into after we die. Our fruitive actions and desires are measured by God’s agents at the time of death, and these desires then direct us to our next destination.
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
By definition, everything in this world is temporary. As spirit souls, we are constitutionally eternal, but upon accepting a body possessing gunas, or material qualities, we become subject to the forces of nature. “What goes up, must come down” is how the saying goes. Time is the agent of change. As soon as something is created, time begins to do its magic and slowly, day by day, the dying process begins. Everything in this world has a beginning, middle, and end. For this reason, the wise declare that life is short and that every moment of it should be savored and appreciated.
So how do we make the most of our time? This is where the Vedas come in. The original religion for all of mankind, the Vedas were passed down from Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to the first created being, Lord Brahma. Brahma then took charge of creation and passed down this sacred knowledge to future generations. Veda means knowledge and the ultimate knowledge is that which teaches us how to make the best use of our time. According to the Vedas, this human form of life is considered the most auspicious. This auspiciousness is not due to the fact that humans have dominion over the animals and plants. We most certainly do have dominion over all other species, but with power comes responsibility. Human beings are superior to animals in the area of intelligence. By nature, an animal involves itself primarily in four activities: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. The human being, having an advanced brain, should try to rise above these animalistic tendencies. If God wanted us to simply spend our time eating, drinking, and being merry, then He would have put us in the body of an animal. It is highly likely that we indeed took birth in the animal species in a previous life, and for this reason, we should try to figure out why we are currently in the body of a human being.
Above all other attributes, the most important quality of a human being is its ability to know and understand God. The purpose of human life is to recognize this ability and use it for our benefit. So how do we fulfill this purpose, i.e. how do we understand God? This is the mystery that has bewildered people since time immemorial. The answer is that we must follow dharma. In the Vedic tradition, the term religion doesn’t really exist. What we refer to as religion, the Vedas define as sanatana dharma. According to Ramanujacharya, sanatana means that which has no beginning and no end. Dharma means occupational duty. So, in essence, religion equates to our eternal occupation. It is not that we blindly accept some faith and then give it up a few years later. Dharma is our eternal duty, something we should always engage in. It never changes. We certainly have the freedom to decided to go against dharma, but this decision leads to pain and suffering in the form of repeated births.
It is the nature of the spirit soul to be active. The concept of democratic government is an outgrowth of this innate desire in humans. People generally don’t like to sit idly by and do nothing. Not only do we prefer to be active, but we demand variety in our activities. No one likes to repeat the exact same activities every single day. The mind requires constant stimulation and engagement. The Vedas don’t deny this fact, but they tell us that the mind should be controlled.
“The Blessed Lord said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by constant practice and by detachment.” (Bg. 6.35)
The mind can be reined in through the yoga process. Yoga means having union of the soul with God. This union is required because currently there is a separation between the jivatma, our soul, and the Paramatma, the Supersoul. Paramatma is an expansion of God that resides inside the heart of every living entity. It is our original nature to be in yoga, always connected with God, but somehow or other that bond has been broken. The Vedas give us the necessary knowledge to rekindle that lost relationship.
There are several bona fide types of yoga, but the highest is known as bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Also known as bhagavata-dharma, devotional service means dovetailing all of one’s activities with the desires of the Supreme Lord. What does Goes want? He wants us to return to His spiritual realm, Goloka Vrindavana or the Vaikuntha planets. Vaikuntha means a place free of any anxiety. Devotional service means acting in such a way that we permanently change our consciousness. A conditioned living entity is always either hankering after something it wants or lamenting over something it doesn’t have. A Krishna, or God, conscious person no longer hankers or laments over temporary things.
How does one become Krishna conscious? This state of mind is achieved by following any or all of the nine distinct process of bhakti yoga: hearing, chanting, remembering Lord Vishnu (Krishna), serving the lotus feet of the Lord, worshiping, offering prayers, carrying out the Lord’s orders, becoming friends with the Lord, and surrendering everything unto Him. This was the path to perfection taken by the citizens of Ayodhya many thousands of years ago. Lord Krishna, God Himself, came to earth in human form as a prince named Rama. After Rama was exiled to the forest by His father, the king of Ayodhya, the citizens desperately wanted Rama to return and take over the reins of government. Rama’s younger Bharata sought Him out in the forest and beseeched Him to return. The Lord then instructed Bharata on the temporary nature of things and the below referenced statement was part of His teachings. All feelings of happiness and sadness are temporary, so one shouldn’t grieve over the loss of a king. Time destroys everything in the end, so there was no reason to despair over something temporary. This was the lesson taught by Lord Rama.
“A night that has gone by does not return, just as the full Yamuna River, when she has entered the ocean full of water, does not come back. The passing days and nights quickly decrease the lifespan of all living entities, just as in summer, the rays of the sun dry up the water.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 105)
Even after such sound advice, Bharata wouldn’t budge. The parties were at a stalemate until a compromise was finally reached. Rama gave Bharata His sandals and told him to put them on the throne of the kingdom. In this way, Rama could stay in the forest, but His sandals would symbolically rule over Ayodhya. Through this compromise, the Lord showed us how we can execute devotional service perfectly. The citizens of Ayodhya lived without Rama for fourteen years, but they passed the time always thinking of Him, considering the sandals to be no different than Rama.
Today, we are also in a similar situation. God isn’t physically present before us, but He has kindly incarnated in the form of His holy name and the archa-vigraha, or deity. Perfect yoga can be executed by always chanting His glorious name and by regularly viewing and taking care of His deity. God is all-attractive and someone who gives pleasure to all. In our regular endeavors, if we work hard for something but then ultimately fail in achieving it, our valuable time has been wasted. In devotional service however, not even a second is wasted. If one is unsuccessful in achieving pure God consciousness in this life, in the next life, they get to resume from where they left off.
“By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he (the unsuccessful yogi) automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles-even without seeking them. Such an inquisitive transcendentalist, striving for yoga, stands always above the ritualistic principles of the scriptures.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 6.44)
We really have nothing to lose. Love given to God never goes in vain. Lord Rama triumphantly returned to Ayodhya after fourteen years and took over as the king. He was able to repay the pure love shown to Him by the citizens. From His example, we can understand that God never forgets us, and even the smallest amount of loving service to Him can go a long way. So let us engage in the timeless activity of devotional service. The great Lord Hanuman spends every day thinking of Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana, so we can never go wrong following his wonderful example.
Categories: devotional service