Staying Afloat

Lord Krishna“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form – to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

Work hard all day, come home at night to eat something for dinner, and then try to relax before you have to do it all over again the next day. And why do you do it? To stay afloat of course. The monthly bills are too much to even fathom. There are payments due for the mortgage, car, insurance, credit card, and other expenses that may come up. Mind you, this is just to stay at neutral. Don’t even mention retirement or savings, as there can never possibly be enough money. All of this seems overwhelming, but in the higher planes of consciousness, it is understood that the purpose to an existence is not to struggle for maintenance. At the root of all activity is the desire for pleasure, and the highest pleasure is to be found through intelligence.

Another way to think of it is to consider being out at sea. If you’re out on a boat, you can go somewhere. You’ve got your friends, some food and drinks, and the open seas to navigate. The captain steers the ship, and the rest enjoy the ride. While this is happening, you don’t consciously think about how you’re staying afloat. You don’t wonder, “Gee, I’m glad I’m not sinking right now. I’m glad that this boat is keeping me from falling to the bottom of the ocean.” Instead, the focus is on what’s ahead, on how to enjoy the existence that you already have.

Should the boat develop a leak and everyone be forced to abandon ship, will you be happy just staying afloat? Is it really living if you’re barely staying above water and breathing? You will want to get back to land or to a place where you can do more than just stay afloat. Sitting around and breathing is not the summit of an existence. Activity within the mind, a vibrancy in spirit, is what gives pleasure. This secret is what makes the highest engagement in life so worthwhile. The secret and the engagement to which it belongs are known to the Vedic seers, who received the information from the reservoir of pleasure Himself.

In the Vedic tradition the Supreme Lord is known as Shri Krishna. He is also described as Rama, Narasimha, Vishnu, and a host of other names that speak to His features and pastimes. Irrespective of the name or form of choice, the attribute of pleasure exists within Him to the highest level. As He is beaming with transcendental bliss, anyone who connects with Him gets their share as well. In fact, the pleasure comes just from the method of connection, as the ideal route is through service. In simpler terms, you are happiest when you are serving God. This is the root to happiness, and all other pleasurable conditions descend from this constitutional state.

If we’re supposed to feel pleasure in God’s company, why are we so miserable all the time? Is not this creation an extension of His abilities? Are not God’s abilities the same as His personal self?

The connection to the divine requires only a proper consciousness. Service is what develops that consciousness when it is in an unrefined state, sort of like polishing a dusty block of gold. The gold never changes, but depending on how we treat the exterior its value can change.

When the spirit soul is forgetful of its constitutional position of servant of God, simple maintenance of the body can be mistaken to be the only worthwhile endeavor. The attention to maintenance is already present in the animals, but they don’t have to worry about mortgage payments or who is in positions of power. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending are accounted for the animals at no extra charge, and since they don’t know any better they have no concept of fearing over the loss of a comfortable lifestyle.

The human being knows that life is like an hourglass whose sand continuously falls. The duration of life is like a timer that keeps ticking down, until it eventually culminates with death. Therefore to fear is natural, and to worry over how one will survive in that short period of time is understandable. Yet from the Vedas, and especially the Bhagavad-gita, we learn that the spirit soul transcends birth and death. This should make sense after all, as we had to come from somewhere. We consider the time of birth to be the start of our existence, but the spark of life had to come from somewhere. The human beings cannot create life on their own; life must come from life.

“The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth, and it is that Brahman that I impregnate, making possible the births of all living beings, O son of Bharata.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.3)

Lord KrishnaThe Supreme Lord is the source of that life, as He makes possible the birth of all living entities by impregnating the material energy. This means that the spirit souls aren’t originally part of this land. They come from somewhere else, a place where birth and death do not exist. The descent to the material creation occurs through desire, and so when desire is shifted towards the transcendental realm, the return ticket to spiritual freedom is granted.

To struggle for a material existence is not very wise. The better choice is to focus on trying to revive the connection to God. His names describe His attributes, and since Krishna and Rama are the most descriptive names, they form the bedrock of the greatest mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The tools necessary for the recitation of this mantra are the tongue and the ears. If the tongue is out of commission, one can still chant the words within their mind. Therefore the requirements for an existence in spiritual life, where the devotional consciousness is carefully nurtured until it reaches full maturity, are minimal. Moreover, Krishna Himself promises to give the devotees what they lack and preserve what they have.

Is the purpose to life just to chant? Isn’t reciting God’s names akin to remaining above water? Are not the two situations identical, wherein one simply lives and does nothing?

Chanting and hearing are the most basic and effective processes of the discipline known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Devotion springs forth new desires, giving renewed enthusiasm for service with each successive day. In bhakti-yoga, any area, either material or spiritual, is a field full of endless possibilities for pleasing Krishna, which is the only way by which to invite true ananda, or bliss, into one’s life. Thus to maintain the ability to chant the holy names proves to be the way to secure real enthusiasm to live life to the fullest.

In Closing:

When travelling on a boat,

Is goal only to remain afloat?


Mind filled with so many other thoughts,

To feel pleasure to seas I was brought.


Work not only for life to maintain,

A higher pleasure should be my aim.


In bhakti-yoga eternal engagement find,

Live to the fullest keeping Krishna in mind.

Categories: devotional service

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