“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)
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
One of the benefits of officially taking a vacation is that so many responsibilities get left behind. Not that the tasks somehow take care of themselves. Not that a mountain of work doesn’t await upon return. It is just that in a new setting it is not possible to handle this issue and that. The change of scene forces you to at least try to relax.
Even within that daily environment there is little control over outcomes. The human being thinks otherwise. Especially in the age of technological progress, it seems that so much can be done in an easier way as compared to times past. Yet on this one particular day there is a striking reminder of the verse from the Bhagavad-gita which explains the modes of nature to be the influencer in reactions. It is ahankara, the false ego, which leads me to believe that destiny is entirely within my control.
1. The dishwasher breaks
The dishes were piled up in the sink. Over a few days, enough pots, pans, glasses and plates to give you a headache upon a single glance. There is no cause for concern, however. The higher authorities gave man the dishwasher for a reason. Take a little time to rinse every item and transfer to the proper place. A few hours later everything is clean.
The issue on this day is that the dishwasher is not working. A sudden change to the situation, there is no easily discernable cause. The machine just won’t start. There is power coming. The electricity is on in the house. Pressing the start button causes a few rumblings in the machine, followed by failure.
2. The face-down parking receipt
You’ve moved to a new place recently. It is more urban in nature, but you’ve held on to your car. In calculating weekly trips to visit different people with your family, it makes economical sense to keep the car and pay the extra monthly fee for parking, exorbitant as it is.
Even with a garage close by, there is still the issue of loading and unloading, both with passengers and with heavy items. No problem, you think. There are metered parking spots available right in front of your apartment building. For a few weeks now this hasn’t been an issue. Put money in the meter, get a receipt, and place it on the dashboard.
On this day commemorated by the dishwasher failure, an issue with parking gets under your skin. After paying for the metered parking and placing the receipt on the dashboard in the car, you return an hour later to see an orange envelope on the windshield. It is a parking ticket. How can this be? You didn’t do anything wrong.
The problem is that the receipt for parking flipped over on the dashboard inside. The person checking the cars had no way to tell if you had a valid parking spot. This must have occurred when you went back into the car to get something. The wind blew inside and inverted the receipt. Nothing you can do now. The damage is done. Perhaps fight the ticket in court, but the hassle is not worth the money saved.
3. The washing machine breaks
Another big change with moving closer to a city-area, because of a new job in fact, is that the nearest laundry facilities are in the basement of the building. You also have to pay for each use. In the beginning, the choice is made to simply haul the dirty clothes once a week to the home of a relative, where you are visiting regularly anyway.
The problem is that the washing machine suddenly stops working. The display boasts of the ability to handle three times the number of clothes of a traditional machine, but now everything is stuck inside. The machine turned off in the middle of a cycle. The mechanism to release the locks did not trigger, so you are worried that perhaps a week’s worth of clothes is now out of reach.
Fortunately, you get the machine to turn on again for enough time to remove the clothes and find another way to wash them. You can’t help but exclaim, “Nothing works. Technology is terrible. Who wants to deal with these constant headaches?”
Shri Krishna says that the living entity is not the doer. They think they can control outcomes. That is one of the illusions created by the energy known as maya. A saving grace is that if the desire is to succeed in spiritual life, to genuinely connect with the Supreme Lord, help arrives from above.
बहु-शाखा ह्य् अनन्ताश् च
bahu-śākhā hy anantāś ca
“Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.41)
The task is daunting enough, with so many issues to address in everyday life, but a little steadiness and determination go a long way. With some resolve in purpose, the focus remains on the target. Shri Krishna provides the necessary lift to cross over the boundary, where on the other side is the eternal engagement of devotional service, free of impediments.
Nature always to remind,
Especially on this day to find.
That sole doer not am I,
Outcomes beyond effort to try.
Like suddenly dishwasher breaking,
Wind my parking receipt taking.
Repeated failure carrying its toll,
But not when Shri Krishna the goal.
Categories: the three