MY PRESSING QUESTIONS IN LIFE: Examining my heart, how are my material attachments still impeding my full practice of bhakti, or causing me to remain a mixed devotee? What do I want in my heart of hearts, and how is that causing me to act, or not act? In deep honesty, what truly moves and inspires me? As a result, what do I actually want to be absorbed in, demonstrated by my consistent thoughts and actions? What types of people I do think about or are attracted to in my daily life? Who do I want to become now, and forever? Knowing I will die, today or tomorrow, what must I give up, and what must I adopt to make my life a true success?
Having an ordinary materialistic upbringing until I was 19 years old I was still blessed with spiritual practices for many years. However, I have recently noted that I developed a cavalier attitude that I was “saved” and in the back to Godhead program. Being forced to face death has brought to light honest introspection of what is my true shelter. I have found that the old conditioned voices run deep below the surface of my consciousness. At present, those voices are much more prominent than I have dared admit, like an old disease waiting to manifest when the conditions are right—like herpes, or hepatitis.
I have found that I have been too willing to accommodate, or compromise with my materialistic tendencies rather than truly root them out. Now, praying to move beyond my complacency and comfort, I realize I can’t keep feeding the causes of my embodiment. Seeing my conditioned nature, I must keep casting those tendencies away which are unhelpful for my real life of spiritual progress, seeing them as ugly degrading darkness, and not to be simply tolerated. In my understanding this is what we devotees have signed up for, right—not the life of ease? I don’t want to only remember my spiritual connection when convenient, or to either get out of a jam, or obtain some desirable object.
Purification of our desires and facing our material attachments and what inside of us keeps us from taking full shelter of the holy name, the Supreme Lord and his pure servants, is difficult work, is it not? We must also do those uprooting practices of anartha-nivritti (unhelpful thinking and acting) and intense spiritual activities (hearing, chanting, praying, worship etc.) in relationship to our life mission and contribution.
Finding myself in a pitiable position, I know that I can only keep on the spiritual path progressively, while redoubling my endeavors, by regular recommitment. This is possible only by dint of the blessings of Prabhupada and his disciples, my shiksha gurus, good association, the grace of the previous acharyas, and the mercy of Chaitanya and Nitai, whom they all represent.
I have to intensely pray for this mercy and act in ways that show my seriousness for spiritual progress. Regular meditation on the kindness of such personalities and feeling genuine gratitude for my connection to them and their gifts of wisdom and guidance is essential, as is giving back to serve devotees and by helping people in general who are spiritually searching.
Only by the combined grace of pure devotees and Gaura-Nityananda have I received the spiritual strength to keep up the purification of the holy name and my regulated devotional service, even in its mediocre present form. Still, I know that the devotion I feel in my heart for the great souls and the Lord, in the manifestations I worship, are my greatest asset. Yet, because of my offenses in my previous and current life, I still have to work at refocusing my mind and heart. Thus I am both blessed and cursed, and my task to move beyond my current, long-lasting stalemate to leave my comfort zone.
Again and again, I return to the fact that I can’t escape the reality of my death, and in the face of that, I have to keep thinking about and remembering what is actually important and lasting. I can’t be on automatic pilot, which has been my tendency. My life is a combination of my karma and Gauranga’s and my guru’s mercy, and I must bow down to my good fortune, while praying to move beyond my conditioned tendency to be an enjoyer/exploiter of matter.
I am not sure how my life will turn out—even with the blessing of cancer showing me my possible death in a short period of time—or whether I truly have what it takes to seriously struggle for real spiritual advancement in the higher stages above being stuck in the rut of anartha-nivritti. To me, at least in theory, that is the good fight, or the fight for the real life of the soul. In my finer moments I can say, “What else is there?” My finer moments must become my fixed life absorption.
I know I must pray constantly to make consistent, determined endeavors for my highest good, because I am by nature lazy and seek to avoid conflict. I do pray daily with some intensity—yet praying is easier than acting, and I question my complete sincerity. I am very aware that I require mercy to rise up with inspiration and strength. We all know our weakness too well, and it is naturally easy to use them as excuses for not acting in the most conducive way for our spiritual progress—which is much more than just the basics of sadhana, or spiritual practices.
How often I go around in circles seeing the natural, easy course of my life, while sensing I must chart a new course against the current of the known quantity. At least I must give it my best shot. Even with my finest effort, I may not be completely successful, and yet it is better to die trying, than to just give in to what is.
Yes, “what is,” may be all I can hope for, but I don’t know that for sure, and my current lackluster state is not appealing. Perhaps I am too dramatic, but I do seem at one of those pivotal times in life, the proverbial fork in the road, when we must set sail toward a definite direction, or just fade way. Not acting is one choice, as is taking another path. I’m praying for guidance to make the best choices for my highest good, and for all those I serve and love.