“Time I am”

hourglassThe meaning of love and time are topics often pondered by the world’s philosophers, religionists, and poets. Everyone is searching for love and trying to understand what it really is, and time is something people want more of, yet seem to be struggling against.

Time is a fascinating topic, and the Vedic scriptures give us their different perspectives of what it is. Shrila Prabhupada describes 5 subjects of Bhagavad gita in his introduction, one of which is time–so it has to be important for us to understand.

In the Gita’s 11 chapter after Arjuna beholds Krishna’s universal form, he asks him in astonishment, what his mission is in this cosmic form. Krishna answers in a verse that Oppenheimer (one of the creators of the atomic bomb) quotes in the sanskrit upon witnessing the first atomic explosion”.

It is a powerful verse, which explains what to materialists is a frightening conception of God—the destroyer of everything. Time takes everything and everyone away:

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds, and I have come here to destroy all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.”

So time, called Kala, is actually considered a form of God, which deteriorates everything, and takes away whatever possessions we may have. For a materialist, what could be worse? But what about for a devotee?

For a devotee on the progressive path of reviving his or her love for Krishna, the world takes on a different nature. The environment actually becomes friendly, helping us to make spiritual advancement. At first this means seeing the world through the eyes for scripture, and then acting on the realization that everything is favorable for becoming Krishna consciousness. In this way time is our friend!

Even those unrealized (like yours truly) can appreciate as they age, the many great lessons their bodies teach them. One of them we could call, the law of diminishing returns. This “law”, is the fact that our ability to enjoy Materially greatly diminishes as we age (the time factor). If we have cultivated our Krishna consciousness throughout our life time, then we will understand this fact, and with all our aches and pains, forgetfulness, etc., we will have more impetus for our spiritual practices. So with ever disadvantage comes an advantage.

In the motivational literature of American one of the earliest and classic authors, Napoleon Hill, put it in a very useful way, which devotees can also use. It is one of my favorite quotes in this success literature:

“Every adversity, every failure, and every heartache, carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater good.”

This is really an attitude of understanding that in all circumstances Krishna is there to help us. We have to come to really believe that and look for that seed of good in all circumstances, including old age.

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“Swanning”

Swan drinkingNo it is not a new dance step, but a process. I first heard the term from my dear feathered friend Dr. Garuda (Ph.D Harvard) who used the term to indicate the process of taking the best from any situation–in his case his educational pursuits. Prabhupada gives the example of the swan that can draw out the milk from a mixture of milk and water. We have to look for the nectar or the essence which can be used for Krishna’s service.

A famous quote Prabhupada’s purport from the first Canto of the Bhagavatam [1.5.11] gives the same idea:

“It is a qualification of the great thinkers to pick up the best even from the worst. It is said that the intelligent man should pick up nectar from a stock of poison, should accept gold even from a filthy place, should accept a good and qualified wife even from an obscure family and should accept a good lesson even from a man or from a teacher who comes from the untouchables. These are some of the ethical instructions for everyone in every place without exception.”

In most cases we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but we can use what is already there. We have to use our intelligence to apply the Krishna consciousness philosophy to all our circumstances, looking for what can be used or not in our life of devotion.

There are six principles of surrender given by one of our great teachers, Rupa Gosvami. The first two we can apply for our current theme. To accept what is favorable, and to give up what is unfavorable for devotional service, or our spiritual life.

Most of us work in the world, and it is our challenge to connect our life, occupation, family and everything we do to Krishna. We do that by understanding what Krishna consciousness is by associating with advanced devotees, reading the books of Shrila Prabhupada and his disciples, chanting the holy name and so many other processes that we will learn.

There are so many rules which are favorable for the cultivation of Krishna consciousness. However, the first thing is to become attracted to Krishna and convinced that Krishna is a goal we feel is worthy to obtain. Otherwise why bother with so many activities?

Everything begins with faith, and the different stages of advancement all the way to love of Krishna (prema) are deepening of that faith. When we are really convinced that Krishna consciousness is our path, then we will naturally want to follow whatever can deepen our faith and help us make spiritual advancement.

Then we can strive to be in the world but know we are not of it (we are souls having a human experience), and we can employ “swanning” or finding a way to use everything to help us make advancement and facilitate our devotional service.