“Time is eternal and is compared to a sharp razor. A razor is meant to shave the hair from one’s face, but if not carefully handled, the razor will cause disaster. One is advised not to create a disaster by misusing his lifetime. One should be extremely careful to utilize the span of his life for spiritual realization, or Krishna consciousness.”
– Srila Prabhupada (Purport, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.5.19)
Another friend of mine, Rajat, sent me videos made in the early 1920s of cities and parks where people walked, children played, and life seemed to go on as nonchalantly as it happens today. I was present – seeing each child and tree in the blurred video, with attention. At a certain point, there were ninety-five-year-old men and women being interviewed and they spoke about their childhood and their grandparents. Basically, I was listening to the life and culture of humans living in the 1750s! I had goosebumps. Those men and women lived on the same earth that we traverse now. They breathed the same air, drank the same water, and they laughed, cried, rejoiced and left us – all on the same planet. Something has surely remained here over these centuries, and even before that. We too shall die soon, and three hundred years later our descendants will embark on their own journey. Yet, all of us from the past and present are connected to the future – there is eternity inviting us for a connection. We all are connected. A few moments daily in this space of oneness helps one enter the space of shelter. We realize our insignificance in this giant cosmos, and paradoxically, we also feel safe and loved.
One of my earliest spiritual experiences was while I studied in my college library. One day I was engrossed reading a book ‘My Thirty Years in India’ by Edmund Cox. He speaks about life and struggles of Indians, and his job as an inspector of police in the 1850’s. His detailed descriptions of how Indians lived and celebrated life in the nineteenth century, was engrossing. And I was fully present, reading. Suddenly, at a certain point I felt an overwhelming sense of love surge from my heart – I knew instantly, in a sense of knowing beyond what we normally think is knowing, that I was one with the universe. Africans, Americans, Blacks, Muslims, and men and women of the past – and this entire world, in fact, the universe is one family, and we all are connected to each other. I knew I was ‘Home’ – in a state of shelter. It didn’t matter then whether I lived or died. I was undying, eternal, and seemed to live forever- I belonged to a reality more than the library I was sitting in. I knew at that moment I am not confined to this body or my home or the city. I had entered another dimension of existence – an eternal sphere.
To enter a space of eternity, you choose a time and place – and then be present. Throw away the watch and allow yourself to be directed by a force beyond you.
But if you choose to be present while drinking liquor or watching a movie, you are connected to a life-alienating reality. A movie is simply a light flashing on a screen; liquor is lowering your consciousness. We need to choose an activity or a state of being that helps us rise to a higher version of ourselves, and not degrade to more bonding with the temporary or unreal.
Chanting the Holy Names or reading wisdom books – the same Names that the sages have chanted over millennia, and the scriptures that are read over thousands of years, carry the energy of eternity. When we are present chanting and reading, we go beyond the letters or the sound – and we enter the space of what they represent.
God or Krishna is a reality and we find His love, and a sense of belongingness with Him, as we render submissive, aural reception to His Names.
Srila Prabhupada was leaving San Francisco to go to India, and his students felt sad at the imminent separation.