Some time ago we talked about how the Vedas, the ancient teachings of India, describe us ultimately as spiritual beings (the post is called ‘The Science of Knowing Who You Are‘). The non-material self is called atma and is separate from our body. Atma does not die when the body does – atma is by nature eternal and full of bliss and knowledge. At death the atma moves on to another body, according to its karma and desire.
For many this realization sounds very natural. Actually, I saw a poll in a newspaper recently saying that 82% of Americans believe in some form of an afterlife. I’ve met many people who told me that they intuitively knew they were not their body since they were a little kid. But many are also confused as to what they should do with this knowledge and how to apply it in their every day life.
The science of being who you are, which is what we’re going to talk about in this issue, will give answers to these questions from the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita. Even if you believe you’re not a spiritual being, you have nothing to worry about – the soul lifestyle will enhance your life nonetheless by
- freeing you from stress, depression, anger, loneliness and fear
- developing a positive, creative and pure consciousness
- revealing your inner strength and unique purpose
You can adopt the lifestyle as much or little as you feel able or ready to. There’s no loss in any endeavor, and even a little effort goes a long way.
Your Decisions Determine Your Future for Lifetimes Ahead
We make thousands of decisions every day. The mind is like a decision-machine, always choosing between two options: accept or reject. Now your mind is at work, deciding to what extent it accepts or rejects what I’m saying as true. But the big, foundational decisions I urge everyone to make are these:
I decide to use this life wisely. I decide to find out who I am. I decide to always choose what is good for my soul.
As you go through your day and make decisions, pause and remind yourself of these higher goals you’ve set for yourself. Will accepting something benefit my spiritual progress? Or will it be harmful? Am I pursuing this because of the illusion that I am my body and what gives temporary pleasure to my body is the best thing for me? Or am I doing this because it will satisfy my soul and benefit the real me underneath?
The decisions we make each moment are important. They determine our future and give shape to our afterlife. They can keep us bound to the material existence or they can free us from it entirely. The person following the Soul Lifestyle, or bhakti-yoga, pays attention to make the decisions that will benefit them in the long run.
The Lifestyle Teachings of the Bhagavad-gita
The Bhagavad-gita is the main source of guidance and enlightenment especially for bhakti-yogis, or those practicing loving devotional service to Krishna/God. Krishna gave the teachings so that people could live the most spiritual and blissful life as possible, and attain self-realization. The interesting thing is that all the teachings are very practical – every guideline has a philosophy behind it. Here are five most important, spiritually favorable qualities and ways to achieve them as described in the Gita:
1. Daya – Compassion
What makes us selfish is our addictions. Whether it is addiction to shopping, TV, any form of intoxication, food or video games, it easily starts to consume us and creates a self-centered mentality. In an extreme condition you don’t recognize other people’s feelings or needs at all but are only concerned about your next “fix”, whatever that may be. Giving up addictive habits is a great way to let your natural compassion flow and make you a more grounded and contented person in the process.
2. Satyam – Truthfulness
Activities such as gambling increase our greed and the tendency to cheat or lie – winning may become more important than our morals. Also subtle gambling will not help in developing truthfulness. Subtle gambling may include doing something that we know may harm our spiritual enthusiasm; or speculating pointlessly on the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, for example, without really sincerely wanting to understand the philosophy.
3. Saucam – Purity
You can develop inner purity by chanting regularly the mahamantra (the Hare Krishna mantra) which cleanses the heart and heightens your consciousness. With purity your mind gains focus and clarity. Purity is the force behind spiritual empowerment because it enables you to see yourself and everyone around you as a divine being and a servant of the Supreme. Celibacy helps to develop this vision because sex increases the materialistic mood that other people are for our enjoyment. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says, dharmaviruddho bhutesu kamo ‘smi: “I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles.” This means that sex with your spouse for achieving the actual purpose of sex – children – is pure. Furthermore, everyone hates to be looked at like a piece of meat. Won’t you, dear reader, take this to heart and make a new year’s resolution to make 2011 the year you really nourish your spirituality more than ever, put an end to your lust and selfishness, increase your purity, and radiate joy, tranquility and love wherever you go!
4. Tapasya – Self-Discipline
Vegetarianism is the way to go. The best foods to eat are not only vegetarian (minimizing the violence involved), but fresh (not super old like some frozen meals), prepared with love and devotion, and offered to Krishna in meditation or prayer before eating. Our diet greatly affects our consciousness and our sensitivity to grasp and understand finer ideas. Furthermore, eating spiritualized vegetarian foods takes away our karma.
In the past there were yogis and sages, both men and women, who were so self-disciplined they would gain perfect control of their mind. They wouldn’t let any desire deter their focus from their meditation on the Divine. As a result they developed great mystic powers. Self-discipline is actually rewarding and gives unexpected inner strength.
The Bhagavad-gita does not tell us to go to any extremes with tapasya but to simply regulate our eating, sleeping, recreation and working in a way that will create a healthy balance and uplift us spiritually.
5. Atma-nivedana – Surrender
This is the most important quality. A sincere, submissive attitude of a seeker will ensure that they will always be protected and guided on their path in two ways:
- From within by Paramatma, or the form of Krishna that is present in everyone’s heart.
- Externally by the spiritual master, or the pure teacher who simply repeats God’s message as it is. Physical presence of the fully self-realized spiritual master is not required – the pure guru can instruct and interact with you through his teachings and sound vibration – writings, books or recorded lectures, for example.
If you follow these guidelines it will help to get in harmony with Krishna/God and give you unique realizations and reciprocation from Him in exciting ways, every day. It is said, when you take one step towards Krishna, He takes ten steps towards you.