Practical spirituality for a complicated world.
Two days ago, I went through the house changing all the clocks, and my wristwatch, which I seldom wear. This process is called "Daylight Savings Time". In the Spring we set the clocks forward an
hour, and in the Fall, we set them back an hour. Some people get very upset by this change, and some are confused about what "time" it really is. When we were younger, for months after the time change, my sister would ask, "What time is it in real life?"
Clocks, calendars, and schedules of all types are things we have created to bring order into our lives. We use these concepts as tools to organise our activities. They are real, and they exist, only if we all agree upon what they mean. They are standards. We don't all get to decide for ourselves what an hour is, or what tomorrow means, or when next Monday will be. Naturally, Santa Fe is an exception. If electricians or plumbers tell you they will come tomorrow morning at 10:00, that is not meant to be taken literally. I don't mean the 10:00 part, but whether they'll even show up at all. It's part of our "Third World Charm". If you adjust, instead of trying to fight it all the time, you'll enjoy Santa Fe a lot more.
But now, let's get back to time as an artificial construct. Whether we set the clocks forward or backward, it has absolutely no effect upon the dawn or sunset. The earth's orbit around the sun is totally independent of any way we decide to measure it. These natural cycles were occurring long before humans walked upon this planet. In the grand scheme of things, human ideas are fairly puny. This doesn't mean that our activities are of no consequence. Quite the opposite. Gandhi once said that what we do might not seem important, but it is important that we do it. In Hinduism, we would call this our dharma, sort of like our spiritual destiny, involving our spiritual paths and activities. It is vitally important that we make our path our own, that we walk our own talk, instead of trying to be something that others demand of us. In Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna said that it is better to perform one's own duties imperfectly than to perfectly perform the duties of another person. In ancient India, only those of the Brahmin caste could approach God directly. As I'm sure you can imagine, this led to terrible abuses. Then, Lord Krishna came and taught that anyone who approached him with love and devotion, was dear to him. It did not matter what their caste, or position in society was. This teaching is a radical shift away from the hereditary caste system. In a similar vein, Jesus lived in a culture where many people were obsessed with observing the Law of Moses. Their obsession was so strong, that it became more important to observe rules than to treat people with justice and compassion. The religious leaders once asked Jesus which law was most important. They weren't really concerned about that, but were using the question as a way to trap him, and accuse him of blasphemy. Jesus got the better of them when he answered, "Love God with all your heart, and your neighbour as yourself. All the law and teachings of the prophets revolve around this". He was telling them that when we love God and treat people with justice, then we naturally observe the rest of the law. During Jesus' time, the Jewish religious leaders taught that Jews were required to treat their fellow Jews with justice, but they were not obliged to treat non-Jews with justice or compassion. In fact, they referred to Gentiles (non-Jews) as cattle and dogs. Jesus was a rebel, who told them that everyone was their neighbour. He taught that they were required to treat everyone with justice, that all humans were sons and daughters of God. This was a revolutionary idea. Actually, it is still a revolutionary idea in this material world. How many people do you know who are willing to treat everyone in the world with justice and compassion? How many people do you know who truly forgive others, instead of seeking revenge? How many people do you know who pay their employees a just wage, and treat them as fellow human beings, rather than as objects to enrich themselves? Despite the high spiritual teachings of Krishna, Jesus, Buddha, and others, how many people do you personally know who attempt to put spiritual principles before financial, political, religious, national, ethnic, racial, or any other concerns? These spiritual principles are real, and yet we pay far more attention to clocks and artificial constructs like 'time', than we do to God and the things of Spirit.
I have written before that according to the ancient Vedic literature of India, the purpose of human life is to establish and maintain a proper relationship with God. This Vedic literature is filled with suggestions on how to live a life that is conducive to this goal. Many of the Vedic suggestions are cultural in nature, but the spiritual themes are ageless, and beyond culture, time or space.
When we attempt to follow a spiritual path, problems arise. Here in this material world, we experience duality, cause and effect. We come here to work out karma, which is sort of like having a long cord with knots tied in it. Releasing karma is untying the knots. Unfortunately for us, our consciousness is so covered by the illusion of maya or materiality, that for every knot we try to untie, we tie three more next to it. In attempting to release karma, we acquire even more in the process. This is why we need spiritual teachers, and why the Vedic culture of India developed the system of gurus. Again, unfortunately, the guru system has become so corrupted that there are far more bogus gurus than actual spiritual masters. The Vedic literature predicted this sorry state of affairs as a result of the Kali Yuga, or the Age of Kali, characterised by a decline in human civilisation and the environment in general. To counteract this decline, Krishna incarnated about 500 years ago in India, as Lord Chaitanya. The spiritual movement of mantra chanting which he began, is still flourishing in India today, indeed, around the world. I am not a preacher, or a devotee of any organisation, but I have found that chanting the Vedic mantras has brought me an inner peace that I never had before. That's what makes something valuable, isn't it....the fact that it works for you? If you have all the knowledge in the world, follow the rules perfectly, and it doesn't touch your heart, what use is it?
I am hesitant to recommend things, because I am personally so imperfect. I can be quite unpleasant at times. I'm often impatient, and sometimes I say cruel things to others. To assert that I am a work in progress, would be extremely kind. Therefore, I don't ever want someone to use my personal imperfections as an excuse to dismiss the spiritual principles and teachings I write about. I'm a searcher, a pilgrim on the path. I'm not preaching to you, telling you what you should do. I'm only sharing with you some of what I've seen and experienced. I suspect that if you're reading this column, you are interested in spiritual topics. That's a good thing, and I think that puts you ahead of the crowd. I encourage you to keep searching, reading, questioning, and using your heart as your guide. When you find a spiritual practice that causes your heart to sing, that is a treasure. You will have found the "Pearl of Great Price", so celebrate it. Personalise it. Make it your own. The greatest spiritual gift you can ever give others is the endorsement of your own life in balance and harmony. Human life is about much more that the lower material activities of eating, mating and defending. A human lifetime is a precious opportunity to awaken to the truth. I, for one, am really, truly having fun on my spiritual path. I believe we all have that option. Today, I prefer fun over drama. May we continue to enrich each other as we walk our individual spiritual paths. God bless us all. OM
Robert Ransom Odom is an internationally published author and teacher. Robert has been a leading figure in the metaphysical spiritual community of Santa Fe since 1990.
To ask Robert a question, visit his website at www.RobertOdom.com, email email@example.com or send mail to PO Box 33, Santa Fe, NM 87504.