Calcutta, India — Sunday, April 11th
Living in eternity
I recently received this email: "Everyone is now talking about 2012, about whether the world will be destroyed completely or not. People are either very afraid or just talking about it in [my country]. Should we be concerned?"
This is the perennial fear: "Is the world going to end soon?" In the early 1980's, when somebody obliquely expresses this anxiety to Srila Sridhar Maharaj — "Many people are worried about nuclear war. They think it may come very soon" — Srila Guru Maharaj answers like this:
That is a point on a line, a line on a plane, a plane in a solid. So many times wars are coming and going. So many times the sun, the Earth, and the solar systems disappear, and again spring up. We are in the midst of such thought in eternity. This nuclear war is a tiny point. What of that? Individuals are dying at every moment. The Earth will die. The whole human section will disappear. Let it be.
We must try to live in eternity, not any particular span of time or space. We must prepare ourselves for our eternal benefit, not for any temporary remedy. The sun, the moon, and all the planets appear and vanish: they die, and then again, they are created. Within such an eternity we have to live...
Creation, dissolution: it will continue forever in the domain of misconception. At the same time, there is another world which is eternal... The spiritual world is real. This material world is unreal — springing up and vanishing, coming and going — it is a farce! From the world of farce we must come to reality.
—Search For Sri Krishna: Reality the Beautiful
In 1998, somebody concerned about an imminent apocalypse sent this letter to Srila Govinda Maharaj: "I have heard from reliable sources that the Bhavishya Purana states that 'a great global tribulation and disaster will begin in May 2000. There will be a planetary effect of great magnitude striking the earth, causing widespread earthquakes, tidal waves, and a shifting of the North and South poles.' What do you think of this Bhavishya Purana statement?"
Srila Gurudeva's reply echoed that of Srila Guru Maharaj: don't worry (let it be), chant Hare Krishna (prepare for your eternal benefit), be happy (try to live in eternity).
We are living within the theistic world, so we believe everything is possible, but at the same time, throughout my life I have heard so many predictions about the destruction of the world. These are prophesied in Chetabani and other places, but we must see everything that happens as the will of Krishna, and accept it happily.
Many disasters, to some extent or other, occur constantly within this material world: pralaya, khanda-pralaya, maha-pralaya... It is natural. Our vision and practice should be:
ayur harati vai pumsam / udyann astam ca yann asau
tasyarte yat-ksano nita / uttama-sloka-vartaya
—Srimad Bhagavatam (2:3:17)
"The rising and setting sun decreases the duration of life of everyone except those who utilize their time discussing topics of the all-good Personality of Godhead."
The sun rises and sets, and reduces the length of our lives in the form of time, so "Chant Hare Krishna and be happy." It is not necessary to give attention to other things. While trying to prepare for a big disaster, our bodies can, at any moment, get run over by a car, be injured, or killed in any number of ways... [The solution is] to engage our time and energy in the service of Krishna and to constantly chant Hare Krishna.
As you can see, this fear of apocalyptic destruction is not new. As long as we identify with these mortal bodies, our consciousness is confined to this illusory world — a shadowy virtual reality where our minds are forced to continuously replay and vicariously experience the brutal cycle of birth and death — but once we awaken to reality (once we understand that we are conscious living entities living in the plane of eternity), fear of death and the annihilation of our dream-like world dissipate like the once menacing shadows of a nightmare.
If you are worried about the end of the world, ask yourself, "What does 'the end of the world' mean?" The simple answer — the only answer, really — is that the world ends when you die. In his 1931 essay, A Hanging, George Orwell describes escorting a condemned prisoner to the gallows:
He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone — one mind less, one world less.
"One mind less, one world less!" ...because the world is in the mind. The world exists only while we are conscious of it. If our consciousness is withdrawn from this world then, for us, the world ceases to exist for all intents and purposes, because consciousness is reality.
Consciousness is a subjective experience, so our journey back home, back to Godhead, must be an internal journey, not an external one. Our search for reality must be an introspective exploration of consciousness (soul-searching), not a wild-goose chase in this external world of illusion — a pursuit that only further captivates and entangles our minds in this labyrinth of birth and death.
Srila Guru Maharaj therefore urges us to dive deep into reality, into the living realm of consciousness, because the internal subjective world is more real than anything we see in the external objective world. Berkeley also pushes us in this direction: the world is in the mind (Esse est percipi — to be is to be perceived).
So don't waste your time worrying whether or not the Earth will be annihilated in the near future. "The Earth will die, the whole human race will disappear — let it be." The future is now (our present actions determine our future) so we must follow the advice of our gurus: "We must try to live in [the conscious world of] eternity, not any particular [temporary] span of time or space. We must prepare ourselves for our eternal benefit [constantly chant Hare Krishna], not for any temporary remedy [trying to prepare for a big disaster]."
Tags: Search for Reality
Layout by iMonk — April 11th, 2011.