Fanning the Spark (part 2)

DK Dasa
4 min readNov 7, 2021

“You can not rise any higher than your priorities, and you can only upgrade your priorities by good association” — Vaisesika Dasa

In the past ten days I have been able to re-connect with more than half a dozen friends who I hadn’t seen in a year and a half (or longer!), as well as start to build some amazing new friendships. This heartwarming experience has reminded me just how fortunate I am to have crossed paths and built friendships and connections with such sincere and empowered people over these past few years.

In fact, there is a concise guidebook written in the 16th century by a great saint Rupa Goswami, called the Sri Upadesamrita (“The Nectar of Instruction”). In just eleven verses, it provides simple, yet extensive advice on how to refine all aspects of one’s life as well as an overview of the various stages of spiritual advancement. This way, one can use it not only as a guidebook, but also as a reference book to evaluate one’s position.

I’ve been thinking about the fourth verse, which describes different “loving exchanges” or activities that aspiring spiritualists should practice within their relationships, in order to create more depth, trust, and love that is all based on a higher principle — that of service to and connection to God.

My grandfather guru Srila Prabhupada actually wrote that he founded ISKCON, the worldwide society of bhakti yoga, specifically to facilitate these loving exchanges. So there is so much emphasis on this idea that by developing relationships with other spiritualists and focusing on improving and deepening those relationships, one’s consciousness automatically becomes more refined. This really illustrates the essence of the bhakti tradition — radical personalism.

In exploring the hectic streets and subways of New York City this past week, it’s really struck me just how impersonal our modern society is. There is a subtle pandemic that is raging throughout the material world — the tendency to objectify and exploit other living beings (whether consciously or unconsciously, and whether in actions, words, or thoughts). Exploiting another person is to use them for some selfish interest or desire. But we are meant to use things in life, and love people. In modern culture however, it often seems that we are conditioned to love things and use people.

So the essence of bhakti is to see all living beings not based on their temporary bodies, but as spirit souls. The tendency to view another person as a commodity that can bring me pleasure or happiness stems from objectifying, or viewing a person as an ‘object’ (a body), rather than a ‘subject’, a conscious soul living within a body, having a unique (‘subjective’) experience of life.

So this pandemic of objectification (which brings about the ramifications of anger, divisiveness, crime, abuse, violence, etc.) is spreading by the fire of impersonalism which is being fueled by so many of the facets of modern civilization like greedy corporations selling soul-sucking products or services, biased and polarizing news stations, advertising, pornography, animal slaughter, and so on. I often feel frustrated in observing my own tendency towards exploitative consciousness.

My recent realization, though, is that the way to overcome the deeply rooted conditioning towards impersonalism is to optimize the factors of time and space in one’s life. From a scientific perspective, this whole external world that is facilitating our material experience, is really based on the combination and interactions of time and space. I came to this realization in observing that the advanced spiritualists I have had the privilege to associate with are experiencing such a higher, more subtle happiness that they simply don’t have the time nor the space to be impersonal and objectify others.

They relate with time differently. When not tending to their material obligations and responsibilities (like maintaining the body and working to earn a living), they utilize every moment to invest their attention in spiritual practices and selfless service. This investment pays constant dividends of subtle, inner fulfillment. Therefore, all of their (mental) space is (ful)filled.

So the goal is to optimize the factors of time and space. The means to achieving this goal relates to that opening quote from my teacher — “You can not rise any higher than your priorities, and you can only upgrade your priorities by good association.” And I’m experiencing more and more that the way to make the most of good association is to build, maintain, and nourish those relationships through loving exchanges. As I’ve also heard from my teacher, “when you actively appreciate the qualities of others, their hearts open, and the contents flow freely into your own heart.”

I pray to be able to associate with my bhakti friends and teachers is such a way that their exalted qualities, deep realizations, and higher taste for radical personalism and love flows into my heart and consciousness, so I can upgrade my priorities and uproot my tendency to be impersonal and dig into empty bags looking for pleasure (even though I know there isn’t any there).

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DK Dasa

Former Monk | Bhakti Yoga Practitioner | Counseling Grad Student | passionate about sharing universal wisdom for personal, relational & spiritual wellness🙏