“According to the Bhagavad-Gita we are all spirit souls, parts of God. Krishna, the Supreme Lord is svarat: he is completely independent. And as parts of the Supreme Lord, we also have independence. People can take away your money, material nature can take away your health, time will take away your youth; and everything is taken away from us inevitably. But there is one thing that no power in all of creation can take away from anyone in this human form of life, and that is our free will. To properly understand this is all important.” – Radhanath Swami.
Life is about how we choose to use our free will at every moment. According to how we use our free will, we become conditioned to think that way, to see the world in that way, and to act in that way. We become conditioned by whatever we associate with.
Let me use the gross example of using one’s free will to smoke cigarettes. No one can force you to do it, though the association you keep could severely influence you to do it. When you start it, it tastes horrible. But by your free will you keep doing it until your free will is so much conditioned to surrendering to that experience that you become addicted, and then it practically seems that you do not have a free will anymore. By this addiction, you are practically being forced and crushed – ‘I have to do it. I must do it. I cannot live without it.’ Alcoholism is similar, and so is drug addiction.
“You use your free will, you do it enough times, and soon you become so conditioned by the modes of nature that you are willingly surrendered to that. It appears that you lost your free will. But in fact, you haven’t.” – Radhanath Swami
We can always change
So whatever our consciousness is, whatever our way of thinking is, we should understand it is not our nature eternally, it is our acquired nature. It is the nature of the characteristics that we have created for ourselves according to what and whom we choose to associate with in our lives – in this life and in previous ones.
For example, some people are very dynamic, while some are really lazy and lethargic. It is not that one is just born that way. It is through choosing lethargy in this life, or maybe in previous lives that it becomes one’s nature – to be lazy. Some people by nature they just cannot stop complaining about everything and everyone. Have you ever met anyone like that? They just love to complain. Or sometimes they may not love it, but they cannot stop it. It is through complaining and complaining and associating with complainers that one develops that aptitude and that attitude.
Similarly when we associate with people who are positive and when we choose to engage in a positive perspective with positive activities, then we reconditioned ourselves in that way.
“This is the special virtue of human life: we always have a freedom of choice. You may not be able to control the environment, but you do have full control over how you are going to respond and react to the environment.” – Radhanath Swami
If you are on a boat, you may not have control over which way the wind blows, but you do have control over how you want to control the sails of your boat. How you are going to respond? You have a choice. When very unpleasant things or unfair things come upon you, you can either choose to be a victim or you can choose to learn a lesson. You can choose to complain and bring everybody else down – misery likes company – or you could choose to see what the positive opportunity is in this apparently miserable condition.
Radhanath Swami urges us to always look for the positive opportunity
“Human intelligence is properly utilized when in whatever situations that comes upon us, instead of simply reacting, we make an intelligent choice of what is actually the highest virtue that we can achieve in that situation.” – Radhanath Swami
“Seek and you shall find,” it is said in Bible. “Knock and the door will open”. Every situation is an opportunity. It is said, “When opportunity knocks, most people complain about the noise.” Vision is to see the invisible, to see the positive possibilities in every situation that comes upon us. This whole world, as far as perception, is a mirror of our own consciousness. Nobody sees the same thing in this world in the same way. Whatever and whoever we come in contact with, we are going to see according to our own state of consciousness. Yes. The world is just a mirror of our own attitudes.
One person grumbles about the thorns on the rose bush. “Look at this rose bush. It is full of thorns.” Another person rejoices. “Look! The thorn bush has a rose.” They are seeing the same thing. But are they seeing the same thing? No.
If you have rose coloured glasses, everything will look rose coloured. If you have yellow coloured glasses, everything will look yellow. If you have green coloured glasses, everything will look green. If you have cleared coloured glasses, you see everything as it is. So yes, according to our state of consciousness, we have certain attitudes and we will perceive reality according to our acquired attitudes. How we choose, what attitude we choose to adapt in situations is what is going to determine our consciousness and our whole perception of the world.