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The Secrets of Spiritual Time Management

By: for on May 15, 2021

Artist: Salvador, Dali.

Is there such a thing as spiritual time management? Can we organize our schedule based on spiritual principles? At the biweekly student sangha of the Bhaktivedanta College in Budapest, Hungary, professor Syamasundara Dasa explored whether the Vedic scriptures have relevant answers to these questions in the 21st century.

Spoiler alert: there is no such thing as spiritual time management, or at least it is a controversial expression. The transcendental world is the realm of eternal present, and there is no point in minding the passage of time. If you are interested in scheduling your to-dos more efficiently, then it is not spirituality that you need, but a good coach.

However, it is worthwhile to explore the phrase ‘spiritual time management’ when talking about how you can spend more time on spiritual growth. To do this, it is essential to understand what the mode of goodness means. According to the Bhagavad Gita this material world is defined by three invisible forces that influence all aspects of life. These three gunas, modes of material nature are sattva (goodness), rajas (passion) and tamas (ignorance).

In the last chapter of the Yoga Sutra Patanjali states that when you transcend above the gunas, time will not affect you the same way as before, so all you have to do is get out of the influence of these invisible forces. Easier said than done. If you look for guidance in the Vedic scriptures on how to achieve this, there is a good chance you will come across advice that is hardly feasible for someone living in the 21st century.  For example, the Srimad-Bhagvatam verse 7.5.5 states: “One should give up this position and go to the forest [vana]. More clearly, one should go to Vṛndāvana, where only Kṛṣṇa consciousness is prevalent, and should thus take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

As a road to self-realization, this verse advises taking up sannyasa, living a deliberately ascetic life. For everyday people, who cannot dedicate their whole lives to spiritual growth, leaving their lives behind and living in the forest is hardly an option. Yet, that does not mean you cannot develop spiritually, even if the progress will be a lot slower.

What can we do in our day-to day lives to cultivate spirituality? This is where we come back to the mode of goodness. The Vedic scriptures suggest we strive for sattva-guna, where an atmosphere of peace, serenity, and harmony prevails both within our minds and in our environment.

Verse 18.37. of the Bhagavad Gita elaborates on the mode of goodness: “That which in the beginning maybe just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” At first, it might seem strange how poison becomes nectar, but it is a straightforward process. Striving for a sattvic life comes with a lot of sacrifices and rules where consistency and routines are paramount: you have to wake up, eat, go to bed, study at the same time each day. Sticking to a new routine has its difficulties, but this is what leads to a life in the mode of goodness.

The other important component in reaching sattva-guna is a regular spiritual practice. You should take time each day for your practice, but be realistic, and commit to only as much as you can consistently bear to do. Only make a pledge that you can keep, you don’t have to start out with a goal of several hours of mantra mediation each day, for example. And most importantly, you should not judge where you are now, it is neither good nor bad, it is just what it is, and you need to accept it as a starting point.

Three chapters (11, 17, and 18) of the Bhagavad Gita talk in-depth about the modes of material nature. Syamasundara Dasa advised the students to study these chapters and examine themselves. You first need to understand the characteristics of goodness, then compare what applies to you. After analyzing this, you can plan on how to progress towards your goal.

One thing is inevitable to reach goodness: you need to set up a system, otherwise, you will constantly bump into obstacles. You need to consider for example when and how much you eat because without preparing your meals will be irregular which eventually leads to illness. Similarly, any other type of inconsistency will cause problems in the long run.

Let’s not forget that consistency alone is not enough, other aspects of goodness, like cleanliness, require attention too. If you consistently do not shower, the consistency is not in the mode of goodness as the equally important principle of cleanliness will not prevail.

Based on his experience now spanning several decades, Syamasundara Dasa also shared what he sees as the most typical mistake made when someone decides to embark on a spiritual journey. Usually, there is one aspect of the practice that you really like as a new disciple, and you concentrate all or most of your energy on just that. It is important that you practice all facets of spirituality that propel you towards goodness, not just the ones you like or come to you easily, in however small steps. If you choose to make a small step, again and again, you will slowly but surely move forward on the way of spiritual growth.

[ spirituality ] [ time-management ]