Wisdom in Practice

Choice Garments

by Prashantaprakasha
When asked if I could write something for the newsletter’s ‘Wisdom in Practice’ section I thought, “ok, sure.” An attitude of optimism; such has been my response to opportunities that have come during the past few months. I’m not absolutely sure, but I think the reason for my openness is because they have all been opportunities to practice Karma Yoga, opportunities where I could attempt to perform action for action’s sake and without selfish motive.   This is practice, I guess you could say, for the new responsibilities I now have as a parent of a beautiful baby that has entered into this life under our care (Sara & myself). Mikah is his name; and I have never been faced with a greater task of caring for something so wholeheartedly and unselfishly as now, with this little one.

Three days before this was written I left for Portland. I spent 12 hours in a ride-share car with an eclectic group of hip ‘Craigslisters’, then I had 24 hours in Portland, and 18 hours riding back on a sketchy Greyhound. The experience was all very fluid and purposeful. I was in Portland because we (Sara, Mikah, the three cats Lulu, Vasia and Blaquan, and the plants) are all planning to move there, and I was looking at apartments. Why Portland? Well, Portland has been the most conducive place to practice mindful action that I have found. My brief stay at the ashram last year, SRV sangha being located there, Babaji’s physical presence throughout the year, and a general love that I have developed for the area are all reasons that contribute to my feelings for Portland. Because of these reasons, I feel Portland will be a good place to raise our son dharmically.

Part of the 24 hours I was in Portland was spent in the ashram library. While there I remembered a copy of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, and his discourse within volume I on Karma Yoga. I wanted to re-read it very much because I remembered its value and the impact it had on me last year when I first read it during my stay at the ashram. I began to read it again and the very first paragraph hit my heart with a resounding ring. “As pleasure and pain pass before his soul they have upon it different pictures, and the result of these combined impressions is what is called man’s ‘character. If you take the character of any man, it really is but the aggregate of tendencies, the sum total of the bent of his mind; you will find that misery and happiness are equal factors in the formation of that character.” (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume I, pg. 27) This brief quote spoke to me because of its implied meaning. We have a choice, conscious or not, in how and what actions we take on. Any one can strive, however slow or strong, towards any direction. And whatever he strives towards, he will wear their effects like garments upon himself.

Then I think of our new baby, who is also a product of a multiplicity of karmic actions, and how he will deal with his own actions in the world as he grows up. Will we be able to raise him to be aware of the accrual of karma and its effects? Can I, through mindful action, be an example for him? These are all worrisome questions that I’m sure most parents go through as they are all forms of the basic question, “Will I be a good parent?” I don’t know the answer, but I feel comforted by knowledge of the mechanism of karma. Furthermore, I realize and embrace the responsibility for my own actions and their quality. That is where I resolve to strive for a peaceful acceptance and openness to the opportunities and challenges ahead, whether they be small or giant in nature.