Being the new owner of a pre-owned car, I was discussing with my family members the other night its many needs and functions. So far, I have changed the wiper blades, added more coolant and replaced the air filter on my 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid. There are still plenty of things that need doing (fixing the left rear window, replacing the latch on the center console, getting that rattle in the air conditioner sorted out), but all-in-all, I feel pretty on top of things. My uncle gave me a sound piece of advice, “In the U.S., repair work is always more expensive that taking pre-emptive measures. Your focus should always be on preventative maintenance.”
That phrase has stayed with me–why can’t we apply the same logic to devotion? The basic idea is sound: rather than wait for something to go wrong in our lives and then fix it, we should be looking for hints of trouble now, to have the first inklings of a problem and nip it in the bud. Another adage: “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” It’s not a new idea, by any means, but it’s certainly one that could use revisiting, in an age where so much is disposable and consumable, but not enough is reusable or recyclable.
When it comes to our own spiritual lifestyles, of course, there are issues with taking this viewpoint. Generally, we don’t know something is wrong until it becomes an elephant in the room. Things go wrong, it can be said, because of our inability to notice issues when they first arise. But the idea behind preventative maintenance is increased awareness. It’s not about constant vigilance, it’s about routine checking-in to make sure everything is okay. With our own devotion, it comes down to making sure we do aarti, go to satsang, or whatever else pertains to our spiritual goals. Proper management of tasks is a big part of preventing forgetfulness or missed dates.
The key part of the word, though, is to prevent. I thought it useful to draft a list of things worth preventing:
- negative feelings (feeling bad, depression, guilt, etc.): these are difficult emotions to deal with, but if left alone will fester and grow to dangerous levels.
- laziness: it’s okay to rest and relax and take it easy, but it’s not okay to be slothful, to waste your time and not take your devotion seriously.
- negative associations: it doesn’t matter if “associations” means the wrong type of person or the wrong type of food, if you know it’s bad for you, try to minimize your involvement with it.
- panic and uncertainty: if the troubles in your life have gotten this far and you can’t find an answer on your own, ask for help!
This list is by no means complete. There are plenty of day-in, day-out habits that we have that get in the way of our devotional lives. Everyone’s path is different, and everyone faces different problems.
And, I wouldn’t want to leave you with just the idea of prevention but also show you the tools. Our website www.radhamadhavdham.org offers many tools you would need for prevention or to even take your devotion to the next level:
Tool 1: The blog you are reading has many articles on philosophy to help you.
Tool 2: Audio Gallery offers arti, satsangs and chantings.
Tool 3: Preacher Q/A There are many spiritual questions answered by RMD sanyasi preachers that could help if you have a doubt.
Do check these out and feel free to share some of your insights in the comments section below.