The capacity to trade the present for the future is the defining human characteristic

All living beings live at the fleeting junction of the past and the future – the present, which is there at one moment to be replaced by another moment, which then becomes the current present.

All living beings follow their bodily impulses to eat, sleep, procreate and protect, but we humans can do something more. We can check these impulses to create some better arrangements for the future. Indeed, all the progress that has lifted humanity above the animal world has come from this ability to trade the present for the future.

For example, when Newton famously saw an apple falling, he traded the present pleasure of food for the future pleasure of increased understanding of reality. By that sacrifice, he discovered the principle of gravity and stimulated the scientific revolution that has transformed our outer world.

This same principle underlies the widespread traditional practice of sacrifice. Done in various cultures across the world, this practice was meant not just to appease some unknown gods, but also to empower humans to improve themselves by delaying present gratification for gaining some higher future satisfaction.

Underscoring the universality and potency of sacrifice, the Bhagavad-gita (03.09) states that it can take us all beyond the temporary level of material reality wherein we are bound to the eternal arena of spiritual reality, where we are liberated. The central ingredient to be sacrificed here is our consciousness – instead of offering it to the various worldly things that promise us pleasure, we can offer it in a devotional mood to the all-powerful, all-merciful, all-loving supreme, Krishna. And he reciprocates by raising our consciousness from the material level to the spiritual level, to him.

Indeed, a life of devotional sacrifice can help us live meaningfully, both in the here and the hereafter.

  • Think it over:
  • What is the common characteristic underlying all human progress?
  • What is the rationale for sacrifice?
  • What sacrifice can take us to the eternal world? How?

 

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3 Comments

  1. Given a choice for Shreyas and Preyas, we should choose preparing for eternal happiness and not instant gratification that is temporary.
    Marshmallow test for kids proves that those who sacrifices instant enjoyment for future greater enjoyment goes much further in life.

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  2. PAST is the mirror of FUTURE

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  3. It is interesting

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