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. That junction is the present, which is there at one moment and gone the next.
All living beings follow their bodily impulses to eat, sleep, procreate and protect, but we humans can do something more. We can regulate these impulses that offer some pleasure in the present and can instead focus on creating 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 an 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 from bondage in material consciousness to liberation in spiritual consciousness. The central ingredient to be sacrificed here is our consciousness. Instead of offering our consciousness to the various worldly things that promise us pleasure, we can offer it lovingly to the all-powerful, all-merciful, all-loving supreme, Krishna. And he will reciprocate 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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