The mind may give us a flashback, but we don’t have to turn back
When we strive to lead a principle-centered life, we sometimes get sudden flashbacks. Some flashbacks are joyful, some painful. The unpleasant flashbacks are often of indignities or indulgences: indignities we suffered when others wronged us or indulgences we had engaged in but have now given up.
Both such flashbacks can lock our thoughts in the past. Flashbacks of indignities can fill us with moroseness about how others have treated us like crap. Flashbacks of indulgences can fill us with lamentation about the pleasures we are deprived of. The Bhagavad-gita (18.35) cautions that lamentation and moroseness characterize determination in the mode of ignorance – it is self-sabotaging obstinacy. When we let revenge fantasies or relapse fantasies carry us away, we get degraded. Our negative flashbacks, if entertained, can hurt us and make us do things that hurt others.
How can we prevent flashbacks from taking us back? By regular Gita study, which reminds us that everything inside us is not us – the mind, despite being inside us, is different from us. With this self-awareness, we treat the mind’s flashback like an unsolicited pop-up image on our computer browser: we turn away from it.
Turning away from the mind’s images becomes easier when we focus not just on the present but on the supreme spiritual reality, Krishna, in the present. He makes himself accessible through various divine manifestations to those who practice bhakti-yoga. By regular bhakti-yoga practice, we become attached to him. Thereafter, his all-attractiveness and omnipotence empower us to wrench the mind from the past and fix it on him.
Thus, when we live in the present with devotional purposefulness, we see flashbacks not as impetuses to turn back but as inspirations to press on towards Krishna, thereby letting the dead past bury its dead, forever.
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