If we see our lives as small and insignificant, we may be excused for spending it on escape. If we see our efforts at spiritual progress as temporary and with limited benefit, we can be excused for drifting away.
But this is thinking small. I’ve mentioned before how Atman and Sattva, consciousness and clarity, are cumulative through lifetimes. Let’s look at this more closely.
With the right practices and circumstances, we very much have the potential to awaken in this lifetime. Not everyone will shift, perhaps because of karmic backlog. But none of it is a waste.
When the body dies at the end of our human life, the energy pulls up and out of the physiology. The physical body dies, then the emotional body dissipates, then what’s refereed to as the lower mind releases. Our form and identity dissolve to dust.
But all the rest of “you” remains. Consciousness (atman) rests much deeper than what falls away. So does your jiva or soul. We sustain sattva development in the causal and intellect bodies. Thus, the development of atman and sattva are sustained.
We do not lose the degree of presence nor the degree of refinement. We do not waste spiritual practice. In our next life, we pick up where we left off, aside from maturing as a person and dealing with the unresolved karmas we take on. The latter may dominate our experience but this is in the field of what is born and dies.
This is why deeper refinement is more important than a perfect diet or lifestyle. It is useful to eat well and take care of our physiology. But what lasts is deeper.
Another aspect we carry forward is unresolved experiences we had through this body, mind, and emotions. Even though those bodies fade, the larger experiences that have not been digested do not. They’re stored in the deeper structures that carry on. This is why resolving our baggage and healing are worthwhile. We are improving quality of life but also clearing the way long-term.
Your life may be just a chapter in a larger saga but it will influence everything that follows. There are long-term consequences to our choices.
“If, as a human being, you fail to reach God, then you have sold a diamond for the price of spinach.”
— Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath
I do not mean this as a guilt trip but as perspective. If we’ve adopted good practices and live life with minimal strain, we can be confident the benefits will quietly gather until the time comes for the next stage. The path isn’t about instant enlightenment or flashy experiences but living a good life as best we can. That will bear the fruits that last.