Vanity thought #37. Mind muscles.

I’ve been working on that “one last round” experiment for a couple of days now but it is difficult to replicate.

Sometimes I start chanting with my mind in an agitated state and there’s just no way I can keep it on the leash. Most of the time I don’t even remember I am supposed to be trying.

In order to make it work I need to take a serious vow to myself, I have to shake off whatever else is on my mind at the moment, gather all my strength and exert a lot of mental energy.

I’ve noticed I use two muscles in this process. The one that pulls the wandering mind back on the Names is a familiar one, it just gets a better workout – faster response time and no compromises, but the real discovery was a muscle that forces the mind to listen to the words (can’t say Holy Names, it just focuses on the words). That one really needs a lot of attention and it gobbles up energy like a supercomputer. After one round I’m completely exhausted there.

This muscle has a couple of interesting side effects. First, it kills off any “devotional” mood, like a drill sergeant it allows no emotions and it makes my voice very robotic.

Is it favorable to devotional service? Well, on one hand it prevents any hint of sentimental chanting, on the other hand I should still be crying for the Lord like a child for a lost mother, that mood is legit. But then again, it might show me the real, base feelings for the name on which my mind paints some artificial emotions that take away my attention. So I am in two minds about this one.

The other effect is that it makes time fly. No more “is it half round yet?” thoughts, no more worrying about the watch, keeping up the speed etc. Time ceases to exist when that muscle is pumping out in full throttle. Is it good? On one hand it can’t be bad as time is illusory energy’s main agent, absence of awareness of time is a first sign of being fully absorbed in something, and there’s nothing material in listening to and chanting the Holy Names.

On the other hand, the time is not supposed to fly when one is chanting, it supposed to stop – “yugaitam nimishena”! That means I’m not doing it right or I’m not there yet. Of course I’m not there yet, but shouldn’t I be unhappy that time flies faster than I expect? After all it’s taking me to my premature death – I’m not ready yet to die in full Krishna Consciousness. I have only so many days left and so much work to do? Is there any real benefit in this mechanical, robotic chanting?

Or will this muscle eventually develop some emotional flexibility? That would be perfect.

For now I can’t deploy it for more than two rounds and it doesn’t come on somewhere in the middle, it really needs serious mental preparation. Maybe this is what the acharyas meant by “intensity”. Not emotional intensity of praying but mental intensity of concentration.

This theory needs a lot more studies and some serious breakthroughs and the results could potentially have far reaching consequences. I will keep you posted, in the interests of science.

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Vanity thought #36. What gives.

Where do people get all their stuff? I know quite a few who clearly have more than one would expect on their income.

There are some who work very hard and plan and save for everything and I’m not talking about them, I’m talking about folks to don’t seem to do much but own some amazing stuff.

When probed for explanations they usually come up with long stories that include many people and places and often do not have very much internal logic, I mean they don’t look like straightforward “work hard and buy what you want” affairs.

I’ve been wondering about this my whole life, I don’t get anything like that at all, nothing interesting. Come to think of it, I don’t have anything straightforward in my life, either, not only things but everything – places, houses, people, friends, jobs etc. There are things I buy and so can account for but they are very small in number.

Where do I get the rest of it from?

Normally I don’t worry too much about the source or the means, but occasionally, on the eve of some big decisions, I get a little nagging voice that I shouldn’t just sit around waiting, I should take charge, strive, make sacrifices, fight for what I want.

Funny thing tough, that voice might be coming from the same source that gives me everything I have without asking. Would It please make up Its mind?

And why every time I try to make some effort after listening to this voice I end up looking ridiculous, as if trying to ram through a wall when there is a door somewhere I just can’t see right now but will magically open when I need it? And why does that new door always lead me to a quite different place? Why does the voice tell me to try to find a totally irrelevant solution and see me fail every time? What’s the lesson here?

Is it really the same voice or is it just what I have been taught by my mother? She can’t stand sitting and waiting, I’ve been programmed to feel uneasy about it, too, but it doesn’t mesh well with Krishna Consciousness.

What I have personally learned is that I shouldn’t waste any time and efforts on problems unrelated to whatever task I have at hand, I shouldn’t try to map out all possible solutions when all I have to be doing is peeling potatoes, for example.

Just like with things people collect over their lives, there are no straight and easy connections, it just works out in the end, unpredictably. Let karma, and Krishna, do their job at maintaining order and reason, it’s not my job and there’s no point in trying to help them to do theirs.

There’s pride, a wicked desire to be on top of everything, the feeling of supremacy, the attitude of “everyone sucks at what they are doing, I could do so much better”, but none of that is conducive to devotional service and should be rejected and avoided.

On the other hand, I still can’t just sit on my hands either.

What gives?

Vanity thought #35. One last round.

Today a very simple and natural thought occurred to me – why don’t I try to chant one round keeping my mind firmly on Holy Names?

It’s nothing special, I  must have tried this hundreds of times before, but what made this attempt memorable is that I finally managed to pull it off. I can honestly swear that during this one round I kept my mind focused firmly on listening to Holy Names and there wasn’t even one Maha Mantra where it was somewhere else, at most my mind has got an odd Name here or there, hardly even one, I think.

It was magical.

Not the result, to be honest (twice in the same blog post), I didn’t get even a glimpse of feeling for Holy Names themselves, but it was magical in a different way. I’ve managed to exert enough power to forcefully keep my mind concentrated on listening to

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishma Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

without missing a beat.

Don’t tell me it wasn’t an effort. It was, and a very hard one.

Whole day since then I was thinking how I’m going to deal with it tomorrow. Will I have enough power to repeat it? Repeat it sixteen times in a row?

I honestly can’t answer that (three times honest?). What I do know is that I, personally, have absolutely no control over how these things play themselves out. The idea just popped up into my mind at the last round today. Tomorrow I might forget all about it when I start chanting, or I might remember and give up before I even started. I just don’t know and I don’t dare to predict.

The truth is – I might pretend to be the lowest of the lowest but the fact is that my body, and it means my mind and my soul*, are firmly in the hands of the Lord. He decides what I can do and what I cannot, not me. If He decides I* can do a round, I* do it(not will, just DO it), and if He decides I* can do all sixteen, I* do it, too.

In reality all I can do myself is to scurry His plan, and I wholeheartedly pray He stops me from doing it.

* By “I” I mean the combination of the mind, intelligence and the false ago, all of which are also influenced by the gross material senses, not “I” as a spirit soul.

Vanity thought #34. The source of anger.

What is the source of anger? Or what is the source of betrayal?

Sure, material modes of passion and ignorance lead a person to behave this way or that way, but we’ve always been taught that everything we see here is possible only because the originals are in the spiritual world. We have things like love and friendship and motherly attraction, and we know about special nature of parakiya rasa in Vrindavan, or thievery and stealing. Yesterday I expressed some ignorance of some aspects of amorous relationships there but nevertheless we know they are not anything like cheating on your husband in this world, and stealing butter is even easier to explain, but what about anger and betrayal?

Off the top of my head I can’t think of any good examples, but emotions like these surely must be present in Vrindavan, too. Closer to home there’s an example of Satrugna almost killing Manthara, Kaikeyi’s maidservant who corrupted queen’s mind, or Lakshmana ready to kill almost anyone who was involved in banishment of Ram, they were both extremely angry. There is also a story about Deities’ lilas in which, without mentioning any names, one of Them jumped on a servant who committed a mistake and pounded him heavily with His fists until He was stopped by His eternal companion.

It could be (hold on, it IS) all lilas and devotees on the receiving end ultimately derive greatest blessings out of Lord’s anger but it surely is a serious test of one’s devotion. I’m sure I don’t stand a chance.

Anger is probably not so bad, it’s when it subsides and there’s only indifference left, that is an eternal doom for someone like me, for people who approach the Lord seeking their own satisfaction. Actually everyone approaches the Lord with some ulterior motives, but when you are given the chance, the shot at getting real devotion, and you blow it on personal comfort, and the Lord is indifferent  – then you are really really screwed.

Ok, Krishna probably won’t keep the grudge for too long, but what if you offended His devotee? Will He ever forgive you that? That is the most certain way to shut yourself off from His mercy forever, and it doesn’t take much to show disrespect to a vaishnava, and it would count even if it was only in your mind.

I dread to think of situations where Krishna might exhibit betrayal. Technically, He is well within His rights NOT to respond to our prayers and He is well within His rights to betray our hopes, too. That’s what makes Him the Absolute, He is not obliged to do anything, and being accepted as His aspiring devotee is not like taking an insurance policy, and you definitely can’t sue Him. Maybe you can appeal to Lord Chaitanya, though. I can’t stand the thought of Lord Chaitanya failing to show mercy to anyone. Not Him, not Lord Chaitanya, and even if Lord Chaitanya might get occasionally angry, His associates will never leave any one of us without mercy.

Anyway, my point was that when we ask for devotion we must hope for the best but we should also be prepared for the worst, because for a devotee even Lord’s anger, indifference, or betrayal cannot possibly shake his faith even a little.

I’m happy for devotees who feel that the Lord genuinely reciprocates with them, but for me, all too often I must be prepared to beg for the shelter of His Holy Names against all hope and beg Him not to take away chanting away from me. I do not have strength to endure on my own for very long. Sometimes even three rounds at lunch seem like eternity…

Before I finish – despite all the doubts I expressed here one must fully believe in the words of Srila Prabhupada and the shastras. The Lord is all merciful and He will never betray our efforts and this is not something we – I – should spend time on speculating. The Lord would never betray His devotee, period.

 

PS from a little demoniac voice in my head: “But He can, can’t He?”

Vanity thought #33. The curse of Krishna lilas.

There’s no curse, I’m just making it up.

The problem with my mind is that it can’t really get around some of the characters in Lord’s lilas. Take Kaikeyi, for example, second wife of King Dasarath, father of Lord Rama. She was corrupted by her maid Manthara into asking Kind Dasarath to banish Lord Rama to the forest.

I mean there is this person who was accepted as a mother by Bharatha, an expansion of the Lord himself, and then she gets overwhelmed by envy and destroys the family. Ok, it’s easy to understand how her actions could have been “hijacked” by the Lord himself for the sake of the good story line, but what I don’t understand is why she had to suffer like that.

The entire Kingdom, including her own son, turned against her and blamed her for what she did to Lord Rama and for bringing death to her husband, she was left completely alone, without any sign of mercy from anyone.

Or was she really overcome by material modes of nature and suffered for succumbing to poisonous words of her maid? If a devotee who Lord accepts as His own mother can fall like that, what hope is there for the rest of us?

I tend to think she knew all along what was coming to her and she accepted such horrible, horrible role in order to please the Lord Rama and all his other devotees.

Now that would have been the ultimate selfless sacrifice. Imagine being called to participate in Lord’s lilas and then being told that the role is to inflict greatest suffering on all other devotees and two of Lord’s expansions and being blamed and cursed for that.

Or maybe it’s the selfishness of “I will be with the Lord and I don’t care how I have to make all others feel”.

Again, I tend to think she took the sacrifice knowingly and waited for the story to unfold patiently, without expecting anyone’s recognition for her effort. There would have been no story without her, someone had to do it.

Another character, or rather characters, that my mind can’t get around, are husbands of the gopis. I don’t even want to speculate how they must feel about Krishna and how he treats them. The traditional explanation is that they don’t know where their wives spend their nights, but, again, I tend to think they actually do, but they take it for the sake of Krishna’s pleasure. I know we must accept what shastras tell about them but wouldn’t it be much much cooler if they knew what they were giving to Krishna rather than being fooled by Him?

Maybe they just learned not to think about it to keep their minds at peace, I have no idea, but if they are kept clueless – how does Krishna look them in the eyes? Why can’t/don’t they accept their actual roles in Krishna’s pastimes?

It’s tribulations like this that make me think that occasionally some of the jivas in spiritual world might decide “I’ve had enough” and turn to the illusion of the material universe instead.

So far all these mental concoctions are probably just nonsense, but the side effect is quite serious – we chose to turn away from Krishna ourselves, and now we are begging to take us back, but where do we get strength and devotion to resume our duties there, the same ones we’ve rejected before and have no idea what they were and how difficult they were but still looking forward with utmost confidence? Where does this confidence come from? What part of it just our own bravado rather than Krishna’s inspiration from within?

How can I be sure I will stand the same test again and not fail? I can’t, and probably that’s why a real devotee feels completely unworthy and unprepared and begs the Lord to just give him a chance at ANY service, life after life after life, and learns to treasure and cherish this opportunity, however small.

I admit, I take it for granted, means I’m a stupid, ignorant ingrate who loudly asks for a lot more than he could ever chew.

Vanity thought #32. The reality.

From the very beginning I assumed that my journey back to Godhead will be rather short, that I would reach my destination at the end of this life. There are plenty of encouraging signs everywhere, right from taking our initiation vows to numerous assurances in our books.

I always assumed “life after life” line in Siksashataka was more  like a figure of speech, why would a devotee need to take so many births anyway? So here are some possible explanations why Lord Chaitanya included them there.

First, there’s a certain sequence to Siksashataka prayers – one feels unfortunate that one doesn’t have taste for the Holy Names, then one feels humbled, then one pleads the Lord for the opportunity to serve him anyway, life after life. To a devotee on the “durdaiva” and “trinad api sunichena” stages the thought that he could achieve the Lord in this life doesn’t even occur.

The real devotee never feels confident of qualifying for Lord’s mercy any time soon, or even any life soon. That could be a nice yardstick to judge my own progress against.

Second, a real devotee is absolutely indifferent to liberation. The question of “I need liberation, why doesn’t it come” doesn’t occur to him either.

So he sees himself as totally unqualified for liberation AND he doesn’t care whether it comes or not, he’s only interested in the opportunity to serve the Lord.

In his life he doesn’t focus on his imperfections, like I do, he focuses only on the positive – the opportunity to chant, the opportunity to serve. I approach it from a different angle – if I eliminate this or that, devotion would come. A real devotee begs for devotion, knowing that only devotion can overcome his obstacles, he doesn’t waste time on artificially trying to clean his heart himself.

Surely it doesn’t mean he is not trying to avoid offenses against the Holy Name, but his solution is only to chant more rather than analyze what he has done wrong on the Internet.

I should take notice again.

With an attitude like that a real devotee doesn’t have time to worry about terms of his deal with his guru, and not because time is short. For me lifetime after lifetime sounds like an awfully long period, for a real devotee, with real humility and real understanding of his position in this world, lifetime after lifetime sounds like a wonderful chance not to be missed, even a blessing.

If I heard that from the start I probably wouldn’t have thought of bhakti yoga as anything special, it would have appeared as a very slow and totally unreliable process.

In reality, however, it appears that it is the only process by which one can escape the power of time altogether, and escape here doesn’t mean liberation, as desire for swift liberation is still contingent on one’s judgment of time, but a total, absolute escape where one is not even aware of the time passing by, lifetime after lifetime.

Question is – would someone like me, subconsciously desiring for the end of my suffering in material world would ever qualify for the boon of devotional service? On one hand the two have nothing in common, one is selfish, the other is selfless, but, on the other hand, the realization of one’s suffering here is a necessary step to any spiritual endeavor.

I hope I don’t get stuck.

Vanity thought #31. Dreams come true?

Some devotees have sweet stories of Deities coming to them in the dreams and talking to them. Not me.

Last night I had a serial nightmare, serial because I can’t count how many times I was in a “someone’s chasing me” dream.  Story line and villains change but the plot is basically the same – run, run, run.

Just like how falling down in the material world is impossible to trace I never have a clue what got me in my dream trouble. All I know is that I have to run.

The interesting part is the subtle evolution of this recurring dream – in the beginning, at times when I was half awake, I was thinking up different clever ways to escape but lately I am into developing some superpowers. In that half away state I clearly rely on various kinds of mystic gifts that I get in reward for my devotional practice.

I would never admit it to myself, only in my dreams.

That is so hugely disappointing – all I subconsciously desire is superpowers ala some kind of jedi?

I should remember it when I feel like some sincerity is entering my prayers, this realization is sobering.

So, should my dreams come true? The chases? The powers? Beware what you wish for.

I remember only one dream connected to Krishna – I was living on Govardhan Hill. It wasn’t Govardhan as we know him, however, the dream was set in a very distant future, when Kali Yuga was ruling the world in full swing. There was snow and chilly winds blowing and there were railway tracks right on top of Govardhan. I didn’t see anyone from my family but we lived in a small, cold hut without electricity, there were no floors, just the earth, and everyone was wearing WWII style coats and boots and we didn’t have any deities or anything valuable or comforable.

There was only a sense of duty to watch after Govardhan, to be with him through that terrible time. It was like there was no other place on Earth for us, nowhere to go, nowhere we wanted to be. By “we” I mean other people living there, though it wasn’t a village.

Should this dream come true?

I’m in two minds – on one hand it’s a pretty exalted position, to be born as a servant of Govardhan, on the other hand – how many lives do I have to go through to get that far in the future?

Should I patiently wait, postponing my surrender until my dream time comes, or should I try to earn Krishna’s mercy right now and never see this world again?

Or does it mean that even in the best case scenario I still have to wait for maybe thousands of years?

Now that’s sobering.

Should I really pray to get reborn as Krishna’s servant again and again? Never thought it would be so serious.

Vanity thought #30. Mother.

She has decided to pay me a visit next month. I loudly protested, citing a busy schedule but she booked herself into a resort two hour drive away.

That way she is not exactly in my hair but I also can’t ignore her and have to visit at least on weekends. Genius.

I don’t really have a problem with her or anyone else in my family, except they bore me to death. It’s one thing to be doing something together, it’s quite another to be  a friend to hang out with. Not only I have to pretend to take interest in things and TV shows I don’t know, but I am also is expected to admit I miss home very much.

I haven’t lived there for decades, I left when I was only sixteen, and I don’t need to cite shastras to prove to myself I feel nothing about it anymore. I had a lot better memories elsewhere. I know those were supposed to be formative years that stay with you forever but I remember just living through them on autopilot, not quite carefree childhood, not quite emotionally invested late teens, just some time in between.

But they nevertheless matter to my mom, or maybe not, but she wants them to matter to me all the same.

What am I supposed to do? My mom is like home attachment incarnated, he lives and breaths “home is the most important part of your life” attitude. Every pause in my speech is “Ah! You are thinking about it!”, every mention of any old friend’s name is “Ah! I told you so!” Every look in my direction is “When will you open your heart and cry out loud how much you miss home”.

It’s annoying.

She’s okay with Krishna, btw, despite declaring herself Christian she is not afraid of going to temples, and these days any temple would do. She goes to Buddhist temples, Chinese temples, whatever. They are all so nice, she got t-shirts and souvenirs, but somewhere just under the surface there’s that “When will you drop all this crap and run home” question.

How am I supposed to behave with her? She is not being silly, just lonely, she needs my confirmation and approval, it scares her that I attach no value to what she cherishes the most. On the other hand, she is curious about what is it that I dare to put above old home attachments.

A week or so ago she e-mailed me with an interesting turn – “I feel safer now, I know you will figure something out”. I wanted to answer it’s not me who does all problem solving in my life, it’s Krishna, but I let it go. I was pleasantly surprised that she has developed some trust in what I do and what I believe in.

And here lies the problem – people need some tangible proof. At some point simply being philosophical is not enough, at some point even their own acceptance is not enough. They need to see the goods, Krishna must deliver, or else.

In the old days I thought it was all nonsense, Krishna has no interest and no connection with our particular brand of material illusion but, ultimately, He is not some kind of alternate reality, it is His government that rules the country, it is His Goddess of Fortune that supplies our wealth. I meant not His directly but they all get their powers from Him, knowingly or not, and when we preach His supremacy we should be able to back it up, we cannot present Him as some third world village celebrity with no real pull.

Of course we can’t prove anything without His blessings but, I believe, we shouldn’t have defeatist attitude either. It’s not like we ourselves are not prone to enjoying a bit of anecdotal evidence of Krishna’s triumph here and there. Garlic has been proven less beneficial than was originally thought – win for Krishna. Early Christians believed in reincarnation – win for Krishna. Ganges water kills bacteria – win for Krishna. A flower dropped from the garland – Krishna’s sign, and so on. Devotees can be very sentimental in this way.

So my mother needs goods to nourish her seed of faith in Krishna. I’m sure Krishna can take care of that, I’m worried about my part in this.

The best, and, frankly the only thing I can do here is not to screw it up.

Abandon all dharmas, they say, huh? I’m not sure Krishna meant it to ignore your mother. It rather falls under “prepare yourself for battle and fight, and don’t worry about win or loss” advice.

I know some devotees feel excited about playing a karmi part for a while, they quite enjoy various benefits being a white man gives them in the world. Who can blame them, part of their progress. My mother, on the other hand, makes sure the old world stays repulsive to me. God bless her.

Vanity thought #29. Angulimala.

Angulimala is a famous character in Buddhist tradition, he even has got a sutta dedicated specifically to him. He was born as a son of brahmana and when he studied in his guru’s ashram he became the best student. His guru was a follower of Shiva.

There were some problems at the ashram and at the end his guru ordered him to kill a thousand people and bring him back their fingers as a proof, and so Angulimala went on a killing rampage, his last victim was supposed to be his own mother but he saw Buddha and decided to murder him instead.

He took out his sword and ran after Buddha who was calmly walking away, he ran and he ran but no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t approach a slowly walking monk. “Stop, stop”, he cried, and Buddha answered “I stopped already, you should stop yourself”. Overwhelmed by Buddha’s wisdom Angulimala reformed and lived happily ever after.

There are various lessons that could be learned from this story but one particular interpretation is very interesting. When Buddha told Angilimala to stop he meant not only stop harming other living beings but stop his eternal cycle of actions and reactions, too, and Buddha’s success is viewed as a testament to the supremacy of his teachings over Hinduism/Brahmanism/Vedic traditions.

Angulimala was only following his guru’s orders, performing his ultimate duty, and by all accounts, including Krishna’s advice in Bhagavat Gita, he didn’t incur any sinful reactions while doing so. Not from Buddha’s point of view, however, only by stopping all activities and engaging in meditation one can achieve liberation, and there’s no such thing as “inaction in action”.

That is some serious, fundamental disagreement between Buddha and Krishna here that needs careful consideration.

Angulimala’s actions were not dedicated to God in any possible way, and his spiritual master gave him this strange order only to get rid of him, hoping that Angulimala would get caught and killed in the process, so in no way Angulimala was qualified for “aham tvam sarva papebhyo” clause.

That disqualification might get lost on Buddhists, however. They need something better, and I don’t know what it is. Outwardly he was still following teachings of Bhagavat Gita as they are generally understood. His story could also be used as an excuse to abandon one’s spiritual master and disobey his clear and direct order.

In this interpretation only Buddhism works and all we are doing is just messing about and all our philosophy is useless and imaginary.

I hope there’s an explanation for that, personally I’m drawing a blank here.

Vanity thought #28. Cancer.

My old friend from high school days got bad news. It looks like cancer, breast cancer.

When we were young I checked it many many times. There was no cancer, now it could be there.

We still keep in touch and though I’m sure she told her husband first I wasn’t much further down the list.

What am supposed to say? She wants to hear how to prolong her life while I already heard enough about potential female competitors to claim her mate as she grows older.

This is just not going to work anymore, no matter what anybody says, and it’s my turn to talk now.

On top of potential cancer she has to hear far more devastating news – there’s no counseling against death, she should give it up now and abandon all hope just as she thinks she needs it the most.

And it’s my turn to break the news?

It’s one thing to ask people to deal with somebody else’s deaths, it’s quite another to ask to deal with one’s own even before the doctors delivered their verdict. They’ve got science behind them, everybody trusts science, what do I have? Who will trust me, a mumbling idiot talking about acceptance of death when everyone else is cheering to fight on?

That’s why I said I’m not the one to talk about preaching. I leave it all in Krishna’s hands, because of lack of faith.

I need a really big think about this one.

One of my friends died of cancer ten years ago. He went with a smile, chanting Holy Names, surrounded by devotees in Vrindavana Dhama. I always considered him a junior and when he told me how he saw Lord Chaitanya, not a rabbit,  dancing in the Moon I just chuckled to myself. Now he is back with Krishna and I am down here, as wretched as ever, being asked to give counsel to another cancer victim, and not even a devotee.

Gloves are off, I’m going to be pummeled.