Vanity thought #68. Sacrifice.

I had another thought about Kali Santarana Upanishad and its prescription of chanting Hare Krishna in Kali Yuga. There are some implications I haven’t considered before.

From a traditional vedic point of view chanting Hare Krishna has replaced the traditional sacrifices and temple worship and that means it’s supposed to bring similar results – material prosperity and satisfaction of material desires.

Forget the devotees, they are the special case, but ordinary people seeking better life in this world are prescribed to chant Hare Krishna to attain their vision of happiness – money, fame, wife, children – the whole nine yards.

I don’t think we ever treat our Hare Krishna mantra that way, not for ourselves, and not when we recommend it to other people. True, “Chant and Be Happy” was our first “marketing” slogan but we’ve grown out of that long time ago. We’ve long agreed that “happy” in this context means spiritually happy, spiritually content, not materially prosperous.

There’s also the point that since time immemorial people appealed to Shiva, Durga, Ganesh etc for their material desires, even biggest demons in the universe like Ravana worshiped demigods to attain their powers. They have never ever worshiped Vishnu, and our Hare Krishna mantra is all about Vishnu – Hari.

Even gopis in Vrindavana worshiped Kathyayini to get good husbands. They, of course, wanted Krishna, but they still went to Katyayani, not to Hari.

Even in this day some devotees ashamed of their material hankerings worship Ganesh because they know Hari is the one who takes things away, not gives them.

We also know all about offensive chanting, or do we? We know that maintaining material desires while chanting is a clear offense, but what are the results? We won’t obtain devotion that way but will our material wishes be granted? If we perform prescribed method of sacrifice, why shouldn’t they?

On what grounds do we believe that offering sacrifices to Ganesh the way it was done in the previous yuga will work better than following shastric prescriptions for this age? Are we better brahmanas? Do brahmanas able to counteract the influence of Kali still exist?

Why do we recommend worship of demigods for materially inclined persons? At least we tacitly agree that this is what they should do.

I don’t see why we shouldn’t tell people:”NO, the only yajna prescribed for this age is chanting Hare Krishna, all other forms of sacrifice lose their potency as Kali yuga progresses, engage at your own risk.”

Yes, Lord Hari is the one who takes away, but what does it really mean? If a person approaches Hari to achieve his material goals and faithfully chants Hare Krishna, why wouldn’t Hari fulfill his desires? Yes, Hari is an independent Supreme Lord, but for those who don’t see Him as such and follow vedic injunctions, why wouldn’t He behave like a Lord of the sacrifice that is obliged to give requested benedictions, why wouldn’t He play the role He is supposed to play in Kali yuga?

Hari maintains the whole universe even though He is not obliged to do anything, He maintains it through thick and thin, through creation and annihilation, and if in Kali yuga He is given the task of accepting sacrifices, why would He refuse to do so?

For all I know He doesn’t take away much even if I ask, why scare people away by telling them that if they worship Krishna they’ll lose their wealth wives and families and turn into traveling mendicants?

It’s very unlikely to happen and certainly not against person’s will.

I might completely misunderstand the advice given in Kali Santarana Upanishad, but what I see is that in this age Krishna, Hari, is not giving out benedictions via worshiping other demigods. You chant His names, He gives you what you want.

To me it looks as simple as that.

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Vanity thought #67. Intoxicating new world.

Nurse Jackie is back, in case you don’t know, it’s a TV show about a nurse working at some New York hospital named Jackie. Jackie has worked there for twenty years and has an impeccable reputation of the most dedicated professional who saves countless of lives everyday and who is worshiped as a living angel by some newer staff.

What they don’t know is that Jackie is actually a drug addict who supports her addiction by having sex with hospital pharmacist, what they also don’t know that she is also “happily” married with two kids.

Really troubling character – that Jackie.

The most worrying part of the story is that she is the heroine, that in this new world people are ready to accept deeply flawed personalities as role models. The rest of the characters are slightly better than her but only because they don’t do much yet.

The overall message is that if you want to achieve anything in this world you are bound to break many rules and giving in to the most shameful sides of your character is an inevitable trade off.

Jakie is trying to be good, she really does, but her back is killing her and so drugs are indispensable, and they have a nasty side effect of being addictive. She loves her husband but she likes to have sex with the pharmacist, too, though only for fun and the poor sod has no idea she has a family and believes he has a future with Jackie. She can’t care less in return and is somewhat happy that at least that embarrassing addiction is over.

It’s hard not to feel sympathy for her attempts to be good, but, as I said, there’s simply no escape for Jackie and millions of people like her.

I’m in two minds about this show – on one hand it is a brutal portrayal of reality behind the illusion of this world, on the other hand is entices people to settle for this new low. In the olden days stories like this inspired people to be better, now it’s pure nihilism. Which is better? Which is worse?

I’d say inspiration without turning to God leads to deeper, tighter bondage but people understand this very well and don’t expect much from cheap happy endings anyway. Nihilism, on the other hand, is healthy for spiritual life but if it leads to settling for prescription drugs and and normalcy of extra-marital sex then why bother?

Another show with a similar effect is House MD. Gregory House is also a brilliant doctor with unmatched track record and he is also a drug addict who can’t make any sense out of life. He knows all the usual human stuff inside out and realizes the futility of it all but he can’t find any working solutions. His attempt at building a family failed miserably and he wasn’t surprised by it. For people of his stature religion is long dead, too. So what is left? Nothing. He just tries to fill the void in his life with little everyday pleasures and saving lives.

In his case there’s the nagging feeling that there really is something more to life than that but he can’t quite put his finger on it. I bet off the screen his character prays a lot but has no words to put it out publicly.

Endless search for happiness in a place where there isn’t any.

These are examples of gifted people with the ability to see beyond the welcome smile of this world, people who actually see very sharp teeth behind it and the hopelessness of fooling themselves. In short, prime candidates for surrendering to the Lord.

In reality they resort to intoxication which, in a sense, is a form of suicide. The world has this effect on people – once you get to know it better you can’t stand it anymore, you wish you didn’t know it, didn’t know anyone, didn’t have any awareness of it, didn’t have any consciousness.

Why am I wasting time on this entertainment? Well, if it helps me to shed MY illusions regarding MY material prospects, it is time well spent, isn’t it? These are very valuable lessons for the occasions when I get too excited about this or that – don’t. It is not going to work, I’m just fooling myself. This world does not deserve too much attention and certainly none of the excitement.

The only valuable thing about it is the opportunity to chant the Holy Names, nothing else matters at all. Apart from that unique opportunity the world is only a giant distraction.

Vanity thought #66. Who am I?

I’ve been told I’m not this body, and I sort of get it. I’m not my arm or my leg, arms and legs are MINE but they are not me. I’m not my mind and I’m not my emotions and desires, they are separate from me and I put MYSELF under their control.

But who am I anyway?

When I’m told I have to surrender to Krishna – what exactly is this “I”? I can surrender my body, I can surrender my mind, I can surrender my desires, in a sense that I can engage them in the service of the Lord, but how can I surrender myself if I don’t even know who I am?

I have absolutely no idea what that “I” really is, I’ve been told it’s a spirit soul, I’ve been told it’s an eternal servant of the Lord but what do I, the spirit soul servant know about this? Nothing.

As a soul I have certain qualities and attributes, I have a spiritual form, a spiritual body. Right now I’m not aware of any of it, I have no idea I have any spiritual senses, any spiritual shape, any spiritual identity.

How can I surrender this “myself” I an absolutely unaware of?

No wonder every time I try I find out I was doing something else for some other purposes.

After careful observation I found out that what I really mean by surrendering myself is engaging my material body, taking my mind and ego along the way because that’s what I feel I really am.

I expect to meet the Lord, if He shows me mercy, as this worthless sack of flesh, and I expect the Lord to reveal His spiritual form to this material abomination. No wonder it doesn’t work!

When Sri Hanuman met Lord Rama for the first time he changed himself to look like a brahmana and he didn’t recognize the Lord. Only when he returned to his original form he was able to see the Lord as He is. Lord Rama didn’t want to reveal Himself to a made up image but He was perfectly visible to Hanuman in his original form because it’s in this original form that Hanuman is His dearest devotee.

Could the same principle be at work with me, with the rest of us? We can’t see the Lord as long as we are wearing these made up bodies, pretending to be something else. We look at the Deities and we see nicely decorated dolls, we listen to the Holy Names and we hear sweet songs, and that’s all our bodies are ever be capable of perceiving.

I’d rather stop pretending to be my body right away but, actually, this thought is flashing only in my mind. I do not see the “I” that should stop pretending, and the “I” that I can perceive as me is not pretending at all, this “I” is absolutely convinced of its non-spiritual nature, and why shouldn’t it be? It’s a material element after all.

So who am I and how can I see my real nature? What does it mean to “see” my real nature? What senses are there to “see” it? None at all, none at all.

This is like a newly born kitten, blind and senseless, searching for his mother’s tit. He knows nothing of the world, he knows nothing of his form and shape, he knows nothing of what he is looking for, he knows nothing of what his mother looks like, he just tries to follow his instinct, and he can’t even hope for anything because he has no organs able to express hopes yet, but in due course of time his eyes will open and he will finally be able to see.

Just like that, I have to follow my instinct and search for the Lord no matter what, I’m totally at His mercy in this regard, that’s the only way to my dormant consciousness.

I, the soul, need His nourishment to see myself.

Vanity thought #65. Dealing with kids.

Here’s another misconception I’ve been harboring for a long time – properly raising Krishna conscious kids. Modern education is all about potential and nurturing and drilling into little brats brains that they are the center of the universe, the most precious gifts to the mankind ever. Modern teachers are servants now, they are being paid good money and so they should do what parents expect of them and treat their offspring like parents would themselves, if they had the time and patience and inclination.

Somehow or other I absorbed that kind of attitude, too. Never raise your voice, never get angry, if a kid misbehaves, it’s a teacher’s fault and so on.

On a devotees side there was also plenty of talk about demigods taking births as ISKCON children and so they should be treated as very very special and that attitude didn’t help much either.

The story of Hanuman presents a rather telling case study on how children were raised back in the day.

As far as descending demigods go, Hanuman was the genuine article – son of Shiva, Vayu, and a Monkey King at once. He was so special he thought the Sun was a fruit he could eat, and so was Rahu, and Indra’s elephant. Innocent child as he was, he caused so much disturbance that Indra had to knock him out with his thunderbolt.

That didn’t go well with Vayu who raised a mighty protest about mistreatment of little children and so all the demigods had to line up and offer their apologies and give out blessings. Hmm, never mess with school board member kid…

Those blessings made Hanuman immune to any kind of threat or harm and he learned to abuse this privilege to the full. He became the most mischievous and playful little rascal who gave a lot of grief to everyone – teachers, sadhus, ordinary people, everyone. He got so annoying that people couldn’t take it anymore and eventually they managed to make Hanuman forget all his powers and that truly turned the kid around and made him into most obedient, exemplary student ever.

They still couldn’t punish him but he didn’t know that, and this is the part that went against my modern upbringing – fear works and threats are beneficial.

Despite being the greatest devotee ever Hanuman still had to learn humility and manners and respect towards superiors and there was no other way to teach him that but the specter of punishment hanging over his head.

No reasoning helped, no sweet talk, no nice sit downs with his father – when it comes to discipline, children are best motivated by fear. Fear is a negative emotion we would never inflict on modern day kids but back then it was apparently essential. Like a bitter medicine it needs to be taken if one is to learn his limitations in this world.

I somehow suspect that Hanuman was very very thankful for this lesson later on when he became the greatest servant of Lord Ramachandra. I believe, or rather want to believe, that he was very glad he didn’t bring his old, early childhood habits with him – he was nobody’s servant then and dropping coconuts on people’s heads just for fun was not something he could occasionally let slip out in the Lord’s presence.

He was born a monkey but his teachers made him into the best vaishnava imaginable, the most gentle, caring and devoted person full of compassion to all living entities.

Meeting Lord Ram has changed his heart but fear has changed his earthly personality. I wish it could have happened to me, too, but I’m an old dog and I won’t learn new tricks.

My bad habits are probably going to stay with me until I die, my education was not that great, I don’t recall ever being punished, and my heart is not transforming as fast as it should, and that transformation is my only hope left – I don’t have enough time to finish my three and a half crores of names to claim my benefits as per Kali Santarana Upanishad.

I kind of hope that retelling this story of Hanuman is helping.

Vanity thought #64. On democracy and governments.

How does democracy go with Krishna consciousness, with varnashrama dharma? I understand that the way the government is put in place doesn’t really matter, it matters what it does when in power.

The ruler is supposed to act like a ruler regardless of whether he got his position passed down from his father or whether he convinced an assembly of his peers of his superior qualifications or whether he convinced millions of ordinary citizens to snub noses of his peers. Whatever system a society chooses, the goal is to find a person with most suitable qualities.

In modern age it means going through “democratic” procedures like elections. Like it or not but I believe that if devotees sometimes get hung up on questions of science and proof of Moon landings, expecting democratic approach to everything is a far deeper entrenched assumption. Okay, we have the guru system but it governs only small part of our daily interactions. Almost everything in our society is decided by consensus, we have a committee, GBC, as the ultimate authority after all. We accept opinions of senior devotees but we also make sure the seniors listen to suggestions from below.

Guru, sadhu, shastra – in our daily interactions we have guru blessings on each and every attempt at service, with a little research we can find shastric support for almost each and every idea, too, so the real test is getting the approval of sadhus, and it’s here where our quest for democracy and responsibility and rights shows up in fullest.

There’s nothing unique in expecting superiors to provide best care for their subordinates but our expectations in this area have been taught in schools, we’re just happy that they don’t get tramped on pages of Srimad Bhagavatam. We’re just happy that vedic ruler is supposed to provide the same rights and care we expect from democratically elected governments.

We don’t think too much about what vedic rulers were allowed to do for themselves. Kshatriyas were allowed to hunt and eat meat and enjoy life and that is basically as far as we are prepared to contemplate on the subject.

So it’s with this background in mind that I find one particular passage from Krishna book taking an unexpected turn. It’s from the chapter on rainy season in Vrindavana where Srimad Bhagavatam and Srila Prabhupada give us lots and lots of examples, parallels and metaphors for nurturing effects of the rain, from clouds compared to material nature to glowworms of Kali overshadowing vedic wisdom and so on. When it comes to governing, Prabhupada compared rainy season with distribution of taxes, so far so good, then he also talks about unjust government being like a dry season when the country loses all its reserves and energies.

At this point he compares opposition parties and leaders to ascetics undergoing severe penances and the advent of the rainy season to….. wait for it…. new rulers stuffing themselves with all the money they can lay their hands on!

What surprised me here was that Prabhupada was not judgmental here at all. This is the kind of behavior he totally expected from the arrival of “righteous” leaders. He certainly mentioned that penances and austerities should be accepted for realizing the Supreme Lord but as far as the earthly rulers go – they are expected to flourish by rewarding themselves.

If someone advanced this kind of argument in defense of, say temple presidents, ISKCON would have a revolution on its hands. We, the people of the 21st century, cannot possibly agree that our rulers are free to please themselves in any way they want. In the UK they are very proud that they keep their Queen on a tight budget, always comparing her upkeep to returns from selling her image to tourists. Elsewhere the rulers get officially capped salaries and benefits and live under close scrutiny.

If a president or a prime minister gets himself a woman on the side it’s a national scandal of monumental proportions. We cannot tolerate our leaders enjoying any more than we do ourselves.

The root cause of it is plain old envy.

In a vedic tradition, it seems, one does not even think of counting someone else’s money. In modern age, we, the “democrats”, expect total accountability from our governments, we treat them as equal. In the vedic tradition no one cared what the rulers did in their palaces as long as people were well taken care of.

Of course the objection can be raised that if people knew what was available for dinner at the palace they wouldn’t have been satisfied with their own meals but the answer to it could be: “Well, yes, but if you are judging your satisfaction by what your neighbor has you will never be at peace.” If it’s not your stomach that tells you you are full but your eyes looking at your neighbor’s table – it’s not going to work.

Growing up in a “democratic” tradition we expect to be the judge and the jury for everything our rulers do. Forget the law of karma – WE are the law. Kings are answerable to US. We are not prepared to wait for Krishna to judge the “wrongdoers”, WE must step into the palaces ourselves and do the total audit of all expenses and WE shall decide on the appropriate punishment and/or allowances.

I don’t believe this is a healthy attitude at all. Most of the time we are even unaware of it, it’s been with us for so long it’s buried deep in our subconsciousness.

I’m not saying each and every one of us is guilty of having it in each situation but this is something we should be on lookout for in ourselves. Unless being instructed to do so we shouldn’t even think of judging other devotees, especially given positions higher than ours – that’s the quickest way to commit vaishnava aparadha and thus commit a spiritual suicide.

We are not controllers in this world, it’s an illusion to act or think like ones.

We might have grown up in societies where we had some human or civil “rights” that we can demand at any time – this is an illusion. We shouldn’t carry these bad habits into our society.

Krishna is not the best among equals, it’s not a position anyone can fill if he proves himself. That’s what they told us back in school, this is how we look at our authorities – we shouldn’t.

This is another reason why Prabhupada’s preaching in the West was actually against impersonalism, against the idea that anyone can be God, that anyone can vote and overrule God’s plans. Those people invented some nonsense like “peoples’ Princess”, next they’ll vote on what to call God Himself.

Delusional, simply delusional, and we should weed out traces of that delusion from ourselves. This is the aspect that makes democracy totally against our spiritual principles – it gives us rights we don’t, can’t and shouldn’t have.

Vanity thought #63. Perfect combo.

One day I happened to chant a few rounds in the vicinity of Buddhist monks chanting some of their ceremonial hymns. The sound was mighty annoying and distracting but it was, in a sense, a perfect combo. Buddhist chants are supposed to empty one’s mind of all material desires while Hare Krishna mahamantra is supposed to fill one’s emptiness with spiritual purpose. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, though, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

Still, it made me think about another important Buddhist point – one should live in the present moment. We sort of know that as devotees we should put our faith in Krishna and don’t make any plans ourselves but it is certainly not at the forefront of our consciousness. Buddhists, on the other hand, elevated living in the present to the art form and the ultimate goal of their mind work.

If you really cut your mind from lamenting about the past and from worrying about the future you are supposed to see the futility of it all. You should be able to see the world as it is – an illusion different from our real nature. Participating in this illusion, or identifying with our role in it, is the source of all suffering and the only thing that prevents us from realizing our true nature.

As devotees we certainly disagree on what our true nature is but deep understanding of the illusion of this world is still a big big step forward. Our path to perfection still starts with “aham brahmasmi” and “athato brahma jijnasa” and if Buddhist can show us that it is achievable for them, what’s stopping us?

I suppose this realization can lead us to the treasured simplicity – our worries about what happened yesterday or what is going to happen tomorrow are illusory, all we need to know is that Krishna will take care of everything, always have, always will. Unlike my father He can fulfill any desire if it comes from an innocent devotee, and innocence comes from not thinking about past and future and fully trusting Krishna instead.

If Buddhists can develop this without relying on God at all, how easy it should be for me? Pretty easy, I suppose. The problem is with karma – if I’m destined to worry about every little thing, I will have to worry. If I’m supposed to be happy about every little thing, I will have to leave through happiness, too. Maybe I should take a few lessons from that tradition on how to ignore these feeling and see them as different from my real self.

For one thing, that would be very very helpful when doing japa.

Vanity thought #62. Simplicity.

There was a wonderful lecture by HH Gour Govinda Swami about the need for simplicity. He made it look so simple, so to speak. All one really need is to believe in Krishna and not worry about anything else.

It’s a childlike simplicity and references to it are all over Prabhupada’s books, Sri Isopanishad included. It is not something you must grow out of, like any other childhood mentality, however, and that brings up the question – how to achieve it. I can’t say how to develop it, it doesn’t seem to be the product of hard work and a lot of planning and preparation and it appears in devotees naturally. Come to think of it – I’ve never seen it appearing, it’s just there, or isn’t.

Maybe one has to be born that way after lifetimes of planning and preparations. You can’t also fake it unlike almost any other sign of progress. Parallells with material societies do not provide many clues either but they still kind of demonstrate the concept.

First of all children – they just know nothing better than trust their parents. When I was very young I made big plans how I would ask my father to make me a knights mail, I was absolutely convinced he’d do it easily. Ok, I see the concept here but no practical applications can be gleaned from studying children – they grow of it rather fast.

Next example is starting a relationship. For the first few dates people are really nervous and self conscious but once they breach a certain barrier, somewhere between the first kiss and the first I love you, they feel really at ease with each other.

This is a good example because it starts from nothing and you can follow its developments. It all comes down to building trust – once you know that the other person is not going to abandon you out of the blue you let your guards down and your life becomes simple: “We love each other, there’s nothing more to say”.

The trickier part in this example is when love is one sided. How many people are perfectly at ease in a relationship when they are not in love? Krishna loves me, but He loves all other jivas equally, I’m looking for special treatment, for devotional service on a spiritual level, and demands like that make His love conditional, depending on MY love for Him, too, and there’s a clear lack of it. How can I trust Him when I can’t trust myself?

Another example is joining a club or a group. Like minded people usually enjoy each other company and they trust each other and provide a lot of help and support within their group. A newcomer needs to pass a test, he needs to demonstrate the same level of commitment and appreciation for the cause to be accepted, and that’s where it turns binary – he either has it or not. If he doesn’t – tough luck, he’s on his own, in a sense there could be support and advice but no trust or love.

This example is appropriate if one wants to become accepted in a society of devotees. Not ISKCON in general but some specific group. Our relationship guidelines dictate that one must be on the same level of advancement in devotional service to be treated as a friend, and until then one has to stick to devotees of his own level and work very hard himself if he wants to break into club “sankirtana”, for example.

I can’t help but think that it means we don’t have any prospect of upward movement – we’ll always have to stay with devotees of our own level and progress together. That basically means we have to achieve simplicity toghether, too. If I see a group of simple-minded devotees I can forget trying to join in, just hope to learn something from them and bring it back to my circle of friends, just like from listening to lectures of Gour Govinda Swami.

Who knows, maybe while I’m pondering the barriers to simpliciy other devotees, younger than us, think we are demogods participating in sankirtana lilas. They can’t be more wrong.

On the other hand – everyone has seen devotees blissfully stuffing themselves with prasadam and having a jolly good time without a worry for potential falldows. How do they do that? That is the question.

Vanity thought #61. Scraping for my life.

A short while ago I had a little car accident.

Some guy cut in front of me and, as he didn’t have enough space and wasn’t going fast enough, I chipped a little paint off his rear wing. The guy didn’t stopped and I was infuriated. I overtook him, cut him off, blocked his way but he didn’t want to stop at all, just drove around my car and went away. I got out my phone and tried to take a picture because I needed to file a police report for insurance purposes but, while I was fiddling with the pone buttons, he got out of clear view and then he shot up expressway ramp that was going in a completely different direction from me.

Adrenalin was rushing through my blood, my eyes were probably red shot with anger but I had enough presence of mind not to start a full blown pursuit and let him go. Then I started counting my chickens. Insurance would probably need me to cough up some petty cash as a “processing fee” or something because I didn’t have the guilty party to sign off the papers. The police report would have only slowed things forever and wouldn’t be worth the trouble. The real trouble was coming from my better half.

I can’t imagine facing her wrath in the evening, it doesn’t matter whether I was right or wrong, IT WAS ALL MY FAULT. After the anger there would be a lot of sulking, silent treatment, pent up emotions and reminders of MY FAULT for many years to come. I would never be able to overtake anyone with her in the car, she would always make caustic remarks about driving “too fast”.

It would be hell.

The accident happened in the morning, on the way to work. When I parked my car I looked with desolation at the large area of scraped paint, impossible to hide. With a heavy heart I went on about my duties. Whole day I was thinking about it, or trying not to think about it. At some point my mind put all the blame on Krishna – I was listening to a lecture on a CD when it happened, why didn’t He look out for me? Why do I have to suffer so much? Why doesn’t He protect His devotees? All kinds of unreasonable arguments. So silly and ungrateful that there’s no point in refuting them at all.

I got home early enough to survey the damage alone. I got some oil and alcohol and tried to clean up the mess. To my great relief most of it was the paint from the other car but I knew that somewhere underneath it there would be scars that can’t be hidden. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed and most of it was gone, then I got some special, hard rags and scrubbed some more until there was nothing left, not even a scratch. Paint on my car was completely untouched, no sign of accident left.

HURRAY!

Now it was time to deal with Krishna. As a die-hard ingrate I took it philosophically:

Well, I didn’t really blame You, I knew it was just my mind, so I don’t feel guilty at all. Thanks for saving my behind on this occasion, knowing me it won’t be the last, we have a lot of business like this ahead of us…

Did I fully realize that Krishna IS saving devotees? Not really – He wasn’t supposed to save me here and I wasn’t supposed to appeal to Him to clear my own mess, so I should be prepared to eventually deal with these things on my own. The fact that I couldn’t avoid those thoughts dampened my spirits significantly. Instead of celebrating I was already looking forward to the next test, and I probably won’t have to wait for long.

I shouldn’t even think of “mat prana nathas tu sa eva naparah” without passing “marma hatam” without a thought of my own salvation. If I can’t live through troubles inflicted by me alone and blame the Lord, what are the chances of me living through pain inflicted by Krishna? None, zero, zilch, nada.

My realization – if you feel happy making progress and earning Krishna’s attention – keep chanting, it will go away.

Vanity thought #60. How to woo Krishna.

This is not a tutorial, it’s a genuine question.

I have only a vague idea how women conquer men, none of what they usually do sounds like a legitimate way to attract Krishna’s attention. In this day and age no woman lure a man with modesty and chastity, they all put out their best tricks instead. You know the joke – men hope that after marriage their wives would stay the same but they change, women expect their husbands to change but they stay the same.

This is stereotypical misogynistic garbage but that is all I know.

I also believe I have a better understanding of how to win women’s hearts. Persistence and perseverance are the keys. It doesn’t really matter what a man achieves, it matters how much he tries. It doesn’t matter if he wins a fist fight or not, he’d be a hero simply for not chickening out. I never understood the logic of that but this is what often happens. Quite often women give themselves to a man just for a solid promise of a future life even if he might still be a nobody at the time and they would often stick with him through thick and thin as long as he is putting a serious effort into it.

Women seem to sense the power of a drive, as long as the drive is there, results are only a matter of time, and as soon as the drive disappears, no amount of money or comfort can replace it, the taste goes away and women start thinking whether there’s any future in the relationship left.

So, how to woo Krishna? Should we try female tricks to win Him over, should we try chastity? Should we try male raw force and dedication?

Chastity is very attractive. One who keeps his heart and mind clean will surely attract Krishna’s attention, but, as I found out yesterday, simply chanting the mantra doesn’t give devotion, the effort must be there. Maybe women feel secure that they don’t need to manifest any heart desires externally, I don’t. I think there’s nothing wrong with trying to grab Krishna’s attention by any means necessary, too.

I’ve tried that already and failed many many times. With each new idea I soon discover that I’m not doing it right, that in my heart every desire to please Krishna is buried deep under multiple layers of selfishness and self-gratification. Every time I return home badly beaten, licking my wounds and thinking “never again”, and yet as time passes by I find myself wanting to give it another go.

I figure that I will never learn if I never try. I prepare to learn from my mistakes, I plan to avoid making them again. I think that starting up a fire in the rain is a difficult task and one should not expect to succeed on the first try, I believe that eventually one will learn to light it up in seconds but it requires a lot of practice and a lot of fails.

Basically, I transfer our modern thirst for progress to conquering Krishna as well. It works on everything else – science, medicine, economy. Don’t our scriptures tell us that we should direct that energy to the Absolute Truth instead? Yes, the underlying desire is for gratification or liberation, but as long as we come in touch with Krishna there’s every chance that our hearts will become purified. In fact I don’t see any other way – without Krishna’s touch our hearts will never ever change.

Isn’t it what Siksashtaka tells us in the first shloka? The Holy Name WILL change our hearts and there’s simply no other way.

A chaste woman, on the other hand,  doesn’t need to prance around in push up bras. Chastity means avoiding all the stupid ideas I try to win Lord’s attraction, it means taking each step very carefully and keeping the heart clean all the way through. It means chanting without offenses comparing to jumping like a mad gorilla in the name of a “good kirtan”.

I guess it could work both ways. As long as the Lord is the ultimate goal it should be okay. Sometimes “chaste” way might appear as being more advanced than “drive”, sometimes as being lazy and  indifferent. As long as the desire to please the Lord is planted in our hearts the degree of progress doesn’t really matter, it is only a question of time and time has no relevance to devotional service, it has power only as long as we think in terms of better and faster, and when was the last time it did us any good?

Vanity thought #59. Grisly discovery.

Everyone knows that Hare Krishna mahamantra is not some concoction and that it has authentic vedic roots, one of the books where it was mentioned as a mantra for Kali Yuga is Kali Santarana Upanishad. That is all I knew about it until now.

It turns out Kali Santarana Upanishad, a part of Krishna section of Yajurveda, is rather short and the translation is easily available.

Narada Muni asks Lord Brahma how to cross the age of Kali and in reply Brahma gives him the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. What I didn’t know is what Brahma tells next.

He lists various benefits that come from chanting the mantra, how it purifies one from various sins from killing a brahmana to stealing gold to sleeping with a woman of a low caste. The caveat, though, is that one should chant three and half crores of it.

Three and a half crores is thirty five million, and not names but the mantra itself. Thirty five million divided by sixteen rounds a day by hundred and eight mantras in a round and three hundred sixty five days in a year gives us fifty four and a half years.

Fifty five years! And it doesn’t even promise devotional service!

I don’t have time for this. If I live long enough I might complete the number just in time to die and that’s assuming I won’t take any breaks, and I won’t even become a devotee in the end. I see how my future is all nicely decorated with strewn innards of my damned soul and vomit of my brains.

If one goes by Kali Santarana Upanishad alone it looks hopeless. The only hope is that Brahma doesn’t set a condition of unoffensive chanting, he specifically says that it doesn’t matter how one chants.

Bottom line is that we should really strive to chant without offenses, on its own the mantra is not very powerful. At best it grants one liberation. To achieve devotional service we should put some personal effort, a lot of it, at every opportunity.

“I’ll just chant, the mantra itself will give me all I need” doesn’t seem like the correct attitude. We need to extend our hand to Krishna and learn to love Him, sometimes taking beatings and swallowing some bitter pills. It is pretty hard to learn to love a woman, I mean past the stage of initial infatuation, and Krishna is infinitely more complex and mysterious being. There should be a lot of swallowed pride and ultimately a shattered ego, which is very painful.

But… no pain no gain.

 

Let’s just imagine how a lowly, acne infested, emotionally unstable teenage girl can win the heart of a school quarterback. It will be a lot more difficult than that.