Countless times Srila Prabhupada and our gurus caught us practicing mayavada. We don’t preach it, of course, our whole movement is designed to counteract the spread of mayavada in the world but when it comes to daily life we slip up and do all kinds of stupid things that could be traced back to mayavada. But that is a thought for another day, perhaps.
Today is about being Christians – are we occasionally guilty of that, too? I think yes, and in more than one way, too.
First off, Christians routinely pray to absolve them of their sins but then go out and commit them again. In general we are not half as bad but each one of us has at some point broken one or more promises we made to Krishna. I’m not talking about regulative principles here. I mean things we promise on the spur of the moment, like “never again I will eat this much halava”. Perhaps even things we really try to mean like “I will serve You forever, with each moment of my life”, and then comes a moment when there’s this really interesting thing on the Internet and you know it’s bad but can’t stop yourself.
Isn’t it exactly what Christians do?
But that is trivial stuff, I’m afraid our similarities go a lot deeper. What do we think of ourselves as we engage in devotional service? How do we see ourselves? How do we see perfection? Do we fully realize at all times what perfection entails in regard to our present condition?
What I’m trying to say is that we see ourselves as our bodies and we want our bodies to achieve perfection, even if subconsciously. We want our bodies to reside in Holy Dhamas, we want our bodies to serve our mission, we want our legs to walk and our mouths to talk and our ears to listen and our minds to preach. Isn’t it true?
First danger is that we keep identifying with our bodies in the process. If we think about it from another end, from “I’m not the body” starting point we kind of aware of it, but when we look at how we act and think it’s still “I’ve done this, I’m doing this now and I’m going to do that afterwards” – a total bodily platform.
Even if we remember that “I’m not my body”, we still think of it in terms of my and mine. Actually our bodies do not belong to us, do not belong to our souls. Not if we surrendered them.
Remember the episode from Chaitanya Charitamrita when Sanatana Goswami got really sick on the way to Jagannatha Puri. He was so sick he thought he should kill himself by throwing himself under the chariots at Ratha Yatra. Remember what Chaitanya Mahaprabhu told him? “Your body is mine, you’ve surrendered it to me, you have no right to it anymore. Haridas, please tell him, he can’t kill or destroy somebody else’s property. What a thief!”
Remember the other story from Chaitanya Charitamrita about brahmana Vasudeva who met the Lord in South India? He was suffering from leprosy and his whole body was covered with worms, yet he didn’t consider his body his property at all. He thought worms have equal rights to it so when some of them fell out he picked them up and placed them back where they belong.
Okay, these are normal concerns – identifying with our bodies, everybody goes through them at one time or another, what has it got to do with Christianity?
Well, Christians believe that they would go to heaven to meet the Lord in these same exact bodies they are living in now. For those who died, their bodies will get resurrected and fly off to meet the God. They’d be purified of sin, of course, but they’d still be the same bodies they are carrying around now.
There was this memorable quote from the “Forrest Gump” movie, spoken by Lieutenant Dan, a Vietnam war veteran who lost both his legs and was bound to a wheelchair: “They even had a priest come and talk to me. He said God is listening and if I found Jesus, I’d get to walk beside him in the kingdom of Heaven. Did you hear what I said? WALK beside him in the kingdom of Heaven! Well kiss my crippled ass.”
If we serve the Lord on a bodily platform, keep our attachments, and think that perfection is near – we are in the same position as Christians. If we look in our hearts we can find traces of this attachment everywhere and if we look into our hearts we can also admit that we’d be happy to see Krishna face to face in these same bodies. I, for one, admit that I’d rather was taken to see Krishna without the pain of leaving this body or the suffering I would have to go through for decades while this body gets crippled and disintegrates.
I will not by lying if I say that I’d rather achieved the perfection of chanting Shuddha Nam now and lived through the aging process without a worry than suffering through another twenty-thirty years. I can even give a couple of reasons why it should be better for my service and for Krishna to avoid the old age altogether. And that makes me just as Christian as the next guy on the subway.
They believe that Jesus died on the cross for them so they don’t have to go through this shit themselves. I believe Krishna will save me from it. What’s the difference? We are on the same bodily platform, looking for the ways to make our bodies more comfortable and secretly desiring not to leave them when we get to Heaven or Krishnaloka.
That kind of worries me, not because I’ve lost a reason to feel superior to Christians (though that, too) but because I see that I don’t really know who I am. I’m afraid my attachment is so deeply ingrained that I don’t see it most of the time and I won’t give it up easily simply because I don’t realize how much it really means to me.
Perhaps I’m biting more than I can chew, but what’s the alternative? Nothing, just keep biting.
Much, much work ahead. Need to sharpen my teeth.