Vanity thought #153. Identity crisis.

I don’t know who I am anymore. I know I’m not this man. I know I’m not this body and I’m most likely not this mind, memories and intelligence, too. I haven’t felt the separation from subtle elements yet but it must be just around the corner, next logical step.

But who am I?

Many years ago I picked up the first volume of Srimad Bhagavatam and learned that I’m not this material body but an eternal spirit soul, covered by ignorance of my true nature. I’ve also learned that to rediscover my lost spiritual identity I had to join the temple, shave my head, eat only food offered to God, chant sixteen rounds of japa everyday, follow the instructions of the spiritual master and so on.

That certainly seemed like a totally appropriate proposal at that time. It still is, but the situation changed, more on that later.

Anyway, while living in the temple, doing all those things and serving the sankirtana mission I developed a new identity – a young man with sikha, chanting sixteen rounds a day, serving the sankirtana mission and so on. It was alright, I guess, one can certainly imagine himself to be much much worse.

One little thing was left out unattended, though. At that time I thought I have no place for sex in new life, it wasn’t part of my identity then. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right and maybe there was not much support in our society back then and maybe we had wrong ideals at the time but one way or another the hormones eventually took over and my freshly minted identity just crumbled.

I guess it served its purpose because instead of blaming the ISKCON for taking the best years of my life and spitting me out with nothing, as some of our enemies were whispering in my ear, I actually made a career out of a skill I learned at the temple, and it wasn’t much of a choice for me either, it just happened, by divine providence.

Then I was busy building another identity, a responsible family man, someone people look up to and cite as an example. It was a helluva ride and it was fun while it lasted but eventually this identity has crumbled, too.

And just as I was starting to worry what’s going to happen to me next, still under the “family man” illusion, I was suddenly shown that I’m not this body at all, it’s just some shlep shuffling around without any clue what’s going on around him and no clue about his future. It looked pathetic and hopeless, tossed about by the waves of nature. Am I going to tie my fortunes to this abomination?

But who am I otherwise? Do I have a choice?

Can I go back to my temple days identity? It doesn’t seem like an option anymore, I am not a temple material, I have no business of being there.

Then there’s some major philosophical problem with that brahmachari suit. When I was wearing it many many years ago I thought I was going to heaven. Just like that – put on tilak, purify my senses, eat prasadam for seven years so that all the cells in my body became spiritual, and just step into the heavens.

Okay, there were many more conditions, I had to serve the sankirtana, I had to do so many other things, I had to please my spiritual master, I had to serve other devotees, I had to perform all sixty four limbs of sadhana or whatever it is properly called, to lazy to check now, it’s from Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu/Nectar of Devotion.

It didn’t sound like a lot back then, just go through the checklist and entrance into Krishna’s pastimes was guaranteed.

I love the look of a young brahmachari, I’m sure Krishna’s heart melts, too, but, as far as I know, there aren’t any twentieth century shaved eggheads in His pastimes in Vrindavan, or else they have to rewrite the Krishna Book.

Maybe Lord Chaitanya can sneak some of them into His sankirtana parties but I seriously doubt they can enter without a total makeover.

That’s just a funny idea, but when it gets to praying and philosophy it becomes much more serious.

Yesterday I had a whole new appreciation for “use the body in Krishna’s service” idea. When I clearly saw the difference between my body and me it made much more sense. When I don’t see the difference I could just as well say “engage myself”.

I also suspect there’s a whole new understanding of “pure devotees sometimes take material bodies to help preaching mission” idea. When Lord Chaitanya descended into this world many His associates from the spiritual world descended, too, and for most part they had no idea who they were. Haridas Thakur, for example, didn’t go around telling everyone he was Brahma, or Prahlad Maharaj, so we still don’t know for certain.

Vrindavan Das Thakur is believed to be incarnation of Vyasadev but anyone who has read his Chaitanya Bhagavat can’t help but notice that he didn’t think himself as Vyasadev for a second. He actually left a lot of details out for “real” Vyasadev to fill in later, he specifically mentioned it at least a dozen times.

When all these devotees were descending here, were they under control of Lord’s internal or external potency? Silly question. What about me and people like me? Are we under influence of Yoga Maya as well? Another silly question.

So when I hear that many demigods are taking birth to help ISKCON mission it might very well be true but there are also many, I suspect a lot more people who are just ordinary souls making another step towards Krishna. We are not playing part in His ISKCON pastime, we are not going to wrap it up and go back to Vaikuntha, it’s not a game for us. If we screw up we are done for, if they screw up they still go back.

For them it was a conscious decision to come here, for us it’s an inescapable prison. We should not be imitating them, which, I think, might happen if we imitate their prayers.

Take a common theme, for example: “Please, Krishna, if you want me to stay and serve you here I will happily do it.” Krishna doesn’t want us to stay here. That’s madness.

Or sometimes we might imagine that we are on a some kind of mission to liberate the universe. Can’t liberate ourselves from honoring prasadam service yet think we have control over the universe. Our guru is on a mission, we are just helping, mostly for our own benefit. Krishna liberates people, not us.

Or what about spreading the love of God? We, conditioned souls, don’t have any love of God by definition, we just hope that people would appreciate Srila Prabhupada. We, as ourselves, might spread a lot of unwanted things instead, our anarthas, for example. We just as contagious that way as the next karmi.

But let me get back to “Let me serve Krishna here” prayer again. Who is this “me” here? I wasn’t given this body to serve, I was given it to enjoy myself. As soon as I agree to become this “me” all my service is over. A conditioned soul, identifying itself with a material body cannot render devotional service. It can strive either for enjoyment or for liberation.

We only can hope that by Krishna’s grace the body will become purified enough so that we could see that it’s not us, that we have nothing to do with it at all and Krishna doesn’t need it either. It might be of use to the preaching movement, though, that’s all it is really good for, that’s how we, the spirit souls, get purified from our misconception about our identity so there’s no “me” anymore.

Sometimes it sounds as if we want to enter into Krishna’s lila just as we are, sweaty, hungry and constipated, probably thinking that it doesn’t matter to Krishna, He loves us anyway. Who is us? Krishna loves our material bodies?

Krishna is not a pervert, we are. We think that by selling a few (thousand) books we made our bodies spiritual, that they are now our spiritual identities. They are not, never will be.

These bodies, when properly utilized, earn us, real us, the souls within, a large amount of brownies with Krishna who might one day relieve us of our misidentification and reveal us our real forms.

Until then the body is a prison forcing us to live by its rules, we can’t take it to Krishna, no matter how much we like it. We can’t make it love Krishna either – they are just bodies, some chemicals, minds and egos, they are dead matter.

Same thing with “Please let me love you, Krishna”. Who is this me that’s going to be doing the loving? Another pervert?

I’m sorry, I’m just ranting, I just got confused with everything that includes “I” and “me”. I know what “I” is not but I don’t know what it is, that’s all.

Oh, and it would be blasphemy to think that bodies of other vaishnavas are just puss and urine. Sometimes I have tendency to extrapolate like that. Mental note to myself – stop now!

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