Vanity thought #149. Sanmodana Bhashyam, Verse 2.

Somehow the pdf I downloaded for my Kindle has a mix of both Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Sanmodana Bhashyam and purports by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. Now I don’t know when one ends and another begins.

They are both discussing the second verse of Siksashtaka, of course, which is about the powers of the Holy Names and Lord Chaitanya’s absence of attractions for them.

The main point about the Names is that they are non-different from the Lord and fully invested with all His energies, His forms, qualities and pastimes. I like that pastimes are included, too. I hope there will be something to spend time on once the Name finally reveals itself. Without pastimes, I’m afraid, I’ll get bored very easily.

There’s also a point that there are no rules or regulations for chanting the Names. Very handy in this day and age, I’m abusing this loophole in any way I can. Thanks.

Srila Bhaktivionda Thakura gives a list of supporting quotes from Srimad Bhagavatam that makes it look entirely convincing. Just say the Name once and get liberated, or get unalloyed devotional service. Then Bhaktivinoda Thakura openly admits that despite all this clear evidence from shastras we still can’t develop even a drop of attraction to chanting.

That’s how we come to “durdaiva”, the reason why. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says durdaiva is synonymous with ten offences against the Holy Name and then he lists those offences.

So far so good, fairly predictable.

It’s in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s purport where things become quite frightening.

First there’s a bit about primary and secondary names. Krishna is a primary name, Vasudeva is also a primary name but in the reverential mood. Paramatma, the supersoul, is a secondary name. Still potent but not as much, only partially representing the potencies of the primary names.

Nothing to see here, too, moving on.

It’s the next part that prompted me to think a lot about it. I’ll just copy the whole paragraph

Because the spirit soul has turned away from the Lord, he has become imprisoned in maya’s illusory and ephemeral kingdom, bringing down upon himself his great misfortune all due to his reluctance to render service to Shri Krishna. Anyabhilasita or material desires, karma and jnana lead to different degrees of mundane enjoyment, deluding the spirit soul into forgetting his real spiritual identity, or svarfipa, thus causing him to fall into a veritable whirlpool of misery. Under the spell of lusty desires, he becomes intoxicated with sensual pleasures; while pious activities goad him into yearning for temporary heavenly joys. Thus battered about between bhoga and tyaga, or indulgence and renunciation, he searches for release seeking absorption in the undifferentiated brahman. The soul’s intrinsic nature and eternal duty is to serve Lord Krishna, but it has been obscured by the three impurities and as a result his good fortune is being slowly chiselled away. He becomes busy with mundane activities of religiosity, accumulating wealth and enjoying the senses. Or else he is: frustrated because he does not derive any satisfaction from committing impious immoral activities. Thus becoming the ignominious bearer of offences, when he attempts to chant the holy name he perpetrates ‘nama aparadhas’. He is unable to chant Krishna’s name purely, His chanting is offensive, for he cannot chant purely at this stage.

This is really depressing.

To make the long story short – fallen souls like me are torn between the desire to enjoy this world and the desire to reject it, between bhoga and tyaga. In either of these conditions the soul becomes an “ignominious bearer of offences” and is unable to chant the Holy Names purely.

This is me alright.

I guess there are plenty of people on this stage, too, but to me it brings unpalatable finality. There is simply no way I’m going to eradicate all offences from my heart. Not in this life time. Not in this life form, not in this body and not with this mind.

Yes, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati talks about the way to overcome the offenses – one must recognize and isolate the offenses; conscientiously avoiding them he must then chant continuously, just as I thought, but it doesn’t sound plausible at all.

I don’t see how I can forever avoid thinking about sex, for example. I think I can say even from my limited experience that lust pollutes the heart for many hours at a time. Chanting helps overcome it, true, but aftereffects still stay with me.

Yes, I admit I’ve seen progress dealing with it, but the reality is that three little spells of lust can ruin the whole day of chanting. In the beginning I had this romantic notion that as I chant more and more lust will magically disappear. It doesn’t. In fact it seems there’s a lot more of it going around.

When I was working and generally keeping myself busy I didn’t have time to think about sex. Now, when I walk around the empty house whole day long, I’ve finally got all the time in the world to entertain every fantasy I’ve ever had. This is not what I expected.

Idle hands, as the say, is the workshop of the devil. Chanting, it turns out, does not provide me with enough distractions.

I’m sure there’s a better, more optimistic way to look at it but I’m not buying it. Sure, I sometimes think that now I’m dealing with the crux of the matter, no more sweeping it under the carpet, taking on lust head on. I don’t believe it myself, not yet, at least.

Should I use the same tricks to cool off I used before? Should I find another subject to think about instead? Or should I just chant through the entire nightmare? Sometimes I think it’s okay to manage the mind, feed it less disruptive thoughts, sometimes I think this is just postponing the inevitable.

I want to try to chant through, try at least for a day or two, maybe the whole week. That guarantees I won’t see any repeats of my best rounds from the previous weeks but maybe it will be worth the while in the end.

There are plenty of other things that make me depressed, too. When I look at the clock, for example, I catch myself oscillating between bhoga and tyaga again. If I’m waiting for a break I’m in the bhoga mood, when I’m trying to chant faster I’m in the tyaga mood, dedicating my energy to escape from the unpleasant situation through faster chanting.

When my eyes pause of a magazine cover even for a second I catch myself doing bhoga, and when I turn them away in frustration I’m switching to tyaga.

For the entire day, ever since I’ve read that paragraph, I couldn’t spot one single time when I chanted the mantra purely for the Lord’s pleasure. Thanks to the book my eyes have been opened but I don’t like what I see, not at all.

Two things that still keep me going. First is the story of Dhruva Maharaja, he had no idea what devotional service was until he summoned Vishnu by his tapasya, so it is possible to get Lord’s attention even with impure motives. Second is that regardless of how depressed and frustrated I might feel, the only solution is to keep chanting.

I can continue chanting now, or I can sulk, give up, go do something else, but one day I will still have to resume from where I left and go through the same tribulations again, so why not do it now if I still can?

Vanity thought #148. Sunday

How come that Krishna, of whom I know nothing, only imagine a few things about flowers I have never seen or smelled in my life, appears so much more attractive in effect than anything modern entertainment has to offer on Sunday?

All stories about Him are kind of lame by modern standards yet there’s still something irresistible about Him.

What is His magic? He is not even a model hero. Look at the story of Dviida the Gorilla. Dvivida caused so much trouble yet Krishna, who descended to punish the wrongdoers and establish the principles of religion, was nowhere to be found.

Dvivida had a free run at the country, even raping some women, according to Krishna Book, yet Krishna didn’t do anything at all. Only when drunk Balarama’s women got personally offended He, Balarama, decided to do something about it. So much about establishing principles.

Still Krishna beats all the heroes perfectly following His own professed principles. How does that work?

I have no idea, it’s puzzling.

Maybe because Krishna is a perfect badass. He … just… doesn’t… give … a … f…!

He doesn’t care what we think, He is always right. But no, we can’t follow Him, can’t follow what He does, we should follow only what He says.

This is extremely unfair. Follow what I say, not what I do???

What kind of God is that?

The one that is not concerned the least about equality or His authority, that’s the one.

We’ve got to flush this democracy crap out of our hearts. There’s no democracy with Krishna. He is not our equal and we will never ever be equal to Him, or to each other.

We are supposed to feel lower than anyone or anything we ever meet, remember?

There’s no equality in Krishna consciousness, and that’s a good thing.

The moment I take off my devotee mask and step in into the real world I’m infused with equality and opportunities and hope. That’s an illusion. There’s no equality, not even a chance to become equal, and there’s no hope it will ever work.

We can’t even be equally miserable. We always want to be better, even more miserable if that is our only option.

Even when we turn to Krishna we expect Him to satisfy our inherently wrong assumptions of what God is supposed to provide and it doesn’t work.

How much value we can put on devotees freely sharing the most intimate, secret knowledge for free, at a great personal risk to themselves?

For whatever modern entertainment is worth, this idea of pure, unalloyed love is impossible to come buy, not even on the best of cables. Non devotees are just not capable of imagining it yet alone expressing it themselves.

And that is why the sankirtana mission is so important to the world, the most precious gift this Earth has seen since last annihilation or something. This is the real hook.

Too bad I don’t pay much attention to it. I reason that since I believe I’m hooked already I can just relax and watch me being reeled in.

That’s why I take a practically full break on Sundays, brunch, shopping, this and that. First impression is how much tasteless it all is, I can’t wait to go back to chanting my umpteen rounds. Then, as the day marches on, I agree to take interest in all those things. I comment on passing cars, notice latest fashions, argue about latest gadgets, try to fit in, and it works, sadly.

All I need to forget Krishna is just try and He will provide, via His external energy.

But what about being hooked already? What about the taste I missed early in the morning? Will it come back on its own? What’s its real nature? What does it depend on? Can it be substituted?

Initially I thought that would be impossible because it comes from the eternal nature of the soul but perhaps I was assuming too much.

People miss all kinds of things, when they have exciting projects at work they hate to come down to dreary routine of uneventful home life. When they are in love they hate to be away from the object of their infatuation, too. How’s missing Krishna is any different for me?

What if what I really miss is not Krishna but the rush of chanting ridiculous amounts of rounds? What if I miss the accomplishments, not the process? What if I miss satisfaction of achieving great results? What if I was simply driven by the mode of passion?

To allay those fears I might say to myself that what I really miss is the attempt at devotion. Chanting the Holy Name is “sarvatma snapanam”, it completely cleanses the heart from all selfish desires. This is the taste that cannot be replicated or replaced by anything else.

Surely it is contaminated by the underlying drive is still there, even if I had plenty of other, selfish motives to chant.

When I think about my first reactions to ordinary Sunday activities it was “But but but it’s all meant for MY pleasure, I have no interest in my pleasure anymore!”

I don’t want to fantasize about fast cars or cool tablets with awesome widgets. I didn’t want to, it didn’t feel right, I’m not lying.

My second thought was “Oh God, is this really what you want me to do today? Fine, but you take responsibility for the results, too.”

When Raghunatha Dasa Goswami first met Lord Chaitanya he was just dasa, not sannyasi. He had a chance to personally serve the Lord for a week in Advaita Acharya’s house and ever since then he tried to run away and join Lord Chaitanya in Jagannatha Puri but his father assigned a dozen people to watch guard over him.

What the Lord told him is truly remarkable:

For the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way and do not become attached to it.

Enjoy the material world? Thanks, I’m already on my way.

Of course the real lesson was about false renunciation and yukta vairagya and Srila Prabhupada elaborates nicely on these points in his purport but I can’t help but wonder what “enjoy in a befitting way” might imply in my situation? Could be quite a lot.

I figure I’ll just accept what is coming and try to be reasonable about it.

Lord Chaitanya also said:

Within your heart you should keep yourself very faithful, but externally you may behave like an ordinary man

Perhaps it means I shouldn’t get fixated on watching movies and crunching popcorn but try to keep faith in my heart while I go about performing these rituals of materialistic society.

Thus Kṛṣṇa will soon be very pleased and deliver you from the clutches of māyā

It’s by this undying faith in my heart that Krishna can be pleased even if I don’t appear to act like a devotee at all. Fine, but, unlike Raghunatha Dasa I don’t have undying faith and my heart gets easily polluted. Who will take responsibility for cleaning it up?

Ultimately, though, it was offered only as a temporary solution and Lord Chaitanya clearly said that Raghunatha Dasa will devise some trick to escape and meet the Lord in Vrindavana.

No one said anything like that to me but I guess its implied. Eventually I will have to find a better way to live my life, in more favorable circumstances.

I don’t know when or how but I just talked about the plan yesterday – “And now we wait.”

Vanity thought #147. And now we wait…

While describing all the tribulations of last week I forgot to write about some really good and encouraging things that happened, too.

On Thursday night, before falling asleep, I prayed for mercy, I was really worried about how my Friday japa would go.

Next morning the Lord delivered.

Somehow or other I managed to keep my head clean and started my chanting in a very promising mood. Previous night prayers were still in my head and I was watching for the signs of Lord’s answer. I knew I had no power to summon the mantra on my own, I was totally dependents on Lord’s mercy there.

When the first few rounds simply flew off my tongue I knew my prayers were heard. I was full of appreciation, I felt naturally humble for such a gift, I fully understood that it is only by Lord’s own will that I’m able to chant His Holy Names.

I also caught a glimpse of the mood of the first three verses of Siksashtaka, I knew I was finally going in the right direction. Everything came together – the appreciation, the humility, the realization that I’m very unfortunate not being able to feel the real taste of the Holy Names and I chanted with eagerness and enthusiasm. For a moment it was a picture of perfection.

“Now what?”, I thought. “And now we wait.”

To really feel the beauty and power of the Hare Krishna mantra I had to maintain this mood forever, “Kirtaniyah sada harih”, sada – always, the next step was being more tolerant than a tree, also meaning being very patient, extremely patient.

A tree stands in one place and waits for whatever it needs or wants, for years, in some cases for hundreds of years. A tree does not complain if there’s no water, it just waits for the rain, sometimes for months, in extreme heat. And even when its own leaves are dry and scorched by the sun it still finds generosity to provide shade and shelter to whoever asks.

Similarly we should always be waiting for the Lord, always eager to see Him coming, always ready to receive Him in the proper way.

The Name might already be there, on the tip of my tongue, but I should not only keep chanting and praying, I should also be always prepared to see its real glory, prepared for the occasion when it mercifully decides to manifest itself, reveal its form, its attributes, its full mercy.

I cannot pop my head our for a second, see that nothing is coming my way, and go do a crossword puzzle or something. I cannot stop eagerly waiting even for a second. The moment I turn away I lose all my chances and will have to start waiting all over again. This can go on and on, possibly for lifetimes.

Even if I keep chanting but my mind is not fully into it, the Name is not going to reveal anything.

Even if I chant and control my mind, but have no intense desire to meet the Name, it’s not going to appear.

Unfortunately, apathy is not something easily overcome. I can’t turn eagerness on like tap water. Sooner or later the modes of ignorance and passion cloud my heart and I find myself in a dull, numb state of mind, or chasing skirts. I don’t know what’s worse, I think the apathy is my real enemy.

Passion can come and go and can be forgiven but apathy comes from the heart, it can’t be cured easily. “Durdaivam” it may be but whatever the origin of it I have to get past it. From apathy all other offenses arise, and nothing good comes from the offenses, only more apathy.

Having said all that, I’m still very optimistic. Now I know what I need, I know what mood to find, I know the signs of it, I know what destroys it, I’m pretty sure I will catch it again sooner or later, and then I’ll wait.

Now, unlike before, I see the road mapped in front of me. I don’t have to search for Krishna’s glories or beauty or the taste for the Holy Name – I don’t know what any of these things are. What I have to search for is the humility I have already seen the preview of, I have to search for eagerness I already have felt the dawn of, I know exactly what I want, and when I get it I know what to do next – wait.

The good news is that the further down that road I progress the easier it becomes, and the easier it is to wait, I’ve already seen the glimpse of anticipation, I just have to learn to keep it longer, for as long as possible.

I don’t really mind that the rest of the day was a mess, or that today’s japa was one of the worst on record. These are not distractions, they are just obstacles naturally put in my way. I’ve set my eye on the immediate goal and nothing is going to stop me.

Except my pride.

Pride is a tough nut to crack, I’ve seen it ruin plenty of precious moments already, but I also know how it manifests itself. In the past week, for example, I’ve learned what thoughts exactly ruin my pronunciation of the Holy Names.

Ever since I remember I’ve always had a running commentary in my head, describing my actions, my feelings, my intentions etc. “And then he did that, and then he thought that, and then decided that” and so on. It is like constantly eulogizing myself, recording my life for posterity. It had become somewhat of my second nature, this desire for vanity (hence the name of my blog entries, btw).

Now I’ve been shown that it’s a big no-no. If I want to progress any further I have to give it up. At first I was amazed how often I do it, how frustratingly often, but at least I’m aware of it now and I’ve learned how to avoid it – under the threat of not being able to pronounce the maha mantra. Now I know how to shut it down, not always successfully, of course, but it’s an ongoing battle, the war hasn’t been lost yet.

Coming from another angle, I think that existence of my pride has to be acknowledged just like the existence of hunger or lust. It’s not going to go away completely, it just has to be managed. First I should become aware of its manifestations then I should disassociate from it in my heart.

Then I can feed it here.

Today’s portion has been served.

Vanity thought #146. Nightmare scenarios.

The “working week” is finally over, tomorrow I’ll just chant the required minimum of sixteen rounds and spend the rest of the day on various social and family engagements.

There’s a part of me that is longing for this break, can’t deny it, there’s also a part that is looking at it in disbelief and with quiet apprehension. I failed.

There’s a part of me that is dreading next Monday when I’ll have no excuses not to chant 108 rounds anymore, and this same part is hoping for some miracle to rescue me from further humiliation.

There’s also a part that refuses to let it go, the part that refuses to plan ahead and make promises but patiently waits for Krishna’s guidance. By His will everything is possible, so why admit defeat before the battle even started?

And it’s promising to be the mother of all battles – me, my stubborn tongue, and Krishna, the Supersoul in my heart, the ultimate controller and ultimate judge. There will be no rules, there will be no fair play, everything goes. If Krishna likes the action, I win, any other outcome means I lose.

But let’s look back at the week behind me and try to imagine plausible scenarios for my nightmares.

It all started very well, carry over from last week. If I sat down and didn’t move I could chant one round in less than five minutes, if I walked around I did five minutes exactly, round after round, hour after hour, not a minute dropped.

Then something happened, snapped, broke, I don’t know, but suddenly my mouth went numb and I became tongue tied.

First thing that came into my mind was cancer. Some people have tumors in their brains that eventually affect brain circuitry and parts of their bodies get out of control.

I sometimes have this thing with my eyes – everything goes blur and out of the entire field of my vision I can see only on what is directly in front of me. Everything else becomes just a mash of unidentifiable colors and shapes. I don’t think my retina is damaged, not on both eyes, I think it’s the brain failing to process the incoming data and present it to me as nice, coherent picture. Usually it goes away on it’s own in about half an hour.

Could the same thing happen to my tongue? Why not? Some electric signals get jammed somewhere and when they reach the mouth they give it confusing signals, overlaying, out of sync, disconnected patterns. There’s no follow up after “Hare Rama Hare Rama”, the tail of the mantra is present elsewhere, the memory and the movement is there, but not connected. Once I pause to look for it the beginning of the next mantra is already pushing through, on schedule.

I was kinda hoping it was a tumor, would save me a lot of wasted years here. I don’t think I deserve anything special in my next birth but it’s better to go while on the way up, in a sense that I am chanting more than ever in my life. Who knows, next month I might be struggling to finish sixteen and dedicate most of my time to some trivial pursuit of money and power. Who needs that aggravation?

The thing with tumors is that they tend to grow and I haven’t seen any progress/deterioration in any of my symptoms so the tumor theory is out, not even going to go for a check up.

My second explanation was that I am possessed by some ghost. This ghost, as my theory goes, has been living with me since forever. All it wants is to enjoy sex. Always have, always will. It forces me to think about it all the time. I think it’s a ghost because my physiological needs are nowhere near his demands he puts through my mind. I’m too old for him.

When I started chanting so much and really tried to push lusty thoughts out of my mind the ghost felt threatened and tried to protect his territory. It was him who short circuited my speech wires. It was a two-pronged attack – mess with my mouth and push more sex into my brain. I don’t know how I survived, I guess he simply doesn’t have the power to kill me and he himself needs breaks, too. Also the fact that I kept chanting Hare Krishna might have helped to drain his energy.

I like the ghost theory because of the physical contortions that were forced on my mouth and all related muscles to produce simple words like “Krishna”. If someone was watching this they surely would have thought of the Exorcist.

I also like this theory because it absolves me from responsibility for lusty thoughts in my mind. Ghost did it.

The happy ending would be that by the power of my chanting the ghost finally goes away, maybe even achieves liberation.

What nonsense!

Another theory is that I committed a grave offense somewhere and I’m being punished by depraving me of the last resort of any human being – the ability to say Lord’s Names. I like devising ways to make me appear as fallen as possible but falling that low is beyond the reach of my imagination. What kind of God would do this to a man? I know I’ve been bad but surely not this bad.

Another theory is that I bit more than I can chew. No ordinary man should be chanting this much everyday. It’s like running a marathon, you need months to prepare yourself first, without preparation you’d collapse after just a few kilometers. The solution would be to pace myself, chant less rounds, built my strength first – my tongue and my mind, they are physical objects, they can snap if bent too far, they need massaging and gentle stretching.

This is probably what has really happened, but, unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of time. If, by Krishna’s grace, someone came up to me and asked me to do something else I would have gladly taken another assignment, but until that happens all I can do with my time is chant.

My current theory, though, is that Krishna is giving me a test. He doesn’t care how many rounds I chant. I can dismiss everything else by claiming that I took a vow to finish 108 rounds today so no to newspapers or rss feeds but if Krishna wants to mess with me He is within His rights – I made my vow to Him, after all. He can say “I want 80 but slowly” and I will have to oblige.

Maybe it’s not a coincidence, I’m certain it is not, that my mouth froze when my mind went away. Yesterday it was clear to me as day – I can pronounce the whole mantra if I put my heart into it, no sneaking out, no looking from outside. I have to go all in, and the mantra would come out.

This way it became the battle for my mind, not the battle for my mouth. I was chanting slowly, sometimes restarting the same mantra five times to get it right, but what came out was perfect, I was fully dedicated, fully concentrated, having surrendered all I could. So what if it took several hours longer? I felt satisfied when it was over.

Actually, before I went to sleep I prayed with all my heart to help me chant through this day, to give me power and strength to persevere and to resist temptations to quit. Krishna answered.

I had maybe one horrifying hour, and I turned on Srila Prabhupada chanting japa. Usually it kind of distracts me, as I find myself listening to his japa rather than to my own, and the recording is certainly loud. I also started to think what Prabhupada would say to me if he saw me like this, what would I answered and so on. The words “Sit properly!” scare the hell out of me, too. It was my sixth or seventh hour of chanting and and bad one at that, so I simply had no energy to force myself to sit anymore.

Anyway, I was walking up and down like this, not being able to properly hear myself, running a conversation with Prabupada in my head, and then the recording was over, it’s only forty minutes long. What I discovered was that my stuttering had gone!

I had a “new” ending to the mantra and it did not sound clear even to me but it rolled off my tongue effortlessly. I even recorded myself to check if I miss any syllables. Apparently not.

Apparently my mouth worked out this new ending while I was listening to Prabhupada, there’s no way I could find it satisfactory by my previous standards, I would have jolted if I heard this before, but now it somehow worked.

Good God! With this new mantra I was back in the game, chanting at the long lost speed of five minutes per round again. The last three hours wasn’t a breeze but at least I didn’t have to worry about not making it on time anymore.

Now I’m pretty sure it was all Krishna’s arrangement. I prayed to give me power to complete my rounds and He arranged it.

What worried me, though, is that this new speed came without mind check, now I can think of anything under the sun and no one would stop me. I miss not being able to produce lousy mantras anymore. Maybe I should have let things run their natural course.

Be careful what you wish for, as they say.

Vanity thought #145. Sustenance and nightmares.

In Chaitanya Bhagavata there’s one episode from the life or Srivasa Pandit – one day Lord Chaitanya asked him how he was able to maintain his big household, all his family members and servants. Lord Chaitanya wondered that Srivasa Pandit didn’t have any job and didn’t go anywhere to find any money.

He actually said

Nowadays if one does not make the effort of going hither and thither then nothing comes of its own.

Things were bad back then, too, huh?

At least they could always resort to begging, nowadays it’s not an option. Even one steady, well paying job is probably not enough to start a family, forget about education and colleges.

I blame it on translation but the Lord Chaitanya wasn’t presented nicely here. What’s this business of privately talking about collecting alms? Hither and thither? What’s next? Making secret stash for a rainy day? Wink wink?

Srivasa Pandit was straightforward, though. He didn’t have a heart to go, he accepted whatever was provided by his fate, and if fate didn’t accommodate he had “one, two, three” rule – three times without a meal and off to Ganga with a stone around his neck.

I don’t know what to make of it. Were they both really serious?

Is it okay to off oneself if one is forced to skip three meals? Is avoiding work really that important? Because one “does not have a heart” for it? Okay, Srivasa Pandit had his heart firmly set on Lord Chaitanya and sankirtana, the real one, so “I do not have a heart” is not an excuse for someone like me, but still – can it really work?

Then Lord Chaitanya resolved the matter by saying that Lord’s devotee will never lack anything, as per Krishna’s assurance in Bhagavat Gita (9.22)

But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form — to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.

In real life, though, Srivasa Pandit’s house was the principal place for Lord Chaitanya’s sankirtana pastimes in Navadvipa so there must have been hundreds if not thousands of people ready to bring everything they could to the kirtan and the devotees.

But let’s get back to that Bhagavat Gita verse for a second. When I think of it I see an easy way to maintain myself. I’ll do everything for Krishna, He’ll provide. I’ll scratch His back, He’ll scratch mine.

“Why work?”, I think to myself, Krishna will provide. Or at least fate will provide. There’s a definite amount of food prepared for my consumption by my karma. Stuff I’m going to eat next month is already being harvested somewhere, one cannot avoid his karma, can he? Why put all these efforts into obtaining something that is coming my way regardless?

The other side of this argument is that if karma provides what I get it also provides what I give – my time and energy and my work. That’s what Krishna told to Arjuna – can’t skip your duties, sorry. The stuff I’m going to eat next month is being harvested, sure, but given that I’m sitting on my backside doing nothing I’m not going to get much, if any, and I can’t play Srivasa Pandit, no one is going to take care of me.

Actually, nowhere in the purport Srila Prabhupada say anything about Krishna providing stuff, not a word. There’s only this:

Kṣema refers to the merciful protection of the Lord. The Lord helps the devotee to achieve Kṛṣṇa consciousness by yoga

That is not rice and vegetables, let alone yogurt and ghee.

And even that kshema is only for those who are “unable to live for a moment without Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot but think of Kṛṣṇa twenty-four hours a day..” In Sanskrit there’s also “paryupāsate” condition, translated as “properly worship”, this word appears a few times in Bhagavat Gita and Prabhupada always translates it as proper or perfect worship.

I simply don’t stand a chance.

Pity, was one of the more encouraging verses in the Gita.

About a week ago I came across a little piece of news regarding sustenance. Remember Raghunatha dasa Gosvami who collected discarded food outside Jagannatha Temple walls, washed it and ate it? Well, now it’s illegal, too. One woman in the UK is being sued for taking discarded food from a dumpster outside Tesco. Turns out even if it’s thrown into a bin it’s still legally Tesco’s property.

There’s a whole movement in the UK called “freeganism”, which is basically living off discarded stuff – vegetables too small for supermarkets, food that is close to expiry date and so on. They are not vegetarians, though, they take other ethical reasons from vegans. They also collect clothes and stuff and probably squat in abandoned houses, too, but that’s not interesting. What’s interesting is that their entire lifestyle is about to be declared illegal.

What’s the world coming to?

I swear I once heard in His Grace Aindra Prabhu’s lecture that before meeting devotees he used to collect food from dumpsters outside of supermarket, too, it was all equally tasteless for him, and then he met Hare Krishnas…

Now about the nightmares. This whole day was one continuing, uninterrupted nightmare. Simply put, I lost my tongue. The first couple of hours were going as usual but on round 33 I suddenly lost all abilities to say the mantra. The tongue would simply refuse to turn and say the words. It was coming in waves, every few mantras it would just stop, and it was like that from then on, and even worse.

I don’t know how many times my face was all contorted trying to force the mouth to produce the Names, They just wouldn’t come out. It was continuation from yesterday – any little deviation in the mind and I couldn’t say a word. I had to calm myself down, clear my mind, concentrate on what I was doing it for, and them the mantra would come out perfectly.

I noticed, for example, that I can’t think about how I chant, can’t analyze it – the mantra would just stop midway through. I couldn’t take a mental note how to describe it here, in this blog, either. Just starting “it was as if…” and the mantra would stop.

I’ve spent about two and a half hours on those rounds from 33 to 48 and I was exhausted. I couldn’t get myself up anymore, resigned that I can’t finish my quota, understood that I’m not in control in any way and I’d just try to plough through no matter what.

And then lust came in. Concentrating on Holy Names helped to keep it at bay but it was spreading a very bad aftertaste all over my consciousness. Polluted like that I couldn’t even pray anymore, all I could think of was “I’m not this body, I’m not this body”, then even that little voice disappeared.

I could clearly see that all I needed was to make a sincere effort and the mantra would come out of my mouth but I had no sincerity, nor energy left.

I could clearly see that all I needed was to surrender, but that didn’t seem to be an option with all the lust overcoming my heart and mind.

So I waddled through, spending as much time as I could, and still coming six rounds short. I’m planning on finishing them off before sleep. Shouldn’t take much more than thirty minutes but if my stutter returns it could easily turn into full, frustrating hour.

Maybe one day I will look back at it and smile but for now I can’t think about even about tomorrow.

All I know about tomorrow is that I will have to proofread this blog first thing in the morning.

Vanity thought #144. Reflections on Sanmodana Bhashyam, verse 1.

The fact that what I am doing is not sankirtana wasn’t the only discovery I made while re-reading Sanmodana Bhashyam. Don’t know where I was looking when I read it the first time, there are little gems of wisdom on every page there, hidden behind the usual glorification of the Holy Name.

Take “vidya vadhu jivanam”, for example, sankirtana is life and soul of all education. Vadhu also means wife or bride. Gopis were called vadhu, too. So, is vadhu here means life and soul in a sense one’s wife is his life and soul? Possibly, but Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura offers a different explanation, but wait a second.

I always assumed that “life and soul of all education” means that you study vedas and discover that worshiping Krishna is their ultimate purpose, you study some more and find that shravanam and kirtanam of the Lord’s name and pastimes is the highest service, and among various ways to glorify the Supreme Lord sankirtana is the best. Goes hand in hand with what Lord Chaitanya was doing Himself. First He became a famous vedic scholar, undisputed champion of grammar and everything. Then He proclaimed that all this studying leads only to chanting the Holy Names of Lord Hari and if one does not come to this realization all his studies have been a waste of time.

There’s nothing wrong with this explanation of “vidya vadhu jivanam”, I suppose, but Sanmodana Bhashyam offers a twist.

First, Bhaktivinoda Thakura states that there are two kinds of Supreme Lord’s shakti, vidya and avidya. Avidya is Lord’s external potency, mahamaya, that covers spiritual soul’s knowledge of his real position and makes him enjoy in the material world. Vidya is Lord’s internal potency that creates the spiritual world, yoga maya.

When one chant the Holy Name this internal potency, yoga maya, or swarupa shakti, or bhakti devi, enters the heart of the devotee, eclipses the maha maya, and drives away all ignorance and material desires.

That’s why chanting of the Holy Name is life and soul of all transcendental knowledge – knowledge of Lord’s form, attributes, pastimes, and our relationships with Him.

That is also why this Bhakti Devi is called vadhu, as She is also described as Krishna’s wife.

Awesome stuff.

Practically, it further proves that my efforts at chanting and sankirtana are two different things. For my chanting the highest knowledge I expect is realization that chanting is the highest service I can possibly render, at this point at least.

If I was doing sankirtana the highest knowledge would the knowledge of direct my relations with Krishna.

That brings up yesterday’s point about discrepancy of what Lord Chaitanya was teaching in Siksashtaka and what we are trying to do. Today I tend to look at the first verse as declaration of the ultimate goal and ultimate benedictions. All the verses following it are more in line with our imperfect chanting than with real sankirtana.

Lord Chaitanya talks about lack of taste, He talks about being humble and patient in glorification of Lord’s Hari’s names, He renounces all kinds of material goals in exchange for devotional service in His future births, He begs Krishna to make him a speck of dust at Krisna’s feet instead of boasting about His actual spiritual relationships if He were talking from verse 1 platform.

Perhaps the most pertinent observation/complaint against the first Siksashtaka verse is absence of “anandam budhi vardhanam pratipadam purnamrita svadanam” – where is the nectar at every step?

Lord Chaitanya might have stated this in the beginning but when He followed with His own realizations there was not nectar either. Just extreme sorrow and lamentation. He cried that His body didn’t display any signs of love of God, He cried that separation from the Lord is unbearable for Him and finally He accepted His misery for the sake of Lord’s pleasure, so to speak. Where’s the nectar there?

Lord Chaitanya wasn’t cheating us. The glories of sankirtana described in His first verse were as unattainable for Him as they are for us, and they are still there, of course.

Makes me do two things – first, forget about analyzing this first verse in every detail, it’s nice and all but purely academic. Second – make achieving “sankirtana” my most pertinent goal, unless told otherwise.

The fact that I’m not doing sankirtana yet shouldn’t discourage me at all. There’s this verse from Srimad Bhagavatam, 2.1.11

O King, constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord after the ways of the great authorities is the doubtless and fearless way of success for all, including those who are free from all material desires, those who are desirous of all material enjoyment, and also those who are self-satisfied by dint of transcendental knowledge.

Constant chanting. Doubtless and fearless. For those who are desirous of material enjoyment.

What other confirmation do I need?

Same chanting is recommended for those who are free from all material desires, and for them it would be real sankirtana, I suppose, same chanting is recommended for annoying nuisances like me, and for great yogis who meditate on their own self and don’t need anything else, apart from chanting names of Lord Hari, as they are about to find out.

This is another argument in favor of Hare being Hari in the maha mantra, btw.

Well, a few words about today’s chanting. Two things happened, encouraging and discouraging. First, I’m learning how to intensely listen to the mantra without deviating even for a second. I’m learning how to maintain this discipline for hours on end. It’s far from perfect but it’s a clear progress nevertheless.

Unlike before, where my default state of chanting was mouth moving, mind flying elsewhere, I’m more often listening to the names than thinking about anything else now. During today’s nine hours I can count only a few instances when the mind was able to sustain his own line of thought for more than a few mantras.

This is good, but I doubt I can sustain it myself without taste for the Holy Names to feed to my mind. It’s a material element, it attracts to things like a magnet. I can hold it off only for so long, I’m not a yogi. It will find something to cling to and if it’s not the Holy Name I’ll be lost again.

This is me blackmailing the Lord in giving me some nectar…

He knows better than me, of course, I should display my tolerance here, not whine about possible failures.

The discouraging thing is that my pronunciation took a nosedive. I can say the full mantra only if I’m fully committed to it. If I think of anything else, even for a split second, I start stammering and swallowing words and syllables.

I can’t even slow down anymore, my mouth refuses to work at all if there’s no required level of energy, speed, and concentration. You could say it’s a blessing in disguise but for me it means repeating the same mantra again and again without moving a bead until I get it right, and it takes time. If I was chanting sixteen rounds extra ten minutes wouldn’t have mattered, but with my new standard 108 I’m looking at extra hours, not minutes.

Either that or completely bungled, distorted mantras, or reducing the number of rounds.

The last half an hour were in haze for me today, again. I was really squeezing out the last bits of juice from my batteries, completely helpless and bewildered, having lost all sense or purpose.

I have a few thoughts about it but they are not quite clear to me yet, can wait until tomorrow.

As much as it pains me to say it, but

All Glories to Sri Krishna Sankirtana!

Vanity thought #143. Resolute in purpose.

While reading Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Sanmmodana Bhashyam to boost my chanting inspiration the other day I came across this little gem:

Samkirtana can never be partial or imperfect glorification of Lord Krishna’s holy name, because partial or imperfect chanting of Krishna’s name is unable to cause a wonderful transformation in the living entities. Partial or imperfect kirtana should not be accepted as samkirtana, as people would then doubt the potency of kirtana.

Today I searched the net for exact source and it turns out it’s from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati commentary on Sanmodana Bhashyam. Doesn’t really matter, the statement is still quite astonishing.

In their commentary on the first verse of Siksashtaka both acharyas describe in detail various benefits and benedictions that chanting the Holy Names brings to the soul and end with this crushing argument – if it doesn’t work then it’s not sankirtana. There’s no “you just doing it wrong”, there’s no explanation why what you are doing is not sankirtana, it’s simply not, by definition.

There’s just no way in, is there?

So what was Lord Chaitanya going on about in Siksashtaka? What is that magical process? How come thousands and thousands of people try their best and don’t get increasing ocean of bliss at every step? Why are they all excluded in one sweeping statement?

Obviously, it can’t be taken at the face value and the problem bothered me for a few days and it still does.

Having thought about it this way and that I have to admit I can’t argue with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s statement here – if it doesn’t work it’s not sankirtana, by definition.

Problem is how to reconcile what I and countless other devotees have been doing for decades, and sankirtana. First, there’s ambiguous definition of what sankirtana is in our movement. We assume it’s preaching, or, occasionally, even collecting money for preaching. We can certainly make a case for this interpretation but it’s not very likely the acharyas meant it that way in this context.

Another definition of sankirtana is congregational chanting, from prefix “san”, meaning “together”, or so I heard. Congregational chanting is all over that commentary and Sanmodana Bhashyam itself but that is probably how sankirtana was translated.

This particular statement about sankirtana comes from a paragraph entitled “Japa, kirtana and samkirtana”. Here the guys who put this page together transliterated sankirtana as samkirtana, which is correct, or so I heard, too. According to Sanskrit rules in this case prefix “sam” changes sound to “san” and its original meaning is “perfect”, as in Sanskrit – perfectly done language.

The meaning “together” is also legitimate for sam/san but in this particular paragraph Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati specifically states:

The chanting of mantras that is properly supposed to take place in the mind is called japa; by japa, the chanter receives his desired perfection. Audible chanting in which the lips move is called kirtana; it is more effective than japa and avails the greatest benefit to the hearer. Samkirtana means total or perfect kirtana;

There’s no ambiguity here, clear as day – until we achieve perfection in our chanting it can’t be called “sankirtana”, the perfect kirtana, perfect chanting.

The problem still remains, though – why bother reciting Siksashtaka verses and learning the benefits of sankirtana if that’s not what we are doing and so we won’t get them? It still looks like Lord Chaitanya, who spent most of His life in ecstatic singing and dancing, wasn’t talking to us, He was describing His own experiences, not ours.

This can’t be right, too.

So with thoughts like this in the background of my mind eating away for a couple of days I started my today’s rounds. It didn’t go very well and so at the first opportunity I looked around for some inspiration. Two different sources suggested the same thing – one should be resolute in purpose if one to achieve his goal. That woke me up.

For several days I have been spaced out, wanting this and that and counting hours and minutes till lunch or my next break, planning what I was going to do when I finish chanting and so on. I have clearly accepted that chanting was only one part of my life and there were many other things in it, too, and they were just as legitimate and had their legitimate place in my time allotment table.

That is not what “resolute in purpose” means. That also means that whatever I was doing is never going to become sankirtana.

Cheap trick, I know, but it worked on me. I mean Krishna showed me a door that will lead to perfection when I was wondering if there’s any hope at all.

All I have to do is to be resolute in my determination to succeed. Today is Tuesday, day ruled by Mars, so it helped. I made a valiant assault on my mind and on my chanting practices. For hours on end I was tormenting my mind for each and every deviation. Every inappropriate thought was aggressively stomped on and banished.

Finally, in the afternoon, I got to a stage where every thought has become repulsive to me. Every single one. Glance at my computer – NO, I will lose my concentration if I think about it. Glance at the clock – NO, I will start counting time until I finish and then start thinking what to do next.

I was really aggressive towards anything that wasn’t listening to the names, and as with any fanaticism, I slipped and indulged myself in all kinds of thoughts for about an hour. But Tuesday is Tuesday and nothing can stop the power of Mars. As soon as I caught my breath I went hacking at my mind again, cutting off all its thoughts and desires, even hidden ones.

I haven’t been able to reach the same level of absorption and concentration as earlier in the day, the offense of slipping away was still with me, holding me back, but the last ten rounds or so was a sweet, sweet battle.

I was really tired, my mouth got a mind of its own, and it started making more and more mistakes but they were not random – my mouth couldn’t say the maha mantra only when my mind wasn’t fully into it, too. Every, and I mean every little thought about anything and I started stammering and skipping names. So I put all my remaining energy in mouthing out in my brain each name, each syllable. Everything was in haze, I even forgave myself for looking at the clock, at my finish line, but I kept on going, repeating each failed mantra again just to scare myself into not making mistakes again.

It was a glorious battle.

Maybe it’s a cheap trick, too, but I felt satisfaction after it was over.

There’s one teeny tiny problem that came up, though. Writing this blog the way I intended it is not what a “resolute in purpose” person would do.

Changes need to be made or it will soon join the ranks of distracting activities that need to be avoided if possible.

My resoluteness is asleep now but a couple more days like this and I would be ashamed of myself for writing here.

Some would say I should be ashamed of myself already…

Vanity thought #142. I hate Mondays.

It never changes, does it? When I had a job I hated going there on Mondays and now when all I do is chant Hare Krishna all day long I hate starting it on Monday morning, too. Is there any real difference?

A while ago I speculated about chanting being the recommended sacrifice for Kali Yuga, here, here and here. If people used to offer horses to achieve all kinds of success before, can chanting Hare Krishna mantra bring the same results now? I still think the answer is “why not?”

From that perspective chanting my rounds is no different from any other job. I do it to get some benefits, just like I go (went) to work to get salary. Moreover, isn’t chanting Hare Krishna compared to watering the roots of a tree? Isn’t going to work is like pouring water on the branches instead?

Shouldn’t I get the same benefits and much more from chanting Hare Krishna?

The downside of this logic is that it induces me to put lots of conditions on chanting. I calculate how much I would chant and how much I expect to get in return.

I felt this attitude very clearly this morning and it made me very sad. Suddenly the pride of chanting ten hours a day was replaced by realization that I spent fourteen hours on myself and I don’t think it’s enough.

It’s not how much we give to Krishna that stops us, it’s how much we hold back, right?

Well, I physically felt the attachment to *my* fourteen hours today, I was very much against giving them up.

Actually it’s more than fourteen hours. I found the new cruising speed – one round in five minutes, twelve rounds in one hour, hundred rounds in eight hours and twenty minutes. That leaves fifteen hours and forty minutes for myself. I felt like I’m finally getting something out of this – more free time to goof off.

Just like with work, after a while you learn the ropes and find an easy way to accomplish the same tasks that leaves more time to yourself, same thing is happening with chanting.

Is there any difference again?

I thought chanting faster would be good. I didn’t try to achieve it, it just happened. Three months ago I noticed I could chant faster than six minutes, I timed myself, I could chant even faster if I sat down, concentrated and controlled my breathing. Same thing happened over this weekend, except the times are about one minute better.

Back then I thought of trying to chant three hundred thousand names in one day. Actually it’s one hundred and ninety two rounds according to our tradition. Eventually I pulled it off.

Those were the days. Speed really mattered. Now I’m thinking speed is good because it gives me more time for myself. What a rascal!

I think I will start chanting one hundred and eight rounds from tomorrow. Interestingly, a hundred and eight is a very special number in our tradition but it doesn’t fit with our sixteen round counters. Our counters go ninety six then hundred and twelve. Never mind, 108 is still good.

One advantage of speed is the demand for concentration. As soon as I lose it I start mispronouncing the names, chanting faster keeps me on my toes all the time. I suppose after a while my mouth will get used to it and I would need to increase speed again.

Today I came across another argument against any special status for chanting the Holy Names. A few weeks ago BBC aired a documentary on the power of super brands, I finally watched the first part, technology, today at lunch. This is from their preview:

The scenes I witnessed at the opening of the new Apple store in London’s Covent Garden were more like an evangelical prayer meeting than a chance to buy a phone or a laptop. The strangeness began a couple of hours before the doors opened to the public. Inside the store, glassy-eyed staff were whipped up into a frenzy of excitement, jumping up and down, clapping and shouting.

Today I saw it on TV myself, there’s no exaggeration here. The shop staff were really whipping themselves up before going out to greet the customers, and the customers were no better, too. There was this dude who traveled all the way from California to witness opening of an Apple store, there were guys from China and Russia, too, and there was a local guy who has been to his thirtieth store opening himself.

Apple fanboys were really made look like a pseudo-religious cult there, but that’s not what is really interesting, it’s the claim made in the documentary that MRI scans of the brains show that Apple fans have exactly the same physiological response to Apple products as real religious people have to images of their objects of worship.

It’s fine to joke about Apple cult but are we any different? That same MRI guy admitted that he is thinking about Apple and its products twenty four hours a day, just like we do about Krishna, and he gets the same effects, feels the same emotions.

Can we replace Krishna with Apple and feel no different? Hmm, I could even say that Apple is more real – you buy the stuff, you use it, you enjoy it. I chant the Holy Names I don’t feel anything, just the sense of unavoidable duty. Sure we have many things to enjoy about Krishna – prasadam, really nice deities, sweet kirtans, but don’t we create all these things ourselves for our own amusement? Yes, they are transcendental and absolute but very few of us can’t tell the difference between tasty and average prasadam or between good and bad singing.

Until we reach the certain stage, ruci, if I am not mistaken, we still see those transcendental things with material eyes and Apple has an advantage here – you worship it and it gives you real, tangible things and benefits that cannot be mistaken for anything else. We have to tell ourselves that Krishna’s mercy is present in this rice, we can’t tell the difference otherwise.

Having said that, there’s a loophole in that MRI argument. First I heard of these experiments about five years ago and it was obvious then – they asked people to try and remember their most profound religious experiences. That is just nonsense – you can’t reproduce these things at will. You might try to reproduce the feelings they elicited but that is just pretending and it is rejected in our tradition.

If you are fooling yourself that you are seeing Krishna face to face the feelings you produce have nothing to do with actual spiritual experiences, you are just being phony. So that’s what worshiping Apple feels like, too?

Monday is finally over, worrisome but just as expected. I’ve been there before, gloom and doubts come and go, the important thing I lived through without dropping a round, there’s just one or two more days before I start feeling good again.

Vanity thought #141. Prarthana cont’d.

There are some other thoughts on offering prayers that keep bugging me.

How is it that devotees can recite many beautiful prayers right on the spot and there’s not a tinge of insincerity in them? I must be made of a completely different material. I can ask for things, sure, but that’s not really praying.

Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya composed a hundred verses without losing his breath when Lord Chaitanya manifested His Vishnu form for him. Okay, that was an unusual feat specifically mentioned in Chaitanya Charitamrita as such, but there are many many instances of relatively less scholarly devotees praying to the Lord under pressure. Take Prahlada Maharaj, for example. Lord Nrisimha just killed his father, there was blood everywhere, the Lord was wearing an intestine garland, it was right in the royal palace and there were many people there. The all pushed Prahlada forward because no one dared to be noticed.

Demigods were there, too, they offered their prayers from the distance, they were afraid, but Prahlada was only a five year old boy and not only didn’t he have a shade of fear of Lord Nrisimha, he offered one of the best set of prayers in the entire Sirmad Bhagavatam, and they worked!

In his second verse he recited a list of twelve good qualities that alone cannot satisfy the Lord and gave an example of Gajendra who was saved just because he was a devotee. That is a pretty good memory – who can produce any such list without pausing to think what’s next? Who can arrange the list in perfect sanskrit verse on the spot, without breaking sweat? Prahlada then went on for forty more verses, five year old boy.

Perhaps it’s the Saraswati herself who helps devotees’ minds and tongues. I could barely say Krishna the other day, perhaps I had some demon possess my tongue for a minute, or maybe it’s just my own nature shining through.

Anyway, for common people like me the clue to “better” prayers is to keep on thinking. Once one set of thoughts covering a certain level becomes familiar we move a step further and discover new turns and directions. That way we may appear quite advanced but it is in thinking only.

There’s a movie called “Henry’s Crime” that starts with a Christian song that has some pretty advanced prayers in it.

Lord, I’ve held on a long time
And all my action depends upon you

I’ve been patient
and highly understanding

Now I don’t know
what there is left to do

Answer me

Sweet Jesus,
don’t you hear me calling you?

I need you, Lord
Answer me

Cannot be really compared to Prahlada’s prayers but for our day and age and our materialistic society it’s quite amazing. And the fact that they put it in the song and included in a major Hollywood movie means not everything is lost yet.

How many of us, ISKCON devotees, composed our own prayers and dared to sing them in public? Not among other devotees but the public in general and in language people understand? That takes some real conviction and purity.

Anyway, back to the list of ten kinds of prayers.

Number six is Sri-guru-vaishnave-vijnapti-rupa, supplications made to the spiritual master. Nice word – supplication. This is another kind of prayer where you can’t go wrong no matter how far you go, at least when the guru is not listening because you can get stopped for being insincere. If you offer praise to other devotees they would just shut their ears and tune out but the guru is obliged to listen and correct you so you can’t get away with even little disingenuity.

That is the best part of having a present guru – you get immediate feedback on everything, and the guru is much stricter than Krishna Himself if you deviate in your service. If Krishna tries to tell us something through the Supersoul in our hearts we can always pretend we didn’t hear but that would not happen with guru’s instructions. Not that it stops people like me from listening, agreeing, and then doing my own thing anyway.

At number seven we have Sri-dhama-vase-lipsatmika: statements revealing the desire to live in the holy places of the Lord’s pastimes. I wrote about this yesterday already. I have no idea why should I live in the holy places. I’m sure it would be beneficial to me but, unlike the Holy Name, the holy places are less forgiving when we commit offences. Chanting Holy Names is our right, living in the holy places is a privilege.

How many times did I stand on the banks of Radha Kunda and felt totally out of place and without any connection? How many times I sipped its waters or sprinkled the drops on my head only to think “I hope I’m not offending anyone and anything here ‘cos I have no appreciation for what I’m doing.” I don’t know how other people feel there. I had a phase of trying to imagine what I *should* feel but it’s not the same thing.

So, to avoid expressing duplicity I consciously exclude expressing desire to live in the holy dhama from my prayers. I hope one day the time will come, though.

Number eight is Sadhaka-deher-lalas-sucika, prayers revealing desires to execute regulated devotional service in the body of a practicing devotee. That is the one I can relate to. In fact I shouldn’t even ask for anything more, or anything less. To be born an insect in a house of devotee is not what I want, to be honest, it’s just being too humble for me. I want to have a “proper body”, not some insignificant ant stealing crumbs of prasadam from the table and overhearing devotees conversations about the Lord.

Whatever they say, but for me, born in the human form and being on the bodily platform, going down to any lower species is not an option. Honesty for the sake of avoiding duplicity, again.

Number nine is Siddha-deher-lalasamayi, prayers revealing desires to execute devotional service in the perfect spiritual body. No comment, I hope no one ever hears me expressing such desires, that would be a dangerous contamination. I hope I never express such desires even to myself. I don’t think this type of prayers is relevant to people of the twenty first century.

Finally, there’s Aksepa-bodhika, prayers revealing intense grief and sorrow in which one blames oneself for falling into the material world. Nice end to the list. We recite such prayers everyday, in our Siksashtaka. How much heart we put into it is a different matter but I believe each one of us had felt at least a glimpse of such sorrow. Each and everyone of us felt sorry for falling down here at least once, or even at least once a day.

I cannot feel it right now, having spent two days, Saturday and Sunday, with doing less service than usual but tomorrow I’m going to attack again and if nothing interferes I’m going to chant another hundred rounds. To be honest, I don’t feel like doing it but, on the other hand, I can’t settle for doing anything less either.

Speaking of japa, I watched myself doing it at an incredible speed yesterday and again today. I swear I have cut about a minute from my usual cruising speed. If I sit down and concentrate I finish one round in well under five minutes, if I get and walk I slow down but not much, still at about five minute mark.

Let’s see if I can maintain this speed and clarity over ten hours tomorrow. It’s going to be an epic battle.

Vanity thought #140. Prayers.

In preface to HH Bhaktitirtha Swami’s book I mentioned a couple of times earlier, “The Beggar I, Meditations and Prayers on the Supreme Lord”, there’s a list of ten different kinds of prayers offered by devotees. Shame on me for not knowing this earlier but the list is interesting enough to reflect on.

Bhaktitirtha Maharaj says the list comes from the book by Narottama Dasa Thakura titled Prarthana and that all these kinds of prayers were exhibited in the writings of Srila Bhaktivionoda Thakura. Maharaj also says he wrote his books using these ten types of prayerful statements.

I’m not going to analyze his book, not at all, I just want to go through the list and see if anything is missing from my own understanding of myself, God, devotees, and our relations.

First type on the list is Samprarthanatmika: Words of direct prayer to the Lord.

I don’t know what separates samprarthanatmika from any other kind of prayer, what is the uniqueness of it. From what I found it looks like expression of attraction, generally introducing and announcing oneself to the Lord. Sanskrit word “prarthana” means prayer, I am not a Sanskrit expert to figure out how “sam” and “atmika” modify it. Perhaps “directly addressing the Lord” adds more sense, perhaps it’s just a general name for all prayers addressed to the Lord directly, and when they take different flavors they are called by different names.

Second on the list is Sva-dainya-bodhika, words informing the Lord of one’s own humility. We all know what it is. I’m a cynic that way, though, I can go on and on about how humble I am and how lowly I feel and I won’t convince even myself, let along the Lord who can clearly see what’s in my heart and doesn’t pay much attention to me boasting about my humility.

That is only half the problem, though, the real danger is that I project my own deficiencies on others, too, and have hard time believing other devotees’ sincerity. One thought like this can destroy all my progress through thousands of lives but I can’t stop my mind whispering in my inner ear “He’s lying, he’s pretending, you know how it is, he’s just talking himself up, he doesn’t really feel that way.” I can’t stop my mind from saying these things, I only hope I can catch it in time and shut my inner ears. I cannot afford listening to such blasphemy.

In Kali Yuga we are not punished for out sinful thoughts, we don’t get karma for thinking, but thinking still counts as an offense to the Holy Name. It’s the attitude that we allow to dwell in our minds that is offensive and there’s no way of escaping the results if we allow ourselves to listen to it.

Makes me think how important mind control is to our mantra yoga, which literally means purification of the mind.

Third on the list, very appropriate,is called Manah-siksa, instructions to one’s own mind. There’s a book by Raghunatha Dasa Goswami with the same name. There are only twelve verses, eleven instructions, telling the mind what to do, what to avoid, and how to worship Radha and Krishna.

Our minds have greatly “advanced” during the past five hundred of years and most of those instructions are way over our heads. What’s interesting is that among all kinds of distractions Srila Raghutatha Dasa Goswami singled lust, hypocrisy, and fame. That basically says it all, but there are countless derivatives we should be aware about. Lust and fame are kind of obvious as roots of all evil, but hypocrisy is new to me. It appears being honest is just as important as as being humble and pure, or, reversely, lying is as evil as indulging in sex or chasing personal fame.

Reminds me of the duplicity as one of the great weeds that grows around bhakti tree, but, apparently, it’s not only for advanced devotees who water their bhakti creepers so much that weeds also grow along, it appears duplicity should be avoided from the start, just like lust and pride.

Moving on, at number four, we have Vilapatmika, statements of extreme lamentation. From examples it’s clear that the devotee expresses lamentation of not being able to be with Krishna or engage in His service. This is the one I consciously try to avoid, for the sake of avoiding duplicity discussed earlier. I might lament missing some opportunities to serve Krishna and His devotees but that’s not because of the service, it’s because of the benefits I expect to derive for myself.

It’s like going to Vrindavana is basically a vacation for me. I go there to do nothing and get some nectar, I don’t know of any benefits for Krishna or anyone else, it’s purely for my own enjoyment. It’s so damn good to feel like a sadhu, coming back to my usual life and complaining how grossly materialistic it is and how I miss the dhama. I don’t. If I really missed the dhama I would realize that it’s all with me, in the Holy Name, Srimad Bhagavatam, or on the altar. Not to diminish the value of the dhama itself, just to test my proclaimed feelings for it. They don’t always check out, if at all.

At number five we have Vaisnava-mahima-prakasika, statements revealing the glories of the Lord’s devotees. This is the best so far, unlike with the previous ones I can’t go wrong here. Whatever I think, whatever I feel in my heart, whatever jealousy or envy, whatever ill wishes, anything glorifying other devotees is supremely beneficial. Duplicity doesn’t count. Okay, it counts somewhat, but the way to overcome it here is to glorify the devotees more and more, just like the way to overcome the offenses against the Holy Name is to chant more.

This is a case that we better believe our own BS. We cannot believe ourselves when we falsely declare our humility or when we falsely declare our separation from the Lord when we don’t feel any. But we should strive to believe whatever “lies” we tell about other devotees. Even if that particular devotee doesn’t deserve praise, in our opinion, we should still glorify him and hope Krishna gives us intelligence to realize it’s all good no matter what the “truth” is.

The truth is all devotees of the Lord are absolutely perfect. Whatever imperfections we see are shown to us by maya for our own entanglement.

Intelligent person cannot even contemplate finding faults with devotees, it’s a suicidal activity.

And on that thought I’d like to take a pause, there are five more types of prayers to go, will leave it until tomorrow.

All glories to Sri Krishna’s devotees!