Vanity thought #249. Vamshidas Babaji Part 5.

All of the stories I mentioned so far are pretty innocent, even if some of them, or even most of them didn’t make it into HH Bhaktivikasa Swami’s “official” biography it doesn’t matter at all. There are stories that are tad more disturbing, though, and I want to try and deal with them today.

First, the deities. We know that Vamshidas had very intimate relationships with them and his whole life as an embodied soul revolved around feeding them and making garlands and talking to them. Normally I would capitalize pronouns referring to any form of God but when talking about Vamshidas it seems a bit out of place. From our position they should be capitalized without exceptions but from Vamshidas’ POV it would go against his own mood of communicating with them – sometimes he chastised and even punished them, for him they were his little children he had to take care of, capitalization was not on the books. More on that later.

There’s one apocryphal story that really tests the boundaries here. No one knows how it really went down and the only part that people could see for themselves was the end, no one knows how it started and what were the actual reasons. I still think there’s no big harm in telling it as long as we understand that it might all be just a concoction. I want to make a point that no one should try to judge a devotee like Vamshidas by looking at his external actions alone.

Anyway, Vamshidas was born in a fishing family and one time when he was residing in Navadvipa a woman selling fish passed by him and Vamshidas got attracted by the smell and he wanted to taste it too. When he realized what has happening to him he got really really pissed off. He didn’t give in to his weakness but he was very angry that he still had to experience the material attraction to eating corpses of dead animals. He thought it was the fault of his deities and he directed all his anger towards them and nobody else. His reasoning was that he surrendered his life and soul to them and they were supposed to protect him from all kinds of temptations but they failed, they left him all alone to face maya and her illusory attractions. It wasn’t a fair fight, no living entity should ever think of taking on maya all by himself, we can avoid her clutches only by Krishna’s mercy and in Vamshidasa’s view Krishna failed to keep his end of the bargain.

He grabbed his deities, tied a rope around them and threw them into the Ganges. He put his foot down on the end of the rope and didn’t let anyone come near. People gathered around him, everybody was agitated and they tried to pacify Vamshidas but he threw rocks at anyone who dared to come into his view with any questions.

After this episode Srila Bhaktisiddhanta forbade any of the brahmacharies in his ashram to go and visit Vamshidas again. He said that they couldn’t understand his bhava and so it would be better for them not see this kind of things.

That wasn’t the only time when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta gave such an order. Once a brahmachari who thought that Vamshidas was mistreating his deities secretly took Gaura Nitai to Gaudiya Math temple at yoga-pith. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta saw it he immediately told the devotee to take the deities back before Vamshidas discovered that they were missing, before he unscrewed that brahmachari’s head or something.

This is an interesting point. On one hand I think anybody would agree that brahmachari was clearly wrong, that he didn’t understand special relationships Vamshidasa had with his deities. That is fine, but I also think that our own understanding might be far from perfect here and we might not be in the position to judge that brahmachari at all. Generally speaking, our ISKCON Deities are worshiped in the mood of Vaikuntha, with a lot of awe and reverence, not to mention opulence. That’s in the temples, what goes on in our own lives is a bit different. We have no problems with offering food in our minds or in less than perfect conditions, we don’t give much attention to the rules and regulations, thinking that simply chanting Hare Krishna is enough. If we are engaged in any kind of preaching than rules just go out of the window, Deities’ interests become subservient to the needs of the preaching mission, these are our priorities.

Eventually we develop a sense of familiarity, we think we understand Vamshidasa’s relationships with his deities pretty well, we get it. Well, to this I would say that what we get is how to play dolls with Krishna, nothing more. Anyone can play dolls, it’s not difficult to imagine having running conversations with little Gopal or with naughty Gauranga. I think that if we saw the deities for what or who they really are we would be struck speechless, no games, just dandavats and opulent offerings without raising our eyes above Lord’s lotus feet.

Our problem is that we don’t really understand the position of God and our own insignificance before Him and thus we don’t think it unacceptable to offer uncooked and unripe eggplants, for example, we think Krishna can’t tell the difference, it makes no difference to us anyway, as long as we claim the food is offered with devotion.

That unfortunate brahmachari, on the other hand, could have sensed God’s greatness and so he couldn’t bear anything disrespectful towards God’s manifestations as Deities. “What devotion! We are talking about serving GOD here, don’t you get it?” No, we don’t get it, it’s just a doll, we think, if you say you offer with devotion “it” will accept it, there’s nothing special here. Perhaps that brahmachari was miles ahead of us in God’s realization.

While I am on this rant, perhaps we read Krishna book and enjoy how Mother Yashoda was chasing baby Krishna for stealing butter and yogurt and we think – that’s exactly what I want, I want to be like her, I want to be greater that God. Well, here is the way – read more of these stories and chant the mantra and tell this to everybody you meet. I don’t know where it will lead us, however.

When people look at the history of our movement they immediately notice that many of our members come from disenfranchised classes, hippies and such. I myself wasn’t a top dog when I bought my first book. I can’t speak for everybody but would it be blasphemous to suggest that people who had nothing got attracted to Krishna because they saw the way to get everything? We might not have had any interest in what the society had to offer us at that time and we searched for better ways to express our greed. Working the socks off to become a boss of some dull, stuck up company wasn’t for us, but becoming the boss of God Himself – that was much more interesting, that got our attention.

Of course our hearts get cleansed during the process but if we still have this hidden desire to boss Krishna around we won’t get anywhere near Him. I, for one, sometimes have serious misgivings about my true motives. Maybe I don’t want to be the boss, maybe I can settle on being an equal, I’ll take it, as long as I don’t have to worship in reverence or anything like that. I can offer obeisances for a while, fine, but as soon as I get what I want Krishna can forget about it. I can’t deny I prefer offering Krishna food on my own plate to serving on a special set. I also prefer someone else doing cooking and offering, I’m fine with “respecting” only.

There, I said it. Now what? When will I ever get rid of this nonsense in my heart? I don’t know.

Tomorrow is another day.

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