Vanity thought #272. On transcendence and altruism.

Continuing with materialistic things that got my attention.

Actually, first I should reflect on the value of this practice in general – spot something interesting and then try to find a connection to Krishna. I’m somewhat uncomfortable with this. On one hand it’s okay to see Krishna in everything, on the other hand I am fooling no one but myself when I turn on TV, jonessing for the latest political or celebrity gossip or a TV show, and then try to justify it by my imaginary search for Krishna. To avoid this dilemma I will post only about things that have actually reminded me of some Krishna conscious topics and the rest dismiss as nothing more than a gross material distraction.

So, two things genuinely caught my attention last week, apart from the hypocrisy surrounding Gaddafi. First is the latest episode of the TV show House M.D. which I mentioned here at least once. I think House deserves a lot more attention but he is a really tough nut to crack, our usual KC angles don’t work on him, he digs up bullet proof arguments for his materialistic views and he is very clever at defending them. I bet he would see right through any regular devotee and find a million reasons why the said devotee is on the wrong path. Of course it’s not Dr House himself, it’s the writers behind the screen who create all the magic.

What happens regularly is that episodes of these series have such complex twists that I simply can’t find proper comebacks, not even after sitting on them for days and this week installment wasn’t any different, except I thought the main topic deserves consideration on its own, regardless of what House thought of it himself.

It was about an billionaire who wished to remain anonymous and who went everywhere undercover giving things away in charity. He got into a hospital after he collapsed on the street and a woman from a job skills clinic which he had just given a million dollars spotted him falling. Dr House takes on his case hoping that he would too get some of the easy money. He promptly secures finding for his team and there’s a little morality tussle about the issue when another doctor first tells House that it’s unethical but then jumps on the patient himself when he hears about a possible kidney donation.

This is an interesting turn – how morality is very relative to our own benefits. Even the most moral among men have their price, and it’s this price that is really the heart of the case – how much self interest we should actually allow in ourselves.

Some members of the House’ team think that the man is simply an altruist and there’s nothing wrong with him except possible dehydration. House argues that altruism itself is sickness that needs to be cured.

So it all boils down to this – how much can a man give in charity before the society declares him abnormal and in need of treatment? Apparently the line depends on whether the judge is a charity beneficiary himself but eventually people can look beyond that limitation, too, and still wonder how much is enough. In this case the line was when the billionaire decided to let himself die so that the hospital could harness all his healthy organs, he pledged to give away both of his kidneys to different people and thought – what the hell, let’s donate my entire body. That’s when the hospital administration decided something was seriously wrong. Bloodsuckers.

Anyway, the cause of this unusual condition was a little nodule on one of his thyroid gland that was pumping hormones a bit over the normal level and caused personality change. I don’t know how plausible it is medically in context of that story but the existence of the gland itself and its ability to regulate one’s generosity seems to be undisputed, strange but possible, according to real doctors’ dissection of the episode.

What interested me in this regard is how much generosity is actually possible for a human being and for a devotee. If we talk about normal humans then this story is probably not crossing any lines – everyone would agree that the man was sick, but if we talk about devotees we are facing a major difference – none of the charitable causes in this story are considered worthy, none of them have anything to do with Krishna.

If we are talking about sacrifices made in the name of Krishna then there’s really no limit. Giving up the body is perfectly natural, for example. It’s not that Krishna wants our bodies dead, it means we forfeit all self interests and allow Krishna to take full control of our bodies, whether he prefers them young and healthy or old and sick, whether he wants them to live in comfort or in abject poverty – it doesn’t matter to the owner anymore. A devotee does not see *his* body as actually his, he sees it as Krishna’s property.

Can any of us actually pull it off? That’s the question. We should assume that normal charitable disposition is regulated by some hormone, sometimes we want to sacrifice more of our time and energy, sometimes less. It’s not even about the cause, the cause is only an excuse to satisfy our own, chemically induced desire to give things away. If we are lucky we might give away something to Krishna or his representatives but at what point does it turn into an actual surrender?

At what point can we actually say we are doing things for Krishna and not because there’s a spike in chemical composition in our brains? Tough question. And what of people who have hormonal deficiency and appear to be stingy – can they make any progress on devotional path? How often do we judge other people’s devotion by looking at the results of chemical interactions in their blood? Is there any correlation between the level of that hormone and the level of devotion?

I can’t figure it out. On one hand our regulated practice is supposed to produce actual results but is it going to happen in one magic jump or can that jump be spread and monitored through blood tests?

Some time at the beginning of my acquaintance with Krishna Consciousness I heard that medical doctors are the hardest to preach to. I wasn’t given the reason why, I suspect it’s because they can actually present material proof for every change we consider transcendental, and now I tend to think that it might be actually true – the material and spiritual side of our nature could in fact be inseparable. It’s all under Krishna’s control anyway, just different kinds of energy.

Perhaps there’s really no independence between what is happening to us in our material lives and our spiritual progress but it’s our measurements of what is induced by material interactions and what is a sign of devotional progress are wrong.

Or they could be totally separated and we will eventually see it that way, when we are able to participate in Krishna’s pastimes in our original spiritual form and let the body do whatever it needs to do.

I can’t imagine how it works, however. When I resume Bhaktivinoda Thakur series I’ll look into how it was possible for him, if it was possible at all, and whether we just arbitrarily assign transcendentalism where there’s little.

Or maybe these questions disappear on its own when I actually gain a bit of transcendental knowledge, in the meantime, I better sleep on it.

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