Vanity thought #319. Book preview

As soon as I heard that the new book by Stephen Knapp, Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture, came out I went out and bought it. Went out as in went to Amazon, mind you.

Stephen Knapp is a household name on the Internet if one searches for any kind of Hare Krishna related stuff and I’ve seen quite a few of articles on a very odd looking, circa 1990, website at to make a guess at what this new book will be like and it makes me a bit weary.

I have no doubts in authenticity of his ideas and conclusions but from what I’ve seen so far his argumentation could be very problematic. It is one thing to declare the supremacy of the Vedic civilization, it’s quite another to rely on findings of the modern science to prove it.

When people like me are presented with “scientific” proof of our version of history we tend to embrace it wholeheartedly and without reservations. This is not a bad thing in itself, as we are eager to confirm the teachings of Lord Chaitanya and our acharyas but, on the other hand, it might feel our hearts with false hope.

There’s nothing wrong with believing that India was a cradle of civilization but there could be a problem when we present this theory to outsiders. Some of them might want to believe us and so they are our primary target but if they find out that our argumentation is shaky at best, when they find out that our “scientific” arguments can’t stand any kind of test, what should we tell them then? Sorry, we tried to lie to you but it was in your best interests?

Now, I won’t go as far as to say that ideas presented in this book are lies but I have a feeling that Stephen Knapp accepted them unconditionally just because they agreed with his/our preconceived notions, without giving them a thorough testing.

These arguments largely come from the works of scientists that come across as not much more than Hindu nationalists trying to sound clever.

We know that westerners were prejudiced against Indian culture and we understand that all their research was done through the prism of their prejudice. Likewise, we should also admit that Indian scientists are equally prejudiced against the findings of the westerners and so they would frame their ideas in such a way as to always contradict the old English masters, truth be damned.

Right now the Indians seem to support our own, handed down the parampara version of history and so we gladly use their arguments ourselves but this situation is not going to last simply because we, as a spiritual movement, have nothing to do with Hindu nationalism. We are brought together for a brief moment like straws in a whirlpool and we are bound to part ways sooner or later.

A hundred years ago Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati didn’t have much use for Hindu nationalists, why should we hitch our wagon to their horse now? We can acknowledge their contribution but we should never, under any circumstances, get ourselves into any kind of indebted position. We should never ever support any of their notions just because they have supported some of ours.

Just a couple of weeks ago I argued that we shouldn’t be too concerned that the modern science find most of our views of Vedic history plain wrong, I argued that we can easily fit our version into their time frame. Now comes this book that will probably try to move their time frame to fit ours better. Fine, but beware that this new science is not going to get the nod of approval from the old science, ever.

We might feel temporarily relieved that, for example, Vedic people indeed introduced Sanskrit to the mankind but this will last only as long as we don’t meet any opposition, and the opposition to Sanskrit being the primary language of this planet is very, very formidable.

I shouldn’t go into any details now, before reading the book, I’m just airing my concerns. Maybe the book turns our a lot better than I assume and I will be forced to eat the humble pie. That would serve me well, I want to prove myself wrong and so get a compelling reason to seek mercy of a vaishnava. As I said earlier – by hook or by crook, getting attention of the Lord or His devotees is the most important thing in one’s entire life, doesn’t really matter how it happens.

If I need to strip down and shake my privates at Narada Muni in exchange for getting his blessing to be born in Vrindavana and meet Krishna Himself I should never miss this chance. Strange, isn’t it?


Vanity thought #318. No place for polemics

One of the hallmarks of the modern age is the attitude of “question everything” (why?), people are expected to prove their ideas through vigorous discussion and with strong arguments. Everything that is true must withstand the test of hard questioning, like that Hard Talk program on BBC.

When we present our philosophy it’s expected to be treated the same and we often take the bait, in no small reason because we ourselves are still victims of that same paradigm.

We learn stuff from our books and we tell ourselves: “It makes total sense, I can prove everything that I learned.” Then we eagerly pick up fights on each and every occasion, thriving on polemics.

This is not limited to discovering the basics of the spiritual life, btw, it goes on well past the initial stages and our extended Hare Krishna community is full of pretty old and seemingly advanced devotees who just can’t stop arguing and trying to convince everyone else in accepting their ways.

When we look at the history of vaishnavism we find plenty of examples of our acharyas engaging in all kinds of debates with all kinds of people and always emerging victorious. In more recent times Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati didn’t get “lion guru” nickname just for sitting straight and looking important, he tore into his opponents ideas and took no prisoners, he was really fearsome and people were genuinely scared to provoke his wrath.

Perhaps the most telling episode is his performance in one his very first debates, on the subject of brahmanas and vaishnavas, when his main antagonist literally sh*t himself, in public. No need to mention names.

So why do I think that devotional service has no place for polemics?

Umm, very simple, really – polemics implies the existence of an opposing view. We don’t accept any opposing views – Krishna is the Supreme Absolute Truth and attaining devotional service to Him is the ultimate goal of everyone’s life. We don’t have any space for any opposition so there’s nothing to argue against.

I don’t know about debates of our acharyas of old, but, to my knowledge, neither Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati nor Srila Prabhupada never engaged in any kind of debate with “infidels”, only with people who were willing to listen and accept our point of view. They never tried to convince their opponents themselves, only the audience. Most of Prabhupada’s blasting of impersonalists and atheists was done in front of his disciples, after all.

This is the principal difference – modern people, following scientific method, take up debates half-expecting to be convinced themselves, if the arguments are persuasive enough. This is the fundamental principle of scientific debates – if something can be proven logically it has to be accepted.

Devotees, on the other hand, do not (should not) believe in the power of logic and reasoning. We are not going to reject our philosophy or the instructions of our spiritual authorities simply because logic fails us on some particular occasion or a subject.

We never approach any debate half ready to be defeated if the arguments against us appear strong enough, and that’s why all debates between devotees and their opponents are by nature asymmetrical and so fruitless.

We can’t establish the truth by proving it with arguments, only by submissive hearing, and so if we meet anyone who refuses to accept wisdom of Bhagavad Gita or of our acharyas there’s no point in arguing about it, it would actually be offensive towards the Holy Name.

If there are examples from Srila Prabhupada that indicate otherwise I bet on the close inspection it would be clear that his arguments were meant for the benefit of someone receptive in the audience, not for the opponents themselves.

We are totally free and more than welcome to smash to pieces any counterargument against our philosophical position but arguing ideas is not the same as arguing with people, we should try to avoid the latter at all costs.

I’m actually preaching to myself here – stay away from people who don’t accept our siddhanta, avoid them, don’t argue with them, nothing good will ever come out of it. If I don’t know something, let Krishna take care of it in due time, if there’s a real need to fill gaps in my knowledge.

Most of the time desire to argue and win is a subtle form of enjoyment anyway.

Vanity thought #317. The other side of book distribution

Every story has two sides and even though book distribution is considered an all around wholesome service it has potential downsides, too.

This is not to re-examine our commitment to book distribution, just to raise awareness, as we are pretty safe and protected if we follow in the footsteps of Srila Prabhupada. Not so much with previous acharyas, though.

I’m talking about a couple of cases in our Gaudiya Vaishnavism history where unlimited book distribution wasn’t looked upon too kindly.

Yesterday I mentioned Srila Jiva Goswami sandarbhas, well, one thing he says about them right in the beginning is that he would lay a curse on any non-devotee ever reading them. So much for book distribution. In fact his proposed adhikar for studying the sandarbhas pretty much rules out all our general ISKCON membership – he restricted it to only devotees without any material desires. Who among us would consider himself qualified? Even those who are qualified would excuse themselves out of humility.

He probably didn’t mean it that way, it is probably okay if one values unalloyed devotion above anything else even theoretically, it’s definitely not okay to give sandarbhas to non-devotees, though. What is even more puzzling is that his sandarbhas do not go deep into esoteric, intimate stuff of Krishna’s relationships with the gopis, they are meant to lay philosophical foundation for our understanding of Srimad Bhagavatam.

We are supposed to study the sandarbhas so that we can hold our ground in any philosophical debate and destroy anybody’s illusions about superiority of devotional service to Krishna, and yet they are meant only for our internal consumption, we can’t let outsiders scrutinize Srila Jiva Goswami’s work.

The other episode involves Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s desire to print Govinda Lilamrita, when he asked his father, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s permission he didn’t get it, the answer was “no”. Later on Bhaktivinoda Thakur allowed to print one copy of the book, for posterity, and certainly not for distribution. Some say that the rest of the existing copies were recommended to be destroyed.

The excuse, of course, is that Govinda Lilamrita deals with confidential topics that shouldn’t be discussed among people with materialistic consciousness. This has two implications – that we should be very careful in mentioning anything about Krishna and the gopis to general public, let alone in public debates with atheists and other assorted infidels in defense of our faith (and they love to pick up on Krishna’ “amorality”).

The other implication is that we shouldn’t be jumping into reading these books ourselves. Some years ago it was a popular argument against ISKCON – we only talk basics and don’t delve into real devotional stuff. Well, maybe we shouldn’t, not unless we have proper qualifications.

The third example is also from the life of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati – when he sought blessings to print vaishnava literature from his spiritual master, Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji, he didn’t get them. Even if his father was urging him to publish books in order to spread the teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji was still skeptical. He said it was a waste of time and no one would read them, eventually he acceded but with one condition – the job itself should be outsourced.

I think Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji had a valid point, too, from a bhajananandi perspective publishing job is contaminating. It’s not less valid today, I believe, we only manage to survive due to exceptional mercy of Srila Prabhupada.

Come to think of it – Srila Prabhupada turned the whole babaji culture upside down, and not just that, he proved himself right, too. I can’t think of any time in human history, either the modern one or the history we learn from Vedic scriptures, when pure, unalloyed devotion to Krishna was so widely propagated all over the planet, so freely distributed to anyone who would happen to come across the devotees.

Even in Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s time they didn’t have enough devotees to publish Gaudiya Math periodicals in Hindi or any other vernacular, only Bengali and, of course, The Harmonist in English. Now there’s no person in this world who can’t learn about Krishna because of the language barrier, everyone, absolutely everyone has access to vaishnava literature.

I’m also pretty sure this has never happened before, as in previous yugas lots of people were forbidden from reading our books because of their varna restrictions. Now it’s free for all, and totally legit, thanks to Srila Prabhupada’s unique presentation – unlike Govinda Lilamrita everyone can and should read Krishna book, for example.

Prior to this it was “yajnaih sankirtana prayair yajanti hi sumedhasah“, now anyone, of whatever level of intelligence, can pick up a phone, call up the nearest Hare Krishna temple or a center and join sankirtana yajna in no time, at most next weekend.

I’ll say this again – this level of penetration is extraordinary in human history, so, thanks to Srila Prabhupada, old restrictions can’t be applied blindly but we still have to be aware, the law is the law, preaching Krishna’s glory to non-believers is still an offense.

Vanity thought #316. Loose change

Some afterthoughts, or rather afterfacts, complementing a couple of recent entries here.

First on pain – apparently in Bhakti Sandarbha Srila Jiva Goswami says that Krishna doesn’t know what it’s like to be under the spell of the material energy and, consequently, doesn’t know what our sufferings feel like. To solve this problem He feels material sufferings through His devotees. I have no idea how it works and I don’t know where to find an English translation of Bhakti Sandarbha to check.

I heard this in a record of a seminar on Sandarbhas by HG Gopiparanadhana Prabhu, he jokingly suggested that next time we feel pain we should think of it as doing research for Krishna. I’ll keep that in mind.

Secondly, on the myth of idyllic life in the times of Lord Chaitanya – in Chaitanya Charitamrita, at the end of the second chapter of Madhya Lila, Srila Krishnadas Kaviraja specifically mentions criticism of his work and explains how he choose to deal with disapproval. He doesn’t mention any names but clearly there were people less than satisfied with him.

We are so lucky that it doesn’t enter our minds to criticize Chaitanya Charitamrita. I wonder what obstacles people who found faults with it put in the way of their devotional service. I’m sure they weren’t completely rejected by the Lord but still. Anyway, my point was that politics exist everywhere and at all times. We might think that grass was greener on the other side of 1600 but in other ways we are luckier than some neophyte devotees of those days.

And finally, not a sequence to anything in particular, but I found this verse from Brahma Samhita (5.59) rather telling:

The highest devotion is attained by slow degrees by the method of constant endeavor for self-realization with the help of scriptural evidence, theistic conduct and perseverance in practice.

Somehow I lost faith the “slow” process, I settled on performing sadhana bhakti just as a stopgap measure until Lord Chaitanya bestows His mercy on my soul, or until I die in a favorable circumstances and return back to Godhead. Basically, I don’t have much faith in external show of service, it’s good, it’s better than doing nothing, but it is not really a service, just imitation. Not a service in a sense that it’s diluted with selfish, materialistic desires that are inherent in our conditional lives.

Here Krishna says, however, that this slow, gradual, step by step process is a genuine method to attain highest devotion, so it’s not in vain. Obviously Krishna didn’t mention extraordinary, once in a day of Brahma mercy of Lord Chaitanya but still, Krishna is the boss, when He says something it must work.

Considering the gap between ever increasing and boundless Krishna prema and my present condition I think I’m dealing with the mathematics of infinite numbers here. How many tiny steps one needs to reach the infinity?

As many as it takes, apparently, so I better get on with it.

Vanity thought #315. Big city

Today I went to the city, first time in months on the subway, watching my fellow citizens as they kill time on the way to their destinations.

I looked at their faces and what I saw were really nice people at peace with themselves and, presumably, their idea of God. I didn’t see any obviously demoniac persons, just regular, god fearing folks, for the lack of a better adjective, each of them trying to do the best they can in life and each of them aspiring to be the best they can.

I also saw them as being pious and as valuing their piety, too. They are not up to our Krishna Consciousness standards and our four regs but they are doing alright by what they’ve been taught at schools.

Women were fairly chaste, considering the season that calls for lots of flesh, men weren’t drunk and weren’t ogling females either. Everyone was gentle and polite, no pushing or shoving, they offered seats to elder citizens and smiled at kids and babies.

Many were trying to make statements about themselves through their clothes, mobile phones and mannerisms, and most of those statements were cultured and modest, never provocative.

Basically, I was in Vaikuntha.

These people just have some selfish interests and they rely on God to look after their needs, and when they get what they want they feel grateful and they wish only good things to their fellow men.

Perhaps if one would offer them some help in their endeavors the Supersoul within their hearts would really appreciate it, too.

The only problem is that none of it is about pleasing Krishna and so is ultimately boring. Our own interests never amount to much comparing to Krishna’s, we are only His small, infinitesimal particles. I get it when people think they deserve a better love life or bigger salary or when they are having texting fun with their friends but these somehow do not look like worthy causes.

One needs to have his consciousness molded into that level of enjoyment and one needs to subject himself to the illusion that all of those are actually important things. If you ever bump into an American Idol fan you’ll know what I mean – their enthusiasm is contagious but to share in excitement you need to listen to an awful lot of very bad singing until you numb you sense of music and start believing that what you are hearing on the show is actually good.

How could I maintain my own level of Krishna consciousness, however low, in this situation then? Well, one thing I ruled out – I can’t internally engage myself in Krishna’s service as described in our Gaudiya literature, I have to make do with my material mind instead and it has its limitations – it has to be aware of the situation around me, listen to announcements, watch for red lights and vehicles when crossing the road and so on.

No wonder Krishna described a liberated person taking pleasure in self-realization as retarded in appearance (SB 11.11.17), we can’t keep up with the world around us and, at the same time, fully engage our minds in Krishna.

The only way it might work is if are working for the mission of Lord Chaitanya but that luxury is not available to all of us at all times. I certainly wasn’t on a mission today.

That’s why, for our own sanity, we are recommended to always spend time in association with devotees and avoid people not interested in devotional service, compromise is simply not possible and so we should patiently wait until Krishna puts us in a more favorable situation.

Vanity thought #314. What makes a book

Our Vedic scriptures are called apaurusheya, meaning they originated from the breath of Narayana Himself so we treat them as such, as absolutely perfect and free from all mistakes. Still, one has to keep in mind that there IS a difference between shruti and smriti, and there’s a difference between shruti, smriti, and the works of our acharyas.

We consider books written by Srila Prabhupada as being above all. Not that they possess a higher status than what comes from Narayana’s breath, we mean that we don’t have the capacity or permission to understand shruti or smriti independently, we must approach them through the medium of Prabhupada and if we see any contradiction we must refer to Prabhupada’s opinion over our own imperfect understanding of shastra.

The question is – what makes a book a book? At what point does a book appear and takes the status of a canon? When we hold a book in our hands these questions don’t normally arise but there are way too many controversies in the history of the opposition to our movement to completely ignore them.

At first there was nothing. Then Prabhupada picked up a Dictaphone and dictated translations and purports to several verses, be it from Gita or Bhagavatam. Then some devotee transcribed what he heard on the tape and typed it up. Then Prabhupada looked through the printed text and made some edits here and there. Then he picked up a Dictaphone, inserted the old tape, and recorded new translations and purports over the old ones.

In the end we have a book in our hands. Lots of things have happened in between and no one knows at which point the text became sacred, what should be considered the standard, canonical edition.

Is it Prabhupada’s original dictation? That version is lost forever. Prabhupada’s edits on transcribed pages are probably closer to the standard but even after that he personally ordered his disciples to proofread the text and make any necessary edits. Then there was the version that went to the printers. I don’t think Prabhupada re-read each and every sentence at that point once again.

Then, in some cases, there are edits discovered after books were already published, also carrying Prabhupada’s stamp of approval, and sometimes they are quite different from what appears in the books that devotees were already distributing to the people.

We should also acknowledge that Prabhupada himself didn’t have one final version in his head, carried it with him at all times, and could easily check if the printed books deviated or not. The edits on transcribed pages show that he, like any other human being, had second thoughts, too, and had no problem whatsoever with changing his ideas, sentences or passages.

Creating a book is a process, the actual book is only a snapshot of that process at a certain stage. More often than not there’s no such thing as one standard version that would be totally faithful to the intention of the author because even author’s intentions are changing, too.

The ultimate intention of the author, Srila Prabhupada, is that we faithfully follow the gist of his instructions and that means we should respect the process by which BBT books are published. Unless instructed to do so it is not our job to find discrepancies in the editions and the alleged presence of such discrepancies does not mean that we put our spiritual lives in danger – we rely on Krishna for protection, not on our meager mental capacities.

We should also remember that it’s better to be wrong trying to follow our gurus than to be right trying to prove our intellectual superiority. The world will not end if we commit mistakes here and there, what will end is our devotional service, it will end the moment we decide to go it alone, outside the remit of our guru and other spiritual authorities.

Vanity thought #313. Pain

Pain pain, go away please come back another day…

I was visited by a bout of pain I had never seen before. My body is starting to age and every couple of years I occasionally feel my joints reacting to a change in the weather or something but never before it was so severe. Not only I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even stay in bed and had to pace up and down the room trying to distract my mind from the pain in my shoulder.

And I still haven’t figured out how to deal with it. Pain is not an activity, I have no idea how it could be offered to Krishna for His satisfaction, so what to do about it? Tolerate it?

Somehow I don’t think that being more tolerant than a tree means having a high threshold for pain. The capacity to tolerate pain is a quality of the material body, some have more of it some have less and some can be trained to withstand even torture. Wasn’t Karna once called out when he pretended to be a brahmana pupil of Parashurama but could tolerate agonizing pain without twitching a muscle in his body?

Somehow I also had enough wits about me to remember that praying to Krishna to relieve one of his suffering is unbecoming any aspiring devotee, it’s totally materialistic and bounds one to his bodily consciousness.

It is possible to ignore pain by directing consciousness to something else, that’s what I did by walking around and chanting japa, but I also have to admit that any other activity that distracts the mind works just as well. Of course it’s more beneficial to distract oneself with the Holy Name or reading Srimad Bhagavatam but it’s still a material distraction for the material mind.

A liberated person simply does not associate the pain of his body with himself, an advanced devotee can even subject his body to pain if it’s pleasing Krishna in any way, but none of that had ever happened to me, I was still fully on the material platform.

I also remembered that Bhaktivinoda Thakura had quite a fragile health and a significant part of his autobiography describes his dealings with various illnesses. That side of his life was running in parallel with his preaching and writing, sometimes he couldn’t even complete his books because of pain and still Krishna didn’t relieve him of it.

Comparing to that I shouldn’t even hope that Krishna will magically make my pain disappear because of some unseen importance of whatever it is I am doing.

I remembered that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati never took any medicine, completely relying on Krsihna and Lord Chaitanya instead. I considered it for a moment but then I thought that providing me with medicine is also the most likely way for Krishna to take care of my pain – it’s still manipulating the matter – the interaction between pain sensors and external objects activating them.

In the end I decided to let the nature take its course and continued with my japa, then went to the pharmacy at the earliest chance and stuffed myself with ibuprofen and I don’t feel particularly guilty about it.

Pain does pose some difficulties in executing regulated devotional service and I can see how people in hell don’t have energy to cultivate their Krishna consciousness but real devotional service and whatever is happening in the material world are two completely different things, they run parallel to each other and don’t ever intersect. The body (and mind and intelligence, too) will always try to seek relief, the soul should always try to seek service.

Vanity thought #312. Bhogair atmanam atmani

This is a line from a verse in Bhagavatam (11.11.45) where Krishna tells Uddhava about various ways one can worship the Supreme Lord.

Check out the translation – “One may worship Me within the individual living entity by offering food and other enjoyable substances.” Cool, huh?

I guess this explains why people since time immemorial loved serving each other with delicious foodstuffs – it pleases not only the body and senses of the fellow materialistic enjoyer but the Supreme Lord Himself, too!

Devotees, of course, have taken this activity a lot further – by lovingly offering delicious prasadam to vaishnavas. There are very few types of service that are as satisfactory as feeding the devotees of the Lord. Even feeding other people on our Food For Life programs makes one easily feel that Krishna likes us doing this stuff.

There’s also book distribution but it often makes one feel competitive and proud of one’s achievements and thus deprive us of the usual bliss associated with preaching, I can’t imagine how that could happen when distributing food. With book distribution there’s also the pressure to get something out of people in return and that spoils the effort, too. Food distribution is totally selfless by comparison.

Having paid tribute to serving people with prasadam I have a rather twisted thought – what stops one from serving the Lord by feeding oneself? The Supersoul is equally present within my body just as well as within the bodies of everyone else so does it make any difference which body I should offer food to in order to please the Lord?

The only danger I see is that when I’m feeding myself I’m having the wrong attitude but that should be corrected regardless, as per Krishna’s advice to Arjuna – “perform every activity as a sacrifice to Me”. I guess once the right attitude is there one can legitimately serve the Lord by consuming all kinds of delicious stuff.

Let me go and try this now, and if I fail in the beginning it shouldn’t discourage me. Also practice makes it perfect, right?

Key point – it’s not the living entity who is the enjoyer here, foodstuffs should be offered to the Supersoul, via the body, I guess just like stuff is offered to the Lord via sacrificial fire.

Vanity thought #311. Jaipur

Yesterday I caught a movie about a group of elderly Englishmen who chose to retire in India. Despite this very encouraging premise the plot turned into a disaster. These people, on their last legs, went to India in search of their boyhood crash, a new sexual partner and a new job.

Imagine what opportunities they had there to learn something about the purpose of their lives. They’ve got bits of Indian wisdom here and there and one of them actually went to a couple of temples but both these westerners and their Indian hosts were mercilessly squandering the opportunities of the human form of life in one of the most glorious places in the whole country – Jaipur.

When I heard that they were going there I was so excited, not for them, for myself. I’ve never been there and the chance to see the deities worshiped by the Goswamis of Vrindavana tickled my soul. It was a very brief moment, however, because I soon realized that even if I went there I would only have seen a few idols decorated in nice dresses and flowers.

At first I imagined going to Jaipur and seeing Krishna but then I realized I wasn’t going to see Him at all. He wasn’t going to show Himself to me and has no interest in seeing me either.

Finally, the things I’ve been preaching to myself for a while are starting to get hold now.

We are not the subjects and Krishna is not the object for our senses. It’s the other way around, He is there to see us and so unless invited we have no real business going to Jaipur to “see” Him. I got that plus the understanding that seeing the deity is not the same as having Krishna reveal His form in our hearts.

No doubt a trip to Jaipur would have been supremely beneficial, first as one of the best methods of sadhana bhakti and second as the opportunity to get noticed by the Lord but we still can’t force Krishna to bestow His mercy on us simply by going to places like Jaipur, Vrindavan or Mayapur. We go there but we don’t get there, we just lick the jar of honey from the outside.

Granted, it’s probably the closest we get to the honey in this lifetime and this is not a small feat for one lifetime already but still it’s no cigar.

Krishna and all the places of His residence are eternally present in His Holy Name. We don’t need to travel thousands of miles to see what is already so close, we can’t force the Holy Name to disclose its glories by mere traveling, especially if all we are going to see there is the same old eating, sleeping, mating and defending.

Having said that, if the Lord arranges for us to go and visit Him there we should absolutely get up and go without any reservations. Hmm, okay, we can make reservations but it’s not what I mean.

Vanity thought #310. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau

This is a line from the famous verse, originally from Padma Purana, but known to followers of Lord Chaitanya mostly from Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu (1.2.234).

That verse is closely related to the futility of trying to understand Krishna through acquiring knowledge I reflected on yesterday but it offers another twist – it’s futile to learn about Krishna even by reading literature describing Him and His pastimes.

I can’t speak for other people but when I read accounts of Krishna’s life I imagine Him just like any other human being. I think I understand His thought process and I think I know why He behaves in this or that particular way – after all it’s nicely explained by Srila Prabhupada! But the point is that I still see Him as an ordinary person.

I know what other people would do in the same situations and that’s how I “understand” Krishna, too. This is wrong.

The only way to understand Krishna is when He reveals Himself – svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ. Anything short of that is MISunderstanding.

Is there any value then, in reading Krishna book? Of course there is, but, perhaps, that value is gleaned from another basic rule of devotional service – always remember Krishna and never forget Him.

Consider this – we know that discussing some of Krishna’s pastimes is actually detrimental for unprepared devotees, that means that there’s potential harm but, on the other hand, discussing real pastimes can’t possibly be harmful. The answer is that we are not discussing Krishna’s real pastimes, only our materialistic interpretation of them.

In our materialistic state of life the scriptures and our acharyas drew some lines and some rules for us to follow. We are advised to read some stories and avoid others not because of the level of our transcendental understanding but because our MISunderstanding can cause more problems with some of our rules and less problems with others.

There’s another reason, too, I believe – since we can’t approach Krishna directly we can express our desire to surrender to Him only via materialistic senses and emotions. We can’t cry for Krishna like Lord Chaitanya did but we CAN develop attraction to our materialistic interpretations of His personality.

Some might argue that if the stories do not feel interesting enough than we can’t force ourselves to like them but to this I would say that people get used to all kinds of stuff that they initially dislike. It might take longer time with the older people but eventually every one gets used to his conditions – that’s how the illusion works! If you find yourself stranded somewhere in Africa for years you are guaranteed to find pleasure in eating African food and listening to African music.

So it IS possible to force ourselves to find pleasure in reading stories about Krishna again and again and again without getting any transcendental taste in them and it WILL pay off in the end because this is the kind of sacrifice that pleases our guru and Krishna.

Yes, it is materialistic and imperfect, and, essentially sahajiya in its core, but it’s the only process we have at the moment – regulated devotional service. That’s the only way we can express our devotion (if we have any) in the conditioned state.