Vanity thought #381. Overthinking

It’s nice to make a decision to rely on the Lord at all times, it’s not so easy to make it actually happen. Draupadi, as I discussed yesterday, searched for answers elsewhere before turning to Krishna. As soon as she remembered Him, her problem went away. Once you remember Krishna, He extends His helping hand.

Equipped with this transcendental knowledge I tried to apply this method in my day to day life. It turns our my problem is quite the opposite of that of Draupadi – she was thinking of different solutions before turning to Krishna, I start to seek help elsewhere after praying to Him.

What happens is that I ask Him to guide me and then I start second guessing everything I do. Was it Krishna’s advice that just popped up in my mind or do I have to be patient and wait a bit more? When, after some time, I get a whole bunch of the new ideas I completely lose the track of what was supposed to be Krishna’s help and what was just twitching of my own mind.

If I were to face problems of life and death the divinely inspired path would be a lot easier to judge – after I survive. Facing mundane minutiae with identical outcomes is not so easy.

At my level of wasting my time away in relative comfort I don’t really need Krishna’s help, what I am actually looking for here is the voice of the chaitya guru – the Supersoul. Hearing Him is not the same as getting Krishna’s help, which comes maybe once in a lifetime. The Supersoul is our constant companion, Lord Hari, always guiding us on the path of devotion. He talks to us every second of our lives but we, of course, rarely sense even His presence.

The problem here is not in getting His help, as with Krishna, but with hearing Him through the cacophony of our minds. Unlike Krishna presence that is the most wonderful experience of all and is impossible to miss, the voice of the Supersoul requires good listening skills and a high level of self-realization.

Self-realization, I must add, is not some theoretical step, a bubble on the mind map, it’s a very practical achievement. When you have it you can’t miss it, and when you don’t have it you can’t imagine what it feels like.

Instead of talking about seeing the Lord behind movements of each blade of grass, we start actually seeing Him as the cause of all causes. We also lose the sense of hearing to our senses, losing the capacity to experience the world through our material bodies, and gaining the capacity to experience the world through its connection to Lord Hari within our hearts.

Until that happens we will tend to over-think things. Perhaps the ultimate measure of Krishna’s guidance is not in observing the immediate results but in gaining that tiny bit of self-realization along the way, regardless of the solutions to material puzzles placed before us.

Step by step, bit bit, clawing our way up out of this pit of illusion – that’s real Krishna’s help, so let me not over-think things and lose perspective here.

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Vanity thought #380. The Lord and His devotees

Two wonderful accounts of dealings between the Lord and His devotees recently caught my attention. I’m not able to convey the same sense of deep love and care as devotees who spoke/wrote them down but I will try and capture at least something.

First is about Draupadi and Krishna talking about that famous episode from Mahabharata where Krishna made her sari unlimited in length so that Duhshasana couldn’t disrobe her. I don’t know when exactly this conversation took place and where it is originally recorded but it goes like this: Draupadi was asking Krishna why He didn’t help her right away and instead waited for the last moment.

The point of this episode is that sometimes we don’t feel like Krishna is really protecting us at all times, as He promised in Bhagavad Gita.

Anyway, in reply to Draupadi Krishna said that when Dushasana dragged her into the hall where they were playing dice she first appealed to her husbands – Pandavas, she was begging them to get up and protect her, but, of course, they couldn’t do anything because Yudhishthira had already lost the game. So Draupadi was relying on them, not on Krishna.

Next she turned her mind to Bhishma, begging him to save her dignity. “You didn’t ask me” – said Krishna again.

Then Duhshasana pulled on her sari and, in desperation, she tried to hold onto it with her own hands, relying on her own meager strength – “Didn’t need me again”, said Krishna.

Only when everything else failed she gave up the fight, raised her arms up and cried – “Oh Govinda!” That was the moment when Krishna appeared, in a split second.

The point is that Krishna IS taking care and protecting us, personally, but only when we see no other shelter but His lotus feet, or, more practically, His Holy Name.

He is always there for the asking. He is bhaktf-vatsala-Hari, He loves His devotees with all His heart and will never ever abandon them.

The second story is from Chaitanya Charitamrita, when Mahaprabhu decided to go on a pilgrimage to South India. It was only a couple of months after His taking sannyasa, soon after arriving in Jagannatha Puri. When He announced His decision Lord Nityananda immediately took charge of the whole idea.

“You need at least two devotees to accompany You”, he said. “I will go with You because I know all the ways and passages there, I’ve been there before and I know everything.”

“I’m but a puppet in your hands”, answered Lord Chaitanya, “and you are my master, but I have a couple of points to make, too.”

“I once asked you to take me to Vrindavana but you tricked me and took me to Advaita Acharya’s house instead. I’m sorry, but as a guide you suck. There was also the episode with you breaking up my danda and throwing it away. I know you love me very much but, pardon me for saying so, I’ve had enough of your troubles for a moment.”

“And while we are on this subject – Jagadananda wants me to enjoy bodily comforts and I accept everything he gives me out of fear. Still sometimes I fail and make him upset and he doesn’t talk to me for days and it makes me feel guilty.”

“Also, I am a sannyasi and I have to take baths three times a day in cold water and sleep on the ground, but Mukunda can’t see me taking such austerities and becomes sad, he doesn’t say anything about his grief but seeing him in such distress really really breaks my heart and I suffer twice as much as him.”

“Damodara is just a brahmachari but out of love for me he thinks it’s his job to keep me, a sannyasi, straight, and for that purpose he always carries a stick, so I have to comply with everything he orders me.”

“It is all but impossible for me to humbly carry my duties as a sannyasi in the presence of such love and care, but I am a sannyasi and I cannot abandon my duties, so I decided to go on pilgrimage alone.”

It doesn’t really matter how it played out in the end, it’s this deep love and affection between the Lord and His devotees that is truly astonishing here. No one can catch the Lord, the supreme, absolutely independent cause of all causes, but He can’t go against love of His devotees, He just can’t say “no” to them.

Back to our reality – sometimes devotees feel like they shouldn’t disturb Krishna for no reason, trying to manage their affairs on their own. They are not being selfish, they just accept their fate as punishment for their past actions, good or bad. They are not particularly interested in solving their problems themselves, let alone bothering Krishna about them.

Sometimes, however, we might bring happiness to Krishna by letting Him take charge of our lives instead of leaving it to the mechanical and impersonal law of karma. Too much independence and renunciation hardens our hearts, sometimes we should give up our show of strength and invite Krishna to help with our problems, however insignificant they might appear in the big scheme of things.

Why should we pass up on the chance to get into a personal exchange with the Lord, even if we see His presence only through clever manipulation of material energy around us.

If it makes us feel extremely grateful and dependent on Him – what is the problem? If He ever gets bored we will immediately know, too, then we can return to practicing vairagya and ignoring our problems once again, no big deal.

Vanity thought #379. More arguments.

So, to control or not control? Both sides haven’t exhausted their arguments yet and the battle continues in the court of my mind.

The control side says that our present consciousness is contaminated, we can’t simply avoid that fact and pretend that we are on the transcendental platform already. Our lives are full of desires, aspirations, plans and so on. We can’t just turn it off instantly, like the lights in the house.

We should gradually purify our consciousness by surrendering it to the Lord, step by step. When we turn our dreams towards Krishna it will be our sacrifice, just as it’s said in the Bhagavad Gita. Not the first class devotion but we shouldn’t pretend to be more advanced than we really are.

It’s not the question of control or not control, it’s the question of turning our existing desire to control towards Krishna’s pleasure. We can’t stop it, we have to engage it.

The “no control” side has a good answer for that – okay, true, we can’t artificially stop our tendency to control the world, but we have to try anyway. First and the most obvious example is chanting japa. We must strive to give up all our thoughts and stop all our plans while we are chanting. It’s not like “Oh, let me think about Krishna or my service when I chant”, not at all. We should shut all our planning and thinking altogether, only leaving ourselves and the Holy Name.

Okay, this is a good argument, but it’s confined to chanting only, it still us leaves with with hours and hours of waking life when we better engage our minds in Krishna’s service, and the best way to do it is to plan more, plan better, take full control, but do it for Krishna.

We should devote all our efforts to fulfilling the mission of Lord Chaitanya and our spiritual masters and if that means thinking it through, so be it. If it helps us to achieve better results – what is the problem?

But there’s an answer to that, too – anyone who spent any time distributing books knows that the more you plan, the worse it goes. The secret to successful book distribution, and all preaching by extension, is to the let go of our desire to control and simply become instruments of our spiritual master.

We should literally let go of our minds and just do guru and Krishna’s bidding. They know better where to go and what to say, we just have to properly surrender. They can control our efforts far better that we can ourselves, and it also helps us to see their mercy in action, with every minutes spent our there in the streets and with every book placed in the hands of the conditioned souls. This leads to realization of our true situation – just humble servants of our guru and Krishna.

Gradually we see that our desire to control the world is our own worst enemy and we learn to avoid it as much as possible, because that’s where the nectar really is – in being blind instruments in the hands of Lord Chaitanya and guru parampara, that’s how we most vividly feel their presence in our lives.

We become naturally afraid of trying to control the world ourselves as in our memories it associates with pain and emptiness.

Or maybe it’s just only me. Maybe it’s just the first step, maybe we should learn to control things for Krishna and then the emptiness and the feeling of disconnect disappears. I honestly don’t know.

So, to control or not control?

Practically, it’s one of those things where you just try to remember Krishna and let Him sort it out. Maybe one day I will have a better answer but for now it’s all I have – endless pro- and con- arguments, tilting towards less control if possible.

Vanity thought #378. A second one, actually

Should we give up control of our lives or not? I honestly don’t know. There are two schools of thought on this subject and I so far I haven’t resolved this dilemma. It came up at the end of my yesterday’s entry and I’m picking up from where I left.

From the very first reading of Bhagavad Gita we know that the spirit soul is not the doer and that our bodies act under the influence of the modes of nature. Bewildered by the illusion we, however, identify ourselves with our bodies and think that we are in control.

At the end of the Gita Krishna tells us to give up all our dharmas, meaning all our material designations that determine the way we act, and surrender onto Him, meaning ceding control. The more we read the clearer it becomes – we should give up desire to control the world and accept Krishna’s guidance, first in the form of the spiritual master, shastras and other authorities, then, hopefully, taking instructions from the Supersoul Himself.

The second school of thought generally goes like this – we make progress in our spiritual lives only by the grace of our guru. Our guru wants us to do certain things so we should do those things, please the guru, and thus become detached and surrendered. I don’t see anything wrong with this logic per se. It clashes with the first one, however.

This advice is intended for the beginners and, as beginners, in order to achieve anything in this world we should fully apply ourselves to the task. We should take control and responsibility, we should think, plan, and execute our plans perfectly. Books are not going to distribute themselves, temples are not going to rise overnight, bills are not going to pay themselves, not if we sit on our rear ends and only chant and eat prasadam.

Basically, we should fully invest our consciousness in our material activities, or maybe let’s call it external activities, as they are connected to Krishna so are not fully material. Either way – we should take control and we should strive for better control if we want to achieve wonderful things for the satisfaction of our spiritual masters.

This leads to aphorisms like “work now, samadhi later”. Some understand it as “perform whatever inferior service now and patiently wait for direct service to Krishna”, but it also means “forget about service and just apply yourself to work, and hard work will set you free”.

This argument appears as some kind of karma yoga at first – offering the fruits of your labor to the Lord, or to the spiritual master, then get purified, then rise to the level of what Krishna was talking about in Bhagavad Gita – you are not the doer etc.

I see this argument as the highest form of devotion to the Lord, too. We voluntarily assume consciousness of the bodies given to us by the material nature because these bodies are engaged in the service of the Lord, service of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission and service of our gurus. ATM. these are the best positions in the entire universe.

We are not shying away from spiritual consciousness and we are not accepting any material dharmas – we don’t see the service to the Lord as a material engagement. We accept the fact that the Lord wants us to be here, fulfilling His mission. What is the value of being where the Lord doesn’t want us to be, even if it’s Krishnaloka itself? We are not in this for our own interests, our own satisfaction, our own pleasure and happiness – we are doing this because it pleases our spiritual master and if he wants us to build temples and distribute books then so be it. Our personal liberation can wait.

This is the attitude of completely selfless devotion taught by Srila Rupa Goswami, not clumsy efforts of total neophytes as some outsiders want to label it.

I think this is also how various great personalities and demigods descend on this earth in forms of associates of the Lord – they see that some gross, inferior humans forms are going to be engaged in Lord’s service and they take them, it’s once in a lifetime opportunity even by demigods time. So what if these human bodies are smelly and full of abominable things and desires, and they actually walk on the ground – the chance to serve the Lord makes up for all of that.

So there’s a pretty solid case for trying to control our lives in service to guru and Krishna. On the other hand – who among us can claim being on such an elevated platform, the highest possible ever? Our acharyas who were living examples of nitya-siddhas coming to this world for the preaching purposes didn’t display this attitude, they didn’t think themselves as being in control or as doers of anything. Why should we?

What stops us from fully relying on Krishna’s mercy even when we want to do great things for our guru? Even if we substitute Krishna’s guidance with our own efforts and succeed – what is the value of this victory? We don’t have the grandest temples or the biggest festivals in the world, materialists will always be better than whatever we come up with. It’s the game we cannot win.

On the other hand we win even if we simply try, no matter the results. If the Lord wanted results He wouldn’t need even to snap His fingers, He wants to see us try.

I’m nowhere near the solution to this dilemma than I was nine hundred words ago. Perhaps it needs a third thought.

Vanity thought #377. Universal obligation

I believe everyone in this world is trying to develop relationships with the Absolute Truth. Most of the people might not realize it as the Supreme Personality but everyone has some sort of the concept of what Truth is and everyone has some kind of moral scale in relation to their idea of Truth.

Everyone tries to satisfy their vision of Truth and “do the right thing”. We all know that we have to make choices and that our choices determine success or failure of our lives.

From this perspective the worst thing that can happen to us is disqualification and permanent ban from trying to find the Truth we are all searching for. I’m not talking about death, death is a natural thing, it doesn’t come without a reason and it signifies the end of the current chapter. I’m talking about disqualification while we are still in the middle of the play.

For some people it’s the inability to reproduce, they think that’s the real failure in life, but reproduction is only a small part of our overall search. Real disqualification is when we lose our minds and memories, our ability to make sense of the world and make conscious decisions by which we will finally be judged.

Some people react to mental disabilities with complete and utter denial. They cannot come to terms with the fact that they’ve been disqualified and their human form of life is going to complete waste. Others realize that they have mental illness and for them the reality of the Truth slipping away could be devastating.

Without that search for Truth there’s nothing there to live for. We can fool around and give ourselves a lot of leeway but we don’t want to be rejected altogether. Punished – yes, because it implies we can get our right back, losing one’s mind – no, that is irreversible.

The time between onset of the mental illness and total darkness is the most touching of all. It’s a humbling and bewildering experience I don’t wish on anyone.

Devotees are not exempt either. There are some mental cases that come to our society in pursuit of their own delusions but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about sane people losing the light of consciousness. It doesn’t have to be weird behavior or hallucinations, just losing the grip on reality, and it happens to almost everyone. Even Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s memory was failing him in the later years. He had to have other devotees to help him remember the shlokas he’d been quoting his whole life.

So first goes the memory, then we realize that we make way too many mistakes and pass completely wrong judgments, then we notice that people treat us with extra care and compassion. We might still try to put on a brave face and act normally but sooner or later we realize that making sense of this world and acting here consciously is the ability we not longer possess. It’s called old age, no one is spared.

What is going to happen to us if we still can’t get past the mental platform by then? Right now all our relationships with Krishna are based on sound, rational, shastra and guru confirmed decisions. What will happen to our service when we can’t do that anymore? How can we develop devotion then?

Personally I think I still have a couple of good decades left in me but that is not a very long time. How can I serve guru and Krishna if my mind completely fails? How can I fulfill my universal obligation, my search for the Absolute Truth? How can I purify my heart?

Maybe it will be a blissful time, maybe I will finally learn to let go of my desire to control the world and let Krishna take charge. Maybe I will see that I haven’t lost my mind at all – maybe I will see that it wasn’t my mind in the first place. Maybe I will let go the illusion that I’m a doer in this world and see only Krishna and His energies doing all the work.

Maybe I should lose my mind right now – in a sense I should give up control.

That’s not how I was brought up, however, even in this Krishna consciousness movement, so I need to give it a second thought.

Vanity thought #376. Curse of the weekend

I think I have weekday sadhana covered, every day I know what I will be doing with five-ten minute precision. Weekends, however, totally throw me off.

On weekends I have an obligation to spend time with the family and “relax”. To make it worse I also have to be inventive about it. The result is that my mind and senses become overwhelmed and thoughts of Krishna barely enter my head, if at all.

To further complicate the situation we’ve had ekadashi falling on Saturday or Sunday for over a month.

Who invented the weekends anyway? In Vedic times people lived by lunar calendars with two week cycles and without any days off. If they followed ekadashi it was nothing like our Saturdays. Basically, they didn’t have any regular days set for relaxation at all, only specific holidays like weddings or religious occasions.

I guess it was the Brits who instituted seven day weeks with their atavistic version of Sabbaths and Sundays that were meant for mass. When Prabhupada started ISKCON he had to follow the same schedule, too, thus Sunday harinama followed by Sunday program with a feast for all the guests was born.

As a result, this schedule has affected our perception of daily service, too. We subconsciously think that we have to make week long efforts and then relax and take a break. Considering how seriously we are supposed to take our external service (by which we are all constantly judged) this is a curious attitude to have. We can’t take breaks from devotional service and if we take some vratas we can’t take a break from those either.

Nowhere in our literature they propose this “two steps forward, one step back” method of executing one’s duties. Steadiness is the main characteristic of devotional service, and of sadhana bhakti, too.

I guess weekends is just another test of our dedication and maturity, test of whether we can remember Krishna under any circumstances or not. Test that I am so far failing.

I guess I could try to direct my mind towards Krishna even when entertaining the entire family at the mall but the best solution is to rise above the mental platform altogether.

I don’t know how to do that yet but at least I am aware of the problem now and I have a vague idea of what should be the solution. For now, let me be content with just this little progress.

Vanity thought #375. Being happy

There are two contradictory views on enjoying happiness in Krishna consciousness. One says that we shouldn’t accept Krishna’s service and so we shouldn’t pray for it and enjoy the results. The other view says that Krishna wants us to be happy so we should enjoy our happiness without any second thoughts. I am torn somewhere in between.

On one hand we are Krishna’s servants, not the other way around. He can serve us, if He wants to, and that would certainly make us feel good, but that is not our goal. We cannot accept any service from our gurus, for example, and guru is Krishna’s direct representative.

On the other hand we are beings constitutionally wired to search for happiness. If we don’t enjoy it in Krishna consciousness we will surely start looking for it elsewhere. Our relationships with Krishna are based on eternal bliss, how can we deny it?

On the third hand, if we are on the material platform and perceive happiness with our material senses, we don’t really need Krishna for that. He made an entire universe for us to engage in sense gratification. Even on the spiritual platform – He is the supreme enjoyer, we can try His enjoying shoes only to a small degree. It would surely be blissful but it’s nothing comparing to the bliss derived from serving Him.

But then the question is – what if our happiness comes from Krishna’s enjoyment, not from ours? Shouldn’t it be totally legitimate then?

The counterargument is – how do we know if our happiness is legit, and even if it is, what should we do about it? Should we enjoy it? Can we get attached to it? What happens if we get it wrong?

One just have to remember about sahajiya class of devotees – they are the supreme enjoyers of spiritual bliss among us but they are also branded as deviants by our acharyas.

We know of some symptoms of spiritual ecstasy – romancha kampashru etc. Are they legitimate? If one ever experience them, should he get attached to them, seeking them everywhere?

Personally I think that one doesn’t have to cultivate attachment to spiritual bliss artificially, if it’s a legitimate thing than one will be drawn to it naturally and irresistibly. Symptoms like tears or goosebumps, however, are not intrinsically spiritual, one can experience them in many other ways. Even the word ecstasy doesn’t have any spiritual meaning for the vast majority of the population, everyone knows what it is without ever thinking of Krishna or God.

We can develop attachment to the feelings and we can seek those feelings, trying to recreate situations that provoke them. There’s a reason some movies are called “tearjerkers”, they work very well on your average Joe.

So there’s a danger in misdirecting our efforts to material enjoyment, but what about purely spiritual rewards for our service? What should we do about them?

One important thing is that we should accept them with deep respect and gratitude, they are not meant to be enjoyed cheaply, and we shouldn’t accept them as something we totally deserved – they are causeless mercy of the Lord. We can humbly wait for it and, perhaps, the litmus test should be the degree of our patience. Like faithful dogs we should be prepared to sit and wait in total concentration, never letting our minds to wonder off anywhere else.

On that level the question “Can we enjoy happiness or not?” should totally disappear, it should be considered as something frivolous and distracting, it shouldn’t enter the mind of a devotee patiently and in deep concentration waiting for Lord’s mercy.

So I guess this is my answer. All my present concerns are, well, just noise. Eventually they will go away by themselves, assuming I will ever make progress.

Vanity thought #374. Deathbed

I’ve seen it only once in my life many many years ago. I’ve been to a lots of funerals but there was only one dying person I’ve seen with my own eyes and it wasn’t pretty. I didn’t give it much attention back then but a few days ago the image and implications of being on a deathbed came back to me.

I guess some people go away peacefully but my grandmother suffered for weeks, bedridden and unconscious. In the beginning her agony was unbearable to watch, towards the end she was so shriveled and exhausted she had no power to toss around anymore, only moaned in pain. Her consciousness was never clear and she didn’t even recognize my face when my mom shoved me up front.

A few days ago I realized that I might die in the same way. By Krishna’s grace there could be devotees who would make sure I’m surrounded by objects reminding me of Krishna but if my death would be anything like my grandmother’s it won’t matter a bit – she had no awareness of the world around her anymore. I bet in this situation the mind is totally out of control, too and there’s only unbearable pain and suffering with to clarity or sense of control.

Even if I were to remember about Krishna I wouldn’t have facilities for it, my whole body, both gross and subtle, would be completely overwhelmed with either pain or pain medication. How would I be able to pray?

This is not how I normally envision my eventual passing but when did I ever get things go the way I imagined them to be?

Two of my other close relatives died in their sleep, or at least were found in bed in the morning. Maybe they woke up just before leaving their bodies but even if that happened they were probably shocked by the sudden experience and had no time to gather their thoughts.

Either way, a dying person is screwed, more likely than not I’ll be left completely and utterly helpless and without abilities to even properly pray. How am I supposed to remember Krishna that way?

What if before my death I will never have time to awaken and purify my spiritual consciousness? That would be the only instrument available to me at that time. Right now I judge it by how much I am aware of Krishna in deep sleep – nothing at all. It will be much much worse than sleep, in deep sleep my senses are not bothering me, on deathbed they will be screaming for attention.

The worst part is that my death might come knock on tomorrow and I’m completely unprepared for it. I prance around everyday on borrowed time and think I have enough years and decades to develop my spiritual consciousness. I even dare to teach others about illusion. People might live in illusion for they don’t know any better. My situation is called delusion, it’s far far worse, and even worse than that is that I don’t like to think about it.

Let this be a real lesson for me, a lesson I would remember at all times at every point in my life. My deathbed is waiting.

Vanity thought #373. Japa dues

From time to time I have to reflect on my japa performance as I still live under the impression that japa is the foundation of all our Krishna consciousness. I believe it’s very important to keep an eye on its quality. I believe that without good japa none of what I do or think will have any spiritual power or value.

In the past couple of months I noticed some regular patterns in my chanting – it comes and goes in waves, about a week or ten days at length. There are clear crests and clear troughs. Sometimes I can’t seem to stop chanting and sometimes I can hardly squeeze sixteen rounds our of myself. Knowing about its cyclical nature, however, helps me to keep my cool and continue chanting unperturbed. I know that difficulties are only temporary and success is as fleeting as sunny weather in England.

Difficulties are not the problem, I think, problem is overestimating myself when japa gets better – you can’t chant properly if you think you are doing well, it goes against trinad api sunichena principle.

Over time I have become even more assured that chanting without any engagement from my mind is the best. On good days the mind “helps”, on bad days it puts up all kinds of obstacles, but since neither good nor bad has absolute value, and bad days lead to increase in performance while on good days my mind drags me down, the best chanting is when I don’t remember about my mind at all.

There are also clear material benefits to “better” chanting, when things become difficult I give up playing hard to get devotee and admit having ulterior motives. Things then magically turn for the better. I’m ashamed of abusing the Holy Name for these purposes but it happens.

Another appreciation of our method of japa I had these past couple of days is that it’s okay for us to chant loudly. By definition japa is supposed to be silent chanting but ever since Haridasa Thakura we have the permission to chant in full voice. His excuse was that everyone gets a chance to hear the Holy Names this way, not only the practitioner himself. My excuse is that it lets me pour my heart out when I feel like doing it.

On that note – I recently replayed some of old recordings of Sri Prahlad kirtans and I was struck by how honest he sounded. His voice isn’t particularly sweet or melodious or super energetic, but it’s brutally honest – here I am, Krishna, I have nothing else but your Name and I don’t really know what it is, only its sound, but if I stop singing it I will probably die.

On that note, today BBC has an article about spreading of gospel music in France – a very timely reminder about universal appeal of congregational chanting of Lord’s glories. Personally I’ve never listened to it but I know that they do it altogether and they let their emotions towards God to flow free.

I checked the lyrics of one song and, interestingly enough, they were arguing against perfect rhymes and beats and stressing that the only thing that matters in their singing is sincerity. Wise men, those Christians.

Vanity thought #372. Negativity

I’ve had tons of ideas for today’s post but while choosing the best one I noticed that they are all about correcting things, that they are all negative in nature.

I was thinking about the need to bring outside stuff in our Bhagavatam classes, like lessons from Dale Carnegie on how to make friends and influence people. Then I thought I had covered this subject already, there’s no need, outside stuff corrupts our consciousness.

Next I thought how annoyed I become if some outside noise interferes with me listening to records of lectures, even if I can instantly replay the missing parts. At first I was satisfied with my eagerness to hear krishna katha but then I noticed how I don’t care if outside noises interfere with kirtans or bhajanas – Holy Name is a Holy Name and interruption is an interruption. Why hate one interruption but not the other? I need to correct my attitudes here.

Next I thought how we often raise wrong questions and subsequently get wrong answers. I thought I needed to correct that, too.

Then I thought how our anger and complaints often get misdirected and that we end up blaming innocent devotees doing their best, which ruins our spiritual lives. That needs to be stopped.

Then I thought how many of our devotees develop a sense of entitlement, they think the society owes them everything, beginning with respect and recognition. That attitude needs to be changed.

Then I though how often our value system gets corrupted by outside society, how we subconsciously see devotees through the lens of nationalism, for example, and how we think that our way of performing service is the best way. We need to be aware of that.

Then I thought that this fault finding is never going to stop and that it does not add anything to my spiritual progress.

I don’t need this crap in my life. It’s full of it as it is, what I need is glorification of the Lord and His devotees. I do not need to see imperfections in life and much less see imperfections in other devotees. They might not be offended by my thoughts but the Lord will see my attitude and I will suffer for that.

The only way to stop this flow of negativity is to fill my head with positive thoughts instead. As of now I don’t have any but at least I appreciate their value a bit more and I hope the Lord will help me to think positively.

There’s one important point, however – I should rise above the duality of the material world, that means not picking only good things when hearing about devotees. That means if there’s a choice between thinking “this devotee is right on this point” and “this devotee is probably mistaken here” I should hear only “There’s a devotee!!!”. The rest is the duality of this world that should be left alone.

Let’s see if there’s a change in the next few days or weeks. Old habits dies hard but I desperately need new ones, too.