Vanity thought #411. In a blank state of mind

That’s how I’ve been trying to chant my japa lately and I think it’s becoming my standard. I mean that’s what I’m trying to achieve, that’s how I measure failure or success.

The idea is that I don’t want the mind to get in between me as the living entity and the Holy Names. Originally I tried to develop the proper state of mind, like that of a child crying for his mother, for example, or enthusiastic chanting in hope of getting the mercy of the Lord very very soon. To get into those states I had to preach to myself, give myself some reasons, point out at some developments, warn myself of deviations but, mostly, I tried to get into the emotional state of the said child as I imagine an actor would be trying to fit into his assigned role.

That approach to chanting is now out and blank state of mind is in. I figured that rather than imitate some emotions towards the Holy Name I should just sit and listen and let the Name itself do its magic. I figured that the Name and me already have a relationship so I should work on developing what I have rather than imagining what I don’t, and that requires shutting the mind out.

I realize that I don’t feel anything positive in our relationship but that’s probably because the noise produced by my mind muffles whatever I, as a soul, feel towards the Name, and as long as I listen to my mind I’ll never hear the Name itself.

I can’t perceive Krishna with my mind, I can’t think of Krishna, no more than I can see Him with my eyes when I look at the Deity. He cannot be conquered with the power of the mind so it’s not a question of thinking about Him properly, not a question of getting into a proper mood. Of course smaranam helps, it’s one of the legitimate ways to render service, but Krishna and the Holy Name would reveal themselves in the heart, not in the mind. Seeing Him with my mind would be as unlikely as seeing Him before my own eyes.

So, the mind is out, listening is in. Occasionally the mind goes completely blank, and this is the ideal situation, I think. When it goes astray and gets into some heated thoughts about this or that I try to restrain it and just listen again without any thinking, and this is when I notice the contamination of the mind – it’s like the thoughts have left a scent, added some color, left an aftertaste, it’s like observing the traces of the modes of nature. After a while they disappear and the mind goes blank again.

Ideally I want to extend this separation from my mind to the rest of my existence, I want to stay focused on the memory of the Holy Name while my mind and senses go about their usual ways – eating, sleeping, mating and defending. I want to perceive the difference between myself and my mind at all times.

I believe it’s possible in a sense that everybody knows what “carried away” means and I’m trying to take it to the next level where any investment of my consciousness into the activities of my mind is considered the state of “carried away”.

Just like when we chant we see a lot of things but we don’t watch them, we hear lots of other sounds but we don’t listen to them, so I hope I’ll have lots of thoughts without paying any attention to them, being absorbed in the meditation on the Lord.

Or another example – sometimes people get so engrossed in their thoughts that they drive on autopilot, stopping for red lights, changing lanes, overtaking, all the while thinking about something else. Then they woke up and realize that they drove all the way home and they don’t remember any details about their journey. Their minds processed it alright but their consciousness was somewhere else.

I think this is what we have to achieve in regards to Krishna consciousness, too. Our main example, a man in love who goes on about his life but can’t forget his beloved even for a second, is similar to that.

I think that my idea of separating my consciousness from my mind is legitimate. So far perceiving anything in this world means processing it with my mind but that is living on a mental platform and I have to transcend that. It won’t happen via any artificial methods, but if I simply sit and listen to the Holy Name I might feel something in my heart that doesn’t require participation of the mind and then it’s the question of protecting that feeling just like we are supposed to protect the bhakti-lata bija.

Atm I’m prepared to accept that my first feeling will be of solely impersonal nature, in fact it should be considered the necessary stage, the “brahma bhuta” from brahma bhuta prasannatma verse. Actual bhakti would start growing only after that, but that’s another big topic for another day.

Advertisements

Vanity thought #410. Haridas Thakur departure

The passing of Haridasa Thakura was such a glorious event that it got its own chapter in Chaitanya Charitamrita and it was indeed a moment we all can learn a thing or two from.

We can appreciate the mercy of Lord Chaitanya who, upon hearing of Haridasa’s problems immediately came to visit him. He sent His servant Govinda to deliver mahaprasadam and that’s how He learned that Haridasa was having difficulties with His body. From then on Haridasa’s well being was the sole focus of Mahaprabhu’s interest and He personally attended to Haridasa’s body.

We can also appreciate Lord Chaitanya’s humility, how He performed His duties as the Lord while praising the glory and the exalted position of His devotee and how He deflected all the appeals for mercy to Krishna.

But, of course, today is the day to learn from Haridasa Thakura himself, too. Two things stand out in the story of his departure – how he was mentally lucid and left the body on his own will, and how he valued his chanting.

When Lord Chaitanya asked Haridasa about his health he said there was nothing wrong with his body but his mind and intelligence were not well. This is not how the rest of us are going to leave this world. We have our bodies give up on us first, then the pain would cloud our judgment, then we pass into delirium.

What was Haridasa’s disease? He couldn’t finish his rounds. I don’t know how exactly he was chanting. We know he preferred to chant his japa loudly but I’ve also read he practiced chanting mentally. Mental japa is faster but three lakhs of Names should still take more than twelve hours, more like sixteen. Haridasa didn’t eat until he finished his daily chanting.

I think that when Haridasa blamed his mind he meant he couldn’t force his body to chant, it was actually his body that started to give up but he was convinced that the body is just a tool in the service of the Lord and could not raise objections on its own.

As I said, it’s remarkable that, unlike the rest of us, Srila Haridasa Thakura was very lucid all the way through his passing away. From the examples of departure of other great devotees, or even from the example of Mataji Isha, we can see that they live in their inner world and don’t need mental faculties to remember Krishna. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur even “liked” having a stroke because that way no one could interfere or interrupt his internal mediation. It took Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati significant amount of begging and reasoning to persuade Bhaktivinoda to come out of his “coma” and apply his consciousness to the external world once again.

This gives us some leeway in the control of our minds – we know that in the end we’ll have to let the minds go, that being of feeble mind is not an obstacle in meditation on the Lord. Srila Haridasa Thakura, however, showed us that we can and probably should engage our minds in consciously thinking about Krishna no matter what. He is a namacharya, after all. If he preferred to stay lucid until the very end, so should we, if possible, of course.

He taught us that the demands of our body and mind even on the verge of death should never be put above our vow of chanting. Lord Chaitanya Himself told him to ease off, He told him that, as a liberated soul, he didn’t have to be so strict about following rules and regulations anymore, but Haridasa Thakura had none of it. He refused to cut himself any slack on the account of his advancement.

We might excuse ourselves from some less important services as we climb the ladder of devotion, things like mopping the floors and serving prasadam or attending evening programs. Example of Haridasa Thakura taught us that these are signs of immaturity, that we should never consider ourselves above the need to render even the most menial service not matter how exalted our position appears to be comparing to others.

Even when Lord Chaitanya placed His lotus feet on Haridasa’s heart he still thought of Himself as the lowest person in the universe, a son of meat eaters unworthy any consideration. He considered himself only an imitation devotee and compared value of his death to that of an ant.

To recapitulate – we should see the thoughts of our success as signs of our failure, we should always see ourselves as lower than the grass and never imagine that we are actually devotees, we should never consider ourselves excused from performing any service to the Lord, however insignificant, such opportunities cannot be passed, what to speak of completing our daily rounds. And we should never stop trying to engage our minds and bodies in the service of the Lord, too. There will never be the time to “retire” and stop making such efforts.

These are the lessons we can learn from our namacharya Haridasa Thakura. There are more, of course, but I thought I could start with contemplating those first.

Vanity thought #409. Gaudiya sunrise

We all know that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati is compared to a ray of Vishnu. By that logic his father, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, was nothing less than the sun itself.

By all accounts in the 19th century the world of Gaudia vaishnavism was in the darkness, gone were the days when ordinary people would sing songs of Narottama Dasa Thakura, in were the days of worshiping Kali and devising various ways to brown nose the British. Popular imagination was captured by the likes of Ram Mohan Roy who had absolutely no qualms about producing fake scriptures in support of his outrageous ideas, manufacturing his own stuff and calling it “Veda” to fool the fools.

Such rascaldom had penetrated Gaudiya teachings, too. There was a rogue publishing house that produced numerous light reading books about Lord Chaitanya in the first half of the century that were filled with all kinds of mistakes and misconceptions and that formed the “cloud” of public knowledge on the subject.

Cloud, of course, is a modern term for storing data on the internet, but it’s also very descriptive of the public knowledge unattached to any particular source and easily available anywhere where there are people (note to myself – interesting idea to explore further).

So people had only vague and erroneous ideas about Gaudiya vaishnavism and practicing devotees themselves slipped into such degraded customs that they only exacerbated the situation. There were all kinds of perverts making public shows of their crossed dressed devotion and no respectable gentlemen would go anywhere near that crowd and anyone even remotely associated with them.

Meanwhile gurus from traditional parishads reduced themselves to milking people for money on a farm scale, divvying up the country like modern salesmen. They’ve been practically collecting taxes like the government – on time, on preset rates, avoiding double taxation but not tolerating any evasion. Once the “zonal acharya” passed away his “disciples” were inherited by his children and the extortion continued for generations.

As far as spiritual guidance – they didn’t provide any. At most they delivered short talks on their scheduled visits and things like initiations were dished out according to established tariffs.

If there were any walk-in idiots they were sold all kinds of mantras and revelations and sent on their way to explore their siddha-swarupas.

All in all, worship of Krishna, what to speak of worship of Lord Chaitanya, was completely off the map, a weird superstition for backward folk up in the uncivilized countryside.

And then came Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and Gaudiya vaishnavism was changed forever. He was like a rising sun dissipating the darkness and purifying all the slime accumulated during the night. All misconceptions were cleared up, all pretenders were put in their places, and by the time Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati took his turn to preach Gaudiya vaishnavism was restored to its rightful place and its rightful mindshare in the Bengali society.

People still propagated all kinds of home made doctrines but no matter what they preached they had to run it by vaishnavas first, everything had to appear in accordance with the Bhagavat philosophy, at least externally.

When Srila Bhaktisddhanta Saraswait took to preaching he had all the foundations in place already and he took it to he next level. One thing he could always rely upon was the legacy and the authority of his father, which was unassailable.

When Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura took to preaching, however, there was nothing, just his firm faith in the mercy of Lord Chaitanya. He didn’t have time to sit and ponder the gravity of his mission, how monumentally important it was and how it would shape the lives of millions of people for over the century and counting.

He didn’t think much about his qualifications, his initiation into a proper parishad, his varna situation, he just went out and told people about Krishna and Lord Chaitanya, that’s all. All he had was faith and everything else worked out nicely in the end.

I think this is the most important lesson we can learn from his life – simplicity and faith. On the surface we might think of him a a great vaishnava writer or an exemplary grihastha or a powerful preacher or an extraordinary scholar but all those things simply followed the fact that he had faith. He didn’t know sanskrit, he had some bad habits from his childhood, he didn’t have a guru, but he had faith, and the Lord supplied the rest.

His daily life wasn’t all meditation and reading books, he had a job and responsibilities that came with it, but he filled all the available space in his life with Krishna consciousness, little by little, bit by bit, taking every chance he had to share his realizations with people around him.

I don’t know why anyone would abandon him and his followers and run off to some babajis somewhere. Those babajis might be very advanced, might be not, but anyone giving up shelter of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is not likely to find real bhakti anywhere else. Krishna sent him to us, we took advantage of his contributions to Gaudiya vaishnavism, and now we think we need something better? What nonsense.

Anyway, today is supposed to be about glorifying Srila Bhaktivinoda, not looking for faults in fellow devotees. On the other hand, the mere existence of such attitudes is very offensive to the memory of such a great and generous soul.

May the Lord protect me from ever slipping from the path laid out by our acharyas and Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura in particular.

Vanity thought #408. The first festival in a glorious row

Today is the beginning of a three day marathon of appearance and disappearance days of illustrious acharyas in our Gaudiya tradition but the first mark on our calendar is, of course, the appearance of Lord Vamanadev.

Among the list of avatars Lord Vamanadev takes somewhat middle position. He is not as famous and universally worshipable as Lord Ramachandra or Lord Nrisimha but He is definitely more often mentioned than, say, Lord Parashurama or Kurma or Matsya.

In a way His main pastime of cheating Bali Maharaja resembles the mission of Mohini Murti – reestablishing universal order through trickery and disguise. Unlike the demons duped by Mohini Murti, however, Lord Vamanadev showed His limitless mercy to His foremost devotee, Bali Maharaja, and, upon success of His little con, He personally took position of service in Bali Maharaja’s court as a doorkeeper.

It was one of the most multifaceted missions of the Lord, it had everything – Prahlada Maharaj as a grandfather, Bali the king of demons, universe falling under control of the asuras, little brahmana boy who could not be refused by the ruler of the three worlds, guru giving a wrong advice and disciple disobeying it, the rebellions against Bali, his arrest by Garuda, and it all culminated in that single moment when Bali Maharaj offered his own head as a place for Lord Vamanadev lotus foot.

Don’t we all yearn for a moment like that ourselves? Do we have enough devotion to actually give up our bodies as a place for someone’s foot and sign ourselves into slavery? That is not given, unfortunately.

Today is also the appearance day of Srila Jiva Goswami, the foremost scholar in our tradition. He might have been a junior to his uncles Rupa and Sanatana and he might not have met Lord Chaitanya Himself but his contribution to the establishment of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is indisputable.

He might not have written extensive rasika works or described the highest level of devotion like Rupa Goswami but the truth is we can’t even touch those topics unless we fully understand the philosophy given to us by Jiva Goswami.

It’s easy to claim to have “lust” for hearing topics of intimate pastimes of Krishna and gopis and there are people who have fooled lots of devotees by offering these talks on the cheap, and only by thorough and practical study of Juva Goswami’s Sad-Sandarbhas we can see pretenders for what they are.

The fact is that full knowledge of sambandha jnana is a touchstone of devotion as well as a litmus test for spotting all kinds of prakrita sahajiyas. Some self-appointed rasika bhaktas might look down on the study of philosophy but no real devotee would ever turn away from books establishing the supreme position of Srimad Bhagavatam or nuances of achintya bhedabheda tattva.

Some “advanced” gaudiyas openly call devotees described in Srimad Bhagavatam as kanishthas – you don’t even need to read Sad-Sandarbhas to know it’s nonsense, on other subjects they even turn Srila Prabhupada against the conclusions of Srila Jiva Goswami, and to answer to that we need to know the philosophy really really well.

Unfortunately, we are mostly unqualified to read Sad-Sandarbhas ourselves but Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura have left us with a solid foundation to keep our hearts and minds from being compromised by deviant ideas.

Once we fully understand what was taught by them we can take a peak at Srila Jiva Goswami’s works. We can’t jump over our gurus heads and go straight for the source. Devotees do not study shastras that way, it’s the approach of materialistic persons looking for validation of their intellectual prowess.

According to this calendar today is also the disappearance day of Srila Vrindavana Dasa Thakura. I don’t know about that. They themselves celebrated it half a year ago already! See here.

Whatever, it won’t hurt anybody to remember Vrindavana Dasa Thakura anyway, on this day as well as on any other. Srila Prabhupada didn’t translate his Chaitanya Bhagavata but he outlined its main events in the introduction to the very first volume of Srimad Bhagavatam, that’s how important it was. Just like Srila Jiva Goswami is our main source when it comes to philosophy, Srila Vrindavana Dasa Thakura is our main source in regards to early pastimes of Lord Chaitanya.

His biography of Mahaprabhu was so comprehensive, authoritative, and conclusive that Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami deliberately avoided duplicating its narrations. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati recommended reading and rereading Chaitanya Bhagavata at least fifty times (I read that somewhere).

All in all – a very outstanding calendar occasion with three anniversary convergence, and that’s just the beginning as we still have anniversaries of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Haridasa Thakura to come.

Vanity thought #407. Vanity, piety and ekadashi

For a while now I’ve been noticing verses about how Krishna preserves progress of His devotees and how He ignores their temporary falldowns. In Bhagavad Gita, for example, He says that even if His devotee commits most abominable actions he should still be considered saintly, that for His devotees He would preserve what they have and also give what they lack (BG 9.22 and 9.30).

Then there was a passage from Srimad Bhagavatam (SB 11.20.25 and verses around it) where Krishna tells Uddhava that for His devotee there should be no worry about committing some offenses, but rather determination and enthusiasm to continue on his path.

That seems to be the standard view on the subject – falldowns are not as important as they seem to be and can be overcome simply by getting up and continuing with one’s service or sadhana. I should note here that it doesn’t really matter what a falldown is, it could be breaking four regs or it could be putting away Bhagavad Gita and watching some movie instead. Each one of us knows his own weaknesses and has his own demons to fight, the principle holds equally for all.

But then there’s this mind blowing verse from the Fourth Canto (SB 4.20.4) where Lord Vishnu personally tells Maharaja Prithu (an incarnation it his own right!):

If a personality like you … is carried away by the influence of My material energy, then all your advancement may be considered simply a waste of time.

All your advancement is simply a waste of time. How about that? How about “I preserve what you have” promise?

ATM I don’t know of any authoritative explanations of this discrepancy, just my own speculations, so beware.

What I think is happening here is that we tend to mix up our advancement on a material platform with our spiritual progress. By material platform I mean all the goodies we collect for years of engaging in “devotional service” – a couple of initiations, gayatri mantra, good standing in the community of vaishnavas, maybe access to Deity worship, invitations to give lectures or conduct seminars, maybe a responsible position in ISKCON management or a residence in the Holy Dhama and so on.

All of these things are incredibly important but ultimately they all have to be left behind in this world, they do not define us as devotees of the Lord, if we agree that real devotional service starts only on the liberated platform and is conducted in one’s original spiritual form.

From that point of view all our achievements are not much more than upadhis of materialistically minded persons, limitations stemming from living on a bodily platform. They see themselves as learned scholars, we see ourselves as learned scholars, too, or as brahmanas, or as “vaishnavas” with tilakas and kanthimalas, or as brahmacharies or even sannyasis. Same kind of illusion, just related to Krishna.

Our real spiritual treasures, however, lie somewhere else – we have been given the Holy Name and we have been accepted by our gurus. We have nothing else to show until we get past the anartha nivritti stage. Then we’ll start treasuring our attachment to Krishna, our ruchi, then bhava, and ultimately pure, unalloyed love – prema.

So what Krishna promises to preserve for us is just that – knowledge of the Holy Name and acceptance by the guru. Everything else is just temporary stuff that would be unwise to try and hold on to. It’s very important to have when we have it but when we die we will have to leave it behind.

This could be the kind of stuff that Lord Vishnu told Maharaja Prithu he could easily lose. The background for that verse was that Indra got envious of Maharaja Prithu’s strength and tries to still his sacrificial horse. He got nearly killed for that and that’s when Vishnu interfered (Lord Brahma spoke first, though) to stop Maharaja Prithu from committing a serious offense of murdering Indra.

The achievements that Lord Vishnu most likely meant was the accumulation of pious results of Maharaja Prithu’s sacrifices. One hundred horse sacrifices enable one to reach the position of the King of Heaven – clearly a karmic activity even if done in Vishnu’s name, and it’s also not very different from climbing the ladder of success in ISKCON. We might have one hundred full sets of Prabhupada’s books distributed, or one million servings of prasadam, or a thousand of disciples, or whatever else that suits our own level.

These things will be taken away if we let ourselves to be carried away by maya. Of that there’s no doubt and there are millions of examples. We might be able to collect these merits again in the next life but that should never be our goal, should it? What do we need these things for if not for our own vanity?

Krishna might not care about our falldowns but that also means He equally doesn’t care about the other stuff we might consider important now. He will preserve the spark of our devotion and the memory of the Holy Name, that’s all. When circumstances permit He would also direct us towards our guru, which, in turn, might turn into scoring some brownies for our service again.

I was pondering all of that today because it’s also edadashi, observance of ekadashi brings an untold number of benefits and general piety. Do we really need all that stuff? Umm, probably yes and no. Lord Chaitanya wanted His devotees to observe ekadashi but probably not because it would make us into pious persons.

I’ve decided to do a serious fast today, no food, just juice and milk, hoping to eventually go only on water. This proved to be an impossible task. Even a year ago, even a few months ago, on Nirjala Ekadashi, I had absolutely no problem with fasting. Today it was a torture.

I’ve learned two lessons – I totally identify myself with my body, and that this extra asceticism is absolutely worthless as its results can be wiped away in an instant.

Unfortunately these realizations also left me without an anchor – everything I used to rely on to give me strength turned out to be illusory, and I don’t know how to be an atmarama yet, I know about the Holy Name but I can’t glean any support from it, I don’t get anything that I can feel and measure, unlike reassuring words of fellow devotees or family members.

Hopefully the Holy Name does its work quietly in the background and something does get cleansed in my heart. If even that doesn’t work then I’m truly doomed. No family, no connections, no recognition can provide me with proper support as a spirit soul, and this is a dilemma on its own, perhaps one that I should address some other time.

Vanity thought #406. Rishyasringa solution

Technically it was his father Vibhandaka’s idea, not Rishyasringa’s, but let’s say his father named the method after his son.

The background was that Vibhandaka got so much yogic power that Indra himself felth threatened and decided Vibhandaka had to be seduced, so he sent down an apsara called Urvasi who did the job admirably. As soon as the child was born she, however, left Vibhandaka and returned to Indra’s court. That infuriated the sage so much that he decided that women have no place neither in his nor his son’s lives anymore.

Thus Rishyasringa grew up in he forest in total isolation and had absolutely no idea that there are such things as genders and females and attraction between members of opposite sex. It’s hard to imagine how Vibhandaka explained to him where children come from because he must have seen baby animals in the forest and for the brahmana of his caliber he must have made some connections. Besides the point, though.

Anyway, Vibhandaka thought that the best way to avoid women’s snares is not avoid them altogether, and that is what I call Rishyasringa solution. It didn’t really work in the end, one might say, but still the years of abstinence paid off nicely when Rishyasringa officiated the ceremony in which Lord Ramachandra was begotten – not bad for a falldown, huh?

Practically it means that we have to avoid all women apart from our family members. No one knows when and where Cupid might strike his heart and make grown men behave like love smitten fools. This is something I have been contemplating for a long long time – many years ago one astrologer explained that near death experience in my early sixties would be the result of falling for a young girl. Well, this is going to be embarrassing.

I imagine that it would ruin all my good fortune and reputation, but on the upside it would force me to renounce the family life and take to spiritual practice from the low and humble position of someone whose ego is completely shattered. More of a boon, in the big scheme of things, but not a particularly pleasant experience to live through, if I even survive the accompanying heart attack which I was never assured of from reading my charts or my palm.

Anyway, I’m still quite a few years away and so should preserve my chastity. That’s why dreams of falling in love tend to freak me out – even if I know of the bad consequences, the power of Cupid is far greater than grasp of drugs or alcohol. Dependence of chemical stimulants could be cured by proper treatment or even going cold turkey but nothing can protect one’s heart from love, you can’t just stop taking it, it would enter and destroy your heart anyway.

The best solution, therefore, is never to put myself in a compromising situation. I’ve been fooled this way before, I thought that with proper attitude and regulated behavior I could avoid actually falling in love but it didn’t work then and it won’t work in the future.

The next best solution is not nip the attraction in the bud and withdraw oneself completely before it got a chance to grow into a formidable force. I’ve successfully managed it a couple of times in my life, too.

It was unimaginable in my youth when I thought that power of love was absolutely supreme but I’ve grown a bit more cynical now, and that’s even without accounting for Krishna consciousness take on male-female relationships.

When I hear people vehemently protest against arranged marriages on the grounds that you can’t force someone to love his assigned partner I quietly disagree. It’s still not safe to publicly declare that a male and a female would develop love for each other simply by being placed in close proximity for a period of time but in the safety of my own mind I know it to be true. Just give it some time. It won’t be the “puppy love” of teenage variety but it will work in the end just fine. Of course it’s easier if people have some mutual attraction right away but it’s still manageable.

I don’t know what modern day Indians think on the subject. Maybe they still see the wisdom of this tradition, maybe not. I think I could enlist another group of people to this cause – “mail order brides”. Millions of women all around the third world (and Eastern Europe, too) have little fear that they would be forced to live with someone they don’t love. Either it’s not too bad comparing to their current situation, or they think that love would grow on them. This calls for the “First world problem” meme:

First World Problem Meme

Anyway, my point is that however powerful Cupid is, he operates on bodily platform, and bodily platform has its own means of resistance. I might not stave him off forever but that is not my goal either, I just have to fight long enough for the Lord to notice my determination.

Same with naishthiki brahmacharis and sannyasis – they are all prone to falldowns but we are not trying to compromise their vows at every opportunity, we are helping and protecting them instead. Just as if a married man or a woman starts developing a crush there would be some confidantes who’d try and put their hearts and minds straight.

Help is available to those who seek it. The power of material energy is not an excuse to give up and give in, all we need is to make the Lord within our hearts to help us in our fight. Maya devi is not going to ensnare us against our will, so all we have to show is sufficient determination to stay our of her clutches, she won’t force us if we don’t want to.

That’s why Rishyasringa’s solution ultimately works – just stay away from trouble, don’t go out looking for it, and you’ll be safe, or at least well protected when it comes on its own.

Vanity thought #405. Elvis curse

I had an unexpected dream last night – I was attending some preaching program by my old temple community and noticed that there was one attractive female there organizing the whole thing. Within minutes of talking to her I realized that was becoming hopelessly attracted.

The problem is that it wasn’t a sexual attraction, it was rather like a burning need to feel and to know the person. I started asking her where she grew up, where she met devotees, tried to picture the place on the map and the more I talked the more obvious it became – I had a crush.

The problem with this is that unlike gross sexual desire that is nothing but an itch and can be dealt with, the “crush” is something that runs much much deeper and is practically incurable. That’s why I remembered Elvis with his “Can’t help falling in love with you” song. It hooks you up by your innards, your stomach drops, you start floating and your feet have no ground to stand on.

The problem is the sense of total helplessness, there’s nothing left in this body that is not affected in one way or another, no safe place, no shelter, and whatever you do or think becomes tinted with the ointment of irresistible attraction.

The problem is that there’s nothing in this body that could be similarly attracted to Krishna – it’s not its function, it’s not meant to have a crush on Krishna, that is a function of a soul but I have no awareness of myself as a soul yet, only as a body, and this body is falling in love like there’s no tomorrow.

In the Twilight series of vampire stories there were werewolves that were susceptible to “imprints” – once they met their soul mate they lost all freedom of choice, they were irresistibly attracted for life. Good for the society that values loyalty, an absolute nightmare for devotees who seek liberation from the bondage of their desires.

Perhaps this falling in love is the other side of coin of death – you know that you, as a soul, are not affected by it but you get to fight the full strength of your connection to your body. Death is unpleasant while falling in love is the sweetest thing that can happen to you but they are both illustrate the same materialistic bond.

Anyway, I was glad it happened in my dream and I was glad I realized how unfortunate such an incident could be. I’m too old to fall in love for reals, it doesn’t befit my status anymore, and it would be an earth shattering experience for my family life. Who needs this?

I don’t, but the curse of falling in love is that you can’t help it and you can’t even choose who to fall in love with. I guess it’s also similar to people who wake up one day and realize they are gay – they can fight it for a while but this genie is not going back into a bottle.

While giving in to the overwhelming attraction we also realize that the world as we knew it has ended, nothing will be same in our lives anymore. How can one continue with his sadhana under these circumstances? All our perception of ourselves as devotees doing certain things as our service turns upside down.

Glad I just had a dream about it. I secretly believe that Krishna plays out such dangerous situations in our dreams on purpose, so that we don’t have to deal with them in real life. That would be a huge relief.

I hope there’s nothing more to it but I’m thinking of a contingency plan just in case, meanwhile I was also glad I have “Govindam Adi Purusham” as my alarm ringtone, that shakes off all bad dreams in an instant.

Vanity thought #404. Celebrating Gaurakishora style

Appropriately clueless, the error number 404 is just a sign that I do not have necessary resources to display any useful information regarding today’s holiday.

In light of my recent thoughts on the subject I decided to celebrate it Gaurakishora style. Once Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji declared that he was going to celebrate some vaishnava holiday. Next day some of his followers gathered in anticipation of a big feast but he deflated their enthusiasm by saying that his kind of celebration means fasting and chanting extra rounds of japa, nothing more.

Considering the gravity of the situation it’s better not to pollute the world with thoughts of extra feasts, sumptuous prasadam or allegedly high-minded talks on esoteric matters, I can do this any other time.

To actually understand the import of the appearance day of Srimati Radharani requires full and unshakable knowledge of samdanha jnana, a fully realized understanding of our constitutional position. Short of that realization everything that comes out of our mouths is actually namaparadha.

Usually discussing transcendental pastimes is beneficial for the conditioned souls as it helps us to overcome the namaparadha stage but today is not an ordinary day. Our desire to dabble in pastimes of Radha and Krishna is materialistic in nature but by indulging it we also purify it just like we purify our desire to eat by consuming prasadam or we purify our sexual desire by trying to produce children. Bottom line – we do these things for our own satisfaction, we simply try to get the best deal out of our infatuation with our own bodies.

If, for one day, we suspend this self-indulgence and limit ourselves only to chanting the Holy Names, that would be a real sacrifice showing our real desire to please the objects of our devotion.

We can’t maintain such a strict regiment forever, only on special occasions, and today is the most appropriate one.

On appearance days of Krishna or Lord Chaitanya we can expect some extra mercy and some extra leeway, hoping that the Lord won’t mind granting us some of our materialistic wishes (better food, louder kirtanas etc). Srimati Radharani, however, is not Krishna. Krishna might forgive us but for Her indulgence in any kind of selfish desires is very offensive towards the Lord, I bet She could only sigh watching us wasting the few remaining days of our lives on something so frivolous.

Let me put it a bit differently – watching us fishing for some extra benefits on days when we are supposed to give everything and more to Krishna is upsetting for Her. Krishna might not mind but She does. We cannot expect Her mercy in this situation because our desire to have some fun for ourselves is directly opposite to what She wants from us and what She might be eager to grant.

This is why I think Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji style of celebrating vaishnava holidays is more appropriate for serious sadhakas. Let’s try and rein in our minds for the day, let’s celebrate by putting more efforts into avoiding offenses while chanting and reading extra pages from Bhagavad Gita or Srimad Bhagavatam describing spiritual ABCs – we are not the bodies, we should not be following the interests of our bodies, we should not underestimate our fallen position and we should not pretend to have any taste for the Holy Name and pastimes of the Lord.

Let’s try to be smaller and humbler, let’s not claim any spiritual rights and let’s not inflate our egos by pretending to be ready to talk about Srimati Radharani. There are devotees who are obliged to deliver these talks and we are obliged to listen to them very attentively but let’s also remember that proper spiritual conclusion from listening to these talks is realization of our total inadequacy.

If we expect increase in our self esteem, or if we perceive any increase in our self esteem, than we are simply deluding ourselves.

Maybe if we are able to pull this little sacrifice we will be able to bow down with utmost sincerity and offer our prayers to Srimati Radharani.

Even if we fail, there will be another day or another year. We should not dare approaching Her in our thoughts while imagining ourselves having accomplished anything, as if claiming something we deserved by acquiring some service points. Even a slightest thought in the line of “now I’m ready” immediately disqualifies us.

Today I caught myself many a time diverting my thoughts from serving the Lord, what to speak of the purity. Unfortunately even a fallen situation does not qualify one to worship Sri Radhika. Her attention is the rarest gift for all conditioned souls, we shouldn’t be expecting it here, only after our liberation and only after we are fully engaged in serving the Lord on a fully transcendental platform.

I just realized that the more I talk the more I entangle myself. Let’s stop for now and chant an extra round or something instead.

Vanity thought #403. What acharyas said

Even if superficially, but for many devotees their desire to serve Sri Radhika has led them to search for uttama adhikari gurus capable of introducing them into sacred ashtakaliya pastimes of the Divine Couple. I know some people who are on their third guru and counting.

Interestingly, this desire to advance at all costs is not new in any way. Even a hundred years ago Bengal and Vrindavana were filled with sadhus and babajis offering siddha pranali to practically anyone who asked. The topic of siddha pranali is too big to casually address here but the underlying desire to become intimate servants of Srimati Radharani is the same.

Let’s see what our acharyas had to say about this. GBC simply forbids receiving such instructions on the side. Srila Prabhupada was quite heavy in dealing with gopi bhava club, let’s have a look at what Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and others before him said in this regard.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati coined the phrase “first deserve, then desire”, he compared such instructions to teaching five year olds about intricacies of adult sexual behavior. He quoted Srila Gaurakishora Dasa as saying “A woman cannot produce a child simply by screaming and simulating labor pains” in relation to one devotee’s display of high level of renunciation and devotion.

He said that even if his father, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, had described manjari sadhana he also warned against premature attempts to engage in it. One might try to develop transcendental emotions in this way but without proper purification and transcendental strength he would develop the opposite inclinations.

He described devotees giving such instructions as pseudo-gurus and their disciples as pseudo-renunciates. Unfortunately, even his own brother is known to have offered siddha pranali to ISKCON devotees who later “fell down” and to this day exhibit quite unhealthy and envious attitude towards fellow vaishnavas, incompatible with necessary level of realization for such exalted practice.

He compared such attempts to trying to light an opium pipe with the fire located on the other side of the river, the river of one’s anarthas.

He considered it to be offensive and preposterous for persons still afflicted by foul sexual desires to discuss loving pastimes of Sri Radha and Krishna. He reminded of Bengali saying about premature ripened jackfruit – it appears mature but has no actual fruit inside and should be thrown away.

He set very high standards for anyone desiring to discuss even the content of the tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. I doubt any one of us would honestly agree that he is ready.

Thus, even if we know about our ultimate destination we are advised to keep our mouths shut unless we are qualified to utter words absolutely free of all material contamination. There’s a lot to be said about proper way of achieving such qualification but let’s keep it for another day.

Devotees who, in addition to everything above, also left the shelter of their gurus and acharyas in our disciplic succession, implying that our gurus aren’t advanced enough, are not making their progress any easier. It’s clear that they are rejecting opinions of not only ISKCON gurus but also pillars of the modern vaishnavism, acharyas of irreproachable realization, knowledge and character. I don’t know what good can ever come out of it.

In the light of the above – I have nothing to say about Srimati Radharani Herself. I wish I had but unless it’s based on real appreciation it’s better to be left unsaid. It’s fairly easy to type up a few hundred words and even feel something about it but just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Vanity thought #402. What a Queen is

It is quite common to call Srimati Radharani the Queen of Vraja and to talk about us as Her devotees but these kind of declarations might be a little misunderstood.

First of all, She is not like queen Elisabeth, She is not that kind of queen. She is also not the queen of a beehive or an ant hill. We are also not worshipers of a “female Divine” ala Da Vinci code. Those are all interesting conceptions of what a queen is but they are inapplicable our case.

No matter what we say, we are not gunning for some kind of matriarchy, we are not some kind of worker bees collecting stuff to please our queen, though we do have something in common with worker ants – those guys are actually girls serving to protect and support their queens. They can’t even eat the food they collect themselves – it needs to be processed back at the colony and regurgitated for their consumption.

In that way we are somewhat similar when we see ourselves as aspiring servants of the gopis but still their concept of queen doesn’t apply to us.

As a religious group we might be confused with shaktas or those “Sacred Feminine” cults that probably don’t really exist, we are not milking power of female counter potency of God and we are not putting shakti above shaktiman, prakriti over purusha. Krishna is the Supreme Absolute Personality of Godhead, the creator and the maintainer of all the worlds, there’s nothing and no one above Him.

Yet still we are praying for the mercy of the Queen of Vraja as our ultimate destination. After we obtained the mercy of our guru, the mercy of Lord Nityananda, the mercy of Lord Chaitanya and even the mercy of Krishna Himself – our lives won’t be complete without the mercy of Srimati Radharani and the shelter of Her lotus feet.

Perhaps only the select few of us will ever actually get there but the rest of us still knows that our own efforts to please Krishna even on the liberated platform are incomparable to the pleasure given to Him by Srimati Radharani.

To put is simple – we serve our Queen because she serves our Lord better than we do it ourselves. We do not see Her position as in any way independent of Krishna, as having any kind of independent power, like, for example, Lord Balarama has.

Oh, and She isn’t even a queen in a traditional sense, and Krishna isn’t a King either, at least in the eyes of the elders of Vrindavana, it’s our own little secret. Nanda Maharaj and Maharaj Vrishbhanu are the kings, and Kamsa is the emperor, let everybody think that but for Gaudiya vaishnavas this external recognition isn’t necessary just as daily engagements and social obligations of the gopis do not reflect their true nature and aspirations.

We have our own secret code and our own secret handshakes and our own make believe world with our own King and Queen and I hope we will never grow out of it and we get to relive those sweet days of teenage youth ever and ever again. It’s a good thing there’s no time in the spiritual world, after all.