Vanity thought #401. Hara just for a day?

Everywhere I look they say that Hare in Hare Krishna mantra refers to Hara as well as Hari but is it legitimate to call to Her rather than to Him when we chant? Is it a choice? Is it a bonus – get two Names for the sound of one?

Grammatically it might be correct and there’s nothing wrong with thinking that we appeal to Hara when we chant, too, as it nicely complements Lord’s Names, Krishna and Rama, thus representing the whole Absolute Truth.

On the other hand I think that we should also accept Lord Chaitanya’s definitive prescription – we should chant the names of Hari and engage in Hari-katha, and that’s why we say “Haribol”, too. Maybe in His most intimate moments He thought of Hare as a cry for Hara but the vast majority of devotees were instructed into worship of Lord Hari.

I don’t want to draw a distinction here between “vast majority of devotees” and “rupanugas”, the latter are definitely striving to worship Hara while the main body of Gaudiya vaishnavism in the early days were happy with Hari. I think that would be an artificial distinction as everyone has heard from Lord Chaitanya about superiority of gopis’ devotion regardless of their own spiritual position in Krishna’s pastimes.

The real question for today – can *we* safely appeal to Hara in our prayers? I think this is where we have to be very careful. Being counted as a devotee of Krishna is the greatest blessing in this world but it is also available practically to everyone, Krishna, in His generosity, and especially as Lord Chaitanya, eagerly accepts just about everybody (save for mayavadis).

Everyone who has ever been invited to chant His name is practically a family already.

To claim the status of a devotee of Srimati Radharani, on the other hand, is not a right, it’s the highest, rarest privilege in both material and spiritual worlds. We might wish to become Her servants and we might even pray to be accordingly engaged and we might know all about the uniqueness of this position but only very very few of us can expect to actually fill it. Vast majority of devotees even in Vrindavana can’t present a claim to this position.

As She is the source of all pleasure for Krishna and so the source of all rasas, She is ultimately in charge of who serves where and for most of *us* it means assignments to stables, butter churning, butter stealing and all the other things done in Vrindavana for Krishna’s satisfaction.

Therefore, even if we acknowledge Srimati Radharani’s superior position we can’t unilaterally lay claim to be Her servants. We have to be properly inducted first. No one can just come out and declare that he is done with Hari and would pray only to Hara from now on. We should have some modesty.

Still, given that Her birthday is just around the corner, maybe, just maybe, She would consider listening to our prayers even if we are completely unqualified to utter them? I mean, as I said before, everyone has the right to pray to Hari even while in gross bodily consciousness, to become devotee of Hara, on the other hand, one must completely purify his heart of all contaminations first.

Alas, I’m still thinking about benefits that *I* can extract from someone else’s birthday. With an attitude like this I have no chance of earning Srimati Radharani’s mercy. Still, it’s an attempt at progress, however clumsy.

Vanity thought $400. Forgetting Gadadhar

When Mayapur devotees go for the darshan before the Deities of Panca Tattva they sing “Sri Krsihna Caitanya Prabhu doya koro more” by Narottama Dasa Thakura. Seems to be a perfect and fitting choice of a song but somehow the verse about Gadadhara Pandita goes missing.

Every time I checked the lyrics the verse is there:

gaura premamaya tanu paṇḍita gadādhara

srīnivāsa haridāsa doyāra sāgara

Meaning “Lord Caitanya’s love is embodied in Gadadhara Pandita. The ocean of mercy is embodied by Srinivasa Acarya and Srila Haridasa Thakura.”

Why is no one singing it? Maybe they have changed in the past couple of months, can always check on but I’m usually busy at that time of my day.

KKSongs website sheds some light, however – the verse is present only in the older books and it wasn’t mentioned by Srila Prabhupada when he gave an explanation of the song in one of his lectures, and it isn’t there in the recording of him singing it either.

Is it enough to exclude the verse forever, though? Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable standing in front of the Deity of Gadadhara Pandita and not singing even a single line of His praise. Maybe it wasn’t in the book when Srila Prabhupada learned the song but it’s there now and the occasion warrants showing a little more respect towards the Deity.

On the other hand there’s a tradition already and even if Gadadhara Pandita is mentioned, we still don’t have the verse about Srivasa Acharya so someone is bound to be left out. This way Gadadhara Pandita at least have some company.

This isn’t the only time when Gadadhara Pandita’s position in Pancha Tattva is somewhat undermined – He is the incarnation of the Lord’s internal potency but then Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself decided to exhibit exactly the same kind of devotion, usurping Gadadhara Pandita’s role!

I’m sure that was never a problem, I was just wondering how Gadadhara Pandita looked upon Lord Chaitanya’s manifestations of His inner spirit.

One thing I know about Sri Gadadhara is that he had firm, unalloyed, unflinching, uncompromising faith in Lord Chaitanya. I wish some of it rubbed off on me when I remember him and offer him my respect and obeisances. I think it’s a very important point for us – never forget, even for a second, that we are followers of Lord Chaitanya first and foremost. Maybe He will grant us love of Krishna and a place in His pastimes, maybe not, but as we take shelter at His feet we should know that this is the perfection of our lives already, we can’t ask for anything more.

Sages of Dandakaranya forest prayed to Lord Ramachandra to enter Krishna’s pastimes. We can’t go that way – all we ever need we get from the lotus feet of Lord Chaitanya already, we will never get any closer to Krishna then we are now, assuming we fully realize our position as servants in the line of Gaudiya vaishnavas.

If we forget this fact we might explore various opportunities to approach or engage with Krishna directly. That will never work, Lord Chaitanya isn’t a stepping stone on the way to more glorious things, His feet are our ultimate goal and purpose.

This is the point where we should remember devotion of Gadadhara Pandita, we are not Six Goswamis of Vrindavana who could enter Krishna lila in their meditation, we must humbly wait for Lord Chaitanya if He ever lets us participate in them. More likely our eternal position is to be humble servants of His servants rather than direct participants in something like rasa dance.

We always say that Lord Chaitanya has shown us how to cultivate devotion to Krishna, from the position of Srimati Radharani, but Gadadhara Pandita who was an incarnation of Sri Radha Herself has shown us how to cultivate devotion to Lord Chaitanya!

Always one step ahead of Krishna, always. Krishna decided to taste the sweetness of Radha, but Radha decided to taste the sweetness of serving Krishna pretending to be Her.

And that is the essence of Gaudiya Vaishnavism – to seek the most humble position of total and absolute dependency on littlest drops of devotion of Srimati Radharani. We are not Krishna’s servants, we will never dare to serve Him directly, we are insignificant helpers of the helpers of those worshiping the Queen of Vraja.

Vanity thought #399. The One Who Pleases the Lord

We all know that Sukadeva Goswami, when he was reciting Srimad Bhagavatam, never mentioned Srimati Radharani by name. The explanation was that Her position is so exalted and so sacred that Her personality couldn’t be discussed in the presence of the “lesser” devotees like sages of Naimisharanya, or if Sukadeva Goswami started talking about Her in the presence of Maharaja Parikshit he would have gone into a trance for many months and so it wasn’t feasible in the given time frame.

Usually it’s said that She is indirectly alluded to in the Tenth Canto, that She was the gopi madly talking to a bumblebee. There’s a more direct reference in the part about rasa dance, there’s a verse there that could not be any more direct in naming Her.

She is mentioned there as anayārādhito and the literal meaning is “the one who perfectly worships the Lord”. Anaya is translated as “by her”, and aradhitah as “perfectly worshiped”.

This, in my mind, clearly establishes Her role and position. The word aradhitah appears several times in Bhagavatam and the meaning is always the same – worship – but from this particular verse we learn about the highest possible level of worship, so high that Krishna had to abandon all other gopis in the middle of the rasa dance, the highest pastime ever, and accompany Her to a secluded place.

From this verse it appears that this word for “worship” itself is derived from Her name. She is not simply the best among various worshipers, without Her there would be no meaning to the word worship at all. We learn what worship is only by looking at the shadows of Her service to Krishna.

We might not know Her real personality ourselves, but we can learn about Her by contemplating service to Krishna, just like we can learn about Krishna by contemplating various aspects of the Supreme Absolute Truth – the “cause of all causes” and stuff like that.

Similarly, She is the root of all worship, the source of all devotion. Whatever little we know about devotional service – She is the source of that knowledge.

So, it’s not entirely correct to say that Her name is not mentioned in Bhagavatam – what mentioned there is directly derived from the “missing” name, in fact without Her name providing the root to the words used in Bhagavatam they wouldn’t even have a meaning.

I don’t know if I should freely yap about this subject here. Apparently there are some non-devotees subscribed to this blog and so I should be careful with what I say. “Infidels” can get offensive thoughts about Krishna, that isn’t so bad, but they should never ever go anywhere near our Queen. We know who I am talking about, and if they don’t – they are not meant to know yet, sorry about that.

On the same note – I cringe when people use Her name as a casual greeting, that’s just not right.

Vanity thought #398. Squeezing the essense of impersonalism

Anyone who’s read our books knows that Srila Prabhupada had a “soft spot” for impersonalists. Even his pranama mantra mentions his fight against nirvisesha and sunyavada, impersonalism and voidism. It is also customary for us not to hunt real life impersonalists but rather identify and rectify our own contaminated traits.

The reasons for this are simple – impersonalism is really really offensive to Krishna and his bona fide devotees, and we don’t know too many mayavadis in the West, where ISKCON was born, so we think we ourselves are doing something wrong.

The idea of impersonalism is all-pervasive, just like the desire to enjoy the material energy, and so it manifests itself in great many forms that are very difficult to identify. Just like it takes a devotee to understand another devotee, it takes an impersonalist to spot a fellow offender. And, of course, a devotee would smell them a mile away.

That’s how we learned of our own deficiencies in this regard – advanced devotees have pointed them out.

There’s nothing to fret about here, it’s just contamination, everybody is contaminated in this world. There’s nothing surprising to learn that we are doing something terribly wrong. I mean we don’t see Krishna face to face – that’s a dead giveaway that as devotees we still suck, so our goal should be not to hide our corruption but to find and cure ourselves from it.

One famous Russian dramatist, Anton Chekhov, once wrote about the search for freedom – one has to squeeze “the slave’s blood out of himself until he wakes one day to find the blood of a real human being–not a slave’s–coursing through his veins.” Well, he couldn’t have been more wrong about the real nature of slavery and freedom but the concept itself still stands true – we should actively seek and purify all impersonal traits in our souls until one day we wake up as real devotees.

So today’s target fault – real life mayavadis spend a lot of time glorifying Krishna yet it doesn’t get them anywhere. Anyone who’s been to India must have seen hundreds of temples where they would be very happy to know that you are from ISKCON and they would show you all their Krishna deities and praise devotion to Him better than we do it ourselves. They might temporarily win us over but not Krishna, if they are, indeed, hidden mayavadis.

For mayavadis worship of Krishna is one of the best ways towards self-realization, they need the whole shebang – bhakti, surrender, Krishna katha, service to devotees – anything to earn their status as equal to God. They approach devotion as a business transaction, as a price to pay, a service to render in order to get what they want for themselves.

Personally, I never feel qualified to judge people’s inner motives in these situations but there’s another sign of impersonalism here, much easier to notice – they don’t treat Krishna as real. They think that His form in this world is only a shade of the real Divinity. The Holy Name only a reminder of the real Divinity, the Deity is only an image meant to help the less advanced among us.

That is actually the philosophical crux of the matter – they believe that when Absolute Truth appears in this world in the form of an avatar or the Holy Name or a Deity it undergoes transformation of Its original, purely spiritual energy.

Otherwise they agree with us on everything else – we are spirit souls living under the spell of illusion and trying to restore our original nature, and cultivation of bhakti and sankirtana is the best way in our age to achieve that.

What really distinguishes them from devotees is that they think Krishna does not really appear in this world, what we see here is just a shadow or a clutch, a helping hand.

This is the attitude that is also really easy to spot within ourselves, too, to separate us from real devotees – if we slide into thinking that Krishna appears here in various forms in order to help us on the path of our progress, that we use these various forms only until we become truly advanced and transcend neophyte practices like worshiping the Deities or offering dandavats to the pictures of our spiritual masters.

On that level we’ll start seeing Krishna everywhere and so there’s no need to bow down to any of His particular forms if we don’t feel like it. There’s no need to offer specific prayers because our entire existence has become one long, uninterrupted prayer. There’s no need to chant a fixed number of rounds because the Holy Name will be permanently fixed on the throne of our hearts. Isn’t it what the advanced devotees do and feel?

Maybe so, but if we fail to offer respect and full service even to one aspect of Krishna’s form in this world than we are being impersonalists, not devotees. This shows that we fail to see Krishna Himself, we see only something employed to serve us, something given to help us, something not having real value on its own after we used it for our own progress.

That is the essence of mayavada – thinking the Lord’s forms in this world are not real and are separate from His true spiritual identity and so they need to be “transcended” on the way to our eternal bliss and happiness.

I wish I had expressed this in a more concise manner but such mastery requires actual realization that I don’t have yet. Maybe next time.

Vanity thought #397. Argumentum ad baculum

For the past couple of days the world news has been dominated by Muslim protests against a youtube movie offensive to their religion and their prophet Muhammad. It all started with a protest in Egypt and then a weird attack in Libya where they killed an American ambassador. Next day, instead of reflecting on the violence and calming down, Muslims took to the streets all across the world with renewed force.

Reaction in the West has been predictable – intolerant fanatics showed their ugly face again. A few years earlier similar protests have been sparked over some cartoons making fun of Muhammad and the world came to the conclusion that Muslims are simply uncivilized barbarians. Now it has been reinforced again.

What should we make of it as followers of ISKCON, however? We had our share of protests, the most memorable ones against jailing of Soviet Hare Krishnas back in the eighties, and recently against banning Bhagavad Gita in Russia. All our protests have been very peaceful without even a hint at violence. We present ourselves as mild mannered vegetarians, the nicest guys around. Lately ISKCON has been presenting itself as a welfare organization, too.

So, how would we react if we had found ourselves in the place of today’s Muslims?

I’m afraid if it ever came to that our perception of ourselves as inherently harmless society would need to undergo a massive overhaul.

We are peaceful now because we aren’t truly a society yet, we are just a minor subgroup, a religious sect that is yet incapable of sustaining itself. We are performing the role of brahmanas and as such we depend on all other varnas for sustenance and protection.

If we were ever to grow into a real society we would have to have full and complete control over some territory with a right to legitimately use lethal force. Some of us would still be performing the role of brahmanas but some of us will be kshatriyas and they would have to fight on our behalf, with our full support and blessings.

It would be a mistake to think that this kind of organization would come about naturally and without violence. In fact, if we ever grow big enough to form our own government, police, or army we’d have to take all these “rights” by force. No one will ever present them to us on a silver plate.

If we are lucky the resistance would be minimal and reasonable, and we, on our end, would be accommodating and diplomatic, but things never go that smooth in this age. We can’t expect to have kshatriyas without any fighting, that just doesn’t happen and so we shouldn’t be squeamish about it.

At some point we would have to outlaw any blasphemy towards the Lord or our acharyas and we would have to enforce that law at least within our jurisdiction, and if someone commits these kind of offenses outside our jurisdiction we would have to vigorously protest, there’s no other way.

This is where “argumentum ad baculum” comes into play – it’s a legitimate tool of convincing your opponents after everything else had failed – reasoning, bribery, everything. If the opponents still does not accept the authority of the shastras we’ll have to rely on authority of the shastra. The latter one having a short “a” vowel and meaning weapons.

Reasoning and debates are good only with civilized people, if our opponents behave like animals they should be treated like animals, too, and animals understand only one form of discipline – a big and heavy stick.

I’m not making this up, there’s an entire page dedicated to argumentum ad baculum on Vaniquotes, Prabhupada gave it all the legitimacy we will ever need.

What we need now is to come to terms with this side of our movement. We are peaceful and even timid only because we don’t have much strength yet. When the Lord will give us some muscle we will be required to use it, there are no two ways about it.

Once the society accepts our right to use of force there will be volunteers. It’s not only Muslims that are capable of violent protests to safeguard their religion – Hindu nationalists had been doing this, too. They’ve already razed the Babri Mosque, perhaps the Janmasthan in Mathura will be next.

We wouldn’t advocate it but things like this happen, hot heads can be found everywhere.

So, the lesson we should learn from the latest wave of protests is how to properly manage the sentiment and protect religious feelings of the population without emotions getting out of control. Islamic governments at the moment are distancing themselves from the protests and employing force to contain them. Imagine one day devotees will be shot by GBC police for protecting the birthplace of Krishna!

Some people think that ISKCON is plagued with problems and abuse of power, they haven’t seen nothing yet. We haven’t gotten enough power to abuse, wait until we get an army.

The positive thinking here is that our serial whiners should not be taken too seriously. The worst thing we can do right now is equivalent to throwing toys out of our prams. The really big problems lie many years and generations ahead. For now we just should keep chanting and doing what we are doing, there are no valid reasons yet to stop and feel despondent that our society fails to uphold some moral and religious principles. So far it’s really nothing, in the big scheme of things.

Vanity thought #396. Serial monogamy

This is the best description of the current state of the family life. Women are not exactly loose, they still value their commitments, but they don’t commit themselves to one partner for the duration of their lives but rather move from one commitment to the next.

The first reaction to this description is undeniably negative but the key word for us is “monogamy”, not “serial”. I mean the society, or who we imagine to be the keepers of society’s values, can pass any judgment they want and it will probably be correct, but Krishna’s devotees should know better than preach knee-jerk morality.

The inconvenient truth is that vast majority of Krishna’s wives come from the “reject” bin of society’s moralizers. The answer to this argument is, of course, that desire for Krishna is on a higher platform and so overrides normal society rules but this implies that there exist obligations higher than external commitments in marriage.

One of the examples of such commitments could be welfare of the children. For the sake of her children a woman should be able to commit herself to a suitable man even if it means entering into one marriage after another. In the best situation she should stay with her children’s father, of course, but this just doesn’t work in this day and age.

What’s the second best solution if not serial monogamy?

If we say that this pursuit of happiness is still fully materialistic – consider the fate of female devotees? They are not entering one marriage after another simply for the sake of sense gratification, with each marriage they hedge their entire future as devotees, too. They expect each of their successive husbands to lead them on the path to Krishna and this, at least theoretically, should be on the same platform as seeking Krishna Himself. How can we blame them for these decisions then?

And what of men? Do they not accept women in hope of progressing on the path of devotion, too? Ideally they should stick to their first choice for their entire lives but when that doesn’t work out – what is their second best option? Serial monogamy, me thinks.

Of course any divorce or separation should be viewed as a falldown but these things are inevitable not only in Kali yuga but in devotee’s life in general. What should we do about them? Keep on doing what we are doing with feelings not only of regret but also happiness and hope that Krishna will eventually sort out our problems and direct us back home, back to Him via the best possible route.

The key element here is sincerity, and failing that – desire for sincerity.

One thing is certain, again – as long as one puts his faith in Krishna we have no right to criticize his personal life and instead of “falldowns” we should see overcoming of obstacles that life throws in devotee’s way.

Generally speaking, one could be described as either an optimist or a pessimist but in devotional life we have to be eternal optimists, there’s no other way to gain Krishna’s favor.

Vanity thought #395. Problem solving

For some people, especially politicians, solving problems is the main criteria by which they judge the quality of your work. If you are not solving problems you are not doing anything and they can’t figure out that properly set up work doesn’t generate any problems in the first place.

Unfortunately, in the real world problems don’t need to be specifically generated, they just find you on their own. Look at my situation.

I want to commend an author of one article on Dandavats but I can’t do it without mentioning that it goes completely against another article written by a person I can’t afford to publicly disagree with. And it’s not the only one, a few months ago that same author wrote another article I want to agree with but it was rubbished by another high-ranking devotee I don’t want to disagree with on this matter because I rely on that devotee’s support on yet another topic, but I also can’t blindly agree with anything he says because I happen to disagree with him on at least two other topics.

Do you follow me? I don’t. I’m completely lost – whatever I say someone somewhere will be left disappointed and they all can pull a rank on me and make me shut up. What’s Junior to do?

There’s yet another, unrelated subject that needs to be put straight but it can’t be because I can’t let my ignorant self to pass judgments on senior devotees who spent months if not years on something I consider nonsense.

So should I just mind my own business? That’s not problem solving, that’s problem avoiding, and I think it has legitimate place in practice of Krishna consciousness – just let this world rot on its own, concentrate on happily chanting Hare Krishna and have wisdom not to take on matters beyond our responsibility.

On the other hand we have examples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and later Srila Prabhupada who never put up with any nonsense just because they didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur was highly diplomatic in this regard but his son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was merciless to any deviation from proper Gaudiya siddhanta.

He thought that maintaining the purity of our teaching is more important than saving a few faces or earning himself a few “offenses”. Perhaps this readiness to jeopardize one’s own spiritual well-being for the sake of the Lord is the ultimate sacrifice. Maybe it’s the ultimate sign of full surrender – ignore the curses of supposedly high ranking devotees and rely strictly on the Lord’s protection and mercy.

Or maybe I should take more lessons on diplomacy. Uddhava is known to be an expert on this – solving problems without offending anyone, that’s why Krishna Himself valued his advice above anyone else’s.

I better come up with a solution and fast – according to some opinions I highly respect, our society needs to put up a rigorous defense against diluting our mission and diminishing the place and value of Prabhupada’s instructions. Like they say – all that is needed for evil to prevail is for good people to sit and do nothing. I don’t want to be one of those “good” people.

On the other hand I don’t know any equivalents to this saying in vedic literature so maybe I shouldn’t take it too seriously. On the third hand it’s a duty of a vaishnava to protect the reputation of the Lord and His devotees and not doing so would be an offense. Failing that one has to leave the place or leave his body.

I’ve been weighing these pros and cons for a couple of days now, waiting for a brain wave. Now I think I know I have to act but I still don’t know how. And still there’s a part of me that thinks that I just have to wait it out until it blows over.

Why this problem solving business has to be so complicated?

Vanity thought #394. Fear of God

When Lord Chaitanya asked Ramananda Raya about the ultimate goal of human life He rejected progressive answers one by one, from performing one’s duties according to varnashrama system to offering fruits of one’s labor to Krishna to cultivating devotional service as Krishna taught in Bhagavad Gita. Eventually Ramananda Raya got to pure devotional service as described in Srimad Bhagavatam and that sparked Lord Chaitanya’s interest.

He approved worshiping the Lord as His servant but wanted to hear more and the next offering was, of course, service to the Lord in the mood of a friend. It’s at this point, CC Madhya 8.74, that Srila Prabhupada mentions fear of God.

He says that in relationship between a servant and his master there’s always fear, and that when one loses this fear he progresses further up the ladder of devotional ranks.

This made me think for a moment – am I afraid of Krishna or my spiritual master? Should I be? In this world we don’t get any other relationships with the Lord, only as servants – dasadasanudasa. Should we be afraid?

Quickly checking my inventory I don’t think I have that fear, I do have fear in connection with my body but it’s not fear of Krishna and I don’t take it as a spiritual emotion, just as a material reflex to external stimuli.

Maybe it’s because I don’t know Krishna very well, I have an image of Him that I built by listening to the devotees and reading books and this image is actually of shelter and safety, fear is the last emotion I expect from seeing Krishna.

Maybe if I saw Him face to face I’d realize how fearsome He actually is. Maybe not Krishna Himself but someone like Narayana or Vishnu – same thing for conditioned souls – we can’t relate to God in any other form without achieving liberation first.

There’s a case of Gopa Kumara who went to Vaikuntha and saw how everybody was full of deep respect towards the Lord and they were very afraid of Gopa Kumara acting inappropriately.

I don’t think I have that kind of fear yet. Sure, I’m afraid of committing offenses towards Krishna but that’s not fear of what Krishna might do to me in revenge but fear of upsetting Him, and this kind of fear is not unique at all.

In fact I’m far more afraid of upsetting my wife, she’s the one who can really make my life a living hell and she has far longer memory than Krishna. The fact that I won’t get very far spiritually without her blessings is even more worrisome. She’s not my guru, of course, but she’s under my responsibility and unless she releases me from it I’m bound to serve the family. No one can approach the Lord directly, you know, have to get blessings from all the devotees first.

Same goes for relationships with Maya, too. We are not her servants but we need her help and her blessings to progress in our lives and she can scare the hell our of anybody. Krishna wouldn’t do that to His devotees Himself but Maya can. The upside is that she scares us for our own good, so these fears should be welcome.

I also think of little Prahlad who had absolutely no fear of a huge, ferocious beast of a Lord, all covered in blood, still infuriated after tearing apart the body of a demon. Little Prahlad saw no danger for himself whatsoever, I think he should be my role model when approaching the Lord.

Devotees up on Vaikuntha have their own reasons to behave like they do and I will keep that in mind but for now I’m sensing no fear of Krishna at all and I don’t see why I should feel it. Maybe, as I said, because I don’t realize how great He is – in a sense how big and powerful and how He can crash me in a split of a second. Arjuna had this moment of realization once, maybe my turn will eventually come, too.

Vanity thought #393. Bhoota Bhrit

This is one of Vishnu’s names from Vishnu Sahasranama, the list of one thousand names recited by dying Bhishma to Maharaja Yudhishthira. Bhoota Bhrit appears in the second line, meaning it’s one of the most basic, primal, defining names of the Lord. Literally it means One Who Nourishes All Creatures.

Looking deeper into the meaning we come to appreciate what the Lord is doing for us here. Just prior to this name He was called a Lord of past, present and future and the creator of all creatures. Creature here means not the living entities themselves, the spirit souls, it means our material bodies. Bhoota is our manifestation in this world under the spell of the illusion.

So the Lord, out of His unlimited mercy, creates the world where rebellious souls have a chance to ignore and even insult Him, then He gives these ingrates the bodies where they can pretend to rule the nature, and then He personally nourishes them because without Lord’s supervision they can’t even sustain themselves!

So some of us walk around the place blaspheming the Lord and ridiculing His existence, imagining ourselves to be the pinnacle of creation while all the while the Lord remains our best friend and supplies us with all the nourishment and energy we need to insult Him.

Bhoota also means “ghost” and we know how ghosts are – always hungry, never able to fulfill their desires, living in a reality where they can never taste or touch or connect with anything, having all the lust and hankerings but no means to satisfy them. That’s where the Lord comes in as Bhoota Bhrit – He gives satisfaction to hungry ghosts of our material existence.

He makes our senses work, tongues taste, teeth chew, stomachs digest and bellies feel satisfied. He knows we want these things and He gives us the opportunity to continue our make believe game where we pretend to be material bodies.

Devoid of devotional service we spend millenia trapped inside His body, unable to express ourselves in any way because we turned away from our real relationship with the Lord. Then the Lord glances over prakriti and the process of creation begins. Then we come into being as hungry bhootas in search of gratification and the Lord provides for us.

Just like bhootas can’t really eat or drink and whatever they “consume” falls through their bodies on the ground our material sense gratification never quenches the thirst of the soul. Still the Lord keeps giving us what we want, dutifully helping us to experience surrogate gratification and patiently waiting until we come to our senses and try to awaken our dormant Krishna consciousness.

And then comes Ekadashi. Technically speaking it’s a karmic activity for bewildered bhootas but devotees observe them as a chance to show the Lord that while we are thankful for Him being the Bhrit, our real interests in this world are shifting and we don’t need to be bewildered anymore, we can restrain ourselves and fast and use the extra time for glorifying the Lord.

We don’t really need to follow ekadashi to protect ourselves from sinful reactions or to earn benefits, we follow the ekadashi to show the Lord that we are ready to suspend our bhoota existence and wake up to His loving service instead.

Lord Chaitanya has shown us that while we don’t need to practice any kind of external renunciation to obtain devotional service, He still insisted that His followers observe ekadashi, it’s considered a devotional activity directly pleasing the Lord rather than a fast or a penance.

Shame on me for thinking ekadashi is good for cleansing the body or losing weight. Totally missed the point.

Vanity thought #392. Uddhava Gita

Uddhava Gita is an amazing part of the 11th Canto of Srimad Bhagatam and I think it gets a lot less credit that it deserves. It’s definitely not as famous as Bhagavad Gita and even when we talk about Bhagavatam we’d rather discuss pastimes of Lord Nrisimha or story of Ajamila or Dhruva Maharaja but not Uddhava Gita.

It’s a bit longer than Bhagavad Gita, at over 1000 verses, and it doesn’t cover the entire Krishna Consciousness philosophy from A to Z in the concise way like Bhagavad Gita does but it has its own moments. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati wrote a commentary on it but I think in ISKCON it is still a little bit under appreciated. For one thing we don’t often quote from it and it’s a pity, there are some real gems in there, like this series of verses (SB 11.20.18-30), I’ll bold some of the key lines for easy skimming:

A transcendentalist, having become disgusted and hopeless in all endeavors for material happiness, completely controls the senses and develops detachment. By spiritual practice he should then fix the mind on the spiritual platform without deviation.

Whenever the mind, being concentrated on the spiritual platform, is suddenly deviated from its spiritual position, one should carefully bring it under the control of the self by following the prescribed means.

One should never lose sight of the actual goal of mental activities, but rather, conquering the life air and senses and utilizing intelligence strengthened by the mode of goodness, one should bring the mind under the control of the self.

An expert horseman, desiring to tame a headstrong horse, first lets the horse have his way for a moment and then, pulling the reins, gradually places the horse on the desired path. Similarly, the supreme yoga process is that by which one carefully observes the movements and desires of the mind and gradually brings them under full control.

Until one’s mind is fixed in spiritual satisfaction, one should analytically study the temporary nature of all material objects, whether cosmic, earthly or atomic. One should constantly observe the process of creation through the natural progressive function and the process of annihilation through the regressive function.

When a person is disgusted with the temporary, illusory nature of this world and is thus detached from it, his mind, guided by the instructions of his spiritual master, considers again and again the nature of this world and eventually gives up the false identification with matter.

Through the various disciplinary regulations and the purificatory procedures of the yoga system, through logic and spiritual education or through worship and adoration of Me, one should constantly engage his mind in remembering the Personality of Godhead, the goal of yoga. No other means should be employed for this purpose.

If, because of momentary inattention, a yogi accidentally commits an abominable activity, then by the very practice of yoga he should burn to ashes the sinful reaction, without at any time employing any other procedure.

It is firmly declared that the steady adherence of transcendentalists to their respective spiritual positions constitutes real piety and that sin occurs when a transcendentalist neglects his prescribed duty. One who adopts this standard of piety and sin, sincerely desiring to give up all past association with sense gratification, is able to subdue materialistic activities, which are by nature impure.

Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities.

When an intelligent person engages constantly in worshiping Me through loving devotional service as described by Me, his heart becomes firmly situated in Me. Thus all material desires within the heart are destroyed.

The knot in the heart is pierced, all misgivings are cut to pieces and the chain of fruitive actions is terminated when I am seen as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Where else one can find such a clear, practical guide for all of us, aspiring transcendentalists who are yet unable to transcend even the basic, gross bodily platform?

Whether one is a struggling grihastha or a dedicated brahmachari, we all continue to enjoy our material senses one way or another and thus we all fall victim to sense gratification, there’s no denying it, therefore we all can benefit from these Krishna’s instructions.

Sometimes we think “well, as long as I’m engaged in service of guru and Krishna I have nothing to worry about” and that is fine, but we shouldn’t mistake it for the state of actual liberation and we should not forget that actual devotional service begins only after actual liberation. Until then all our “service” is tainted with desires for sense gratification or false renunciation. We are on the right way, correct, but here Krishna gives us clues on how to navigate our path properly.

And while we might readily apply this advice to our own lives we should also remember that other devotees are facing the same problems, too, and rather than accuse them of “being in maya” we should see that they are also trying to rein in their own horses and more often then not Krishna Himself is helping them, meaning He Himself gives their senses some freedom to enjoy and He Himself will eventually bring them back under full control.

We’ve all heard this before – we shouldn’t criticize devotees for occasional “falldowns” but now we see the underlying methodology behind this – the “falldowns” are actually necessary and so should be praised, not criticized.

Another important point here is that there’s no special atonement procedures for lusting for ice cream or chocolate but we should just get on with our usual chanting and service, knowing that this is the best purificatory activity in the whole world already.

We should, of course, feel regret for our transgressions but, more importantly, we should remain happy and continue our service with great faith.

Golden words, truly golden.

There have been devotees who committed suicide when they were unable to follow the four regs – apparently these verses from Uddhava Gita weren’t sufficiently impressed on them. This is how proper knowledge can literally save lives.