Vanity thought #653. ISKCON vision

Interestingly, while offering universal solution to universal suffering we are not very clear about our own future, about what we want to be.

Sure, we have our ISKCON goals but that is not enough to envision our ideal society, ideal ISKCON.

If we read Prabhupada’s books, he mentiones ISKCON numerous times in various contexts but I like these two quotes:

ISKCON tries to perfect one who enters the society. The members of this society should always remember that the society is not like a free hotel. All the members should be very careful to execute their spiritual duties so that whoever comes will automatically become a devotee and will be able to return back to Godhead in this very life. SB 5.8.30

and

It is therefore requested that all our devotees in the ISKCON community become pure Vaiṣṇavas, so that by their mercy all the people of the world will be transferred to Vaikuṇṭhaloka, even without their knowledge. CC Antya 1.32

From these two it’s clear that ISKCON should maintain exceptional standards of purity and be clearly separate form the rest of the world, which might be saved by our efforts even without their knowledge.

In real life, however, the difference between ISKCON and the rest of the world is never clear. We have life membership program, for example. Are those people supposed to become pure, exemplary devotees? I don’t think so.

What about our congregation? People who regularly come to our temples but are not so strict in their personal behavior comparing to temple devotees. What about devotees who drifted away over the years and more likely than not engaged in some less wholesome activities? What about devotees who got married and carried away, too? What about devotees who left ISKCON for other Gaudiya institutions but would fiercely defend their loyalty to Krishna? What about Hindu community that has loyalty to no one in particular but are always there, ready to serve the Lord?

When problems come they all can be counted on. Be it revocation of Bhaktivedanta Manor’s temple license or trial over Bhagavad Gita in Russia.

Are they all ISKCON?

And if they are, should ISKCON embrace more and more of these kinds of people?

I think one day we should face the fact that we need to separate our ISKCON layers. There should be inner core and ever expanding circles coming from it in all directions. Only devotees in the inner core can be called ISKCON devotees in the sense Srila Prabhupada meant it, and only they can lay claims to promised benedictions, like going back to Krishna at the end of their lives.

Nobody outside that circle will be forgotten but they also shouldn’t expect to get the same results as sannyasis who travel the world for decades and train thousands of disciples, and do it all without any concern for building personal safety nests.

If we acknowledge this difference that it would be easier for us to talk about our vision for the future. We will not take over the world, we probably won’t even try to establish worldwide varnashrama, just maintain our ever-expanding vortex of sankirtana. As Sripa Prabhupada said, those who are not sucked in can still attain Vaikuntha at the end of their lives and become pleasantly surprised.

This would also make a case for daivi-varnashrama rather than Vedic society for all, but it’s a case for another day.

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Vanity thought #652. Rethinking mind control

We hear about it all the time, or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself all the time – control your mind when you chant, bring it back to the sound of the Holy Name. And it doesn’t stop there. Nectar of Instructions has only eleven verses, carefully selected, and mind control is mentioned right in the beginning.

Control of speech is also kind of control of mind – we shouldn’t speak without thinking first, and we shouldn’t think about frivolous matters. Krodha-vegam, bouts of anger, are also part of mind control because they happen when they mind doesn’t get what it wants.

Choosing to read a Srila Prabhupada’s book over a newspaper is also part of mind control. It’s everywhere, so what’s wrong with it?

Nothing per se, but in Bhagavad Gita Krishna talks about buddhi-yoga, not manas-yoga. While trying to control our minds we might lose the vision of the whole picture.

It’s not that our minds are particularly wild and strong, they are actually not that powerful and independent, the problem is that our intelligence is weaker than our minds. Restless mind is a sign of a weak intelligence, not the sign of its own strength. “Mind control” is only dealing with symptoms, not the cause of our problems.

With that in mind, I seriously doubt that forcing our minds to do this or that will help solving the weak intelligence issue. It surely helps during japa but downsides are huge, too. For one thing, restrained mind can snap at any moment, and forcing the mind is a kind of austerity that makes our hearts hard, not soft, as required for growth of bhakti. It’s a kind of austerity that smacks of desire for liberation I talked about yesterday because it looks as if we try to force escape from unpleasant things.

So, perhaps, instead of commanding our minds what to like and what to hate we should take a more holistic approach and start with building our intelligence in the proper way.

The core of all our mind problems is that our mind is attracted to unwanted things because our intelligence is not convinced that devotional service is the one and only way. Our intelligence offers our mind a lot of other attractive options and the mind has no chance but to respond with want/don’t want reflex.

Reading up on our philosophy with utmost seriousness is one way to straighten our intelligence and, perhaps, we should start with admitting to ourselves that our understanding of philosophy is really not that strong, perhaps only superficial.

Keeping good association is another way to convince ourselves of the value of devotion, and that helps with developing bhakti itself, too, as we well know.

More importantly, however, is taking control of our lives with the view of keeping the mind at bay. What I mean is that we should control the options presented to our minds when it comes to directing the senses. Crude example – if we don’t read adult magazines our minds wouldn’t become sexually perverted. Perverted in a sense that they’d think sex is a source of pleasure that needs to be maximized.

In the same vein – our minds should learn to judge music by listening to bhajans and kirtans, not by listening to the radio. Our minds should learn the good taste in food by eating prasadam, not by watching cooking shows or hearing other people blubber on about their love of bacon.

The point is – mind can want only something that it knows and our memory is the feature of our intelligence. If we don’t allow accumulation of distracting memories our minds will have no other option but to be attracted by good ones.

Then we also have to control how much we feed our minds. Not too little, not too much. That is also a function of intelligence. The mind won’t ask for more than intelligence is prepared to give it. If we keep open the possibility of overeating the mind could exploit it but if our intelligence is firmly convinced that a bowl of dahl is enough then the mind wouldn’t even know to think of two or three helpings.

Just watch how sometime people react to someone overeating: “I had no idea you can eat so many hot dogs.” Well, and now they have, and they might one day try it. How many? A hundred? Not likely, but a dozen is now a possibility while before that they thought three was too much.

So, what I called mind control in the beginning should be more of intelligence control and the mind would just follow. I can’t claim to have mastered this skill but over the years I kind of learned to teach myself what to like and what to avoid.

Another example – imagine a man gets himself a girl. In the beginning he will surely try to change his habits and learn to like same things as his girlfriend. That’s an intelligent thing to do. Ten years later his previous affair with rock climbing might pop up but it also might not, being well forgotten. Leaving abandoned socks all over the house usually goes away for good.

Disclaimer – they say people don’t change but that is not absolute. Everybody changes, maybe not as much as one hoped for but change is inevitable. New experiences affect our minds and what they are attracted to. If not in this life then surely in the next.

And, having said all that, let’s not forget that all of the above is good for those on the mental platform, for those who think they are actually in control of their lives. Intelligence is a material object that is under control of the laws of nature, not ours. Pure devotees leave these things to the matter, for us, however, properly using our intelligence would be a real buddhi-yoga that leads to the growth of bhakti.

Eventually we should get minds that freely flow towards Krishna’s lotus feet. If we don’t succeed in this we won’t suddenly get fully spiritual bodies. Purification is a step by step process that can’t be rushed or circumvented. We must have perfected our sadhana to have any chance at reaching stages of spontaneous attraction to Krishna.

Mind control is not an option, it’s a must, but it should be done intelligently.

Vanity thought #652. To reject or not reject

One of elements of bhakti is to accept things favorable to devotional service and reject unfavorable things. I can’t trace the source of this widely known saying, however. Not that it makes it controversial but a curiosity nevertheless.

Srila Prabhupada mentioned it numerous times but mostly in purports without giving a source. Lord Chaitanya gave the exact verse in his teachings to Sanatana Goswami (CC Madhya.22.100) but that was probably included there by Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami because the verse comes from Hari Bhakti Vilasa composed before Chaitanya Charitamrita, and the same idea was also expressed in Srila Jiva Goswami’s Bhakti Sandarbha.

The translation of Hari Bhakti Vilasa widely available on the Internet, for example on iskcondesiretree, doesn’t have that verse. Eleventh Vilasa has only 500 verses there, there’s no verse 676.

There’s reference to this HBV 11.676 in the purport to Bhagavad Gita 18.66 but it was probably included there later on by BBT because the “original” Gita 18.66 doesn’t have neither the verse itself nor the reference.

I’m not going to give any credence to “original books” movement here, just point out the difficulty of tracing the origins of one of the most famous vaishnava dictums.

My problem with this verse, however, comes from an entirely different angle, from Lord Chaitanya’s instructions to Rupa Goswami (CC Madhya.19.175) where he said:

If one is infected with the desire for material enjoyment or material liberation, he cannot rise to the platform of pure loving service unto the Lord, even though he may superficially render devotional service according to the routine regulative principles.

In the purport Srila Prabhupada, referring to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, says: “if one maintains within his heart the desire to enjoy the result of good work, or, being embarrassed by the material world, the desire to get out of material entanglement, one will never be able to attain the transcendental mellows of devotional service.”

In the next verse desire for liberation is called one of the two witches, and in the purport to next verse Srila Prabhupada quotes from Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu:

“When a tenderness of the heart is manifested, there is rati, or attachment. But those who are interested in being liberated from material bondage will not manifest this tenderness.”

Make no mistake here – for the vast majority of us interest in being liberated is actually aversion to unpleasantness of this world. We don’t like something and we want to be liberated from contact with that thing. It’s not about some lofty philosophical position.

Or you can observe it when some devotees describe “abhorrent” karmi ways, how inferior is their behavior comparing to our achara. Sometimes we berate their uncleanliness, sometimes their eating habits, sometimes their cheating propensities. Actually when we say “this world is not fit for a gentleman” a large part of this feeling could be our desire for liberation.

So I wonder how we should properly reconcile the dictum to reject unfavorable things and the statement that rejecting things, ie desire for liberation, will never give us a chance to attain devotional service.

It’s very easy to confuse the two in real life so we should be very clear of what exactly we should reject and what exactly we should ignore, and how.

Methinks the main difference here is reason – we should reject things because they are unfavorable to devotional service, not because they are personally unpleasant.

Let’s say you walk onto a family devouring some cooked corpse decaying on the table. You might be repulsed, possibly even want to throw up. Should it be rejected or not?

If you came to preach then meat eating habits of people should not be your main concern and could be ignored. On the other hand you shouldn’t remain in such a disgusting company because their association would certainly affect you one way or another, so it should be rejected.

This rejection, however, falls under rejection of “material entanglement”, you simply don’t like something in this world so you reject it. This attitude will prevent you from developing devotion because you position yourself in relation to material objects, placing yourself in the duality of like/dislike.

Looking at my life I see a lot of things around me that I don’t like and quite often I think that rejecting them would eventually make me into a devotee. What I fail to notice, however, is that I reject them not so much for Krishna’s pleasure but due to my own mental conditioning.

I reject something simply because my mind doesn’t like the result of contact with that sense object. If it’s a some dirty, objectionable thing, I pat myself on the back – good work, good choice, your senses are finally getting purified.

I consider myself almost a renunciate then – not being attracted to worldly pleasures anymore and ready to move up an ashram. Okay, not so self-glorifying yet but you get the direction of my thoughts.

This is all nonsense, however, the only reason to reject anything is if it obstructs execution of devotional service. We cannot afford to lie to ourselves that we are doing something “for Krishna” when, in fact, we just follow our own senses.

If we are not engaged in any kind of service, if we are just hanging around, then we should not reject anything but rather ignore reactions of our minds and senses. Let them do whatever they want following the modes of material nature, we cannot invest our consciousness into their constant struggle with this world. One minute they like it, next minute they hate it, listening to them is a total waste of time, it’s the worst kind of prajalpa.

And I think I’ve just got an idea about proper dealing with mind control, will save it for tomorrow.

Vanity thought #651. Japa and problems – clarification

Yesterday I talked about how we can drop all our problems and simply take to chanting because chanting is a transcendental activity and problems don’t really matter. It’s not as simple as that, however, and it needs clarification.

Not that I’m very clear about it myself, I’m just trying to see it better.

Chanting is not a purely transcendental activity because it engages our material bodies. To chant japa we need a place and we need time and we need working mouth, ears, and our minds should be under control. That can never be guaranteed, by Krishna’s grace we usually have all the necessary ingredients but the main point to remember – chanting itself has to follow material laws of nature. We need air to breath while chanting, we need to be fed, our hearts need to be pumping blood, and we should not be disturbed by other living beings or by nature itself.

On a purely transcendental platform chanting happens within the heart and it might not manifest itself externally at all, but we are not there yet, we depend on the grace of Krishna and on the grace of His demigods who control our material bodies in every aspect.

So it’s not like we can drop out of this world for an hour and a half and then return here. If we could actually do that then most of us would never return, ever.

Okay, this is basics, the most urgent problem during japa is mind control, working body and enough air is usually not a problem, though we should not forget that it’s not under our control so we should always be grateful for the opportunity.

Our mind is no different from any other organ, it works under the same material laws and is driven by the same modes of nature, it’s not alive and it’s not under our control either. If we, the spirit souls, really really want it, Krishna would engage our mind in thinking of Him, it’s not our own achievement.

So, if we have a host of problems that agitate our minds we can’t just turn them off at will, it’s a constant struggle, we pray, and we avoid following the mind wherever it goes, then we forget and find ourselves mental miles away from where we should be.

How to reconcile this with my yesterday’s “solution”? Solving our external problems helps in pacifying the mind, why do I insist on ignoring them?

Because these are two distinctly different sets of problems – what we perceive as obstacles in our material life and what we do to control our mind during chanting. When we try to solve external problems we are not chanting so we are not making anything better. We can’t say: “Let me finish this first, then I will chant”, and by “this” we might mean our marriage and raising children, and by “then” we might mean “when I’m too old to enjoy.”

There should be no excuse from chanting and from trying to direct the mind to listening to the sound of the Holy Name, and it’s the effort that counts. Amount of external problems is up to the demigods and the laws of karma, sometimes they cooperate, sometimes they don’t. It should not stop us from controlling our minds during japa.

By control I mean praying to engage ourselves in service of the Lord, if we are sincere Krishna will help, though how that help manifests itself is up to Him.

He might clear our minds of all extraneous thoughts or He might add a few extra problems – He might want to see us intensify our prayers, it might please Him more than seeing us mentally happy and content.

Both solutions should go hand in hand and complement each other – we should try to purge our minds of all unsolved problems and we should try to bring it under control regardless of whether those problems disappear or insist on staying on.

It’s not the degree of control that matters here, it’s the purity and intensity of our prayers.

I don’t think I’ve made it very clear but the advice still stands – drop all other concerns and concentrate on hearing and chanting of the Holy Name. One day we will learn to glorify our Lord within our hearts regardless of material manifestations but until then we should consciously direct our minds towards the Holy Names. Nothing else matters.

Vanity thought #650. Japa – how to deal with unwanted thoughts

I was happily chanting today and then suddenly realized that I was hungry. Naturally my mind started thinking about food and I got carried away.

First I was thinking how to make hummus fit for offering. Hummus is a Middle Eastern food made from chickpeas, known to us as chana dal. The problem is that garlic is one of the main ingredients that determines its taste. How to make hummus without garlic? They used it fresh so simply dropping half a teaspoon of asafoetida probably won’t work.

Then I thought about checking Kurma Prabhu’s recipes, he surely had figured out how to make offerable hummus. Then I thought about Kurma’s personal life, that he married four or five times. I wondered how he supports his lifestyle. His cookbook was famous but that was a long time ago, maybe he has a television show or something. Or maybe he just cooks for Govinda somewhere Down Under.

Then I thought about recent announcement that our Calcutta temple finally took the ownership of the ground floor of their building on Albert Road and turned it into Govinda. I remembered that they had Govinda in a different place and it was selling mostly pastries, we stocked up for our trip to Jagannatha Puri once.

Then I remembered new Govinda’s sample menu, it sounded very delicious, and Bengali sweets are definitely the best in the world.

Then I thought how it’s actually inappropriate to think of prasadam with the view of enjoying it rather than honoring it as a service to Krishna. It always bothered me at the Govinda in our Vrindavan guesthouse – you walk in, take your wallet, point at things and think “I will enjoy this today, and that, and also that.” You pay, as if you now own Krishna prasadam, sit down, and start devouring it for your own pleasure.

I can’t figure out how to properly honor prasadam in restaurants where you pay for your food and pay for the service, too.

Then I remembered that I was actually chanting my rounds. For a moment I was split – the problem in front of me seemed very important and I had a feeling that the solution as somewhere near, and on the other hand I was chanting the Holy Name. What do to? How to deal with unwanted thoughts?

We grow up in a society that puts solving problems above everything else. Day and night we are bombarded with messages that we should face our inner demons, discover our true self, find solutions to whatever is bothering us. If we can’t do it on our own we should talk to therapists. There’s one thing we shouldn’t do – allow our problems to fester. We are taught that this is how you can become a serial killer or some other kind of maniac. This is also how they cure sociopaths and movie villains – by discovering their hidden problems and solving them in the open.

So, I had a problem, too – how to best honor prasadam in a restaurant where you pay both for food and for service? It’s an important issue deserving its own post. How can it be solved? And it also can’t be postponed because avoiding our issues is not how we deal with them. What to do?

Then it dawned on me – we, and I mean devotees here, solve our problems by sincerely chanting the Holy Name as if our problems don’t exist, and then we see that they really don’t, it’s all in our minds.

So, when I got on the train on unwanted thoughts the best and the only solution is to get off it, not to steer towards an acceptable destination.

It sounds very simple in theory but how many times you tell people “just chant the Holy Name, forget about everything else” and no one would listen to your advice. People caught up in their mental vortex can’t comprehend that dropping their issues would ever work.

And the fact is that it probably doesn’t – we can’t solve problems by chanting, maybe to a degree that chanting is the yuga dharma and participating in it would eventually give one comfortable life and a peace of mind, but whatever problems we face right now are not going to be solved by ignoring them. This is not how the material nature works.

So, why ask people to chant then? Very simple – we might not solve the problems themselves but those devoted to chanting do not see them as their problems anymore.

I still haven’t found a hummus recipe suitable for Krishna and maybe later I will, but I’ve chanted my remaining rounds for Krishna’s pleasure (presumably) and that make the hummus problem as not only unimportant but also not related to me or my interests as a spirit soul.

Those who sincerely participate in a genuine sankirtana forget that their bodies exist on the material platform full of threefold miseries. Sincere worshipers of the Holy Name exist on the Vainkuntha platform instead.

Eventually we all have to come down and feel hunger again but we live our lives for those rare moments we think of nothing but Krishna’s pleasure, we collect them as precious gems, they are our only treasure.

Also, do not forget that as we live our lives we collect enough karma for the next lifetime, and this karma will exist entirely of our unresolved problems, so it’s a fool’s errand trying to find every solution. Not in this day and age, renunciation is impossible anymore, our only hope is that we collect enough Krishna conscious moments to get us excused from another body duty.

So, today’s advice is – whatever is happening to you, it doesn’t matter. Just drop it and direct your mind towards chanting of the Holy Name. Don’t worry about failing at problem solving, that’s not what your life will be judged by at the end. Just chant.

Vanity thought #649. The sense of belonging

Thanks to the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and his representatives we have been recruited into Lord Chaitanya’s army. If not His followers we are at least His hangers-on. This is where we belong and this is not going to change, not unless Lord Chaitanya suddenly changes His mind and tell us to seek shelter elsewhere. We are not going to be abandoned but that doesn’t mean our sense of belonging cannot fail us.

What happens to every neophyte is that we get a lot of enthusiasm and we think that we’ve done with this world, that we don’t belong here anymore. This is true of our souls but not true of our bodies.

Imagine you went out on this fine Sunday for some people watching. You got yourself a nice little place where you can see everyone, you can see every facet of human behavior, you see people’s aspirations, people’s joy, people’s sadness, their hopes, their dreams, and their reality of not living up to it. You can sit there and think to yourself: “This isn’t for me, I’m done with it. I don’t want to be the part of this rat race anymore and, luckily, I’m out anyway. I’ve got a guru, I’ve got wisdom from our books, I’ve got mercy, I don’t belong here anymore.”

Reality, however, is that we are not invisible. We might think that we don’t belong but we are still very much a piece of a jigsaw that is this great illusion and there’s nothing we can do about it. We belong here.

We think that we’ve become transcendental but we still occupy some space, we chose our spot in relation to other people and other people do not walk through us, they notice our presence and take their positions correspondingly. We might appear alone for the moment but we are still breathing air which we share with all the other living organisms. We eat food that has been grown through other people’s hard labor, we use toilets, we throw our garbage and it gets picked by someone else. Our footprint on this Earth might be small but it’s still there and it will be there at least until our death.

What is transcendental to this world is our service to guru and Krishna, everything else is still pretty much down here. We have our physical bodies and they belong to our father and mother or to the state and community. We have to go to work and our energy thus belongs to our employer. We might say that we do this voluntarily, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement but we can’t opt out of it – someone owns our labor and pays us for it. No one can live in this world without work, it says so in Bhagavad Gita.

We are owned the moment we are born – by our parents, by demigods and by sages – that’s from Vedas.

What we should realize is that these debts are not ours, however, they are debts of our bodies. We as spirit souls do not belong here but our bodies are, and so we shouldn’t make a mistake of confusing our roles here.

We cannot say “my body does not belong here and it doesn’t owe anyone anything.” We can say “As a spirit soul I don’t belong here but as an embodied being I have to live out the rest of my karma,” because that’s what our debts are – it’s our karma.

We can hope that Krishna releases us from our karmic reactions but that is true only regarding our service and only when it’s pure and uncontaminated by any material desires. Even then He’d release us as spirit souls, not that He’d break the laws of karma to accommodate our illusions.

If we still see ourselves as our bodies we won’t get liberated and we’ll still suffer consequences (or enjoy consequences, same thing). I suppose it goes without saying that no one is feeling himself liberated already and if he does he most likely isn’t, for it doesn’t work that way – the sign of advancement is realization of inadequacy, not feeling of great spiritual achievements.

You can’t think “I’m liberated” and then trot off to the toilet because your bladder is getting weaker every year. You can’t seek a shelter of a clean, private stall and think “I don’t belong in this world.” It’s ridiculous. Our bodies will always live according to the laws of nature, they will always belong here.

Anyway, my point today is that we can’t afford to feel superior to people around us, we can’t think that we are above them and their mundane world. They can always come back at you and claim their ownership, in the form of taxes, for example.

Service to the Lord is not our own, it was given to us by our guru and it can be taken away at any moment, so we can’t boast about it either. We should purge ALL thoughts of superiority from our consciousness, it’s the devil talking, to borrow from Christian terminology.

Greatness is all around us – externally as this wonderful creation and spiritually as our guru, Krishna, and all His devotees. Greatness is everywhere we look but we can’t seek it inside ourselves, that would spell our doom.

Well, I guess I’m rambling but that is an important point to remember – purge all desires to feel superior to anybody else. We are not above anybody, either in this world or in Krishna’s service.

Krishna is great, that position is already taken, we shouldn’t usurp it.

Vanity thought #648. Mysterious Buddha

Today, or perhaps yesterday, is Vishakha Puja day, which is a big day for all the Buddhists, or, perhaps only some of them. It’s a mystery.

Two major schools of Buddhism, Mahayana and I Theeravada, have disagreements regarding major dates in Buddha’s life and it’s not up to us to sort them out.

For us the existence of Buddha himself is shrouded in mystery, though until very recently we were relatively clear about this.

First it was Steven Knapp who argued for much earlier age of Buddha’s pastimes. He relied on some Hindu zealots whose only objective in their studies is to make themselves look good. They, however, could have stumbled on something real.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati once mentioned that the historical Buddha, Gautama, was not the Buddha avatar of Vishnu from Srimad Bhagavatam. There was something about Shankaracharya there, too. Either Shankaracharya was wrong or he was right, but the conclusion was that our Buddha lived about a thousand years earlier.

Srila Prabhupada, however, never mentioned any of this and always treated historical Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu.

Who to believe?

It’s possible that Srila Prabhupada wasn’t present when his guru explained the origin of Buddha or haven’t read it if it was committed to paper. Is it important? Only if we look at the guru as a provider of empirical knowledge. Then there’s always a possibility of contradictions.

If we look at spiritual or philosophical side of the issue then there are no contradictions at all.

When explaining Lord Buddha’s mission we rely on Srimad Bhagavatam, not on historical evidence or explanations, even if Srila Prabhupada was mistaken about Buddha’s worldly identity he was still faithful to the Bhagavatam when describing Buddha’s spiritual mission.

We can actually make a case for historical Buddha deviating from declared Bhagavatam description. Normally we assume that Buddha preached ahimsa but nearly all the modern Buddhists are meat eaters. We take note of Buddha’s preaching of nonviolence to fit with Bhagavatam but Buddhists themselves don’t consider it important, certainly not important enough to dictate their eating habits.

Monks in some Buddhist sects are vegetarians but self appointed spokesman for Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, is partial to corpse eating. In Theeravada Buddhism it’s even worse, they acknowledge the value of nonviolence but make a point of its subservience to their more important principles. According to their history vegetarianism was the cause of the very first split in Buddhism and Buddha personally banished his veggie eating disciple.

It wasn’t really that straightforward, it was a complicated case of judging priorities mixed with personal shortcomings but in the end people have found justification for eating whatever they want and feeling superior about it.

The point is that historical Buddha failed in stopping animal slaughter but succeeded in spreading atheism instead.

In the past couple of decades people have figured out that Buddhism is not even a religion but is just another way to justify materialism, it offers a somewhat different and allegedly better way to enjoy your life, and the best part of it is that you don’t have to surrender to anyone and you don’t have to restrict yourself in anything. There are no sacrifices to be made and there’s no God to accept and reward those sacrifices.

Still, in traditional Buddhist societies Buddha serves as the Personality of Godhead who controls and regulates everything and who accepts the offerings and gives out blessings, and so if they decide to celebrate his life or birth or his enlightenment I don’t see a reason to object. In this role Buddha IS a manifestation of Vishnu, just like we don’t think that Allah is some alternative Deity.

Let’s also not forget that for us relationships with God is not a question of His authority but a question of rasa. We aren’t very interested in God the Creator or God the protector or God the fulfiller of all desires. Let people worship their Buddha as they like and let us remain servants of Lord Chaitanya and ultimately Srimati Radharani, who pleases Krishna better than anyone else.

Vanity thought #647. Jai Nrisimha

Will not miss this for the life of me. Lord Nrisimha has a special place in our lives and our hearts, He is the only other avatar we worship daily after Lord Chaitanya and Krishna Himself. He is also special in another way – He is truly aja, the unborn one.

Krishna was born of Nanda Maharaj and Mother Yashoda, Lord Chaitanya took birth in the family of Jagannatha Mishra and Saci Devi, Lord Ramachandra was the son of Dasharatha and Kaushalya. Lord Nrisimha came out of a pillar.

All other avatars planned their descent and their companions appeared before hand to lay the ground. Lord Nrisimha was different – He didn’t appear on any schedule and demigods, Lord’s usual associates, were scared to even look at Him, let alone participate in His pastime.

This is an example of how the Lord dedicates Himself to the protection of His devotee, forsaking all the conventions and niceties.

Actually, come to think about it, He appeared more for the sake of us, the future generations, than for the sake of Prahlada Maharaj who had Lord’s darshan in his heart all along. He also appeared for the edification of Hiranyakashipu who had completely lost his mind in his denial of Lord’s existence. Which is also a lesson directed at us.

Unlike some mundane magician, the Lord wasn’t lurking in the hidden compartment waiting for His entrance, He is omnipresent, He was surrounding Hiranyakashipu’s heart from all sides, He saw Hiranyakashipu’s allegedly invincible body from inside out. He could have strangled the demon by simply squeezing his heart, or his brain, whatever would have been more impressive, but the Lord was waiting for the cue from His devotee. When Prahlada Maharaj said that Vishnu was in the pillar, that’s where the Lord made His entrance. It could have been anything else, including demon’s nose, but, perhaps, Prahlada Maharaj was not in the mood for amusing jokes and thought that breaking out of the column would be more impressive.

And what a grandiose form it was! Huge, powerful, unimaginable, deadly, full of rage, and glorious in every respect. Those still on the illusory platform couldn’t even look at it, He was personification of violent death, personification of the summary of all our fears. Sometimes we get puffed up with our power and we look for worthy opponents to demonstrate our strength. Lord Nrisimha put a violent end to all this childishness. No one can fight the Lord Nrisimha, even the most powerful warriors wet their pants and beg for surrender.

This is the glory of our Lord, He attracts even His enemies. Gopies are attracted by His beauty, we are attracted by His mercy, and demons are attracted by His all – conquering power.

Sometimes we can complain that Lord Nrisimha protects only Prahlad, that He will not make a similar entrance if we get in trouble, but that is a very superficial approach. Prahlada Maharaj felt Lord’s protection long before the appearance of Lord Nrisimha, and so should we. Also it’s immature to think of Lord Nrisimha as being restricted to His temporary form manifested millions of years ago. Lord Nrisimha is always in our hearts, watching our every move, listening to our every heartbeat, monitoring our blood pressure for all signs of worry.

He is never away, and we are never left unprotected. There’s not a second spent in separation from Him. We don’t remember Him, being bewildered by the illusion but He never forgets us.

That is basically all I can say in glorification of Lord Nrisimha today.

Vanity thought #646. Japa update

Long overdue, as usual, and the reason of it is my lack of progress or any new insights.

Is it normal? I don’t think so. Japa should take a central role in our lives and so lack of insights is probably a sign of a lack of interest.

On it’s own we don’t need any insights into chanting, for it’s not a mental activity that can be improved with mind tricks. Pure chanting has no connection to any material activity, subtle or gross, concentration or sitting positions. With pure chanting our consciousness would simply flow towards Krishna regardless of external circumstances.

I’m not even remotely close to that level and most of the time I spend on japa I actually listen to my mind. Every now and then I bring it back, kind of under control, but it doesn’t stay still for long. With so much thinking about unrelated things I should have had a thought or two about chanting itself, but I hadn’t.

Even worse, I’ve come to reserve my japa time for thinking about other matters I have no time to ponder otherwise. The only positive side of this is that it usually relates to Krishna consciousness. Actually, there’s another positive side – because I know that Krishna conscious matters can’t be tackled with mind and intelligence alone, I need to free my mind and concentrate on the Holy Name to come to any sort of acceptable resolutions.

What I meant to say is that I chant so that my mind becomes clear and ready to think of Krishna, or, practically speaking, about subtle aspects of our philosophy and its applications.

This attitude is actually not so bad, the meaning of the Hare Krishna mantra is to beg to engage us in service, so if I want my mind to be engaged in service I should chant – it’s pretty straightforward. The downside is that I might want my mind to display its intellectual prowess, in that case my chanting would be duplicitous.

Come to think of it, this kind of chanting is second best. First class chanting would be strictly about the Holy Name, with full trust and no ulterior motives. Second class is about begging for protection after the japa is over. It’s not bad, but it’s not perfect either.

Maybe it’s a natural next step – after I successfully divert my mind from mundane matters. Maybe I’m on the right course and there’s nothing to worry about, and actually I don’t. Objectively speaking, I’m more or less at peace with myself, I just need to chant, chant, and chant.

Vanity thought #645. Bhakti lata bija

For the past week or so I’ve been trying to find solutions to problems like how to deal with death, love, life and what not. The fact is, however, that on their own all these solutions are useless. The only real solution is cultivating our attachment to the Lord, nothing else.

What should be our position towards death? What attitude should we take towards fear? Or, as another devotee pondered the other day, what should be our attitude towards wealth and opulence?

There’s a simple answer to these questions – none.

A conditioned soul observing the world around it will always have only two reactions – attachment and renunciation, or like and dislike. When you look at wealth you can either be attracted to it or hate it, but neither of these two attitudes or any combination of thereof is going to help you. The problem lies in you looking at wealth – that’s an act of a deluded soul thinking he is in control of the world, that he is the seer and judge of things.

From that position it doesn’t matter what I say about dealing with death or what you think would be a better solution.

The only real solution is to develop attachment to Krishna, only then we can start seeing the world as means of His enjoyment, and at that point all our current solutions will become irrelevant.

Devotion doesn’t come from thinking and comparing things or from looking at their true nature, it comes only from the mercy of guru and Krishna – guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja. This act of mercy can’t be replaced by anything else, much less by our own efforts. It’s causeless, we can never deserve it.

The creeper of devotion grows only through watering it by chanting of the Holy Name, by discussing Lord’s glories in the company of other devotees, there’s no other way. When we are lucky to be engaged in this type of sankirtana we have no time nor any interest in developing correct attitudes towards life, death, love, or money.

That’s how it works.

One could say that besides watering the creeper of our devotion we must also pull the weeds, ie deal with our anarthas, and from that angle dealing with improper attitudes is necessary. Fair enough, but let’s not forget the main principle here – nurturing the creeper of devotion.

If we fail to beg for mercy of guru, Krishna, and other devotees, than all our weed-pulling is like a child playing with dolls. Little girls feed their dolls cookies and tea, put nice dresses on them and teach them good manners but it is not the same as raising an actual kid.

Some women fake their pregnancy because they want a baby so much but this is just a delusion. We should not fall into a similar trap – we must care about the actual bhakti lata bija, not about all the nice ceremonies around it.

In a way it’s like comparing the value of mother and father. Father gives the seed and mother provides the womb and nurtures the child, both parties are necessary, but father takes precedence. Without a seed one can only play pretend mom, and it’s kind of sad if we make a similar show of devotion without actually having it.

Our role is like that of the mothers – we take the seed from guru and Krishna and we help it grow. If we ignore the seed but try to look like perfect mothers we are just pathetic and it fills our hearts with duplicity.

So, my point today is that we shouldn’t waste too much time on trying to figure out artificial solutions to illusory problems. Our only business should be giving our hearts in full to glorification of the Lord, once we have done that, all the problems will disappear from our view, and we will loose interest in hearing anything about all the solutions I proposed in the past few days.

Let’s put first thing first – Krishna and the service to our guru, everything else is just a distraction.