Vanity thought #829. Stereotypes, part II

Earlier this week I saw on the news that people of South East Asia got a new phrase, “Don’t Thai to me”, when they feel they are being cheated. There’s nothing unusual about stereotypes like that but, afaik, Thais themselves got a similar stereotype about untrustworthy cheaters and for them it’s Indians. They say that if you are suddenly confronted both by an Indian and a snake, kill the Indian first. Why?

Anyone who has been to India for any length of time knows that you better watch yourself when dealing with natives. There’s nothing they won’t do to squeeze an extra dollar from you and they don’t feel any shame in that. Why?

We’ve been told that, in contrast with Westerners, Asians are communal people but how can they be communal and so dishonest at the same time? How can they maintain communities without basic trust in each other?

In my personal experience, they do trust each other and they are loyal to their community members but that doesn’t extend to outsiders who are considered a fair game. Once you in, you are in and safe, before that, you have no rights and little respect.

None of this would really matter to us as devotees but we have to deal with this on our visits to the Holy Dhamas and that might really stress some people who expect dhamas to be filled with perfect vaishnavas. Something just doesn’t compute there. Either we have to completely abandon our basic ideas what perfection is or we have to admit that dhamas have been overrun by unscrupulous non-devotees.

Personally, I’d vote for the first option.

From the dhamavasis POV all money originally belongs to Krishna and by taking it from us they reunite Krishna and Lakshmi and engage our wealth in Krishna’s service, so they are doing us a favor. We can say “Hold on, but we are devotees, too!” to which they answer “Right, so you understand that there’s no loss, you take it to Krishna, we take it to Krishna, what’s the difference?”

Alternatively, they can see it from a traditional POV where brahmanas are considered mouth of the Lord. If you want to offer something to God, He accepts it through brahmanas, therefore they are see themselves digesting our money as the work of Krishna own stomach.

Should we worry about it? Well, if we’ve been given an order by our spiritual master or our authorities and, in course of executing this order, we’ve acquired some funds, then whatever logic they offer, we cannot allow them to take money that belongs to our guru. Even if dhamavasis appear before us in their original spiritual forms we should not give in to their demands.

They have their service, we have ours. Our goal is to please our guru, not theirs.

Strictly speaking, even if Krishna Himself shows up and demands what belongs to our guru we should be skeptical because our position is dasadasanudasa, as Gaudiya vaishnavas we serve Krishna’s devotees and we cannot betray their mercy. After all, you can’t be a manjari and spill all the secrets to Krishna at the same time, which gopi needs a servant like that?

If our actions somehow displease the Lord we hope that it works out through the proper chain of command, that’s what depending on the mercy of our guru means. Krishna can forgive an offense against Himself but if we upset our guru we are done for. Of course we can also hope that our guru would accept our betrayal because it pleased Krishna but that’s a risky game to play. Krishna is a fickle master, sometimes His mercy is there and sometimes it isn’t, and when He goes away on His merry ways, how can we return to our guru? How can we beg for service again?

This is a very unlikely scenario, btw, it shouldn’t happen to us on our present level.

What usually happens is that we travel to Holy places on our own volition. We don’t have any particular engagements in the dhama, we are just visiting, and therefore we shouldn’t assume that our funds are the same as our guru’s. In that case different rules apply.

When Sanatana Goswami went to see Lord Chaitanya at Benares he was still wearing a fancy chadar and Mahaprabhu made it known that the chadar should go. Sanatana Goswami traded it for some old, worn blanket and that pleased the Lord. We cannot attain Lord’s company while maintaining unnecessary possessions and that stands true for attaining Lord’s dhama, too.

We should not show up in the dhama while flashing out wealth, even if only to ourselves, and from that POV being ripped off by dhamavasis is Lord’s way of telling us how we should approach Him, so we shouldn’t protest.

If we decide to protect our possessions by keeping our money in the bank and exposing only very little to potential damage, that’s how they Lord would measure our devotion, too. Essentially it means that unless we are ready to give up everything we own, we shouldn’t show up in Vrindavana at all, and that is true, otherwise we are just tourists passing through. As much as Krishna appreciates our interest, by holding onto our possessions we are still robbing ourselves of genuine devotion. We can’t have both.

Does it mean we shouldn’t go to Vrindavana at all? Of course not, but we should understand our limitations and be ready to sacrifice whatever is necessary. Krishna isn’t a monster, He is not going to rob us blind, but we should always be ready to give Him whatever He wants.

On that subject I remember reading a fictional book about Jesus’ early days. His father took him and the entire family to the temple in Jerusalem and they had to pay exorbitant prices for whatever paraphernalia was needed for completing the rituals. When everyone was upset about it the father said that they didn’t spend more than they were prepared to, and if they got one dove instead of two it didn’t really matter.

So, if we are being overcharged for whatever it is we are offering to the Lord we should think about it not in terms of how much we got but in terms of how much we spent. Krishna will gladly accept even the smallest offering if it’s done without any attachment. The difference between ten and twelve bananas doesn’t matter to Him, it matters only to us because we still see these bananas as ours.

What if Krishna ate all our offerings and never left any prasadam, save for a few crumbs on a plate? A real devotee would consider it a perfection of his service, we would consider it cheating.

And this takes me back to the point of what perfection really is. Dhamavasis are perfect even when they lie and cheat, even when they eat eggs, even when they eat beef. We don’t see it that way but the Lord does, and we should accept that.

That’s why it’s very easy to commit offenses in the dhama and that’s why we cannot see its spiritual beauty, well, one of the reasons.

Same goes for Indians, comparing to us they are Krishna’s family. However imperfect, Krishna loves them as His own, and we should accept that, too.

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