Vanity thought #838. Vaishnava porn

I’m not talking about actual porn, God forbid, I’m talking about vaishnava equivalent of forbidden fruit of the internet. And no, it’s not about sex, it’s about gossip and rumors about other devotees. I consider it as degrading for us as porn is for non devotees and their marital relationships.

We are naturally attracted to both but I hope chanting, reading, and association with devotees helps us stay clear of actual porn just as we are not interested in meat eating anymore. Attraction to gossip still remains, however. I don’t think it ever goes away even for highly advanced and mature devotees.

I’m not going to give examples here but sometimes you get a feeling that even Krishnadasa Kaviraja was aware of everything that was going on in Gaudiya vaishnavism even though he never dignified gossip with inclusion into Chaitanya Charitamrita. At the very least there are references to people who didn’t believe in Lord Nityananda’s divinity and there is a brief description of Advaita Acharya’s wayward sons, too.

Srila Prabhupada, if you read enough conversations, was not immune to interest in other people’s lives. A lot of what we know about Gaudiya Math history could be qualified as gossip, on the other hand, there’s a lot that we don’t know because Prabhupada never indulged in it. There are also references to various popular personalities of the day that Srila Prabhupada never treated with much respect and so his remarks about them sound like gossip, too.

Still, it’s not an excuse for us to go out and search for juicy rumors and then gloat in other people’s misfortunes. It might be hard to define the difference between legitimate criticism and offensive one but, like porn, you know one when you see it. We can criticize only our designated dependents, with everyone else we should just mentally take notice with the view of not making same mistakes ourselves. Porn is the same – we are allowed sexual relations only with our wives or husbands and only for procreation as service to Krishna but porn is about enjoyment with anyone we fancy and we shouldn’t even think about that.

How do we separate gossip from news? This one is hard. We have a couple of authorized ISKCON news sources but they are generally not up to date on a lot of things we might consider interesting. I think this is the natural outcome of their news being filtered to include only what is beneficial for devotees and discard everything frivolous. Non-ISKCON news sites do not have such an obligation and are driven more by the market demand than by anything else. This resembles difference between serious press and tabloids, in terms of human interest it’s never a competition.

Actually, we do not have non-ISKCON news sites per se, they are crowdsourcing most of their material, which means they give platform to anyone excited just about anything to share in their agitation. Normally, a devotee should exercise restraint in his speech but here we are encouraged to do just the opposite. To “succeed” here means to write an intriguing story with a catchy headline and provoke strong emotional response in the audience, precisely the things we, as readers, should avoid for the sake of our minds.

This agitation is bad for our mind control but it’s not the worst thing about “vaishnava porn”, the worst thing is offensive attitude towards ISKCON authorities and, depending on the site, Srila Prabhupada, Gaudiya Math, Gaudiya vaishnavism, or vaishnavism in general. By taking in news from those sites we take association of their editors and contributors and we should not associate with non-ISKCON devotees, period. Association with anybody who doesn’t share our respect and loyalty to our guru, his godbrothers, GBC etc should be rejected.

One is obliged to be discerning when selecting a guru for the first time but after that being “open minded” is not an option anymore. We all can have our doubts about some of the things in our society but we should learn to deal with these doubts in an appropriate way, which in vaishnava context means inquiring from authorities, not from inimical strangers.

We don’t dispel doubts in supremacy of Krishna or Lord Chaitanya by inquiring from Christians or advaita-vadis, why should we run to ISKCON detractors to clarify misgivings about GBC? Those people will never ever increase our faith or strengthen our loyalty, they will only destroy whatever we have, so why listen to them at all?

One progresses in spiritual life only, I repeat, ONLY by the mercy of guru and devotees, so how can we expect to get any if we go take association of people who destroy our faith in them?

Knowledge, one might say in response. We should surrender in knowledge and with intelligence, so we must know everything there’s to know about GBC. That’s what they say about benefits of watching porn, too – it’s educational. No, it isn’t, it’s a misleading statement. Knowledge shouldn’t come from porn or from outsiders but from GBC itself. It’s the same with guru and Krishna – we won’t know either of them unless they reveal themselves.

Nothing in Krishna consciousness can be realized objectively, everything we learn is a revelation, it can’t be cracked by outside pressure as a principle. Therefore we can’t *know* GBC by studying it, much less by listening to people inimical to it. By “know GBC” I mean realize their spiritual and managerial connection to Krishna, not some mundane facts about their existence on the material plane, that’s not knowledge just as porn is not love.

Nevertheless, our minds are attracted to news and it’s a constant struggle to control this attraction and engage it in the least damaging way. There was time when I happily ignored all non-ISKCON sites unless I was looking for a specific issue. A couple of years ago, however, legitimate ISKCON devotees started submitting their articles to non-ISKCON sites and that prompted me to monitor them more closely.

Having burned my mind more than a couple of times and having been drawn into several nonsensical issues I’m a lot more cautious now. I check new content not more often than once a week, which means that I have to dismiss most of their stories out of hand, not reading more than a headline. Still, I sometimes catch myself just like Hagrid here:

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One comment on “Vanity thought #838. Vaishnava porn

  1. Pingback: Vanity thought #839. Storytelling | back2krishna

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