I’ve just got a message from a kind of “a quote a day” service and it paused me in my tracks, whatever I was doing. Sometimes these things catch you off guard and these occasions are the main reason I keep this kind of subscriptions. It was from one of Śrila Prabhupāda’s purports (CC Madhya 10.119):
In the beginning, a conditioned soul is bereft of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and is always morose in his material activities. Later, by associating with a pure devotee, one becomes inquisitive to know the Absolute Truth. In this way one begins* to engage in the transcendental service of the Lord. Next, by the Lord’s grace all misconceptions are vanquished and the heart is cleansed of all material dirt. It is only then that the pleasure of transcendental bliss is awakened. By the Lord’s mercy one is completely convinced of the value of devotional service. When one can see the pastimes of the Lord everywhere, he is firmly situated in transcendental bliss. Such a devotee is relieved of all kinds of material desires, and he preaches the glories of the Lord all over the world. These Kṛṣṇa conscious activities separate him from material activities and the desire for liberation, because at every step the devotee feels himself connected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although such a devotee may sometimes be involved in household life, he is untouched by material existence due to his constant engagement in devotional service. Thus everyone is advised to take shelter of devotional service to become happy and liberated.
* – this star is where I am now, actually, most of the devotees I know. Long way till the end of the paragraph, right?
Sad part is that I’ve been stuck at this place for such a long time I can’t even imagine progressing any further. How long will I need? Decades? Probably lifetimes.
Because I’m not alone in this predicament there must be some bigger things at play here. Maybe we are all meant to chant until our death with no progress whatsoever and then get a new birth in more auspicious circumstances, like in India, for example.
This would make sense, after all this is what pāṇḍās have been telling us all along – we can’t even see the deities unless we are born Hindu, too contaminated to appear in the presence of the Lord. What about assurances given to us by Śrila Prabhupāda then? His promise is also not the only argument against “another birth” theory.
Indians aren’t making any progress themselves. They might be able to walk into the temple of Lord Jàgannātha but they don’t seem to be bathing in the ocean of transcendental bliss either. In many many cases I don’t want to be born as an Indian, they are “developing” their country in a completely wrong direction and even got a rebuke for corruption from Dalai Lama recently:
“They pray to God but the purpose of their prayer is to make their corrupt life more successful..”
Hard to disagree with this assessment, not that corruption in the West is any better or births in the western countries are more auspicious. They were once, when we were spreading sańkīrtana all over the world, but that phase seems to be over. If you were born in the US right now there’s very little chance you’d be engaged in the kind of preaching that made ISKCON into the hope for the degrading humanity, all that criticism against us is possible only because we don’t preach enough so people talk about all the other things instead.
You could still have a nice birth anywhere, of course, but I’m talking about mass appearance of people who couldn’t quite establish themselves on the spiritual platform and so are born again to taste real transcendental mellows. That’s not happening in the West, it’s not happening in India. Maybe we are done with this planet and with this yuga, maybe we’ll get born in some other universe a bit closer to Lord Caitanya, because I find it hard to believe we are going to be separated from Him and made to worship any other form of the Lord instead.
The roadmap outlined in Prabhupāda’s purport is quite clear about our next goal – we need to cleanse our hearts of all material dirt and vanquish all misconceptions. This means we can’t be transferred to the spiritual world, our work here is not done yet.
We could hope to be born during Lord’s manifested pastimes and be like the gopīs who previously, during Lord Rāmacandra’s time, were sages of Daṇḍakāraṇya and so were not invited for the rāsa dance but were Kṛṣṇa’s intimate devotees anyway. That would make sense and it would be a glorious birth indeed, and this is how learned devotees solved the contradiction of getting a new birth yet being with Kṛṣṇa’s in what He called his dhāma paramaḿ mama. I understand there are arguments about exact circumstances and exact nature of those gopīs but that is not important here.
There’s a problem with this explanation, too – Śrila Prabhupāda clearly writes about devotees who do not yet have Lord’s association, he writes about devotees who can see Lord’s pastimes everywhere instead and then go on preaching Lord’s glories all over the world. This is not about Lord’s associates but about sańkīrtana.
We had our chance here but it seems we blew it. Maybe our hearts are made of stone, maybe our hearts are so dirty that even serving in the sańkīrtana mission doesn’t purify them at once and we need several do-overs.
There’s hope, however – look at dhāmavāsīs, they don’t appear as very advanced and they don’t appear to be enjoying any special spiritual emotions inside yet they are Lord’s eternal associates anyway. This means that externally visible manifestations of transcendental bliss are not required and it’s only a matter of time and patience before we join the Lord Himself, while the process described in Prabhupāda’s purport is a shortcut for those who can’t wait to die and want Lord’s service NOW, in this lifetime.
To be honest, I don’t know if I want to be one of those or the one who just sits and waits. If this greed for service is genuine I’m all for it but more often than not it’s just another manifestation of material hankerings for fame and glory, in which case I’d rather sit quietly.
Ultimately, it’s not like I have a choice, the Lord placed me where I am now and sitting, waiting, and chanting are my primary duties at the moment, so I’ll go get along with it.