It’s easy to say, like I did yesterday, that we should abandon all variety because variety itself is product of the illusion. For a conditioned soul it’s not really a choice – mama māyā duratyayā – this divine energy is difficult to overcome (BG 7.14).
Of course those who surrender to Kṛṣṇa can easily cross beyond it but surrendering isn’t easy either or we all would have done it years ago.
It’s easy to say that if we see two people arguing it’s only an illusion, there aren’t two people and there aren’t two different arguments, it’s one energy interacting with itself. It is impossible to actually see the world this way, that’s why they call us “conditioned” souls, we are bound to this illusion and we cannot shake it off no matter how much we try. It’s possible only by Kṛṣṇa’s grace, which doesn’t come around very often.
To give an example – we can look at a country like Ukraine where people had a revolution and then Russians took the advantage of the chaos and orchestrated a land grab and we can say that it’s all just an illusion, it’s modes of passion of ignorance at play with each other. There’s no actual “land” and even if there was it belongs to God, not to Ukrainians, Russians, or Crimeans. The whole fight is unreal and is produced solely for the entertainment purposes. When time comes Kṛṣṇa will suddenly wrap up the whole production and tuck it away for billions of years until the next show.
We can fairly easy imagine that THEIR fight is unreal because for us it exists mostly as a reflection in our minds to begin with but if someone unceremoniously took away our prasādam just as we were about to put it into our mouths ..it would become real right away. It’s easy to pontificate about distant things but once it gets personal all theories go out of the window. Theoretically there’s no difference between our faeces and our mouths and if the two are combined the resulting reaction is unreal, too. Practically it would never work. Well, that escalated quickly, didn’t it? But why shouldn’t it? It’s all unreal, there’s no optimal speed of transition from pleasant to gross here.
We do have an example of Gaurakiśora Dāsa Babaji who was hiding in a latrine for months because it disgusted people bothering him and they left him alone. It is possible to become completely indifferent to ALL manifestations of material nature but it probably won’t happen to us in this lifetime. It should, ideally, but it probably won’t for several reasons.
When we examine this rejection of variety we first have to admit that illusion is real, material energy is real, variety is real – this is our acintya bheda-abheda tattva. Illusion exists, variety exists, there’s land in Ukraine and there are faeces and mouths, what should really change is our perception of these material phenomena. Simply rejecting the world is not our philosophy, our philosophy is seeing it as it is, not as it appears to the conditioned living entities.
This become pertinent when we consider our own role here as servants of guru and Kṛṣṇa or servants of Lord Caitanya’s mission. This saṅkīrtana movement is happening within this illusory world, this is where Lord Caitanya chose to descent, this is where He decided to conduct His pastimes. He made it not just real but actually divine. How can it be rejected? How can it be ignored? How can we be indifferent to it?
When our guru tells us to do this and that, chant, read books, help ISKCON programs etc he is telling us to engage with the “variety”, it’s our duty, it cannot be abandoned.
And then there’s spiritual variety which is the foundation of our view of spiritual world. That variety is real and we should seek it in a variety of ways, not reject any notion of it. Our relationships with Kṛṣṇa are variegated at every step and so are our relationships with other vaiṣṇavas. It might appear as happening on an external level but actually it isn’t, beyond the externalities lies genuine uniqueness to each and every interaction that purifies our heart just as the sound of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra. We don’t feel it now but it works. If done properly, in the spirit of service and humility, we can feel the benefits faster than it happens with our chanting.
How do we separate what variety is material and what variety is spiritual when EVERYTHING in our lives is connected to Kṛṣṇa? It might not appear so but He personally controls each every minute detail of our lives to gradually elevate us to the level of pure devotion. He is obviously everywhere for temple devotees and it might look like He abandons those who go to work like ordinary people but He actually doesn’t.
Kṛṣṇa is always with us, closer to our hearts than we ever realize, and He carefully measures every bit of our sense gratification so that we lose the taste of it in the most optimal way (if there was an absolute degree to optimum, Kṛṣṇa would find it for us). Our bond with Him, established by the grace of our guru, is eternal and unbreakable. Whatever happens to us is His personal intervention even it does not look so on the surface.
This means that all variety that we, as servants of guru and Kṛṣṇa, see here is spiritual, not material, in a sense that this is external energy working under Kṛṣṇa’s personal control which makes it into spiritual even if some other characteristics of it are not the same as of what we consider the actual spiritual energy.
In this sense our lives are not different from being in Lord Caitanya’s pastimes – He stepped out of the comfort of His own dhāma (if that is even possible) and into the real world which He engaged in service of His mission as His līlā, and we continue to play this līlā for His pleasure, it’s just that He does not appear to be personally present anymore.
This personal presence is not a big deal – even when He was in Jagannātha Purī some devotees could see Him present in certain places, like during chipped rice festival of Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī, and other devotees couldn’t. He even issued a list of places where He is always present regardless of whether people see Him or not. His own mother didn’t see Him eating all the food she cooked for Him in His absence so if we don’t see Lord Caitanya appearing in the midst of a kīrtana doesn’t mean that He is not there.
So, how can I say – abandon all variety? Even if we talk about material variety, how can we separate what is material and what is spiritual, considering that every time we utter word Kṛṣṇa He is actually present along with His dhāma and all His associates?
The answer lies in the question itself – if we see everything in this world as Kṛṣṇa’s own arrangement for our own ultimate benefit we already ARE beyond the concept of variety, it does not exist for us anymore – we see everything as Kṛṣṇa’s energy already, there’s no confusion here.
There’s still a question of identifying ourselves with our material bodies and drawing the boundaries of external/internal in the wrong places and this requires its own explanation for which I don’t have time today. Maybe later.