Vanity thought #1019. Truffaldino

Truffaldino was a type of a character in Italian comedy of two-three hundred years ago. There were heroes, heroines, villains etc but Truffaldino was there for comic relief, it was a servant, kind of a court jester who was supposed to be sharp but goofy. Perhaps the best known comedy featuring Truffaldino was the “Servant of Two Masters” and that’s why I remembered it here – it’s kind of relevant to our situation.

Plays were the most common form of public entertainment in those days and this one was like a modern soap opera – impossible to keep track of the plot and even harder to explain. There was rich background and too many characters to bother, so I’ll look at it only from the POV of Truffaldino himself.

As the title says, he signed up to serve two masters simultaneously and the comedy is build around him wriggling his way out of impossible situations. People would give him things to deliver to his master without specifying the name and he wouldn’t know who it was meant for, that type of thing.

Why did he sign up for this gig? Because he had serious food cravings and he thought that with two masters he’d have twice the amount of food. At one point he even eats a cat.

Okay, how does that relate to us? Because we also serve two masters – māyā and Kṛṣṇa, and we are driven by the same gluttony. Theoretically, we are devotees but as long as we are conditioned and act under the influence of the false ego we seek happiness expressed in material terms. We approach Kṛṣṇa to fulfill our material desires, asking for either pleasure or for freedom from suffering – same coin, different sides.

We want to please both – we want māyā to be merciful to us and we want Kṛṣṇa to be happy, too. No matter how it sounds, this is a great achievement already and there’s nothing wrong with this approach per se. Even Dhruva Mahārāja had material motives at first, everybody does, we only have to worry that we might get stuck at this stage longer than necessary.

Someday someone might write a comedy about bhaktas trying to juggle their materialistic aspirations with their service to Kṛṣṇa, we can all learn to notice such faults in ourselves.

The comparison with Truffaldino doesn’t end here, though. Turns out that his masters came to Venice to look for each other, they even stayed at the same hotel but as luck would have it, never met until the very end. One of them was a woman and so the whole plot revolves about two lovers reuniting. This makes Truffaldino acting like a mañjarī arranging the meeting between Rādha and Kṛṣṇa. That’s quite an unexpected interpretation for an Italian comedy but it has far reaching implications for us and our identity.

Whose servants are we? Kṛṣṇa’s? Or Rādhārāṇī’s? When we first come in contact with Kṛṣṇa consciousness we we learned that Kṛṣṇa is God and so we should serve Him. As we delve deeper into our Gauḍīyā philosophy we come to learn that actually our goal is to become servants of the servants of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. We follow in the footsteps of Rūpa Gosvāmī and we realize that he offered us the best position in the whole spiritual world – dāsa-dāsa-anudāsa of the best servants of Kṛṣṇa.

We realize that we ourselves will never amount to much and if Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure is our only concern then we better help those who really matter to Him. I’m not going to describe glories of mañjarīs here but let’s think what it means to us in terms of choosing our master, choosing who to pray for.

Yes, Kṛṣṇa is God, we obviously can always pray to Him, but for what? What’s the most He can give us? We have no idea what spiritual treasures He can unlock for us but if we see it in comparison to the treasures of this world then we are looking at it wrong. He can please us beyond our imagination but it’s still a self-serving, egoistic attitude.

We are also confined to living at least the rest of our current lives in our bodies with no access to real spiritual feelings. We know that we are made to suffer like this for our own benefit and we know that we have to make do with whatever situation we find ourselves in. What’s the point of praying to Kṛṣṇa then?

We can say that our constitutional position is being His servants but that also doesn’t mean much. He IS God, and we ARE His servants. Pray or no pray, it’s not going to change anything, our constitutional position is not going to change.

What we can attain is pure devotion, bhakti, it’s something that we have the potential for but it’s obviously needs to be developed even if we manage to shake off the illusion of being material bodies.

Here’s the catch, though – bhakti comes only from bhakti. We learn it from other devotees, not from Kṛṣṇa Himself, so if we want bhakti we should seek shelter of devotees, seek shelter of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. She has something we don’t, and without Her mercy never will – Kṛṣṇa prema.

That’s why if we choose wisely we should choose serving Her, not Kṛṣṇa. There’s another, practical reason, too – Kṛṣṇa is fickle. He is supremely independent and He is known to switch His allegiances and break His devotees’ hearts. In our present situation He simply doesn’t want to reveal Himself, He prefers to keep His distance, and that’s understandable, but we’ll never run into this problem if we take shelter of Rādha. Never.

There’s not a moment when Krṣṇa’s devotees forget about Him, never a moment when they decide to wander in the woods by themselves, minding their own business. They don’t have their own business. If we want to always remember Kṛṣṇa we have to learn steadiness not from Him but from Śrī Rādhikā.

There’s another comparison to be made with Truffaldino here – one of his masters was a woman dressed as a man, trying to behave like a “normal” person while hiding her true identity. We had Lord Caitanya doing just that and He had examples of devotees struggling to deal with His dual identity, too. Many were not aware of it, many didn’t understand it, and if we present it like that to the modern people they would immediately question His gender identity. They can’t imagine that spiritual emotions are completely asexual, as far as their material manifestations are concerned.

The comedy had a happy ending, of course, but, perhaps, the greater moral of the story was Truffaldino’s discovery of his true passion. Turns out his love of food was simply an expression of his desire to love an actual person. Once he finds his true love, his food cravings go away.

I hope something like that happens to us, too, and rather sooner than later. Whichever master we choose to pray to (except māyā, of course), I hope we find spiritual happiness that would make us forget about all the attractions of this world. They are like anchors holding us grounded here, they spoil all the mercy coming to us from our ācāryas, they are anarthas that need to be purged

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