It’s important, right? In our present condition it’s probably more important than even chanting of the Holy Names. How could that be?
Our chanting is impure, our hearts are overwhelmed with all kinds of material desires, whatever we say comes out as an offense from our lips. Śrila Prabhupāda said that offensive chanting is like burning wet wood – lots of smoke, no heat, and it can go on forever without any effect.
To actually make progress we need to chant offenselessly but it’s impossible for us because of our material desires. We value them higher than service to Kṛṣṇa, we have too much taste for enjoyment obtained from interaction of material senses with their objects. That taste spoils everything we do, and we can’t get rid of this taste unless we find something better, and we can’t find something better unless we stop chewing the chewed – it’s catch 22.
The only way we can taste something better is if other devotees introduce us to it. There’s no inherent reason for us to come across something we are not interested in, that’s not how the material world works – it satisfies our desires, it doesn’t impose anything we haven’t asked for earlier. Devotees, however, can break this chain and that’s why it’s called “causeless mercy” – we haven’t deserved it, it’s not in our karma.
So, by the mercy of the devotees we can attain some higher taste, learn attraction to pure things, and, eventually, learn to chant purely. Without this sādh saṅga Holy Names would mean nothing to us.
We can learn to extract material benefits from chanting but that is not the same as devotion, it’s still a material activity meant for OUR pleasure, not Kṛṣṇa’s. Of course when we ask Him for something and He provides it it’s already a relationship but we want to do so much better than that. So we need to associate with devotees. How?
If you are in the temple it’s easy, but I want to talk about finding association on the internet, where we are now. Lots of people forgo personal relationships for the virtual ones. Dating sites were initially looked down upon but eventually people realized that if they spend most of their free time online they might as well use it for finding life partners. It works for some and craigslist has become a lifestyle for others, but what can we do there as devotees?
I’m not talking about vaiṣṇava dating sites, I’m talking about seeking genuine, spiritually enriching association. Is it possible? There are statements by Prabhupāda that voice recordings are not as purifying as listening to an actual guru but most of us don’t take it in absolute terms – based on our own experience listening to tapes, or mp3s now, is as illuminating and inspiring as sitting in a Bhāgavatam class, and you are not likely to fall asleep. Plus they’ve got tons of videos now – you can both listen AND watch, and with some life broadcasts you can also ask questions and see them answered in real time. Isn’t it great?
There’s more to association, though, we also need friends to share our minds with, and that’s where it all might go really bad really fast. It’s the same in real life, unscrupulous association will affect us negatively regardless of whether it’s online or face to face. The advantage is that when we are online we can avoid bad association immediately, and we also have a greater choice of groups to affiliate ourselves with.
With freedom comes responsibility, as Spireman’s uncle has taught us, and in our terms it means karma. Join the wrong club and you are doomed. Visit the wrong site you’ll get contaminated for the rest of the day. Offend someone by rather innocuous banter (by internet standards) and you’ll lose taste for devotional service forever.
All in all, I don’t think we can manage our online association as easily as it looks. Sometimes we get great help and inspiration but, personally, I can’t find neither rhyme nor reason in how it works. If I go looking for it, it escapes me, but then, out of the blue, I get real gems, or I don’t.
I’ll take whatever I can, there’s a lot of bath water with this baby but that’s just how it is.
I’ve spent a month without checking vaiṣṇava news sites and I probably should have kept going but curiosity took the better of me today. How many times will I lapse into this news reading thing? It always ends the same, with me telling myself how I should not have done this and why.
Over at Sampradaya Sun they keep going, “Finding faults with devotees, part 273” is as fresh as ever. Official ISKCON news extols virtues of legumes, benefits of aloe vera, and fruits for diabetics. There’s an inside ISKCON section, too, but also an opinion piece about Modi swearing in ceremony (which wasn’t actually bad).
As far as actual association goes, devotees are still fighting over no fall issue. New entries in the top chart this month are the debate over responsibilities of Kṛṣṇa conscious husbands and what looks like an attack on self-help book style of one of our senior devotee’s preaching. I’ve never liked this style myself but now I see several virtually identical comments about this devotee across different sites and it just doesn’t feel right.
What if some people find this style just fine? What if they get inspired by this kind of talk? This devotee has a significant following, I gather, and he is not saying anything controversial, so why the attack? I’m afraid that if I set out to find the reasons it will end up with me seeing even more faults in devotees. Who needs this? I certainly don’t, and so I’ll leave it at that.
What I found interesting, however, is a public announcement by a devotee who leads charge against HH Hṛdayānanda Mahārāja’s Kṛṣṇa West and homosexual propaganda in ISKCON. He says that he has accepted HH Bhakti Vikasa Swāmī as his śikṣā guru. He used to be Hṛdayānanda’s Mahārāja’s disciple but he renounced him a few years back. Now he’s found a new shelter.
Good thing is that he wasn’t re-iniated. Offering śikṣa, therefore, would not be offensive towards his original guru who remains to be in good standing with GBC. It wasn’t done with his mahārāja’s blessings, however, so it’s still, basically, a whim, guru shopping, so to speak. I hope Bhakti Vikasa Mahāraja talks some sense into him because it’s the mahārāja who leads the battle for staying faithful to Vedic tradition, mostly notably in marriage, but I’m sure it also includes staying faithful to one’s guru. Or at least respectful, which isn’t seems to be the case here.
We could also take this to mean Bhakti Vikasa Swāmī’s declaration of his position in regards to Kṛṣṇa West initiative. Maybe it isn’t but that’s how most people would take it to mean. Expect more ISKCON guru bashing in the near future.
Who needs this aggravation? Sane people stay away from such trolling topics in the material world and we, as devotees, should know better than indulge ourselves in them either, their apparent connection with Kṛṣṇa consciousness notwithstanding.
A day well wasted, hundreds of news articles to look through and nothing to remember. Should have read Bhāgavatam instead, this kind of sādhu saṅga is not worth the trouble