Vanity thought #1056. Reenforcement

Yesterday I talked about treating everything that māyā sends us as Kṛṣṇa’s gift, Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. The logic is pretty solid, I think – Kṛṣṇa promises to take personal care of His devotees, we don’t see Him personally, He acts through the agency of māyā so māyā is His representative and we should not reject whatever she brings us [from Kṣṇa].

We agree to accept suffering as Kṛṣṇa’s lessons but duality is not our philosophy and this means that we should equally agree to accept pleasure. After all, life in Kṛṣṇa’s service is supposed to be pleasant, what kind of God would He be if He left His servants hanging without rewards?

So far so good, but what is scriptural basis for all this? It’s quite possible that I suffer from excessive imagination and it’s easy to question my motives, so, unless this view is supported by śastra or other authorities it could all be just worthless speculation.

I must admit, śastra appears to be silent on this point. I guess I could look for statements that a devotee should accept everything as arranged by Kṛṣṇa but that these kind of statements are too general. If there are any other direct statements in obscure books they would be too specific and context related, we need evidence from Bhagavad Gīta or Śrīmad Bhāgavatam or Caitanya Caritāmṛta.

This in istelf is an interesting topic – we have tons and tons of literature left by our ācāryas and Śrila Prabhupāda wanted us to study their books (SB 1.1.1):

    Within the past five hundred years, many erudite scholars and ācāryas like Jīva Gosvāmī, Sanātana Gosvāmī, Viśvanātha Cakravartī, Vallabhācārya, and many other distinguished scholars even after the time of Lord Caitanya made elaborate commentaries on the Bhāgavatam. And the serious student would do well to attempt to go through them to better relish the transcendental messages.

or here (SB 1.2.12):

    A sincere devotee must, therefore, be prepared to hear the Vedic literature like the Upaniṣads, Vedānta and other literatures left by the previous authorities or Gosvāmīs, for the benefit of his progress. Without hearing such literatures, one cannot make actual progress.

Yet our usual wisdom goes that we should read only books by Śrila Prabhupāda and I totally agree. Why?

For one thing, these two passages were written even before Śrila Prabhupāda left India, at the time when he had no idea what kind of disciples and followers his translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam would attract in the West. Or we could say he had wrong ideas about it. He expected to appeal to the cream of the society, real decision makers, but instead ended up with dregs, lowest of the lowest.

We could immediately spring to our defense and argue that as vaiṣṇavas we shouldn’t be judged by our birth bur rather by our dedication to service and so on but the fact that we do not behave like cream of the cream still remains.

While serious and responsible students might to well studying books by other ācāryas we read them only to increase our own standing in the society and support our own interpretations. Whatever we read, be it Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura or Śad Sandarbhas, we always end up correcting everybody else and imposing our own understanding.

Later quotes and letters by Śrila Prabhupāda addressed to his actual disciples rather than hypothetical readers of the first Canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam make it pretty clear – we should stick to his books and do not pretend we are qualified to read anything “better”. Quotes like this, for example (Letter to Sri Govinda — Jaipur 20 January, 1972):

    There is no need by any of my disciples to read any books besides my books—in fact, such reading may be detrimental to their advancement in Krishna Consciousness.

That’s why I don’t feel like I haven’t done any research if I only think of what is written in our books. Unfortunately, in our books there’s no clear support for my yesterday’s idea. What to do?

There are two ways the idea that we should welcome everything māyā and karma send us as Kṛṣṇa’s mercy can be applied. First, it’s an understanding of paramahaṃsas. They don’t see anything as separate from Kṛṣṇa anyway. There’s nothing to argue here, except that we are not yet paramahamsas and shouldn’t imitate their behavior. Good point, will address later.

Secondly, there is indirect evidence that we should enjoy our karma if it wants us to. This is a rule for neophytes or even non-devotees.

In the Eleventh Canto Kṛṣṇa tells a story of an Avantī Brāhmaṇa and one of the reasons for his fall was this (SB 11.23.7):

    ..He would not even allow sufficient gratification for his own body at the suitable times.

You could look up the neighboring verses as well, especially this one (11.23.24):

    One who fails to distribute his wealth to the proper shareholders — the demigods, sages, forefathers and ordinary living entities, as well as his immediate relatives, in-laws and own self — is maintaining his wealth simply like a Yakṣa and will fall down.

That happened to him before he started on the path of self realization and that’s why I say these rules are meant for non-devotees. Are they meant for us? Not really.

Śrila Prabhupāda never wanted us to torture or exhaust ourselves. Whatever his disciples needed he always made sure they had it. Food, clothes, adequate lodgings, rest – devotees should never lack anything essential, especially not due to artificial restrictions.

This is not an excuse, however, to eagerly accept every bit of sense gratification sent our way by our karma. I didn’t not advocate such indulgence either. Yet when it comes – money, fame, love – things we can’t really escape, how should we deal with it?

I’d say that even if we can’t see them as connected to Kṛṣṇa as paramahaṃsas would, we still have sufficient knowledge to reconstruct this invisible connection. I also hope that we have sufficient experience to see the difference between finding connection to Kṛṣṇa and justifying our indulgence.

What we should be on the lookout for is wanting things. When they come they come, we can’t stop them, but most of the time our problem is that we want them, and that is detrimental to our spiritual progress. Even when we don’t explicitly want them, we get all giddy in anticipation at the very first sign of their arrival. This isn’t a mature response either.

Even more sophisticated enemy is mental speculations. They are also controlled by karma – our knowledge, our ability to think and analyze things, the external inputs and triggers – it’s all out of our control, yet when the opportunity comes we exercise our brainpower to the full. Stopping our minds from arguing with themselves is nearly impossible. We become obsessed with something and we can’t think of anything else, we can’t chant, we can’t read, we just need to prove this idea wrong and that idea right. We replay these arguments in our head over and over again.

How can we accept this as a “gift” from Kṛṣṇa? I don’t know. There must be some purpose behind it that escapes me but I don’t see how knowing this connection to the Lord would help control my mind anyway.

Except this one thing – it can help us see ourselves as different from our minds, get off the mental platform, and, hopefully, the mind will soon follow. Remembering Kṛṣṇa when there’s a storm in your head is a great skill and with experience we should be able to see how to treat our mental fixations properly. I don’t think it can be described in words, not by me anyway, but if infatuation with some subject can help us distance ourselves from our mental gymnastics then it’s a great step towards self-realization regardless of whether the subject is visibly connected to Kṛṣṇa or not.

If we can extract this kind of benefit then it’s Kṛṣṇa’s mercy already, point proven again.

Bottom line – paramahaṃsa vision is correct and perfect, we should accept it unquestionably, we just have to be careful in not imitating paramahaṃsa behavior prematurely.

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