All this talk about groundhog day for a brāhmaṇa from Lord Caitanya’s pastimes should not overshadow straightforward messages from that pastime. Śrīla Prabhupāda never missed them but I have a tendency to concentrate on speculative stuff everywhere I go. Perhaps it’s my way of avoiding the important lessons. This story is actually about food and offering it to the Lord.
Yesterday I talked about possible imperfections in that brāhmaṇa’s behavior, which is a very dangerous topic – we should not see imperfections in devotees, especially in those who the Lord personally revealed Himself to. I only did it as a guide to what not to do with our material bodies, I didn’t mean to denigrate that brāhmaṇa’s devotion.
He might remain nameless and less celebrated that other associates of Lord Caitanya but he also was the first one to see Lord’s true nature, years before the Lord showed it to anyone else. That ought to count for something. Even if he didn’t stick around long enough to see the Lord start saṅkīrtana mission in earnest we should probably look at it as a testament to the weakness of the material nature rather than as a lack of bhakti.
Material mind has its own things to do according to the nature of the senses, karma, influences of the stars etc. Even pure devotees must give it some space to express itself and satisfy its senses. For them this satisfaction usually comes from the contact with the Lord but that is mercry, not a rule. As a rule, material senses seek contact with material sense objects, spiritual component does not register with them at all.
I’ve just read a newsletter from my local ISKCON temple and I couldn’t help but notice how our devotees engage their minds and energy in.. Well, they just want to do things, luckily for them they get to do things for Kṛṣṇa, which is fine, but they also do them as a tribute to their minds.
Or, to put it another way, they can’t stop doing them and relish pure spiritual life instead. That’s why Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted us to be active – we are not ready to simply chant and probably never will be, not in this life not in this age.
We naturally want to do things, control things, achieve results, enjoy our power, appreciate our intellect, have our egos stroked by others. In that we are no different from any one else, what makes us special is that we do these things in connection with Kṛṣṇa and that means we gradually purify ourselves from our propensity to enjoy and control.
A big part of our lives is connected to food. Or rather should be connected to food because in pursuit of wealth and careers we have our priorities screwed. Maintaining a family is a legitimate dharma, too, but its only purpose is to engage our sexual organs, otherwise there’s nothing particularly spiritual about it.
I mean if one gives up sex, what is then left for him to worry about? Only food.
Of course we also need shelter and clothes but those things tend to last. You arrange it once and they’ll last for years. We can’t do that with food, we can’t eat like camels or pythons once in every blue moon, we need to eat everyday. We also need to breath and go to the toilet but those things do not demand much effort. Food is where everything is at.
If we have a job or a big service as a part of a society food tends to be taken care of itself but once we give up sex we give up the society and its support, too. We just quietly fall out. Society means massive sense gratification, people form themselves into groups to make sense gratification easier, plus there’s pride of belonging to the group, too.
Society members feel entitled to certain things, like relaxation, wealth, love, food, of course, etc etc. In some groups everyone must have a house and a car, in some groups also a business, in some groups access to easy credit is a given, in some groups everyone should be married, in some groups everyone should have sex free from commitment and so on.
I have a friend who spent a few months in Singapore and all he talks about now is early retirement and plans to rent a house in Italy for a two week vacation. These things never come up in our usual circle but for Singaporeans those are trade mark dreams.
A devotee should naturally lose interest in those kind of desires and that means slipping off the social radar. What is left then? Not much, only food.
We do our jobs or our service, we get some payment in return, but we have no interest in spending it on ourselves. If we are set with shelter and have clothes to wear we have absolutely nothing to live for. The only problem, as I said, is food.
In the company of devotees we get prasādam, there’s always something to eat there, but in the company of karmīs situation is different. At best we can count on finding vegetarian food but cooking and offering is out of the question. If we have a family then we can have someone else to cook for us so we can take lunch from home but if you give up sex life (and family, too), you are on your own.
Cooking for yourself is tough. I’ve never mastered it. I was taught to cook for about half a dozen people, I don’t know how to cook for more and I don’t know how to cook for less. It’s half a cup of rice, half potato, half tomato, a pinch of spices – I just don’t feel comfortable with this. Too much work for little outcome, and then you have to do it twice a day? Forget it. And messing with chapatis? Who needs this aggravation?
I’d rather cook a lot, put food in a fridge, and microwave it as necessary, which is against the rules but I have no power to change this habit. At least I know it’s a problem so maybe in the future I’ll work on solving it.
That brāhmaṇa, however, cooked every day and only ate what was offered to Kṛṣṇa. If he couldn’t offer food he wouldn’t eat it. That was a very easy way for him to find out what was allotted to him by the Lord. If it’s not prasādam then it’s not meant to be eaten, it’s not “food”. Try to do it when you have a fridge full of stuff including leftover prasādam from three days ago.
If you have to eat unoffered food outside then it’s even more difficult to determine what is your allotted share. Nothing at all? That seems too radical. Every living being has its allotted share regardless of whether he offers it to the Lord or not. Taking that share is our duty, taking more is sin, refusing it is false renunciation. Offering it to the Lord is best but it’s not always possible.
Eventually, as this pastime with the brāhmaṇa shows, a devotee must reduce his food intake only to what he cooks and offers to the Lord, plus occasional prasādam prepared by others. If we do that, however, it would take most of our time. That brāhmaṇa was a mendicant, he probably begged for food most of his days, as did the Six Gosvāmīs, then cooked and offered it. Sometimes he was invited in people’s houses and cooked there. If one depends on others in this way without being part of the society is must be really tough.
People do not feel obliged to give charity to outsiders, that’s just a fact of life. I don’t have any personal experience but I believe beggars always appeal to some common ground (war veteran, lost house to a bank, lost job in recession etc), and I’ve never seen foreign beggars anywhere.
I don’t know how relying solely on Kṛṣṇa in that sense can even work – I think one must expect Kṛṣṇa to act through his own social group members, either by getting a job or by begging. Hmm, interesting point – does it prove once again that we cannot be Kṛṣṇa’s devotees but must serve His representatives? In the material world it makes total sense but I think I need to consider it closely, hopefully tomorrow.