It’s that day again when we celebrate someone’s appearance in this world and every public speech needs to acknowledge this occasion. Everyone obliges, of course, but there are inherent problems with this approach, too.
Words we say in praise of others need to be new and fresh and they need to demonstrate the ever growing depth of our respect for that person, we can’t just say same things five thousand times in a row. What if our respect and appreciation for that person hasn’t grown, however? Should we lie about it? Should we pretend that we’ve gained some new insights?
Or should we say exactly what we feel and if it’s less than last year no one will notice anyway?
I think it’s a sensible solution. Personally, I might feel dissatisfied with my own lack of progress but it won’t affect anyone else. Whether my post fulfills one’s expectations or not doesn’t depend on what I have written on the same subject a year ago, I myself don’t remember what it was exactly either.
Maybe the core of my problem is that I am caught unprepared, that when writing laudatory pieces I feel that I’m not doing my best. The “best” in this case only vaguely related to what was written last year while the new benchmark is determined by more recent entries on related subject. “After I wrote that I should write a lot more on the appearance day” kind of logic.
Either way, it’s Rādhāṣṭamī and I feel myself inadequate for the occasion. I knew this day would come and I thought about and I still failed to prepare myself.
That’s another thing – what does it mean to be “prepared”? Our level of devotion is not going to spike just in time for the holiday, our hearts are not going to become significantly purer to confidently talk about exalted personalities rather than about some stand up comedians who spend their days masturbating. I can’t one day talk about Louis CK and the next day of.., well, I can’t put both these names in one sentence.
On the other hand, preparation is the key to writing a successful tribute. We see it with vyāsa-pūja offerings. We don’t just rattle off whatever comes to our mind, type it up, and send it to the publishers. No one does that. We need to deeply meditate on the subject, find new insights, reach for the purest emotions within our hearts, strip away hypocrisy and other pollutants, and then pray that it’s good enough to be accepted.
We can’t sit on the unfinished tribute forever either, the heightened state of respect and veneration doesn’t last very long and we have a short window to produce something tangible or it will be gone. This is natural, but that is exactly the problem I mean by questioning the meaning of “prepared”.
It’s natural in a sense that every author goes through these stages when writing about each and every subject. Those who write professionally know very well how much time they need to produce each piece of writing. They know their deadlines and they know when to start working so that they submit their articles on time. Start too early and you’ll lose concentration, or, if you finished early, might find something else to add but it would require re-writing the whole thing. Start too late and you’ll be unprepared.
If it’s so natural, what makes our tributes so special? Of course their connection to Kṛṣṇa and His devotees makes them transcendental but I’m talking about using material tools to produce devotional service. It shouldn’t work. Bhakti does not depend on material efforts, and if there’s no bhakti in our writings then what is their worth? Even the best composed offering is worthless without it.
This comes back to the value of sādhana – if we don’t have genuine, spontaneous devotion, we engage in a regulated one, the next best thing. It would not be devotional service per se, ie it would not be ahaituky apratihatā, causeless and unbroken, it would have a beginning and the end, and material motivations, and it would not be anya-abhilāṣitā-śūnyam either. Still it would have some value.
Rather than the visible activity itself the value would be found in our uninterrupted desire to be engaged in service, however imperfectly. This means that it’s not what we do that is important, but that we keep trying to do things no matter what.
From this perspective, we don’t have to produce the best, most eloquent pieces of writing on occasions such as vyāsa-pūja or Rādhāṣṭamī, that would be a materialistic estimate of our efforts. It would depend on external circumstances outside of our control, on how material modes of nature direct our senses and minds during this particular period of time. What if we have a car accident and spend few days in a coma, for example? Our real devotion, real value behind out work, cannot be affect by that, it’s transcendental.
So, an unprepared text is as good as a well thought out one because our underlying devotion doesn’t fluctuate like that. They appear to be different in quality but Kṛṣṇa doesn’t judge us by the work of material gunas, He judges us by the contents of our hearts, which are mostly invisible to our minds, we don’t know them as well as Kṛṣṇa does. He sees us through, we see nothing, we see only our false ego.
The guru and devotees, otoh, see and judge us by our external appearances. A sloppy submission would be rejected and an eloquent one would be accepted regardless of the state of our hearts. The guru would probably see us through but vyāsa-pūja book editors might not.
Anyway, with all these excuses, what do I have to say on the occasion of Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī’s birthday? Have I thought this through? Have I prepared my mind? Have I even tried to purify my heart? No, no, and yes, but not successfully.
The thing is, words are never adequate to describe Her glories and express even the smallest drop of transcendental feelings we should have for Her. We cannot touch Her personality with uncouth words and sounds coming off our tongues. She is the subject we cannot speak about, we are not qualified.
We can only try and repeat what was said by our ācāryas. Apparently, in preparation for this Rādhāṣṭamī Mayapur temple authorities had a series of readings from Kṛṣṇa Book. One day there was some Eastern European mātājī giving Bhāgavatam class and she had some musical instrument with her as she read verses and passages from the books. I don’t know how to feel about these innovations. Gentle sitar, or whatever it was, doesn’t match with thick Eastern European accent. It’s like scratching nails on the blackboard, but that is only my material estimate. I wouldn’t do it myself but I cannot pass judgment on other devotees. Their efforts are appreciated by others and Kṛṣṇa and nobody asked for my opinion.
The other thing I heard, probably on another occasion, is that Śrī Rādhā completes Kṛṣṇa in every respect so He doesn’t need us. I beg to disagree, it’s a very questionable philosophy, imo. Kṛṣṇa is never complete without His devotees, and whether we like it or not but we are His eternal servants, we MUST find a way back home, our places there are vacant.
Does it diminish the role of Śrīmati Rādhārāṇī? No, not in any way except our imaginary one. She is the one who connects everyone to Kṛṣṇa. I would even say that our devotion is an expansion of Hers, we are not independent in our love of God, we can only hope to carry some of Hers in our hearts. Eternal svarūpa or not, She determines whether we are good enough to be presented to the Lord and we learn our service from Her in every respect, including the proper mood.
From where we are now we can’t see Her but She remains our spiritual Queen. When we are ready we will get better acquainted, of course, but for now we are just Her faceless, nameless, unknown subjects She never meets in real life.
Even when Kṛṣṇa descends on this Earth not every one gets a chance to see Him on public occasions, I suspect not every citizen of Ayodhyā got to personally see Lord Rāmacandra either. We are not even born at the same time as Śrī Rādhikā, our place in the big scheme of things is utterly insignificant.
Therefore I don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss Her pastimes without reaching the perfect state of purity. It’s not appropriate to discuss Her lotus feet or Her face or any aspect of Her appearance. We should not volunteer to talk about it unless specifically asked or ordered. No one asked me, so I won’t even go there, not today.
I can’t even make myself say “Hail to the Queen!” because that would elicit materialistic connotations and thus pollute Her pristine image. I better just shut up and encourage everyone to remember Her silently or by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.