Yesterday I talked about aspects of the Absolute available to ordinary people. Everyone relates to nothing but the Absolute. I can say that thanks to our philosophy of bhedābheda which allows for everything we see to be treated as non-different from God. Or at least I think I can say that.
Animals and babies see Absolute as object of their senses, when they evolve they realize that there are other living entities around them and so interacting with them takes higher priority than simply pandering to one’s own sense organs.
Then comes the state of “I think, therefore I am”. Thoughts lead to ideas lead to ideology and that takes precedent over other living beings, sometimes in the form of genocide.
Then comes real wisdom, a quality greatly missed in the modern age, but something Buddhists were really good at not very long time ago. It’s the ultimate realization of impersonalists, the culmination of neti neti. I mentioned Buddhists because accomplished Indian impersonalists are too far removed from us in time while Buddhism was seen as really working only half a century ago.
Some would claim Buddhism is still working and that there are still Indian impersonalists on the vijñāna level of realization but all I can see in the present generation is pretentious bragging without any substance, but that is just me.
I would also say that no one has ānanda realization of the Absolute, too. How would I know? I can’t tell if a devotee can see and relate to Kṛṣṇa directly, can I? It’s above my clearance level, right? Right, but we also have ācāryas to settle claims like that for us. We don’t need to know things ourselves to know them to be true. Works everywhere, it’s the basis of our philosophy.
Sadly, we don’t honestly expect our gurus to make claims like that based on their own realization, never mind what we sing during maṇgala-ārati. We can trust Śrīla Prabhupāda and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, however. Even if they did not rule out existence of ānanda maya level devotees altogether they did make statements about the alleged ones congregating in their usual hangouts. “All kaniṣṭhas”, Srīla Bhaktisiddhānta famously said.
It needs to be remembered here that saying that there are no pure devotees is a different claim. Pure devotees dedicate their entire existence to the service of Kṛṣṇa, every moment, every breath of their lives. It doesn’t mean they see Kṛṣṇa’s spiritual form, they humbly accept that now it’s not the time, that the Lord wants them to serve through their material bodies and senses, and as long as the Lord is pleased they are happy enough.
Pure devotees do not seek bliss of ānanda maya, they seek pleasure of guru and Kṛṣṇa, however small, and so they are above selfishness inherent in the five kośa model.
This gives a lot of leeway when judging someone’s realization, not that we should be engaged in it anyway. It becomes important when we question our own dedication – we need results to keep going, we need milestones, we need marks of progress. This need itself disqualifies us from being pure but that’s what we have now, can’t pretend we are any better than that.
I’m speaking for myself here, of course, there ARE devotees who can’t care less how advanced they are, they just keep chanting and doing their service, but I bet most readers of this post could relate to this sentiment. I’m not writing for pure devotees here, they have much better sources of “entertainment”.
Anyway, ānanda maya is unobtainable, we should start with that. Theoretically, everything is possible but it shouldn’t even be our goal. We should aim for the steady, uninterrupted service in our present condition, humble and patient.
Good things come to those who wait, they say, but we can’t afford to maintain that attitude either – we shouldn’t wait for ānanda, period. Not in our line of rūpanugās, which we can’t desert and opt for lesser lines of devotion either. We are screwed here, we need to be fully, totally, eternally unselfish, no other choice.
That’s ideally, but what do we have now?
I would argue that quite often we mask our actual lack of realization by referring to pure devotees I described above. We think that we are just like them and that’s why we have nothing to show for our efforts. That somehow what we do now is the best thing ever already, can’t get any better while in this world.
It actually is, chanting is the best thing ever, all considered, but we also retain a fair amount of hypocrisy, which should be totally absent to claim any level of purity.
Typical example – we chant as if we were Haridāsa Ṭhākura re-incarnated but then we get hungry and anna maya realization of prāsada takes over. We just can’t stop eating, we can’t think of not eating, we feel entitled to consuming food at certain intervals. Anna maya takes precedence over chanting, which means we don’t value it too much.
Another example – we want to serve our guru and Kṛṣṇa but then we fall for a girl and suddenly our mind is overwhelmed with choices – should we marry and continue service the mission by being gṛhasthas and raising Kṛṣṇa conscious children or should we suppress our sexuality and continue against the calls of our bodies. We know how it ends, and we know that entering gṛhastha āśrma actually feels right – just as ordinary people do. Following varṇāsrama takes precedence over chanting, which shouldn’t happen to pure devotees.
Once we are hooked on varṇāṣrama we do everything else non-devotees do and we then go through the same steps of realization of the Absolute as they do. Taking a job, birth of a child – it all feels right, it all feels like a natural step forward, which it is, but it’s not pure devotion, it’s what Lord Caitanya dismissed right away as being external.
We give up chanting for obsessions of our minds, too. We move our lips but our brains keep arguing and proving something, or dreaming of something else. Mind work takes precedence over our chanting, too.
We can find devotees who cherish wisdom and detachment from all that jazz, too. Maybe they do have spontaneous attraction to Kṛṣṇa, maybe they enjoy a bit of vijñana maya, who knows, I’m not qualified to tell.
My point is that we can’t jump those steps, we need to go through them just like the rest of the human population. We *could* have completed these lower stages in previous lives but if we have to go through them again and struggle at every step then we probably haven’t.
What could make it all irrelevant is that if we just kept chanting and stopped worrying about our lives we would reach perfection very soon. Let our bodies go through the motions, let them live out their karma, it has nothing to do with us and our only duty – chanting.
We can’t take our bodies to the spiritual world, they are inadequate for that, we were born in the wrong age, and that means a lot of stuff bodies are forced to do by the material gunas and the law of karma will be unacceptable. We can’t stop hunger, we can’t stop sexual desire, we can’t stop sense of self-preservation, so what?
Let those things run their course, we can just keep on chanting. Sooner or later all the inferior modes of realization of the Supreme will fade away. “Marriage? Nah, let me do my rounds instead. Children? God, not now, but if you insist., let me be done with that and return to my rounds. Food? Sex? Bodily pain? Future security? I can’t believe you are expecting me to take those things seriously. Really? Instead of chanting? Okay, I’ll have some just because you insist but then I’ll be back to my rounds, can’t wait” – that’s how I think our inner monologue should go.
Wishful thinking, I know, but what else have we got left?