Vanity thought #1168. FDG update

I thought I would give it a pass but a week later it still lingers in my mind – GBC recently had a special session dedicated specifically to female dīkṣā guru, and it was a very important event even if no conclusions were reached.

It was important because it wasn’t just some committee meeting but a full blown GBC with everyone who is anyone being there, and because it was probably the last step before issuing a final statement on the matter. Well, might not be the last but they wheel has turned, they WILL have to come up with something after all these preparations.

They started slowly, by going through a thousand pages of quotes from śāstra, Śrīla Prabhupāda, and previous ācāryas. Anything of any importance that has ever been said on the matter was there. They had a separate committee to collect these quotes for two months.

It’s a big task and they approached it systemically. First, they had to put everyone in the right mood, they didn’t want a slug fest between deeply entrenched opponents, then they limited the scope of discussion to certain non-controversial matters. They split participants in groups, no doubt perfectly selected, and put simple but thought provoking questions before them that didn’t require yes/no answers, like “what effect do you think…” Very clever.

Well, the actual list of question is on Dandavats but I’m not going for accuracy here. I’m not going to discuss what I think about the questions either, I just appreciate how they elicited people’s opinions in a way that let them justify their positions and had the opponents try to supplement rather than confront them.

We all know that there will be effects on our society, for example, and discussing the exact nature of these effects makes people collaborate rather than express their opposition to the causes. It won’t work every time in every debate but if the atmosphere is right it might do wonders.

They say the session was organized by a “professionally trained facilitator” and it showed. This is also the part where I think I mention things I didn’t like about this whole idea.

What does “professionally trained facilitator” mean, for example. It sounds as if he was a professional but actually it means he was *trained* by professionals. That is, he took some conflict resolution course somewhere, paid money for it, and came back to ISKCON to apply his newfound knowledge. There’s nothing wrong with it per se but it opens a possibility for abuse.

FDG is not a small issue, essentially it’s about ascribing God’s power to a person. Who can make such a judgment? Who can speak on God’s behalf here? Obvious answer is “nobody”. We might not like it just like we don’t like absence of “self-luminous ācārya” but it’s the truth. Still, we need a solution and GBC tried their best, I believe, but that might not be good enough.

Materialistic conflict resolution is meant to overcome ego-based differences. People’s identities and aspirations are repositioned in such a way that they don’t immediately clash. They all bring huge chips on their shoulders but they are not asked to talk about that but rather on neutral topics that at the same time are close enough to the subject to keep them interested. If such facilitation succeeds it’s great, it reduces conflicts and comes up with acceptable solutions, but it doesn’t produce spiritual truth.

The idea behind it is that everyone should negotiate, everyone should get something and give something in return. Absolute Truth is non-negotiable, however. We can’t arrive to it through compromises. In fact, in spiritual matters compromises are forbidden. You put an old man to a nice young lady, let him talk and display his wisdom and maturity, and he will probably agree on something in the end just to fulfill the expectations. He can’t come away from the workshop like this without some form of success, and success here is defined by the organizers, not by Kṛṣṇa. It doesn’t have to be a lady, btw, anyone who would be impressed will do.

I mean the whole GBC committed itself to solving this once and for all, they had a meeting, now they must come to a conclusion even if a truly spiritual answer is still not there.

I’d hate to see FDG issue decided through trickery like this. I’d hate to see people coming away and thinking “God, what did I just agree to? And for what? An opportunity for a nice chat? As an obligation to come up with something no matter what?” I’d rather have both sides remain uncompromising in their positions.

We can’t have that in our society, however, and that’s why we need politics. GBS approached this issue as a political, not spiritual one, as is their duty, but that also limits the effect and recognition given to would be female gurus. “Yes, yes, they wanted it, they convinced the council, but I still don’t see them as authorized by Kṛṣṇa” – future thoughts like this won’t help anyone.

Still, ISKCON is in Kṛṣṇa’s hands, whatever GBC decides won’t ever go against Kṛṣṇa’s will, so I’m not going to freak out about this. In the end they came to a very sensible solution anyway – most members feel positive about FDG if their concerns about negative effects are met. They had a straw vote like this – non-binding but nevertheless reflecting GBC’s opinion and future course of discussion. Good job.

Ironically, this answer was obvious right from the start, just as there was nothing new in the thousand pages they went through again in preparation for this discussion. It’s the same old “can, if they are qualified” that has been with us forever – if gurus are truly qualified then our current concerns will not be a problem.

Problem is – how do we decide who is qualified or not? Without self-luminous ācārya we can’t make such decisions on our own, no matter how many meetings we hold. I do not have the answer to this question either – how do we go from rule based assessment to proclaiming that this or that person has an overriding authority from Kṛṣṇa?

With male devotees it’s easy because simply following the rules is enough but giving dīkṣā guru duties to a woman requires extra proof of her qualifications because they are not in the rule book.

This comparison between men and women exposed an interesting point I’ve never heard before – potential male gurus need to show the proof of their financial stability. What? Seriously? Financial stability? Umm.. Really?

Here’s the exact quote: “Should a potential guru have to demonstrate financial, ashrama and personal stability (required in part of male gurus)?” It doesn’t give any details and I don’t think there’s anything like that in ISKCON law book either but it sounds plausible the way things have been going in our society.

I don’t know what to say, I hope it’s just a misunderstanding.

But before it gets cleared, if ever, I see MacBook Pros in front of every GBC member in this photo in a completely different way now. Not that I saw it any flattering way before.

GBC and their MacBook Pros

Nah, just leave it, let them have their politics and their computers, it’s all for the good cause. I can’t afford to waste time on discussing this – Kṛṣṇa isn’t waiting.

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Vanity thought #1167. Pope’s roll

Fresh from embracing gay values and blessing divorcées, Pope Francis went to the altar of science and declared allegiance to Big Bang and evolution. I swear I’m not searching for Pope related news but he keeps saying outrageous things that get widely reported and sneak into my news feeds.

A couple of days ago the Pope was speaking at a Vatican science conference and he gave a speech where he said quite a few head turning things about the subject. It wasn’t impromptu speaking, he read from a paper, words carefully selected by his speech writers and approved by himself. He meant what he said.

The speech was in Italian, I can’t understand it, but so far no one claimed that published bits were mistranslated or taken out of context. The only remaining problem is that news media might have put them in different contexts to stress their own narratives. I will probably do so, too, as Hare Kṛṣṇas we have our own story line to develop and Pope’s speech should be seen from our perspective, too.

Depending on what one considers important, there are several sentences to give most prominence to. I, for example, can’t get my head around “God is not a divine being..” but most media outlets focused on “or a magician” part of the speech, which came out twice.

Maybe it was a mistranslation here, I don’t know how any religious leader could say “God is not a divine being”. I don’t know what Pope Francis meant there, maybe just one particular aspect of God’s divinity that he refuses to acknowledge – the one where He acts as a creator. Maybe it’s so ridiculous that it’s not meant to be taken at a face value but then he also argued WHY God was not a divine being – in the magician part. He was serious. He stripped God of at least some of His divine powers.

Now, the most often quoted magician part is this:

    When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so.

Ummm, how would he know? It was this same Pope who said he can’t judge if gay priests are okay by God or not, so how can he claim to know what God did during the creation?

Again, I don’t know what he meant there. From Bible’s Genesis God appears to be pretty magical, creating the entire universe in just six days. Of course it could be argued whether Christians should read it literally, our Lord Brahmā’s day consists of a thousand of maha-yugas, untold billions in Earth’s years, so on that scale six days is not particularly fast. Still, Genesis stuff IS magical.

There’s also the point about Pope’s choice of words – what’s the difference between “magical” and “miraculous”? In this context it seems the Pope denies God’s miracles. He actually denies that God is “able to do everything”, with His alleged magic wand. I don’t know what kind of God he is talking about but God is able to EVERYTHING by definition.

From here Pope went on to justify evolution: “He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.” He also said that God gave creation full autonomy while also guaranteeing his constant presence in nature and people’s lives (how? what kind of presence?)

Perhaps Pope’s statements can be explained away and his new take on Genesis can be squeezed into familiar Christian tenets but I think whatever jugglery required for that would run into a myriad more questions from the orthodoxy. Can’t wait what Intelligent Design people respond to that.

Intelligent Design, btw, seems to be the main target of Pope’s attack. There was another Catholic scholar speaking at the same conference who went directly after the ID and in the end it seems Catholic church has embraced evolution through *natural* selection rather than the Creator’s direct involvement in the design.

Atheists jumped on it, the principle of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” worked fine here. Destroy the ID first and deal with Catholics later. Catholics do not seem to represent any real threat to atheism anyway, thanks to this Pope they have excluded God from every day life already, now God is just a sentimental notion for people to hang on to. God has no real powers, He doesn’t control anything, He gave us full autonomy, there are no God’s laws as opposed to nature’s laws, so who cares if Catholics still believe in Him or not.

This is where it can affect us because our ISKCON scientists tied their work with success of Intelligent Design. The strategy, afaik, is simple – sow doubts in Darvin’s natural selection, introduce the Creator, answer all subsequent questions from our books. So far, we have put all our efforts into discrediting evolution, Catholics embracing it would seem like a betrayal from people who were supposed to be our allies.

Well, it’s not up to me to judge, devotees working in science and with scientists might see the situation completely differently. Personally, I won’t be surprised if they ditch ID, too, and for the same reasons Pope did – it’s unfashionable.

Of course I don’t know what exactly moved the Pope to sign up for evolution without creator’s control but his overtures to atheists and gays were certainly influenced by public opinion. When he allowed communion for divorcées, for example, one of the cardinals explained that it would bring many more Catholics back to the churches again. Same attitude is evident in lots of Pope’s talks – how to make his church more appealing to the modern population, how to make it relevant again.

This is another area where his approach might impact ISKCON, too – we used to cite Catholic Church as an example of organization that remained conservative, did not compromise on its values or its teachings, and managed to keep its flock better than crowd pleasing protestants. From CC example we, and I meant our ISKCON strategists, concluded that “innovations” do not work in the long term. People go for them in the beginning but they won’t stay, they need commitments to something permanent, something they can sacrifice their momentarily interests for. Up until this Pope, Catholic church provided such a sanctuary and we thought we should not compromise on our practices, too.

CC changing course hasn’t changed the argument but now it must be cited with a disclaimer that we don’t know how these changes will affect the church in the next couple of generations. At least what happened from the revolution of the 60s and 70s up until now still stays.

Another popular point in Pope’s speech concerned the Big Bang. This one is not so important for us, however, not as much as denial of Intelligent Design. Theories about what caused the Big Bang are a dime a dozen, we don’t have a stake in that, it’s not described in our literature and we speculate about it just as everyone else. “Evolution”, however, was done by Lord Brahmā, and he does it every day when he wakes up, repopulates the universe with all the species from scratch. That we will not concede, not matter what the Pope says, though losing such an important ally is obviously disappointing.

OTOH, CC has accepted evolution half a century ago, long before Intelligent Design became a thing. The previous Pope seemed to lean towards ID but Catholic scholars speaking against it now weren’t born yesterday either, it’s just that they are given more prominence under the current regime.

Oh, and the best (or the worst) part of it was that this Pope delivered his evolution speech departing from the course set by the previous pontiff while unveiling a bust in Benedict’s honor. That looks mighty hypocritical to me.

Vanity thought #1166. Spiritual justice

Continuing the old topic from last week – so far all talk about hell and atonement has been confined to karma kanda interests and therefore inapplicable to devotees. Vaiṣṇavas don’t go to hell, Kṛṣṇa won’t allow it no matter what we do. Why? Interesting question.

Common answer is that He just wouldn’t let us suffer that much, He is very kind and forgiving. It would break His heart to see His devotees in pain. Another answer would be is that He promised in Bhagavad Gītā to absolve His devotees of all sinful reactions and specifically told us not to worry about it anymore.

If we think about it a little, however, it would appear to be slightly more complicated than that. Practically, it is still true so it doesn’t matter if we understand the mechanics of it or not, but if we happen to push the boundaries or find ourselves in a difficult situation then a little more knowledge wouldn’t hurt. I can’t claim to know anything special here but simply considering what we already learned in our classes might be useful enough.

First, the boundaries – we might not go to hell but we certainly continue to suffer just like everybody else. We certainly can’t escape old age and death, and we can experience what others call hellish life here. In some cases it might actually be necessary for our spiritual advancement.

Kṛṣṇa can take away our wealth, for example. Money means a lot in this world, most of the time we have no idea how poverty really feels, how many things we might lose when money goes away. Our creature comforts will go, our position in the society will go, respect we got accustomed to will go, maybe friends and even family.

Generally, it’s fairly easy to survive on whatever is provided by our karma no matter how bad it gets because it’s one of the major functions of the illusion itself – it WILL force us to feel content about our lives no matter how miserable we become. There’s also the fact that as long as we have the body there will also be minimal provisions for its maintenance. Air, water, and some food will always be there, and we’ll always have time to sleep.

In this sense we’ll never experience real hell on Earth. Moreover, Kṛṣṇa taking away our family affection, OTOH, will feel like a real help and losing our family might be impossible to escape anyway. It’s like sex – if we want to be with Kṛṣṇa we must give it up, will hurt in the beginning but it will be worth it.

To that end we might be forced to live with people who genuinely hate us and the worst part would be the sense of betrayal because this hate would come from people we relied on all our lives. The realization of this irreversible loss of humanly love might also feel like a torture. Unlike water and air, love is not included as part of conditioned material existence.

So, losing family affection might be a very painful but also very necessary to give up all hope in happiness of material life. As long as we harbor even the faintest of hopes we won’t be able to surrender to Krishna, we can’t approach Him with a plan B in the back of our minds.

And if you think losing family is bad, wait until vaiṣṇava community turns its back on you. It’s been known to happen and it CAN happen to anybody. Or, more often, one can just lose its support. That happened to thousands and thousands of devotees, a common thing.

The point is that such material suffering is spirituality useful and no matter what Kṛṣṇa has promised He might force it on us for our own good. Question is – will it be fair?

Fair in what sense? In the material, karmic sense of things it might be not – we worship the greatest, the most powerful, the wealthiest God in all creation and we get nothing useful in return. That has always been vaiṣṇavas’ fate, even in Lord Caitanya’s time. From the POV of a materialist or even a worshiper of demigods, vaiṣṇavas are stupid. There’s no return on their investment.

In the spiritual sense, however, all material treasures are not worth a drop of attraction to the Holy Name. We will never put one against another for comparison. All the treasures in the world can’t bring one even tiniest bit of devotion so whatever we lose in the material sense is insignificant.

Comfort, health, wealth, family, love – none of that matters to devotees. None of that is even considered when begging Kṛṣṇa for a drop of bhakti. Bhakti itself is non-negotiable, it doesn’t have a price, it doesn’t have an equivalent, it can’t be expressed in dollars and cents, or lifetimes, or piety, or fame and respect. It’s transcendental to all those things.

It means that all our concerns about arranging our service here in the best possible way are futile – none of the material conditions of our service matter. It doesn’t matter what it brings to us, it doesn’t matter if it makes our lives more difficult or easier, it doesn’t matter what it makes people think of us, it just doesn’t matter.

Wait, but shouldn’t we take responsibility for our service and see that we do our real best for our guru and Kṛṣṇa? Yes, but we are not entitled to results, only to efforts. It’s not the results that we offer to the Lord, it’s our attitude.

Generally, there’s a connection between responsible service and satisfactory results but it should not be taken backwards, ie good results are not caused by good service. Kṛṣṇa doesn’t judge us by the amount of money we raise for Him, He doesn’t judge us by the taste of food we prepare for Him, He doesn’t judge us be the opulence of our deity worship – all of that is so insignificant that it doesn’t even register on His radar. There’s no such thing as “good result” for Him.

What we consider “good enough” here is nothing by the measures of the spiritual world. It’s like Rāvaṇa who thought he was the biggest badass in the whole universe until he was taken to a golden mountain that turned out to be just an earring that fell of slaughtered Hiraṇyakaśipu.

Another point to consider is that this is Kali yuga, things are generally going so bad here that anyone who has lived long enough notices how they deteriorate from one year to another. Fruit and vegetables become tasteless, for example. They have no vitality in them anymore, only looks, even “organic” stuff doesn’t cut it. Flowers don’t smell as nice as before, and don’t even start on people’s religiosity and other virtues.

So, if Kṛṣṇa doesn’t judge us by the results, why should we judge fellow devotees that way? We tend to think, if not say it outloud, that if someone doesn’t bring results then his devotion is lacking. That is actually offensive. We cannot say such things about others’ bhakti as a matter of principle. There would never be a valid reason to accuse any devotee of lacking surrender. We can accuse them of all kinds of material faults, including sloppy service, but we should never question their surrender.

In our society Kṛṣṇa is everybody’s life and soul but we all got material bodies to deal with and so we might not look pure enough but it doesn’t change the fact that even the slightest drop of devotion, even expressed years and decades ago, outweighs lifetimes of sinful activities. Once surrendered, always surrendered, people don’t go back on their bhakti, only their bodies appear to.

Now, if we apply this rule to ourselves it certainly doesn’t look that way but our own humility in this case should not be projected on others – we can see ourselves as fallen but we can’t even think about other devotees that way.

Hmm, spiritual justice is a tricky thing, and I haven’t even touched on actual spiritual component of our lives here, only externalities.

Vanity thought #1165. Guru dream

We don’t usually care much about dreams but when either the deities or the guru makes an entrance we should notice. I’ve never heard of anyone seeing Kṛṣṇa Himself and I don’t know whether we can take such dreams seriously. I think not.

Deities and gurus are legitimate representatives of the Lord’s spiritual form, which is invisible to our senses, so if they appear in a dream or in person they don’t break any particular laws but if Kṛṣṇa Himself shows up we should be suspicious. He should not be visible in any of the material states of consciousness. Of course He can always reveal Himself but He won’t be part of a dream, it would be part of a fully transcendental experience.

Deities and gurus, OTOH, can always penetrate our subtle bodies because, like us, they have ones, too. With them the question is only whether their entrance is legitimate or is only a part of our imagination. We imagine all kinds of people in our dreams and we never assume we had an actual connection with them, I guess we can dismiss dreams with deities and gurus in the same way but, as I said, we should take notice on the off chance the communication is real.

This dream that I had the other day illustrated this point rather well.

I don’t remember how it started, it’s just that devotees mentioned that my guru was in town and he had a darśan. At a train station, of all places. I didn’t recognize anything in that dream, not the temple I heard the news in, not the city, not the train station itself.

Anyway, I went there with a friend but the station was empty, there was a guard walking inside and he said there were no trains scheduled, there were no people, and most of the lights were off. So my friend whipped up his phone and started making phone calls to our senior godbrothers to find what was going on.

A few texts later he had a content expression on his face and we went into a basement, the guard didn’t stop us. Down there was some sort of a VIP lounge, because it was rather well appointed, with carpets and couches instead of plastic chairs in the common areas. There were no more than a couple of dozen people there, our guru sat on the sofa in the far end, there was someone else sitting next to him, some devotees grouped in front of him on the floor, the rest was scattered on other sofas. It looked rather informal, the guru wore karmī clothes, and there was no sign that it was a Hare Kṛṣṇa gathering.

I was about to offer a full daṇḍavat but then remembered specific instructions on greetings in public places and decided not to hit the floor. The guru noticed our group and accepted us with a smile. I did the right thing, I thought.

For a minute or two I just silently drank his appearance, his eyes, his face, his lean body, glasses, signs of aging, wrinkles, etc. He lost weight, I thought, but mostly I was just wondering that if that’s what God’s representative looks like then this should be standard of spiritual appearance, not the other way around. He was perfect, just as I expected and just as I remembered.

Then I also remembered that guru is there to be listened to, not just watched, and tried to concentrate on what he was saying. At this time he invited questions and one of my friends moved up and asked one.

This is where I realized that my friends were actually my old schoolmates, not my godbrothers. The one who was talking on the phone was now a policeman, I heard, and the one asking the question was one of my old jock friends.

That’s when I realized that I was in a dream and when my mind took over. It wasn’t anymore about listening to what my guru had to say but about directing my dream in the best possible direction. I wasn’t after the answers anymore but tried to imagine the answers I would wanted to hear.

That’s when I woke up and lay in my bed, stunned and trying to remember each detail. My mind was still into it and I tried to formulate my own questions and see them answered but eventually I realized that it has become my own mental effort rather than a surprise entrance by my guru.

Now plenty of time has passed and some parts that were very vivid started to lose shape. I can’t remember the one word text that served as some sort of a password, for example. I saw it before, wondered what it meant, remembered, but now it’s gone.

All that is left is the feeling of awe and wonder I had when I saw my guru, even if I went to that train station knowing what to expect I was still completely overwhelmed. It felt nothing like when I imagine talking to my guru or to Kṛṣṇa, those are mostly one sided conversations without any feedback but in this dream the guru actually showed himself to me.

Shortly after that, however, I went mental and this vision was lost and replaced by my own desired images. That’s why I said in the beginning that we should take notice of impressive dreams like that but not trust them entirely. I could clearly see the difference between “revelation” and “imagination”, and I’m still not sure if even the “revelation” was real.

Luckily, I wasn’t given any specific orders to execute but if I had I would have had a hard time deciding whether they were real and whether I could justify following them by what I have been told in a dream. No orders, no dilemma.

OTOH, not getting any specific instructions is like a dream wasted, too. It hasn’t changed my life in any significant way, just added that amazing feeling of awe and reverence that I was starting to forget. I guess in the dream I was about 20m away, not close enough for any real communication, maybe there’s significance in that, too. Maybe that’s what I am good for now – just be there, take in the scene, don’t spoil it by opening my mouth.

I guess all I am trying to do now is to make the best out of my experience, strip it of any uncertainty and leave only what is completely safe to remember. Even in dreams our lives are full of garbage and I’m not going to sanctify it just because my guru was there, too.

I also realize that I don’t have any particular questions, that I know all I need to know already – the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, everything else irrelevant and I haven’t made enough progress with chanting to ask about anything else.

I’m sorry if this post appears selfish and boring, I needed to write it down mostly to settle my own mind and tie down my own memories before they disappear forever.

Vanity thought #1164. “Transcendental” departure

Today is Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance day. No one is happy when ācāryas leave this world but generally we accept it as a transcendental pastime and consider their reunion with Kṛṣṇa in the spiritual world as a perfect conclusion of their lives. Sad for us, good for them. We also talk about how ācāryas’ lives go on through their books and instructions, and, of course memories, which is good for us.

All of that is true but it also masks the grim reality of death. We choose to focus on “transcendental” aspects of our faith instead. We accept Kṛṣṇa’s hand where we often see nothing but human suffering. Some deaths are easier than others, some vaiṣṇavas leave this world in a cheerful mood, Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t, he suffered like you won’t wish anyone else. And now we say it was transcendental.

Okay, it was transcendental, but I would argue that we corrupted the meaning of transcendence here to suit our own needs, primarily to fool ourselves into believing that death is nothing but unspeakable ugliness. We call it “transcendental” not because we see it as such but because we refuse to accept the reality of someone dying. We want it to be all about rainbows and unicorns instead.

I mean it’s easy – transcendental existence is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. What is eternal about someone dying? Our memories? Okay, but those are *our* memories, the person who is dying surely does not want to “relish” them again and again.

We can say that death is an eternal solution but, again, it’s only from our perspective. The same soul who dies today will get to live a new life tomorrow. And when talking about vaiṣṇavas we also talk about eternity of their pastimes and teachings, not eternity of the death itself.

It’s more likely that waiting for someone to die feels like an eternal torture. We don’t know what is best – quick departure or drawn out struggle for half conscious existence filled with unimaginable pain. We can’t commit ourselves to either outcome, we can’t admit that sometimes we wish death would come faster, and we can’t really say “I wish you’d live like that for another year”.

This was very obvious during Prabhupāda’s last couple of months. He himself and devotees who were with him were torn between wishing for staying here or moving on. Sometimes they seemed to be resigned that Prabhupāda was about to leave this world, sometimes they prayed that he’d stay a bit longer. When his body didn’t cooperate they also realized that keeping Prabhupāda here artificially wasn’t in HIS best interests. One day they were all full of hope and plans, the next day reality of hopelessly deteriorating health overwhelmed them. New doctors meant new hopes, new failures meant new desperation.

So, where was I? There is no eternity in death. There’s certainly no bliss. No one would describe Prabhupāda’s last days as blissful. As a spirit soul he might have been, as a body it would be a gross misrepresentation of reality.

Problem is that we don’t know what is real and what is not. We assume that Śrīla Prabhupāda experienced some other level of reality and we say that on that level he was happy, but that is just our assumption. I would say that every time he directed his consciousness through his body he felt enormous pain. We (or rather our seniors) did not relate to him on any other level of reality but through his body. All we could see is body dying in excruciating pain. No bliss.

The bliss could have been there on occasions, I would not argue against that, but there’s no permanent, uninterrupted bliss in the dying body.

Maybe there was full knowledge. I hope there was full knowledge and Śrīla Prabhupāda wasn’t forced by an illusion to think he was his body. It doesn’t have to be material illusion, btw, spiritual illusion works just the same, like it did for the residents of earthly Vṛndāvana or Māyāpura. I hope that this illusion is not as painful to experience as the material one, but from the looks of it it feels just the same.

Then the question would be “what is full knowledge?” From a paramahṃsa POV it might be very different from what we, conditioned beings, consider as knowledge. When we talk about full knowledge we tend to ask questions about actual geometry of the universe or subtle bodies of ghosts and spirits or lots of other questions that seems important to us. I seriously doubt that ācāryas struggling through the experience of their death possess that kind of knowledge at the time.

So, what exactly does “transcendence” mean in such cases?

I’m afraid the very best scenario is complete detachment and indifference to the goings on of one’s body. Is it in pain? Is it dying? Do its systems shut off one by one? Does it have any dignity left? None of that would concern a “transcendental” person. That last question is important.

When Śrīla Prabhupāda’s body was about to die his disciples were trying to maintain his usual appearance and persona. He was supposed to be an all-knowing, all-powerful man, the leader of a spectacular world-wide movement, naturally drawing respect and admiration. That’s not how he looked on his death bed, though. That look is not how our leaders wanted the world to remember him – the video of his last days and his last rites were not shown publicly and I think it was ISKCON official policy to restrict its viewing.

I think it was a sensible decision but sooner or later devotees need to come to grips with the reality of death – it’s undignified. We don’t want our ācāryas to look like that. They, however, are transcendental to what we or anybody else thinks of their bodies and their legacy.

This last point is important, too – we need to preserve ācāryas’ legacy for ourselves and for the future generations but I would argue that paramahaṃsas leave these matters to Kṛṣṇa, they are not attached to universal glory, nor do they take any credits for their achievements in this world. They don’t care about their legacy, we do.

The knowledge of a departing vaiṣṇava is full but obviously not in our sense. Knowing that Kṛṣṇa is God is already full knowledge, for example. We sort of know it, too, but we also add a lot of conditions that reflect our attachments to this world. For a departing vaiṣṇava there should be no such conditions left, the less he “knows” about our material subjects the better. The moment of perfection is probably when material mind and intelligence give up completely and there’s only faith and dependence on the Lord. We can’t see it, we still search for sings of external consciousness but there’s nothing transcendental about it.

Then there’s realization that complete detachment from body’s interests is impossible. Even Lord Caitanya maintained connection with external world. Living here forces us to be self-interested and egotistical, they don’t talk about instinct of self-preservation for nothing. This seems incompatible with our understanding of transcendence, too. When we see it in our ācāryas we assume that it’s spiritual but that might not be the case – it could be just the body being itself, that’s all.

In our vision of transcendence we usually erase the line between the body and the soul when we talk about our ārāryas but the distinction is always there. Body of a vaiṣṇava is spiritual, true, but not in the sense that it’s made of purely spiritual energy, it’s the same inferior material energy like for the rest of us but it has been perfectly engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service.

It’s an all-important difference but it does not completely eradicate the usual faults of material bodies, and these faults are not “transcendental”. They might be endearing to Kṛṣṇa and to the devotees but the truth is that we should see ALL material energy as transcendental, as connected with Kṛṣṇa, faults and all. In paramahaṃsa vision there are no faults per se. Everything looks perfect and everything is worshipable.

So, I might have drawn a disturbing picture of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance but I would insist that all aspects of it are perfect, we just have to learn to see it that way, or at least accept that these “imperfections” are result of our poor vision, that they don’t really exist.

I guess what I meant to say that death in all its gore is as perfect as the best moments of anyone’s life, we need to learn to see that perfection rather than mask our lack of realization with empty talks about “transcendence”.

Vanity thought #1163. Atonement

Hell is a topic closely related to atonement, it’s the punishment aspect of it. Atonement itself, however, is all about avoiding hell. If you didn’t manage it on time, down to purgatory you go. Why?

I mean the answer is obvious – atone your sins now or else, but it’s not so clear from the karmic POV. Sins are the same but results are clearly different – performing sacrifices or living through hell. How does that work? Generally we don’t mix results from karmic actions – good stays good and bad stays bad. When karma comes we experience it like a mix, like pleasure of relaxing on a tropical island with an annoyance of local mosquitoes, but each composite strand is still distinct.

Is it possible to mix and match karma at all? Suppose it is – where does it stop? We still need the variety, we don’t want to reduce the entire spectrum of our karmic reactions to one single result, however correctly it might summarize all our past actions.

Imagine a painting with different colors. It’s possible to scan it, calculate exact value of each color, brightness, surface area, etc, sum it all up and create a monotone covering the whole canvass. Technically, it would be an equivalent, practically, it won’t be a painting anymore.

Similarly, if we are destined to relax in a hammock AND suffer mosquito bites we can’t mix pleasure and pain of both to create a summary situation where there are no mosquitoes but the hammock is not as relaxing. Perhaps it won’t be a hammock at all, once you expand the karmic area you want to average to include all the work that has been done to earn this holiday. Perhaps it would be something in between a hammock and an economy class plane seat.

Summarizing and averaging karma just doesn’t make a lot of sense and looks impossible. So how is this atonement is supposed to work? Why should it be possible to create new karmic reactions to nullify previous ones? And yet somehow it’s expected to work just fine. It’s prescribed in the Vedic scriptures, after all.

Take an example of a murderer. Scriptures say that a murderer must be hanged by the order of the king and if that happens then he will be free from the obligation to visit his assigned hell. In this case it’s not even the person himself who should seek the atonement but it’s done by the government. They catch you, sentence you, execute you, and you don’t need to go to hell anymore. Same action, therefore, might lead to almost totally different result, and it’s largely out of your control.

What if there’s no capable government, no working justice system – how can you atone for the sin of killing then? No choice but to suffer through hell? It’s a bit confusing. Did you deserve the hell or not and why is it up to someone else to decide your final destination?

So far I’ve been talking only about karma-kāṇḍa, work-for-work reactions. What happens to those who decide to pursue the path of knowledge? Would they have to live out the accumulated karmic results first or is it possible that some of the reactions will be eliminated through one’s realizations? Kṛṣṇa makes it sound as if it’s totally possible.

It is also possible to live out the rest of one’s karma while not associating with the results anymore. If one understands that it’s the body that enjoys or suffers the results he probably won’t be personally affected even if the body will.

Will such a person go to hell, though? Suppose he achieves perfection, which means liberation, which means he won’t get another birth, but what if his sin of killing has not been atoned yet? Does he have to take another birth to see his karma run out or not?

This whole business with discrete births is hard to comprehend, too. Once you get born you have to live your whole life out, tens of years, lots of pain and suffering. Tons of food consumed, air breathed, wanter drank – it’s a major commitment on the part of karma. And while you are doing all those things you earn yourself a new one, too, even if you are doing them in perfect knowledge.

Then there’s a whole story about earning karma only on this planet, Earth, and nowhere else in the universe. That can’t be true. Maybe it’s relatively easy to earn karma down here but there’s a law of action and reaction even for Lord Indra, it’s in the Bhāgavatam, Indra even gets cursed. Other celestial beings get results for their actions, too – sons of Kuvera, Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva, are the prime example. They did something quite ordinary for playboys of their status but Nārada Muni suddenly passed by and they had a duty to straighten themselves up in the presence of the sage. They neglected it and got cursed to be born as Yamala-arjuna trees in the courtyard of Nanda Mahārāja where they got to meet Kṛṣṇa Himself.

Unlike demons, however, these two did not get liberation but returned to their “respective abodes”, wherever they are. That was strange, too. They said all the right things, offered perfect prayers, asked for devotional service, got the blessings, and still it wasn’t enough to deserve a place in the spiritual world. As trees they have died, they saw Kṛṣṇa face to face at the moment of death, and still it wasn’t enough.

Their sin has been atoned, however, but not through performance of prāyaścitta – they went through a kind of “hell” – that’s what time on Earth probably feels like for the residents of heaven. Prāyaścitta implies you do something now, in this life, before your karma gets credited to your next incarnation, which leads to my original, still unanswered question – why does the law of karma allow for multiple, forked pathways?

Perhaps I’m looking at it from a wrong angle – each time a question doesn’t lead to an obvious answer there might something wrong with the question itself. Unfortunately, in this particular case I don’t know what. Maybe it’s because I have abandoned by usual “no free will” stance and started looking at karma as a result of one’s choices in life. I sense if I go back to “we are not the doers” philosophy all the doubts raised in this post will dissipate like morning fog.

Oh, and I haven’t even started on the how atonement works for devotees, a very tasty topic in itself. Probably tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1162. The lessons of hell

Are there any? It’s a serious question – what’s the point of having hell if no one remembers living there? What’s the point of punishment if people don’t remember it?

They’re told what they are being punished for when they are taken to hellish planets, but after all is done and they are released back into the wild – how’s that experience is supposed to stop them from engaging in sinful acts all over again?

It appears no one really knows. If Śrīla Prabhupāda ever gave a definitive answer, it didn’t register. We’ve got hell covered rather well in our books but who knows how many simple questions like this have been left out.

Devotees, of course, offer multiple explanations but they are all speculative and often lead only to more answers.

It is said, for example, that even though jīvas do not remember being in hell the imprint in their subtle bodies remains. It seems reasonable – our subtle bodies accumulate knowledge of all our previous births even though it’s unavailable to us now. New question is, however – how strong of an imprint it is, is it uniform for everyone? How much of a role it plays in our current lives? What would it take to override it?

“Imprint” is something unquantifiable, we can say it’s there but we can’t test its existence, we can’t measure it, we can’t define it, we can’t feel it either. We don’t know what stops people when they hesitate to engage in illicit activities – is it a nudge from the Supersoul? Is it an effect of their cultural upbringing? Is it an effect of the said “imprint”? If we can’t answer that then what good is in having such a useless, undetectable “imprint”? Effectively, it’s just an empty word.

One could say that if it’s in the scriptures then it’s not an empty word but the reality, even if we don’t understand or don’t feel it. That may be true but the fact is scriptures and their injunctions routinely fail to stop people from committing sinful acts, giving this “imprint” a scriptural authority will have only a limited effect, and it puts the subject into the matter of faith.

What about people who don’t have any faith? What’s the value of their “imprints” if their effectiveness depends on their religiosity? Why have this elaborate system of accurately weighed crime and punishment if its effects depend on something as flickery as people’s faith?

Perhaps the absence of a good answer indicates problems with the question itself. My first reaction, for example, was “Why should hell have a meaning in the first place?”

I was brought up in circles were belief in hell or heaven was ridiculed and religious people were seen as evolution’s dead end, yet the idea of hell as proper and just punishment was still all-pervasive. It doesn’t make any sense in Christian world – we are born into sin and then die to suffer hell for the whole eternity without any chance of redemption – but still it’s seen as a fairly logical assumption. It’s easy to understand the idea of universal justice even for atheists. They might not take is seriously but it’s reasonable.

When we come in contact with Kṛṣṇa consciousness, however, all these things are supposed to finally make sense. That’s how we all feel, that’s what we tell others, that’s what we believe – our knowledge is perfect. Okay, what’s the purpose of having a hell then?

Well, we know that one of the purposes behind the creation is curing conditioned souls of their illicit propensity to compete with Kṛṣṇa. As we live through millions and millions of lives here we gradually understand that we made the wrong move. There are several things that are meant to help us to come to this understanding.

Suffering is one of those things, old age and death is another reminder that we are seeking happiness in the wrong place. Then every society has some form of a religion to convey us the same ideas directly. Then the Lord Himself regularly appears here to remind us what we’ve been missing. The idea of dharma itself means that following it we will gradually elevate our consciousness, and dharma doesn’t need to be given, everything in this world possess some kind of dharma intrinsically. Even dumb animals gradually elevate their consciousness simply by living their lives.

Hell, therefore, is just one of the ways for the Lord to teach us a lesson that dharma had better be followed, or else. In this context the purpose of hell is clear – to put us on the path or righteousness. And it’s this context exactly that gives rise to the original question – what’s the use of this lesson if we don’t remember it?

Well, like I said, maybe the context is wrong or misunderstood. What if hell has no special purpose just like day changing into the night has no special purpose, or as arrival of winter has no special purpose, or universal destruction at the end of mahā-yuga has no special purpose – it’s just how the universe works.

Lord Brahmā needs to sleep, the universe needs to come to a halt, all the worlds are destroyed and then rebuild again when Brahmā wakes up. There isn’t any particularly deep meaning behind this. If it brings some additional benefits then they are side effects, an example how everything in Lord’s creation comes together perfectly.

Same, I think, could be applied to hell, too. We tend to freak out about sins but in the universal scheme of things they are just fruitive actions, except the fruits taste awful. We tend to separate things into favorable and unfavorable but we pass these judgments under the illusion of being our bodies. We aren’t, for the spirit souls there are no sins just as there is no piety.

Strictly speaking, every action that is not devotional service is a sin regardless of how its result make us feel. Hell, heaven – there’s no principal difference between them. They don’t have any special purpose, they are just links in the universal chain of karma that has nothing to do with spirit souls per se. We are not affected by it in the slightest, only our false identities are.

Well, but isn’t piety essentially good? Yes, it is, because it eventually leads to religion, inquiries about God, and, finally, bhakti. So, it appears there must be a distinction between pious and impious activities, and so hell must have its purpose. Yes and no.

Piety is just one of the ways to approach God, renunciation is another. For those seeking piety there’s karma-kāṇḍa, for those seeking Absolute through renunciation there’s jñāna-kāṇḍa. Hell, therefore, becomes a particular lesson for a particular type of people – karma-kāṇḍīs, they naturally believe its descriptions and refrain from committing sins. For the rest of us, however, hell is just something that happens. Lots of things happen for no particular reasons and pass without leaving any particular lessons.

People pursing jṇāna kāṇḍa generally do not go to hell, even if it’s possible if they are not very advanced. They simply do not commit sins because they refrain from karmic activities altogether. Their motivation is not punishment but spiritual knowledge. Hell has no special meaning for them.

And then there are devotees. Kṛṣṇa personally relieves them from their sinful reactions, He doesn’t let them descend into hell, not for real anyway. Hell for them might as well not exist at all. For pure devotees hell is a place with no remembrance of the Lord, not that stuff about pulling intestines out or being roasted like a pig. Theoretically, they’d gladly go there if it would increase their devotion.

Hmm, it seems I have succeeded in at least convincing myself that the title question is based on wrong assumptions about the universe and once those assumptions are corrected the need to seek special purpose behind hell disappears. Well, that’s what knowledge is supposed to do, right? It’s not just about providing answers, it’s about erasing inappropriate questions, too.

Vanity thought #1161. Will the Name help?

One of the most common answers to problems for both straight and gay devotees, and for all devotees in general, is that we just need to chant the mantra and everything will be okay. Hard to argue with that but this statement has caveats as well.

It’s enough to chant the Holy Name to achieve all kinds of material and spiritual success, true, but the result might not be what one expected. It is also possible to remain steadily in illusion despite the chanting. Not forever but for the foreseeable future and probably many lifetimes ahead.

The Name fulfills all desires, it’s fair and unbiased in that, so for practical purposes, when we make predictions, instead of blindly relying on the Holy Name we should evaluate our own desires first. In the long run the Holy Name will naturally correct everything, we are Kṛṣṇa’s eternal servants, sooner or later our spiritual nature will shine through, but none of us is probably prepared to wait that long, we just haven’t got the patience.

When we talk about success in chanting we mean now or at least “soon”. Our daily practical concerns do not extend beyond this lifetime anyway. If we talk about arrangements for gay devotees we talk about present time, not next birth. So, while technically all glory will eventually come to Śrī Kṛṣṇa saṅkīrtana it might come too late to solve our current problems.

That’s one of the reasons why we have our regulative principles and tons of other prescriptions – we need to make progress now, not thousands lifetimes in the future. If one decides to abandon regulative principles and just chant he might waste the rest of his life without making any progress even if in the end he will inevitably succeed.

Or think of it another way – chanting does not work like magic. Spiritual progress is not something that is there but impossible to see. One of the verses I quoted yesterday illustrates this point (SB 1.2.20):

    Thus established in the mode of unalloyed goodness, the man whose mind has been enlivened by contact with devotional service to the Lord gains positive scientific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead in the stage of liberation from all material association.

Sanskrit words are bhagavat-tattva-vijñānaṁ – realization of the knowledge about the Lord – vijñāna. It’s not something intangible, an invisible bank balance like accumulated karma. The Lord is real and what Śrīla Prabhupāda called “positive scientific knowledge” is also real.

This knowledge is not a product of one’s imagination either. One can imagine having a wife or a husband, a couple of kids, one can even buy clothes and toys for his imaginary children and one can feel fairly close emotional experiences but that would be just imagination. It’s not real.

Knowledge about Kṛṣṇa is not like that at all. Those who have obtained it say that the world we see around us appears unreal compared to Kṛṣṇa. Those who have received His mercy experience Him directly, His presence in undeniable, even if it might not always be in His personal form but through His energies. Right now we understand Kṛṣṇa and His energies only theoretically but for real devotees they are real.

That’s what we want to achieve for ourselves, too – direct positive scientific knowledge about God. Right now what we hear are just words and we are asked to have faith in them and this leaves a lot of room for speculations.

We don’t know anything about spiritual world for sure and so we are free to propose this or that, find some supporting arguments either in our books or in the words of our ācāryas, and declare it as “truth”. Sometimes it might be, sometimes it might be just a hoax, we don’t have facilities to check. At best we can refer to “authorities” but anyone who followed such debates knows that one can find an “authority” for almost any statement and most of the time these things are open to interpretations.

If we see what happens with defense of the gay devotees in this light it becomes clear that most of the arguments here are just mental speculation based on irrelevant “feelings”. Usually proponents of gay relationships for devotees refer to sexual practices of the straights and say theirs are not much different. Basically, what they say is that it “feels” about the same, and I mean the same degree of righteousness, not sensual experiences.

What they fail to account for is that they use examples of non-compliant straights who treat the fourth reg as only “no sex outside of marriage”. These straights have found some sort of a balance in their lives, they chant, perform devotional service, and keep spiritual authorities outside their bedrooms. Everything looks okay, feels okay, and so it must be correct.

Not true. It’s just a certain level of material happiness and comfort. Either by one’s karma or by Kṛṣṇa’s grace it might last for a while and look stable but it will always remain an illusion. Just because Kṛṣṇa allows one to enjoy sex life with fellow devotees doesn’t mean it’s legitimate – He just fulfills our desires, we are not serving Him there.

We are not making any significant progress this way, we are just like karmis from Vedic times, or poor man’s demigods. Being complacent in such a situation does not lead to devotion, bhakt will simply not blossom in the heart attached to material pleasures.

Symptoms of spiritual progress are rather easy and complete and irreversible loss of interest in sex is one of them. One can’t remain a sexual being and be a devotee at the same time, it’s not possible.

We can’t invent another way even if it’s Kali Yuga or even if we rely on the mercy of Lord Caitanya. His mercy is not in allowing us to enjoy sex life while making spiritual progress. His mercy is in extinguishing our sexual desires.

His gift of the Holy Name is not a concession to stay attached to sex while chanting but to give up sex altogether. Just because it’s Kali Yuga it doesn’t mean that requirements for entering spiritual world have been lowered. Not at all, it’s just that it’s easier to meet them via chanting only.

It’s not that we don’t need to become paramahaṃsas anymore. No, we still must become pure devotees to attain Kṛṣṇa, it’s just we can do that simply by chanting unlike previous ages that required lots of tapasyās. The fact that we can’t do those tapasyās doesn’t mean we can remain materially attached, nope, we just have to lose our attachments through chanting.

So, what I am saying is that if our gay devotees are really sincere they should realize that they have to give up sex life altogether – gay, straight, married, casual, whatever.

What’s the point in making arrangements for something that must be abandoned? Just because our straights are fooling themselves into a false sense of progress doesn’t mean gays have to follow these clearly wrong footsteps. Two wrongs will not make a right here, too.

Lord Caitanya’s program is very simple – chant, forget about sex, become a devotee. Making arrangements for one’s sex life is not a part of it and is actually offensive towards the Holy Name.

Vanity thought #1160. But But But…

I finished my yesterday’s post about homosexuality rather abruptly – there’s no place for it in the spiritual development, there’s nothing to discuss. I stand by this statement but what it does not do is to make all homosexual devotees disappear, and as long as these people are there their concerns must addressed. We can’t dismiss THEM with “period”, in this way we can dismiss only OUR OWN doubts.

So, what do we tell them? What do we arrange for them? Any special facilities? Any special place in our society? Would it be an equivalent of prisons (called correctional facilities, btw), or would it be filled with compassion, understanding, and value, as Frankie the Pope advocates?

I wrote about this many times and so unlikely to say anything new but since this issue has come up again there’s no harm in repeating myself. Every time we revisit any particular issue our understanding of it deepens, so please

Bear with me

First, let’s establish the time line of developing devotion, taken straight from Bhāgavatam (SB 1.2).

    ..it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one’s own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead. Therefore one should constantly hear about, glorify, remember and worship the Personality of Godhead, who is the protector of the devotees. Intelligent men cut through the binding knots of reactionary work [karma] by remembering the Personality of Godhead. By serving those devotees who are completely freed from all vice, great service is done. By such service, one gains affinity for hearing the messages of Vāsudeva. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramātmā [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages.

Edited for style and brevity.

It’s fairly straightforward: first one executes his varṇāśrama duties with the goal of satisfying the Lord, which leads to constantly hearing and remembering Him. By taking shelter of pure devotees and serving them one develops the taste for such narrations. Once that taste is acquired and the urge to hear Lord’s pastimes is felt, Kṛṣṇa cleanses the heart of a devotee from material enjoyment.

Then comes one of our most popular verses (SB 1.2.18):

naṣṭa-prāyeṣv abhadreṣu
nityaṁ bhāgavata-sevayā
bhagavaty uttama-śloke
bhaktir bhavati naiṣṭhikī

    By regular attendance in classes on the Bhāgavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.

Then come three following verses:

    As soon as irrevocable loving service is established in the heart, the effects of nature’s modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire and hankering, disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness, and he becomes completely happy. Thus established in the mode of unalloyed goodness, the man whose mind has been enlivened by contact with devotional service to the Lord gains positive scientific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead in the stage of liberation from all material association. Thus the knot in the heart is pierced, and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions is terminated when one sees the self as master.

That’s when devotional service truly starts. At this point there’s no trace of lust left in devotee’s heart, not for straight, not for same sex. That’s where we want to be, where we want to find ourselves before the expiration of this lifetime.

There’s no place for concessions to homosexuality here, it’s one of those misgivings that will be “cut to pieces”. It’s not a valid concern.

It is a valid concern on a much earlier stage, right in the beginning – what should be varṇāśrama duties for homosexuals? That we can reason about, cite scriptures and examples, negotiate, manipulate etc.

It should happen BEFORE we even start talking about devotion, we just have to make sure it’s easy to remember the Lord in whatever arrangements we make for homosexual people.

Even remembrance in itself won’t be fruitful until we surrender to devotees of the Lord who will infuse us with “affinity” to hearing messages of the Lord. Until then it will be forced and unnatural even if we theoretically know it’s beneficial.

Now, ask yourself, what scope for practicing homosexuality is there in serving one’s guru and in hearing about the Lord from Him? None whatsoever.

Even on that stage we should forget about it. Practically speaking, it would mean that we should leave homosexuality outside temple walls when we come to Bhāgavatam classes.

There’s no discrimination here, btw, straight people should leave out their sexuality, too – there’s no scope for ANY sexuality in devotional service, it’s not something we bring to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Our fourth reg makes in completely clear, too – we swear not to indulge in any sexual behavior except for procreation, and that is in our entire life, not only during temple visits. We can’t have sex and make spiritual progress at the same time. I don’t mean exactly at the same time but more of a concession to ourselves, when we say “I will keep my sexual habits”. As soon as we agree to this we commit “maintaining material desires” offense against the Holy Name.

This is philosophically unacceptable and incompatible with spiritual progress. As long as we keep this permissive attitude we won’t make ANY progress, period. And it has nothing to do with homosexuality.

Devotees, however, try to reconcile their imagined varṇāśrama position with devotional service. They want “affinity for hearing the messages of Vāsudeva” while still performing their occupational duties. That won’t happen. Once the taste is acquired interest in following varṇāśrama disappears, and along with it greed, envy, and lust which varṇāśrama is supposed to regulate.

Again, straight devotees fall into this trap as easy as homosexual ones. It’s an easy mistake to understand because we all have residual material desires that seem important to us, so we try to accommodate them in our spiritual lives, but they are anarthas, literally “without value”. Holding onto them won’t do us any good, at some point we should all realize that and we should let them go, we’ll be all better for it.

Will they come back? Probably, but we should see the difference between existence of material desires and the wish to maintain them. First one is a fact of life in the material world, second one is an offense. First one cannot be attributed to us, second is clearly our fault.

One more thing – some greatest devotees were demons, like Prahlāda Mahārāja, but that does not mean they were filled with greed, envy, and lust, like ordinary demons are. Devotees of whatever extraction lose these qualities and stay pure, it’s not an excuse for us to maintain our sinful lifestyles.

There’s one more aspect to this but I’ll address it some other time.

Vanity thought #1159. Pandering CC style

Pandering has become unspoken, self-evident truth, except now it’s called “democracy”. “People’s wishes”, they say, “it’s for the people”, “people have spoken”, and everyone must oblige.

In BBC news feed there’s a story about British couple murdered while on holiday in Thailand. “People” have spoken and the verdict is that the UK must send its own police team to investigate the case because they don’t believe Thai police caught the real murderers. “People” don’t believe DNA evidence, they want their own team to retest the samples, what to speak of the confession which was withdrawn under lawyers advice, and defense attorneys always speak truth and nothing but the truth, as far as “people” are concerned.

Silly notions like sovereignty of Thailand and dignity of Thai police do not matter, not when “people” thousands of miles away demand justice. Thais are not people anyway, they have a huge, nationwide conspiracy to cover up a crime by an “influential person”. Their national police can’t do anything about him, because he runs one out of thousands of bars in some hamlet on some island, and all Thais are on it, fellow bar owners, employees, local police who collect protection money, everyone else who pays the police, and the chain goes all they way up to Bangkok. Everyone “knows” but the entire country is so hopelessly corrupt that “people” of the UK must send their own investigative team and show them how it’s done.

The logic of it is unquestionable, there’s no point even in doubting this narrative, no one can go against “people” here, and the Prime Minster must demand Thais to give up their sovereignty. “People” have spoken, they even have a petition dutifully signed by 100,000 UK citizens, government must react. All hail to the powers of the Internet, ‘cos that’s where all this is coming from.

It’s not the details of the case that interest me here, I don’t know them anyway, I just came across one starry eyed representative of the “people” here. What interests me is all-pervasive, subconscious, fundamental assumption that “people” are always right and must be listened to at all times.

Of course “people” can be manipulated into supporting all kinds of nonsense ideas, that’s what PR companies are for, or Facebook experiments on people’s mood, but that is beside the point.

Latest to jump on “we must listen to the people” bandwagon is Catholic Church. It all started with the new Frankie the Pope, the man of the people who made it his mission to reconnect the church with the grassroots. He preaches humility and he practices it as well, from actually washing the feet of selected faithful to regularly picking up the phone and personally answering letters sent to his office.

Earlier this year he got in trouble for making concessions to a woman who married a divorced man in a civil, not church ceremony (divorce is still forbidden there) but that didn’t stop him. Recently he called the family of the man beheaded by ISIS fanatics in the Middle East.

All this listening to the people made him feel their concerns, which is a good thing, right? Well, what if this association rubbed off on him in the wrong way, like with homosexuality. Gays won full acceptance by the society and in “people’s” eyes there’s nothing wrong with homosexual relationships, gays are as sincere about approaching God as anyone else, and therefore they should be treated like anyone else.

Who is this “pope” man to argue? Well, this one actually said “who am I do judge” so he is “with the people” on this.

And so against this background that holy (and democratic) Synod, which is currently in session, has issued paper that calls for acceptance of homosexual relations. Gays are now to be valued, their sexual orientation must be valued, and their marriages recognized as some kind of support in people’s lives.

It was a preliminary report to be voted on and it didn’t pass, as had become known a few hours ago, so CC doctrine got saved by the skin of its teeth, but it appears that these controversial paragraphs still gathered over 50% of the vote, just not the required two-third majority.

It also appears that this push came from the Pope himself and that the issue will be raised again next year when Synod reconvenes in larger numbers and so would become open to lobbying.

People have spoken and they might also rewrite the Bible while they are at it. Who is this “God” character to argue with the people anyway? “People” invented him and he must follow them in every respect or lose all credibility.

There’s at least one unequivocal passage in the scripture (Cor 6.9):

    Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men

But that can’t stop “people revolution”. God must keep up with the times and if we say gays deserve Kingdom of God then God must comply. We’ll sign a petition with a million of signatures if necessary. Those medieval cardinals in Vatican cannot stop the flow of history, we’ll send them the message – approve homosexuality or else. Catholic Church must not be seen on the wrong side of history here.

Do I need to mention it was sarcasm?

The world has gone crazy, “people” got so drunk with their power that they can’t even fathom there’s another reality where their speculations and disgusting “culture” carries no weight whatsoever. They can’t even imagine such a place can exist.

Wait until they hear that God is the Supreme Autocrat and there’s no democracy in His KINGDOM. “People” would probably say they don’t need this god and his kingdom if they can’t vote him out.

The whole idea of unquestionable surrender is repulsive to them, it might as well be non-existent, they have successfully cut it out from collective consciousness and God must not be allowed back.

What it means for us is that we are also part of the same world where these same “people” dictate their will and so we must take them into consideration. Obviously, it affects how we preach and how we settle these matters within our own society, but it also means that atheists are drifting further and further away and we’ll start noticing irreconcilable differences that arise from such fundamental disagreements in our views of the world.

We would appeal to things and authorities but their value will not be understood or accepted by our opponents, like Thai sovereignty I mentioned earlier. There’s no such thing as sovereignty in public consciousness, all leaders all over the world must be answerable to “people”. This goes without questions, all arguments against it elicit only blank stares.

But, perhaps, we should pay more attention to our own purity first and how we can cope with rising acceptance of homosexuality. We can’t deny that it “feels good” and homosexual marriages feel righteous to the practitioners, and we don’t know what to say in response other than insistence on strict interpretation of our fourth reg. I don’t even know why we should be talking about “interpretations” here, it’s as clear as day, and it rules out all homosexual relations. Period.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, BUT..

No buts.