Vanity thought #1197. Science of rasa

We are supposed to take it very seriously even on our neophyte level, especially on our neophyte level. There are examples of Śrīla Prabhupāda nipping all instances of rasa-ābhāsa, inappropriate mixture of devotional flavors, in the bud. Sometimes devotees would pick up concocted mantras somewhere in India, sometimes they would pick up unauthorized traditions or rituals. Sometimes they would pick up innocuous practices but from the wrong kind of people and Prabhupāda would prohibit it so that we, ISKCON, wouldn’t invoke associations with deviant vaiṣṇava sects.

Rasa-ābhāsa was mentioned in Caitanya Caritāmṛita several times and never favorably. Lord Caitanya was rather strict in this sense and never listened to any unscientific expositions on devotional service. Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī was tasked with screening all poetry and presentations before they reached the Lord because, from experience, any deviations from bhakti-siddhānta made the Lord very angry. It’s a serious thing.

So, should we study it? Here’s a sample from Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu:

    A mellow temporarily appearing transcendental but contradicting mellows previously stated and lacking some of a mellow’s necessities is called rasābhāsa, an overlapping mellow, by advanced devotees who know how to taste transcendental mellows. Such mellows are called uparasa (submellows), anurasa (imitation transcendental mellows) and aparasa (opposing transcendental mellows). Thus the overlapping of transcendental mellows is described as being first grade, second grade or third grade. When the twelve mellows — such as neutrality, servitorship and friendship — are characterized by adverse sthāyi-bhāva, vibhāva and anubhāva ecstasies, they are known as uparasa, submellows. When the seven indirect transcendental mellows and the dried-up mellow of neutrality are produced by devotees and moods not directly related to Kṛṣṇa and devotional service in ecstatic love, they are described as anurasa, imitation mellows. If Kṛṣṇa and the enemies who harbor feelings of opposition toward Him are respectively the object and abodes of the mellow of laughter, the resulting feelings are called aparasa, opposing mellows. Experts in distinguishing one mellow from another sometimes accept some overlapping transcendental mellows (rasābhāsa) as rasas due to their being pleasurable and tasteful.

Should we have a test on this?

Probably not in the beginning but if we are exposed to unauthorized and unscientific practices from the start we might suffer in the long term. Maybe offenses are committed, maybe it’s just far more difficult to correct bad habits then to learn good ones anew, better to stick to what is given to us by Prabhupāda.

Some devotees take this rasa science very seriously and study Six Gosvāmī’s books very deeply. I don’t know if they succeed and make genuine progress, one noticeable side effect is that they assume elevated positions from which they lecture everyone else and even dare to correct our immediate predecessor ācāryas because they learn “straight from the source”.

Even if that does not happen they start to see everything through rasa relationships taken from the books. I don’t know how appropriate this is. I mentioned a while ago a wise quote that if all you have is a hammer then very problem is going to look like a nail. Some get fixated on varṇāsrama and explain everything through that prism. Some see everything through pañca kośa – anāmaya, praṇāmaya etc. Some see everything through sambanda, abhidehya and prayojana. Some see everything through the prism of book distribution. They are all right in their own kind of way but it’s still like blind men trying to figure out an elephant – no one is quite right and even if taken altogether it’s not guaranteed that you get a complete picture. One actual look at an elephant, otoh, clarifies the matter completely.

Similarly, one taste of actual spiritual relationships with the Lord should put an end to all speculations, however scientific and reasonable they appear.

Still, we have the books, and Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu is just an introduction, there’s a lot more in, say Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi I mentioned yesterday. These books were written for us to study, were they not?

Right, of course we should study them, but I think we shouldn’t approach it as lightly as those who are doing it now. Śrīla Prabhupāda warned us about getting into this deep stuff prematurely. We aren’t supposed to delve into the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam until we realized the subject matter of the first nine, for example. We shouldn’t even think about enjoying rasa until we are completely free from the influence of the material energy. We can talk about rasa but without actually tasting it it will be like sex-education classes for pre-school kids.

Personally, I think we should also remember that books on rasa were written by personalities who had real, first hand experience of them. They were describing what they saw, what they felt, what they directly observed. We, otoh, are approaching it as ordinary text books written for ascending process of acquiring knowledge. “Read the book, understand the subject, pass the test, become qualified” kind of process, which in itself is a kind of rasa-ābhāsain spiritual progress, it won’t work.

Every time I hear someone talking about rasa on the basis of theoretical understanding gleaned from the books I feel like I should leave the place immediately. People boasting about knowledge of things they have absolutely no clue about are to be avoided even if the subject is Kṛṣṇa Himself.

One particularly annoying kind is self-appointed rasika bhaktas who claim to relish transcendental mellows displayed in Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. One of their first arguments in favor of this practice is that one cannot develop attraction to Kṛṣṇa if he doesn’t hear about Him. That is true but only up to a point. We cannot develop attraction to Kṛṣṇa if we still identify ourselves with our bodies and express ourselves through them.

One easy example is developing gopīs’ attraction to Kṛṣṇa by discussing His pastimes with them, which are sexual in nature. Sounds legit, because that’s what they did together, yet we do not have a transcendental point of reference here, only our mundane understanding of sex, so everything we say or think or imagine will necessarily be expressed in relation to our mundane sexual experiences. All the alleged “mellows” will be misappropriation of known sexual or romantic relationships we observed or experienced ourselves and transferring them to Kṛṣṇa and His “girlfriends”.

Perhaps I can use the example of gopīs giving Kṛṣṇa their foot dust once again. Their relationships with the Lord are considered topmost and unrivaled because it’s the highest possible kind of selfless service. Our rasika-bhaktas, however, reduce their relationships to sexuality. There was absolutely nothing sexual in foot dust episode, only the highest form of devotion.

Another example would be preaching and book distribution. There is no higher form of selfless service in the material world at the moment. Our ācāryas, who are all gopīs in Kṛṣṇa līlā, were all preachers down here and there was not a tint of sexuality visible in their service to the Lord when they were present. I don’t think anyone can translate the mellows they certainly enjoyed in their service here into romantic or sexual relationships between them and Kṛṣṇa in the spiritual world. It’s unthinkable to look at them this way, they are too pure to place them into our mundane representations of Kṛsṇa’s sexuality.

And yet their rasas weren’t lacking in anything, they couldn’t be. Perhaps we need to write a new book on rasas, the one that describes progressive stages of devotion as manifested by pure devotees in the material world. I don’t think it’s possible but we can certainly compare levels of surrender of different devotees as well as describe ideal situations just like Rūpa Gosvāmī was studying devotion of Kṛṣṇa’s associates in Vṛndāvana.

Maybe it’s a totally bogus, speculative idea but I can see one good outcome already – we will learn to respect everybody’s contributions and cleanse our hearts of offensive mentality.

PS. Is it just me or has Sampradāya Sun cleaned up their act in this respect? There’s a surprising absence of critical posts there.

Vanity thought #1196. Deadly sins – wrath

I’m still watching that 7 Deadly Sins documentary. The third episode, after Gluttony and Envy, was Lust and I skipped it – why risk agitating my mind? Lust always wins the moment you allow yourself to contemplate it.

This is an important point – whenever we come face to face with lust, we lose. A pure devotee might be able to withstand it but we aren’t there yet and probably never will be, not with our conditioning. An avadhūta like Śukadeva Gosvāmī might withstand it under any circumstances but we’ll never know for sure because he doesn’t go around watching shows about lust.

We have example of Haridāsa Ṭhākura who was under the attack of Māyā personified and remained steadfast in his meditation on the Holy Names but he also didn’t go out LOOKING for trouble. Sexual advances were imposed on him when he was doing his own thing and that’s how he survived. He wasn’t visiting brothels out of curiosity, he wouldn’t be Haridāsa Ṭhākura if he did, he wouldn’t be a pure devotee if he had any interest in such matters.

So, when we think that watching a steamy TV program won’t really hurt us we are being stupid. It will, without doubt. Every kiss, every sex scene, every scene involving flirting, everything will affect us. Whenever we see people talking about any kind of sex gratification it’s unwanted association. If we notice even the slightest appreciation within ourselves māyā will be right there to offer us hopes and illusions and we’ll fall. Maybe not immediately but neither our bodies nor māyā forget these things.

Perhaps some other time I’ll write more about living in sexually stimulating societies but today I’ll just say that I skipped the show about lust and move on to wrath, which isn’t as dangerous.

It’s a deadly sin, alright, angry people do stupid things they might regret for the rest of their lives, they might book their places in hell, all kinds of bad reactions might come out of it, but, generally, it’s not as bad as lust.

Wrath isn’t in the same category because it’s a product of lust. The connection is clearly established by Kṛṣṇa Himself (BG 3.37):

    It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material mode of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world.

Lust is the root cause, wrath is the consequence. Free yourself from lust and you’ll never experience anger, too. Lust in this verse is kāma, which isn’t restricted to sex but is a general desire for sense gratification, as in dharma-artha-kāma-mokṣa.

Producers of this documentary got this point, too. Their first segment was about women who were cheated by their husbands and wishing all kinds of misfortune on their rivals, which is actually jealousy, which is born of lust. Wrath here is just furiously typing on the keyboard and hoping someone will read it – they talked about a website where women can vent their anger and enter names into a “homewrecker” database. I don’t know why they even considered it as a “deadly sin” there, it’s a fairly harmless exercise that would not bring any serious reactions, certainly not death.

I was surprised to learn that jealousy and envy are often confused with each other. Envy is desiring something you don’t have, jealousy is attachment to something you do have. Equally as bad but if we think about spiritual world then jealousy must be all over the place there – everybody “possesses” Kṛṣṇa to some degree and everybody is afraid of losing Him.

Devotees up there might not mind “sharing” Him and offering Kṛṣṇa the service of devotees He never enjoyed before but this sharing doesn’t always entail personal loss, which causes jealousy. Consider this – jealousy is so common that it made it into śikṣā-aṣtaka, in the last two verses where Lord Caitanya laments loss of Kṛṣṇa and His tendency to break one’s heart in the most cruel manner. Jealousy needs someone to take something we consider ours and Lord Caitanya used the word lampaṭaḥ to describe Kṛṣṇa there — a debauchee who mixes with other women, as Prabhupāda translated (CC Antya 20.47).

I’m pretty sure that this behavior causes a lot of anger among Kṛṣṇa’s associates but all of it, both jealousy and ensuing wrath, are fully transcendental, legitimate emotions. I bet they are described in great detail with appropriate examples in books like Ujjvala nīlamaṇi by Rūpa Gosvāmī. Jealous anger seems to be chief differentiating property between left-wing and right-wing gopīs but I’m sure there are many other manifestations in Vṛndāvana, too. Boys must be fighting over who gets to play with Kṛṣṇa first and I bet even elderly gopīs compete among each other for a chance to hold baby Kṛṣṇa in their arms or on their laps.

Our earthly wrath is nowhere as pretty, it’s one of those things we will forever be ashamed of. In Asian societies (but not India) one must never ever under any circumstances lose his cool in public, in the west we are not as sensitive to it but this difference only shows our lack of culture. Asians would also never ever display their sexuality in public while westerners have absolutely no shame in these matters, short of outright intercourse everything goes, especially if alcohol is involved.

Personally, I consider myself a rather short-tempered person and I resigned to the fact that no amount of chanting is going to change it any time soon. Or maybe it’s just my subjective opinion and others think I’m just average. I do know where my buttons generally are, however, and, with age, I learned to avoid hitting them but “accidents” happen.

In these cases I can sense the inevitable a few seconds before the fuse blows and sometimes I walk away but usually I just watch myself go off the rails and try not to think too much of it. It’s an interaction between my material mind and external stimuli, nothing to do with me, I was put here just to observe.

I’m aware that there are various techniques helping one to control his anger and express it in a least harmful way but that would be taking too much interest in the issue for me. I’m not here to control the world and improve my karma, I’d rather patiently chant instead.

Oh, and that show had two other segments, one about some sort of a real life Fight Club, a cult movie on the subject, and one more about particularly lethal ammo for everyone’s favorite handgun. “Fight club” is one of the ways to express dormant anger but what has wrath got to do with meticulously preparing your gun for a hypothetical situation that has a very small chance of happening even in the gun crazy America?

Fight club participants, btw, not just find outlets for their anger but actively stimulate it where none was seen before. Exhilaration caused by participating in fights is apparently contagious but it’s not wrath per se, too.

All in all, she show is sorely missing lessons from Bhagavad Gīta and is not particularly illuminating, though I hope discussing these sins themselves is useful for us as devotees.

Vanity thought #1195. Lord Caitanya to the rescue

To be honest, my latest posts were all gloomy, doubting prospects of our reunion with Kṛṣṇa. I still stand by them and consider them factually correct, we just have to approach this problem from a different angle.

First, there’s always the possibility that whatever we did to cause our departure from the spiritual world is all forgotten and does not go on our permanent record there. This means our return won’t be saddled by the need for explanations and clarifications, we’ll just get back into the service and that will be the end of it.

Secondly, our CURRENT prospects of reuniting with Kṛṣṇa should indeed be non-existent – we are still conditioned, firmly in the grasp of the illusion. We do not see our original selves yet, only our false egos, and our false identity is unsuitable for pure devotional service. Fact is, no matter how hard I might look in the mirror I will always see only something totally worthless to Kṛṣṇa – my material body. Why should I be surprised that this honest self-assessment concludes that I have no prospects whatsoever? Let’s talk again when our hearts are pure and we see reflections of our original spiritual identities.

Then there’s service in the material world. There’s nothing wrong with it if we are not ready for anything better. There’s a LOT we can do here to make Kṛṣṇa happy, especially if we engage in saṅkīrtana. Don’t we have examples of ācāryas praying for a chance to be born as a fly in a house of a vaiṣṇava? I can’t find the exact quote at the moment, haven’t heard it in a long time, but there is definitely a school of humble thought that being born in the material world for a chance of even the most insignificant service is a glorious birth.

Even if we do deserve “better” conditions – whatever Kṛṣṇa and His agents want us to do should be taken with great enthusiasm and appreciation. Remember that famous story about devotees being asked to donate foot dust to relieve Kṛṣṇa’s headache? Everybody refused, His queens, Akrūra, everybody in Dvārāka. They argued that giving foot dust to their husband, master, and God Himself would be against the rules and they would go to hell. Only gopīs volunteered their foot dust without any hesitation. When Kṛṣṇa is in pain a pure devotee has no concerns about his personal sins and possibility of going to hell.

The story usually stops there but do you ever wonder what happened to the gopīs in the end? Did they really go to hell? Obviously not, Kṛṣṇa wouldn’t allow it, but this answer is incomplete. He wouldn’t allow going to hell, okay, but what if karmic reactions for helping Kṛṣṇa weren’t so severe, wouldn’t they manifest for the gopīs? What if they were asked to do jumping jacks for Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure? Wouldn’t their heart rate go up? Wouldn’t they be tired and sweaty? Yes? So karma still comes, right?

So, what if karma for giving Kṛṣṇa foot dust or some similar request leads devotees to be born in the material world, in the movement of Lord Caitanya? It is surely somewhere in between getting sweaty and going to hell, so why not? Aren’t these differences immaterial for pure devotees who are eternally liberated anyway?

I’m saying that our imminent return to the material world can be attributed not only to our impurities but to our sacrifices for Kṛṣṇa, too. Next time we are supposed to be born during Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes in one of the material universes – is it a reward or a punishment? Wrong question – pure hearted devotees do not see any difference and are not concerned with how each particular birth feels or how it is judged by our standards. It’s only us down here who want liberation and dream of pleasures of Vṛndāvana.

Apart from all the possibilities above, we are saved by Lord Caitanya. Whatever we had done to deserve our material existence becomes irrelevant when He extends us shelter of His lotus feet. We might have been imperfect servants back there but with Lord Caitanya we get a new spiritual birth. His mercy is unlimited, He holds no grudges, He brings everyone to Kṛṣṇa’s service.

So what if we are not qualified to serve in Vṛndāvana itself – serving lotus feet of Lord Caitanya is perfectly enough.

One could argue that we cannot enjoy any rasas but servitorship with Lord Caitanya but that is not entirely correct – by His mercy we can love Kṛṣṇa in ANY rasa through chanting of the Holy Names. When we with Him, we can do anything and everything for Kṛṣṇa, there are no limits.

One could say that we might not get Kṛṣṇa’s personal association but that is also not entirely correct – we get something even better – service in separation. Lord Caitanya Himself taught us that it is far superior and far more intense kind of love than enjoying Kṛṣṇa’s company. And it’s perfect for rejected rascals like us, too!

So what if we don’t deserve a place in Kṛṣṇa’s company for one reason or another? Under Lord Caitanya’s shelter we can still perfect our service and develop pure love for Kṛṣṇa, no matter how far we are removed from Him.

After all, all the above mentioned examples of devotional humility have been introduced to us by no one else but Lord Caitanya. Without Him we wouldn’t be able to appreciate them just as devotees of Dvārāka didn’t get the hint about foot dust.

In this sense Lord Caitanya’s mercy is multifaceted. He cleanses us from material contamination. He re-introduces us to Kṛṣṇa’s service and vouches for us. He gives us a place in His own entourage if we aren’t quite ready for Kṛṣṇa Himself. He teaches us value of love in separation and unparalleled sweetness of humility. He solves all our problems, all of them, real or imaginary, manifested or potential – His mercy is a perfect solution to everything. And He gives us pure love and devotion to Kṛṣṇa which is self-sufficient.

What more can we want? What have we got to worry about? What causes for pessimism we might have in our service? None whatsoever. Being picked up by Lord Caitanya is the best thing that can ever happen to conditioned souls like us.

For three days I’ve been painting gloomy scenarios and worrying about our return back to Kṛṣṇa, and those are legitimate concerns, but they are nothing when we have Lord Caitanya taking us under His wing. We are perfectly safe.

Pessimism about inadequacy of our own efforts dissipates under the light of Lord Caitanya’s mercy.

PS. I forgot about offenses in chanting the Holy Name – they do not count when we are doing it under Lord Caitanya’s supervision, so we are good there, too.

Vanity thought #1194. Jailhouse blues

For the past couple of days I’ve been discussing effects of our old spiritual sins on our path back to Kṛṣṇa. They are obviously not helping. Hopefully Kṛṣṇa is a forward looking person who forgives and forgets but it’s possible that bad memories will always be somewhere in the back of His mind. We have to make a strong case to convince Him to give us a second chance.

But first we should overcome our own problems. I’m not any kind of authority on the subject but it seems natural that whatever we did to get sent down here needs to be owned up and rectified.

My personal fear is that those abominable desires have become a part of our true spiritual nature. They were not caused by the contact with the material modes, they are truly MINE, they are not product of the illusion.

Chanting can purify our hearts from material contamination but my “original sin” goes deeper than that. Cue Christians with their helpful suggestions about the nature of the original sin but theirs is one bite for the whole humanity for millenia to come, ours is ours alone, everybody must have done something unique and personal, like everything else in the spiritual world.

Another thing that keeps bothering me is the worrying amount of eternally conditioned souls down here. Usually we cheerfuly declare that material world is just one small part of Lord’s creation, that there are innumerable Vaikuṇṭha planets up there in the spiritual world, and Goloka Vṛndāvana is bigger than all of them together. Still material world takes a quarter of the creation, not a particularly small spot.

Look at it this way – one our of four souls in the spiritual world commits unpardonable offenses towards Kṛṣṇa and gets permanently incarcerated in the material universes. One out of four!

Highest incarceration rate in the world is in the US and it’s still less than 1% of the population, far short of 25% in Kṛṣṇa’s kingdom. There’s another interesting number to note on this topic – more than one in four adult Americans have some sort of a criminal record but they are not currently imprisoned, unlike us down here in the material world, so it’s not relevant here.

Kṛṣṇa must be running a really tight ship up there, tossing out a quarter of His servants into the ocean of material existence. Just think of it – out of four members of your family one must do something so bad as to send him away practically forever with little hope of return. Family! One out of four friends is easier to imagine, depending on your social circles, but family? People closest to you, your own blood, as they say. And I’m not talking about them breaking some laws, I’m talking about banning them from the family itself, voluntarily, because Kṛṣṇa makes this kind of decisions on His own, He doesn’t call 911 and wait for jury trial. Or maybe He does, maybe there’s some sort of group deliberation on our fate before we get chucked out.

Does it happen to same people over and over again? “Correctional” facilities do not correct people as mush as society hopes and for many a convict once they get into the system they never return to normal life again.

One could argue that our jails are imperfect because everything down here is, so rehabilitation rates for those who went through Kṛṣṇa’s jails must be higher. Well, for one thing this rehabilitation happens not in some spiritual prisons but right down here so the same faults apply.

Another counterargument would be that reasons for poor rehabilitation rates are essentially the same – bad association. People in jails get theirs from hardened criminals and we get ours from hardened materialists. Hardcore criminals have zero compliance with the law, they refuse to follow it as a matter of principle, and hardcore materialists have zero interest in renunciation, they refuse to consider any spiritual goals as valuable, sense gratification is all they know and all they ever want to know.

In either case, we get ourselves polluted by their association and their dedication to their values. It’s hard to break free as it is, but more importantly is that even when we are out our tastes remain and we are always in danger of returning to our old ways at every opportunity.

Just think how people treat ex-convicts, what kind of jobs they get, what kind of opportunities. Prison life is no fun but there are those who’d rather go back there than live as rejects among normal people. Once you get used to restrictions on your movements prison life becomes tolerable and in many ways easier than struggle for survival on the outside.

It is a fact that lots of homeless people intentionally get themselves in jails when winter comes – they would rather stay there than seek shelter from cold on their own.

There are those who try their best on the outside but can’t make it and kill themselves or commit crimes with the sole goal of coming back home, back to jail.

Are we going to be any different? Can we expect unicorns and rainbows in the spiritual world? We surely do, just like inmates think that once on the outside they can drink and have sex and enjoy life. And they can, theoretically, but the reality is always different from their dreams and hardly ever lives up to their expectations, however modest. Are we going to be any different?

Can we expect first class service (not to us, us serving to Kṛṣṇa) or are we going to be stuck with barely legal minimum wage jobs with no security or safety net? Who can answer than affirmatively?

I’m sure all those things our ācāryas told us about spiritual world are true, Kṛṣṇa does spend His time engaged in loving relationships with His devotees, they enjoy all kinds of rasas and ever improve on their happiness. We are not guaranteed getting that, however.

I mean first we will get into some sort of a halfway house – another birth in the material world but in Kṛṣṇa’s presence. We will also go through all kinds of training to restore our svarūpa, restore our old skills – what is called ekādaśī-bhāva. Then we’ll be gradually introduced to actual service, and we probably won’t get to enjoy real stuff like rasa dance or whatever equivalents are available to devotees in sakhyā or vātsalya relationships.

I’d guess we don’t get to bathe and feed Kṛṣṇa if we are on the level of His parents, or we don’t get to have lunches with Him if are His friends. Maybe we’ll only get a chance to hold bay Kṛṣṇa in our hands once or hear other boys tell stories about all the fun they had while we only get to say hello once in a while.

What if we realize that spiritual world is not what we expected? What if we slip into our old ways and get thrown down here again? What if we really are eternally conditioned? Not just because our local time scale but because we come down here again and again.

I don’t know the answer, our ācāryas keep coming for us so maybe not everything is lost, what other hope is there?

Once again – it all comes down to our ācāryas, they are our only hope to reform ourselves even if do make it out of here. There really is no other hope, and we also can’t afford to look at them from the perspective of fellow criminals, which will always be critical one way or another. We should look beyond petty complaints and focus on what really matters – the message of love and devotion that they pass down from the spiritual world, and nothing else.

Vanity thought #1193. How to please Krishna, once again

I don’t even remember what I wrote about it a week ago, the matter obviously hasn’t been resolved and the answer hasn’t been found. Today I’m going to look at it with the background of what I discussed yesterday – spiritual constraints in our search of His association.

In the beginning it looks very easy – we assume that we are eagerly awaited back home, in Kṛṣṇa’s abode, we just have to shake off our material contamination and everything will be back to normal. Well, it doesn’t address the reason we left. We don’t remember it, Kṛṣṇa does. We caused Him pain by turning away and choosing the material world.

Are there second chances in spiritual life? Obviously yes or we wouldn’t be here talking about Kṛṣṇa at all. Not only second but third, fourth, fifth and innumerable number of chances. Every new birth is a second chance, at least a birth in a human form of life. How many have we had? Thousands? Millions?

I’m not talking about chances given to us here, however. I’m talking about chances given in purely spiritual relationships, unadulterated by even hints of material life. Things we did to Kṛṣṇa when we were with Him – do we get a chance to set them right? Is it possible?

I don’t know how it goes in the spiritual world but down here second chances are often outright forbidden. A woman spending a night under another man’s roof is to be rejected regardless of whether she did anything truly inappropriate or not. No second chances there.

Betrayal is impossible to rectify. It’s possible to forgive but impossible to repair, it leaves permanent scars on one’s heart, be it a friend, a spouse, a mentor, or a protégé. We live in a material world and we always seek sense gratification so giving a second chance to another person is often a second chance at our own selfish pleasure we derive from that relationship. Sex is probably the best example, we can “forgive” anything for sex but it can’t repair a broken heart.

Just think of a term itself – broken heart. It’s broken, it can’t be restored to its original condition and all the talk about mending it is just about giving it time to find a substitute and hope old memories won’t interfere.

So, with that in mind, is it possible to return to Kṛṣṇa as if nothing had happened last time we were there? I don’t know how this interpretation of personal affairs in the material world is applicable to relationships in Vṛndāvana. I don’t see why it should work fundamentally differently, so we are probably doomed.

The fact that our pure, spiritual behavior in the spiritual world is integral part of our being, part of our rasa with the Lord doesn’t inspire much confidence either. We WERE serious when we broke up with Him, it’s how we WANTED to relate to Kṛṣṇa, and He obliged no matter how uncomfortable it must have made Him. He knew what we were getting ourselves into and it probably made His heart very heavy.

It was impossible to keep us then, He had to let us go. His heart was broken, our hearts were probably broken, too, for it takes two to tango, as I said yesterday. Can we both just forget it and move on, once we get out of here? Probably not.

Consider material life examples again – it is possible for people to get back together but it would be on new terms, with memories of old feuds being buried and dismissed. Old life never comes back again, especially if it ended in acrimony.

Same could be true for us – we can come back but we should come back with new hopes and new love, and whatever we did before should never be spoken again. Think of a guy in the office having some troubles. Maybe with alcoholism, maybe with the law, maybe some mental stuff, something that drives him away for a while. We would all be glad if he came back, we miss him, miss his old self, miss him being a part of the gang and when he comes back it makes us really really happy. Except we don’t want to mention old problems, don’t want to think of them, erase them from our memories.

I hope that’s what they think of us in the spiritual world, too. But we are in the position of the guy who went of tracks and we have to deal with the situation from his POV.

First of all, we have to make amends with the boss, Kṛṣṇa. We might have old friends there but without Kṛṣṇa’s acceptance no one would accept us back. Only, perhaps, to re-introduce us to Him and vouch for us, which would be very much appreciated, of course.

To make amends with Kṛṣṇa, however, we need to overcome our own demons, which we can do through chanting, and we need to also swallow our pride and beg for our old place back, which could be much harder. We have to overcome the same pride that brought us here in the first place and at the moment we have no idea how bad it was.

Christians regularly atone for their sins but these sins are not really theirs, it’s just material energy forcing them to do this or that. Even that kind of atonement is very hard for those who do not practice it regularly.

Our atonement should come from the very depths of our hearts we don’t even know exist. Everybody says that the reason we fell down into the material world is unknown and untraceable but we have to find it, accept our fault, and approach Kṛṣṇa begging for forgiveness. That’s not a small task, I bet much harder than practically mechanical process of cleansing ourselves from material contamination – we just have to chant and it magically goes away.

And what of Kṛṣṇa? Is He going to help us?

Sure, but only to a degree. Relationships with Him are a two-way street, we need to do our part ourselves. So far He has been merciful enough to give us this chance, giving us this choice and preparing us to make it but we have to make it ourselves. He would gladly keep us around, waiting for us to make our decision. He provides all the facilities, all help we need, but final decision is up to us, we have to find courage in ourselves.

Problem is – we probably don’t have it. It was our last spiritual decision, life in the material world hasn’t given us any experience with spiritual side of our life, it was frozen for the whole period we were here, so once we are “free” we come back to our “original” position that caused our falldown.

That’s why we should seek mercy of devotees – let them shape our desires, guide us and train us, it’s only from them that we can learn how to please Kṛṣṇa again. It’s only from them that we can pick up our new agenda that we can present to the Lord and hope He accepts it. We have no idea what His current interests are, how they have changed in our absence, and only devotees can tell us what to do.

So, we should forget our personal interests, even spiritual ones, we should forget even our spiritual selves, they are of no help here. We should rely solely on guidance from devotees. Whatever they say, is good, whatever we think, is bad or at least doubtful. Instead of seeking OUR relationships with Kṛṣṇa we should humbly serve OTHER’s relationships with Him. Theirs are legit, ours are corrupted beyond repair.

Our chanting, even if it comes from our hearts, is crap, we should accept the mood of others instead. We have the entire paramparā to learn from, we are in good hands in this regard, we just have to give up our selfishness and embrace the given path.

Vanity thought #1192. Envy of Krishna

This is a difficult subject to write about. On one hand it’s very simple – we, the fallen souls, envy God’s powers, and so I could go through them one by one, how we want to be as strong, rich, or as famous as Kṛsṇa. Easy, right?

Not so fast. Our envy lies at the heart of our hearts, it’s spiritual in nature, it existed before we were placed in the material world, while all the comparisons with Kṛṣṇa I can make now are based on our current conditioning. We can compare Kṛṣṇa’s strength, for example, to our estimate of how strong Hiraṇyakaśipu was. We can compare His beauty to our current standards of beauty, and so on.

We would also speak of our current, conditioned attitudes to these opulences. We might feel indifferent to fame and so consider ourselves free from that kind of envy. Well, no one is indifferent to fame, ie recognition by fellow human beings, but we might be relatively indifferent to strength or beauty, depending on our gender. None of it addresses our original envy and all of it reflects our false egos.

How can I talk about *my* envy of Kṛṣṇa if it’s based on my false ego? What is truly mine in this case? Articulating our inner heart desires is nay impossible. Even figuring out what is it exactly that we want with Kṛṣṇa is impossible, let along putting it into words.

There’s another problem here, too – we don’t speak from the heart. All the thinking, talking, and typing is done by material bodies and minds which work under the influence of the material nature, ideally engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service but we can never be 100 percent sure about that. Even if they are, they still work under the influence of higher powers, not our inner selves. Kṛṣṇa always censors what we do here, I can’t make a single keystroke without His ultimate permission.

This arrangement is for our benefit, of course, so that we don’t do anything stupid and screw up our spiritual lives through inevitable offenses, but it still means it’s nearly impossible to express our hearts’ desires. Moreover, envy is such a corrupting quality that we should never speak of it in public, it’s contagious, it’s a can of worms that should never be opened.

Holy Name will slowly work its way through layers of dirt and grime in our hearts and, in due course of time, defeat envy, too, but there is a problem with that scenario – our envy is OURS, it’s what we want and Kṛṣṇa would never force us to love Him against our will. The Holy Name would probably only strengthen our determination to confront and challenge Him, because Kṛṣṇa always reciprocates. If that’s how we want to relate to Him, that’s what we get.

Deep meditation on Kṛṣṇa through envy is entirely possible, that’s what Śiśupāla did, as I mentioned yesterday. It should be possible for us, too, we can be totally absorbed in Kṛṣṇa, 24/7 without a break, but it would be relationship of envy, which we can’t even express in material words due to limitations I described above.

Occasionally I get glimpses of that envy, it just flashes in front of me, takes over all of my being for a second or two before my mind gathers itself and my intelligence tells me I can’t indulge myself that way. As I said, I can’t articulate these feelings, can’t classify, qualify, or quantify them. Sometimes they are triggered by clear external factors, though, and in these moments I can sort of understand what really bothers me.

For example, I can’t accept Kṛṣṇa being the only bhoktā, the only enjoyer. I can’t see myself as eternal bhoga, to be enjoyed. I want to be an enjoyer just like Him, within reason, of course. I draw a line between what is His and what could be mine. If I don’t get what I think should be mine my fuse goes off. I can’t accept that everything, including my body and my inner being is meant strictly for Kṛṣṇa’s enjoyment. Nothing is meant for us. Well, the material world is, of course, but that’s not where we want to find ourselves again and again, is it?

From reading about lives of people in the spiritual world it’s easy to imagine them as being legitimate enjoyers, especially on Vaikuṇṭhas. They even get the same form as the Lord there, and all the facilities, including wives and husbands. They just don’t die and don’t suffer – sounds perfect for me.

Or is it false ego talking? Aren’t we all meant for Goloka Vṛndāvana? Isn’t it our spiritual home? Some forcefully insist that for real devotees Vaikuṇṭha is like a living hell, in our sampradāya there shouldn’t be any thoughts of getting Vaikuṇṭha liberation, be it sālokya or sārūpya.

It’s all very nice, but there’s also the reality of our current spiritual predicament. Far from being on Vaikuṇṭha, Kṛṣṇa banned us far away into the depths of the material world, and we shouldn’t think, even for a second, that we didn’t deserve it. This is exactly what we wanted, exactly how far away from Kṛṣṇa we desired to be.

So, even if stripped of our material conditioning, this is still what we want deep in our hearts. Envy is our life and soul. Well, I shouldn’t speak for others but mine clearly is.

Even more – you can’t clap with one hand, if our predicament is the result of our relationships with Kṛṣṇa turning sour then He shares some responsibility for it, too. He did or didn’t do something for us to make us turn away from Him this way. We know for a fact that He can be absolutely heartless, too. He can be colder than death, being the Absolute and all. Just look how He treated His devotees in His own Vṛndāvana. He hooked them up first and then left them wilt and shrivel out of separation from Him for many many years until they died, without relief.

We say that their separation is the highest rasa but we should also admit that it is extremely painful, it’s not a walk in the park.

Perhaps we were just like them but couldn’t pass the test of time and found ourselves different interests, which are better served down here, away from Kṛṣṇa and the associated pain. Now they try to lure us back with promises of eternal bliss. Thank you, but we’ve been there before, and this bliss is not what we understand by bliss in our current material condition.

Important point, however, is that they try to lure us back. We will never make it back to Kṛṣṇa on our own, we need to be dragged back there, kicking and screaming. We will never find enough attraction to Kṛṣṇa in our own hearts to make it all the way across the material ocean. We just don’t have the necessary love for Him, and it won’t arise simply from chanting the Holy Name, for reasons I already mentioned – chanting would only strengthen our existing convictions.

That’s why devotee association is so important – that’s where we can get the taste of real devotion, which we don’t have ourselves. The Holy Name along can’t grant us this taste, unless there’s some special mercy. Love of Kṛṣṇa can be learned only from other devotees.

That’s the only way to overcome our inner, spiritual envy. We have to learn proper relationships with Kṛṣṇa from others, our own having been doomed. We failed in it already, it’s gone, we can’t restore it on our own, Kṛṣṇa wouldn’t listen, we need someone else to bring us back and beg Kṛṣṇa on our behalf.

Good news is that only one eleventh of a second of such association can save us forever. Bad news is that we usually misuse this time on worrying about inconsequential things or try to learn something else from our gurus instead.

Not to despair, chanting will cleanse our hearts from material grime and then it will become easier to take full advantage of association given to us.

Just to reiterate – listening to our hearts in our current state is useless and possibly even dangerous, needs to be ignored in favor of the words of our guru.

Vanity thought #1191. Deadly sins – envy

Just watched the second episode of 7 Deadly Sins, this one about envy, it was largely disappointing. It again had three segments, and since the first one featured some very explicit images I’m not going to link it here.

While they haven’t done anything wrong, they somehow misrepresented envy as an innocent domain of harmless freaks. In their presentation it wasn’t deadly at all but we are encouraged to rather show pity on them, maybe with tints of outrage here and there.

Envy is born of coveting something possessed by others, we are all affected by it and it affects our perception of the world, makes us “green with envy”, it leads to anger and aggression. Not according to this show, however.

Their first segment was about men fantasizing about being women, or, specifically, a small family business selling fake “female skin” suits that one can pull on and look just like a woman, with all anatomical details, full face with only slits for eyes. One can then admire himself in the mirror or take selfies, put on female clothing and so on. I seriously doubt people venture out in public dressed like that so it’s a private pastime only.

However despicable, there’s no great harm in that. It’s a fulfillment of one’s desire and so does not directly leads to anger, it rather gives an outlet for the crossdressers and transgenders or whoever is into this thing. I don’t think these people are even particularly envious of women, they are rather full of admiration for female form.

The man interviewed for this segment, in full “femme skin” outfit looked like a harmless freak, not someone green with envy. It’s cute how he tries to describe himself as normal but unusual because term “freak” offends him.

Second segment is even less provocative, it’s about a man who wants to be disabled. He got himself a wheel chair and he spends all his free time in it, pretending his legs don’t work. Again, not the best presentation on envy. He is not doing it for handicapped parking, though he is probably pleased with attention and service he sometimes undeservedly gets. He doesn’t often go outside, though, mostly wheeling around his apartment. Harmless freak again.

Come to think of it, I might have something in common with his affliction when I fantasize about being stripped of all the possessions and being forced to rely only on the Holy Name to survive and to entertain myself. It would be an artificial renunciation for me and I’m sure I wouldn’t last a day like that, I’m also not sure if it could be described as envy. Is it?

Am I really envious of real renunciates? Are they even real renunciates as opposed to those who engage material facilities in service of the Lord? In any case, it looks more like an aspiration to me than envy. Snow White was poisoned out of envy while I don’t feel any negative emotions like that at all, nor do I attach this renunciation to any particular person to be envious of.

This is an important point about envy – it must be directed at someone. Simply desiring wealth, for example, is not envy, it becomes envy when one fixates on a particular person whose riches he wants to surpass or emulate.

Third segment was about women buying very realistically looking baby dolls, so realistic that one can put them in a stroller or carry them around and people wouldn’t even suspect it’s not a real child. Women interviewed there all had their own children already, one had five of them, another is too old to have any more, so what’s the harm of them playing with dolls? Who are they envious of? Themselves in their younger age?

There are worse manifestations of Kali yuga affected obsessions than unfulfilled maternal instinct, as long as they are not stealing other people’s babies they are fairly innocuous. Freaky, but innocuous. There were shop assistants caught in this video who remained totally untroubled by adult women carrying baby looking dolls and trying baby dresses on them. Like I said, there are bigger problems in this world than excess of material feelings.

What all these presentations miss is that envy is not just for freaks, its domain is in everyone’s heart and we are all affected. What they also missed is showing how envy can ruin one’s life, so they made into a non-issue unrelated to our everyday lives. How did it become one of the deadly sins then? Unlike gluttony, there’s nothing deadly or harmful about it here.

Well, if they failed to demonstrate what envy really is and why it is dangerous, so what do we, as devotees, know about it? We know that we should be free from it, and that it’s our original envy towards God that brought us down to the material world, but that is obviously not all that there is to it.

I, for example, can’t explain myself why envy is supposed to be deadly, apart from general understanding that cultivating attachments is bad for spiritual progress. Perhaps envy compounds it by forcing us to commit offenses against people we are envious off, or at least to maintain offensive attitude.

There’s this curious verse to add more confusion to the matter (CC Adi 5.35):

    As through devotion to the Lord one can attain His abode, many have attained that goal by abandoning their sinful activities and absorbing their minds in the Lord through lust, envy, fear or affection.

One can attain Lord’s abode by absorbing his mind in the Lord through envy??? Originally, this verse is from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and translation there does not have the word envy (SB 7.1.30), dveṣāt there is translated as hatred, and this is not the only case of Prabhupāda using these meanings interchangeably.

There’s this phrase in purport to SB 4.25.24:

    The symptoms of rāga and dveṣa (attachment and envy) are described in Bhagavad-gītā (3.34)

but in the Gītā verse itself Śrīla Prabhupāda translated dveṣa as detachment and aversion (BG 3.34).

I don’t think we can make any clear conclusions as to why Prabhupāda used envy and hatred as synonyms and whether we can always treat them as such. Bhāgavatam verse is interesting because it mixes lust and envy as possible means of attaining the Lord but actual examples are at the opposing ends of devotional spectrum. Gopīs achieved Kṛṣṇa through lust while envy was displayed by Śiśupāla. Kaṃsa reached Kṛṣṇa by fear. Are we allowed to emulate them? Obviously not, their absorption in the Lord is not bhakti and therefore should be rejected.

There’s a place for envy in the spiritual world, but we can’t emulate that down here either. For us, envy is inadmissible in any shape or form. Kṛṣṇa makes non-enviousness a condition for receiving His message or for spiritual advancement in general. In one of His last instructions to Arjuna He says that one should listen to Bhagavad Gītā without envy (BG 18.71): who listens with faith and without envy becomes free from sinful reactions and attains to the auspicious planets where the pious dwell.

WITH faith and WITHOUT envy. Two conditions, what can be clearer?

In addition, Śrīla Prabhupāda often stressed that one must not be envious of an ācārya, which is easy to understand, too. It’s a bit more difficult to spot envy in our hearts, though. Our material life is based on envy of Kṛṣṇa and so envy becomes all-pervasive, to the degree that we don’t even notice it anymore. How often do we notice that we want to remember ślokas like others, or make compelling arguments like others, or even better than others? How often do we want to offer corrections to Bhagavatam speakers or other devotees? How often do we catch ourselves trying to be more knowledgeable than others or more respected than others?

I think all these feelings have something to do with underlying envy. I mean every time we feel any discomfort caused by comparing ourselves to other people it is envy by definition. Sometimes it’s irrational and impossible to contain, we just wants it.

How to deal with it? Simple, really, it’s one of those deep seated impurities in our hearts that is cleaned out by chanting. Just like any other desire for sense enjoyment, satisfying it, or dealing with symptoms, would bring only a temporary relief while the root cause must be dealt on a fundamental level.

As for symptoms, there’s a neat trick to contain envy. Latin word for envy is invidia, or literally “absence of vision”. It’s born of ignorance of our position and lack of appreciation for what is given to us. Out of envy we desire things we don’t need, once we understand that we would stop coveting them. That’s why in Bhagavad Gītā envy is contrasted with equal vision. “I’m not envious of anyone, I’m equal to everyone,” says Kṛṣṇa (BG 9.29). Or take this verse (BG 4.22):

    He who is satisfied with gain which comes of its own accord, who is free from duality and does not envy, who is steady in both success and failure, is never entangled, although performing actions.

Basically, we just need a little knowledge and we need to accept that Kṛṣṇa has provided us with everything we require for our progress. Satisfied in this knowledge we will have no reason to envy anyone.

I don’t think I’m ready to talk about our original envy of Kṛṣṇa but as far as every day situations in the material world these simple instructions should do the trick.

Vanity thought #1190. Times are a-changin

Yesterday I talked about gluttony and sure they have given a couple of extreme examples in that documentary. It would not be fair to the world not to mention relatively positive developments in this area, not just for the balance but because the society really is changing. Maybe not everywhere and not in every aspect but we should give credit where it’s due anyway.

Earlier this week Jon Stewart, a comedian masquerading as a news presenter, talked about a “pig problem”. It was related to possibly the fattest politician alive so there were puns to be had at his expense but it was, literally, a pig problem.

New Jersey legislature passed a bill against pig farmers using “gestational crates” to keep pregnant pigs in. These crates are very small cages where pigs can’t turn around, can’t move, can’t even lie down to sleep. They are forced to stand up their entire pregnancy, which, for breeding pigs, takes 80% of their lives. It’s horrible, it’s torture, it drives animals insane.

What’s remarkable about this is that 93% of NJ population supports legislation against using these crates. People DO care even if they are not going to stop eating pork.

Stewart dealt with this very same dilemma, too – on one hand there are these poor pigs, tortured for life, and for what? Bacon. It’s impossible for him to say no to bacon, too, but at least he knows the price now.

Next he invited two guys for a mock up “debate” on this issue and the anti-crate guy started with some strong worded rhetoric about our responsibility to provide at least dignified life for animals we eventually kill for our pleasure. It’s a comedy show so they couldn’t say these things with a straight face but the strength of the argument was undeniable. These days everybody gets it, which is progress, considering that not a long time ago no one cared how pigs were raised and slaughtered at all.

Stewart’s next guest, an actress promoting a new movie, turned out to be vegan, perfect for the occasion. She was wise enough not to rub everyone’s face in hypocrisy of eating animals and that made her look even better. She avoided trivial question about taste of vegetarian food and instead talked about our moral fibers, appealing to a side of our heart that overrules petty demands of our tongues. All in all in it was brilliant.

Unfortunately, the decision to give up bacon was left to the audience but if there are any sincere individuals out there, they have been given all necessary information on the subject. It’s like that proverbial horse – you can take it to the water but you can’t make it drink.

Oh, and the politician promised to veto the bill anyway, but that’s politics, not our concern.

In the end, gluttony still wins, but barely.

Another good news this week was Washington Post’s review of the book called The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson. It’s a decidedly atheistic book about evolution and it extends the usual attack even further – Wilson argues that religions are product of evolution, too, following the same Darwinian laws as fruit flies and dung beetles.

He says, according to the review – I’m not going to read the book itself, that natural selection works not only on physical level but on societal level as well. That it’s not just about mechanical advantages given to certain individuals but survival between competing groups, too. Those who are better organized win, eventually establishing dominant cultures which then take over the rest of the world.

Surprisingly, the ability to communicate, collaborate, and divide labor is a trait that has been observed only on twenty occasions in the history of life, mostly among insects. Wilson is apparently world’s leading authority on ants so I’m not going to argue against that.

Religions, according to him, helped societies a lot in this battle for survival of the fittest. They provided binding and unifying force, ethics, trust etc. They also had side effects like sectarianism and religious wars but these are not the points I want to argue about today, I’m just giving a quick summary.

What this all means is that Wilson reduced our social life is to simple genetics and natural laws, stripping away our “free will”, and that’s what I liked this review for – they caught him on that.

Ultimately, there really is no free will in the material world, it moves according to the modes of material nature and under the influence of time, and karma rules the rest. For the purpose of this discussion, however – about a book on evolution, we need to talk about extraneous force – living entities who are beyond the modes of nature and who have their undeniable spiritual desires that can’t be explained through genetics.

On this level we need to assign values to good and bad karma, otherwise it would look all the same, like positive and negative ends of a battery. If it’s all just genetics then what’s so special about Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa, as someone said in the comments. Life then loses it’s meaning, and that’s what review caught the book on, too – it doesn’t live up to its title.

I’m glad that there are people out there who see this kind literature through and realize its limitations, and that these people are given voice in such prominent publications as Washington Post.

There was another good point there, too – Wilson predicts that neuroscience will soon identify the physical basis of consciousness. Good luck with that, will happen just after pigs fly, and after they learn to grow them from ground sand mixed with water. The review didn’t press Wilson on that, they probably didn’t even notice it, but we’ve been raised by Śrīla Prabhupāda and we smell this kind of promises from miles away. They stink.

One more thing about free will – on one hand it’s great that the reviewers exposed such a major shortcoming of this atheistic book, on the other hand denial of free will is a very mature realization. Even we, as devotees, still don’t get it and run around like ordinary karmīs trying to improve our lives. I’m not saying Wilson knows better but here he is like a broken clock caught in a moment when it happens to show the correct time.

To sum it up, the world suddenly doesn’t look like such a hopeless place. There are plenty of level headed individuals there who look open minded enough to accept the message of Lord Caitanya, if only we could go and reach out to them. The world looks Kṛṣṇa’s for the taking, ready to serve Him even for their own selfish reasons.

Vanity thought #1189. Gluttony

Earlier this year there was a documentary on TV called “7 Deadly Sins” that deals with, as the title says, deadly sins. So far I’ve watched only Gluttony but I’m sure I’ll explore the rest of it, too, perhaps excluding lust.

It’s produced by the guy who created “Super Size Me”, an experiment where he would eat nothing else but McDonald’s meals for one month, accepting a “super-size” option every time it was offered. He gained 11 kg and suffered a number of other problems, one of the doctor comparing the effects to severe binge alcoholism.

For gluttony episode of the series he chose two powerful spokesmen plus an unusual take on the after effects. First up was John Basso, a restaurateur on a mission to teach people that his food is bad for their health. He serves burgers and fries and high calories sodas and he makes them extra, despicably unhealthy. He was on an off the news for the past couple of years and every time he drives this same point home.

Each burger patty is accompanied by five slices of bacon that they do not drain of cooking grease, plus cheese and other stuff, and their French fries are fried in pure lard. The names are telling, too – It’s a “Bypass burger” and “Flatliner Fries”. The biggest, Quadruple Bypass Burger, has four patties, twenty slices of bacon, and four times the calories recommended for a whole day. Eat one and they’ll wheel you out in an actual wheelchair, as per restaurant’s theme – you are a patient, waiters are nurses, orders are prescriptions, and the owner is a doctor. Those who weigh over 160 kg are entitled to a free burger, on the house.

Notable restaurant’s achievements include death of their 260 kg spokesperson at the age of 29, heart attacks suffered by customers right at the restaurant, and all kinds of what normally would be considered bad publicity. But, strangely, that’s what drives the sales. People love it exactly for that – unadulterated promotion of gluttony at any cost.

The “doctor” has created an image for himself as some sort of a health crusader, trying to teach people about dangers of eating fast food, but they just don’t listen. Once he was interviewed on TV and he brought a plastic bad with actual remains of one of his dead customers. It was there, right on the table in front of the camera, ashes of someone who died eating his food, and people still ignore his point.

In this documentary he starts with the commercial featuring his now dead spokesman and he begs people to wake up and realize they are fat, not “plus size”, not portly, but fat, and they should lose weight or “Hurry up, die, and be done with it.” Later on he says that he doesn’t want to be popular, he wants to infamous and hated and he tries everything to be as despicable as possible.

Do people listen? No! They take it as a challenge instead. Why? Many just like the risk, like to brag that they have eaten these burgers and survived, but otherwise it’s just gluttony, and to display its power the producer presented 320 kg adult entertainer “Darling Nikky” talking about her love of food.

She goes on and one describing everything she likes and how it makes her feel “orgasmic”. I don’t know where they found her but she is a quite disgusting character in every respect. Well, she is friendly and cheerful but that’s about it, after that it’s “me me me” and “what I like to eat and how it makes me feel”. Charging people for looking at her body is how she makes her living. Google search doesn’t bring anything resembling porn but, at 324 kg she looks like a certified freak and some people apparently have a thing for that. Her current “boyfriend” features in this documentary, too.

Then we are shown the end of all these stories – how mortuaries deal with obesity. They make extra big coffins and such, but the worst part is the cremation – obese people to not fit in regular size furnaces, and when they are burned their melted fat starts dripping out. Picture that! They also have to be burned at lower temperatures so as to avoid potential “grease fire”.

Anyone is still up for eating? Extreme sense gratification is so gross we should always be aware of the path we step on every time we indulge ourselves. Human form of life is not meant for that.

This is what we have trouble accepting – human form of life is meant for total, complete, absolute renunciation of all sense enjoyment. Forget the materialists, it just doesn’t occur to them, but as devotees we still think “this can’t be true, there has got to be another way”.

We talk about yukta-vairāgya, we talk about prasādam, and it’s true, if we engage our senses in serving Kṛṣṇa we do feel being gratified just the same, but that is still not the purpose. Kṛṣṇa is the master of the senses, they are meant for His enjoyment, not ours, even the senses themselves are not ours, we just lay claim to them under the influence of false ego.

Being properly engaged in service gradually purifies our senses but in this case it’s not the process, it’s the result that is important – all sense gratification must eventually be renounced. Until that happens we can’t expect bhakti to blossom in our hearts. We can’t expect love and devotion for Kṛṣṇa to manifest in our lives.

Every time we catch ourselves thinking “oh, that feels good” is the time we shut down the door to inner Vṛndāvana, door to Kṛṣṇa. It could be food, it could be a soft bed, it could be a nice looking woman on a street – anything. This has got to stop.

There’s no way we can understand Kṛṣṇa’s desires if we are still interested in what our senses want instead, and if we don’t understand Kṛṣṇa, how can we serve Him? How can we satisfy Him? How can we lead our lives in a way that brings a smile to His face?

About that – people shown in this documentary are a glaring example why Kṛṣṇa has absolutely no interest in material life. He cannot possibly love us for what we are trying to be here – sense enjoyers expressing themselves through gross matter. Yesterday I talked about compassion – there could be no compassion for these material shells, it would only be a material sentiment. We need to see pure spiritual souls underneath, understand why Kṛṣṇa needs them, and then we can talk about compassion towards Kṛṣṇa who has been bereft of His legitimate loving relationships with these “people”.

I’m more and more inclined to agree that compassion is not “oh, these people do not have Kṛṣṇa” but rather “oh, Kṛṣṇa is deprived of their service, how can we help Him.” At this point I tend to think that love for other living entities is an unnecessary distraction. We should love only Kṛṣṇa, and relate to all others through His love for them, not directly.

OTOH, it’s not how we are told to relate to other devotees so there need to be some adjustments to this proposal. All in a good time, I hope.

Vanity thought #1188. Another take on compassion

I vaguely remember writing about compassion what seems like a long time ago. There’s a blog search for situations like this but I’m not sure I want to see my old ramblings, I would probably be ashamed of them myself.

These days most of the time we hear about compassion in a dictionary sense of the word. Stupid people suffer the results of their karma and our hearts bleed for them. Well, my doesn’t, and maybe I should be certified as a sociopath for that. Or maybe I just became numb to pain – you read enough news and eventually sob stories stop bothering you anymore, you just skip past them, sometimes consciously because you just don’t want to feel their pain. It always comes with string attached, too.

A while ago there was a spate of insurance ads on our local TV, they were all tear jerking and so, unlike real sociopaths, I KNOW how they feel, but they are also just business, nothing personal.

Most of other sad stories are also used as a pretext for call to action, that we as a society or as each citizen individually are ought to do something about it. Maybe enjoy a Band-Aid concert or something.

People are tired of being responsible citizens everywhere, it’s not just me. If someone asks for donations for some orphanage or something many would reply they donate regularly already, it’s part of their budgeting, so they don’t want to hear about any new causes. Others feel they do their part by drinking Starbucks coffee – the shop just have to inform them that part of the profits goes to some worthy cause and presto – you’ve donated and your consciousness is clear!

So, I have two arguments against being forced to feel compassion – first is that it hurts for no good reason, and second is that people want you to do something to alleviate the pain they just caused as if they are blackmailing you. A mature individual should decide to do something based on better considerations than temporary emotional distress. If the cause is worthy then it should be clear on its own, no pain should be necessary.

Some devotees insist on compassion being our primary quality, that we should be naturally compassionate and in pure state should act solely out of compassion towards all the living entities. I don’t buy it. If an abusive drunk gets a liver disease and still drinks himself towards death – why should I feel compassion for his self-inflicted suffering? Why should I take interest in his life beyond what is obvious? If you ask him he’d tell you a long story of being a victim and, basically, how his gross sense gratification gets thwarted again and again. Why should we listen to this and contaminate our consciousness by forcing ourselves to think that not getting enough booze on Friday is somehow important?

Our next step is then to say that we should feel compassion not for people’s pain so much but for their lack of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This is better and, I think, it’s the only legitimate reason. Poor guy thinks it’s his landlord or his wife who are torturing him but we know better. He expects us to fix his material troubles but we think that he should just start chanting and not worry so much about the lost cause of his material life. It probably won’t get better but at least his soul will be definitely saved.

Devotees who promote this line of reasoning often quote Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura who said that the only thing lacking in this world is Kṛṣṇa consciousness and so we have to give people that regardless of what they think they need. Or maybe somebody else said that, the point still stands.

The idea here is that people don’t realize that their real suffering is their disconnect from Kṛṣṇa. It’s the cause of all their other problems and, when they are advanced enough, it would pain them much more than anything that happens to their material bodies. This seems legitimate, it’s what we learn from Prabhupāda’s books, it’s what pained Prahlāda Mahārāja who prayed for the deliverance of all the suffering living entities, not for his own liberation (SB 7.9.43). Btw, when in the beginning of this post I called them stupid I was simply paraphrasing Prahlāda’s and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words – vimūḍha, first class fools and rascals.

Okay, these are text book ideas, so far I haven’t said anything new. There’s, however, another take on compassion that I heard in one of Aindra Prabhu’s room conversations (mp3 download). There he turns it all around and makes into the most beautiful exposition on love of Kṛṣṇa.

He says that real devotees feel for Kṛṣṇa, not for stupid jīvas who fully deserved their fate. He claims it’s how Lord Caitanya felt, too, but I’ve never seen this interpretation anywhere so I’m not sure.

When we turn away from Kṛṣṇa and go try our luck in the material world we give Him a lot of pain. We deprive Him of our service and our love despite everything He does for His devotees. A real Kṛṣṇa’s servant, therefore, would work his socks off to alleviate Kṛṣṇa’s pain. Whatever Kṛṣṇa wants, we should oblige. Why should we worry about anyone else but Kṛṣṇa and His devotees? Why should we divert out attention to studying these rascals misfortunes? Whose servants are we anyway? Kṛṣṇa’s or humanity’s?

Preaching, therefore, should be first and foremost about making Kṛṣṇa happy. We bring people back to Him because He wants their service. How THEY feel about it is irrelevant. Their only value is in their connection with Kṛṣṇa, either existing or potential, otherwise they can do whatever the hell they want, and they’ll probably end up in hell anyway.

We are all spirit souls, all different, some are probably “better” than others even by spiritual standards, but we shouldn’t seek connections to these people on their own merits, only through Kṛṣṇa. Maybe it sounds impersonal but it also makes a lot of sense. The Vṛndāvana rasas we hear about are not meant for our interpersonal enjoyment, they are only for Kṛṣṇa. He is the only enjoyer, we should not seek them in relationships with anyone else. This is what probably brought us down here in the first place.

It’s like discovering that there’s a spy among your friends – he looks just like before, you can have conversations with him just like before, but now that you know he is a traitor to your country it doesn’t feel right anymore. That’s what seeking compassion towards traitors of Kṛṣṇa’s love is – not right, very disturbing indeed. It’s probably offensive to Kṛṣṇa, too, even if it might not be on the list of the ten offenses.

Of course there’s always a neophyte stage where one doesn’t appreciate Kṛṣṇa’s devotees as much as he should but I’m not talking about neophytes here. Even if we are still on that level we should know at least theoretically the difference between devotees and non-devotees, which means between Kṛṣṇa’s flock and the rest of the local vimuḍhas.

They think they are in pain but it takes a pure devotee to see that actually it’s Kṛṣṇa who is in pain without their association, and so it’s only Kṛṣṇa who we should be concerned about, forget the rest, the world is too big and lives are too short for anything else.