Vanity thought #1184. In the loop

It’s nice to be in the loop and it’s rather cold outside. No one wants to be caught out of the loop, even in our community. People out of the loop immediately feel a big hit to their self-esteem, and that is before calculating their material losses from not knowing what’s going on.

How should a devotee react to it, however? We obviously feel betrayed and unappreciated but that is just ego talking. We could easily see it as Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, it’s for out own good, it’s stripping our upādhis, our worthless attachments to our material identities.

On the other hand, the feeling of betrayal by devotees is devastating. We depend on devotees in every each way, we depend on their mercy, depend on their shelter, depend on their faith. We do not know Kṛṣṇa, we know only guru and devotees, being betrayed by them is like being betrayed by Kṛṣṇa Himself.

We can justify it by saying that Kṛṣṇa is using devotees to cure us, there’s nothing personal, devotees are just doing their jobs, but then how can we look at them as persons again? How can we take shelter of them if we know that at any moment they can turn around and give us a cold shoulder? How can we see them as devotees if they act as impersonal agents?

I guess it takes a lot of maturity to take such a hit and still keep our faith in devotees’ mercy. After all, no matter what they do, we should see them as saintly persons and as only carriers of devotion. We can’t find devotion anywhere else, no matter what they do, they are the only repository of bhakti. It doesn’t exist outside devotees’ hearts.

Yeah, sometimes they act as agents of Kṛṣṇa, sometimes they act as agents of māyā. It would be nice if they were all liberated souls, it would be nice if they were all first class vaiṣṇavas, but it’s an unrealistic expectation. We better get used to it.

We should also learn to see the difference between devotion and betrayal. Actions and attitudes unbecoming real devotees do not nullify real devotion. It might not be visible at the moment but it’s always there, we just caught them at the wrong time. Their devotion will shine through again, we just have to wait.

And we have to admit that striking down our false ego is actually a boon, so what if it hurts? It’s a necessary step, a bitter pill to swallow but it’s still a cure. One day, when we are finally spiritually healthy, we’ll be very grateful for every “bad” thing devotees have done to us.

Once we accept this within our hearts we will also feel a surge of forgiveness and even appreciation. Nothing happens without Kṛṣṇa’s sanction so if we have a problem with how others treat us we have to take it up with the Holy Name rather than take it out on somebody else.

Or put it another way – devotees can’t hurt us, by definition, only our karma can. We should learn to see the difference between the two.

Hmm, that’s not even the loop I was talking about, I meant a loop in a more literal sense – a series of iterations, doing things over and over again.

In programming there are two kinds of loops (as relevant to the topic). They are closely connected and, in a few lines, can be converted from one to another with little effect on the speed or memory resources, but it’s the symbolic difference that interests me today.

One kind is for loop and another kind is while. For loop is usually used to instruct the program to do something a preset number of times, and its cousin for each loop tells the program to do the same thing for each element of a set.

In both cases the number of iterations is predetermined, you know exactly what will happen and when the program will exit the loop. It gives you clarity and control, and you can demand your “rights” if you don’t get what you want. It’s a materialist’s dream – you can shape the world around you at will and insist on perfect execution of your plans.

While loop, otoh, is open ended. It goes through the iterations just the same but there’s no predetermined exit from it. Instead it checks a certain condition on each go. If the condition hasn’t changed it won’t exit. The control of this condition is usually outside the program itself, or at least this particular part of the program, so to the loop it looks external.

That’s the uncertainty of our spiritual life. We cannot make any claims here, we cannot demand pure bhakti on the completion of X number of rounds. Materialists, in their for loop, can demand a paycheck at the end of each month, we can’t. Kṛsṇa needs to see a qualitative change in our hearts before He grants us access to the next level.

A for loop for us would look like this:

for i in 1..35,000,000
do
chant Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare
done

SinOfKillingABrāhmaṇa=absolved

That’s according to Kali Santaraṇa Upaniṣad, and we don’t care much about sins of killing brāhmaṇas. It’s not really applicable to us, unlike the while loop:

while [ $heart = contaminated ]
do
chant Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare
done

bhakti=unlocked

Here I assume we start with a contaminated heart, and before chanting each mantra we check if it still is. When and how our heart is accepted as clean is beyond our control, it’s a decision made by Kṛsṇa. Technically speaking, I should probably add asking Kṛṣṇa for our heart status after each loop, too, but you get my point.

Should we stop chanting when we develop bhakti? Of course not, but we won’t have to follow sādhana rules anymore and we won’t have to chant any particular mantra, most likely we’d loose external consciousness anyway.

My point is that we should approach devotional service with a psychologically different attitude from materialists setting out to achieve their goals. They live under laws of karma, under the laws of nature, so they can demand that these laws are followed and after doing something N amount of times they deserve their just rewards.

It doesn’t work like that in personal relationships with Kṛṣṇa. For one thing he doesn’t follow any laws. Another point, which is true for materialists, too – you can’t win somebody’s love by doing mechanical things. Well, these days kids are looking for sex, not love, so this reference might be lost on them altogether.

Anyway, the condition of our heart does change with each mantra, however subtly, but we need a qualitative change, not just a small iteration, to earn pure devotion. With this approach we can visualize offensive chanting, too – it’s the one that doesn’t improve anything and so can last forever with no visible progress.

We should also remember that even with Kṛṣṇa mercy residual contamination would remain and falldowns are still possible, but recovery would be a lot easier than achieving that level for the first time.

In that sense it’s like a computer/mobile phone game where you can’t save your progress and have to start from the beginning – it’s a lot faster to go through the same first levels with each new start.

Bottom line – we should psychologically accept while part of our condition – there’s no limit on how much we should chant to make it to the next level, we should just patiently wait until we are there.

On that note, there’s until loop, too, which is just an inverted while:

until [ $heart = pure ]
do
chant Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare
done

bhakti=unlocked

I hope it happens to all of us rather sooner than later.

Good luck.

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