This is not about any personal revelations, I mean being totally honest with Kṛṣṇa. Are we really, most of the time? Are we holding something back? Are trying to fool the Lord and, perhaps, ourselves?
Personally, I hate articles that start with a bunch of questions. If I see something like that I just skip over unless I have a compelling reason to tax my own brain and figure out what it is that the author really wants. So, don’t try to answer mine, they are rhetorical. The answer are No, Yes, and Yes, if we are totally honest.
We can’t help it, we want to control and enjoy the world, it just feels so good. Not all the time, of course, but this world has its own moments and if our lives are really going bad we always have memories and hopes.
People deprived of sense gratification can really kill for a bite of food. I hope it never happens to any of us but if it did, there’s no way of telling how low we could go when nature squeezes us real hard. Most of the time we don’t have to get into extreme situations at all and would lie and cheat either for money, prestige, or plain sex. For sex, people would do anything. Maybe not right away but if the object of our desire plays his or her cards well they can get us into a situation where we would be ready to kill someone, let alone cheat or steal.
Again, we don’t have to go to extremes, we have a much higher standards than the ordinary public, we don’t need to become criminals to commit offenses before the Lord and His devotees. Simple desire to indulge or to keep our passions is enough to disqualify us from obtaining Lord’s mercy. Every simple, tiny little thing that we want to keep for ourselves shuts the doors completely.
We might be able to restrain ourselves for now but if we let our mind keep its options open in the future it would be an offense already. We can’t deal with our minds like we deal with our kids. Kids can be fooled with future promises: “Not now, son, first we have to do this thing and then that thing, and maybe later…”, and we hope that the kid forgets. It doesn’t work all the time but some cravings indeed go away with time. Well, we can’t do this to our minds.
If we leave an option that sometime in the future our mind can have its sex, for example, then that’s what it will remember. It will be a deal – it will leave us alone for now but will come to collect later. We must realize that when we are dealing with our minds we also make promises to ourselves because we identify ourselves with sense gratification, both gross and subtle. We think it will happen to us, we think that we will experience it ourselves, that it will be some sort of a future reward for overpowering the mind in the present, and that will be “maintaining material desires”.
Honestly, I don’t think we can live in any other way while being under the material illusion. As long as we are attached to our false egos we WILL think that pleasurable interactions between senses and sense objects happen to us directly. And as long as we think we “deserve” letting our hair down once in a while we have no chance of Kṛṣṇa making a grand entrance into our lives.
Once again, it doesn’t have to be a big sin, like illicit sex. We have infinite number of subtle enjoyments that we might be as attached to as ordinary people are to fornication. In fact, sex desire eventually subsides as we grow older but subtle desires to dominate and control the world around us stay forever.
In that sense, I sometimes envy people with Alzheimer’s because they often give up on trying to be normal. Not all of them but some. There’s a stage where they imagine they are doing okay and act is if they in total command of their mental faculties but for some there’s also a stage where they realize their mind is gone. At this point they don’t fight with relatives or care takers, they don’t make crazy demands, they don’t make outrageous accusations, they suffer in silence, being forced to be meek and humble.
Sometimes I wish my life was like that and I would be freed from all my responsibilities. When you are seen as a productive member of society there are so many expectations to fulfill. You must be ambitious, you must project power, you must appear in control, you must have dreams, you must project the image of success. If I had Alzheimer’s I would have been excused.
There isn’t sannyāsā in this age, as we know. Partly, it means that there isn’t a social order for us where we can renounce all worldly aspirations. This means we have to keep appearances, we have no permission to seek shelter only of Lord’s lotus feet and depend on Him alone.
It’s not a contradiction, just a nod to reality. Whoever imagines himself ready for such a position is very likely to fail, Kali Yuga eventually gets everyone. We have to carry the burden of our material misidentification, we can’t give it up like sannyāsīs of the previous ages. We are condemned to suffer the company of our minds indefinitely and there’s nothing we can do, just learn to be humble and patient.
It’s a little trouble for the privilege to develop love of God simply by chanting the Holy Name. This process doesn’t work in any other age, only for us, so we get the best and the worst at the same time. Sometimes I think that people who desire to live their lives purely in service to the Lord are secretly seeking liberation from the struggles imposed on us by Kali Yuga. They want to serve because it will bring them relief. Maybe I’m wrong but only fully liberated persons can have unalloyed desires to serve, for the rest of us there will always be a tinge of either bhukti or mukti – desire for enjoyment or renunciation of suffering.
So, to be totally honest, we are destined to be shitty servants and we will never attain the necessary level of purity in this age. It does’t mean we are doomed, but it means we are not likely to attain Kṛṣṇa premā while in our current material bodies. Or, to put it in another way – our bodies are not designed for Kṛṣṇa premā. We can’t make our lumps of lust into Lord’s pure accessories or instruments, not going to happen. Our bodies will never be good enough for that. We must resign ourselves to serving from a distance. Perhaps life after life, as going to Vaikuṇṭha isn’t going to solve our problem either – their bodies are not meant for developing the kind of premā we want.
So, all we have left is to chant against all odds. The Lord is always with us, just not with us as we imagine ourselves.
PS. Sannyāsā in ISKCON and GM before that is not meant for practicing renunciation but for preaching. Our sannyāsīs wouldn’t qualify by Vedic standards, even by standards in Lord Caitanya’s time, but they are doing great service, far greater that simply practicing renunciation, and will surely earn a ton of mercy for it.