Vanity thought #1462. Eloquence

The question of language I mentioned yesterday is a big one – if we say glorification of the Holy Name is our dharma shouldn’t we be very good at it? We can’t emulate sweetness of the Brijabasis and that’s understandable but we are supposed to be engaged in saṅkīrtana twenty four hours a day and must attain certain level of proficiency. What’s our actual situation?

We have Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and Caitanya Caritāmṛta to give us plenty of examples of what is expected of devotees in terms of glorification of the Lord. Offering elaborate and beautiful prayers is the first thing they do when the Lord reveals Himself and, since they are recorded, we can get the idea of how long they should be and their possible content.

Prahlāda Mahārāja chanted over forty verses on the spot, each four lines long, about the same in English, fifteen-twenty words per line. This works out to two-three thousand words in total, twice as long as my posts here. It takes hours for me, Prahlāda didn’t have any time to prepare and was in a far more difficult position.

Lord Nṛsiṁha just slaughtered Hiraṇyakaśipu and was still in a very angry mood. The present demigods were shaking in their boots and were more inclined to soil their pants rather than offer appropriate prayers. Even the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī, did not recognize her husband and refused to step forward. The Lord looked so fierce that Lord Brahmā gently pushed little Prabhlāda forward to speak on everyone’s behalf. “You called Him, it was your father who caused all these troubles, you go talk to Him now.”

In our usual retelling of the story Prahlāda was brave and didn’t see any danger in presence of Lord Nṛiṁhadeva but Bhāgavatam is a bit more restrained. Prahlāda approached the Lord very slowly and first thing he did when he reached the Lord was to fall on the ground in obeisances. I bet it looked like the safest option to him, he wasn’t going to stand in front of the Lord and feel Lord’s hot breath on his face and absorb Lord’s anger. That was clearly too much even for Prahlāda, so he fell down and surrendered himself completely, he didn’t want to appear as equal to the Lord in any sense as standing in front of each other and exchanging words, even if they are prayers, is still a sign of equality.

Prahlāda prostrated himself in obeisances and probably didn’t even dare to look at Lord’s lotus feet, let along Lord’s face. He gave up the very idea that “I can look at things”, in Lord’s presence we are not seers, we are to be seen. We don’t look at the Lord, the Lord looks at us. We do not caste glances as we do when we are in illusion that we are masters of everything we see.

Lord Nṛsiṁha was very affectionate to Prahlāda, He lifted him up and put His hand on little boy’s head to make him feel safe and eradicate all his fears. This also cleansed Prahlāda of all the remnants of material contamination and all material desires and it is on this platform that devotees and the Lord can finally start communicating.

This was the effect on Prahlāda as recorded in Bhāgavatam (SB 7.9.6):

    … he at once became transcendentally situated, and all the symptoms of ecstasy became manifest in his body. His heart filled with love, and his eyes with tears, and thus he was able to completely capture the lotus feet of the Lord within the core of his heart. Prahlāda Mahārāja fixed his mind and sight upon Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva with full attention in complete trance. With a fixed mind, he began to offer prayers in love with a faltering voice.

Note that Prahlāda’s voice was still faltering, it took him some time to get going with his prayers, but he manifested all the symptoms of ecstasy, his mind was in full samādhi, and Lord’s lotus feet captured his heart.

This gives us some leeway – our abilities must magically improve, too, if we ever come to the point where we have to offer prayers to the Lord in person. We won’t be able to talk to the Lord from our current platform so whatever prayers we can compose now will necessarily be contaminated and unsuitable to offer and we won’t be allowed to talk until purified by Lord’s mercy.

Next step for us is to allow the Lord Himself speak through our mouths. Plenty of devotees in Caitanya Caritāmṛta gave this explanation for their abilities. Srīla Prabhupāda was speaking what Kṛṣṇa was dictating to him, transcribing Lord’s words into humanly intelligible language that could be captured on tape. I suppose we can expect the same thing happening to us – some words magically appearing on our tongues and us wondering how it was even possible for us to speak like that.

While this can happen, wouldn’t it be cheating? Can we claim that these were our prayers if we don’t know ourselves how they manifested? We might as well start speaking in “tongues”, probably in Sanskrit, understand everything we say for the moment but lose this ability afterwards. Can we honestly say these were our prayers then?

It is perfectly okay to channel someone else’s words and become instruments in someone else’s hands in order to server the Lord properly but can we rely on this forever? Shouldn’t saṅkīrtana be OUR service, not someone else’s? It’s fine for someone else to take over every now and then but what are we going to do for the rest of our lives? We already ARE instruments of our guru, everything we say and think is dictated to us by our books, lectures, personal instructions etc, it’s just still not good enough to be offered to the Lord. What can we do about it?

Obviously, we shouldn’t rush to order “Prayers for Dummies” and try to artificially increase our proficiency, we won’t fool anybody this way. I think we should humbly admit that eloquence is not our gift and even when time to pray comes it will be someone else putting words into our mouths, we’ll never become as good as Sarasvatī (if it’s her who controls this kind of intelligence) and so we shouldn’t try to usurp her service. What we actually should strive for is maintaining the necessary level of purity that enables prayers to come out of our mouths in the first place.

In the example of Prahlāda above it’s not the eloquence that was his biggest achievement at the time but purification of all material desires and samādhi. Ability to compose prayers might come and go, but the samādhi should stay. If Lord’s feet manifest in our hearts we should hold on to them with our dear lives, who cares what sounds come of out mouths then?

Our only contribution is our devotion, we are not in the position to increase transcendental opulences of Lord’s abode, and eloquence is just one of these opulences. We can’t really add anything to it but we can offer our hearts, that’s the only thing that is missing there, and once this offer has been accepted it will finally complete the puzzle. We are never going to serve the Lord directly but always in cooperation with others, so we bring hearts and working mouths, they bring the words.

Of course, on the material platform it looks as if it’s just one person speaking and he is then credited with the speech but we should know better than that. We never serve alone and we never take any credit.

And we could always say that the extent of our eloquence is in properly enunciating every word in the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra, that’s enough for now.

Vanity thought #1461. Sweetness

One distinguishing feature of bhakti is sweetness. We sort of know this but in our everyday lives we don’t get to experience anything like it and so it doesn’t really register with us how sweet relationships between Kṛṣṇa and His devotees are.

Mādhurya is just a word for us, a technical term describing something we have no idea about. Practically everybody can understand when we talk about Lord’s greatness, even the atheists have experiences of awe and majesty of the universe or universal laws – that’s what gives them the taste for their philosophy. Lots of people can admire either the Lord or the universe, they can be humbled by these realizations, too, but that’s not the same as Kṛṣṇa’s sweetness.

We simply have no clue and maybe we shouldn’t be going around looking for one, it would only be profanation. Attractiveness of bhakti, pure devotion, can only be appreciated by liberated persons, otherwise we’d naturally define bhakti in terms of our material emotions and those are not only nowhere near the same but also necessarily boring and tiresome.

We have a term “puppy love” for something we consider cute, innocent, and sweet, but the implication is that one should get over it, it can’t possibly last and one shouldn’t trust this kind of emotions. They don’t stand the test of time and so the sign of maturity is not being swayed by them. Saying that seven year old Krsna’s relationship with girls of the same age is the highest possible taste in the spiritual world cheapens it. It’s not love, we think, it’s childish infatuation, and we can’t really see it any other way, it’s just what it is in the material world.

We can intellectually restrain ourselves from entertaining such thoughts and we can’t anchor mādhurya relationships anywhere in our materialistic lives, so the moment we try to “understand” them we reduce them to mundane debasement, it just can’t happen otherwise for us in our current state.

Is there any hope for us to appreciate this sweetness? Yes, there is, but it must not come from “sweet talk”, we can’t distill mādhurya by squeezing nectar from worldly romance. Our romance might be rooted in original relationships in the spiritual world but that connection is too deep and too distant so it’s practically lost for us forever.

The only legitimate way is through complete purge of our own materialistic consciousness first, then through appreciating this sweetness in those who already possess it. Materially produced mādhurya, like recycled urine, will never be suitable for drinking, no matter what “science” says about it’s “cleanliness”. Well, it could be argued that every drop of water we ever drink contains some of recycled urine, purified by the sun and by passed through soil and sand, but that would be stretching the analogy too far.

This legitimate mādhurya appreciation process is very delicate, we always need to keep the perfect balance between our spiritual realization and our exposure to sweetness of Kṛṣṇa līlā. Too little of sweetness won’t probably hurt us but any excess can poison our lives for a long time because it would strengthen and develop our material attachments instead – when we accept our mental imagery of Kṛṣṇa līlā as the real thing and grow to like it.

Our Srīla Prabhupāda was always on the case of scientists and māyāvādās but my personal impression of Srīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī is that he saw prākṛta sahajiyā as the greatest danger to devotional service. Māyāvādīs and scientists can spoil regular folk and however much we care about their spiritual well-being, sahajiyās spoil devotees and this loss is much greater. Also it makes more sense to talk to devotees about dangers facing them rather than dangers facing someone else and so if we mostly read what Srīla Bhaktisiddhānta preached to devotees then sahajiyā must naturally come ahead of māyāvāda and other apasiddhāntas affecting outside society.

Pure devotional service of the level where one can express sweetness of Kṛṣṇa līlā is very very rare and it’s even rarer for it to be manifested before devotional dumbbells like us. If it happens, however, it’s extremely powerful and contagious and it would finally give a meaning to our lives. It probably won’t actually happen so we don’t have to worry about what to do in such a case.

Another source of this sweetness could be Brijabasis who are naturally born with it even though technically their devotion might not yet be perfected. They do not yet participate in Kṛṣṇa līlā and they do not chant 24 hours a day but they don’t have to force themselves to think about Kṛṣṇa, He is constantly on their minds as it is.

“Problem” is that they generally keep to themselves and do not reveal their internal world to outsiders. To earn their trust is very very difficult and usually requires years and decades of austerity and dedication. One must really prove himself and it ain’t easy.

To “deserve” acceptance one must completely give up all material aspirations and demonstrate full control over one’s senses, patiently and cheerfully executing his service in the harshest conditions.

Vṛndāvana these days can be a very inhospitable place once you give up your external defenses in the form of clothing, houses, air-conditioners and heaters. Summer temperatures can really kill you and winter cold can be intolerable without protection. Locals can be hostile, too, until they strip you of all your attachments. Even monkeys would join in. Vṛndāvana won’t kill anyone, of course, but it would provide the bare minimum to hang onto our lives, in terms of food, too, and that could be too much for comfort seeking people like us.

This is actual proof that we can appreciate bhakti only when we reach the stage of liberation and tolerate anything material nature can throw at us with unflinching devotion, until that happens even Brijabasis won’t talk to us.

Next problem is the language – they don’t speak English let alone other foreign languages, they don’t even speak Hindi for that matter – they consider Hindi as too harsh to express their love for Kṛṣṇa and they soften it as necessary. AFAIK, their talk can be understood by Indians but comprehension is not yet appreciation and appreciation is not yet the ability to express yourself, so even learning the language could take years for us.

I’m afraid translating it back to English would be impossible, there are simply no words for their moods and rasas, our equivalents could be dictionary correct but the sweetness would be gone, it just doesn’t exist in our world just as Kṛṣṇa līlā can’t be compared to anything we know. The words and the līlā are non-different, after all, and this just another confirmation of this basic spiritual principle.

Well, at least we know our goal and we are free to hope, by the mercy of Lord Caitanya we might get infected with at least appreciation for the value of Kṛṣṇa’s sweetness, and we are certainly on the right track.

Vanity thought #1460. There’s no other way

We all know “harer nāma” verse by heart, that in this age of Kali there’s no other way but chanting of the Holy Name, but I must admit that it hasn’t been enough for me yet. I agree that in our tradition it is certainly true, and if one uses even an ounce of his brain he’d realize that alternatives are impossible to follow, but that still leaves some options open.

We accept this injunction on the strength of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s authority and can easily trace it up to Lord Caitanya but it seems the buck stops there. I don’t think other vaiṣṇava sampradāyas are convinced by our citations, for example, they don’t consider this statement authoritative enough. Why, I sometimes ask myself, and this creates doubts in my mind and possibly pollutes my heart.

I think the damage can be contained because as far as I am concerned chanting IS the only way, whatever else people can swear works is not even applicable to me. I can’t do yoga even like contortionist ladies in the nearby yoga club and they’d beat me even in concentration, and I certainly can’t study Vedanta or any other scriptures outside of Prabhupāda, so jñāna is out, too. I can’t even worship the deities so chanting is the only thing that is left. I have no doubt about that.

What I do seem to have is a theoretical possibility that there IS some other way that might work for someone else and I need to deal with that possibility even if only for the peace of my mind. It can be resolved in two ways – there is some other method so God bless them, or there isn’t and anyone claiming otherwise is a fraud.

Whatever the solution, it won’t directly affect my practice but it will change the way I relate to people and so affect me indirectly. Btw, I say “I” here but I believe this problem of relationships with others affecting our own hearts is quite common even if this particular question isn’t. Wishing people good luck sounds like a safe option but could be seen as a compromise with the siddhānta and thus lead to duplicity, while shooting them down as frauds might easily turn into a needless offense.

That’s why the safest way is to stay out of dealings with non-devotees altogether. Don’t ask, don’t care what they say and think, and so don’t force yourself to make difficult choices. Problem solved.

The can, however, has been open and needs to be dealt with. Let me start with something else, however – the worshipers of Lord Śiva.

We know he has got quite a big following and he rewards his sincere devotees, and for that he is known as Āśutoṣa. We know that he is practically as good as Viṣṇu and is beyond the reach of the material world, and he can even put up the word for his people so that they are granted liberation, so he seems like a respectable person to take shelter of. Should his followers be above criticism then? Should they be spared of disdain we have for māyāvāda?

The Caitanya Caritāmṛta purport (CC Madhya 18.115) I’ve been using for the last two days gives a clue. It refers to three verses from the story of the infamous Dakṣa’s sacrifice where curses where flying left and right. Dakṣa cursed Śiva and then one of Śiva’s close associates, Nandīśvara, stood up and cursed Dakṣa to get a face of a goat in return, and the rest of the brāhmaṇas who took Dakṣa’s side he condemned to a materialistic way of life – being enchanted with Vedic verses but using them only to beg for food and fill their bellies and not for any spiritual realization.

After brāhmaṇas were so cursed, Bhṛgu Muni retaliated by cursing followers of Lord Śiva to become pāṣaṇḍīs, too. It’s not clear who exactly he had in mind, though. The verse itself (SB 4.2.28) gives two criteria – those who take a vow to satisfy Lord Śiva and those who “follow such principles”. By “such principles” he meant the accusations thrown by Dakṣa – living in a cemetery, hanging out with ghosts, and not showering every day. I suspect that there are plenty of Śaivas who are actually very clean and respectable people so they should be spared.

On the second though, there’s nothing unclear about this verse – anyone who wants to serve Lord Śiva is cursed, no excuses. They WILL become pāṣaṇḍīs. The only confusion is when I don’t want to accept this simple reality – all Śaivas are cursed to become sat-śāstra-paripanthinaḥ — diverted from transcendental scriptural injunctions.

They have their Purāṇas, we think, we have ours. Ours are better but theirs are not bad either, it’s all Vedic literature and we should not reject any of it. And yet this story with Bhṛgu’s curse condemns Śaivas to become “diverted” from sat-śāstra and accept asat-sāstra instead, particularly māyāvāda, as Prabhupāda explains it in the purport. So either way they are condemned – whether they imitate Lord Śiva’s behavior or whether they follow the philosophy he propagated in his incarnation as Śaṅkara. Afaik, these days most of the Śaivas are ultimately monists even when they disagree with Śaṅkara on various philosophical points.

In another verse Bhṛgu Muni said Śaivas were already atheists because they (Nandīśvara) have blasphemed brāhmaṇas. It doesn’t particularly help in judging modern day Śaivas but it’s an important point to remember – never ever criticize brāhmaṇas, it’s a sign of atheism already.

Finally, Bhṛgu Muni said that speaking with contempt about Vedas is unacceptable, too. Nandīśvara called them flowery and sugary but Bhṛgu insisted on their eternal purity and called Nandīśvara a pāṣaṇḍī for the third time.

A question could arise why Nandīśvara got cursed for talking about flower language of the Vedas while we aren’t. Kṛṣṇa told Arjuna to rise above the Vedas because they deal with three guṇas of nature, and Lord Caitanya swore not to take interest in Vedic poetry. I think the answer is simple – Nandīśvara got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time while we aren’t, if we were caught babbling something about Vedas being not up to scratch in Bhṛgu’s presence we’d get cursed, too. Plus no Muni can override instructions of either Kṛṣṇa or Lord Caitanya so as long as we stick to those we are safe. We do not condemn the language, we condemn those who misuse it to come to asat-śāstric conclusions, it’s not the same thing.

So that’s it for the possibility of Śaivas to achieve anything worthwhile, Śiva might be spotless himself but his followers are cursed to become atheists, arguing that it might not be their original goal is useless, a curse is a curse, it needs to play out. When Śiva observed all that he simply got up and left, visibly unhappy, but there was nothing he could do about it. People had said things they shouldn’t had and there was no taking these words back.

I’ll deal with possible alternatives to “there’s no other way” when I find at least some ideas, so far I’ve got nothing.

PS. When we aren’t satisfied with behavior or modern day brāhmaṇas we should remember they’ve been cursed to become materialistic, too. It’s not their fault per se.

Vanity thought #1459. Pashandi flavors

Atheism means different things to different people, even more so to atheists themselves. There could be gnostic atheists, agnostic atheists, igtheists and ignostics, nihilists, anti-theists, apatheists, strong and weak atheists, plain irreligious, secular humanists etc etc. Material nature produces a variety of all kinds of phenomena and once people take shelter in mental speculations an endless stream of delusional ideas is sure to follow.

They think these distinctions are philosophically important and maybe they are, in so far as their “philosophy” is important (not at all), but we should have a different criteria and different implications when applying it.

Unfortunately, we ourselves use highly personalized definitions of atheism and in that we are no better than atheists themselves as we take perturbations of mental energy to be significant. Atheist for us is a label we apply to exclude someone from the conversation, from “our” group, whose arguments are no longer acceptable. This is fine by itself but the real problem is not with who we exclude but with those who we decide to keep.

It’s like dealing with anarthas – when we let them go it’s a victory but what blocks our hearts from pure devotion is the anarthas we keep. Our real enemy is our unseen attachments, desires we are often unaware of and implicit trust in something other than Lord’s lotus feet. That’s what we should be fighting with, not the anarthas we no longer value.

When we exclude atheists from our community it’s similarly only the first step, the real problem is the people who are left, people we might occasionally lend an ear to because they are still “our” people. As an example we might think that Christians have some good ideas, or Muslims have strong determination and take religion very seriously, or Buddhists have valuable insights into the nature of the world. It doesn’t stop there – we accept legitimate Vedic schools, too, like Śaivas or advaitins, or followers of the three other vaiṣṇava samparadāyas, or our friends in Gauḍiyā Maṭhas etc. We certainly don’t agree with them on everything but we think we have enough in common to not dismiss them as atheists. We think it makes us broadminded or something.

Well, taking shelter in anything other than the lotus feet of the Lord and his unalloyed devotees is atheism. Atheism is a refusal of Lord’s mercy and accepting something else as equally valuable, even if for a short period of time. And by “Lord” I mean Kṛṣṇa and Lord Caitanya, no one else, not the Christian or Muslim version of it.

As I discussed yesterday, some of the above “thinkers” have already been called out as atheist. Those who deny the existence of the soul, for example, which should automatically cover everyone on the atheist list from the opening paragraph. Those who think God and the living entity on the same level, which covers māyāvāda followers. There were also worshipers of legitimate impersonalists like Dattātreya, and, by extension, Śaṅkara and others. Yesterday I stopped on those who are overly absorbed in the conception of body and bodily necessities, and that’s probably us.

We know who God is and what our relationship with Him should be, and yet we still divert our consciousness to pleasing our own bodies and senses. “God is God and He is there,” we subconsciously think, “but I need to take care of my needs first.” We justify our indulgence in all possible ways – it’s yukta vairāgya, it’s my svabhāva and I must act according to my nature, it’s only the maintenance of my body, which is my duty, it’s not a big deal in overall scheme of things, it’s not explicitly prohibited so it’s okay, it’s a smart way to apply the rules, it’s needed for preserving the stature of vaiṣṇavas as we cannot be seen as poor, needy, and neglected. All kinds of excuses, but the underlying problem is that we think that sense gratification at this particular moment is better for us than selfless service to the Lord, ie it’s atheistic behavior.

Next in the purport (CC Madhya 18.115) are those who worship all kinds of demigods as equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A typical Hindu temple would have five Gods there, including Viṣṇu, and that’s atheistic. Likewise worship of Gaṇeśa is atheistic. I’m not saying that Lord Gaṇeśa is not worthy of worship but he is worshiped by atheists who refuse unalloyed devotion to Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu and who are generally afraid that Viṣṇu would not fulfill their material desires so they go to Gaṇeśa instead.

Technically, these people follow the smārta tradition and are accepted as orthodox Hindus but they are also inimical to the real vaiṣṇavas and view them as fanatics and pests who destroy the society by rejecting its values. This has been going on at last since Lord Caitanya’s times when Navadvīpa was filled with atheists who derided devotees at every opportunity. It’s them who caused so much distress to Advaita Ācārya and others. These days, however, we in ISKCON don’t like to offend smārtas and their followers and so we agree to be broadminded and do not criticize them in public and even integrate their worship in our programs. That’s what leads to the accusation of turning us into Hindus.

Smārtas do not accept Lord Caitanya as the Supreme Personality of Godhead but at best as some kind of saint, and they do not accept Mahāprabhu’s taking sannyāsa and leaving a very young wife behind because it goes against family values. They are also very caste minded and generally make a living out of charging hapless people for performing various useless religious rituals. They do not accept the power of the Holy Name and consider chanting to be a mere pious activity. They might approve of everything in our daily sādhana but our conceptual differences are so profound as to make us antithetical. We should have nothing to do with these people and reject their association in all shapes or forms.

Next up on the pāṣaṇḍī list are those who disobey orders of their spiritual master. This one is straightforward – guru is the representative of the Lord sent to us specifically to accept service on His behalf and so disobeying guru is the same as rebelling against Lord’s orders. This does not mean that people won’t find a way to excuse themselves by hook or by crook. Śrīla Prabhupāda was adamant that his followers should cooperate and stay in ISKCON and submit themselves to the authority of the GBC, there’s no way around that, but some people still refuse to do so and run their own preaching programs. They might achieve some outward success, they might not, but at least in this one aspect they are pāṣaṇḍīs.

The purport then gives a list of Bhāgavatam verses describing various pāṣaṇḍīs and concludes by citing the verse from Padma Purāṇa that Lord Caitanya quoted next and I mentioned yesterday already. The list of verses, however, gives me something to continue with tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1458. Pashanids – the gallery

I think it’s time to look at that verse (CC Madhya 18.155) and its purport that describes the variety of atheists. Maybe there’s even more to add from more recent manifestation of atheistic mentality.

    A foolish person who says that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the same as the living entity is an atheist, and he becomes subject to punishment by the superintendent of death, Yamarāja.

The verse itself calls atheist those who think that God and jīva are the same. It’s a very popular view of “truth” but it takes a while to dig it out of a person. No one would enter the room declaring “I’m the same as God.” First they’d go on endlessly on the qualities of Brahman, then they’d say that God is a transformation of Brahman, then they say that jīvas are also transformation of Brahman, and therefore they are equal.

They might never even say directly that “I am as good as God” but they’d equate both themselves and God to Brahman. Or, in other words, they’d conclude that “God is nothing special and He comes out of the Brahman just as I do.”

In the meantime they can engage themselves in outward service to the deities, offer daily pūjā, and say “How can I be an atheist if I worship God?” We shouldn’t be confused, and I hope none of us isn’t. They do not worship God, they worship what they think is a temporary transformation of Brahman, it just so happens that offering pūjā to this manifestation is beneficial to one’s own progress. When they think something else is beneficial they’ll give up their worship to God and start serving street bums instead as Daridra Nārāyaṇas.

This, btw,is addressed right in the next verse:

    A person who considers demigods like Brahmā and Śiva to be on an equal level with Nārāyaṇa is to be considered an offender, or pāṣaṇḍī.

It didn’t occur to Lord Caitanya at the time that a couple of hundred years later people would consider lepers on an equal level with God but it starts small – first Brahmā and Śiva, then the members of pañcopāsana, then everybody else from high heaven to Mumbai slums.

The background story behind these two verses is interesting – Lord Caitanya went to Vṛndāvana and some villagers there claimed to have seen Kṛṣṇa dancing on the heads of Kālīya at night, even though in reality it was only a fisherman. When this matter was brought to Mahāprabhu by respected gentlemen for clarification he asked them if they’d seen Kṛṣṇa themselves. “Of course we have,” they said, “but Kṛṣṇa is not that fisherman, Kṛṣṇa appeared here as You Yourself.”

That’s when Lord Caitanya loudly protested against equating a living entity with God and spoke the above verses, to which people calmly replied that no one considers Him an ordinary living entity so there could not be an offense. Then they described Lord’s transcendental characteristics and in the end Mahāprabhu had no other choice but to bless them all and close the matter.

Onto the purport now. First sentence there refers to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s explanation of the word pāśāṇḍī and basically repeats the verse. Second sentence goes as follows:

    Another kind of pāṣaṇḍī is one who does not believe in the spirit soul, the superior potency of the Lord, and therefore does not distinguish between spirit and matter.

These are the atheists who have taken over the world now. They’ve got control over science, education, governments, the entire culture, which they call secularism. Unlike māyāvadī they deny not only eternal superiority of God but existence of the soul/Brahman itself. Spirituality for them simply doesn’t exist, end of the conversation.

A lot has been said about these modern atheists already, just yesterday I argued, for example, that they are not really atheists because they at least know a concept of God, which they subsequently deny and define themselves in opposition to. They just have that love-hate relationship with God that right now swung the other way. Real atheists are animals who have no idea of God whatsoever.

Śrīla Prabhupāda then quotes Jīva Gosvāmī saying that “Worshipers of impersonalists like Dattātreya are also pāṣaṇḍīs.” This comes from a comment on one of the offenses against the Holy Name, that’s why pāṣaṇḍī was mentioned, I guess. Note that Darrātreya Himself is an avātara and therefore cannot be possibly considered as an offender, but His followers should. His teachings are not extensively covered in our books but our ācāryas were of the opinion that avadhūta brāhmaṇa of Uddhava Gīta was actually Dattātreya Himself and no one in his right mind would consider those teachings impersonal even though they might lack explicit manifestations of devotion common to personalities like Prahlāda Mahārāja.

In one purport (CC Adi 2.1) Śrīla Prabhupāda suddenly says the following about Dattātreya:

    systems of philosophers like … Dattātreya are dangerous creatures in the ocean of nescience. By the grace of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu one can have real understanding of the essence of knowledge by avoiding these sectarian views and accepting the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa as the ultimate goal of life.

Elsewhere it is stated that Dattātreya was the original teacher of mystic yoga and, apparently it was these teachings that Patañjali wrote down in his yoga sutras. We should consider yogīs as atheists, too, because they deny eternal relationships with the Lord and aim for merging with His body instead.

In one translation (SB 8.3.12) Śrīla Prabhupāda also mentioned Dattātreya out of the blue (“Lord Dattātreya, who preached impersonalism”) – “out of the blue” because His name is not in Sanskrit at all, just given as an example of who Gajendra meant when he praised the lord as “nirviśeṣāya — who is without material qualities, being fully spiritual.”

This relationship between the legitimate, blameless sources like Lord Dattātreya, Śaṅkara, or even Advaita Ācārya, and some of their followers turning to atheism deserves a special consideration, perhaps some other time.

Further on in the purport Śrīla Prabhupāda further quotes Jīva Gosvāmī again: “Those who are overly absorbed in the conception of the body and the bodily necessities are also called pāṣaṇḍīs.” This covers both modern atheists and the animals, though Jīva Gosvāmī probably meant only people. We have a few billion like these now – overly absorbed in the conception of body and bodily necessities, with no time left for religion even if they are vaguely aware of its existence and might even consider themselves religious at heart.

This is another matter that deserves separate consideration, so, perhaps, it’s time for me to wind it down and continue tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1457. Pashandis – the zoo

Our word for atheists, pāsaṇḍī, would be interesting to dissect according to Sanskrit rules if I knew them but even a cursory look at variations of pas.. reveals quite a lot. There are some unrelated meanings like for words beginning with pasy.. and pasar.. for seeing and forgetfulness accordingly, and a couple of variations to talk about shopkeepers and words to describe dead stones, but the overwhelming number of time words beginning with pas… can be grouped under three meanings – animals, atheists, and those in bondage. I’d estimate over 400 occurrences in our books alone.

What do they have in common? Leaving atheists aside for the moment, bound and animals are synonyms because paśu.., paśo.., paśava.. etc describe not just animals but domesticated ones, ie bound to their owners. By contrast, the word that is usually translated as deer, mṛga, literally means an animal that wanders in the forests, and go for cows means animals that simply wander – when cowherds allow them. Then the time comes and they have to go home because they are not free, they have owners, and so they become pāsu.

Incidentally, I see English go and Sanksrit go as the same word, except the way it’s used in English it has got the sense of purpose while in Sanskrit it relates to general movement itself. Cows go everywhere, senses go everywhere. Those who control movement of the sense become go-svāmīs, He who controls the cows becomes Gopāla and He who enjoys the senses (and loves the cows) is known as Govinda.

That is actually a profound understanding – Kṛṣṇa is the enjoyer of OUR senses, too. We are not Govinda, He is, and so when we partake in sense enjoyment ourselves we deny Him His rights and act as if He doesn’t exist, we become pāśaṇḍī atheists ourselves.

I guess it’s difficult to imagine how Kṛṣṇa would ever enjoy OUR senses, we don’t expect Him to partake in the same degraded pleasures as we do but one explanation could be that senses are subtle material energy, they are not hands and eyes and noses per se, and once we separate senses from their gross tools of materialistic enjoyment they can be perfectly engaged in pleasing Kṛṣṇa.

Come to think of it, it must progress in steps. First we engage our gross sensory organs in worshiping appropriate manifestations of the Lord – decorating the deity or chanting or listening to the words of our guru. Then, as senses become purified, we can engage them in service on the subtle plane – in meditation or in service to the mental image of the Lord, and when we are finally taken back to the spiritual world we get to use our real senses made of purely spiritual energy. I don’t know, this explanation could work because Kṛṣṇa does manifest Himself in forms that we are able to serve with our material bodies.

I still can’t figure out how He would enjoy our senses ALL the time if that’s what they are meant to do. It would require either an extraordinary arrangement where we are engaged in deity service every moment of our lives (by karma many of us aren’t even fit to have a deity) or it means some extraordinary vision where we’d see Kṛṣṇa actually enjoying our sensory work when everyone around us doesn’t suspect a thing. That’s probably how paramahaṁsas see it and we can’t imitate this perception.

This last option makes more sense because the first one implies that Kṛṣṇa is not an absolute enjoyer, that He is Govinda in Vraja but not down here and so it’s up to us and the circumstances to restore Him to His rightful position. The vision where one actually sees Kṛṣṇa in every atom of the creation and not just as the Supersoul but as actual Govinda is explained in Brahma Saṁhitā (BS 5.35):

    He is an undifferentiated entity as there is no distinction between potency and the possessor thereof. In His work of creation of millions of worlds, His potency remains inseparable. All the universes exist in Him and He is present in His fullness in every one of the atoms that are scattered throughout the universe, at one and the same time. Such is the primeval Lord whom I adore.

Somehow our translation doesn’t mention Govinda but the line govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi is still there to make sure this omnipresence is not ascribed to any other form of Godhead. Three verses after that there’s also the famous “whom the pure devotees see in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love” line that combines both Kṛṣṇa’s actual presence and the vision of it experienced by devotees.

But I digress. Domesticated animals are bound by their owners, some require ropes, some don’t, some probably need cages but I doubt they had actual zoos in Vedic times, and if they had, they’d refer to caged animals as the same pāśu as the cows. Pāśu describes the act of binding and Lord Śiva even has the appropriate weapon for this purpose pāśupatāstra.

Lord Śiva is also known as pāśupati, the protector of animallike men. Is it a coincidence that variations of the same pāsa.. also mean atheists? I don’t think so. Atheists are certainly bound due to their atheistic mentality. They have no freedom from the material nature whatsoever. In fact, we should probably go the other way – atheism is the result of bondage, not the cause of it. People are not free to see or not see the Lord, they are forced into ignorance of His existence and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Māyā completely covers and enslaves them and they stay fully under her control. They can’t see the Lord in this condition and so they naturally become atheistic. This is what happens to animals, too, and not just domesticated ones but animals in general – they are completely in māyā and can only perceive the imagery that she feeds them.

Animallike men mentioned above (SB 10.76.4) are defined so not because they are actually restrained by ropes but by their behavior and their ignorance of the Supreme. Animals don’t have religion, humans do, that’s what separates us from them, as we’ve been told countless times, and that’s what separates humans from atheists, too.

In that sense animals and trees are actual atheists, some animal like men are atheist as well, like primitive tribes in Papua New Guinea, but the vocal ones promoting atheism as the philosophy of life technically aren’t – they are aware of God, they just don’t like submitting themselves to Him. They have this perverted relationship with Him, but a relationship nevertheless. That’s not atheism, it’s animosity.

I’m not speaking in their defense – people like them are called pāsaṇḍīs in our literature all the time, their conscious animosity does not disqualify them from being called atheists. It’s just that the term itself has multiple meanings depending on context.

The only question about their atheism is whether their animosity is reciprocated by the Lord or whether their lives are governed solely by māyā. We know that they get punished for their offenses but we could see it as Lord’s personal interference to teach them a lesson. If the Lord takes absolutely no interest and they do not get punished for their offenses it’s even worse, then they are actually just like animals. When God doesn’t smite them for their defiance they celebrate it instead but for us it means they have lost all hope and are bound for animal like life without any chance of revival of their consciousness any time soon.

One more thing – it shouldn’t be offensive to atheists when we call them animals, people reject the comparison because they think animal sense enjoyment is inferior to ours but from Kṛṣṇa consciousness POV the difference lies not in quality of their food (some dogs eat better than some humans) but in disappearance of God from their lives. Atheists wouldn’t mind that as long as we don’t mean they get to eat dog food, and we certainly don’t mean that. They’ll probably get to eat pig food, ie feces, in their next life, considering how many pigs they slaughter for their enjoyment.

Vanity thought #1456. Pashandis

Pāṣaṇḍīs is our go to word for atheists. I think it’s more technical than mūḍha, fools, though sometimes they go together like in this verse where Śrīla Prabhupāda expands on various meanings of the word pāṣaṇḍī as explained by the previous ācāryas. Apparently, there are many ways one can qualify as an atheist but can it happen to devotees?

Technically, it’s not possible, because Kṛṣṇa’s devotees never lose their bhakti and Kṛṣṇa forever preserves whatever they have, plus He assures failed yogīs that they can resume their path in the next life. This, however, is a long term view, outside of scope where we can use words like “he became an atheist”. In such a long run all those pāṣaṇḍī designations are temporary and not worthy of attention.

Say one commits offenses, gets cast in hell, returns, and resumes cultivating his devotion. Fits perfectly both with what Kṛṣṇa says would happen to such a person and with our immediate desire to label him an atheist. Devotees never go to hell, of course, but there are many other ways Kṛṣṇa can dish out an appropriate punishment, which is more of a lesson than actual suffering. By devotee here I mean anyone who has ever sincerely called Kṛṣṇa’s name, which is enough to save himself from clutches of māyā forever and earn a place at Lord’s lotus feet. In the long run – we are speaking of multiple lifetimes here – hundreds of lifetimes if one rejects his guru, for example.

The verse that promises to “carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have” has a condition attached, however (BG 9.22):

    But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form – to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.

One must continue worshiping the Lord with exclusive devotion to qualify for the assurance that his bhakti will be preserved, or so it appears from direct meaning. Śrīla Prabhupāda explains the kind of worship, meditation, and “exclusive devotion” needed in the purport:

    One who is unable to live for a moment without Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot but think of Kṛṣṇa twenty-four hours a day, being engaged in devotional service by hearing, chanting, remembering, offering prayers, worshiping, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, rendering other services, cultivating friendship and surrendering fully to the Lord.

There’s some leeway in not thinking of Kṛṣṇa twenty-four hours a day but “unable to live for a moment without” KC is tough. Can any of us honestly say we can’t live without Kṛṣṇa even for a moment? I’m tempted to say that I had plenty of those but, on second thought, I probably haven’t. One way or another, but ever since I first opened Śrīla Prabhupāda’s book I’ve always defined myself as Kṛṣṇa’s servant, or Lord Caitanya’s, to be precise, as historically it was this form of the Lord that I saw as my eternal master.

One could say it’s a pride talking and I am very well aware of that but denying and denigrating Lord’s mercy is a far greater offense to commit. People can call be proud and whatever but I’m not going to deny that Lord Caitanya has extended His mercy, took me under His shelter, and never left me since, even if always keeping me at a safe distance from Himself. I am not going to deny this reality for that would make me a pāṣaṇḍī myself. I’d rather be a foolishly proud devotee wannabe than a pāṣaṇḍī.

Here’s the thing that atheists don’t understand – that there’s another reality beyond what they are able to perceive themselves. They think that devotees imagine things but we don’t. Lord’s mercy is as real as anything else we see in the world around us and even more real in a sense that it’s constant and is always there while all other observed phenomena are like lose bits of colored glass constantly rotating in the kaleidoscope of life.

Atheists might come to a certain understanding how the world works and they think they figured it all out but with a little twist of fate the entire picture changes and new, previously unthought of connections are born and they need to rework their entire science again.

Look at the current financial market turmoil – in the past couple of days all stock indices crashed about 10%, which is huge, and it probably indicates start of a long term “correction” rather than a fluke. The projection so far has been that the US has finally overcome its recession and is headed for the first interest rate hike in September. Interest rates are important as basically they show how profitable the economy is – when everything is growing you ought to charge people more. Since 2008 it has been near zero while historical healthy average is about 2-4%. Current crash means that expectations of the US finally returning to normalcy need to be abandoned and with this come difficult questions about money printing and high level of debt. The answers so far hinged on “it’s all going according to plan” mantra but if it clearly isn’t then dollars and US bonds might become worthless and no one knows what will come next.

There’s plenty of ground for speculation about world economy but my point here is that science of economics suddenly has become useless and they need to create new theories about how it all works, which they will have to abandon the moment the next crisis hit.

The other day I saw a perfect definition of what atheism means but it was given as a sarcastic observation of a former Christian so it’s not quotable. The gist is simple, however – any answer to the question “Do you accept JC as your only savior” that isn’t an absolute unqualifiable “yes” is atheism. “Unqualifiable” is not a word but the meaning is clear.

By this logic we are all atheists in one way or another. We don’t particularly care about JC, of course, but any look at the world as real in its disconnect from Kṛṣṇa is atheism – we do not see God. Any time we do not see Kṛṣṇa we are atheists. Any time we instinctively enjoy our senses we are atheists because senses are meant for enjoyment by Kṛṣṇa, not by us.

The only question is the degree of our atheism and the duration of its spells, otherwise the word is meaningless for any conditioned soul because we are all atheists by our [conditioned] nature.

If we hope that as devotees we are spared of the full blown atheism and will never go back to our old life (never mind the habits for the moment) there’s still the mystery of jīva falldown. If we somehow turned our face away from Kṛṣṇa while in His company and got dropped into the material world it means there’s always a chance of going back on our nascent bhakti here, too. It’s not safe here for everyone, which is what our ācāryas have been saying all along.

I could finish this post by saying that the only answer lies in chanting the Holy Name but I think the immortal words of the original “pāṣaṇḍī”, Adi Śaṅkara, would be just as suitable:

    You fools, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda. Your grammatical knowledge and word jugglery will not save you at the time of death.

It’s the first verse of Bhaja Govindam often quoted by Śrīla Prabhupāda. Check out the full translation linked on that page, it’s worth it.

Vanity thought #1455. The vortex

Yesterday I wondered about this new brand of exes, their origins, their destination, their motivation, and why I never thought their existence would be possible. I’ve done some digging and trawling and it makes slightly more sense to me now. There’s nothing new under the sun and these people got caught up in a familiar vortex but it’s vortex 2.0 now, social media style.

I said vortex because it draws you down to dark regions of hell, which for us is atheism, and because you get there by going in circles. They regurgitate the same anti-ISKCON propaganda over and over again and to newly deprogrammed it looks as new and fresh and truth revealing even though it’s the same old hogwash that has been sloshing around for more than a hundred years.

It’s the same with us, btw, as we follow the same old program of chanting, worshiping the deities, reading books, doing some service etc etc. The difference is that our vortex is elevating, it’s like a spiritual tornado sucking us out of this miserable world and transferring us to Vaikuṇṭha. Well, no one thinks of tornados as a good thing so this analogy is flawed, but it makes sense otherwise.

One could say that it’s presumptuous of me to claim that our detractors go to hell while we are going to heaven but in this case I won’t give them any benefit of doubt.

There are plenty of devotees who [foolishly] think that they can make better progress outside of ISKCON and they try themselves in Gauḍiyā Maṭhas or in Vṛṇdavana or simply in service to Prabhupāda but outside of GBC. I’m not going to argue about foolishness of this decision but at least they explicitly try, they are still on the spiritual path, just taking detours.

This bunch, however, have decided to break free from spirituality altogether, they are not making any claims and they wholeheartedly reject our entire path, the entire concept of bhakti and guru paramparā. Of course there are gradations and they range from rejecting Śrīla Prabhupāda and our lineage from Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura on to straight up atheism and accept people like Richard Dawkins as their prophets.

The woman I talked about yesterday was captivated by science, for example, by scientific method, experiments with reality, peer review – the whole shebang. Of course they can’t experiment on transcendental reality, scientific method claims monopoly on common sense, which it doesn’t have, and peer review is an old boys club where they scratch each others backs, not push frontiers of human discovery. I should probably talk about it some other time but I can’t miss the opportunity to mention one prank study where they got twelve published papers, changed authors’ names, and resubmitted them to the same journals. After “peer review” only three out of twelve noticed they’ve already published the submissions, and out of remaining nine eight rejected them for poor quality. Oh science – “It works, bitches!”

Anyway, following some of her “acolytes” I found their websites, mostly blogs, and then followed their Links sections or blogrolls. I think I got a good grasp of what is out there (not even a dozen of interlinked sites), what arguments they use and where they got them from. There’s surprisingly little even though they can get very wordy, which I think is due to their emotional trauma – they just can’t stop talking about it. A distressed mind can churn up mountains of complaints and just won’t shut up, we all must have observed this phenomenon in ourselves.

I was surprised that one of them found solace in Vivekananda but even if he himself was a spiritualist of sorts the inspiration this ex-devotee found in him looks decidedly atheistic to me. This is what she chose to quote, for example:

    Do not believe in a thing because you have read about it in a book. Do not believe in a thing because another man has said it was true. Do not believe in words because they are hallowed by tradition. Find out the truth for yourself. Reason it out. That is realization.

Take away “that is realization” and attribute this quote to Dawkins and no one would suspect a thing. As I said – these people are firmly on the path to atheism, which we can legitimately call “hell” in our tradition. A pure devotee would never protest against being cast into hellish planets if that is his karma and is sanctioned by Kṛṣṇa but he would never ever agree to losing his devotion and becoming an atheist.

There’s an interesting Indian website there that fights against Indian “superstitions” like Hanumān and all his heroic deeds or worship of Lord Jagannātha, I guess as long they also keep ISKCON in their sights they are good allies, heh. I have only one argument against it – it’s been designed in the nineties and uses tables and frames for one column page layout. Seriously, their HTML declaration is 4.0, which was superseded by 4.01 in 1999, and they are still using it even if their latest article is only from last week.

As far as “revelations” they share with each other and want to propagate to anyone who would listen, they are even older. On Prabhupāda they endlessly quote the same passages about women and blacks and conversations about killing atheists. It’s the same non-story that appears on each and every blog as if there’s a competition who can talk about it longer.

On Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī and Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura they site findings first spread by Nitai and Jagat which are sourced from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta’s brother who, unfortunately for us, hoped to become a flag bearer of Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism but it didn’t happen, and now we have to deal with his parting shots which he delivered to a few ISKCON devotees he managed to attract by promising bābājī initiations and instant siddha-praṇālī.

If we thought that they thoroughly discredited themselves by their subsequent behavior, we were wrong – there are always fools who would overlook all that ganja smoking and bona fide sahajiyā as long as the arguments support their newly found hatred. Or maybe these fools simply do not know where they take their wisdom from – as long as it’s on the Internet it can’t be wrong, right? I suspect that if presented with challenges to their authorities they would simply say that it’s not a sufficient reason to dispute their findings and even disgraced authorities could be right, as long as they go about their research the scientific way – not trusting anyone and using reason. Reason is common for everybody and so should work 100%, they’d say, overlooking the argument that human endeavors will always be faulty and therefore we, in ISKCON, trust our authorities on the basis of their spotless character as they hand down knowledge from one guru in the paramparā to the next, that’s the only way to assure quality of received truth.

We can’t hope to double check everything ourselves, not in the beginning, so trust must be there, and we should choose who to trust wisely. And if they are so fascinated by science here’s an argument to consider – we CAN double check all the claims in our tradition ourselves as we make spiritual progress but they will never ever be able to check if “witnesses” who never heard of Śrīla Bhaktisiddānta being initiated really existed or knew what they were being asked about by foreigners speaking broken Bengali, even if they existed they are long dead and we don’t even know their names. Point is – our claims are verifiable, theirs aren’t.

This is just another example of why truly intelligent persons in Kali Yuga take up chanting of the holy names while fools continue to trip over their own arguments for reason and science.

Vanity thought #1454. Horrible exes

This past week or so I happened to come across a slew of articles and videos by ex-Hare Kṛṣṇas and that was an eye opening experience I still can’t make heads or tails of. I certainly have opinions about things they say and how they do it but I admit they are quite far out of my mental picture of ex-ISKCON “community”. I don’t understand it but I’ll try.

I won’t give links to everything I saw and read but Youtube channel of this girl is a good place to start. There are comments and links to related websites run by these people and pretty soon you’ll have an earful of worst imagined aparādhas possible. Be warned and prepared if you ever want to check it out for yourself.

I thought I knew plenty of and about ex-ISKCON people but I’ve never expected this, it’s new. Up until now I believed that no Hare Kṛṣṇa would become an actual atheist simply on the strength of experience of the Holy Name, our books, our movement, and Śrīla Prabhupāda. Devotees leave all the time but I thought no one could take Hare Kṛṣṇa out of their lives, save for a few cases of extreme offenses.

Normally, devotees just fade away from public participation in our society and they do it quietly, sort of taking a break from spiritual duties. Personally, I never consider them as ex-devotees, they are just on vacation in my view. There are those whose split in acrimony and they have stories to tell and sometimes I feel sorry about their experiences, sometimes I feel their complaints are overblown and they have share as much blame for the situation as their authorities. It’s still something we can eventually get over with as time heals all wounds.

There are those who leave ISCKON in search of something better. They never stop being Hare Kṛṣṇas and see themselves as devotees, they just don’t want to be associated with ISKCON anymore. I think, and I would argue, that their decisions are foolish but they are still devotees, still the family, and at the end of every dispute we can always find something common, like the unquestionable superiority of the service to the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.

There are those who have become extremely offensive in their anti-ISKCON rhetoric and it cost them their place in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava family altogether. They went on to become śaivas or śaktas or yogīs or Buddhists. But not atheists.

There are those who found Christ, too. They can be very very nasty towards ISKCON, Śrīla Prabhupāda, and Hinduism in general, but they are still not atheists. The ones I’ve interacted with still talk a lot more about Kṛṣṇa and what’s going on in ISKCON than about their newly found religion and I find it very telling but as long as they encourage others to surrender to God and accept Him in their hearts it’s not really that bad. I can’t find anything in common with them anymore but everyone has a place in Lord’s service, their choice is okay by me.

And then there’s this bunch, extremely hateful, determined in their attempts to discredit us and everything we stand for, and I’m not sure how to relate to them properly.

The girl I linked to earlier was born into a devotee family and her first video about her experiences was actually fairly neutral but the latest ones are simply inexcusable. She is not simply going after ISKCON anymore, she specifically targets Śrīla Prabhupāda, and if that wasn’t enough she got into ridiculing Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes and she didn’t spare Lord Nityānanda either.

And this after being a devotee for twenty four years?

There’s another woman there who joined in the late 80s and left twenty years later and she isn’t as bad but equally determined to destroy our “cult” to the best of her abilities. She actually attends conferences by anti-cult groups and tries to be active in the movement I thought died long time ago. Seriously, someone still wants to outlaw ISKCON for being a cult? In the UK where hundreds of thousands of Indians come to our temples?

This activism hasn’t gone unnoticed and if you find a video with comments enabled someone always comes along and notices that the authors sound far more dangerous in their bigotry than the alleged cult they are fighting against.

How ridiculous can it get? There was a bit about our daily routine, for example, how devotees wake up early in the morning, attend the morning program, chant japa and listen to a Bhāgavatam lecture. Totally cult-like behavior, unbelievable that it’s allowed in this day and age. Maybe she should look at people’s routine in Buddhists temples where they wake up just as early, don’t sing and dance, only pray, meditate and study, and don’t eat food after 12 PM. Maybe she should check out Christian monasteries, too. Or how about Muslims who have their call to prayer blasted over speakers in the “ungodly” hour for everyone within hearing distance, not only for monks (there are no monks in Islam at all, btw).

For self-proclaimed experts on Hinduism who know spirituality better than Hare Kṛṣṇas they can leave pearls like this “by 7AM deites have been bathed and dressed in a new set of clothes, and I’m talking about brass dolls not even one foot tall – imagine that, how weird!” – I’m paraphrasing.

There’s one long rant about boys and girls separated at school from the age of nine or ten – who does that? Middle ages. There’s no such thing as all-girls or all-boys schools anywhere in the civilized world. Oh wait…

In fact, I’m thinking about taking one of these videos and addressing all their allegations against us point by point, how they twist and exaggerate and declare absolutely normal things weird and unacceptable, like Prabhupāda’s comparison of men with butter that always melts in presence of fire, or women in this analogy. Yeah, that never happens, where did Prabhupāda see that? Where is his proof? Where is his logic?

While girls do the talking on Youtube and roll their eyes trying to be cute, men try to provide arguments and facts to support their case (no gender stereotypes among these enlightened beings, right?) This is where it all gets disappointing as they use old bad arguments that have been floating around since forever and are never taken seriously. Most of our devotees would go like “wait, what”?

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had never actually been initiated by Śrīla Gaurakiśora Dāsa Bābājī. Been there, discussed that, this has been around for at least half a century and it originated with Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s brother. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura rejected his initiating guru – same source. Madhvas do not accept Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism as part of their sampradāya (except the do, save for some outliers’ opinions). This same hogwash is being recycled again and again, as started by ex-ISCKON devotees like Nitai and Jagat and later picked up by Madhavānanda.

I don’t know what Nitai is up to now, Mādhavānanda left his followers, the “real” Gauḍīyas, and went into Buddhism, and Jagat is/was a full blown sahajiyā, trying to find truth about Lord Caitanya through ritual sex, which was after he tried achieve same realization through smoking ganja. Lately he’s been into silent yoga, I think. Nitai and Jagat are still technically devotees, however, even though Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta didn’t count sahajiyās as vaiṣṇavas, but their new brand of followers are even more Catholic than these two Popes. Actually, Jagat comes across as quite a humble fellow, maybe misguided by ISKCON standards but still sincere in his devotion to Śrīla Prabhupāda and his search for the truth, and for that he deserves eternal respect, plus we shouldn’t criticize Prabhupāda’s disciples anyway no matter what they do.

And that’s why I don’t really know how to react to Jagat’s “work” inspiring this new generation of ex-Hare Kṛṣṇas to turn to full blown atheism. Who is going to bear responsibility for that? And if their source is beyond reproach, should I take their offenses seriously? Or is it just pent up rage being let out and they don’t really mean what they say, it’s just hormones talking?

I need some time to come to terms with this.

Vanity thought #1453. Oh women..

I think I haven’t paid enough attention to problems of women devotees. Personally, I didn’t know they had any, every time I had a chance to check they were doing fine, often visibly better than me, so when I hear talk about women abuse in our society I just draw blank. I really have no idea what they are talking about.

Sure, I’ve heard stories of personal mistreatment and bruised egos but, while being sympathetic, I thought to myself that it was a par for the course, everybody suffered from this and I got my fair share, too, or at least I feel like I do/did. I don’t think it qualifies as institutional mistreatment and subversion of our siddhānta, no more than all the other things that we did wrong but somehow managed to survive.

First thing that comes to my mind is how female devotees were pushed back after Prabhupāda took them to India and they had to behave appropriately for that culture. It was a sudden let down for them, I understand, but I also think they were understanding back then, too. No one revolted against it, afaik. It’s much much later that those old wounds were reopened and suddenly they wanted “prabhu” title back, just as they were called in the 60s.

They were also literally pushed back in our temple rooms so that they didn’t “bother” male devotees. I guess that was rather painful but in my temple they weren’t in the back, they had half the temple room to themselves, they were seated back only during the class. Bhāgavatam speaker is not a deity, though, he is not supposed to treat all people equally but follow etiquette. Women should not sit right in front of the sannnyāsīs or brahmacārīs, I think that’s obvious.

Even if they were told to stand in the back during deity darśana I, personally, don’t see it as a problem. It’s where I stood most of the time, too, and by choice – it’s good for the ego and develops humility. Or maybe our female devotees didn’t understand that part – how humility might get more appreciation from the Lord so if somebody shuts you down and you learn not to take it personally is actually a good thing. Women might not understand that, the are less intelligent, after all (sarcasm).

That’s another thing – about women’s intelligence. We frame this discussion in such a way that it doesn’t answer questions or solve problems anymore, perhaps we should try another tack.

In general, females have smaller heads which necessarily host smaller brains, which means there are less neuron connections (though it might not be true), and neuron connections are a sign of higher intelligence. Science should be on the side of Prabhupāda in this case but, as with everything female, facts don’t matter when feelings get hurt (another stereotype).

Judging by actual measurements of intelligence women are doing just fine and can often wipe floors with their men competitors if it comes to IQ battle. They have proven themselves just as capable in many fields of human endeavor, including science, so stereotypes might have some basis behind them but when dealing with each particular woman personally they are often useless. Well, not entirely useless, ‘cos if you want to manipulate women you can play on stereotypes, too, and trick them into following traditional women’s roles, but I’m talking about honest estimate of women’s abilities.

I don’t think the situation was very different in Vedic times, too, though it could be that modern women advantages are due to men degrading faster in Kali yuga rather then women getting smarter. I mean girls who do better at school are also better in every aspect of their personalities, they don’t lie or cheat, they work hard, never give themselves any slack, and are usually morally upstanding children. Those who fail at that are not very good with grades either, at least in my limited experience.

But let’s say that women were just as smart as men even in Vedic history, how does that square up with limits on their traditional roles? If they were equal or better, why did they always have to be subservient to their husbands?

That’s where I think feminist liberals are wrong – when they assume that strong, intelligent women were put in service to weak, not so smart men who didn’t deserve their position.

The phrase that I can’t get out of my mind is “rectification of names”. It’s a Confucian concept and at its heart it means that people should follow their dharma. Rulers must act like rulers, teachers like teachers, fathers like fathers, husbands like husbands, and wives like wives. Somebody must wear pants in a marriage and it should be a man.

A woman, therefore, can be as strong as she can be, but she must be paired with a stronger man. Arranged marriages should never put them with men of inferior quality, it would simply not work. That’s why there are rules that allow a higher varna man to take lower varna woman as a wife but not vice versa. Afaik, a woman must never under any circumstances be put in service to someone inferior to her.

That’s where the rule than grooms must be older helps, too – to give men at least the advantage in years and experience, which can hopefully translate into wisdom so that his wife sees him as her superior.

Personally, I’ve met plenty of women who are “way out of my league”, though nowadays this phrase means mostly sexual attractiveness. They come from a better backgrounds, have better education, better jobs, have always been richer and so on. We just won’t match in the long run no matter what or how we feel towards each other, it won’t work and I’ve always been fine with that, but that’s might be due to lessons in humility I mentioned above. These lessons are hard when they come but they do bring benefits later on.

I can’t even count how many times I worked for female bosses so when somebody accuses me of patriarchal misogyny or something I don’t accept it at all. What I am saying is that these bosses, brilliant as they are, must be married to someone even better than them.

If they don’t then their husbands would play female role in their relationship and while there’s nothing particularly wrong with that it might complicate things in a number of unpredictable ways because those men have to cleanse their male propensity to control and be in charge and if they don’t do that then they get to keep those anarthas.

I can also understand that some women develop so much power than finding suitable men for them is next to impossible but that’s the problem entirely of their own making, they are the ones who declare “self-fulfillment” as the ultimate goal and want to compete with men in every area. So they won, what next? It’s a Pyrrhic victory.

These problems with women are no different from problems with science – people invent new things, don’t have a clue what they are really doing, accept first signs of success as proof of concept, and then get buried by side effects later on. When global warning finally gets us some might realize that inventing the internal combustion engine wasn’t such a good idea but back then, in the 19th century, they were too shortsighted to see where it would all lead. Same happens to feminists – at first it feels great and liberating but then the whole thing collapses, just in a few decades of practicing.

And then they all frantically scramble to patch the problems and give themselves hope that it will all work out in the end but, as with global warming, all those solutions are too little too late.

Unlike with car engines, feminists have been warned from the start – don’t do it, it will ruin social fabric of the society, but they didn’t listen. Perhaps women do have lesser intelligence after all.