Vanity thought #1613. Propitiating news gods

Yesterday I talked about results of the British inquiry into the murder of Litvinenko. It was a work of an activist judge and from there I managed to link it to the famous criterion of Hare Kṛṣṇa popularity – vaiṣṇavism will win when judges will wear tilakas. The way justice is done these days, however, it would probably be an indictment rather than a victory.

I haven’t finished the story and I have no idea how to connect it to Kṛṣṇa today. My mind was quite agitated by report’s revelations and I think I need to put my thoughts into writing so that the gods controlling the news leave me alone. I should’t have stumbled into their territory and now they have a firm grip over my consciousness, demanding a significant share of my mind’s attention.

Anyway, the “inquiry” was more of a trial even if not legally so. The judge not only tried to determine the facts of the case but also find the perpetrators and determine their guilt. Two individuals, Lugovoi and Kovtun, were judged guilty and Russian president Putin “probably guilty”. Since it wasn’t an actual trial the judge could get away with real travesty of justice – there was no defense whatsoever and despite proclaiming the inquiry “open” it relied on classified information never seen by the public and a statement by a code named individual to the police in another country. He simply didn’t want to testify in front of the judge and there was no defense to cross examine him anyway. Also there was no jury so whatever judge liked to hear easily became “facts” and “truth”.

Maybe they are facts, who knows, but with “trials” like this Britain should never ever complain about judicial systems in the rest of the world, which they love to do whenever there’s an occasion.

Despite the guilty verdict the inquiry discovered that a lot of public information about this case was plain wrong but this was never announced and needs to be gleaned from their report itself, which is 300 pages long and therefore beyond the comprehension of an average citizen.

Litvinenko’s deathbed statement, for example, was confirmed to be a hoax, a paper typed up by his friend without any factual basis to it. The polonium that killed him could have come from anywhere and there’s no way to prove that it was from Russia. It could also be bought quite cheaply in the West. The most striking discovery in my view, however, was the background of the alleged murderers. Wikipedia still states that one of them, Kovtun, has worked for KGB. It fits the “everybody knows” theory that he was a brutal KGB trained assassin sent by Moscow. The inquiry found something entirely different.

Kovtun was drafted into Soviet army just like every other man in the country and was sent to serve in Czechoslovakia and then East Germany where he met a local woman and got married. When news came in that his unit was about to be transferred to Chechnya he deserted and fled to West Germany. He lived in Hamburg until 2003, mostly on welfare but he also supplemented his income by collecting trash and bussing tables. Eventually he was picked up by another alleged killer, Lugovoi, who was his childhood friend, and given a place by his side.

Lugovoi did work for KGB but he left in mid-nineties to start a business providing security to VIPs. He was doing very well but then his patron, Russian oligarch Boris Berezovski, fell out of favor when Putin came to power and fled from Russia to London. Lugovoi helped arrange escape of one of Berezovski’s acolytes, got caught, and spent fifteen months in jail. He then continued riding Berezovski’s coattails and that’s how he got to know Litvinenko, the victim. They met numerous times and Litvinenko didn’t suspect him to be his killer at all.

After the murder Lugovoi became a minor celebrity in Russia and appeared on TV. He then used his newly found popularity to get elected as an MP for the opposition party. The end. Does he look like James Bond, a KGB trained assassin? I bet if this biography was presented to the jury they would dismiss him as a potential suspect. Litvinenko himself pointed to a different man, an Italian, of whom I know nothing and don’t want to learn any more.

Litvinenko’s brother told the media last week that Russia had nothing to do with the murder and that KGB/FSB didn’t care about him at all. His work there didn’t involve any classified information, he wasn’t a spy, and no one cared what he had to say.

These days when we talk about defectors and intelligence gathered from various dissidents we point to Iraq and how they all screamed about WMD’s there. It was all lies designed to impress their western handlers and talk up their own value. They probably learned this method from Russians, however, who played this trick over and over again for a decade before Iraqi debacle.

Just last year, when Russian opposition politician was murdered right outside Kremlin the media said that the motive was his explosive investigation into Russian involvement in Ukraine. A couple of months later his paper came out, compiled by his friends from his notes, but no one bothered to report on it because it was a dud.

Same thing was with Litvinenko. Maybe Russian FSB did blow apartment buildings themselves to blame it on Chechens but by 2006 when Litvinenko was murdered Chechens had already committed a long list of despicable acts of terrorism and no one would taken claims that their were innocent seriously. They held a theater hostage, they held a hospital hostage, including a maternity ward, they had a school hostage, though some of these acts might have happened later, I don’t remember.

Anyway, the inquiry was a joke but it was meant to influence public opinion, not seek actual justice, and to satisfy judge’s ego, too. And now I hope gods of news are satisfied and I will never have to revisit this subject again. I don’t know who the real murderer was, just one quick look at the report shows an unmanageable number of details. Maybe Lugovoi and Kovtun did it, I don’t care, I’m just appalled at how justice is done in the UK.

Last offering to gods – I’ve also watched a video compilation of Hillary Clinton’s flip-flops on several issues and I actually came to trust the woman. I know she almost certainly lies when he mouth moves and that every thing she says is meant to brainwash the listeners but she is consistent in that and therefore predictable. She WILL make mistakes and she WILL deny making them. She has her own warped version of reality that she presents everywhere but behind that she is just a woman. Maybe I’m being sexist but I believe that is a fact. I mean it’s a typical female behavior – never admit to anything and always turn everything in your own favor. Even when you approach her in full confidence that now you finally nailed her she’ll still manage to make you feel guilty. At heart, however, women know they are wrong and they know they are vulnerable and they do want to do the right thing, everything else is just fluff.

Finally, the gods of news were favorable to me and directed me to the latest Bernie Sanders’ campaign ad. I don’t want to comment on its content but at 9 second mark there’s a face of a Hare Kṛṣṇa devotee there, so I’ll leave you with that:

SandersAd

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Vanity thought #1612. Justice needs to be seen

The full saying is that justice needs to be seen to be done but these days people are quite satisfied with the first part only. Whether it’s actually justice and whether it has been done doesn’t matter. They see it, they feel good about, and that’s all they really want.

Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura famously dreamed about a day when judges would wear vaiṣṇava tilakas and we’ve accepted this as a sort of a prediction that is very desirable. Is it, though? I don’t think in the current atmosphere association with “justice” would do devotees any good, though it’s admittedly better than association with politics. Tulsi Gabbard handles herself very well but she is a first timer with no baggage, politics will eventually get to her – it’s like wrestling with pigs, everybody will get dirty.

Last year I wrote a long analysis of the US Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage, mostly it was about dissenting judges opinions and how they made far more sense than the pro same sex majority. Their arguments, however, have been totally forgotten and everyone talks about that decision as if it was some kind of legal achievement. On that note, a couple of months ago a trio in Brazil sued for legal recognition of their relationship, which is an example confirming “slippery slope” argument advanced by the opposition. Their civil union has already been legalized, next step is getting a full marriage status. It’s the second such case in Brazil, too.

Today I want to talk about a new legal precedent that came to public attention about a week ago – the outcome of the British inquiry into the murder of ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko. The result was a guilty verdict for his two killers, Lugovoi and Kovtun, and “probably guilty” verdict for the Russian president Putin. The first part was a foregone conclusion and the second part made the news worldwide.

It wasn’t actually a trial but an inquiry, or an inquest by an activist judge that gradually got elevated to the inquiry status, and then the inquiry got promoted to determining the causes of death and the guilt of the accused, which is, in effect, a trial, except no trial would have ever been done under conditions used by this inquiry.

The narrative pushed to the public ever since Litvinenko’s murder in 2006 was that Russia refused to cooperate and refused to extradite the accused so no proper trial could have been held, Britain even imposed sanctions on Russia for this refusal. In public view inquiry was as good as it was gonna get and people are perfectly satisfied with the verdict, not thinking twice that punishment is not going to be served. Justice needs to be seen, as I said, the rest doesn’t matter.

So it was all about spin and appearances. I’ve never paid any attention to this case, it was too complicated and learning all the details was unnecessary, but after the result of the inquiry has been published I read a long article taking it apart. The official inquiry site is here and the article is here. I haven’t checked all the claims in the article but so far they simply follow what is included in inquiry’s report.

The story line pushed to the public for nearly a decade is like this – Litvinenko was an ex-KGB spy who threatened to expose some nefarious KGB dealings and his betrayal of his country was unacceptable. To silence him FSB, which is KGB’s successor, sent out two killers to poison Litvinenko with polonium. They slipped it onto Litvinenko’s tea and after about a month he died of a mysterious illness. Eventually polonium poisoning was discovered and following traces of radiation a trail was found leading around London and then onto Moscow. It’s like 007 mission that got busted. The inquiry’s verdict confirmed what the public knew all along, so justice was definitely seen.

What people didn’t notice is that several crucial pieces of this narrative were dismissed by the judge. One finding was that it’s impossible to trace this polonium to the Russian facility and that it IS possible to buy it on the open market, and it’s not very expensive either. Basically, there’s no proof tying this polonium to Russia. Another myth was about Russian non-cooperation – the judge admitted that extraditing the accused is impossible under Russian law, it’s not a matter of government discretion.

Moreover, Russians did offer cooperation but it was deemed unacceptable. They offered to try the accused in Russian courts with evidence supplied by Brits, and there was even a possibility of holding BRITISH court in Russia. Brits decided that it would inconvenience the witnesses and so the option was refused. Under British law it’s possible to interview witnesses via video link but that wasn’t considered. Perhaps the real reason is that a proper trial would fall flat on its face while the inquiry could get away with some outrageous stuff from legal point of view.

The third myth that was quietly buried is Litvinenko’s death-bed statement accusing FSB of poisoning him. It’s what gave the original impetus to the narrative but turned out to be a hoax, it was composed by other person, not by Litvinenko himself, and the person who compiled it admitted that there was no factual basis for this “statement” whatsoever.

But back to inquiry – it’s got capital p “Public” prefix to it and it was touted as an open investigation, a triumph of justice where justice can’t, unfortunately, be enforced. In real life defendants were not present and were not represented, they didn’t bring their own witnesses, didn’t tell their side of the story, and didn’t cross-examine prosecution witnesses. No trial under such conditions would ever be considered as just, but if it only needs to be seen so then repeating words like “public” and “open” does the trick already.

Speaking of open – crucial evidence linking the accused with Russian government was classified and presented only to the judge. Its source and content are unknown and therefore cannot be questioned. One key prosecution witness also remained anonymous and refused to testify in court even though his identity is well known to the defendants. Still, the judge accepted his statement given to the police in another country as unquestionable truth. That would also not fly in a proper trial, so legally calling it an inquiry was a boon to the judge who, incidentally, made his mind up before the inquiry even started. He was the one who pushed for it to prove that he was right. And there was no jury, of course.

Was justice even remotely done in this case? Who cares, it was shown and seen, and that’s enough.

Note that up to this point the circumstances of the case itself have not been mentioned, so far I talked only about preconditions of this inquiry that looked very much like a trial. I might get to the details tomorrow, there are more myths to be dispelled there.

Bottom line – justice system that allows such travesties and prides itself on being one the most fair in the world is no place for a vaiṣṇava. The world is going to hell, we can’t stop it and can’t take responsibility for it. Our service is to pick selected souls who are eligible for surrendering to Kṛṣṇa and chanting the holy name. We can’t save the rest and they have their own demoniac desired to fulfill anyway. They are not going to live under our varṇāśrama and we should probably leave them alone.

Vanity thought #1611. Another case

Yesterday I talked about one self-appointed ācārya who looked fairly civil and knowledgeable until all hell broke loose, just in time for my post. His real face, without the veil of fake humility, was rather ugly and his accusations against Prabhupāda’s translation of one verse in Caitanya Caritāmṛta were not only spurious but totally senseless, as if he can’t comprehend simple English sentences.

Today I want to catch up with another “ācārya” and check what he has been up to in a couple of years since I last came across his site. I think I wrote about him here already but I don’t remember details so brief history first. He joined ISKCON in India in 1989 and served out of Bombay temple until 2000 or so. Then he left and got reinitiated by some old devotee in Gauḍiyā Maṭha and shortly afterwards received sannyāsa there as well.

He took the name “Gaurangapada” and that’s how he first became known in vaiṣṇava circles. Actually, he was fairly active on ISKCON’s COM out of Sweden but then he was just one brahmacārī out of thousands. As a newly minted sannyāsī he started his own mission and started chanting his own mantras.

He promoted chanting of Pañca-tattva mantra on beads instead of Hare Kṛṣṇa and he collected a lot of supporting quotes for his rather unusual choice. That was weird but Pañca tattva mantra can’t hurt anybody and offenses are heavily discounted so it was all fairly innocent.

More importantly, he was the person behind nitaaiveda.com which is a nice online repository of Gauḍiyā literature. Whatever you want to find is there in an accessible format, no messing with pdfs, easy to search, easy to read. Just for this service alone we can forgive minor eccentricity on his behalf, he is harmless and he doesn’t rail against ISKCON like others, at least I haven’t seen him doing that. I don’t think he is involved with that site anymore and it’s maintained by someone else – the hosting fees, DNS registration etc, but it’s a kind of service benefits of which will stay with you forever.

Then things started to get really weird. First, he claimed to be a śikṣā disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda. He joined ISKCON over a decade after Prabhupāda’s departure so how could that be possible? I once had a long argument with one of his supporters on this topic. His reasoning is very simple – he reads Prabhupāda’s books therefore he considers himself Prabhupāda’s disciple. He doesn’t claim to having received dīkṣa from Prabhupāda and therefore he thinks his “śikṣā disciple” title is not unreasonable.

On some level it resembles rittviks but he is not one of those. He really thinks Prabhupāda is his guru. He doesn’t need Prabhupāda’s confirmation of that, mind you, he thinks that Prabhupāda is merciful enough to accept anyone who wants to claim to be his disciple. This goes against ISKCON practice instituted by Prabhupāda himself – devotees needed recommendations from their authorities for their names submitted for initiation, no one in his right might could have claimed to be Prabhupāda’s disciple without Prabhupāda’s personally accepting him as such, but who cares, the title of “Prabhupāda disciple” is too attractive to resist, I guess.

And why stop there? On his current site he claims to be a śikśā disciple of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, too. And Kṛṣnadāsa Kavirāja and Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura as well. Look how modest he is – he doesn’t claim being a disciple of Six Gosvāmīs or Vyāsadeva himself. We often read Brahma-Saṁhitā, why not claim being disciples of Lord Brahmā, too? Someone with insatiable ego would stop at nothing but this devotee displays true humility and restricts himself to being a disciple of “only” Kṛṣnadāsa Kavirāja.

Btw, the name “Gauranhapada” is gone, he is a devotee of Nitāi now and that’s the only mantra he apparently chants – “Nitāi”. Lord Nityānanda is very merciful and a couple of years ago this devotee attained svarūpa siddhi and now he is engaged in nitya-līlā “under Kamal Manjari and Rupa Manjari, and in the Ekachakra Navadvipa Yogapeeth of Jahnava Nitai under Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur.” Yep, just so you know… The Goloka address is given, you can go and check yourself.

He is not kidding, he declares these things very seriously and he talks about it as a matter of fact. There are some videos on his site where he sheds tears in front of the camera while talking about his visions of Nitāi. Speaking of videos – he has a youtube channel and at the moment the first row has three that look like someone is making funny faces for the camera. We are not supposed to judge vaiṣṇavas by their appearance but it was hard for me to contain a chuckle when I saw the thumbnails. I clicked on a couple and it’s the same thing – a display of supposedly transcendental emotions for his disciples to appreciate.

I bet his disciples think that this dude is for real. How can you prove otherwise? What if his “Nitāi” mantra really works and we, and the whole of Gauḍiyā Maṭha for that matter, completely missed the point and followed a wrong path, chanting our Hare Kṛṣṇa for nearly a century without any substantial progress. This guy attained svarūpa siddhi in ten years, maybe less than five if we count from the moment he switched exclusively to chanting “Nitāi”.

Our Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t know the secret, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī didn’t know the secret either. This dude serves directly under Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, however, so he knows mantras that they didn’t. Or maybe he got his from Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura who was a devotee of Lord Nityānanda.

Conditioned nature is very predictable in such cases – even if the proposition is completely ridiculous people still harbor hopes that it might come true. What if? What if everybody is wrong and there’s this one shortcut to riches? What if that guy on the phone offers you a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy stock that will surely go up tomorrow? What if this traditional medicine can indeed cure cancer or enhance certain body parts? What if that Nigerian prince really needs to move his money through your account? Some fools will always bite.

Otherwise, it’s an indictment of the modern state of Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism, outside of ISKCON, that is. We couldn’t put enough brains in him when he was with us so partly it’s our fault. But what about two senior devotees in Gauḍiyā Maṭha who initiated him? Do they care what he is doing in their name? I think they have left this world already, though, so no one can stop this lunacy.

We can only hope that there aren’t too many nutcases like this. And maybe we shouldn’t worry about the image of Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism at all. Compared to ISKCON it’s practically a non-entity anyway and when we preach we preach “Kṛṣṇa consciousness”, we do not overburden people with our exact position on the Gauḍiyā tree.

Vanity thought #1610. Irresistible and audacious

As I said yesterday, sometimes it’s very hard to spot outright pretenders or simply deluded souls who wear the guise of advanced vaiṣṇavas. Philosophically, they might say all the right things and you need to know who exactly you are talking to, which is not always possible on the internet.

One way to smell something fishy is when they invoke “no criticism” defense – they cannot be challenged because that could be offensive and we shouldn’t be offensive towards vaiṣṇavas. We should all unite and respect each other, they say. Even if they are doing something suspicious we need to give them the benefit of doubt, for our own sake, nonetheless.

At this point they usually already know their impropriety is being exposed and so they try to censor unwelcome views by any means necessary. What they are actually defending is their own attachments and they want other people to be nice in a sense “be nice to my ego and mind”. That’s not a vaiṣṇava attitude and it’s not what we should expect on the path to enlightenment. If everything is going nice and our ego does not hurt it means we are doing something wrong and our material attachments remain firmly in place. Unless Kṛṣṇa shows up himself in full glory and sweeps us off our feet we will be holding to our attachments and we will feel pain of letting them go. When this happens we should actually be grateful to whoever relieves us from our false sense of comfort and exposes our deep seated material desires. We should not invoke “do not criticize” defense at this point, everything related to us personally is a fair game.

It becomes more complicated when these people say they defend not themselves by their idols. Any vaiṣṇava should feel obliged to stand up for his authorities and warn people not to offend them. What do you say to that? It’s not so easy to find a satisfactory way past such a defense and that’s why I said dealing with these people is difficult. They will stop absolutely at nothing in trying to look kosher.

Let me give an example. There’s this one “devotee” who somehow convinced his followers that he is doing his service with the blessings of his guru. “How could he have done otherwise?”, they think, “he is such an elevated soul, there’s no way he is not acting on his guru’s orders”. Now you can click the link to his “About” page.

First thing is the unusual for vaiṣṇavas posture in his picture. He did not get this pose from anyone in Gauḍiyā sampradāya, he must have copied it off various bogus sādhus. Who does he think he is to offer his blessings like that? The man is barely thirty years old and no one has ever heard of him. What has he got to offer with such exuding confidence?

There’s a long worded history on that page that can be summarized as follows – he was born in an ISKCON family, grew up in ISKCON, was initiated by an ISKCON guru, and everything was going well for him for almost a decade, “till around two years back in 2012, when Acarya Sri started to bring into light to the topmost occidental leadership of that heretic organization – the many theological, ideological and administrative deviancies prevalent in the global organization as a result of not interpreting HDG ACBSP’s teachings according to his (HDG ACBSP’s) previous acaryas and esp. the direct contemporaneous associates of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu viz., the Six Gosvamis – and rather by interpreting those teachings according to the whimsical conjectures of conditioned souls affected by quadruple flaws.”

That’s one long sentence with confusing meaning. It’s not that he simply thinks that ISKCON is a heretic organization but he brought this fact to the attention of our “occidental” leadership, who, as we learn from the last sentence of that paragraph, displayed unjust wrath, and then this unjust wrath “turned into a solid impetus for the formation of BRVF.”

I can understand how his followers might have misinterpreted his narrative and thought that he formed his BRFV on the orders of his ISKCON guru. His guru is of Indian descent but to suggest that he went along with this crazy plan and supported it in defiance of “occidental” leadership is unthinkable. Gopala Kṛṣṇa Gosvāmī is a pillar of our organization and, perhaps, the most western of all our Indian devotees.

Still – see how the doubt that there could be a split between our western and Indian leaders is being sneakily introduced here. Most likely I’m reading too much into it and “Acarya”‘s English is simply playing tricks on him – that sentence was not properly constructed at all and god knows what he actually meant. Now, if the doubt is planted we need to dispel it but how? We can’t possibly disprove such spurious accusations. It’s like trying to prove we are not beating our wives – why would one even think we do? It’s their job to provide some basis for it but in this case there’s no basis at all, not even a hint – but it’s the only plausible explanation if we give him the benefit of doubt.

So, should we be “nice” vaiṣṇavas and give the said benefit of doubt? Hmm, nothing good will come out of it, it’s a giant waste of time. This particular guy does not deserve time spent on trying to expose his various fallacies. Loot at his adopted title, for example:

“Parama Śraddheya Ācārya Śrī RKDB ‘ĀV’ Pr. is the Primeval Life-long President, Managing Trustee & Ācārya of Bhakti Rasa Vedānta Foundation alias BRVF (Bhārata) & its global affiliates as well as the Primeval Editor-in-Chief of Caitanya Nidhi quarterly Hindi periodical of Vaijayanti Productions of HG Puṇḍarīka Gosvāmī of Rādhāramaṇa Mandira in Vṛndāvana.”

“Primeval Life-long President”, huh? How can anyone take this buffoon seriously? Some do, sadly. His latest blog post is titled “How institutionalized irrationally sentimental and blindly fanatic pseudo neo-Gauḍīyas manipulate the classical Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava texts for fulfilling their petty motives!”

There is audience for this type of blasphemy, and he goes for Śrīla Prabhupāda’s translation of Caitanya-Caritāmṛta here, btw, not for BBT editors. He picks up on the translation of CC Adi.10.86 for no reason at all, it simply says what Bengali says:

    By the will of the supreme gardener, the branches of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī grew many times over, expanding throughout the western countries and covering the entire region.

Somehow he accuses us of interpreting “western countries” to mean Europe and America even though the text clearly talks about the spread of Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism prior to the time of writing five hundred years ago, and it restricts this spread to “the entire region” boundaries of which are described in the next verse: “Extending to the borders of the river Sindhu and the Himalayan Mountain valleys, these two branches expanded throughout India, including all the places of pilgrimage, such as Vṛndāvana, Mathurā and Haridvāra.”

Not grasping this simple meaning and ascribing what is clearly not there he calls us “irrationally sentimental and blindly fanatic pseudo neo-Gauḍīyas”? And then they beg us not to be too aggressive in refuting him?

Circus, and a very bad one at that. Earlier posts there are not so open and might come out as rational and academic, and that’s how he catches people’s attention. If you don’t read his “about” page very carefully and miss the occasional diatribes he might appear as a genuine vaiṣṇava. I myself wasn’t expecting such an attack on ISKCON but it came just in time for me when I finally got around to writing about his blog.

No more needs to be said, that man has no spiritual future whatsoever and if his followers still don’t see him for what he is it’s their fault and their conscious choice.

Vanity thought #1609. Sophisticated rascaldom

We learned a lot about “rascals” from Śrīla Prabhupāda, from atheists to māyāvādīs, and we think we got it all covered. The world of rascaldom, however, does not stay in place and evolve with times. We need to keep up, too.

These days it’s not enough to know how to spot māyāvādīs and I think they are not the worst danger that awaits bewildered souls of the modern age. I’m not quite clear myself on the contemporary classification and I hesitate to lump all deviants together under the same label, especially when it comes to those who look like vaiṣṇavas.

Even in Prabhupāda’s time many of our devotees realized that those darned māyāvādīs are actually ourselves, that Prabhupāda was railing against tendencies prevailing in our own hearts, and that’s why it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between somewhat erroneous devotees and impersonalists.

Why do we need labels anyway? It’s like using “Hitler” brush to paint anyone we don’t like. Hitler was bad, some of our contemporaries might be similarly genocidal, too, but we can call them out for their exact crimes, not for comparisons with Nazi Germany. Trying to fit everyone under one giant label is a propaganda trick, we don’t need this unless we are trying to rally less-discerning masses to our cause. So far I’m talking about clearing our own hearts, not about leading others, which is a political process that plays by its own rules.

So, we know about māyāvādīs, we know about their new-agey followers, too. Most of us can spot them a mile away by their wishy washy attitude and love of all things “spiritual” without any discrimination. They can sing Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra right before they switch to singing for Gaṇeśa, it’s all the same to them. Sometimes our devotees invite them to our own functions and they are being called out for improper association. There’s danger in that but I think we’ve got it covered, the rest is up to our political leadership, it’s not our job to correct our seniors directly.

Another big and loud group is ex-ISKCON devotees who still claim to be Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇavas and insist on judging us by their standards. Historically, it happened like this – devotees accompanied Prabhupāda to India and came across different sādhus there. Some decided to hedge their bets and take initiation from them just in case things didn’t work out with Śrīla Prabhupāda. It was a foolish decision, no doubt about that, but these devotees didn’t see it that way and still don’t see it that way. They and those who followed their path think rather the opposite – leaving ISKCON was the best thing that ever happened to them. When they meet our devotees they pity us: “Oh, you are still there? When will you finally realize and get out?”

In some places being out of ISKCON is a new normal, especially on the internet where a few people of similar persuasion can meet each other and present themselves as a solid community even if they are separated by thousands miles. With proliferation of discussion boards and then later blogs and other social media building your own community is relatively easy. If you can’t create one you can certainly find one to join, all it takes is a google search and a few clicks. I don’t think I’d be far off if I say that in Vṛndāvana there are more ex-ISKCON devotees than those who are still in our movement, but Vṛndāvana is unique in that sense. Still, it’s a place where they can feel at home and where they can be a community and support each other. They are all in the same boat, all facing the same dangers, and they have no choice but to stay united. This might shaken our resolve, too, because we are human and humans are social animals, we love to follow the crowds and we love to belong somewhere. Some might argue that spiritual monogamy is unnatural, too.

The other big group are those who left for Gauḍiyā Maṭha, they also love to tell how they represent the real Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇavism as opposed to immature ISKCON fanatics. Unlike Vṛndāvana bābājīs with their questionable behavior GM is a bona fide institution following bona fide philosophy. They know what’s right and what’s wrong, they know the value of preaching, too, and some of these renegades have built themselves a following and initiated their own disciples, something that has not yet happen to our fake “brijabasis”.

At this point we should be fair and accept that universal laws apply universally and that any service to Kṛṣṇa is accepted regardless of other transgressions. That’s one possible reaction to their success but we should not get confused even for a moment that there’s spiritual progress outside the shelter of our guru and Śrīla Prabhupāda. This is the most fundamental law of any spirituality – yasyāprasādān na gatiḥ kuto ‘pi – without the mercy of the guru there’s no possibility of any progress whatsoever.

The mitigating part for those who left for GM is that they accept shelter of their newly found gurus there and if they follow orders they must achieve some sort of success, the universe can’t deny them that. The part that should be clear to us, however, is that we are not looking for this kind of rewards and should not be swayed by them. Some brainless celebrity can have a thousand times more followers than all our renegades combined, that does not mean much. We need to follow our guru no matter what. Some other guru having more followers is not a reason for us to doubt ours, and ISKCON is never going to be in danger of losing anyone numerically anyway.

What we need to know is that we can’t make any progress if we deviate even a little from serving our guru. We can see how others make progress elsewhere but that’s them, not us. They can learn to chant, worship the deity, and read books but they will never ever receive the mercy of Śrīla Prabhupāda and advaya-jñāna will never blossom in their hearts. You can see it for yourself if you ever come across them – all they do is talk philosophy and scriptures, accumulation of such mundane knowledge is their substitute for bhakti. The number of disillusioned GM devotees is also relatively high and many of these self-proclaimed real Guaḍiyās have left service to Kṛṣṇa altogether, their offenses have finally caught up to them and no amount of academic knowledge could protect them.

The difficulty is this – they are ostensibly vaiṣṇavas, they chant the holy name, they know the philosophy, the know intricacies of Rādhā-Kṛṣna līlā but they preach to everyone that leaving the guru is acceptable and even desirable, and they call it “real” Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇavism.

What label to put on them? “Imersonalists”? “Māyāvādīs”? Some form of apa-siddhānta? Which one? Sometimes, if we don’t have the ready label, we might think it’s rather innocent but there’s nothing innocent about disobeying orders of your guru. We can pull up generic quotes from Śrīla Prabhupāda but this won’t impress them, no more than aforementioned yasyāpradādān na gatiḥ kutl ‘pi.

In a way they are like that Russian professor of Hindu studies who, when Prabhupāda asked him what happens after death, replied that there’s nothing. People like him know Bhagavad Gītā and can talk about it for hours but they don’t *know* even the most basic spiritual facts, it goes straight past them. What is the value of academic knowledge like that? What is the value of knowing all about Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa līlā if you don’t know you have to serve your guru no matter what?

This rant is not over.

Vanity thought #1608. Bane of our existence.

A few times here I mentioned how internet is not conducive to devotional progress. One could argue that it’s just a tool and when engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service it’s beneficial, just like everything else, but we live in the material world where everything is colored by the modes of nature and some corners of it are more conducive to devotional service than others. Different places attract different people and satisfy different aspirations, internet is just one of those. What, or rather who we find here are not people seeking spiritual enlightenment, we do not expect to find them in slaughterhouses, brothels, and casinos either.

On the other hand, everybody is on the internet, it doesn’t not attract malcontents exclusively, and a lot of people come here to find new information. They are open to new ideas and as perceptive to our preaching as people on the streets and so they are the ones we need to talk to, but the thing is that we are usually too late.

A couple of months ago there was an announcement of a new project designed to improve our presence on the internet, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it and so I won’t give a link to my old post about it. I’ll just say that these devotees realized that we are losing the battle for the internet and people seeking information about Hare Kṛṣṇas are very likely to come across all kinds of deviants first. They gave a couple of example to illustrate the point – searching for “Srila Prabhupada” on youtube gives a link to a video of his final moments, which at one time in our society wasn’t shown to uninitiated devotees, and it was coming from the camp convinced that Prabhupāda was poisoned.

I must say that current search produces completely different results but what they were saying was true at the time, I checked. Maybe that project is showing results already.

Anyway, the point is that we were too late and not very skillful and the stage was taken by our various critics instead. They figured our early on how to manipulate google search and get themselves to the top of the result pages. This is ABC of internet PR management but we somehow missed it, but I don’t want to talk about our mistakes, I want to talk about our opponents and how they give Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism a bad name.

Their message is very simple – Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism is a beautiful and gentle religious movement that was hijacked and misrepresented by fanatical ISKCONites. They would pounce on every negative perception of Hare Kṛṣṇas and argue that real Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇavism is not at all bad and that people should give it another chance – to the real Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism that is, not to ISKCON.

People would come up with some gripes – sexual abuse in Hare Kṛṣṇa schools, guru falldowns, cult like fanaticism, aggressive attitude while preaching, etc etc and our opponents would capitalize on that, give them a shoulder to cry on, pacify them, agree with everything they say, and tell them that ISKCON is Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism black sheep, a one idiot in the family, and that they are also ashamed of us.

When I say it that way it looks like they are doing public a favor and keeping people in touch with Kṛṣṇa despite their negative experiences. That might be true and if they are really doing that we must begrudgingly admit that it’s a useful service and be thankful to those who clean up after our mistakes. Most of the time, however, they plant these negative perceptions themselves. People might have heard something here and there but our opponents give their vague memories solid shapes, fan their half-doubts into flames of war and convince them that we are a spawn of Satan. That’s not public service at all.

Whatever the means, they manage to take control of the conversation and start promoting their own agenda, which is still about Kṛṣṇa’s service so it isn’t all bad but any perceptive person can see through their charade and dismiss us, and I mean the entire Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism, as a sham.

The fundamental problem is that our opponents are not promoting devotional service, they are promoting service to one’s ego and their attitudes are atheistic despite externally professing allegiance to God. Perceptive people can smell this a mile away, they can see absence of humility, they can see mental gymnastics even without understanding the details, and nothing can cover this stink completely, no matter how much they dress it up as genuine service. People sense when they are being used and abused and they sense lack of sincerity, they also see personal aspirations and it turns them off – if they were seeking genuine religion, that is.

That’s why when I was talking about saṅkīrtana last month I stressed again and again that preaching must come from a pure heart, everything else people can find elsewhere if they want to. When they sense that they are being used for one’s personal agenda they realize that they have intrinsic value and they exploit it like cheap prostitutes. With this attitude even talking about Kṛṣṇa becomes useless because it’s the opposite of surrender, everybody keeps exploiting each other and saṅkīrtana does not take place.

If this becomes people’s experience with Hare Kṛṣṇas it becomes so much harder for us to get their attention for the third time. First time was when they learned about our existence and second time is when they become victims of our critics preaching. It isn’t an insurmountable obstacle but it would take exceptional effort and purity for our saṅkīrtana devotees to reach their hearts in the limited time they have when they meet people on the streets. After all, saṅkīrtana is about seeking favorable audience, if a devotee can’t find anyone supportive he would just move along to the next place rather than try to correct misconceptions created by our critics from the comfort of their computers.

Saṅkīrtana devotees can’t afford to spend time arguing, it would only make people more defensive and they would gather all their energy and intellect to try and prove us wrong and themselves right, and by “themselves” I mean our critics who planted these devious ideas into their heads. It is very hard to overturn one’s emotional allegiance to somebody and most of the time it can’t be done by arguments alone. Time is usually too short for that kind of sober analysis and people would rather go with what feels good than what is right.

That’s for the general mass, but we should also be concerned with genuine seekers of the Absolute Truth. They won’t find what they are looking for in conversations with our critics and move on. Their numbers might not be great but they are out there, joining Islam in record numbers because there’s a lot less BS there. When I first saw these western converts myself I was very surprised but it made sense immediately – they went for honesty, you can’t substitute it with nice words and fake sincerity. People do want to surrender to God, they do want the company of similarly devoted people, they do want mutual trust, and Islam easily provides all that. I mean real Islam, not that caricature image presented in the media.

I’m not going to pull statistics but, despite universally bad publicity, Islam is probably the fastest growing religion. There might be some others with a higher rate of growth but they also have a much smaller base. For them even a hundred new adherents might be statistically significant.

Well, I wasn’t planning to end this post by talking about Islam but somehow it happened. It does attract a fair number of nutcases but it’s the loss of sincere souls that should worry us. Why do they go to them and not to us? Part of the blame lies with us, part of it lies with our critics. We should not have allowed them to hijack the conversaton but it happened. Correcting it will never be too late, though, so nothing is lost forever. We just have to oppose their misrepresentation of Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavims whenever we see it and do not let sully the pristine image our sampradāya with their mental concoctions.

Vanity thought #1607. History recycled

They say that history repeats itself and Vedas agree. Of course Vedas talk about cycles lasting millions of years while they talk about modern recorded history which is only a couple of thousand years old. Their observation of historical cycles therefore has nothing to do with Vedic chronology of the universe, and they are nobodies for the Vedas to serve as a supporting argument. Our knowledge is eternal, whether they agree with it or not is immaterial, but we can easily fall into the trap of using Vedas to confirm modern scientific observations, we shouldn’t do that.

Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not about proving them right or wrong, they can go to hell if they so desire, Kṛṣṇa consciousness is about restoring our loving devotional service to the Lord. “They” matter to us only in as much as they are useful to Kṛṣṇa. If we can make them glorify Him then great but if not then Kṛṣṇa is not interested in anything they have to say. Hmm, it’s seems a catch 22 situation for them – they either serve the Lord and so agree with us, or we are not interested in their opinions. We give them no choice. In practice, however, we can tolerate a certain degree of deviations and the more advanced we are the higher the threshold of tolerance. Those who have even once sincerely tried to surrender deserve being offered obeisances, though often not for all the stuff they had done since. Kṛṣṇa won’t disown then completely and neither should we, but it might take hundreds of lifetimes to rectify certain kind of offenses – like rejecting one’s guru.

At the first glance such punishment might appear unnecessarily harsh but nothing is unjust in Kṛṣṇa’s universe – by accepting a guru the soul develops humility and patience and for such a soul time flies faster than for others, so a several hundred lifetimes delay in returning to the path is tolerable, probably just the right amount to teach the soul an important lesson. This shouldn’t be our concern, we can’t apply our human time scale to relationship with Kṛṣṇa. Time has no influence over His decisions because it exists only on the material platform, and so we can’t bind Him by some time related rules. There could be no “too long” or “too short” there.

So, history… A hundred and fifty years ago Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura lamented the state of contemporary Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism. Since then we had a revival and unprecedented spread all around the world but things might be coming back the full circle and the word “Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇava” might become a joke again. Some of it is our fault – we do a fair amount of pandering and if we allow women to initiate freely we might be dismissed as a tool of western materialism and its love of rights and freedoms.

That won’t be a big sin comparing to what was done in the name of Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism in the 19th century. I once read a vivid description of it by a perceptive Britisher, it was from around the turn of the century and he wasn’t into “Indians are primitive, Christianity is great” propaganda, he really tried to discover true spirituality as much as he understood it. He looked at how Guaḍiyā vaiṣṇavism was organized, how it functioned, what kind of relationships people had with their gurus, what kind of services gurus rendered to the population and so on. What he found was appalling.

Bengal was separated into fiefdoms which were inherited and no guru could step outside his zone or there would be war. Gurus spent their time traveling from one disciple’s house to another but their visits weren’t about disseminating spiritual knowledge but collecting dakṣiṇā. They had staff hired to calculate how much everybody owes and to make sure nobody was left out of the itinerary. Gurus expected to be treated like gods and often used female members of the families to serve them sexually, sometimes even tasting brides before their marriages. It was all a sham. I wish I could remember the name of that author or the book itself, I tried to find it again but couldn’t.

Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was no less blunt in his assessment. He lived in the time of Indian revival when people were seeking their roots and tried to present a worthy opposition to Christian philosophy. Bengal led that intellectual effort but vaiṣṇavas were not only missing but any association with them was seen as a permanent disqualification. They were all seen as frauds leaching off the less intelligent section of the society. They embodied everything western intelligentsia found disgusting in religion – hypocrisy, greed, deprivation, etc.

We are nowhere near that level of bad, not even the worst of us, and I don’t mean only ISKCON but the rest of Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism, too. What is still true is that no one takes us seriously. However, who is that “no one” and why should we care about his opinions? It’s not like India or the rest of the world is brimming with religious aspirations and people are clamoring for restoration of religons’ rightful place in the society. What do we care what they think? It’s not that they are wrong but they are not even trying to be right.

Motivations of modern day opinion makers are centered around gross materialism and their patriotism is of chauvinist, not enlightened nature, too. 19th century revival brought about Brahma-samaj, an imperonalist but still a spiritual movement, now they have Bollywood and middle classes marching against corruption. 19th century produced a challenge to the western views, nowadays they embrace them wholeheartedly and the only backlash is led by Hindutva fanatics.

Still, there are plenty of people who are not satisfied with the way Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism is developing. Some think it’s too progressive, others think it’s not progressive enough. Some think we don’t preach enough, others say that these critics with their poisonous attitude are the obstacle to preaching themselves. I don’t want to judge who is right and who is wrong but I would say this – discontent is a sign of not performing our saṅkīrtana as well as we expected by the Lord.

Luckily, our internal discontent is not that serious and those who have left our movement are not going to find peace anyway so their gripes can’t be taken as a serious barometer of our health. We are nowhere near collapse, ISKCON might not be as influential in the West as we expected in the early days of our movement but in India it’s undeniably big. No one can ignore us there and no one has offered any alternatives for spiritual advancement in this age.

If we look at the internet, however, the picture is different and there’s another, rather loud group of people who give Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism a bad name. Not as bad as a hundred years ago but still. I guess I’d have to continue with concrete examples another time, sorry.

Vanity thought #1606. More of the same

It’s weekend and I habitually paid more attention to the news than usual. The election season in the US is approaching its first primaries. They’ve been at it for almost a year and it’s still almost a year to go. In the UK the entire election is done in six weeks but Americans love to drag theirs out. Perhaps it’s because elections are a big business and so they need almost two years to milk their donors dry and spend all their money. Six weeks is a joke from the financial POV, there’s no profit in such short elections.

Elsewhere sanctions on Iran have been lifted while Saudis are stirring a regional crisis there, as if they don’t have enough on their hands with ISIS, Syria, and Yemen. There is a World Economic Forum in Davos where rich cats make lofty promises to the public but god knows what they agree among themselves. If you read zerohedge there are lots of theories on what’s going on behind the scenes, maybe not at Davos itself but in general. Russians sell their oil for cheap, their ruble crashed, and yet they are also buying gold while it’s cheap in the same dollars they sell their oil for. Essentially, they are trading oil for gold, which sounds like a clever long game but who knows if they can outlast the market. No major news there.

Terrorists attacks are everywhere – Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, it’s becoming a new normal and fails to trigger worldwide outrage anymore. So far every reaction propagated in the media is to stand united against terrorism but this also means diving the world into us and them. The obvious result is that “we” talk to ourselves and “they” don’t listen anymore. Communications are broken and the only solution is violence.

In my local Saturday’s paper there was a nice juxtaposition of an editorial on the problem with greying population and a letter condemning Catholic opposition to condoms. I half thought of writing them a letter about it myself.

The editorial said all the right things backed up by global surveys and population projections. It wasn’t only about decline in birth rates but also about breaking down family traditions. Something like 60% of people think that supporting the elderly is a government’s job. 20% think that they should support themselves, and only less than 10% think that elderly should be supported but their children.

Just think about it for a second – only one in ten people thinks that it’s his duty to support his father and mother in their old age. Nine out of ten want to dump their parents. What is the world coming to? I don’t even want to look up the exact numbers, it could be even worse – these responsible 10% might be all from Africa or Asia with the West being closer to zero.

I also suppose they’ve asked mostly adults who are not retired themselves yet and who have their own children, those who are in between generations. Their attitude towards their parents is a payback and their attitude towards their children reflects modern values and their attitude to sex, which was the subject of the letter that caught my attention.

Widespread use of contraception is the main reason that changed sex from procreational activity into a recreational one. Raising responsible children who would carry on family legacy was people’s main goal in life and sex was only augmenting it. Now sex has taken the center stage and raising children has become almost like a hobby – if you have time and money go for it, by all means, but in this economy it’s just too expensive.

When sex itself is the goal children become bothersome and people can’t wait to offload them to college so that they can have time for themselves. No wonder those who were raised in such families are not going to support their parents in return, let the government do it or whoever.

The thing is, savings rates aren’t that high and while twenty-thirty years ago people could retire with their golden nest, these days they only have credit card debts. Obama is talking about unprecedented period of job creation but data shows that the only people who work more are the fifty year olds, and the jobs that are being created are part-time positions for those who need a second job, and they are mostly unskilled and low paid.

What will happen to these people when they can’t work anymore? The West hasn’t seen this kind of crisis yet, there’s no experience of dealing with it. Western economic miracle happened when birth rates were two three times higher than now, the societies were coasting on that success ever since but the party is clearly coming to an end. Good times are over and they are not going to return, there are no drivers for positive change while the challenges grow every day.

But back to contraception – the idea was to extract more pleasure from sex and people are convinced it worked but did it really? Are they sexually more satisfied then our ancestors? Do they have more sex than a hundred years ago? They surely have more sex with strangers but definitely less in marriages – mostly because they are not even married.

That’s the thing – when sex was a physical expression of a union between dedicated partners it only augmented their love. Now they stripped their relationships of deeper meaning and are left with simply tickling their bodily sensors. People who were in deep relationship feel that sex without love is empty and is not better, it’s of lower quality and it’s a poor substitute, it just doesn’t satisfy the soul.

And then they have porn that made even their sensors numb. Maybe it felt good in the beginning but after a while they can’t derive physical pleasure from it anymore and they compensate by quantity, and it reduces their chances of having deep, meaningful relationships with opposite sex even further.

So, I would argue that in the long run contraception has not improved sexual lives and it definitely destroyed the family institution. They didn’t think it through and went for the short term benefits and now it’s coming back for them big time. And that is strictly from the material point of view, there’s no question of any spiritual progress for these sex addicts at all.

Without spirituality they are becoming just like animals – slaves to their mind and senses with no clue that there’s a bigger world out there. Ironically, they call it “evolution”. Evolution towards what? They can’t even maintain their standards of sense gratification and both their food and their sex have become tasteless. Everything is “new and improved” but after several iterations it becomes worse than the original.

I just realized that I haven’t mentioned Kṛṣṇa today at all. Well, personally, He has nothing to do with this Kali Yuga world and these people are drifting further and further away from Him and His service. I wish I could preach to them but I’m stuck on convincing myself that we are right and they are wrong. There was another disturbing development in this regard but I’ll talk about it tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1605. Random fit

There are some Christians who love to open their Bible and pick random verses to find answers to their pertinent problems. There are also those who don’t think it works. When it does, however, they tell everyone about this “miracle”. It’s hard to take these claims seriously, mostly because the connections look very stretched and, with enough imagination, you can probably connect each and every verse with anything you want.

Anyway, I had a few spare minutes today and I decided to read a random verse from our books, too. I had a mobile phone with me and I thought it would be a perfect randomizer. Phones screens are still relatively small so if you want to pick a link that you want you really have to read and watch where you are clicking, but phones are perfect for flipping the page to let it scroll however far it feels like going and then poking in the middle of the screen on whatever happens to be there. So I opened vedabase.com/en/sb/ and picked a random Bhāgavatam verse. TBH, it wasn’t really random – the selected Canto must be somewhere in the middle, then the selected chapter would be somewhere in the middle, too, and then the selected verse. There was a very little chance I’d pick SB 1.1.3 or something like that. I ended up with SB 7.7.8:

    Prahlāda Mahārāja said: My dear King, the source of my strength, of which you are asking, is also the source of yours. Indeed, the original source of all kinds of strength is one. He is not only your strength or mine, but the only strength for everyone. Without Him, no one can get any strength. Whether moving or not moving, superior or inferior, everyone, including Lord Brahmā, is controlled by the strength of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Random or not, but this is a relatively famous śloka we all remember. Maybe not Sanskrit but the verse is certainly known to every devotee, we can’t tell the story of Prahlāda Mhārāja without mentioning it. I don’t want to sound superstitious but this could be considered a very good pick on any random day and it also fits perfectly with the theme of my recent half a dozen posts.

But first – the superstitious part. There’s no such thing as a superstition, it’s an atheist invention and there’s nothing more to it than that. I don’t mean that all superstitions are real and atheists are totally wrong about it, I mean that people who “believe” in them are atheists, too – because they do not see the Lord and His connection to every material or spiritual phenomenon. When they find what they think is such a connection, a proof of supernatural supervision, they still do not see all-pervasive nature of these “interventions”.

I mean how can they talk about “interventions” when the Lord controls movements of every single blade of grass? They still see the world as separate from the Lord and the Lord only occasionally interfering, and not even being subtle about it – because these “seers” of omens can predict His every move. Well, not every seer attributes superstitions to God’s hand but that makes them only slightly more atheistic than those who do. The Lord controls everything, in and out, in the past and the future, and He knows everything and He arranged everything to happen exactly like He wanted long long time ago. He might delegate running the universe but it doesn’t take away His complete cognizance. It’s also not a matter of how much He can be bothered to remember like it is with us, He remembers absolutely everything in full, including the future, so the verb “remember” doesn’t apply either, it’s as anthropomorphic as us assuming He’s got the same memory as us but better.

To be fair, I didn’t mean these people to be atheists in a sense of openly rejecting God’s existence, I meant they do not perceive Him and so act as if He isn’t there or as if His powers are very limited.

The more important part is the meaning of the verse itself – the Lord is the source of everyone’s power. The way we usually tell it we stop at that and continue onto how the Lord was the source of Prahlāda’s power, a five year old boy who defied the mightiest person in the universe, but let’s pause a little and contemplate other implications of this śloka, namely how the Lord was the source of Hiraṇyakaśipu’s power as well.

Normally, we’d acknowledge it in the sense that Hiraṇyakaśipu was misusing power he ultimately derived from the Lord and then we cheer justice being restored but let’s rewind it a little – “the demon’s power came from the Lord”, and let it sink in. Do we normally see the power of our opponents as coming from Kṛṣṇa? And why do we cheer defeat of such power? Why, if we know that everyone draws his power from Kṛṣṇa, we want to defeat and destroy them?

I think that’s the difference between us and Prahlāda Mahārāja, who is one of the principal mahājanas. He had absolutely no beef with his father and absolutely no desire to see His father defeated and deflated. We, in his place, would be all “let’s kill the demon, let’s show him who is the boss, someone must finally stop him.” It’s not a very mature approach – what we call a “demon” is nothing else but a display of Lord’s prowess.

Of course there’s also a matter of the soul occupying this particular corner of the universe being inimical towards God but we should know better than accept his deluded claims of ownership as real. When we do and demand that this soul was stripped off its demoniac powers we display the same delusional mentality as he does. It’s not his powers, it’s Lord’s powers. They never slipped out of Lord’s control and they never belonged to anybody else.

When we see a display of Lord’s might we should rather offer it respect and appreciation, how else would a devotee react? All learning, all remembrance, all ability to argue, all ability to fight – it all comes from the Lord, even if it’s used in so-called opposition to Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism. No one can oppose Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism just as no one can oppose Viṣṇu Himself, it is simply not possible.

What we see as opposition is only a display of our unfortunate ignorance – when we go along with other people’s foolish claims and accept them as substantial. They are clearly in illusion, what’s our excuse?

All the claims about other spiritual paths and methods being equal to and even superior to ours exist only on the material platform, they have no spiritual substance whatsoever, and so we shouldn’t lower ourselves to that level and entertain them for real. It’s like someone rolling his boogers, sticking them into his mouth, claiming that they are very tasty and nutritious, and offering you to try some, too. It’s insane, especially if coming from a grown up man, and you are not going to win that argument no matter what you try. Why would you want to step into this delusional world at all?

And at the same time all the arguments they bring, all the quotes, all the logic, all the support, are a display of Kṛṣṇa’s powers and as such deserves our worship. It’s not meant to harm us just as Prahlāda Mahārāja didn’t see his father as a threat to himself – it’s Lord’s energy and the only “harm” it could do is to our false ego.

A devotee literally doesn’t have enemies because “enemies” is a product of the illusion, for a devotee there’s only the Lord and His energies, and then other spirit souls relating to the Lord in their own manner. None of that is even remotely threatening, rather the opposite.

Fear is a product of māyā, as simple as that.

Vanity thought #1604. Bubbling over

Earlier this week there were weird reports coming from India about the ruling party there opposing construction of ISKCON temple in Purī. I mean news articles like this, which is batshit crazy. It’s a rich story, thought, with context and background and prediction and what not.

First of all, they are talking about us building another Jagannātha temple there, which isn’t the case at all. I don’t think our leaders would even do such a thing, for a million of reasons, and there’s a story clarifying the situation here. It might not be enough to correct the public perception, however.

Yesterday I said that the internet is basically garbage and it’s stories like this that prove to me over and over again that it is indeed so. Maybe these publications also print actual newspapers but they also strive to make themselves visible online. That’s where people get their news these days, that’s where publishers can build readership and engage their customers, that’s why they are putting up all kinds of click-bait, provocative stories. They want people respond emotionally and come back for the same rush of adrenaline again and again. It’s not about news, it’s about hooking people up and milking google for advertising money.

Elsewhere I read about a four year old study of Facebook users and it found that prejudiced people tend to hang out together and deepen their biases. Facebook is helping them by feeding them the stories it knows they would like and so they slowly built their own communities that become completely disconnected from reality and drifting farther and farther away from mainstream views. These people just can’t help themselves, they take shelter in in their addiction to news and public comment and they need to feed their cravings.

Another aspect of this story is the proposed temple itself. I don’t know anything about it beyond what I saw on the internet but I seriously doubt that anyone in ISKCON would even contemplate to build a rival Jagannātha temple there. Are they going to have a rival Ratha-yātrā? We are followers of Rūpa and Sanatana Gosvāmīs who were not allowed to go inside the temple. We are followers of Haridāsa Ṭhākura who wasn’t allowed in either. Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t go inside in solidarity with his disciples, too. We have a long tradition in this regard and accepted our fate in the early days of our movement. Building our own Jagannātha temple there to spite the original would be an unimaginably bad taste, we are not that crazy. Yet.

Also, look at who campaigns against this non-existing plan to build a second Jagannātha temple – the Śaṅkarācārya’s Maṭha in Purī. Afaik, they have always opposed ISKCON devotees being allowed inside even though Odisha’s King is generally in favor of letting us in. The King is not the king of the temple, however, his opinion doesn’t matter much when it comes to religious matters. I’m not saying they should lift the ban on non-Hindus being allowed to enter but Purī advaitins are clearly taking it too far. Spouting the same kind of venom and being cited along with headless politicians is not an image becoming to supposed jñāna yogis. Don’t they have better things to contemplate than nonfactual stories and blaming people for something they didn’t do? How much spiritual advancement could be there for those engaged in this politicking?

Having said that, I wouldn’t put it past our devotees to mention the possibility of installing a Jagannātha deity in our new temple. I don’t think it would be a unique deity in Purī, it’s not like the Lord refuses to manifest Himself in any other image in his dhāma. Only perverted minds would construe this as rivalry with the original and it shouldn’t be an issue but there are people out there who love gossiping and blowing things our of proportion, minds and tongues are hard to control in Kali Yuga. It’s sad to see that this disease affected what I supposed were strict advaitins there. I’m not trying to condemn then but I’ve spent quite a few posts arguing that there’s no true spirituality left outside our tradition, everybody else gets gradually swallowed by Kali.

And then there’s this prediction that one day Russians would come and steal Lord Jagannātha from Purī temple and take Him away. I’ve heard many references to it but only one “complete” theory of what is expected to happen. I suppose people there are instinctively afraid of any threats of this nature even if they might not have a clear understanding of how it could be even possible.

The prediction as I heard it is probably only a recent variation on the original and it says that one day Russians would come into the temple, take the deity away, put Him on the train, but fail to leave the state. The train would be stopped not far from Purī and the deity would be either returned or find a new temple to stay there, I don’t remember exactly, so Russian plan would be only half successful.

I don’t know what to make of it. Russia is thousands and thousands kilometers away from Purī and Hare Kṛṣṇas are not particularly welcome to build temples there. They still haven’t got one in Moscow and only a couple of years ago there was a story on Dandavats that they had just opened the very first Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa temple in the whole of the country. Having the facilities to host the original Jagannātha, who is very big, btw, and serve Him His favorite food sixty four times a day in Russia is unthinkable.

Besides, Lord Jagannātha’s residence is a political matter, it’s not just a random Indian deity. It’s impossible to imagine a situation where foreigners, even as generally friendly to India as Russians, would be allowed to overrun one of the most popular temples in the whole country. It would signal a complete breakdown of law and order and complete disintegration of Indian society. If that ever happens then residence of Lord Jagannātha wouldn’t be the priority for anyone but His dedicated servants, who have all the right, nay even a duty to prepare for all contingencies. If their protocol calls for sabotaging a train if that ever happens then so be it. Perhaps, Russians would be taking Lord Jagannātha to Māyāpur, that is possible once we get TOVP and supporting infrastructure, but it’s all super speculative.

At the end of the day, anything can happen in the material world, especially if we look at longer time frames, not the next year or the next decade. Whatever happens, however, is absolutely always under control of the Lord. No Russians can take Him away without His permission and no Indians can lose Him without offending Him in some way or another. Still, Russians might make plans, Indian politicians might make plans, advaitins might stir the pot, but it’s Lord’s servants duty to look after His welfare at all times. They have this service and it’s the purpose of their lives, they have to do it even if sometimes imperfectly and with offenses, it’s not an excuse for them to stop caring. We cannot condemn them for doing their jobs however crazy it might appear. They have their purpose in life, what’s ours? I hope it’s not walking around and telling everyone how superior we are.