By now I should have let go of my dream but the memory of it is still stuck in my head. Good times… Now I look at it mostly as an offer from Kṛṣṇa, an arrangement to go on with my [spiritual] life. Instead of my current identity I was offered a new one, nameless, free from obligations and free to pursue detachment. I still see it, however, as a replacement of my current set of attachments and as such it wasn’t bad either. The sun was bright, the air was clear, the sand was clean, I could have lived in that place. Of course it was only a dream and the offer wasn’t real but my mind is still in it so it still IS a reality for me even though imperceptible to everyone else. I’m not ready to talk about relationships between dreams and the real world yet, so I have another topic in mind.
The other thing I did over the weekend was to check vaiṣṇava news sites. I treat this habit as an addiction I have to get over with because nothing good ever comes out of reading news, it’s like junk food for the mind, we should know better. There’s a fact, however, that there are devotees who sincerely offer their articles for the spiritual benefit of others and it would be wasteful not to appreciate it. Our entire devotional life is sustained by absorbing bhakti of others, after all. They open their hearts and minds and that’s the only way bhakti can find a way inside ours.
Kṛṣṇa does not live in His holy name unless it was invoked by other devotees – that’s the thing with saṅkīrtana, you can’t do it alone. Otherwise it won’t be effective in this age. Kṛṣṇa is non-different from His name, of course, but by “live” I mean being accessible for us, extending His mercy that purifies our existence. Well, even if we chant the holy name in total isolation it still was given to us by our guru so repeating it is our tribute to him. The name never appears by our own efforts, not even the material sound of it. It must always come from other devotees, there’s no other way. Even Lord Caitanya gave us the saṅkīrtana while in a garb of Kṛṣṇa’s devotee.
Speaking of Lord Caitanya and His mission – I noticed several articles concerned with its future. One was on Dandavats and it advocated “resurgency”, the revival of Hare Kṛṣṇa movement in the US. The others were on Sun and so were rather critical and hopeless. Let’s go with the hopeful one first – I’m not buying it.
Basically, the prediction is that ISKCON in North America will be revived by a new wave of preachers independent of the temples. My first reaction was that it’s a hope against hope but it may be somewhat softened by now. You see – Kṛṣṇa doesn’t owe the US anything. That devotee, no doubt with the best of intentions, assumed that our mission there must be revived but, historically speaking, it never happens, it’s a false hope.
Every empire in a decline can’t imagine the world without it, its people naturally expect some kind of revival of its dwindling fortunes. Even up until now there are people on some Greek islands who still identify themselves as Romans even though Roman empire has been gone for over a thousand years. The identification goes on and people naturally assume that God owes them a good life. If I think myself as a Roman, or as an American, or as a Libyan – God surely must favor the entire group I identify myself with, the future is always bright, not just for me but for everything else I lay my claims to, too.
It’s an illusion and the material doesn’t work that way. Forget God, we are in the hands of time and time shows no mercy. Time owes nothing, it takes whatever it wants and gives whatever it wants regardless of how we feel about it. It always made us offers we can’t refuse. If North America is going into decline than that’s what will happen and hoping for a resurgency is futile.
The only part I agree with is that we are at the point in time where old devotees who left temples decades ago are retiring from their jobs and will have time and energy for preaching. I’m still not sure it’s what they would actually do with their lives but the retirement part is undeniable. Even so, it sounds more like a plot for a bad movie about old-timers defying their age, starting a new life, and succeeding at it. Even Hollywood makes them into comedies now, the premise is ridiculous. What would it be? “Expandables 4, ISKCON style”? It’s not really about preaching, it’s about refusing to acknowledge our age and imposing our presence on everybody else.
It’s like the phrase “young at heart”, old people appreciate it but it’s all about denying their age and new set of responsibilities that comes with and pretending to be young. It’s embarrassing, it’s undignified, it’s off-putting. Old people have their role in a society and young people have theirs, to each his own.
It doesn’t mean that retired devotees (retires from karmī jobs, that is) can’t become preachers but preaching requires energy and lots of it. It also requires one to become an authority or a role model. Young, energetic men are attractive, everyone wants to be like them, their have vigor, they are full of vitality, and it doesn’t really matter what they say. These might not be perfect qualities for preaching but they work. We have to make ourselves presentable so that people would want to be like us, want to live like us, want to emulate our behavior.
One could site the example of Śrīla Prabhupāda but he was unique, and the bulk of actual preaching work was done by his young disciples. They were the ones travelling everywhere and starting up temples. They went to San-Francisco and ignited everyone with interest in Śrīla Prabhupāda, they went to London and started UK preaching all on their own. This pattern was then repeated everywhere. “Dancing white elephants” wasn’t just a cute, slightly patronizing moniker, without their youthful energy ISKCON wouldn’t have happened.
Maybe some of our older devotees have enough energy left to get an RV, stuff it with books, and go travelling from town to town, singing kīrtanas and distributing books but, generally, it’s not what old people are good for. They should “lead from behind”, so to speak. They should inspire others to do all the footwork. Even if they are spiritually advanced so that they could turn others into devotees, still it should be done in stages, through their disciples. It’s how it has been always done in history. If there are exceptions, like Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, for example, they are still exceptions.
Older devotees should stay at the inner core of our movement, be a source of our inner strength and inspiration, not man the front-line barricades.
Maybe this resurgency will happen, but if the underlying motive is to prolong one’s illusion of being young and powerful, or the illusion that God owes us something, then it will fail without a doubt. A final thought – if need is there Lord Caitanya will pick someone younger to push His mission and we shouldn’t be envious of them when they come even if we dislike their ways.