I’m still waiting for knowledgeable comments on the Flat Earth observation I wrote about two days ago. I don’t think there will be any, though. My calculations were somewhat incorrect, to say the least – the island should be not 100 m but 1000 m below the horizon, which makes it even more difficult to explain, so I was wrong but in Flat Earth favor, not against it. In the meantime I want to return to the topic of reincarnating again and again to serve in the mission of Lord Caitanya. I don’t have anything new to add but I’ve seen two related items that I want to comment on.
First was a general Bhāgavatam class where someone said generic things – we should be respectful of every devotee around us because they might be demigods who came down to taste the nectar of saṅkīrtana movement. We’ve been hearing this for ages now, it doesn’t raise out attention anymore. Could it really be possible?
Why not? Saṅkīrtana sure is sweet and demigods might be bored out of their wits so naturally they want to join. One short life on Earth is not that big of a deal. We might not be getting any of the major ones like Indra of Vāyu because they have actual work to do but there are millions of other heavenly beings whose brief absence might not be missed.
When Lord Caitanya was here demigods came disguised as humans to have a look at Him and people were wondering who those mysterious visitors were. We don’t have Lord Caitanya Himself as the main attraction now but we had a unique moment in history when Kṛṣṇa consciousness was spreading like wildfire, it was clearly intoxicating, so it’s understandable why even demigods might have wanted to be a part of it. Some might have come to help because Śrīla Prabhupāda surely needed it with all our ex-hippies. We are not going to speculate who among his disciples could be a demigod in disguise but simply admit the possibility.
More interesting question is why do we want demigods in our ranks at all. Are we absolutely sincere about it or do we want some extra importance attached to our mission? Is it a cheap trick to rally the troops to go out and fight māyā? It might be cheating but we still need this kind of encouragement because often we won’t get out of bed for purely spiritual reasons, we need some material motivation, too. I’m not sure whether exploiting our materialistic motivations is beneficial in the long run but it definitely helps.
I’ve heard of some of our managers deliberately using women to get male hormones going, otherwise devotees are too lazy. A man would do anything for a chance with a girl, why not use this energy in service of Kṛṣṇa? Why let it go to waste? He’ll fall in love with someone sooner or later anyway. I understand and almost agree with this reasoning but something holds me back from completely agreeing with it. It’s not what I was going to talk about today anyway.
So, we might be bringing demigods into the picture to make ourselves appear important. Ostensibly we’d say that it’s our mission that is important, so important that even the demigods decided to chip in, but the “our” part there makes it about self-importance, too. That is only half the problem, however.
Why do we use demigods to elicit extra respect in the first place? It makes ordinary devotees look insignificant by comparison, which is disrespectful. Are we going to offer obeisances to someone because he could be a demigod but not for the fact that he is a devotee? Do devotees not deserve respect on their own?
Technically, our devotees are going back to Kṛṣṇa while demigods usually go back to heaven, as we can see from numerous examples in our books. I always wondered why they misuse the opportunity of meeting Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu face to face and desire to stay in the material world longer. This should not happen to our ISKCON devotees who follow the program. At the end of their lives they are going to be reunited with the Lord while going to heaven would be considered a failure. Well, nothing done in service to the Lord is a failure but it would still be a setback.
So, we’d offer special respects to demigods who are going to enjoy the pleasures of the material world and walk past a simple devotee who is going to be reunited with Kṛṣṇa? It doesn’t make sense and so I don’t understand these demigod references.
A second item on this topic is Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lecture on what it means to be liberated. There is a couple of paragraphs there that I’d actually prefer to read backwards:
You have to become the servant of the servant of the servant of gopīs. So to endeavor to become gopīs, that is also Māyāvādī, that “I shall become gopīs.” No. So we must always remember that if we want to be recognized by Kṛṣṇa, if we want to become inhabitants of Vṛndāvana, then we must take this lesson given by Caitanya Mahāprabhu, gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ.
And then in one of the preceding paragraphs:
Don’t try to become gopīs. No. Rather, try to become the dust of the lotus feet of the gopīs. Gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ (CC Madhya 13.80). Just like Uddhava. Uddhava wanted to become one grass in Vṛndāvana because the gopīs will trample over it. This is the highest perfection. So, liberation. Liberation means gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ. The more you become servant of the servant, servant of Vaiṣṇava, then your perfection is there
The futility of any other type of liberation is explained as well:
Ahaṁ brahmāsmi: to understand that “I am not this matter, I am Brahman.” But unless one takes shelter of the gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa, he’ll fall down. Āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ patanty adhaḥ (SB 10.2.32). Why? Anādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ. Because one does not know, as Caitanya Mahāprabhu teaches, that gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ (CC Madhya 13.80), he falls down. He has no shelter. Anādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ.
Śrīla Prabhupāda makes full use of the linked Bhāgavatam and Caitanya Caritāmṛta verses here – those who do not become servants of the servants do not achieve liberation. Not servants of Kṛṣṇa either, but servants of the servants of the servants.
To me this validates my earlier point that we might be born again and again exactly where we are now so that we can perfect our position of lowly servants of the servants of Śrīla Prabhupāda and should not demand anything better. Uddhava wanted to become grass in Vṛndāvana but for him it was a step down from his exalted position in Dvārakā. If we desire the same it would be a step up, which is not a display of necessary humility. We should simply aspire to serve dedicated servants of Śrīla Prabhupāda in whatever capacity we can, if we do it right we will eventually develop real bhakti ourselves, and with bhakti we’ll have no problems doing this “insignificant” service again and again, lifetime after lifetime.
Or, in other words – we don’t know how good we have it.