Last time I talked about our possible connection with Lord Rāmacandra – service to varṇāśrama. It’s a speculative idea, of course, and I’m just getting started. Well, I used to say “I’m just getting started” but these days fifteen minutes after start I’m already thinking about a nap so nothing big will come out of it.
As I explained in the previous post, it’s hard to imagine how we could be useful to Lord Rāmacandra in any other way. We aren’t conditioned for Rāma līlā, we are conditioned for the mission of Lord Caitanya. We can fit very nicely in there even if removed from Lord’s appearance by five hundred years. The mission is the same – spread chanting of the holy name, the service is the same – chant, go out, meet people, tell them about Kṛṣṇa, the environment is the same – toxic, just to a different degree, the orders are the same, the philosophy is the same, so we are all set.
There’s a possible way to fit into Rāma līlā if we consider the inner meaning of battle with Rāvaṇa, though. If we consider Rāvaṇa not as a person, a demoniac king with plans to conquer the universe, but as an attitude – a demoniac wish to enjoy Lord’s property. In this sense we all have Rāvaṇas inside our hearts and we all have to battle them.
Are we going to kill this demoniac attitude? Nope, according to the story Lord Rāmacandra does that, we only assist to the best of our abilities. Considering that this demoniac attitude is rooted deep inside our hearts we are both the enemy and Lord Rāma’s soldiers, so our role here gets a bit confusing. Aren’t we also Sītā? We are being held hostage to our demoniac desires, too. Sītā didn’t fight, she just kept her chastity and patiently waited for the Lord to come to her rescue.
On one hand we aren’t supposed to sit and wait but actively fight against our anarthas, on the other hand, after many years of trying, we can also admit that until the Lord comes and helps us we are not going to achieve anything worthwhile. We can’t grow the tree of bhakti on our own, it has its own schedule. We can nourish it with chanting and pull out weeds of anarthas but bhakti, just like any other plant, ultimately needs the bright sun of Lord’s mercy. If that mercy is not there nothing will grow despite best attempts at gardening.
In that last metaphor our role as gardeners is only minor but pulling the weeds is Rāma’s battle with Rāvaṇa so it must be central to the story. As I said, translating Rāma līlā into our own lives is confusing and all these metaphors can easily get away.
Service within varṇāśrama, on the other hand, is solid. It’s always, always available, no matter what condition we were born into. We might not qualify by our occupational duties for the four varṇas and we might not qualify for the four aśramas by our personal behavior but we know what to be done and have the work cut out for us anyway. We know we have to get up, go to work, we know what we have to do there, we know when we have to come home, we know our chores around the house and our duties towards our families. It will never ever go away. We all have mothers and fathers and we all have sexual desires that need to be controlled even in the most degraded of relationships. We also all have to aim at eventual renunciation at the end of our lives even if full sannyāsa is prohibited in this age.
Speaking of sannyāsa – perhaps we shouldn’t look at that prohibition as simply an order, which would imply the choice of obey or disobey, but also as a description of Kali yuga conditions. It would mean that we can’t disobey this order even if we tried. It is said that in Kali yuga our prāṇa is attached to our flesh while in previous ages it was attached to the nervous system and even only the bones. It means that we cannot possibly survive without food while people like Rāvaṇa could undergo severe tapasyā for thousands of years. I mean even what is now considered fossils could still be, theoretically speaking, a living body of a meditating sage. That kind of sannyāsa is out of question, of course. We can’t survive by begging and living under the trees either, not in the present climate, not even in Vṛndāvana where summer temperatures require substantial shelters and electric fans not to die of a heat stroke.
Where was I? Ah, varṇāśrama – it seems we have multiple duties varied with our positions and our ages but in its essence the service is one and the same – following what needs to be followed. It’s in this sense that I meant “one trick pony” as a title. On the surface it would appear that we are doing so many different things but with practice we should all see that it’s all the same service, following orders, and there won’t be any other rasa involved in it ever.
We are not going to sit and watch our family duties being performed all by themselves, so no śānta, we are not going to treat the Lord and His orders as our friends and we are certainly not going to give orders ourselves, so no sakhya and no vātsalya. The only possible relationship with the Lord we can have under varṇāśrama is dāsya, there’s no other option.
As I said, it can manifest in a variety of ways but I’m not sure if this variety adds any transcendental flavors. In varṇāśrama these extra flavors come from interaction with other people, not with the Lord Himself, and they come only on the material level. Do these extra relationships exist in Vaikuṇṭha? Apparently yes – they have families, houses etc there, but it’s not how citizens of Vaikuṇṭha are defined – they are defined by their flawless service and by their constant absorption in the Lord. The fact that they also have families barely registers. We are taught to think that despite of the variety of engagements and personal flying airplanes all they can ever think of is their service.
So, I don’t think it’s dāsya mixed with attraction for their wives or with the exhilaration of flying your own vimāna. Nope, it’s just dāsya, so “one trick pony” description is true even there, albeit it carries negative connotations in modern language. I intend to overrule this negative connotation when talking about service but I’ll leave it for another day.