Pilgrim’s Diary 11a. Opulences

This is an appendix to go over the following list of realizations mentioned earlier:

“the inner secret man of the heart,” “true prayer worships in the spirit,” “the kingdom is within us,” “the intercession of the Holy Spirit with groanings that cannot be uttered,” “abide in me,” “give me thy heart,” “to put on Christ,” “the betrothal of the Spirit to our hearts,” the cry from the depths of the heart, “Abba, Father,”

I don’t know what exactly these terms mean to Christians who will recognize them at first sight but there are several things at play here – common western Christian understanding (Catholic plus Protestant), Russian Orthodox understanding, Pilgrim’s own understanding, and, most importantly – what WE should know about these things if we want to achieve similar results. I’m sure I will miss great many details and nuances immediately obvious to Christian scholars, but the pilgrim wasn’t a scholar and we can’t even be sure he understood these things right (if there is one “right” way to understand them at all). He discovered his own meanings for these terms and he most certainly didn’t have time to elaborate on those. Therefore, I believe it would be adequate to simply find similar kinds of realizations in our own spiritual lives, our own moments when a light bulb goes off. Delving into details can actually spoil the moment here.

“The inner secret man of the heart” is in reference to a passage from the Gospels (Peter 3.1-6):

In the same way, you wives, be subject to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won over without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your pure and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely the external—braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or putting on apparel; but it should be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way the holy women of former times, who hoped in God, also used to adorn themselves, being subject to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; and you have proved to be her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

At first it seems to be about women developing inner character, often referred to as chastity, that attracts and influences men better than their external appearance but the pilgrim obviously saw more than that. He himself externally didn’t look like much – as I argued earlier police captain didn’t even recognize him as a sadhu, and neither did two guys who mugged him. The main transformation happened in his heart and it’s all he has been writing about in his diary so far. Sadhu’s qualities develop from within, inside out, as the body continues its assigned karmic trajectory. Even if sadhus don’t behave up to the standards – sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ. We have to see inside their hearts, where this “inner secret man” lives. Hopefully, one day we find a “secret man” of our own, too. To me, the pilgrim discovered what Lord Caitanya said about vaishnavas: Even the most learned man cannot understand the words, activities and symptoms of a person situated in love of Godhead. (CC. Madhya 23.39)

“True prayer worships in the spirit” – two things, actually – “true prayer” and “worship in spirit”. That’s how it stands in Russian but English translation put them together. I don’t think “true prayer” needs an explanation here because this entire book is an exposition on what true prayer is. Second term, worship in spirit, is apparently from John 4.21-24:

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Huh, another one about women? No, it’s actually about moving on from vaidhi bhakti to raganuga bhakti. It’s when external rituals of worship become filled with heart’s flow of devotion from within. It’s when we do something not because we have to follow the rules but because it pleases Krishna. And it’s not that we start doing something else – no, we are still talking about the same thing, like offering obeisances, for example, or offering arati, or prasadam, or going to the temple. “I have to go every Sunday” is nicely expressed determination but it enhances millions of times when we think that when we ring the bell the Lord will be happy to notice our arrival. Now we can drive for hours just to make Him smile that one time we enter.

“The kingdom is within us” is from a famous verse from Luke 17.21

No one will say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’; because the Kingdom of God is within you.

There are books written about this so I don’t think there is a need for me to explain it. In our tradition Krishna lives within the hearts of devotees and that’s where we are expected to find him: santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti. What more can be said about this? Maybe sometimes we need to remind ourselves, in our pursuit of pure devotion and perfection of sadhana, that we will not find Krishna in these external activities. He is within us, always has been and always will be, except if we ever get lucky enough to see Him externally, which almost never happens. Come to think of it, so many devotees put all their passion in fixing external things, like BBT books or initiations or GBC resolutions. I’m one of those, I know. Every now and then we should be reminded that our process is called “self-realization”, not “world-realization”. All that we need to see is inside us, not outside.

“The intercession of the Holy Spirit with groanings that cannot be uttered” is from Romans 8.26:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

This has been interpreted in various ways – some used this verse to support “speaking in tongues”, others to support their mystical experiences. The explanation I read is more mundane – people do not always have the ability to follow four regs and they can’t even offer properly worded prayers, free of rasa-abhasa and apa-siddhanta. Realizing their inability all they can offer is their sincere sighs of repentance and gratitude to the Lord. Going back to “inner secret man” and “kingdom within us” – wordless groans is how it comes out of the heart and into the open. Our mundane words and our mundane ability to speak can’t serve it justice. Or, as we often remind each other – Krishna is bhāva-grāhījanārdana. That bhava is unspoken. I’m not sure “groans” is the right word for it, but I think I get the point.

“Abide in me” is from John 15.4:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

This is obviously their version of acintya-bheda-abheda tattva. Or there is this verse about chanting:

mano-madhye sthito mantro​
mantra-madhye sthitaṁ manaḥ​
manomantra-samāyuktam​
etad dhi japa-lakṣaṇam​



The mantra firmly situated in the mind; the mind firmly situated in the mantra; such a seamless connection of the mind and mantra is the characteristic of ideal japa. — (Gaura-govindārcana-smaraṇa-paddhatiḥ, 64)​

This is from a famous work by Dhyanacandra Goswami which lays down rules for siddha pranali practice in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. We look at that practice with a lot of suspicion, but this verse by itself is uncontroversial so I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. Or maybe it is – I don’t really care, I accept it as a good advice on better chanting.

What does it mean in practice? I’d say it has to be experienced – how the mantra enters the mind and takes over. It starts living there, not as a foreign sound but really living inside the mind. There is another passage from Kurma Purana, which I can’t find right now, but it tells that various stages of mediation – dharana, pratyahara, dhyana etc – are distinguished by how long one can maintain this state of unity with the mantra. It starts from a few seconds and samadhi is when it lasts over twenty minutes (half a muhurta). This is not the same as the Holy Name dancing on one’s tongue as in Rupa Goswami’s tuṇḍe tāṇḍavinī verse quoted twice in CC. In any case, placing our minds into the mantra or hearts into Krishna comes first.

“Give me thy heart” is from Proverbs 23.26:

My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways,

Doesn’t really need an explanation – the pilgrim learned what it means in practice. How to give our hearts to God? “Always think of Me” is not exactly the same thing, is it? Is the passage itself implies something special? Maybe, but I don’t think the pilgrim was into some other possible meanings here.

“To put on Christ” is from Galatians 3.27:

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

That’s an esoteric one but also very simple – when we surrender our hearts to the Lord our bodies become spiritual. They don’t look or feel like spiritual, but when Krishna accepts us as His devotees our bodies become as dear to Him as our own. I know there is a verse supporting this in the Eleventh Canto but I don’t think I can find it easily. Or consider how we are told that worship of vaishnavas is even greater than worship of Vishnu because devotees are “visnu tadiyanam” – Lord’s paraphernalia. We often forget this, especially when it comes to other devotees’ bodies, but Krishna doesn’t. Whatever flaws we may perceive in these bodies, including ours, are not flaws but Krishna’s special arrangements. Personally arranged for the best possible outcome for everyone.

“The betrothal of the Spirit to our hearts” is from 2 Corinthians 1.22:

set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

This is about bhakti-lata bija in our hearts. It comes and it makes our hearts its home. One thing is to say this and another to feel Lord’s love for us inside our hearts. That’s what the pilgrim has experienced. That precious moment when you realize that Krishna actually cares and never gives up, never turns away, and is always there, regardless of anything. Or maybe Lord Caitanya – because He is our designated God in charge. We are His and He is in us.

“The cry from the depths of the heart, ‘Abba, Father'” – this is from Romans 8.15:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Otherwise “Abba, Father” is a common Christian appeal to the Lord. Two words mean the same – father, just in different languages. For Christians there is a special significance of this because God has only one son and it’s not us. I don’t know if Christians ever say this from their own position or rather understand it as “touching the mind of Christ”. For us Krishna is the father of everyone so we all can come to Him equally. It’s only in the spiritual world that we develop different relationships with him as possibly his friends or even parents, but down here, as embodied souls – He is the father of everyone. Again, saying this is one thing but sincerely and wholeheartedly appealing to Krishna this way is quite another. The pilgrim has experienced it, apparently – he didn’t go into details, or at least he realized this point.

Second promised appendix, with a summary of Philokalia passages mentioned in the previous installment might take a while to compile. Just reading them is a lot already.

I’ll conclude with this picture from BTG:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.