Vamsidas Rules

Many years ago I wrote a seven post series on Vamsidas Babaji, so I’m not going to start from scratch. I’m rereading the book and it blows my mind again how awesome he was. Vamsidas Rules! But I also mean “rules” as a noun.

The second of the two existing photographs of Vamsidasa Babaji

Our standard position is that he was an avadhuta type of paramahamsa and therefore we should not follow his example but stick to our sadhana. This is perfectly right, but we can look at it from another angle, too. We accept that Vamsidas was always in a perfect communion with his deities, with Lord Caitanya, and with Lord Nityananda. This means that at any given moment he had a perfect judgment on what to do and what is right. This means that if there is a disagreement between sadhana prescribed behavior and Vamsidasa, it’s Vamsidasa’s judgment that should be accepted as superior.

Can we extract rules from here and so improve our sadhana prescriptions? Possibly, but the main problem is that each of his judgments was unique to that set of circumstances and to that set of individuals involved. No one knows how he would act in a different place at a different time and with different people. So that is not the way to go, but I believe it’s not the only way either.

Basically, we don’t have access to the same precision in decision making as did Vamsidas, no direct access to the Lord to check how He feels about it. We have no clue what the Lord actually wants, and so we act according to general prescriptions just to be on the safe side. Even if we make a mistake it won’t be fatal – following sastric prescriptions assures us of that.

We can also say that regardless of actual circumstances our service lies in following sadhana. An outsider might judge us by the circumstances – is it favorable to take a warm shower, for example, but our thinking might ignore that – guru says I should take cold shower so I will follow that and accept boons and blessings that come from following the guru. If cold bath causes harm to the body then that will be accepted, too, but our service is a service to the guru, not to the body, so potential bodily harm is of very little interest.

This is just a general example – ignore the world, we are not of this world anyway, and focus on guru and Krishna instead. If guru and Krishna are pleased by our dedication then a mistake in judgment is of no consequence – “whatever”.

Nevertheless, we should remember that mistakes CAN be made, and they are not always of purely karmic variety – Vamsidas equally rejected devotional activities, too. Chapters on his travels to Vrindavan and Puri are introduced with a nice quote from Bhagavatam:

My lord, devotees like your good self are verily holy places personified. Because you carry the Personality of Godhead within your heart, you turn all places into places of pilgrimage.

SB 1.13.10

And the first paragraph says that his travels were inspired by Krishna to bestow mercy on conditioned souls. Sounds fine, right? But then in the accounts of his travels I don’t see much evidence for that. Most people he met were ignored, dismissed, or rejected straightaway with only a couple of examples of him being kind and merciful and appreciative. I mean his typical response to donated food was like this:

People frequently came to Vaṁśīdāsa’s kuṭī with offerings of various cooked preparations, but he would almost always refuse, saying, “No! No! Gaura-Nitāi will not eat this! Take it away!”

Or I like his response to a harinama party of Purushottama Math devotees doing a roaring kirtan in Puri. He said something like “You beat mridangas to the point of breaking, but you hearts don’t even crack”. He said it in Bengali and there is translation in the book, but it’s hard to convey his pithiness in English. Haven’t we been to a few kirtanas like that – a lot of enthusiasm and pumped up energy, and people forget that kirtan is supposed to be an expression of love of God? It does not even enter their minds – they are too absorbed in jumping and making loud music.

It’s okay, I don’t blame them, but from Vamsidasa’s point of view it was not satisfactory, and this is what I believe we should keep in mind – even while engaged in otherwise perfectly devotional activity we can find a way to forget about Krishna, what to speak of Krishna prema. Let’s go back to the food quote – we are told to assume that all offered food is automatically prasadam and then distribution of this food to the hungry (right now Ukrainian refugees, for example) is devotional service.

Not so fast, Vamsidasa says – even Gaura-Nitai can refuse to eat that which is not offered with sufficient devotion. Nor will Vamsidas take it and offer it himself, even though he could. After all, it’s our “go to” explanation – I might not be a devotee but if I offer on behalf of my guru then Krishna will surely accept it. Not so fast – not if the guru is anything like Vamsidas, who would refuse to offer spiritually spoiled foodstuffs.

Coming back to his travels – one time local people brought piles of food to him, seeing him as a visiting sadhu, and he told his servants to dump it all in Ganga – no use. He could have cooked and offered it himself and in this way benefited the people who donated it, but he didn’t – he couldn’t care less. He once remembered a saying from his native place about clothes merchant trying to set up business in the land of sannyasis – sannyasis wear only loin cloth, you can’t get any business from them. Vamsidasa’s point was that bestowing mercy on people who are not looking for it is useless.

Of course one could immediately mention Lord Caitanya who freely gave Krishna prema to anyone regardless of their qualification. Okay, but they also HAD one super important qualification – the were placed in the presence of Lord Caitanya! Besides, Vamsidas showed us what Gaura-Nitai personally wanted when he was present – in the first half of the 20th century. “Don’t bother with these people,” seemed to be Their advice.

Gaudiya Math was doing their preaching at the same time, but Vamsidas didn’t care much for them either. It doesn’t automatically mean GM was not important but it rather points to it being only a preliminary level, which was of no interest to Vamsidasa – see his mridanga comment earlier.

Would he have been enthusiastic about preaching in Srila Prabhupada’s time? Possibly, but surely not about each and every ISKCON devotee. And we are not living in that era now so it’s not that every preaching endeavor must be automatically accepted as pure devotion. We can’t just say “Vamsidas would have been ecstatic seeing this”. Rather we should try to learn the difference ourselves so that his judgments do not look inexplicable to us. How? That’s the most important question.

Vamsidas talked to his deities and sought their opinions. Maybe this is not exactly correct – he checked if doing something would be pleasing to Them, knowing Their personalities very well. Sometimes he wasn’t even looking for Their pleasure, as he occasionally chastised Them, too. In our case we have Paramatma, which means we should learn to feel things with our hearts. I don’t mean feel the emotional response, which is formed by the female side of our character. The head must be cool, and Paramatma is not an emotional being either – He wont’ talk to us with passion. Nevertheless, He is there to guide us and this means to help us listen. We just have to do our part and open our hearts to Him instead of the cacophony of sounds outside. We should be indifferent to happiness and distress, Krishna tells this in the beginning of Bhagavad Gita, and then He repeats it over and over again. This is what should be preliminary – keeping cool when everyone implores us to feel things and demands expressions of outrage.

How to do that? This should be clear from the next installment in the Pilgrim’s Diary series. I have almost completed instructions of one of the saints the pilgrim was given to learn as homework, and the last part deals exactly with that – how to keep one heart capable of hearing God. So please have a little patience – it’s coming. Perhaps going through Vamsidasa’s book again is what is necessary for me to complete that article.

On Importance of Lying

There is one curious verse in Srimad Bhagavatam:

In flattering a woman to bring her under control, in joking, in a marriage ceremony, in earning one’s livelihood, when one’s life is in danger, in protecting cows and brahminical culture, or in protecting a person from an enemy’s hand, falsity is never condemned.

SB 8.19.43

What would you make of that? Srila Prabhupada left no purport so we are on our own. I guess we should forget about speaking only truth at all times, as is expected from pure vaishnavas, and this verse does not talk about withholding information either, it’s about straightforward lying.

But first let’s look at the word for “lie” – here it’s “anṛtam — falsity”. The etymology of this word is interesting – if sat is truth then why falsity is not asat but anritam, which is the opposite of rita? Rita refers to a natural progression of things in the universe, most notably seasons following one another. Sun should rise in the morning and set down at night, when Moon takes over – this natural progress of the universe is rita. Falsity, or lies is therefore defined as deviation from natural flow of things, while asat is either that which does not exist or that which is temporary, which is another definition of non-existence – things that exist are eternal. A lie is not like that – it’s a deviation from nature, a rejection of what is supposed to happen, replacing with what we want to happen instead. Going against the flow of the universe is bound to end in frustration as we are too small to resist, so why is lying practically prescribed here?

First of all, this verse is spoken by Sukracarya to Bali Maharaja to justify cheating Lord Vamana of the promised three steps of land. This should immediately reduce its credibility, but our acaryas quote it elsewhere so it is meant to be accepted, not rejected out of hand. At the same time we understand that this is not the ultimate instruction for devotees but refers to rules of conduct in a society. I would also add “absolute rules” – not that it’s only for Vedic era but not for us. It’s the rules by which Krishna and His associates live in the spiritual world, too – in as much as it’s non-different from His pastimes here.

Sukracarya’s last argument

Now let’s look at what we are allowed to lie about. There are three pairs covered in three lines and then the prescription in the fourth – these lies should not be condemned. Personally, I have no idea what lying in a marriage ceremony refers to, but, thankfully, our acaryas make it clear and for some cases they give sastric support, too (not for marriage, though). Anyway, first line is a pair of a man and a woman.

We can lie to a woman to win her trust. This is a major one and I would stress that it’s a permission to lie about womanly things, not about your taxes to a female auditor. Women want to look attractive and by that they want to bring men under control. In this we, men, can play along and validate their aspirations. There is nothing wrong with praising women’s looks or grace or wit to make them feel happy about themselves. It’s not spiritually enlightening but as far as social interactions go it’s permissible.

This brings us to “women are less intelligent” and “women are like children”. Isn’t similarity with children obvious here? You want to encourage and boost confidence of both. They want it and they often really need it, and so this is our service to them. It’s not lies – it’s service. We understand that this is the right way to make them truly shine, to let them achieve the best they can do, to fully express themselves. In as much as we think it’s important to let them do that – we can help, and help means lying in this case. There can be a whole other article written about it but I will say just this – this kind of free, unencumbered expression is what makes jivas get full satisfaction in their selected endeavors and start looking for something better. Without it they might become devotees but they would still carry these holdover material desires, something they wanted to do but never achieved. We should all get these out of our system, not just women among us.

This proves “less intelligent” statement, too – people who depend on others’ approval are not very confident in themselves and lack of confidence means lack of clarity, which means foggy picture of reality, which means their intelligence is subpar. I take intelligence in Sankhya terms here – the ability to distinguish one thing from another and their connection. If you are unsure about something it means there is a lack of discernment, which means lack of intelligence. It’s not about measuring IQ – the very question “Do I look fat?” already indicates lack of confidence, clarity, and therefore intelligence.

But this is also an integral part of the female nature, we, men, are not excited by women who do not care for their looks and who do not seek our help and affirmations. Well, maybe some do get excited, but I suspect they are latent homosexuals – in a sense they are drawn to male qualities, not the female ones.

It is also a part of the female nature to take offense at questioning their abilities and so telling women they are stupid is stupid in itself. Rather we should tell them what they need to hear to make the next step in their spiritual progress and we should do it with an attitude of service, remembering that there is a thousand ways we can screw this up and therefore we should be prepared to take the blame for it.

The corresponding part in this pair is a groom at the wedding party. Groom’s qualities should be praised and exaggerated and there is nothing wrong with it, and this should be done jokingly, not that one should dare a man to do something dangerous and tell him nothing will happen because he is very strong. This explanation – to praise groom at the wedding, is offered by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti. I see it as a similar confidence building gesture. The groom should be confident about himself, as he has never tried marriage before, and the bride should be confident about her choice, too, and the rest of both families as well. At this point no one knows how the marriage will turn up, means no one has any clarity, means their intelligence is clouded, and to move forward they need positive reinforcement. And at the same time everybody understands that this praise doesn’t come with “satisfaction guaranteed” kind of promises. It’s a moral booster, not much more.

Next line is about oneself, with two situations given – improving business and self-protection. This is left without commentaries but the meaning is clear – trade-offs are worth it. It’s better to be alive but with bad karma for lying than dead, and it’s better to be rich, too. We’ve heard this from Srila Prabhupada many many times – businessmen are permitted to lie about their dealings and about their products, it comes with the territory. And it is also true that lies like this create karma to be “enjoyed”. You get more money but also more customer complaints and it’s easy to overdo it. Bhaktivinoda Thakur writes in his autobiography about one period in his life when he was placed in a position where he was making tons of money, but questionably, and he didn’t feel comfortable with it and gave it up.

Last pair is about protecting others, cows and brahmanas and everybody else. Their protection justifies lying and Jiva Goswami mentions that devotees are also included. Srila Visvanatha gives two quotes from sastra in support: varṇināṁ hi vadho yatra tatra sākṣy anṛtaṁ vadet from Yajnavalkya, who adapted Manu smriti specifically for Kali Yuga. Vadho is “killed” here and varninam is translated as a “person of status”, which derives from varna as in good qualities and good descriptions of someone.

This poses a bit of a conundrum. Typical example from Puranas is someone I don’t remember seeing a person running away and then a group of thugs asking which way he went. To protect that person it’s okay to point in another direction but imagine if this becomes your job? Let’s say highway robbers attack half a dozen people a day and they all flee past you. How do you make a decision which of these unfortunate souls are “persons of status” and which are nobodies not worth lying for? Should you develop a scale where for true VIPs you point in a direction 180 degrees from where they went and for everybody else it’s less – some at 90 degrees, some at 45, some, who are near rascals, get the search party sent very close to where they went, maybe only at 10 degrees off, and some, who clearly don’t deserve to live, are given 100% accurate directions. How do you get to decide? But this is what sastra says, the second quote from unnamed sruti: tasmāt kāla eva dadyāt kāle na dadyāt tat satyānṛte mithunī-karoti. According to time, kala, one gets to decide whether to tell the truth, satya, or a lie, anrite. I’m not sure how mithuni fits in here, it’s not reflected in the translation, but karoti indicates that this is what we should do and decide ourselves, making it into our karma.

Jiva Goswami simplifies it – lying is permitted to prevent harm, himsa, to others and, conversely, truth is condemned, jugupsitam, when it produces violence. Just sit on that for a minute – if telling the truth results in violence it is condemned. It’s not a rocket science and we see examples of this everywhere but it is not explicitly stated in our usual definitions of truthfulness. Now there is a war, for example, and everybody understands that governments will lie to protect their own. Or take Julian Assange who is facing 160 years in jail because he disclosed information that allegedly put other people in danger.

This is easy to understand in principle, though danger can be seriously overstated, but what if you don’t take sides in a war, as a devotee should, but soldiers come to you and ask if you have seen enemy spies? What do you do? If you refuse to cooperate you put yourself in danger and this is covered in the second life of the verse – you have to protect yourself. What to do if demands of the second and the third line contradict each other? Sanatana Goswami usually says about lists like this that they are sorted in the order of importance, which means protecting others is more important than protecting oneself, especially if they are brahmanas or devotees, obviously, but Sanatana Goswami didn’t comment on this verse so this convention of sorting lists might not apply.

Regardless, we can’t cover all possibilities in any set of instructions, let alone one wordpress article, but the principles themselves are pretty clear – there are circumstances, mostly social interactions, where deviating from the expected natural flow of things in your descriptions is desirable or at least not punishable.

On Genocide in Donbass

Recently on FB I mentioned “Genocide in Donbass” as a self-evident fact. Googling for it, however, revealed nothing but pages after pages of results declaring that there was no genocide there and there is nothing to see. Searching in Russian is very different, but that also should be done not on Google but on Russian Yandex. There is simply too much material there and so I’ll try to summarize the whole thing.

2014 Maidan revolution in Kiev divided people into “svidomity” and “vatniki”. Svidomity means those who have become aware [of the truth]. In other words – woke. The truth was that life in USSR was not as good as in America and Europe, which everybody knew since the 80s, but everything in Ukraine is kinda slower. What was new is that smartphones put these dreams right into people’s hands and they started demanding to be in Europe right now – “Ukraina tse Evropa”, as their popular declaration stated.

“Vatniki”, or “vata” for short, refers to people who still hold on to their Soviet past. The word itself means a kind of cheap, mass produced winterwear for prisoners and construction workers, and for anyone who can’t afford anything better. “Vata” means “cotton wool” that went inside of it. All references to “vatnikis” were meant to be made with utter disdain at their absolute moral and intellectual inferiority. There was an art exhibition in Kiev right after Maidan where three people were hired to represent “vatniks”, they were put in a cage with bottles of vodka and all kinds of garbage on the floor, and the sign said “Do not feed”, mimicking similar signs in the zoos.

“Soviet past” includes victory in WWII, which in USSR was called “Great Patriotic War”, and it was the highest example of heroism and basis for common identity, but Svidomitys had no appreciation for it whatsoever. Their new heroes were those who corroborated with Nazis, which is disputed but trueto the extent that fighting communists was their common goal.

That was what became a dividing line in Ukraine – either you become svidomity or you are vata. It wasn’t on any ethnic or racial grounds. It wasn’t even against Russian speaking population – everyone in Kiev itself spoke Russian, too. People were defined by their relations to European dreams and Soviet past.

Needless to say, this kind of treatment from the svidomity’s side was not accepted gladly by vata and there were anti-Maidan protests all over the country. One pivot point after which there was no coming back was burning people alive in Odessa, which was two months after Maidan victory in Kiev. Anti-Maidan protesters were outnumbered by svidomitys and pushed into a Trade Union building, which was then set on fire while the svidomity crowd was chanting their favorite slogans and gleefully watched people burn. Those who tried to jump out of the windows were caught by the crowds and beaten with baseball bats. When Russians saw this on TV they were left speechless. I should add that all the news were coming from Ukrainians themselves, much of proudly posted on social media – there was no Russian media presence there. So both Russian and Ukrainian vatniks had no words but the censored ones to express their disbelief but Svidomitys around the country, for their part, joked about “fried colorados”. Fried because people were burned, of course, and “colorady” because of orange and black ribbons worn by anti-Maidan protesters which reminded them of “Colorado potato beetle”.

Without checking exact numbers, about fifty people died in that fire. Does it amount to genocide? Probably not yet, but what happened next was that Donbass “oblasts” had their referendums and declared independence from svidomity nonsense, and Maidan government in Kiev (still unelected at this point) decided to do something about. They sent the army to crash the separatists (“separs” for short), but it didn’t feel enough and it formed half a dozen volunteer battalions asking svidomitys who hated vata with passion to take up arms and go exterminate colorados. Some of these battalions were staffed with prisoners who were released from jails just for this hunt. Then these battalions unleashed hell on Donbass population.

I can’t possibly summarize their atroticites in on FB post. When they caught “separs” they would torture them in all possible ways. Branding prisoners with swastikas like farmers brand cattle, they branded people’s chests and buttocks this way, or carving swastikas on people’s bodies with knives, or inserting steel pipes in their anuses, then inserting a barbed wire, then pulling the pipes out, and then yanking out the wire with force. Raping women in front of their fathers, raping men, breaking fingers with hammers, electric shocks – these guys tried everything. Only one of the above is from a book published privately and so impossible for me to check, the rest is from official Russian or Ukrainian documents.

Since vatas and separs were not seen as human beings killing them for sport was perfectly normal. In one case they fired mortar rounds from across a river into a beach, just a few hundred meters away, were vata and their families were relaxing and people were running around totally terrified. What fun!

Firing arteillery and mortar rounds into cities and villages has become an everyday thing in the past eight years. Russian government number is 2,600 people killed this way – strictly civilians going about their lives and killed by artillery fire. Since Russian invasion less than a week ago twenty four people were killed in Donetsk alone, where there is no war otherwise, it’s still the same stalemate situation as it was in 2014. All the fighting goes on hundred kilometres to the north or to the south, but Ukrainians still shell Donetsk schools and public spaces, just because they can. At this point it makes no military sense whatsoever.

Western consensus is that there isn’t and there was no genocide in Donbass and they would point to the number of civilians killed on the Ukrainian side of the dividing line there. This can start a tit-for-tat debate on who fired first and who was only responding and only suppressing the incoming fire, and who was hiding their artillery in residential areas and so on. This has been argued for eight years already. I’ll just say this, kind of in support of “Ukraine had only military targets” narrative – yesterday at one of Ukrainian positions overrun by Donbass army (it has its own army, quite different from the Russian one) was discovered a cache of documents showing that location of military targets in Donetsk was provided to Ukraine by official European OSCE peace monitoring mission there. Yesterday was also the day when OSCE staff in Donetsk packed their stuff and quickly drove away (to Russia) without even settling their hotel bill, in a convoy of about a dozen SUVs. That should give you an idea what trust could be put in Western narrative there, which is primarily based on OSCE reports, I must add.

Coming back to those volunteer batallions – after 2014 hostilities in Donbass were over and separation line was settled, the svidomitys run out of vata targets to torture and they turned to terrorizing local population instead. This has made Ukraine uncomfortable and some investigations into their war crimes were started (but not admitting genocide, of course). As a result these batallions were reorganized. Some were disbanded, others integrated into Ukrainian army, some renamed and reclassified. One of these, the Azov batallion, still exists and is officially designated as a Nazi-terrorist organization by the US, I can’t be bothered to look up the exact definition now. My point is that we have an armed Ukrainian unit which is designated as professing Nazi ideology, but what they have done and what they want to do is not classified as genocide. Facebook even relaxed its rules and allows praising Azov but on the condition that only their fight against Russian is mentioned and not the other stuff they do or did. How convenient.

All these things have been circulating in Russian media for many many years and are accepted as self-evident. In a recent public poll “payback for genocide” was the most popular option why people support the war in Ukraine. Second most popular was de-Nazification which is almost the same thing. That’s what people in Russia feel most strongly about.

Are they victims of Russian propaganda? Most certainly so, but in this case I don’t see this propaganda as being too far from the truth. People in Donbass have first hand experience of it, they don’t rely on Amnesty International to tell them what’s going on there and how Ukrainian svidomity feel about them. Actually, they don’t use this word anymore, popular terms are “Nazis” and “ukropy”, which is a derivation from “Ukrainian” and means “dill” in Russian. These Donbass people are not into propaganda and appearances, just recently I watched a video of one of the commanders addressing the population. It’s impossible for me to find and upload it now, but in the West they don’t have even voice actors who can speak like this, with this degree of conviction, dedication, and assurance, and at the same time humility. He immediately projects the sense of shelter and stability, that he would do anything for what is right. He had a deep baritone voice, silver head, and a face of a man who had seen battle. These people don’t lie, and that’s why I can state that Russian propaganda is not far from truth on this subject – it happened.

I don’t want to argue if this can be legally classified as genocide but one thing is certain regardless – some wrongs were committed and they WILL be righted, and at this point it looks like karma will reach these people in this life rather than the next.

Last thing I also want to say – for eight years Donbass leaders and commanders had all the reasons to blame Russia for abandoning them and for using them to advance Russian political agenda while providing only the bare minimum, and even that through volunteers and donations rather than through state channels. They didn’t, however. They took it as a necessary austerity and they convinced their people that they had to wait, too, that justice WAS coming. They DO project that kind of assurance, their words do not diverge from reality, which is a quality that comes with practicing honesty. Ha! That’s a good explanation why the West doesn’t have even voice actors who can talk like that. It can’t be mimicked, which is a reminder that we can’t mimic the speech of an uttama bhagavata devotee either. Nobody here can talk like them, we have no idea what their speech sounds like as we have no comparable experiences. Same is true for the sound of Krishna’s flute, too.

We have records of Prabhupada’s audio but we listen to it with our own ears at our own convenience, therefore the effect is not the same as guru telling something directly and personally to a disciple.

Motherland

Yesterday’s post about Ukraine made me sound like being on the Russian side of the conflict. This makes sense if one looks at it through the prism of mass media but I don’t want to see it like that at all. I mean it’s a valid perspective and one can, indeed, take sides, but this perspective is unsatisfactory and is not in the spirit of “unity in diversity”.

First of all, Kiev is the mother of all Russian cities – proof. It’s the cradle of Russian civilization and I don’t see it as some history from a thousand years ago. People are children of their land and this land is still there, producing the same kind of people who form the core of Russian identity. Of course they have got many more layers around this core now but it still exists.

What’s notable is that it became the first capital of “Rus” when it was ruled by the kings from Novgorod, which is a thousand kilometers to the north, and the path there lies through Belarus as well. It’s one giant landmass with the same land producing the same people and the same culture, just it’s a bit colder in the north. In this way Kiev gives rise to the same identity that over time has gotten split into several instances, ie Russian, Belorussian, and Ukrainian.

What this means is that there is no natural animosity, no clash of values, no clash of cultures between them. They speak more or less the same language, wear more or less the same clothes, and sing more or less the same songs to the same melodies. They have the same conceptions of beauty, bravery, honestly, and other moral values, and yet they are all different – unity in diversity.

Therefore the current conflict shouldn’t be seen as a war between Russia and Ukraine – these people do not see each other as enemies, do not see each other as foreigners, and they eat the same food, too. Russians understand this, Belorussians understand this, Ukrainians know this, but sometimes people get other ideas in their heads and try to forge a new identity, which is what’s been happening in Ukraine since its independence in 1991. But even when they get angry they get angry in the same way and have the same conceptions of what a fair fight is, what should be its limits, and what an appropriate punishment should be.

In pseudo-scientific jargon – this identity is the same vibration propagating through the same kind of material, just in some places it’s thicker or thinner and that’s it. So, rather than talking about war I see it as harmonizing the frequencies so that all three nations sing in unison, which will be better for everyone involved.

The peak of Ukraine as a nation came during Soviet times when, together with Russians, they built biggest airplanes in the world, they built rocket engines, they built aircraft carriers and strategic bombers, and they grew the most food in the entire USSR, and they also had everything in between. There is a lot to be said in favor of unity here, and Ukrainians always had their distinct identity, too – they always produced their special vibe. Not quite rural but laid back, soft and melodious, and they were always full of life. Looking reserved and a bit understated but Ukraine, as a nation, is just full of juice of life. People there are meant to create, produce, move forward, and Live with a capital L. They never run out of energy – I guess long winters don’t sap it as it happens with Russians.

So another way to look at the current conflict is reuniting male and female, with Russia playing a male role at this point in history. Ukraine as a motherland is ready to produce but it has been unsuccessfully looking for a new husband for the past thirty years. Her flings with the US and Europe did not produce progeny. Her people have been used and abused, her women were exploited, her men forced to work menial jobs, like cleaning up after proverbial Polish plumbers, and in the end, when Russians came to bring her back to the family, she was left alone.

Independence Monument, Kiev

It won’t be a happy reunion at first but a few years down the road the two peoples will live in sync again and will enjoy peace and prosperity, and they have very strong foundations for it, being practically untouched by the moral decay of the West.

At the moment it surely looks like a rosy picture, what with several million Ukrainians gearing for a prolonged fight with Russian aggressors as urban guerrillas, if necessary – at this point the government there is giving out assault rifles to anyone who asks. So far these newly armed civilians have been mostly looting the shops and shooting at each other, suspecting everyone as Russian spies, but eventually they’ll figure out where actual Russians are, so I have no idea how Russia is going to keep peace in Ukraine, but in the big scheme of things it’s just a blip on the radar and it won’t affect the natural course of history – these two nations are meant to work together [with Belarus], and other Slav nations along with them.

Why? Simply because they still share the same moral base, which is quite distinct from the liberal West. They are destined to be together for the same reason people at Trump rallies wore pro-Russian t-shirts – even they find they have more in common with Russians then with liberal Americans.

At the end of the day family, hard work, loyalty, and humility always win – it’s the law of nature, and it’s agnostic to people’s political positions. It works the same for liberals, too – as long as they work hard and raise children they’ll be okay as well.

Coming back to Ukraine – it is indeed the motherland of Russian civilization, and mothers should always be protected from self-destructive habits and lifestyles. I’m sure there are thousands of devotees in ISKCON who disagree with such patriarchal views and consider it outdated, but this is what wins in the end – women should be protected. This is the key to their prosperity and to the prosperity of the entire society. I’m not going to waste time and re-argue this point. And I’m not going to argue why current Ukraine, with its European aspirations but Slavic homophobia is an example of varna-sankara. These are all details and nations, like people, can get quite mad sometimes, but I want to look beyond these bubbles on the surface of history.

Oh, and making a female image into an icon of independence, as in the picture above, is just nonsense. Sakti cannot exist on its own, it always needs a purusa. The monument doesn’t need to be re-imagined, if anyone asked me – it illuminates Ukraine’s identity very well already, but the name needs rethinking.

Here is another Kiev’s landmark, and much more impressive in my opinion, but because it was built after Soviet victory in WWII they don’t like it very much, thought of removing it, but settled on simply scrubbing USSR coat of arms from her shield.

Motherland Monument, Kiev

On Ukrainian Conflict

What is striking to me in the current Russian conflict over Ukraine is disparity in approaches, the asymmetric warfare. Russia talks about security and force and the west talks about economy and sanctions. It’s like ksatriyas againt vaisyas. In case it’s not obvious – vaisyas can’t win.

That is not to say that the West has no ksatriya element, rather that the West is able to talk sanctions BECAUSE their ksatriyas provided security for their vaisyas in the first place.

While political leaders bravely read the same script about sanctions ksatriyas in the back have accepted the reality – Ukraine is under Russian control and their influence and protection does not extend beyond NATO borders. These borders are backed by force, with actual troops and tanks and other hardware, and the West was able to move these borders closer to Russia in the past thirty years and turn the insides into a fortress.

But ksatriyas are not the ultimate force in the universe – brahmanas are more powerful. Not in a sense of forcing ksatriyas but in a sense of providing them the reason to fight for. Take away the reason and the army dissolves into ordinary civilian population. In the current conflict it’s visible in Ukrainian border patrol and many military units simply not turning up for work on the invasion day because they didn’t want to fight for their government agenda.

In a bigger picture the brahmanas in the West propose freedom and democracy as values to die for and it worked for a while but the internal rot has set in a long time ago, too. At first Russia jumped on the same train but realized that “freedoms” are for public consumption only when they watched NATO bomb Yugoslavia into submission, and then the war in Iraq sealed the perception that it’s all a lie and so Russia checked itself out of “world community”.

In the West itself Trump’s rise to presidency exposed fundamental rifts in the society about what “freedoms” and “democracy” actually mean. They are not going to die for the same thing and they’d rather turn on each other than go fight for some Ukrainian democracy.

Covid pandemic further divided the populations and right now it’s possible that Canadian sanctions on Russia are dwarfed by Canadian sanctions on their own population for participating in their Freedom Convoy.

Shifts on the brahminical level take a long time to propagate while shifts on vaisya level are the fastest, with ksatriya level coming in between. Sudra level shifts are, of course, the fastest, like they change the rules of what you can and cannot say almost every day, but it’s of no big concern here.

Does Russia offer some kind of new brahminical paradigm to the world to unite over in the wake of demise of “freedom and democracy”? Not at all. Their state is lacking ideology, they have been trying to find it but without success so far. Do they actually need one? That’s probably a better question.

The war in Ukraine is about Russian survival, not ideology – Russians have their place and they are trying to make a living in it, and they feel very insecure with the West potentially absorbing Ukraine into NATO and putting missiles there. What is there to be afraid of? Well, they look at the examples of France and Germany and they see that in the US sphere of influence countries do not have freedoms but have to abide by the will of their master. French have been strongarmed by Americans too many times to count, the latest one was when they took over Australian submarine contracts, and Germany’s example is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline the fate of which is decided in Washington, not in Berlin.

Russians historically don’t like to be dictated what to do against their will, they don’t want to be vassals, they want to be masters of their own land and people. So for them it’s about self-identification and security, not ideology.

This explains why no one in the West wants to take Russian side in this conflict – there is nothing in it for them, at best they can imagine themselves in Russian shoes and empathize a little. In this sense westerners are behind Russia by three decades – collapse of a unifying ideology with a feeling of emptiness and a desire to fill the gaping hole left by communism in the case of Russia and democratic freedoms in the case of the West. AND by collapsing of book distribution in ISKCON. We have been in the same exact place, too – when in the mid-nineties book scores started going down and sankirtana as the sole means of our sustenance was out, together with temple based communities, brahmacari pathos, asceticism etc.

Somehow there always comes a point where grand revolution hopes fade away and we have to find our own place in the world and our own mission in life. We thought we’d be always moving bigger and bigger mountains but suddenly we have to scale down and look inside ourselves. Russians still can’t find it after thirty years of searching. ISKCON still can’t find it and current sankirtana resurrection does not yet transform foundations of our movement. The West won’t find a replacement for freedom and democracy in the foreseeable future either.

It seems now is the time for self-realization, in the literal meaning of this word, not for grand projections of ourselves into the world, enjoying our marvelous power. I mean it’s easy to be a devotee when you always top the charts and always build huge temples. Try remaining a devotee when nothing is happening instead – it’s one of the necessary tests, I’d argue.

Russia has been talking about multi-polar world for a while, which means that there would be different types of brahminical cultures all around the world instead of one type dominating all the others. Maybe time for consolidation will come again (surely it will come) but it’s not the phase we are all in now and so we should stop pretending to be elsewhere, it won’t do us any good.

Once again I want to draw your attention that these developments are universal, echoing through different levels of society and vibrating in different countries. I’m saying this not to make Hare Krishna movement sound mundane but to demonstrate that Lord Caitanya’s mission is universal and it is guiding people through the necessary steps towards self-realization everywhere. It’s a process and there is no skipping – as long as we want the material universe to enter into Golden Age. Or we want our minds to become pure and peaceful so that we can chant the Holy Name 24/7 if we talk on the personal level. Material elements have to follow material laws, whether it’s countries or minds. If you have to transform matter to behave in a certain way then there are steps to follow. At the same time nothing stops you from going to Krishna after leaving your body. But if you want the body to become a “perfect devotee” then there are rules.

One last thing I want to mention – Ukrainians declared 130+ casualties on the first day of war. It’s comparable to numbers of dying from Covid. It seems Russian method of warfare is close to the Vedic one – they show up, you pledge allegiance, and they move on, and they don’t even plant their flags on the “occupied territories”. I suspect that’s what they want from the government in Kiev, too – just declare that it won’t make any troubles for Russia and they’d leave Ukraine alone to figure out what it wants for itself. This is a very different approach from “building democracy”, and it’s the same approach used by China, too – they don’t really care how countries run themselves, just don’t make troubles for China. I believe this ideology, which on the surface looks like no ideology at all, will win in the end, in the next few decades at least, and the current conflict is just one step towards this new equilibrium.

As a picture I add a photo from 2014. It’s Zaporozhye, Ukraine, just after Maidan revolution in Kiev. People in the middle are “Russian sympathizers” who were demanded to renounce their allegiance, take off their identifying ribbons, literally stand on their knees, and recite pro-Maidan slogans. The standoff lasted for six hours, there were also eggs thrown at them, there were beatings, stabbings, and blood in the process. But they didn’t give up. Then the police arrested them, and some of the police vans were put on fire by the crowd. For eight years they have been waiting for Russia to do something about this and now Russians came for them. That’s how people feel in the separatist republics, too – finally! Zaporozhye, however, was deep in the Ukrainian territory, at the time these people had no hope whatsoever but still they didn’t give up their identity.

“300” in Zaporozhye, April 12, 2014

Well, recent events show that Russia doesn’t completely abandon its dependents, unlike some other country I don’t need to mention. Even Ukrainian president yesterday spoke about facing Russian aggression alone, which was a big change from “building anti-Putin” coalition just a day before the sh*t got real. This is another reason why Russians are on the right side of history at the moment – ksatriyas offer real protection and always win against vaisyas, it’s nature’s law.

Real ISKCON

ISKCON appears differently to different observers. Somehow I just got an earful that I think this post would address – ISKCON also has discussions like this. It’s just a regular, off the mill Zoom meeting with Bhakti Vijnana Goswami organized by one of his “bridge preaching” disciples. I can’t be even bothered to find his initiated name. There are 1,737 views on Youtube at the moment, plus people who were watching on different platforms. It’s not a lot but not a little either – the “Number One Hare Krishna podcast in the world” doesn’t get as much as this, and that’s in English for the worldwide audience. Here is a talk in Russian, without translation. I have downloaded auto subs, tried to make them readable, and Google translated them in English. It takes a lot of time and I didn’t read through the result, I’ll just post it as it is below. I’m not lazy, but correcting the whole thing sentence by sentence would take a full day of work. I also can’t be bothered to put in paragraphs and left one sentence per line. I hope it’s readable.

Adrian:

Hello, we are live.
First of all, I salute Bhakti Vigyan Goswami Maharaja and all who watch us.
Today we have an amazing opportunity to ask questions to a person whose advice and instructions most of us listen to, use, but do not always work for us.
That is why now we will not ask about what to do, but about why we don’t get much from what we do.
Look, we are doing this broadcast for students of our projects: a large Vedic workshop, a journey to ourselves, a school of bhakti, and in general, in all these projects, despite the fact that they are a little bit about different things, but in general, we, like all the right people, we talk about happiness and how to become happy, and we talk about the fact that there are some changes in our lives, changes in the worldview.
And everything seems to be cool, we say everything seems to be correct, but in fact – our understanding of how it should be is changing, but happiness can also become more, but not as much as we would like.
Therefore, I wanted to ask the first question, directly, as you know, such an immediate attack.
Here you tell me from your experience – what is the most important thing that prevents people who are trying to do something. They just want to, they even start on Monday, they do something ..
What is the main thing stopping us?

BVG:

I will answer this question a little philosophically, I think that no one will strongly object, because, in practice, we have probably heard the answers to this question more than once.
In my opinion, if you look at the root, because when we talk about such a complex phenomenon as our life, we can talk about many different reasons.
This reason interferes or this reason interferes – a wife, a dream, a lack of money interfere, and bad weather interferes, the situation in North Korea interferes.
You can find many different reasons and explain what specifically prevents us from becoming happy, but if we look a little wider at the matter, then the absence of the widest possible vision and understanding of what is happening to us prevents us from becoming happy.
Because in order to practice something correctly, you must first understand why we practice, what we practice, why we practice it.
There is a very important principle that I wanted to formulate from the very beginning.
This principle is that meaning can only be understood by context.
The meaning in Sanskrit is abzideya or practice, the context is sambandha.
The meaning of a word can only be understood if we know the sentence, because the same word can mean completely different things in different contexts of different sentences.
The meaning of a sentence can only be understood by knowing the context in which this sentence is in a paragraph.
The meaning of a paragraph can only be understood if we know the context of the paragraph i.e. the chapter.
The meaning of a chapter can only be understood if we understand the entire book.
The meaning of a book can only be understood if we understand the context of the time in which it was written.
Why is it that even very good books written many centuries ago cease to be understandable to us?
Because we have dropped out of the context of this time.
That is, we can practice something only if we understand as widely as possible, understand the context as correctly as possible.
And actually what happens to us, if this slightly abstract philosophical position is deciphered in application to our practice – we get a certain philosophical context – there is a god, there is this world that he created.
He created this world in order to teach us, so that we evolve, so that we become better, kinder and happier.
Ultimately, he created these laws..
We understand this – the theory.
And when we understand the theory, we become a little happy, everything falls into place, everything becomes clear – yes, it’s clear.
Yes – like this, like this, like this.
The problem happens when we take this very theory, or rather, when we take some specifics in our lives, we immediately, at the same moment, as soon as we move on to specifics, we forget the broad context.
Everything is wrong, everything is wrong.

Adrian:

Because our personal context appears.

BVG:

Yes yes yes yes – our personal context with which we interpret everything that is.
Therefore, accordingly, we do not understand the meaning and our practice is translated into this our scanty miserable context formed by our limiting ego.

Adrian:

This short context is our life, by the way.

BVG:

Yes, well, what to do.
We are constantly taking things out of context.
We have achieved great perfection in taking everything out of context – individual events and what is happening to us, what is happening in historical periods of time, and so on.
We constantly forget about the context, we constantly forget that God is behind everything, that everything is k.
Better that we evolve.
And accordingly, therefore, we do not become happy because we have a resistance to reality.
Resistance to reality is called stress.
When we try to remake reality, when it does not suit us, when we are trying our best to say that something is wrong here, naturally we are not happy.
As soon as we accept everything, when we accept everything theoretically, we stand for a while.
Happy, but when it comes down to it, everyone unfortunately goes down the drain.

Adrian:

Guru Maharaj, I feel where you are dragging us to, and on the field where you are dragging us, we cannot defeat you with this logic, and therefore I would like to cling to the last opportunity to justify myself now.
Well, look – yes, it’s cool, there is this wide, as wide as possible context that you are talking about, but it is just as wide, it is also as far as possible from us in material terms, right?
That is, you are talking about some such philosophical abstractions, let’s say – for a simple Soviet person, Russian.
It would be desirable to understand, and how to us here this wide context?.
Your shirt is still closer to the body.
Here’s how we make that shirt closer ?.
Here is the question.

BVG:

It’s not entirely abstract.
That is, if it was just about some really very abstract categories, one could throw this accusation, but in fact the context of the same Bhagavad Gita …
The Bhagavad Gita is a kind of sambandha primer, or context primer, and a primer is sufficient.
It brings us very close to our practical life.
The same three gunas.
The three gunas are a powerful tool for understanding cause and effect.
The trouble is that we are just because our shirt is closer to the body, we understand these three gunas very well – how they act on the example of others, but on the example of ourselves, we do not understand that in general we we reap what we ourselves sow.
The fact that if we act in a certain guna, then the result will come in the same guna – that guna will increase.
If we are driven by passion, we will be unhappy accordingly.
If we are driven by ignorance we will sink further into ignorance.
That is precisely why I do not accept this accusation that this is an abstract thing.
It’s more of a concrete thing, and a very practical thing.
Therefore, I do not know the ball in your half of the field.

Adrian:

OK thank you very much.
And now you voiced an interesting point, I wanted to dwell on it.
Now, in principle, people want quick recipes for some specific one.
Increasing happiness and so on, and you just said an interesting thing.
You just said that, in fact, these ways to increase happiness, they do not work because they are out of context, and you say that if we do not start in earnest.
To study the philosophy behind all these methods, even some local ones.
Specific methods won’t work.
Did I understand correctly?

BVG:

Yes, absolutely true, and one small addition to this – when a person wants quick happiness, then, again in accordance with the Bhagavad Gita, quick happiness – you can get it, it belongs to the category of the guna of passion.
It comes quickly and happiness is available.
The trouble is that this quick happiness turns into the same quick misfortune, and in itself this desire for quick happiness, it is already dictated by a certain guna.
Therefore, before wishing, you must first learn to wish correctly.

Adrian:

Yes, as a good statement – before punching a wall with your head, you should try to find out what is still on the other side.

BVG:

What are you going to do next cell.

Adrian:

Da, yes, yes.
It’s good and great, and this is very clear to me, because at the same large Vedic workshop, for the first six months, we actually don’t talk about application, we don’t talk about some practical things, but we try to create this context.
And so we begin our first four classes, that is, for more than a month, we are not even talking about this at all, but we are talking about how to study.
And we are based here on your lecture with which you once started – the first, generally the first, the first zero lesson of a large Vedic workshop – from information to transformation.
Tell me about the ability to learn.
What is the ability to learn?

BVG:

The ability to learn is, first of all, a doubt in one’s own rightness.
Because a person who is sure that he is right, by this very fact, deprives himself of the ability to understand something new.
The ability to learn arises when a person is a little disappointed in his own recipes for happiness, in his own ability to become happy, and this encourages him to learn.
Learning means changing.
The ability to learn means the willingness to change.
Willingness to change arises only when a person… One second…

Adrian:

I will now repeat this important point that I really liked now – that in order to learn, we need to admit that we are wrong.
That is, here is an interesting interesting point that the search for truth does not always seem to be, or rather, it is rarely based only on the fact that here I have some kind of set of knowledge, my understanding, my common sense, my life experience, and now I am starting to seek the truth based on all this, and now Goswami Maharaj said an interesting thing about the ability to learn.
It implies doubt in the first place that all my accumulated experience, common sense and so on, they will lead me to this happiness.
Yes thanks a lot.
In fact, I just repeated this important point for our listeners.
Now I sometimes collect puzzles and here are puzzles, there is such a thing that at some point you need to question your own constructions.
You start to build a big piece of the puzzle, built it, and, you know, one small one doesn’t fit in, and you’re like this and that and everything is already there, but without questioning it very much.
A beautifully built piece of the puzzle, you won’t be able to go any further.

Please continue.

BVG:

Well, yes, this doubt in one’s rightness is called, in fact, humility.
Humility is an integral part of a person, or a quality of a person who is able to learn.
A proud man, he froze.
He remains equal to himself.
He may have achieved something, but it’s just that everything he does it only replicates him.
Himself and his own problems and his.
own achievements.
Nothing new will happen in his life.
That is, the ability to learn is the ability to change, which is based on some kind of disappointment.
Humility is a natural result of disappointment in some recipes for happiness that we have come up with, or overheard by us from someone, peeped.

Adrian:

Yes, thank you very much, Guru Maharaj.
I have always been worried about such a story, I went through it myself, I definitely understand this.
Look, we are faced with Vedic knowledge and they, well, as it was at least in my case, they are completely, well, stunning.
They build, they become, as it were, extremely obvious.
That is, at some point this knowledge is perceived as – well, yes, as if it could not be otherwise, and naturally a strong enthusiasm arises.
I listened to lectures there, and at some point I knew all the basics.
As if it seemed to me – I ran them.
That is, don’t ask me anything, I’ve heard everything about it, but at the same time, I understand that the level of my consciousness, my guna, the ability to correctly understand the meaning of the terms that I am.
Heard – he was quite low.
As a result, what state am I in – we also have a course of the bhakti school where you also teach, and on this course, for example, when applying, we have people who say – I looked at your program, I basically listened to it.
And my pain, it is that I know about myself that at that moment, when I also listened to all this, I heard little.
How to deal with this?
That is, if a person really listened to lectures on all topics, what should he do?
Should I go further or should I make some revision?.
Your experience?

BVG:

One Ayurvedic doctor once told me an interesting thing.
He says that this Ayurveda is a very strange thing.
In the first college lecture on Ayurveda, when studying this subject, we learned about the three doshas.
About vata dosha, pita dosha and kappa dosha.
And then we studied for five years and in the last year we went through the same doshas that we learned about at the first lecture, introductory to Ayurveda.
So it seems as if we have not moved anywhere in these five years, that at the first lecture we talked about three doshas, ​​that at the last lectures, graduation, we are talking about the same three doshas.
But the fact is that all these concepts, in general, all this conceptual apparatus of Vedic culture, it is very deep and, most importantly, it differs very sharply from what we are used to, so some superficial understanding of this apparatus does not help much.
On the contrary, it interferes, because a person has a false feeling that he, as it were, knows everything.
Surely many have heard about the same three doshas or someone knows about yoga, asanas.
Now each asana, in order to understand just one asana, what the asana does, you need to do-do-do-do-do-do this asana and in the end you will understand why it is needed at all and what it does.
It takes a lifetime to understand such categories as god or soul or conditioned soul or liberation or happiness, and there is no harm in hearing about the same thing again and again, because hearing every time, as it were, a round, it gives a deeper understanding.
Just like, for example, if you take music.
People walk and listen to the same piece of music many times.
Although they have already heard it, maybe even played it somewhere somehow, but every time something new is revealed to them and any living thing is absolutely endless, it is impossible to exhaust it.

Adrian:

I would like to ask, I know that you once recommended that I listen to the Kazinik, Mikhail, about a deeper reading of classical music.
For me, it was actually a very interesting, very good experience, and then we talked about what could help.
I would like to understand – you say “listen”, and I have two questions at once.
First – what can help us improve this listening?.
Let’s just start with this.
That is, you say “you need to listen, you need to read again”, and what can help us do this.
Listening and reading more efficient.

BVG:

Well, first of all, of course, the main problem with listening is that we are all learning.
Little by little, somehow.
Pushkin has already said this for a long time.
Some again, dictated by the mode of passion, the desire to pick up as much as possible – to listen here and here and here and here and here.
This is a thing that plays a very bad service.
You need to listen gradually, systematically, slowly moving from category to category, mastering it, trying to put it all into practice.
It is better if we listen in a group with a mentor, because this is an amazing thing – several people listened to the same thing, but each heard something different, and listening to how others heard, we enrich our listening, our understanding, because we are free or we involuntarily listen through the prism of our experience, and this prism does not let everything pass from what we are told.
I recently talked to a person who wants to become a student and he told me, shared his experience, he said – “when I listened to your first lecture, I sweated.”
I was a little intrigued by such a physiological reaction to my lecture.
I think probably in some kind of ecstasy or delight.
He says – “I was sweating because I did not understand anything at all.
I tried so hard to understand at least something – I did not understand anything.
“Now,” he says, “I understand everything, I don’t sweat anymore.”
And so once again – it is necessary to listen systematically.
We must listen at the same time trying to put it all into practice.
We must listen trying to open up to what we are listening to as much as possible, without putting any filters or any pre-set settings – this cannot be because it can never be.
Because I don’t have that experience.
Therefore Srila Prabhupada says an interesting thing in Srimad Bhagavatam.
He says that there is a spiritual art of humble listening.
When I really open up to what is being said, these words begin to change something in me, they enrich my experience.
In fact, hearing is the most painless, easiest and fastest way to change your experience.
Listening leaves a certain trace of samskara, if we allow these words to imprint, to impress us, that samskara becomes our own experience.
When we hear something in the right state of consciousness, we really change.
What changes us? what is change?
We are changed by the lived experience, the experience that was deposited and which becomes, well, this prism through which we look at the world.
So listening is the easiest way to gain experience.
A person can gain experience simply by listening if he does it in the right state of consciousness.
It means, I said, systematically, in the company of others, trying to think about what we have heard, sort of putting what we have heard into the context of what we already know, because any thing taken out of context it dies, it not viable.
Like, for example, anyone who has learned languages ​​- often people make mistakes, they try to learn words.
These words are taken out of context and cannot be remembered, they die, they do not live in our memory.
To listen correctly means, among other things, to discuss, to ponder.
And by discussing, pondering, we put what we have heard into context, into our personal context, and thus expand it.

Adrian:

Yes, thank you very much, and just wanted to ask this question.
I think that many have come across this, but at least I can say for myself that at some point I realized that I have resistance inside, and this resistance is of a very interesting property.
It can be formulated as follows – if all of a sudden I accept it all absolutely without unconditional.
Honestly, if I accept all this, then my whole life, all my joys, all my pleasures will have to leave this life.
That is, at some point I had, sometimes this fear arises.
You know it, as it were, at the reptilian level, that is, it is, as it were, fear.
I don’t know at what level, that is, it’s specifically the fear of losing what I now have.
Therefore, people so often talk about balance, about the need for this, but to be honest, this is what you are saying, if we accept this broad context as the truth in its entirety, then our life cannot be like this.
Fearfully.

BVG:

Fear is a natural reaction.
Any honest person who follows the spiritual path admits to himself that from time to time this fear covers him.
People try to cope with this fear in different ways.
Someone is trying to convert everyone else to the true faith, and this is the same way to get rid of fear, well, they say it’s not so scary together – everyone will also have to do the same.
“how dare they, why do they enjoy when I don’t enjoy?” etc.
Religious fanaticism is one of those natural, albeit very unpleasant reactions to fear, unconscious fear.
But at some point I understood very well, firstly, I felt in myself this fear or unwillingness not the desire to surrender, the unwillingness to go this way, to accept all this, but at the same time I also very well understood that this fear is absolutely irrational , because I am trying to project myself as I am now onto some other situation, and this situation will arise in my life when I will be completely different.
In other words, when I try to try on some very lofty ideals – the ideal of renunciation of the world and something else – it naturally becomes scary, simply because I’m not ready, but for those people who we follow these ideals, they are not at all scary because they are different, for them it is something natural.
It’s the same as if we say to a first grader they told him that he would need to draw drawings at the institute, and showed him whatman paper with these drawings.
Well, either they told a first-grader, or some person who had just entered a music school, they would tell him that you will need to play some virtuoso works, something that is completely impossible to do.
It is clear that it will be scary and you will want to run away and play football instead.
To pore over this drawing board or sit at the piano, but the bottom line is that for those people who play when it becomes relevant, it’s not scary at all.
On the contrary, it’s really fun.
Those people who play it, they do it very easily, playfully, and you just need to understand that this is how I am now and there is no need to try on all these things too much.
When the time comes, all this will also come into our lives easily and naturally.
And we don’t really have to give up anything.
Spiritual life is highly natural and that is why it is so slow.
This is her good, her advantages, and this is her misfortune.
People want to adjust it as soon as possible, but at the same time, only some can be adjusted as soon as possible.
artificial things.
All those high things that the scriptures say, high demands, they’re into.
At some point it becomes very natural for us, and now they are all too high, but they need to be addressed that way.
Therefore, there is a very important principle which is stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam about what is virtue and what is vice.
I have not seen in any other spiritual system such a striking definition of virtue and vice.
In Srimad Bhagavatam it is said, Krishna Himself says in Srimad Bhagavatam, virtue is action according to one’s qualifications.
Vice is any action that does not correspond to our qualifications.
That is, even some very remarkable things from the point of view of someone there can be a vice because they do not correspond to our level.
If we live in accordance with this principle, then gradually, gradually, our qualifications will improve.
This is not a statement of our level, but a dynamic principle – in order for our qualifications to improve, we must live and act as we can now.
Do as honestly as possible according to your level and our level will grow.

Adrian:

Thank you very much, I remembered an interesting definition of one academician who spoke about the essence of science and the scientific approach.
He’s amazingly articulated, he says.
“from the point of view of science, truth is everything that helps the development of science now, and lies are everything that hinders” and he finished this phrase.
“Here, in fact, we have determined what truth and falsehood are from the point of view of science, and if you think otherwise, then you are mistaken.”
That is, in principle, you just said a similar thing, and he says.
“It’s just that science cannot develop in a different way, because at some point there were some ideas, Newtonian mechanics at some point, it completely helped there and it was completely true.
Later, when some clarifications went on, but at the same time, look, I noticed and I really liked your reasoning – that is, it turns out that the same philosophical maxim for me, who is at a low level, and for a person who is for more.
High in practical application means different things.
This is how I understand you now.
But at the same time, the maxim itself, which is important, does not change.
That is, we cannot say that for me now the goal is like this, but for you, for example, it is.
Another.
The goal is the same for us, but in practical terms it means this to me, and this to you.

BVG:

Yes, when it is said, for example, about renunciation of the world, then for someone more renounced from the world it means giving up smoking cigarettes.
If he can do this, it is already a great feat of renunciation of the world.
But if a person who has been practicing there for 40 years is still proud that he quit smoking cigarettes 40 years ago and thinks that all his renunciation of the world should come down to this, then it is obvious that he is slightly mistaken.

Adrian:

Yes, thank you very much, but at the same time, look, it might be interesting, by the way, I just remembered that in one of the books on habit formation, perfectionism is declared one of the important enemies of habit formation.
That is, the idea that it is better to do it never, but ideally, than somehow, but now.
That is, “never, but ideally” – this is such a defense, a defense that helps the mind.
Look to the mind, one more thing helps, which, well, you can also see, this is when we start.
To build a balance in your spiritual and material life.
And in the BVP, we conducted several such cycles of lectures on balance, in which we, actually following you, said that the real balance of material and spiritual life is spiritual life.
Everything else is not a balance, but some temporary compromises.
But want…
Or are we not following you in this?
You are looking so carefully now, maybe we said something.
That is, the idea is that the balance in the ideal scheme is spiritual life, but at the same time, living in material life, we just go through these steps in each of which we find this balance.
And here is the question – And how to find this balance correctly so that it does not turn out that we have been proud of the fact that we once quit smoking for 40 years.

BVG:

Well, firstly, you need to understand very well that balance is, by definition, a dynamic thing, because if a person who is walking a tightrope suddenly decides that he has found the perfect balance now and decides to stop, then it will be very difficult for him to maintain this balance.
Just like a person who rides a bicycle, he maintains his balance only because he rides.
The moment he slows down his ride, the slower he rides, the harder it is to keep his balance.
It is the same here – the balance of our life can be – the feeling of balance is a feeling of happiness, but only when I do not become attached to each state of balance I have achieved and do not try to shout after Faust “Stop a moment, you are beautiful.”
The moment will not stop anyway, and we will collapse at this very moment, respectively.
That is, the first thing to know is that balance is an ever-changing dynamic thing.
What was a balance for me yesterday is no longer a balance for me today, but something contrary to the balance, and yesterday’s state will not bring me satisfaction, let’s say so.
That is, in order for us to find the right balance, we need practice, and practice means constant dynamics.
Practice means that today I do something like this, tomorrow I do something a little better, after tomorrow I do the same thing a little more deeply, with a little more understanding of what I’m doing.
This is one thing – how to maintain this state of balance, and you need to be very sensitive to this, you need to understand – it seems that I have already outgrown this state of mine that used to bring me satisfaction.
We have a very good balance indicator inside.
This balance indicator, as soon as we break the balance, starts flashing like a light of some indicator on the car – that there is no oil, or gasoline runs out, or something else.
This indicator is a feeling of inner happiness, some kind of anticipation that tomorrow there will be something else like that.
This feeling of inner happiness means that we now have a good balance.
This is inner happiness, again, it is a very fluid state.
If we suddenly feel that something is not right, we feel some kind of stagnation in our lives, we feel that everything has stopped and I’m just trying to squeeze happiness out of something that I have done many many times, this means that I am in balance lost, I just rolled down somewhere again.
That is, we need to listen inside, we need to see the goal, and this striving for the goal will provide dynamics and provide the necessary speed of movement that will help us maintain this balance.
The very moment I lost my purpose, let’s take the same example with a bicycle, I no longer know where I am going, I just look around, at the same moment I will collapse somewhere.
My steering wheel will start to wag and that’s it.
That is, in order for us to maintain balance, we need to see the goal, we need to strive for this goal, we need to adapt our lives and adjust it to this desire for the goal.
And then the balance will naturally be found, it will be revealed.
Well, of course, and then you need to listen to yourself.
If we felt that everything was somehow too gloomy, there is a high probability that I broke the balance, do something wrong, overworked somewhere or something else.
I have lost some natural living happiness in life.
This is a sign of imbalance.

Adrian:

Thank you, that is, balance is a constant movement without losing sight of the goal and some honesty with yourself, but then the question arises.
Any religious movement, in fact, many philosophical movements, they say that a guru, a mentor, a confessor, and so on – a teacher – is very important.
And we also know that the guru in Sanskrit is heavy, in the sense that not always my inner feeling that you are talking about now, it will coincide with the instructions that I receive from the elders.
That is, how to understand at what moment I should listen to myself, and at what moment I should listen to the elders, and what to do if what the elders say does not bring me inner happiness ?.

BVG:

Well, first of all, seniors can make mistakes too.
Unfortunately, no one is immune from mistakes in this world, but as a rule, the elder should listen very sensitively to what the person says, and very often the person himself understands what his trouble is.
A very good example of this is given at the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita, when Arjuna says something, and speaks very convincingly, trying to convince himself and Krishna to convince, but Krishna is silent, does not say anything, and the more Krishna is silent, the more doubt Arjuna has.
Gradually, gradually, he begins to understand that I am not saying something.
That is, yes, it happens that I came up with something for myself and I try to prove it to myself and justify it, I come with this to someone.
But as a rule, the elder does not try to tell us something completely different.
He listens to us sometimes asks us some questions, sometimes says something that makes us think.
That is, didactics has its very big limitations.
It is very difficult for people to perceive didactics.
Some kind of straight-forward instructions usually do not work, so I don’t know how it is in other traditions, but in our tradition, the guru will definitely not, as a rule, impose something.
He will give a person the right to make a mistake, but in doing so, he will help him look at the deal with.
A different point of view and think somehow, see something from a different point of view.
Points of view, and often the instructions that we receive not directly, but let’s say we turn on a certain lecture and in this lecture we hear some instructions that are obviously not addressed to us specifically, we were not in this audience, they did not look at us intently trying to understand comes to us what we are told or not.
Such instructions are often more effective because it is easier for a person, as it were, to try it on himself.
The false ego does not resist, does not put up a barrier of some kind, therefore, very often in.
In the Vedic scriptures, especially in the Puranas, instructions are given through history.
“You know, about 200 thousand years ago, something happened that might help you understand the answer to your question.
That is, a spiritual teacher, a guru, someone else, they always leave freedom for us.
Like Krishna, after he has given instructions to Arjuna, says, “I have told you everything, now think over everything properly, and do as you know.”
We say something, but it is equally necessary for the person to choose.
In very rare cases, when you really see that a person is ready to commit some unforgivable stupidity, you need to say “Stop, stop!”.
That is, when a person is already standing on the edge of the abyss, ready to rush there, at that moment there is no time for allegories and stories.

Adrian:

Guru Maharaj, I really liked what you just said in the sense that listening to any lecture, any Vedic story that we often hear as anecdotes of days gone by.
That is, the student’s qualification is to always find herself in these stories, did I understand correctly?

BVG:

Я хотел предупредить что к сожалению мое время сейчас вот истекает…

Адриан:

Да, да, просто возьмем с вас обещание что мы еще раз встретимся.
Это легко делать при зрителях.
Дальше,.. у вас все да?.

БВГ:

Сейчас вот три минуты ещё есть.

Адриан:

Ну тогда спасибо, спасибо вам огромное за эти вещи.
То есть очень много таких очень практичных вещей вы сказали.
Осталось еще много вопросов, но на самом деле очень здорово.
Может быть вы что-то просто пожелаете людям которые вас сейчас слушают?.
И на этом мы закончим.

БВГ: в Катха упанишад говорится, что духовный путь, как говорят великие мудрецы, он остер как лезвие бритвы.
Насколько я понимаю русский фантаст Кфремов он как раз оттуда взял название для своего романа или сомерсет моэм у него тоже по-моему что такое есть с лезвием бритвы связано.
Все оттуда из этой Катха упанишад.
“Обрети счастье,” говорит Катха упанишад.
Проснись, обрети счастье, обрети драгоценность которая принадлежит тебя в человеческой жизни, но при этом помни что духовный путь остр как лезвия бритвы.
Нам на духовном пути нужна помощь, нам нужны какие-то наставники, проводники,.
Нам нужны люди которые желают нам добра, это действительно замечательная вещь, но.
При этом мы должны помнить, что это не такая простая вещь.
Я желаю вам счастливого духовного пути, который остр как лезвие бритвы.

Адриан: спасибо большое за ваше время, спасибо что согласились встретиться, спасибо, и до свидания.
Ну что, дорогие друзья, спасибо вам за то что вы слушали.
Надеюсь что какие-то ответы мы все получили.
Может быть если вы даже сейчас в чате на ютьюбе, где вы смотрите, если вы поделитесь, не будете разбегаться сразу, а поделитесь какими-то моментами которые особенно вам запомнились, то это будет той самой работой о которой сказал Госвами Махарадж.
Я поделюсь несколькими такими вещами которые мне лично очень, очень откликнулись из последнего того, что он говорил – это то, что баланс это движение, что мы не можем в какой-то момент успокоиться, в том что мы достигли баланса.
Баланс возможнен только если мы движемся и баланс возможен только если мы движемся к какой-то цели.
Так же мне очень понравилось то, как Госвами Махарадж сформулировал, что движение к этой цели и соответственно баланс для каждого из нас находящихся на разном уровне духовного развития будет разным, и что для человека давно практикующего будет легким и естественным, для человека встающего на духовный путь будет казаться чем-то совершенно невозможным, и это нормально, это естественная вещь.
Мы все смотрим на тот самый высокий идеал и, насколько я понимаю, ошибка как раз здесь будет думать, что у каждого из этих людей просто свой идеал и они к нему идут.
Нет, все идут к одному идеалу, но на разных ступенях движения к этому идеалу будет разный баланс, разное понимание даже каких-то философских терминов и так далее.
Это важная вещь, и также для меня было вот это очень важно – поскольку я сам, честно, иногда слушаешь какую-то лекцию, слушаешь какую-то историю, и слушаешь просто как интересную историю, но на самом деле, как сказал Госвами Махарадж, скорее всего в этой истории я тоже могу найти что-то для себя если я буду это искать.
И в конце да нам пообещали, пожелали точнее, счастливого духовного пути, и вот это счастье это то самое счастье баланса о котором сказал Госвами Махарадж.
Это счастье понимания что в данный момент ты делаешь то что можешь, двигаясь к этому пути, и что в следующие моменты будешь делать больше, и это принесет тебе внутреннее счастье.
Спасибо вам огромное, приходите к нам учиться если хотите углубить свое понимание.
Курс Большой Ведический Практикум для тех кто начинает знакомится с Ведами, он точно дает очень хорошое, очень фундаментальное понимание того, о чём мы в самом начале говорили – широкого контекста, умения учиться, понимание каких-то базовых вещей, дальше практика каким образом это применяется.
Также у нас есть курс путешествия к себе.
Это следующий курс который говорит уже о бхакти, об энергии бхакти.
Это то на чем заканчивается курс Большой Ведический Практикум.
Это курс по книге Радханатха Свами Путешествие к Себе, и дальше у нас есть Школа Бхакти.
Это уже конкретная практика для тех кто идет путем Гаудия Вайшнавизма.
Это как раз то самое, как сказал Госвами Махарадж – системное, длительное, практичное, и в сопровождении наставников обучение практике бхакти.
Так что спасибо, надеюсь мы увидимся с вами где-то на этих курсах или еще где-то.
Спасибо огромное, до свидания.

On moons, planets, and orbits

BG 15.13 begins with:

gām āviśya ca bhūtāni
dhārayāmy aham ojasā

gām — the planets; āviśya — entering; ca — also; bhūtāni — the living entities; dhārayāmi — sustain; aham — I; ojasā — by My energy;

Let’s try to parse the meaning from word-for-word. We have “planets” and “living beings” and we have “enter” and “sustain” as verbs. The meaning is obvious, but let’s look at Srila Prabhupada’s translation:

“I enter into each planet, and by My energy they stay in orbit.”

Where did the “orbits” come from and where did “living being” go? Save for minor details, this translation is the same as in 1968 and 1972 editions, but is different from the available manuscript, where it goes:

“I enter into each planet’s moon, and by My energy these stay in orbit.”

There should be no surprise that “each planet’s moon” was edited out of published editions, but we want to know the meaning of the verse and the flow of Srila Prabhupada’s thought. Where did “orbits” come from?

planetary orbits

Thankfully, the purport provides an explanation, but before copy pasting it here I want to explain how it makes sense to me before you read and form your own s̶t̶u̶p̶i̶d̶ ideas. This was meant to be a joke, so lighten up a little.

The purport makes it easy to interpret as talking about modern model of the universe and the solar system, but it could be easily talking about Vedic universe, too (Bhagavatam/Puranic model). The thrust of the argument is the same – the Lord supports various planets preventing them from falling down. In the modern view this means planets have to constantly move to escape gravity, and this movement creates orbits, and therefore “sustain” means “keep in orbit”.

Orbits are described in Bhagavatam, too, so it holds. Bhagavatam doesn’t have gravity, however, and this should be the natural next question – why would things fall down without introducing gravity? How can we claim to explain the universe and not mention gravity? Nobody would take us seriously.

In the purport Srila Prabhupada talks about dust – if you hold in your hand it stays, but if you through it in the air it falls down. Gravity? Not necessarily so. Things don’t just fall down but they disappear, decompose, and dissolve. “Decompose” is also mentioned in the purport but in a different context. When dust falls to the ground it becomes invisible and unless we are talking about floors it merges into the earth. Gravity might make someone fall down to his death but it’s only one stage of the process – without sustaining force the body itself would gradually decompose, loose its shape, and eventually merge into the earth. With planets it’s even more obvious – if they fall into the Sun the cease to exist.

The point is – “sustain” means not only to hold in place but also hold shape and generally make the thing “exist”, keep it manifested and prevent it from going into unmanifest state again. Let’s not forget that all the beings come from earth, and all the planets came from their suns, too. Originally, everything was unmanifested but by the force of living energy everything becomes manifested. This is where “living entities” in the verse went – “bhu” in “bhutani” means “manifested” into what we call empirical reality and it’s Lord’s sustaining power that does that. This is explains “moons” in the manuscript, too – moons are manifested from their parent planets just as planets manifest from suns or people and plants manifest from planets. In Vedic universe they are all alive and, relative to their parents, they all become “bhutani”.

This power to manifest things from unmanifested state comes from the Lord and this is what the verse states.

At this point one could say but what about us? Don’t we contribute to this, too? There is a verse that says universe is sustained by the living entities (yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat – same dhara as in dharayami here). There is no explanation given in this verse but I would argue that the universe moves by Lord’s power and we take shelter of the manifested creations within it. We do not create our bodies (stars, planets, and moons are also someone’s bodies), they are brought forward by the Lord, by what we otherwise call “force of nature”. We like the experience of being in these bodies and we contribute a little, but without Lord’s sustaining power we can’t hold it on our own. When the Lord says “that’s enough, time to wind this all down” we have no choice but to comply.

Other commentaries explain this verse in the same way but without references to “moons” and “orbits”. Visvanatha Cakravarti’s:

    “Entering the earth (gam) by my own sakti (ojasa), and being situated there, I maintain the moving and non-moving entities (bhutani).”

Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s:

    “Entering the earth, which is just a lump of dust, I make it firm and thus support all moving and non-moving things by My sakti. The sacred text says yena dyaur ugra prithivi ca dridha: It is He by whom the heavens and powerful earth are made firm. (Rig Veda 8.7.3.1 This indicates that, if not for His power, the earth would perish, dissolving like a fistful of sand.”

Other commentaries go along the same lines. It should be noted that they all translate “gam” as “the Earth” but Srila Prabhupada included all the planets and mentioned their moons, too. Perhaps from the “go” root in “gam” – they all have to move to live, creating “orbits” in modern science. They do other things as well and so become “chandra” or “soma” mentioned in the second half of the verse, but as far as sustenance goes – they have to move and they all have to be “gam”.

Second part of the verse talks about the step in manifesting “bhutani” – soma, the Moon, nourishes plants that appear from the Earth, and imbues them with succulent taste, which makes them into “vegetables”, and this nourishment comes from the Lord, too.

Prabhupada’s purport:

    It is understood that all the planets are floating in the air only by the energy of the Lord. The Lord enters into every atom, every planet and every living being. That is discussed in the Brahma-saṁhitā. It is said there that one plenary portion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Paramātmā, enters into the planets, the universe, the living entity, and even into the atom. So due to His entrance, everything is appropriately manifested. When the spirit soul is there, a living man can float on the water, but when the living spark is out of the body and the body is dead, the body sinks. Of course when it is decomposed it floats just like straw and other things, but as soon as the man is dead, he at once sinks in the water. Similarly, all these planets are floating in space, and this is due to the entrance of the supreme energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His energy is sustaining each planet, just like a handful of dust. If someone holds a handful of dust, there is no possibility of the dust’s falling, but if one throws it in the air it will fall down. Similarly, these planets, which are floating in the air, are actually held in the fist of the universal form of the Supreme Lord. By His strength and energy, all moving and nonmoving things stay in their place. It is said in the Vedic hymns that because of the Supreme Personality of Godhead the sun is shining and the planets are steadily moving. Were it not for Him, all the planets would scatter, like dust in air, and perish. Similarly, it is due to the Supreme Personality of Godhead that the moon nourishes all vegetables. Due to the moon’s influence, the vegetables become delicious. Without the moonshine, the vegetables can neither grow nor taste succulent. Human society is working, living comfortably and enjoying food due to the supply from the Supreme Lord. Otherwise, mankind could not survive. The word rasātmakaḥ is very significant. Everything becomes palatable by the agency of the Supreme Lord through the influence of the moon.

Tava Kathamritam

It’s a famous verse from Gopi Gita. For one thing, when Maharaja Prataparudra recited it for Lord Caitanya while massaging Mahaprabhu’s legs Lord Caitanya suddenly got up and embraced him.

Here is the translation:

The nectar of Your words and the descriptions of Your activities are the life and soul of those suffering in this material world. These narrations, transmitted by learned sages, eradicate one’s sinful reactions and bestow good fortune upon whoever hears them. These narrations are broadcast all over the world and are filled with spiritual power. Certainly those who spread the message of Godhead are most munificent.

SB 10.31.9

Another notable usage is as a motto of Madhavananda Prabhu’s Krishna Kathamrita Bindu magazine (full archive here). Tava kathāmṛtaṁ tapta-jīvanaṁ – tava — Your; kathā-amṛtam — the nectar of words; tapta-jīvanam — life for those aggrieved in the material world;

Beautiful and sweet, isn’t it? Well, I wouldn’t be writing this if there was nothing more to it, would I?

Turns out every acharya gives an alternative interpretation to this verse. Sometimes it’s explained as if two groups of gopis were speaking and so one group meant for all the verses to be sweet and pleading, and the other, headed by Srimati Radharani, sang the same verses in a contrarian mood, basically blaming Krishna for this or that. Okay, I won’t argue with that, but the alternative meaning given by the acharyas is relevant to us, too, not just to Sri Radha and her group, and that’s why I find it interesting.

Almost every word in the verse gets twisted and so BBT translations are of no help here. “Tava” is the same but “kathamritam” can be legitimately split as kathā-mṛtam instead of the usual kathā-amṛtam. In either case the connection between two words would be reduced to one single long ā. So now it gets interesting – discussions about Krishna become the cause of death, not some nectar of immortality. Tapta-jīvanam then takes a new meaning, or rather the same meaning – material aggravation, but in a different context. Tapta means hot, as in hot fire or molten metal, or, specifically, hot oil, and jīvanam can also mean water, so Krishna katha causes death in the same water splatters and evaporates when dropped in hot oil. One can get seriously burned if he does that.

Next line starts with kavibhir iditam (check for correct diacritics in BBT translation, it just gets in the way for me now). Kavibhir means by great poets and iditam means recited. The contrarian meaning is that those poets would praise anything that pops in their minds so it proves nothing, rather it says that only people not concerned with actual meaning and impact of the event would go on talking about it as if it was something great. It’s like saying “this was praised in New York Times” to Trump supporters.

The line ends with kalmasapaham – it drives away (apaham) sinful reactions (kalmasa). That is true, but not in the way simple people understand it. They think that Krishna katha destroys seeds of karma and all that, but the real meaning is that it causes so much suffering that all accumulated bad karma gets released all at once. It’s not a good thing to experience, it’s very painful.

Next line starts with sravana mangalam – hearing it us auspicious. Yes, it is, but for who? For those who are described in the last two words of the line – srimad atatam. Srimad means those endowed with all good things, and atatam means preaching it widely, broadcasting. Now it makes sense – Krishna katha is auspicious for fortunate people proud of their attainments who can’t stop talking about it. The overtly virtuous, in your face, self-righteous pricks. That’s how they make their money, after all.

Last line still talks about these people – bhuvi grinanti ye – those who (ye) spread it (grinanti) all over the world (bhuvi). So silly poets take this suffering and foolishly praise it in their worthless odes to nothing good, and then profit smelling preachers take it up and make themselves rich and famous by preaching it. What actually happens to the people, though? Bhrui-da janah. Janah is people, bhuri is “great number” and da can be short for death, for killing. They actually kill people in great numbers. Some die from suffering, some die spiritually as they have been mislead to accept some sahajiya cult for the real thing.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti cites a verse to demonstrate what actually happens when people take to Krsihna katha seriously, specifically the last line of it:

bahava iha vihaṅgā bhikṣu-caryāṁ caranti

SB 10.47.18

Here bahava is “many”, just as bhuri above. Iha is “here”, meaning in Vrindavana, and then vihaṅgāḥ — (like) birds; bhikṣu — of begging; caryām — the livelihood; caranti — they pursue.

So, instead of enjoying opulences associated with being “srimad”, and instead of “mangalam” from “sravana mangalam”, people end up begging for food like birds picking loose grains in the village. Not even searching for food in the forest, not digging up worms themselves, but depending on what was discarded by humans. That’s what indulging in Krishna katha leads to. We will become exactly like those birds.

Anyone who expects his fortune to rise from hearing Krishna katha is either a fool or someone who exploits other fools misfortune. Even worse – someone who inflicts misfortune on others and takes whatever remains in their lives for himself.

I don’t want to pontificate on this, but tell me if this is not a correct description of what Krishna consciousness is supposed to do to people? It’s not there to make us happy and prosperous, unless we consider being homeless and eating what others have thrown away a symbol of prosperity. “Spiritually wealthy”, they could say. Or “opulence of Vrindavana eclipses that of Vaikuntha millions and billions of times,” they say. How’s that not the typical “suffer now, enjoy later” mentality of materialistic persons of this world? How’s that not the typical “srimad atatam” from this verse? Yes, these people learned how to live comfortably off Krishna katha, and now we are supposed to become like them? The live by killing us, bhuri-da janah, and this means they won’t let us be like them – we are their food, not their friends. They might talk, promising auspiciousness (kavibhir iditam and sravana mangalam), but when it comes to real changes they will inevitably protect their turf and keep us as outsiders, as bhuri-da janah.

When I started this article I meant for it to be half serious, but why bother? I’m dead serious now – these people who tell us that Krishna Consciousness will make everything great, who urge us to shout “Gauranga”, to raise our arms and shout “Hare Krishna”, who urge us to dance in lines, squares, or circles etc, they have no idea what they are talking about, except they know it makes them feel great when we sit and listen and otherwise follow their orders. They are just trying to build their own Babylon. If they ever give us something really valuable it’s not while doing that, but that’s a whole other topic.

For Facebook’s sake I’ll include an image. At first glance it has nothing to do with the content, but, if you look closely – it makes Krishna and Yashoda look like one of us (I mean white people) with expressions reflecting our own conceptions of what spiritual beauty and spiritual emotions are like. It’s going to be dreamy like that. Who doesn’t want to feel like that? That’s what they promise us instead of homelessness and eating discarded food. And these days we might not even be able to reach Vrindavana to do that. That’s the reality of taking up Krishna consciousness, not their promises.

About that Bhakti Sastri thing…

Deeply studying our books is a very noble endeavor, there is no doubt about it, and yet something does not sit right with me here. I’ve never taken Bhakti Sastri course myself and will probably never take one. If their course materials were available online I would probably look into them with enthusiasm but so far I’ve seen only videos, about an hour each, which takes too much time, in my opinion. So let’s get to the matter at hand – my impression of Bhakti Sastri course was formed by one mataji who said that during the course she had learned everything there is to know about Bhagavad Gita – all kinds of numbers and slokas, and she could give quick answers in her sleep, but she lost the soul of it in the process. Bhagavad Gita doesn’t speak to her anymore and has been reduced to numbers in her head. She expressed this to her guru, who is one of the most knowledgeable devotees in our society, and he somewhat supported her conclusion.

I would explain it with an analogy of a boy falling in love with a girl and dreaming about her day and night. Imagine that next he is taken to observe her physical exam and sits in with every doctor who looks at her. He examines her stool and urine samples, her blood, looks at her teeth together with the dentist and identifies all kinds of caries, smells her breath, sits with a shrink and learns about all her mental hangups, follows with social worker who examines the state of her house, finds stinky mismatched socks lying in unexpected places, he sits on her school lessons and examines her homework, looks at red ink corrections by her teachers and so on. Unless that girl is a genuine apsara this kind of close up knowledge is sure to kill any sprout of romantic love. It’s money back guarantee. Basically, it’s another version of that famous “liquid beauty” story.

Of course this kind of close up knowledge is useful for spiritualists who need to know what they are getting themselves into when they feel attracted to opposite sex and they need this knowledge to deal with it appropriately, but this method should not be applied to Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures. We all remember “not to read too many books” instruction which concerns the similar risk – by knowing too much we will lose bhakti. How much is too much? I suppose we should establish our own boundaries, like that mataji thought that Bhakti Sastri was too much but there must have been many devotees who were not affected in the same way.

I would also say this depends on the teachers, not on course syllabus per se. A good teacher will not kill devotion in his students no matter what the course requires. However, if the course is structured in such a way that one must memorize a lot of stuff and is explicitly rewarded for quick answers then devotion will dwindle or at least be threatened even if the teacher is perfect.

I would also note that the leader of one Russian renegade group campaigning for purity in ISKCON is a former Bhakti Sastri instructor. Or that there are probably more learned devotees who left ISKCON than those who stayed. Knowing “too much” almost always results in being unable to fit with the rest of ISKCON devotees. Why? Because this “too much” is actually never enough and there is always a perspective where it looks like “not even half way”, but it makes people think they are making rational decisions based on complete knowledge. Complete knowledge (su-medhasam) results in humbly chanting the Holy Name and being eager to serve everyone, starting with fellow devotees. Anything short of that is only half-education. It doesn’t matter how many questions one can answer in his sleep or how many slokas he can recite or how many diplomas one has collected.

My most recent encounter with Bhakti Sastri was a claim sounded out in a class that Arjuna posed four-five questions to Krishna in Chapter 1 and then Krishna replied to them one by one. Exact wording here is very important. Instead of “four questions” one could say “stated four reasons”, for example. It’s a little change but questions need to be answered while “stating reasons” doesn’t require it. My understanding is that after listening to Krishna Arjuna simply dropped his reasons and didn’t bring them up again. Some of them Krishna addressed directly, some were clarified in an implicit way, and some were just forgotten.

Now, if someone makes a claim that there were four questions then he needs to come up with four answers, and goes looking for them in the text, and then the text is interpreted so that it fits. So one speculation leads to another, and to another, and to another and so on. Let’s look at the practical example of this.

One of the questions/reasons was potential destruction of the family, production of varna-sankara and so on. According to this screenshot from BS manual it looks like this:

I don’t need to copy past those 1.37-43 verses, we know what they say. The same manual answers them like this:

Check how to it says “Krishna defeats Arjuna’s Arguments”. Maybe this wasn’t the exact wording when this section was devised initially. When people discuss it they replace it with “answers questions” and nobody objects, but if the original was “addresses this topic” instead then the connection does not sound so explicit, does it?

If we say “answers questions” then there were other questions posed by Arjuna between 1.37-43 and 3.18-26. In fact, 3.18-26 series of verses is part of Krishna’s *direct* answer to Arjuna’s question in 3.1-2:

TEXT 1: Arjuna said: O Janārdana, O Keśava, why do You want to engage me in this ghastly warfare, if You think that intelligence is better than fruitive work?
TEXT 2: My intelligence is bewildered by Your equivocal instructions. Therefore, please tell me decisively which will be most beneficial for me.

BG 3.1-2

Arjuna’s previous question was about behavior of a self-realized person and in response Krishna didn’t really talk about how self-realized people sit or walk, but questions in 3.1-2 Krishna answers directly and eventually comes to supposed “defeating” of Arjuna’s argument from the first chapter. Allegedly.

BG 3.18-26 goes like this:

TEXT 18: A self-realized man has no purpose to fulfill in the discharge of his prescribed duties, nor has he any reason not to perform such work. Nor has he any need to depend on any other living being.
TEXT 19: Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme.
TEXT 20: Kings such as Janaka attained perfection solely by performance of prescribed duties. Therefore, just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work.
TEXT 21: Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.
TEXT 22: O son of Pṛthā, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I a need to obtain anything – and yet I am engaged in prescribed duties.
TEXT 23: For if I ever failed to engage in carefully performing prescribed duties, O Pārtha, certainly all men would follow My path.
TEXT 24: If I did not perform prescribed duties, all these worlds would be put to ruination. I would be the cause of creating unwanted population, and I would thereby destroy the peace of all living beings.
TEXT 25: As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, the learned may similarly act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path.
TEXT 26: So as not to disrupt the minds of ignorant men attached to the fruitive results of prescribed duties, a learned person should not induce them to stop work. Rather, by working in the spirit of devotion, he should engage them in all sorts of activities [for the gradual development of Kṛṣṇa consciousness].

BG 3.18-26

Right off the bat Krishna talks about self-realized persons here but when Arjuna presented his argument in 1.37-43 he didn’t consider himself self-realized and he thought even less of the opposing side:

TEXTS 37-38: O Janārdana, although these men, their hearts overtaken by greed, see no fault in killing one’s family or quarreling with friends, why should we, who can see the crime in destroying a family, engage in these acts of sin?

BG 1.37-38

This might not matter much but the rest of Krishna’s alleged answer actually repeats Arjuna’s argument, not defeats it. Arjuna, too, says that we should know better than those ignorant people and we should show a better example. It’s not right for us to behave in such a way. “For the sake of educating people in general”, as Krishna says in 3.20.

In fact, if Arjuna went back to his argument from chapter 1 he could have felt vindicated by Krishna’s words – family dharma should be protected and society leaders should set a perfect example in this regard, or others will screw up everything. How’s that a defeat?

Srila Prabhupada in his purports on 3.18-26 series of verses does not refer back to chapter one and neither do any of our acaryas. Baladeva Vidyabhusana (Srila Prabhupada dedicated his Bhagavad Gita to Sri Baladeva) begins his commentary on 3.24 like this (after translation):

Text 24: If I did not perform prescribed duties, all these worlds would be put to ruination. I would be the cause of creating unwanted population, and I would thereby destroy the peace of all living beings.

“Then what would happen? If I, the supreme among all, were not to perform actions according to scripture, the people would break the laws (utsīdeyuḥ—be destroyed). I would be responsible for producing mixed castes resulting from the destruction of law. I, the protector of the populace, Prajāpati, would cause contamination of the populace (upahanyām), by the mixture of castes…”

Again, as I said – this repeats Arjuna’s line of reasoning, not defeats it.

I don’t see how to look at Bhakti Sastri’s idea of varna-sankara argument being refuted in 3.18-26 and not see it as speculative and unsupported. Maybe they have other reasons but I’ve just listened to an hour long video on 1.37-43 provided by Bhakti Sastri course itself and there is no mention there of Arjuna’s argument being refuted later in chapter 3.

There are other reasons why it’s wrong, best of them probably being Arjuna saying “kula-dharma sanatanah” in 1.39 and then “kula dharmas ca sasvatah” in 1.42 – family dharma is not sanatana and neither it is sasvata. That’s probably how Krishna meant to defeat it, too – if He ever got around to actually addressing it directly. There are dharmas higher than kula dharma. Ksatriya dharma is higher so Arjuna should fight first, think of family traditions later. Bhagavata dharma is even higher still. Later, in the eleventh chapter Arjuna sees Kauravas’ heads being crashed between the teeth of the universal form and Krishna informs him that their destiny is sealed and Arjuna can only become an instrument in fulfilling it. At this point Arjuna was convinced that Krishna’s decisions are superior and shouldn’t be argued against, that they should be accepted, not questioned, and so presenting his earlier argument about families from chapter one would not be appropriate anymore. To me, this is what answers it – Arjuna was worrying about small things without seeing the big picture. All these Kauravas and must of Arjuna’s own army had to be killed. This comes first and is inviolable, and family stuff can be dealt with later. Not a big problem.

Once again – I don’t know how this is presented in the actual Bhakti Sastri course and maybe teachers are instructed not to stress it too much, but I have heart how it is related in general ISKCON classes by people who studied it. Maybe they do not represent it faithfully, maybe there are other supporting reasons I’m not aware off, but this interpretation is not found in Srila Prabhupada’s purports and that alone should be suspicious. Maybe he talked about this in the lectures – I can’t check all the recordings on a short notice. So far it looks speculative.

It does sound nice and scholarly, but, returning to my earlier argument – what is the actual value of this scholarship? Only to impress students? Or only to make Bhagavad Gita look more organized than it really is, so that everything can be easily presented and tested afterwards?

I’m afraid it leads us away from learning the actual Gita, where we’d be successful if only one sloka went deep into our hearts and changed our lives forever. Getting a bunch of multiple choice answers correctly is not the same thing.

Brihad Mridanga

Who doesn’t know this famous explanation?

My Guru Mahārāja used to say that this press is bṛhad-mṛdaṅga. Bṛhat means bigger, at large, bigger mṛdaṅga, bigger. Just like we are playing mṛdaṅga. This mṛdaṅga can be vibrated in the neighboring quarter, but our mṛdaṅga, Back to Godhead, that will go far, far away. So therefore this press was considered by my Guru Mahārāja as bṛhad-mṛdaṅga.

June 11, 1969, New Virndavan

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati even had printing press installed in the temple room, though after his departure it was sold. I couldn’t find any pictures of it but the one below supposed to show the press on which Srila Prabhupada’s Delhi Bhagavatams were printed. It doesn’t look like it belongs to a temple room but still – Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati founded printing press before founding any temples. It’s the beating heart of our movement.

“Books are the basis”, Srila Prabhupada also taught us. So publishing books is called Brihad Mridanga and even if ISKCON for some reason ceases to exist a new organization will inevitably rise up based on the same books, which will be the law for the next ten thousand years. What more needs to be said? Quite a lot, actually.

Printed books are on their way out and in a few years or decades there won’t be any actual law books left – everything would go digital. Even paper money is on its way out – I remember reading news from Sweden where some shops refuse to accept cash because it’s such a backward way of payment. Where does it leave us with our “big mridanga”? Should we all go digital as well? Here is where we need to rethink the concept, I believe.

In the quote above only one principle is announced directly: “… our mṛdaṅga, Back to Godhead, that will go far, far away.” Other foundational aspects of it were implied and they should not be forgotten, for they are the same for any form of preaching at any time in history. Let’s see how “Brihad Mridanga” itself worked in those days.

India was ruled by the British who were big on technology and printing was one of their magical inventions. Actually, printing press was invented even before Lord Caitanya but it became “Brihad Mridanga” only when Bhaktivinoda Thakur got to play on it. So here is one foundational principle – it should be used by pure devotees. Srila Prabhupada didn’t need to mention it in that lecture and Back To Godheads devotees were publishing then were considered as fully transcendental literature.

Coming back to the press itself – people were genuinely impressed by the technology and automatically offered any printing material greater value than to talking sadhus. Anybody can talk and talk is cheap, but one who has the ability and power to get himself printed must automatically be considered as being on a higher platform. His words matter, his words have weight, his words have value.

When we combine the two – pure devotees producing books that become automatically revered by ordinary people we have perfect conditions for their words to actually sink in and change people’s hearts. Lord Caitanya took sannyasa for the same reason – so that people started treating Him as an authority rather than a neighborhood boy who went crazy after some gopi girls.

Respect itself isn’t enough – people had to pay for the books and magazines, which means they had to make a sacrifice and give away something very very dear to them – their money. When you pay for what you read or hear you naturally want to extract the most value out of it in return, which means you have to really pay attention and hope that the words actually work and change your life for the better. In the case of Lord Caitanya – sannyasis must have been fed. It was customary to give something to a sadhu as gratitude for his teachings, for reminding people of their dharma.

Srila Prabhupada’s experiences with Back To Godhead provide a valuable lesson here. At first it was great – printed, up to day, interesting topics, but eventually, as Indian society evolved, the value of periodical press, which has to be read once and then discarded, declined. Somebody told this to Srila Prabhupada directly – no one cares for you two paisa papers (I don’t know exact cost), if you want to be taken seriously you should give them a book. And that’s how Srila Prabhupada decided to translate Srimad Bhagavatam.

In other words, printed or not, but the value of what we offer should be sufficiently high for it to be taken seriously, and I mean monetary value here. Transcendental value is not going to be appreciated right away by the general mass of people but it obviously should be there, too – see the first principle I mentioned above.

Let’s look at transitioning to digital now. This can be of two kinds – selling ebooks and preaching on the internet. Both have been tried by our devotees. Ebooks are there and Vaisesika’s people even produced a manual on how to distribute them, but I haven’t heard stories of success with it yet. Possibly because Vaisesika still focuses on distributed actual Bhagavatams, which deserves a separate consideration.

One of his arguments is that once the novelty of ebooks, Kindles, and tablets wears off people return to paper again. He gives statistics which confirm this trend. Ten years ago they proudly announced that they were selling more ebooks but by the end of the decade 80% of sold books were still printed on paper. One reason is that people who were supposed to embrace this digital revolution were not into books at all – their attention span is too short and they can’t read lines longer than “Kaboom” in their “graphic novels”. On the other hand, people who still read books like to hold them in their hands and flip their actual pages instead of pressing buttons.

In any case, even if printed book market shrinks it doesn’t really concern us – we sell only about half a million books a year and this number has little to do with popularity of books. Maybe example of Vivaldi browser can demonstrate it better. People behind Vivaldi counted their numbers and discovered that they only need two million or so of daily users to create the browser they think is the best. They don’t care about market share, they only wanted to make the browser they like for people who would appreciate it, and two million, and maybe only one million in the beginning, was all they needed.

This should make us look at book distribution from a different perspective, too – we have the books that we think are the best and we need to find people who share our opinion, and, historically, this number hovers around half a million books a year.

So Vaisesika’s answer to digital challenge is, basically, that we still have enough people who buy paper and are limited only by our abilities, so why worry?

This is for selling ebooks, now let’s look at “preaching on the internet”, which now includes all kinds of media, social networks, podcasting etc. The variety is great, but it’s still “internet” as far as people of my generation are concerned. One important feature of it is that it’s free, and another is that you can’t trust anything on the internet. This is directly opposite of the two foundational principles I discussed above – our “products” should be seen as valuable and trustworthy.

Moreover, the abundance of free content on the internet has grown into the realization that it’s us, the consumers, who are the product. We read/watch/listen to some stuff and the records of our consumption are sold to Google, Facebook, and others. In this way the value shifts from the product offered to us, to the act of our agreeing to look at it. We have the power. We can tweet about it, we can give it high or low rating, we can start social campaigns, we can bring down brands and entire companies. We are the power!

You absolutely can’t preach to people like that. It should not be even tried when they are in this mood, and it would be offensive to he Holy Name.

The subject of trust is also tricky – people have become so partisan and opinionated that they do not trust anything from certain sources and they make their minds about it rather fast. If your articles have been published by NYTimes or The Guardian there will be millions of people who won’t listen to a word you say, and it works the same for the opposing camp, too. What’s your standing on vaccination? Half the public won’t accept it whatever it is. Okay, maybe you can avoid talking about Covid, but then there are so many other triggers that can cause a full meltdown so you can’t possibly account for them all.

Devotees were attacked and killed in Bangladesh recently, less than two weeks ago, and we already have “protect Hindu minorities” and “we are not Hindus” camps in our society. Let me repeat that – two camps in our own society, what to speak of the rest of the world. Whatever we say on whatever topic, chances are somebody will get triggered by it.

How to navigate these systemic problems of “internet preaching”? No one knows, but it’s definitely not about platforms and choice of medium – we need people to act according to the above mentioned principles first – respect, trust, and value. Value also includes commitment – it should be high enough for people to invest sufficient time and energy for the message to take hold.

This was about the method of communication, but we should not forget that the message should come from pure devotees, which is not a concern when selling Prabhupada’s books but becomes important for “internet preaching”, and that the recipients should be ready, too. After all, Srila Prabhupada spent decades trying to preach to Indians and they just wouldn’t listen. I suspect even to this day Indians support ISKCON for reasons other than pure devotion.

What does it all say for the prospects of our Brihad Mridanga? Well, I can repeat what I said earlier – printing press was invented even before Lord Caitanya and it tool several hundred years before all the other components fell into place – pure devotees, intelligent and perceptive audience, relationships of respect, creation of trust, and creation of value, and these all should be on the mass scale. It’s not a question of technology or connectivity at all. It’s not that we can just replace that printing press in the picture by the latest model and all will be alright again. We have to address the underlying principles first.