Pretense of No Taste

Consider this passage, and many many more like this:

“A human being is inclined to hear good narrations and stories, and therefore there are so many books, magazines and newspapers on the market to satisfy the interests of the developed soul. But the pleasure in such literature, after it is read once, becomes stale, and people do not take any interest in reading such literature repeatedly. In fact, newspapers are read for less than an hour and then thrown in the dustbins as rubbish. The case is similar with all other mundane literatures. But the beauty of transcendental literatures like Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is that they never become old. They have been read in the world by civilized man for the last five thousand years, and they have never become old. They are ever fresh to the learned scholars and devotees, and even by daily repetition of the verses of Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, there is no satiation for devotees…”

SB 3.5.7p

Who will disagree? And yet there are great many devotees whose experience is vastly different. Many haven’t bothered reading Bhagavatam even once, having heard most of the stories in the lectures already.

Typical explanation is that this passage is true for pure devotees. In fact, ellipses at the end stand for “like Vidura”. We are not like Vidura yet, the explanation goes, but one day we will become like him and then our taste for Bhagavatam will awaken.

I reject this explanation, however. We don’t need to become “like Vidura” and Prabhupada’s statement is true for everybody, we just have to learn to read right.

First, however – “mundane literatures are stale”. This should be expanded to all other forms of mundane art and entertainment, but we obviously do not feel like that. We are irresistibly attracted to movies and computer games and such. Every new one feels fresh, not stale. And yet they are stale. Why? Because they are limited in the rasa they can provide.

Devotional progress is progress, meaning we start at some point and then we go up, up, and up, passing many stages in between. Bhagavatam is the ripe fruit of the Vedic literature, we hear from day one. This means that we have to get to the very top of the tree, rising past all the branches on the way.

Lord Caitanya gives His mercy to everyone regardless of our situation and this means that we can be at the very bottom and have a thousand more branches distracting us. Naturally, as part of our evolution, we want to explore what is offered there, but Lord Caitanya’s mercy is a vector pulling us up, so every time we step off the “straight and narrow” we feel guilty because we clearly feel the attraction of whatever is in on offer but we also know we should dismiss it. Dealing with this guilt is not the subject of this post, however.

The point is that every branch between ourselves and the ultimate goal WILL feel fresh and exciting once we get there – this is how we feel when a new movie comes out, but at the same time exploring this branch for however long we want will keep us restricted to this branch and when we come back we will be exactly where we were before. It’s for this reason that mundane literatures are stale – they will not get you beyond their own location and cannot offer anything higher than that.

Tree branches usually grow towards the sky, too, so we will feel some elevation while traveling there, but they never actually reach the sky and for that you have to come back to the trunk and continue your climb. Next time you will see such a branch you will know what’s there, what’s attractive about it, and the limits of its offerings.

Let’s take an average human and look at the tree of Vedic literature he has to digest before his consciousness becomes ready for Bhagavatam. Ramayana and Mahabharata would be his starting points and nobody can count the number of moral lessons just in these two books. After they have been learned one would discover the beauty of Bhagavad Gita, and then Bhagavatam continues where Gita leaves off, as we usually say.

What if our average human is a westerner and never reads any of these books? Doesn’t matter – one’s consciousness still has to go through all the same steps and learn the same moral lessons on human behavior, human values, interactions, the role of the state, the role of the opposite sex etc etc. They just have to be learned from western literature. We have two and half thousand year old library for that, there is everything there, too.

The earlier description still applies – each of these lessons, however valuable, is limited to its location on the tree of progress. From below it looks fresh, from above it looks boring, and because it’s static it can be called “stale”.

At the first look Bhagavatam also looks stale – same stories being repeated in class after class, sometimes with more embellishments and sometimes with less, but it’s all the same. How many times we are going to hear about Hiranyakashipu and Prahlada? It’s not going to end in any other way. Stale, right? Wrong.

Bhagavatam is fundamentally different because it’s “spiritual”, means it’s ever fresh and dynamic. What does it mean? Does it mean there must be a different ending? No. It means that on every read there will be some changes in ourselves which will change our perceptions of the text, change what we see in it. All the Ramayana and Mahabharata lessons are in there, too, just in a more condensed form, and so on every new reading one is supposed to discover them opening up in his consciousness. The text is the same but “OH! That’s what it means!” perception will be different.

One doesn’t have to be Vidura to learn these lessons, one only has to be attentive and introspective and reflect on the same stories from all possible angles. Hiranyakasipu’s story won’t change, but how many devotees remember his instructions to his family after the death of his brother? How may of us remember how he combined true spiritual knowledge with disdain for brahminical culture? How many of us reflected on how one person can be both spiritually aware, I mean know about soul, samsara, karma etc, and yet be allergic to varnasrama? How many of us look at the world and at ISKCON devotees with this possibility in mind – they can know Bhagavad Gita AND be anti-varnasrama at the same time? Most of us want just one easy label to be put on everybody.

How about Ravana being a brahmana, having implemented varnasrama, and still getting in trouble with God? When we compare someone else to Ravana, do we allow for that person to be properly initiated and follow proper sadhana?

We don’t need to be “like Vidura” to start seeing all that, start seeing Bhagavatam characters as three-dimensional personalities with faults, virtues, aspirations, obligations, relationships, all honestly trying to make the best of their lives. We just need to be attentive and reflect on what we read, not try to finish the chapter as fast as possible so that we can turn on the computer. It doesn’t mean we need to see Radha and Krishna for real to appreciate Bhagavatam, appreciate “rasa” – it’s full of rasa for each and every one of us already, it’s just that rasa we can extract from Bhagavatam is not as exalted as that experienced by Sukadeva Goswami.

When we see what Bhagavatam can give us we will also see that its offers are superior to “mundane literature” and that, indeed, we can find something new on every new reading – not new in the text, but something new within us, add something new to our consciousness. When we read enough of it we will look at a new movie trailer and immediately see that we already know what’s going to be there and the limits of where it can go. New trailers will become stale for us, too, and not because we see Radha-Krishna but because Bhagavatam tells it better.

So “no taste” is not an excuse. Rather we should admit that our taste already exists but it’s relatively low. We should stop pretending that we expect something higher, and we should find what is suitable for us in Bhagavatam. And we should know that we need to discover something new inside us, not that the text on the page should change.

War Progress

I don’t mean how the war is progressing, I mean the progress we can make while contemplating wars. Some devotees can also make enormous progress during the war itself, as letters from places like Mariupol shows. Some devotees can also become overwhelmed by circumstances and descend into bodily consciousness. In this sense wars are like diseases, vyadhi – we can talk about symptoms, causes, and cures, but the bottom line is that one’s consciousness becomes degraded and one cannot worship the Lord normally anymore. King Kulashekhara’s prayer comes to mind here – at the time of death chanting will be impossible, and this can be extended to the time of war, too. I don’t want to discuss experiences of devotees in Ukraine – what do I know about that? I’d rather talk what use can arm chair generals like myself extract from contemplating wars.

First thing – wars prove that the world isn’t flat. Suddenly we see that some moral values matter more than the others and there is no equality between them, no flatness. When discussing wars people usually mention politics or economics, maybe history, but not morals. Morals are treated as one undifferentiated blob and at best one thing is taken out of it as a moral justification, something like “historical injustice”, but this doesn’t do actual justice to the place morals play in wars.

Modern wars have become somewhat sanitized – waged by governments which hire soldiers to fly to some distant places and all we get is pictures and videos in the media. The media can create an environment where public feels that their government decisions are justified and that the opposing side are definitely bad guys, but designating someone as a bad guy and celebrating victories shown on TV is not the same as going to war. Morals do not actually get involved here, it’s only a lot of huffing and puffing about nothing.

By contrast, conflict over Ukraine is a conflict of convictions deeply held by entire societies, not just by a few individuals in charge. What’s interesting, however, is that they all draw from the same pool of moral values, they have all the same ingredients, but they select different ones to put at the top of their hierarchies. I mean it’s not that no one understands Russian concerns about NATO missiles being potentially put in Ukraine, and it’s not that Russians don’t understand the value of independence, but when they create dominant-subordinate relationships between these two ideas they make opposite choices of what should come first.

This goes back to Putin’s redline – no missiles in Ukraine. Easy to understand but, as it turns out, impossible to take it seriously. Sure he didn’t mean that it would override Ukraine’s right to self-determination, but Putin made it clear – it’s a redline, nothing else matters when it comes to redlines. Ukrainian quest for independence was dismissed with one rhyme, in English it would be “like it or don’t like it, but have to tolerate it”. It also sounded a bit rapey when Putin said it and for a few hours western media puzzled over what he meant exactly, and then they moved on, but Putin didn’t. Redline was still a redline and Ukrainian independence had to be patient and take subordinate role.

I admit I don’t understand Ukrainian case for resistance here. Sure, they don’t want to be dictated who can and who cannot put whatever missiles in their country, but the very quest for independence is illusory. No one is independent in this world and Ukrainians themselves don’t want independence either. What they want is to be dependent on the West instead of Russia. They want to join NATO, they want to join EU – they want to belong somewhere. Where is quest for independence?

Maybe it’s just me, but their entire narrative nicely fits into this two minute cartoon:

You don’t need to understand Ukrainian here – there are two girls growing next to each other. One is a good one and the other is bad, then the good one gets new friends but the bad one cannot accept it and tries to spoil it. Such a nasty character. It’s simple. It’s also about as serious as their medium of choice – it’s cartoonish.

If they take this narrative seriously and Russians don’t then it illustrates my point – people put different relative values on otherwise commonly acknowledged things.

It’s not that Russians don’t want to be a member of European family, this is patently ridiculous, but after thirty years they came to a curious realization, also based on lists of moral values, btw. So someone compiled a list of Western values and a list of Russian values and observed that Russian list is longer and therefore Russia can’t fit into Europe in a same way a bigger thing cannot fit into a smaller hole. Well, actually they meant American values and even that representation was probably unfair, but I was surprised by their mode of thinking. Sample argument – Russians traditionally place high value on cooperation and collectivism so that welfare of the whole matters more than welfare of individual parts. Can this be accommodated in the western world? No, that smells like communism and will be misunderstood and rejected, generally speaking. Therefore Russians cannot express themselves through Western framework, and after many years of trying in frustration we come to the point where they say “dhik dhik”. This means “to hell with it” in Sanskrit, repeated twice).

This makes it a choice for keeping one’s own identity and big words like “self-actualization”. Russians here want to be themselves and nothing can stand in their way. I can’t say the same about Ukrainians, however. Their desire to become European does not go beyond having more money and better stuff to buy with it. Perhaps it’s Russian propaganda but I hear stories of Ukrainian refugees refusing to get a job when they arrive in Europe. They think that since they are suffering from evil Russians then Europeans will give them free place to live and monthly stipend to go with it. Someone called a friend in France and made their case “I want to show Paris to my children, can you recommend a free place to stay for refugees for two-three days?” The reply was “You are a refugee, not a tourist, and, in any case, France is not in the business of providing free hotels.”

What I mean to say is that Ukrainian idea of Europe is cartoonish and so for them it becomes a case of seeking a new identity instead of coming to terms with their existing one. I mean if Russians want to be themselves then Ukrainians want to be anyone else but Ukrainians. Just by comparing these two approaches to life makes me conclude that there is no real case for Ukraine in this war.

Another lesson is that “democracy” is an illusory concept, too. It’s not what gives countries their power. British empire got prosperous because it subjugated a lot of countries all around the world, not because of “democracy”. The US got a good chunk of Europe after WWII and made these countries into American vassals who aren’t allowed to make any serious decisions without American approval. Example – the fate of Nord Stream 2 is decided in Washington, not Berlin. Better example yet is that if you look at the map of countries that joined Russian sanctions you will see that it very nicely corresponds with the map of countries occupied by the US in WWII. They can’t disagree, they are not allowed to, they all have to toe the same line. To restate the same point – democracy is a distraction for the masses, real power lies in military and political dominance, just as it has always been, and it’s coming from Vedic times. Therefore there is no democracy in Bhagavatam – whoever has the real power gets to dictate the rules, that’s the law, and it works in “democracies”, too.

More interesting is a lesson on “independent media”. Traditional idea is that democratic societies need independent media so that people can make informed choices about direction of their countries. Russians don’t have that, they say. True, but Russians don’t see the role of the media in the same way. Since they reject democracy (not really, but to make it simple) then there is no need for the informed population. People who make choices have to be properly informed and others have to be either encouraged or assuaged or given something to keep busy with, and that’s what the rulers need media for. Did you get this – “rulers need media”? Because this understanding rules out any need for independence.

What’s interesting is that Russians are the last to arrive at this conclusion while in the West they nailed it thirty-forty years ago. In the 90s Chomsky was already writing articles on how western media doesn’t do what it’s supposed to and it doesn’t serve people [to inform them]. Today they say Russians don’t have access to alternative viewpoints. Not true – several popular outlets have been shut down only after the war started but had a free go for decades. People listened to them, they gathered their loyal following (pro-western, needless to say), but they failed to capture the collective mind, and when the war started the government decided that their nonsense it could afford during peace cannot be allowed during war.

Once again, if it was a “modern war” fought by distant people in distant places it would not have mattered much, like these pro-western media were allowed to present alternative views on Russian involvement in Syria, but this war is too close to home to allow for any fissure between the government and the people.

More on independence – it doesn’t exist, as I said, so it’s not a question of having independent media but rather a question of who these media depend upon. Legally, it means being designated as a “foreign agent”. Usually it comes with proof of foreign funding, going to organizations like US National Endowment for Democracy and the like. Having your stuff trained by these organizations is another sign of being a “foreign agent”.

Non-Russian audience is not expected to know but Russian cultural elites are very much like Hollywood – liberal to the core. Outside we are informed of relentless Russian propaganda but there is a large number of Russian movies which offer alternative narratives of events like Russian participation in WWII, which is traditionally close to Russian heart. They glorify or at least humanize traitors and Nazi collaborators, they present Soviet army officers as bloodthirsty monsters killing their own soldiers etc etc. These movies invariably bomb at the box office but, and here is a mind blowing fact – most of them are made on government subsidies! This is the extent of pro-western elites grasp on Russian cultural space – they own it.

A few years ago a famous director made a TV serial about a Russian security officer who discovered an American regime change plot involving Russian sleeper agents recruited back in the 90s. The elites would not tolerate it and the director had to publicly apologize for making such a pro-Russian serial and second season had to be directed by someone else. So no, it’s not true that Russians have no exposure to alternative views – they do, or they did before the war, and they rejected them. Why? Many reasons, but a prominent one is probably because they see that this agenda doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Propaganda is propaganda, and they prefer to be lied by their own government, which is another interesting point.

Western ideal is privately held, not government controlled media. Okay, but private companies work for the profit of their owners while governments work for the welfare of the citizens. Corporate media wants to make money off you and the government wants you to be happy. Government takes responsibility for its citizens and cannot fire them whatever they do. Businesses take no responsibility for their workers and if they don’t fit in corporate culture they are let go and they have to fend for themselves. Governments don’t do that – they are always with you, like the Paramatma.

Which media model is better? It’s a no brainer – government one, but in today’s world it’s the opposite. Governments are supposed to be our enemies intent on cheating us and abusing their power, and corporations are presented as our true friends so that we give them all our money, meaning all our labor. Isn’t it amazing what maya makes us believe?

This is getting too long and I better wrap up. All in all, this war gives us an opportunity to see how Vedic laws still work even as the reality is covered by illusion of independence and “democracy”. Here is one last argument to ponder.

There is a legitimate question – if nobody is independent, what is Russia and Putin are depended on? If Ukraine should depend on Russia then what about Russia itself? A hundred and fifty years ago one German observer commented – Russia is dependent directly on God. Why? Because if it were not so then there would be no rational reason for Russia still keeping itself together. One could make the same argument about ISKCON, too.

And an atmospheric picture as a farewell. Death flying on the back of western anti-tank missile.

PS. None of the above seems to be about spiritual matters, but I would argue that these realizations are necessary on the way to “brahma-bhuta” platform. We must learn to see things as they are, free from illusion and propaganda. Like what progress do you expect if you can’t come to terms with your own personality and refuse to accept and act according to your own nature? The process is called “self-realization” for a reason.

ISKCON BABYLON

I think we have more in common than it appears at first. Babylon is a Biblical city where they built a Tower of Babel. I would say that’s how historians interpret it in terms familiar to them but it could be just their angle on what is unquestionably implied already – Babylon was an organization.

When an organization builds a place for its members it would be called “city”, but you can’t have a city without having organization first. Two-three thousand years from now ISKCON Mayapur could also be seen as an ancient city and it would be so recorded in local chronicles, too – it doesn’t have any special name, it’s “ISKCON” for everybody living in the area, it’s a place, and it soon will be the size of a city.

The name “Babylon” comes from the local language for “Gate of God” and ISKCON is undeniably positions itself as the gateway to the spiritual world, too. Some argue that people can get there bypassing ISKCON but I would question that, it’s a different topic, however, let’s not go into it right now.

So we have two distinctive characteristics that are matching already – a spiritual organization that purports to transfer its members to the Kingdom of God. And then there was the Tower.

The account is recorded in Genesis 11, but there are so many translations there I have no idea which one is the best. The top of this tower was supposed to be in heaven, or reach heaven. And they wanted a name for themselves, too, so that they could be distinguished from the rest of the world. Like “Hare Krishnas”. We don’t say that the top of TOVP will be in heaven or reach Goloka, but we certainly hope that our “top” devotees will have full realization of their spiritual identity and reach Krishna’s personal association. We also have an organization that supports this progress to the top. It might not be an actual tower, but we use other words like “ladder” and “pyramid” so if the future historians come across them they might think we actually tried to built a pyramid reaching Vaikuntha.

Regardless, the meaning is the same – we have a structure that allows people at the bottom progress upwards and reach the top. We are proud of providing this structure, it’s our self-identification and the essence of our existence – preaching. We also want a “house for the whole world to live in” – how’s that not a tower? Okay, it isn’t a tower yet, not at the moment, where we assume that all our members are spiritually equal, all are deserving equal services and equal respect, but it’s a temporary vision and there is a great battle against this equality going on as we speak. In the end it WILL be a tower – some people and some sections of our society will be seen as being higher and some as lower. No one can resist varnasrama forever, it will assert itself because it’s the will of the Lord for how people should be organized in this world. The point is the same – we take people from mleccha and yavana background and we aim to promote them to the highest levels of bhakti, and, hopefully, to direct perception of the Lord. That’s what the tower does, too.

God’s reaction in the Bible, however, is not at all encouraging. There is no direct explanation given but God somehow didn’t want all these people in His heaven. His first words were already about how to squash this effort, not about why. In our ISKCON language it’s about rooting out sahajiya tendencies – only the purest of the pure can actually reach Krishna, not the sahajiyas, not the ones who take it very cheaply. For sahajiyas there is no entrance into spiritual realm whatsoever. They shall not pass.

Quoted from Gauidya:

The disease of prākṛta-sahajiyā-ism is very widespread. In a form that devours everything, takes various shapes, and steals the mind, it wanders throughout the universe, increasing the covering of those jīvas captured by a seemingly natural tendency to reject Kṛṣṇa, and by severe offenses to Vaiṣṇavas, it causes further degradation of the bound jīvas and uprooting of their devotional creeper.

Gauḍīya 11.409

In other words, while the endeavor for spiritual perfection is legitimate and there need to be a structure supporting one’s progress, unless there are guards in place to weed out less than perfect aspirants the Tower cannot be allowed to reach its destination. How did God go about that in the Bible?

The Tower of Babel episode is cited as an ancient explanation of appearance of many languages and that’s how it can be seen by historians, too, but that is the result, not the process, not God’s solution. His solution was to “confound their language”, which we can safely take as “ruin their common understanding”. Once people stopped thinking in the same way their cooperation stopped and so did the construction. Who has failed to notice the same scenario playing out in ISKCON right now, too?

Do I need to mention all the contentious issues of today? I hope not. What I did notice only recently, however, is that we began to understand the same passages very differently and become very sure in our interpretations as being right and the only possible. I don’t want to give examples of this happening in real life, but I have seen devotees from opposing camps literally unable to understand what they were talking about. A quote from the Bhagavad Gita purport is appropriate in this regard:

In the mode of goodness, one can see things in the right position, one can hear things in the right position, and…

BG 14.11, purport

We have reached the point where levels of our conditioning (or levels of purity, if you look from the other end) are so different that we can’t see and hear in the same way. Whether it leads to creation of a different language is only a question of time, I’d say. In the greater society they have already created a different language to explain themselves and I, like many others, have to rely on google to understand their newly minted vocabulary. Which I immediately forget, so it doesn’t really help.

So, with so many parallels between ISKCON and Babylon, is the fate of Babel Tower is our destiny, too? I hope not, and I’m afraid so at the same time. The current project of making topmost levels of spiritual advancement being easily accessible to all is surely going to fail and it is failing already.

Last year I signed up for a virtual Kartik parikrama and I had my fill of “Imagine you are immersing yourself in the waters of Radha Kunda. Imagine the …” stories for the rest of my life. Never again. People who indulge in these narrations and assume any of it is real will eventually get tired of them, too. It’s only a matter of time, and the fact that there is a large part of our society that thinks it’s a kind of sahajiya that needs to be rejected is a testament that God’s plan for Babylon is at work in ISKCON, too. In another example some incensed members recently called for boycotting fundraising for TOVP, the project which was supposed to unite all the people of the world around it, not just all the devotees.

That’s a negative projection, but I also hope that ISKCON will survive as an organization supporting the progress of its qualified members towards the highest destination. I myself need this. I need books, I need temples, I need devotees going to the temples and holding festivals and engaging in daily Krishna katha so that it then appears on Youtube. I need devotees buying books so that other devotees can write and publish them, or at least write blog articles and post things on Facebook. This won’t be happening without audience and audience means ISKCON should create and nurture it, for no other organization will. I don’t know about reaching heaven, but we all need to make steps up the ladder, and for that the ladder must exist and provide solid support.

I thought I would end here but there is another aspect to any organization – it stifles individuals. What some see as support others see as oppression. Or it might be an evolving view of one and the same person – as support in the beginning and as an impediment later on. So another kind of experience might be noticed, too – we are wondering around this huge structure, with all its staircases, lifts, and escalators, and people hurrying here and there busy with their own progress, and we keep looking for anyone who is still alive, whose spirit is still alive, who doesn’t hold grudges, who doesn’t fight the oppressors and who doesn’t lead revolutions, but knows his way around the place and can show us wonderful things hidden here and there, or who can bring us to the higher floors and open our eyes to the wonderful vistas available there. Meeting such a person would be a blessing, so we will keep looking.

And another thing – please don’t turn our kirtans into elevator musak. That would make it into a part of the tower, not live expression of the soul we are looking for here.

Real Bhajana Rahasya for Our Age

Just before Radhashtami Bhakti Vikasa Swami gave a series of talks called “There are no gopis in ISKCON”. I didn’t mean these in my previous post, but in the second installment he recalled “gopi bhava club” incident from Hari Sauri’s Transcendental Diary. The end of Prabupada’s argument there was “preaching will stop” and it seems very conclusive, but I don’t think it would work on “gopi-bhava” devotees themselves.

For them preaching is an external activity, external reason for Lord Caitanya’s appearance, while they are interested in the internal reason, which we all accept as being higher. They would also argue that external behavior, ie preaching, is automatically manifested from the internal one. I’m sure you’ve heard it many many times practically everywhere – preaching should come from the heart. If you heart is not pure then it’s not preaching, people can sense it, and it has no value. Aindra argued like that, for example. It’s very common and it’s common sense, too. I don’t think I have an objection to it either.

So how is “preaching will stop” argument is going to stop “gopi-bhava” proponents? They would also say that by preaching we actually mean accumulating money, followers, and temples, not actual preaching. They might also argue that it was super important during ISKCON expansion in Srila Prabhupada’s time so preaching had relatively higher value back then. They would also mention “boil the milk” instruction and another instruction not to open any more temples but only restaurants given to Tamal Krishna Goswami. This makes sense, too – everybody who was ready to surrender themselves had already joined and the rest needed only kirtans and prasadam, but mostly prasadam – because eating is the only activity that never stops.

Does Srila Prabhupada’s “preaching will stop” argument sounds as conclusive now? I hope it still does, but for a different reason – it is not as external as gopi-bhava devotees think. When done properly it is absolutely internal with absolutely no connection to events of this world. It is a pure manifestation of those same internal emotions cherished by gopi-bhava devotees, and it is nothing else. Whatever they mention – experience of Radharani’s love, experience of separation, experience of Lord Caitanya experiencing these things – it’s all there, on the street. You want bhramara-gita – it’s there, nobody can be as mad as a book distributor. You want kapalika yogi talk from CC? It’s there on the streets, too. A book distributor sees all kinds of forms as weirdly connected to Krishna, even the most abominable – because nothing can touch him, no substance of this world is able of polluting him, and so every connection to the Lord, however small, shines forth like a million of Suns.

Of course this level of realization takes years to attain but it won’t come from discussing gopi-bhava, it comes from being out there on the streets and actually learning how Lord Caitanya’s mercy works. For real, not from the books.

In other words, when Srila Prabhupada warned us “preaching will stop” he didn’t mean the external activity of making new devotees but the actual flow of Lord Caitanya’s mercy. Fools think it can be found anywhere else but in sankirtana, and only ignorants think that this mercy doesn’t flow when talking to meat-eaters. They think that unless you talk about gopi-bhava it doesn’t flow, but it does! And it doesn’t appear externally – it’s not in the words, so if you record and transcribe the conversation you won’t see it. Actual gopi-bhava is a lot more subtle than that and it is perceived by the heart even as a person mumbles something about money in his wallet. Only a real “bhavuka” devotee can see how, despite his mumbling and lame excuses, this person is totally on the hook already and his arguments are like gopis’ arguments when they were standing neck deep in cold waters of Yamuna and telling Krishna they don’t want to come out and they don’t want Him to see them naked.

Out in the streets you can actually see and feel how this pastime plays out, and this is how we are expected to realize its meaning and its rasa. But if people think “it’s only external” and think they can extract this rasa by talking – they are only fooling themselves. You would actually have to go out, find a potential gopi in the not so mature stage of development of her prema, show her Krishna, and watch how she struggles being torn between obligations to this world and these mind blowing books that simply can’t be resisted even if they say completely outrageous things on the surface. “On the surface”… – at this point only gopis’ heads were above the surface and their minds were telling them one thing but their hearts, deep within prema filled waters of Yamuna, were saying another. The hearts wanted to come out and the minds were trying to stop it.

Just go out in the streets and actually experience this pastime in real life, and don’t pay attention to people who call this “external”. It isn’t. And Srila Prabhupada was absolutely right – if preaching stops our actual spiritual progress stops, too, and it can’t be revived by reading those CC and SB chapters or tons of other books going into minute details. Even those subtle shades of rasa can be found on the streets, if you are worried about missing out.

Or we can challenge external-internal dichotomy itself. If someone says the pinnacle of siddhanta is separation experienced by Radharani in Vrindavan, or as it was experienced by Lord Caitanya in Gambhira, we can answer that no, there is something higher than that – the same experience as manifested through otherwise most separated parts of the Absolute Truth – specs of His material energy. That would, logically, be the pinnacle of acintya bheda-abheda tattva – the farther you go away from Krishna the closer it feels. Or the more insignificant you become the greater the rasa.

So let the fools deride us for being only external devotees who talk to people about trivial things like they are not the bodies. What do they know? Certainly not the actual rasa.

And, of course, we could be telling people about reincarnation and know nothing about rasa, too – if we think it’s only about getting a donation or about book scores or about **doing** our service – all kinds of external reasons and explanations. We actually have to learn how to find these gopis in the streets, eternally connected to Krishna underneath their external appearances. We can’t theorize or only imagine it either, we actually have to see, and this vision is given by Lord’s mercy. There are ways to attain it but, ultimately, **He** has to give it.

This is not a theory.

Please take science out of Krishna Consciousness

Krishna Consciousness is a very scientific process in the sense that, just like in science, we show some basic working examples but promise something totally out of this world in the future. Coming any day now, right after they create life out of chemicals.

I’m saying this after listening to Radhasthami lectures where people tell us all about her pastimes, in great detail, and with great deal of confidence that this is exactly what’s going on there and we all will be able to join in not so distant future. They say things like “her face is so attractive that even Krsihna cannot resist”. Have you seen her face to state that? No. Have you seen Krishna’s face? Do you know what it means “Krishna cannot resist”? No. So what are you talking about? It’s all in your imagination, starting from the color of her skin to the color of her dress to the shape of her face to her eyes to her smile and so on, and the same goes for Krishna, too.

With all these descriptions we ascribe known material qualities, even if the best of what we have seen, to spiritual personalities, effectively making them the product of maya. I mean all the features we imagine ARE a product of maya. How about Bhaktivinoda Thakur sharing in confidence that direct perception is absolutely nothing like anything we have ever experienced in this world instead? He was speaking of his descriptions as of giving only indications of what these spiritual objects and qualities would look like if they were a part of this world, but they aren’t.

This is only half of the problem. The other half is that for these occasions devotees come prepared with new insights and revelations, and I have nothing against those per se, but the whole dynamic becomes “you haven’t seen Radha and Krishna because you didn’t know this, but now you do!” And then next year they present some other excuse why their previous insights didn’t actually show people Radha and Krishna, but never mind that, they come with more insights and more revelations, backed up by quotes and verses so it will surely work this time. Then next year it repeats again, over and over, going on for forty-fifty years now.

Again, I don’t have anything against what they are actually saying – insights, quotes, and revelations are nice, but this underlying dynamic, underlying faith that we are just one insight away from our goal, that I cannot accept as genuine.

What’s the alternative? One is to focus on what we already have – the Holy Name. In these talks, even if they often remind us of non-difference between the Name and Krishna Himself, the underlying logic is that by chanting the Name we will eventually get to see Krishna, using the Name as just a tool, not as a goal. If the Name is as non-different as they claim then why not focus on features and qualities of the Name? It’s right here, on everyone’s lips, we all can perceive it. But no, instead of what we actually know – the Name as it is reveals Itself to us, we focus on forms in the spiritual world we can’t see, and they are mostly imaginary, as I said. It’s basic fact based on basic logic – we can’t see Krishna’s features in Goloka Vrindvana without seeing the same features in the Name on our lips right now. To put it differently – what we see in the Name now is all we know about Krishna, the rest is just words.

Another alternative, actually related, is to see how truly spiritual personalities behave in this world. We have examples of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, whose appearance day is today. He was Kamala Manjari, his writings and songs are translated, his biographies are written, and there is his autobiography, too. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was Nayana Manjari and we know a lot about his life as well. So, why can’t we, instead of imagining what “nikunja-yuno-rati-keli-siddhyai” looks like somewhere there in the spiritual world, look at what they actually did down here? That is how “nikunja-yuno…” was manifested for our eyes.

We don’t know Srila Prabhupada’s exact identity but we do know he was not a person of this world, and we know how he behaved here. This was purely spiritual, too – if we got the eyes to see. Also, just like with the Name – we can’t see Krishna’s devotees in the spiritual world without seeing Srila Prabhupada’s “earthly” form as fully spiritual at the same time. Or, put it another way – we can see Krishna’s entourage to the degree we can see Srila Prabhupada (and our own gurus). Everything else is a product of our imagination.

What I’m driving at is this – stop dreaming about unattainable things that don’t even exist and stop promising them to people. It’s what science does and we should take that part out of our consciousness. We have most valuable things already given to us – the Name, Srila Prabhupada, our guru etc, but we always try to look past them, look for something else. Why? Because we don’t have realizations and without realizations we think there is nothing to see here. What do you think will be the result of this foolish endeavor? I think I can tell you – our fate will be just like that of a cloud Arjuna mentioned to Krishna – “perish like a riven cloud” (BG 6.38).

Krishna, of course, says that it’s not what happens to unsuccessful transcendentalists but our dreams will end up just like that – small clouds blown into oblivion by winds. What we will have to start with again in the next life is what we have been ignoring in this – actual realization of the Holy Name, Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual form, and our guru – with same things we don’t see as spiritual now.

Of course we see the Holy Name, Srila Prabhupada, and guru as spiritual, someone might object. But do we? If we did we wouldn’t be talking about Radha-Krishna lila somewhere in Goloka or umanifested in Vrindavana. We talk about these things precisely because we don’t see Name, Prabhupada, and guru as spiritual, but I have already said that. I can restate the same idea again, though – if we had actually heard the Name or seen our guru we would not be able to talk about anything else. We would lose all interest – if we had seen these objects for real, for what they really are.

So, please, take this “science” out of Krishna consciousness. Our future achievements will not come from our future experiments, quotes, and insights. Krishna’s form, qualities, and pastimes come from what we already have, from what we have been in possession of all along – the Name, Srila Prabhupada, guru, books etc. “Sevonmukhe” – Krishna appears in response to our service attitude (to what we already have), not in response to some future endeavors, which is trying to grasp Him with our material senses. That won’t work, ever, but it will provide a lot of false hopes to keep us going. So take this “science” out and surrender to the Holy Name.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Nama-Aparadha

It appears Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur (shortened form only for the sake of post title being concise) had a lot to say on nama-aparadha. I’m typing this down before I forget as I just listened to these stories in a class where no references were given and I can’t find confirmation in available sources. The speaker gave a lot of details and he has access to Bengali originals so there is no reason to doubt these accounts whatsoever, so here goes.

First thing, and this is where more clarity is probably needed, is that before Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati the concept of nama-aparadha was absent in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. This might not have been true of ALL Gaudiya vaishnavas but there were cases of notable opposition and this can’t be ignored. The fact that this opposition didn’t feel challenged until Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati started speaking up on this shows that there was this tacit understanding – there are no nama-aparadhas in chanting the holy name. This was their argument – the Name is all forgiving and all powerful so there cannot be a way to offend it as a matter of principle.

We could say – “Wait a minute! What about that famous verse from Padma Purana?” Every ISKCON temple has its translation on the wall somewhere – the list of ten offences. Temple devotees often recite this list before morning japa, too, so how it can be denied? The speaker didn’t clarify this but he said that Padma Purana is… not a fixed text, shall we say. Damodarastaka we sing every day during Karttik is also from Padma Purana but can’t be found in any contemporary editions. The ten offences verse is still there but it’s already in a different Canto from the time of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, so it’s possible that this verse was not widely known. Off the top of my head I can’t think of an exact place where this Padma Purana verse on nama-aparadhas is discussed in Goswami literature, though I believe everything can be found in Srila Jiva Goswami’s sandarbhas or in Hari-bhakti-vilasa. By itself it won’t mean much anyway because most of the Gaudiya vaishnavas were illiterate and caste goswamis who preached to them avoided nama-aparadhas for their own reasons.

I said “avoided nama-aparadhas” not in a sense they avoided committing offences, no, they avoided talking about offences because then it would mean they’d had to give them up and they didn’t want that. They didn’t want to reform themselves and they didn’t want to discourage their followers either. If people wanted to have a kirtan – let them, don’t interrupt them, gradually the Holy Name would purify them automatically. If you start stopping their kirtans they’ll lose the taste completely and so what would you achieve?

It’s all very reasonable and this is exactly what we often hear today – let them sing, it won’t hurt, they are singing Hare Krishna, what more do you want? Don’t be fanatical, show a little appreciation, don’t turn people away from chanting, encourage them, nurture them, give them facilities, give them praise. Gradually gradually they will come to the stage of pure chanting by the power of the Holy Name. Moreover, if you start enforcing your rules everybody will leave and you won’t have anyone to have a kirtan with.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati had none of that. His central point on nama-aparadha was that it never goes away automatically by itself. Never. People who believe it will happen are only fooling themselves. Even Krishnadas Kaviraja says so in Caitanya Caritamrita – offensive chanting will go on for many many lifetimes (CC Adi 8.16). It’s a waste of everybody’s time, and in Kali yuga time is valuable – it flies away much faster than before.

Two stories were given to demonstrate this in the life of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. First story involved a devotee from Nityananda Vamsa who helped him establish Gaudiya Math in Calcutta. He was once present during a class and when he heard Srila Bhaktisiddhanta preaching extensively on avoiding offenses he loudly protested, saying that he never heard anything like that form his guru, who was a famous acharya who translated many Goswami books (into Bengali, I suppose). To this Srila Bhaktisiddhanta calmly, without naming any names, replied that anyone who doesn’t teach his disciples how to avoid offences in chanting is not a real guru and it was not a real initiation. The devotee left, unable to tolerate such disrespect, but it is actually true – it is an essential part of initiation procedure. One must not only give a mantra but also give instructions on how to chant it. There are no rules in chanting the Holy Name but offenses must be avoided, this is essential, otherwise mantra will not bring its expected results.

There was another anecdote given, this time from Srila Prabhupada. He once let his senior disciples to give initiation lecture and he was sitting there and listening. Then at one point he interrupted it and said that one absolutely must mention avoiding the ten offenses during initiation, and then Srila Prabhupada took over and completed the talk himself. Again, no reference were given and I wouldn’t even know how to search archives for a class like that. There are 67 hits in Folio on “initiation lecture” and there is no facility to search within the results so I’d have to read them one by one, which is impractical. I have no reason to doubt it happened.

The point is this – offenses absolutely must be avoided, which we all already know, but do not take very seriously, and the guru absolutely must teach his disciples how to do that. I don’t want to play part of initiation lecture police but recent FDG initiation class was very short on anything to do with chanting and with the Holy Name and I don’t think they mentioned offences at all. They all talked about this glorious achievement of having female gurus instead. I don’t want this to be a dig at FDGs either – just a neutral point that a guru should absolutely teach about avoiding offenses, otherwise he is not a real guru and initiation is not a real initiation either. For all I know, that female devotee could have taught about offenses on other occasions, which would be sufficient, so, once again, it’s not a dig at FDG, just a reminder what we should be on a lookout for when someone claims to be a guru. Doesn’t matter male or female – it applies to everybody equally.

Second story from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s life was connected to his preaching in Jajpur in Orissa. That one I could find and so here is an account of what happened as told in Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava:

After a public program in Jajpur District, whereat Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura had spoken about the ten offenses against the holy name, the maharaja of that area objected that since the Lord’s name is pure it can be chanted in any manner without question of aparādha; and the many sadhus present there abetted his claim. Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura told the doubting monarch, “I will show you how this is true.” He asked the sadhus to remain throughout the entire second session of that function, scheduled for the next evening. “We will be having saṅkīrtana and Hari-kathā, so you should not leave,” he said. Those sadhus came, but the majority left early, being habituated to smoking ganja and tobacco or taking tea at that time. Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura then pointed out, “Because of their addictions they cannot stay for saṅkīrtana. Is this not due to their offenses?” The maharaja understood. Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura then told him that Kali resides where there is meat-eating, gambling, illicit sex, intoxication, and the search for money, so these vices should be given up by serious reciters of the holy name.

SBV 3.12.Namaparadha (located in Volume 2)

This is self-explanatory. Btw, the first story could be the one described in the previous paragraph in the book but the names mentioned and circumstances are different, so it’s either a different story or it comes from a different source, or the speaker misremembered it, which is not very likely given his scholarly nature and proficiency in both Bengali and Sanskrit. Otherwise the content of that chapter in SBV confirms everything else I heard in that class and said in this article.

One must absolutely avoid nama-aparadhas as otherwise one would not be able to make any progress. A guru who tolerates nama-aparadha committed by his disciples only deludes his followers. I’ll conclude with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s own words on this subject:

Without taking shelter at the lotus feet of śrī-guru there is no harināma. Not knowing the difference between nāma and nāmāparādha, many persons accept mud instead of milk. Thus it is absolutely essential to know the right object of worship. Why we should perform bhajana, which bhajana we should do—understanding this is called initiation from śrī-gurudeva. Dīkṣā is the pastime of imparting sambandha-jñāna.

Srila Prabhupadera Goloka-vani 3.155

“Mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ” dilemma

12 Mahajanas

We all know “tarko ‘pratisthah” verse (CC Madhya 17.186) and how it ends with “mahajano yean gatah sa panthah”, but please also note the line in the middle – “dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam”.

“Dharmasya tattvam” doesn’t need an explanation. Nihitam is translated as “placed”, but the most interesting part is “guhāyām — in the heart of a realized person”. This is the same “guha” as countless verses in the Gita – most confidential, secret etc. The meaning is “hidden in the heart”, which isn’t obvious but that’s what being “in the heart” means – it’s not easily visible to others.

SB 10.3.8 also describes the Lord as “sarva-guhā-śayaḥ — who is situated in the core of everyone’s heart.” In the purport Srila Prabhupada briefly mentions what other acaryas said about this “sarva-guha” – it also includes difficult to attain places like Vaikuntha or Mathura (Try going there during Covid? It’s impossible!). The Lord is also “sayah” – He lies there, but let’s not digress.

My point is that the ways of dharma are hidden in the hearts of mahajanas, and if we realize that then the last line – about following their paths, becomes a lot less clear.

First of all – who are the mahajanas? Their names were not given in Mahabharata where the verse is from but we usually take Bhagavatam list “svayambhur narada…” etc. Are these the only mahajanas we should follow? That seems impractical – we’ve never met any of them and know very little about their lives, let along about contents of their hearts.

One could say that we have their instructions written down in Srimad Bhagavatam and Mahabharata but that is not the same thing – it’s following the scriptures, not what we see in the hearts of great devotees ourselves, which was Maharaja Yudhisthira’s point in the “tarko pratisthah” quote.

What does following mahajans mean exactly? Bali Maharaja and Prahlada Maharaja had thousands if not millions of followers – all demons. Do we want to be followers like them? These demons saw Bali Maharaja, for example, as their legitimate and very inspiring leader, not as a hidden devotee of Visnu.

So, if we come across a “mahajana” like that – will we even recognize him? And if we do – how should we follow him? Okay, Bali Maharaja gave everything to Lord Vamanadeva, we can follow that, but that was a one off occasion and we are not likely to be placed in a similar situation more than once or twice in our lives. And yet we have to live our lives in full, moment after moment, so what does it mean “follow Bali’s example” here? What is this “pantha”, the path we are supposed to follow?

Maharaja Yudhisthira wasn’t talking about that one special moment, he was talking about day to day decisions regarding one’s dharma. Day to day Bali Maharaja lived like a demon, probably didn’t follow four regs even. What does it mean to follow him?

How about Krishna’s instruction to Uddhava: “one should be guided by the exemplary activities of My devotees, who appear among the demigods, demons and human beings”? SB 11.29.10 The verb used was “āśrayeta — he should take shelter of.” Take shelter and follow the demons (if they are devotees at heart)?

To me it doesn’t mean searching out gurus among demons or demigods but about discovering these devotees in our own environment, wherever it might be. Krishna *sends* a guru, after all, it’s all arranged according to our qualification, it doesn’t mean we have to go out of our way to find one.

I don’t mean “guru” guru, I mean a person we can learn from about what to do with *our* lives. If one wishes to go to Vrindavan and find a genuine sadhu there it’s fine, but how useful his lessons would be when you return to your world and have to deal with your boss or your subordinates and don’t know what to do? Not very useful and not very obvious. But if you knew a devotee who lives in the same society and deals with the same situations all the time he would definitely be far more helpful.

That person might not know much about Krishna’s pastimes or know nothing about Krishna at all but it’s not what you need from him right now, you need to know how stay true to the Absolute Truth in the situation you are in now. Whether his conception of the Absolute is as developed as that of Srila Prabhupada is not really important. Good enough for you, it’s all that matters. We don’t really need Srila Prabhupada telling you how to organize your Excel document, do you?

It doesn’t mean we should approach experts in their fields either – that’s not what is meant by “mahajans”. We rather need people with the correct “moral compass”, if speaking in everyday language. They should be liberal enough to keep that compass straight and understand and accept the situation we are dealing with right now. By absolute standards we, as people who chant the Holy Name, might be considered more advanced, but when we are placed in a difficult situation we should rather judge it by the standards of the situation itself – we don’t know what to do and other people do, so they are higher and we are lower.

But let’s get back to that “path of the mahajanas”, specifically Bali Maharaja. So he was a king of the asuras, he was educated in the asuric society and he lived his life like an asura should, even better than all the rest of them, and yet his personal path through all these circumstances and all his decision making eventually led him to the moment of surrender. That’s a PATH. In each and every situation he learned something, he decided something, he did something, and it all accumulated and in the end he dismissed Sukracarya’s advice and surrendered to Vamanadeva. There was a PATH leading to that decision and so every choice, every turn on the way, mattered and so should be considered as a valuable lesson we ourselves could follow.

If we come to judge these decisions by our sadhana rules or a typical understanding of varnasrama we would get nowhere. We will conclude that it’s all nonsense, doesn’t fit in our ideal model of human behavior, we will give quotes to demonstrate how wrong it was and… – we will transfer ourselves to “tarko pratisthah” line of the verse. Exactly what was rejected. Bali Maharaja’s life choices were all correct and should be accepted as such in the absolute sense. They can’t be refuted even by “sastra” – we usually call our selected quotations as “sastra”, we don’t know what the actual opinion of the personality of that sastra is. One’s own opinion is good enough for most debaters.

In the end, we must discern who a mahajana is, which is not easy, we must determine the scope of his authority, we must determine whether every his decision is correct and to be followed or only some – related to the scope of his authority, and we should decide whether it’s applicable to us. None of it is easy or simple. It’s simple in the hindsight – when we know that Srila Prabhupada was a maha-bhagavata devotee, for example. Try following him unconditionally when he was still running his business and organizing that League of Devotees? I’d say none of us would have been impressed back then.

And if one happens to find an actual, real life Mahajana, a real devotee of Krishna the way Bali Maharaja was, then good luck trying to reconcile his behavior with the ideals taught in our lectures. Our lectures present Vedic ideals, but devotees “appear among the demigods, demons and human beings” and they are not constrained by our ideals or by societies they live in. If it’s hard to reconcile then it would be much much harder to follow them ourselves.

Remember, that “tarko pratisthah” verse was supposed to end all arguments.

Fear kills… but that’s exactly what we need

When commenting on Krishna’s birth, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur illuminates the meaning of sad-garbhas, six younger brothers who were killed by Kamsa. Many already know it but let me recapitulate. These sad-garbhas were previously grandchildren of Hiranyakasipu and there were cursed by him to be killed by their father. Their father at the time was Kalanemi who then appeared as Kamsa and killed them one by one in a very cruel and inhuman manner, even though they were not technically his children anymore but were born to Vasudeva and Devaki. I don’t want to clarify this little inconsistency at this point.

The point, made by Visvanatha Cakravarti and summarized by Srila Prabhupada in a comment on SB 10.2.8, is this – Krishna was not going to appear in an ordinary human womb. The womb had to be purified and prepared first. Sad-garbhas, as previously the sons of Marici, were incarnations of six objects of enjoyment – of five senses and the mind, and this enjoyment is incompatible with bhakti. Visvanatha Cakravarti says that this enjoyment naturally arises from executing devotional service – nice music, delicious food, gorgeous deities, incense, stimulating conversations – but it is feared by a sincere devotee, who thinks enjoying these things will suck him into a cycle of birth and death. Therefore this enjoyment has to be destroyed. How? By fear.

Fear itself is incompatible with devotional service, too. In fact, the first thing that should happen to a devotee is that he becomes fearless. Here is where Kamsa comes to help – because he is fear personified. It’s his constant and uninterrupted fear of Krishna that brought him to perfection of his life, and here this fear is employed to kill all kinds of material enjoyment. Outsourced, so to speak.

His previous name, Kalanemi, literally means “the wheel of time” and it further demonstrates his power to end all things, ie kill them, and when time comes for you it appears as fear as well. Understood either way – it’s an external and natural force we have no control over, it’s just how the universe rolls – time comes and things end, nothing we can do about it.

So, what happens is that even if we are attracted by KC lifestyle and life gets pretty good, the fear should arise for us to progress any further. First he fear that this enjoyment is distracting us from bhakti, and then fear manifests externally as the force stripping us of our good karma, otherwise known as Hari – one who takes things away. Practically, it means no more good prasadam, no more sweet kirtans by Jahnavi Harrison or whoever is at the top of our charts now, smell of incense would give us headaches and philosophical discussions into the nature of things will become a huge turn off. And we WILL be afraid of losing these things. And simultaneously afraid of keeping them, too – because we will come to understand they are holding us back.

Next step is the appearance of Lord Balarama, the seventh embryo. It’s Lord Balarama, also known as Lord Nityananda’s mercy, which prepares things for Krishna’s appearance. We have heard it many times – we can’t get Lord Caitanya’s mercy without Lord Nityananda. It’s the law – Balarama, Krishna’s first expansion, has to come and set everything up. Visvanatha Cakravarti gives a list – He has to set nivasa, dwelling place, sayyana – resting place or bed, asana – sitting place, chattra – umbrella, and so on.

Old furniture has to be moved out (sad-garbhas) and new furniture has to be moved in – and not from Ikea but from the spiritual world. I hope self-assembly is not required. Balarama is the “sat” aspect of the absolute truth and “sat” means existence, which is a crucial point – it does not need proof! It simply exist and it’s a proof in itself. We can’t argue that it must be there because we have quotes and logical reasons – they are not a replacement for “sat”. If that’s what we rely on to convince ourselves then it’s cheating – Lord Balarama or Lord Nityananda’s appearance is self-evident and it becomes the source of all other arguments built upon this fact. It replaces the very foundation on which our understanding of the world is build, replaces whatever we currently think is self-evidently true. Like that health is good or money is good or honesty is good or helping others is good or looking after yourself is good. These are all legitimate aspects of the Absolute Truth, taken in a sense of “sat”, but they are only partial and limited representations of it. They become like fireflies in the presence of the Sun.

What happens next is that Krishna makes His entrance (“cit” aspect) and things become extremely clear but, more importantly, now our bhakti (“ananda” or “hladini”) will start growing like mad. Prema bhakti, as Visvanatha Cakravarti specifies, but that is beyond the limits of this article.

One more point I wanted to make is that Devaki provided the womb for the Lord after receiving the seed from Vasudeva’s mind, which is also beyond the limits here, and in a similar way we receive the seed of bhakti from our guru. It takes less than a second for this transmission – lava-matra, to be exact, and then we become like Devaki’s womb – we become the carriers of this seed. We need to uproot all the anarthas, just as sad-garbhas had to be killed, and then the seed of bhakti can start properly gestating. Then Lord Nityananda’s mercy brings us Lord Caitanya and by the mercy of Lord Caitanya the creeper of our bhakti starts to grow, eventually reaching Krishna’s lotus feet up there in Goloka. These two descriptions – the standard one from Caitanya Caritamrita and Visvanatha Cakravarti’s explanation of Krishna’s birth – are talking about one and the same thing that has to happen to all of us. Same principle, same stages, just the point of application is different – one is applied to Devaki and another is applied to our own bodies, which might happen to be male and so incapable of carrying children.

Kamsa threatening Devaki

On Maharaja Yadu and the need for strong body and sensual power

To supplement this quote “The soldiers in this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement must always possess physical strength, enthusiasm and sensual power” (SB 8.2.30p) related to Gajendra lila.

Maharaja Yadu, the founder of Yadava dynasty in which Krishna himself appeared, gives us a valuable lesson in this regard. His father, Yayati, “triggered” his wife once and got cursed to become old for that. He begged for mercy and was allowed to exchange his invalidity for someone else’s youth and thus have his wife back. First he approached Yadu but was flatly refused and on this basis Yadu’s behavior can be classified as adharma – refusing his own father, but it’s not as simple as that.

Yadu refused an adharmic order of his secondary father but carried out the desire of the Lord, who is the primary father. Why adharmic order? That’s actually interesting.

I, and I assume many others, thought that Yayati exchanging invalidity for youth meant that Yayati’s old body became young, but a couple of commentators on Bhagavatam take it to mean that “Yayati the soul” entered the body of a young person – it was a body swap, not a change of one body. So, when Yadu considered this offer, he saw it as his young body having sex with the body of his own mother! EWWW! Never mind it was his father’s soul inside – it’s still clearly adharmic, especially if we consider that body comes with thoughts and desires and so with the ability to feel sexual arousal in contact with certain other bodies/ideas. Since we can’t actually see the soul, it was son having sex with his mother and there is no other way to perceive it externally.

Back to Yadu, his main reasoning was that invalidity is a big obstacle in performance of one’s bhajana and therefore it should be rejected. One could say that pure devotion is transcendental but that’s not how Yadu saw himself. He knew that for his bhajana – for his sadhana, really, he needed a young body capable of expressing and purifying his desires and that an old body was of no use to him.

He didn’t want to be a hypocrite and pretend that he was so advanced and free from desires. He didn’t care that his reputation might take a hit the way early ISKCON devotees were ashamed of getting married, especially if they had already taken sannyasa.

Come to think of it, this kind of sannyasa is a social obligation and it dictates how one should behave according to expectations and desires of others. Yadu, on the other hand, thought – to hell with others, my first obligation is to the Lord and if the Lord wants me to purify my materialistic proclivities then so be it. This desire of the Lord is more important than anything else and I don’t care if it makes me appear weak or disobedient or anything. If the Lord wants me to appear fallen then so be it, too. I’m not going to ignore the Lord and listen to my friends and family instead.

In this way Yadu took an unconventional and unexpected path to perfection, but because it was Lord’s desire and he accepted it the Lord eventually appeared in Yadu’s dynasty and – not a little thing – manifested His full sweetness while doing so. This sweetness is impossible in the dynasties of those who live strictly by the rules – He tried as Lord Ramacandra of the Surya dynasty and maryada-purusottama – the perfectly behaved human being, but it just didn’t work.

This is related to the nature of sweetness – it comes from being very close and forgiving. It appears when absolutely everything is accepted and so there is a complete unity between two persons. Completeness of this unity is not in thinking and desiring exactly the same but in eagerly embracing any and all different desires as one’s own. In simple words – whatever you do, I will not judge you for that and I will back you up all the way, we are in this together. It’s the foundation of unconditional surrender – devotees surrender to the Lord and the Lord surrenders to the desires of His devotees.

This sweetness – madhurya – permeates every other rasa in Vraja, they are all just variations of it. In this world, however, it exists only as a brief period of infatuation at the beginning of a relationship but today people are raised to ignore it and overpower it and behave in a self-interested way instead – because no one can be trusted and one might make serious mistakes affecting the rest of his life and because it saves one from heartbreaks and disappointments and so on. Therefore I don’t want to make any comparisons between madhurya and whatever is available in this world.

My point is that Yadu felt the need to deal with his material desires and the Lord fully supported him every step of the way – you want a wife? Get married, have children, rule the kingdom – get it out of your system so that these unfulfilled desires don’t bother you in your old age. This sounds like pravritti marga, which is not generally welcome in our sampradaya, but neither the Lord nor His devotees are conditioned by these considerations. Whatever works – in their relationship – is perfect and should not be judged or intruded upon. They are happy together and that’s all that matters. If we have some other ideas how they should interact we should keep them to ourselves.

There is a lot to say about Moon dynasty in this regard – the story of Moon god’s adultery plays a prominent part in how it developed. One could say it’s all built on illicit relationship, it’s an integral part of what makes it “Moon” as opposed to “Sun”. Sun is the manifestation of sat-shakti of the Lord, the shakti or righteousness and propriety while Moon is the manifestation of ananda – of whatever feels right. Therefore real ananda – madhurya – is impossible in the realm of sat and sat is impossible in the realm of ananda – think parakiya rasa as an example. Krishna just does not want to be married to Radha because it dampens their actual relationship, it takes the edge out of it – it must be illicit to be enjoyed fully.

Elsewhere this dichotomy manifests as right-hand and left-hand paths in Vedic society. We traditionally follow the right-hand path, especially in our behavioral norms, but our goal is totally left-hand, where Srimati Radharani stands. But we can’t get there without right-hand mercy of Lord Nityananda so both must be there. It’s hard to navigate these waters and even harder to describe a straight and narrow path towards our goal. I suspect it doesn’t even exist and there must be a point where a devotee says “good-bye my morning bath” as in that famous verse. If one is unable to make this step he will never enter the realm of rasa, we have been warned about that, too.

Rdha-Krishna