Pilgrim’s Diary 6. Summer Sadhana

We left the pilgrim coming to his guru with the problem of losing taste, to which the guru replied that it’s just Satan testing the mind and that the mind had to be brought under control. Let’s see what it meant in practice.

First lesson, supported by sastra, was to chant audibly. Interestingly this “oral prayer” was not translated as such, it’s simply “repeat the prayer” in English, but I think it’s an important distinction. We are told not to chant our rounds in the mind from the start so we don’t have experience of this. When we do chant in the mind and something else comes up we simply stop chanting because we have no obligation to continue – it doesn’t count to our daily quota anyway. For the pilgrim, however, it was not an option and therefore his guru told him that restless mind can be brought under control by manifesting the mantra on a gross audible level. Then the mind will be captured by the audible sound.

It makes sense – when the mind is swayed away by something subtle it can be brought back by something gross, by something stronger. I think for us it would mean that if we chant and the mind strays away we can increase the volume or change the speed or do something similar to remind our mind that chanting is still going on and it’s demanding its attention. Same principle but applied on the next level of distractions. Whenever the mind loses concentration we have to do something to attract it again. Most often we are told to simply force it to listen but I don’t know what’s wrong with changing speed/volume/tone etc.

The pilgrim didn’t slide down to our level of inattentiveness yet and so was told to chant audibly AND he was given japa beads, too. He was told to repeat the prayer three thousand times per day, not too loudly, not too fast, not too slow – just like we are told to chant our japa. He was also told that it doesn’t matter whether he chanted sitting, standing, lying down, or walking. Exact same instructions are given to us as well. Three thousand prayers – how many rounds is that?

One prayer consists of five words so three prayers makes roughly one Hare Krishna mantra, so three thousand prayers make one thousand Hare Krishnas, which is roughly ten rounds, give or take, which is about an hour. We usually tell people to start with one, two, or four rounds. Ten rounds sounds like a lot to ask on the first day, but people are more distracted now plus the pilgrim was not a new devotee, he was new only to chanting.

He struggled for a day or two but then chanting had become easy and he felt he actually wanted to pray, it had become a desirable activity. Likable, as they translated it. He reported to his guru and was told to increase his chanting to six thousand prayers, which is like twenty rounds or two hours, which is already more than our sixteen, and he’d been practicing for not more than two weeks only. The guru knew it was a big ask so he told the pilgrim not to panic and TRY to fulfill this vow, and also to rely on Lord’s mercy – “God will vouchsafe you His grace,” he assured him.

The pilgrim carried on for a week as best as he could, ignoring perturbations of his mind. He really really wanted to follow the instructions of his guru and it paid off – he got so used to chanting that he wanted to do it even as he was talking to other people. Conversation would go on but inside he would think of coming back to his hut and resuming his chanting. Ten days later the guru himself came to check on his progress and the pilgrim shared his newfound love of praying. He was then told to cherish, protect, and nurture this habit. He was told not to waste time on anything else but rather make a vow, with God’s help, to increase chanting to twelve thousand prayers, which is sixty thousand names, which is a bit less than forty rounds, about four hours per day. He was told to avoid company, get up earlier and go to sleep later, and to report his progress every two weeks.

First day was hard and he struggled to complete his rounds late into the night. Second day chanting was easy and even pleasurable, and something else happened, too – he felt physical effects of chanting, his tongue got tired, his fingers got wooden, and pain even went up the arm to the elbow, but it was a pleasing pain, it felt very welcome. Strictly speaking, he felt this subtle and light pain in the roof of his mouth but I can’t relate to that. What is also interesting is that he was chanting with his left hand and moved beads with the left thumb. In Indian culture it would seem barbarian because left hand is considered dirty but, if we are talking about cleaning oneself, the pilgrim probably used his right, his dominant hand, so even the principle of cleanliness was somehow followed without any specific instructions about it. Five days he was chanting like that, happy to feel the slight and subtle pain that comes with accomplishing something great, and he really really got into this new habit of his. Even the pain was urging him to chant more. He was not only pleased but hungry to chant and chant and chant.

Then one day something else happened – he got woken up by an urge to recite his morning prayers but his tongue wasn’t sharp enough, the prayers didn’t come out smoothly, and he realized that he wanted to chant his Jesus Prayer instead. He gave in to this desire and it carried him through. He felt lightness within and his mouth was chanting the prayer entirely by itself, without being forced to do so. He felt so much joy after giving up his usual obligations and taking shelter only of his chanting that he finished his rounds earlier than usual.

Short reality check – I know I calculated that it should have taken him no more than four hours but he says on that day he started early in the morning and finished early in the evening, which is a lot more than four hours even in high latitudes of Russia. Summer daylight there is much longer than twelve hours, not four. It probably means that he was chanting much slower than we chant our Hare Krishna. This makes sense – the prayer meant something for him, it wasn’t just a bunch of foreign sounds. The meaning had to be born in the heart, reflected in the mind, and articulated by the tongue. It takes time to express a meaning, to propagate the meaning through the subtle and gross coverings of the body. I think we are missing this in our chanting. We know what the words of the Hare Krishna mantra mean but they also don’t meat much to us, we can utter them with great speed and one word won’t feel any different from the other. We are not even listening to the Names, we simply hear the Names being spoken. Our minds don’t take any time to process what we hear when we chant. We do take time to process what we hear during a conversation or even during a lecture, but not during chanting. This is an interesting subject that must be addressed separately, so let’s get on with the book.

The pilgrim liked chanting so much and he finished his rounds early but he was afraid of chanting more than was ordered. After a few days like that he went to his guru with the report. The guru was glad to hear of pilgrim’s progress and commented on the self-generating power of the prayer. He compared it to the machines of those days which required an initial force but then keep their momentum going on their own. Chanting should be like that, too, it should have self-sustaining power of its own. This hasn’t happened to me, at least not in the same way. I could argue that even chanting sixteen rounds is an activity sustained by Krishna’s mercy, that I don’t have to struggle to keep it going, but it’s not quite the same. Maybe if I chanted twelve hours every day like the pilgrim did then this self-sustaining momentum would have been more obvious. Anyway, at this point the guru removed the upper limit on the number of daily prayers.

This is the point most of us, I believe, haven’t reached yet. He was told to stop counting and simply pray at all times. He was told to surrender his will to Lord’s will and trust that the Lord won’t abandon him. To me it means surrender to the Holy Name itself and let the mantra guide and protect us, as we keep chanting it without pause, but it wasn’t specified in the book. The Lord and Lord’s prayer were seen as different entities. Whatever – it doesn’t really matter as much as an eager desire and ability to chant all the time.

This was how the pilgrim passed the rest of the summer – chanting, chanting, and chanting. He felt very peaceful, it wasn’t a vow that was difficult to keep, and he had often seen himself chanting in his dreams, too. If he ever met anybody during the day he saw them as his close relatives even if he met them for the first time. He was completely in love with his chanting. His mind gave up creating disturbances and started to listen to the prayer itself. His heart felt special warmth and pleasure in chanting, too. If he ever went to the church then long services there didn’t strain him and felt very short instead, and when he returned to his straw hut he felt like it was a palace, and he felt very grateful that God sent him a guru who gave him this wonderful method of praying. Then, at the end of the summer, the guru died. Just like that. He was gone.

The pilgrim cried at his guru’s funeral and he asked for guru’s japa beads, which he was given. Summer ended, the fields no longer needed guarding, his job was over, he was given two dollars and full bag of dried bread for services rendered and let go. He was on the road once again, except this time he didn’t go to places driven by the need to arrive – his prayer was always with him already, he didn’t feel any needs, and he noticed that people he met in this travels became kinder to him, too. Then he thought about two dollars he was carrying and decided to buy a copy of Philokalia for himself. It wasn’t enough for a brand new book but he found a second hand copy and was happy with it.

That’s where we leave him at the end of his first story – walking the roads, sometimes up to seventy miles a day, but not even feeling it because Jesus Prayer had taken over his life. The Holy Name had become his most prized and most dear possession. If he felt cold the prayer literally warmed him and if he felt hungry taking shelter in the prayer made him forget about food. If his back or his knees ached he took shelter in the prayer and forgot about pain. If somebody insulted him he would think of the sweetness of his prayer and forget bitterness and feeling offended. Whatever worldly worries came into his view he only wanted to be alone with the prayer, paying no attention to them. He became half mad in his aloofness from the world.

He still didn’t know how to transfer the prayer into his heart but he didn’t dare to try it himself without guru’s orders. He waited for some instructions first, he waited for God to show him the way. What he understood already, though, was that sastra’s instructions to pray without ceasing were real. He now knew what it meant.

A final world – in one summer the pilgrim went through sadhana stages I can only hope to achieve in my whole life. Will a day come when I, too, would be able to chant incessantly, day and night, without paying attention to anything else? It’s clearly desirable, though not mandated directly. Should we wait for direct instructions like the pilgrim did? Or maybe general orders are enough? What comes first – desire, guru’s order, or ability? At the end of the day, I think we should do what the pilgrim did at this point – let the Holy Name make its own arrangements, let it speak for itself. When we are ready we will hear the order to chant more, and when we are not ready the Holy Name will find a way to distract us from chanting, too. Purity is the force, as we often say. In this case it’s the purity of chanting that gives us force to chant more and more. That’s what I think.

Lord Caitanya Invented Democracy

Disclaimer: One might require some background information to get on the same page first. You can scroll down to the very last paragraph for directions where to find it. Please keep this in mind if you find something hard to process in this article.

I’m fully aware of Srila Prabhupada’s demonization of democracy and I’m not going to argue that he was wrong. There is another angle to it, however, which should enrich our understanding (at least it did for me) and it accommodates Srila Prabhupada’s condemnation of democracy as well.

Any social structure follows people’s religion. In ages when Vedic sacrifices or temple worship were the main dharmas they were naturally accompanied by corresponding social structures. Yajnas and temples were not cheap and so those who had the means to pay for it were at the top, together with those who knew how to utilize these assets, which means kings and “brahmanas” in Vedic speak or “clergy” in western languages. They performed the worship, they got the benefits, and they distributed these benefits down the hierarchical pyramids. Apart from graciously accepting these benefits streaming from the top, other people’s roles in performing these dharmas was also very well defined and this means there were qualifications to be attained, which means there was training, which means there were rules to follow, which means there were social structures controlling the society, and these structures were hierarchical.

To illustrate further, in Satya yuga, the age of meditation, there were no varnas and in Kali yuga there is no varnashrama to speak of either, which brings me to the main point – harinama sankirtana, yuga dharma for this age, does not need kings and brahmanas. Everyone can chant simply by himself, there are no rules and regulations to chanting and no price attached to it either. “Price” means somebody has to give you the money and so you become dependent. Not so with sankirtana – you really don’t need anybody else to succeed.

What it means in practice is that people have discovered that various goodies associated with following dharma in the categories of artha and kama can come to them without reliance on kings and clergy. In addition, since kings and clergy were engaged in dharmas which lost their efficacy, it became pretty obvious that the old system stopped working and no benefits trickled down from the top either. In the end, hierarchical social structures became redundant and people started valuing individual achievements instead, which gave us democracy and elections.

One could object that developement of democracy, invention of constitutions, and, of course, elections were all happenings in the west while Lord Caitanya appeared in India, which is still not a place one would think of when searching for examples of successful democracies. Rather the opposite – and that’s what Srila Prabhupada noticed as well – democracy only made things worse there.

This objection works only if we constrain Lord Caitanya to a particular time and place and strip Him of His universality. What do I mean by that? We don’t deny His universality, we are just waiting until His movement spreads all over the universe! Well, this understanding of universality does not satisfy me. I’d rather argue that Lord Caitanya was universal from the very beginning and He doesn’t have to come to possessing it in due course of time.

Moreover, I’m against dividing universe geographically where something has to spread from one physical location to another. Vedic universe spreads from ego to intelligence to mind to senses to sense objects. Each of these elements has a corresponding planetary system, ours being Bhuloka, of course. When we talk about changes observed in our geographical locations in a classical, western way, it’s like thinking that flowers on a tree spread from to another rather rather than growing out of their respective locations on twigs and branches. Even better example if we think that flowers spread from one to another in a garden rather than growing out of their own roots, but universe is compared to an inverted tree so let’s go with that.

What I mean to say is that Lord Caitanya introduced harinama sankirtana not “in India” but at the top level of the universal tree. It was fundamental shift in how the entire Vedic universe worked, and then “flowers” started appearing out of this common root even though they appeared to us as being in disconnected geographical locations, so sometimes we had to carry them from one country to another where they haven’t appeared yet.

In the West these flowers were in the form of people sitting at home and thinking about God, and thoughts are also a form of sound, just as chanting in the mind. With Lord Caitanya’s blessings, suddenly these thoughts started to produce tangible results. People who were thinking about God in the Middle Ages, too, but they didn’t have these blessing and so produced nothing notable. During Renaissance, however, these same people became capable of expressing themselves in all kinds of marvelous ways – writing, painting, sculpture, music, and, of course, science, and all these fruits have suddenly become abundant. It suddenly started working – just around the time of Lord Caitanya’s appearance in India.

Stepping back a little – we are not connected to people directly, we are connected through the Supersoul – every sankirtana devotee knows that. If you want people to buy your books you have convince Krishna first, and then they will buy them. Same happened with harinama sankirtana as universal dharma – when Lord Caitanya, as yuga avatara, inaugurated it people accepted it all over the world as being dictated from within their hearts as well. Just as the decision to buy a book comes from within the heart – I’m not inventing anything new here.

So it’s in this sense that Lord Caitanya “invented” democracy. In a sense that he made individual practice of religion possible, and from dharma comes artha and kama, and people realized that old ways need to be replaced to reflect this new reality, as I already explained.

Now back to Srila Prabhupada’s “demoncrazy” observation – it surely looked that way in India where democracy was a foreign import rather than a home grown realization. It surely looks that way in the West, too, but that’s because any religion is open to abuse. It wasn’t meant that way but, after a few hundred years of practicing anything can become corrupted – just look at the state of Lord Caitanya’s own movement at the time of Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

I could discuss the exact ways of this corruption in some detail but I don’t want to waste time on this. I’ll just point out that underlying power behind democracy – individual achievements in practice of religion – are used to rebuilt hierarchical structures which are known to fail. That’s what elections are for, after all – to rebuild hierarchies and force people to obey “the law”. How’s it even supposed to work? It’s a mismatch from the get go.

Another interesting point is “Srila Prabhupada brought Lord Caitanya’s movement to the West” – is my presentation here contradicts this? I don’t think so. I’d rather say that Srila Prabhupada gave the final impetus to people who were already on the precipice of “fructifying”. Conversely, those who were not ready through the process of development and evolution within their own cultures couldn’t accept Srila Prabhupada’s message. Hippies got it, yuppies couldn’t (if anyone remembers what “yuppie” means) . In other words, we don’t have to look at Srila Prabhupada as bringing something from the outside, from India to America, but as someone who lightened up people from the inside, from hippies to happies, as they used to say.

One could object “but he brought Hare Krishna mantra from India!” To this I would answer that this misses the main point – he brought pure chanting of the holy name, the mantra itself was just the container and Srila Prabhupada didn’t even insist on people chanting Hare Krishna specifically. Today we can give people the same mantra but because we don’t have the purity it does not have the same effect. We think that this horizontal transmission, from one place to another, is the key, but, as I said – no, it’s not, the key is bringing changes to people’s consciousness and it happens from the inside of their hearts, just like the mercy of Lord Caitanya – it illuminates one from the inside. External triggers, like books or devotees, matter only when they carry the same internal transformation, and they don’t always work. When Lord Caitanya illuminates one’s consciousness from the inside, however, then even a simple “Hare Krishna” greeting can trigger all kinds of powerful emotions.

To sum it up – please don’t constrain Lord Caitanya to empirically observed events of this world. He appeared in India five hundred years ago – true, but that’s not all. Not all at all.

If you click “Lord Caitanya” tag on this blog top two posts discuss this different understanding of what “Lord Caitanya” means in some detail. It’s not a recent thought in my mind and I here I built on that previous understanding.

Hidden corners of the Earth

Let’s start with typing on the computer – as I am doing it letters appear one after another, building up words from left to right. That’s how typing was designed from the start. Each letter adds one more character, each letter does it equally, they are all on the same level and none of them are more important than others.. There is even a category of fonts called “monospace” where each letter takes the same width on the line, doesn’t matter whether it’s a thin “i” or a fat “w”. This is how it was worked originally and assigning each letter its optimum width was a later improvement.

This design is very Anglo-centric, however. Devanagari and related family of scripts conceive of forming words very differently. Basically, only consonants matter and only consonants deserve to be placed on the line. Vowels do not deserve the same privilege. Vowels are meant to modify the meaning of consonants and if they do not do so, like the default vowel “a”, they are not even written down. Others, like “i”, “u”, “e” etc, are attached to and written around consonants. They do not have a standing of their own. Okay, not always – every vowel has its own free standing form and sometimes you see them in the text, but not very often. It happens when they have no consonants to be attached to, like in the beginning of a sentence, in which case they are not considered as attached to the first consonant. No sir, vowels have to follow consonants, they cannot come ahead of their consonant “masters”.

This treatment of language and vowels specifically comes from a different concept of space. I mean physical space here. Western thought has developed from ancient Greeks’ understanding of space as being uniform and continuous. Continuous means that there are no gaps in space and each “gap” is, theoretically, filled with an infinite number of points. There are mathematical theories demonstrating that, comparatively speaking, there are as many of these points between the start and the end of one inch line as there are outside of this inch. It’s not like for each point inside one inch line there are two or more points outside. This leads to a very interesting discussion of how the entire space can be contained within an infinitely small box – because all the points on the outside can be copied into the inside, just put them there more densely, but it’s beyond the scope of this article.

Uniform means that one meter here is the same as one meter there. This has been challenged by Einstein’s relativity where distances can shorten, but Greeks didn’t know about that, science didn’t know about that until a hundred years ago, and it hasn’t tricked into public consciousness either. Advanced math might be there but we still think of the world as being a continuous and uniform space. Therefore westerners developed democracy – it’s just extending this concept of space to human society. Everybody is equal, just like letters on this line, and everybody, just as every letter, has the potential to start a new sentence and become “first”, and also capitalized.

Vedic space is not like that at all. They rather go from people to things – in the west the things (atoms, inches, and kilograms etc) are equal and so should be people, but Vedic sages see that people are organized hierarchically and so should be things, including meters and pounds. “Hierarchically” means like a tree (which is also a “thing”, btw), and hierarchically doesn’t simply mean first, second, third, but that each node can have many children and these child nodes can start their own branches. People have children, too – that’s how the world works, and so that’s how matter is arranged as well. I speak of this as “ancient Vedic sages thought” rather than as it was revealed but it’s only for convenience, don’t hold it against me. How about this – “Vedic sages saw the society and dull matter as organized in the same way”, and let’s leave the question of how they come to this vision out of this discussion.

Anyway, the point is that if matter is organized hierarchically like that then it means it’s neither uniform nor continuous. Rather there is a discrete number of nodes – parents, siblings, and children, and there is no “space” in between, pretty much like in quantum mechanics where continuous placement or continuous state change of quantum particles is impossible. When we place something “in space” it means we are talking about the parent node and in this space we can find all the siblings available under that node. That parent node has its own parent and its own siblings, and it will be in its parent space which is categorically different from the space below, where we are now. What I mean to say is that our physical space is not all-encompassing and it has its own parent and its own siblings and in that space, higher than our empirical reality, there are no meters and miles.

This is easy to understand on the example of dreams. Dreams create new spaces where we live like in a waking reality but meters of this world do not measure distances in our dreams – they are qualitiatively different form of reality. There ARE distances in dreams but flying up there doesn’t mean equivalent movement of our bodies down here.

On a tree model a dream is like a branch attached to a trunk of our body. When we measure things along the trunk, a branch is a spot a few centimetres wide and a few centimetres long, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the length of the branch itself. Similarly, our dreams are attached to a few pounds of our brains but it doesn’t tell us anything about the breadth and length of our dream experience.

Here I can finally introduce the main point of this article – our physical space can have its own branches as well. In popular literature they are called “portals”. Like there is this old wardrobe in the house, you go inside and there is entire world of Narnia there, but from the outside it’s just an old wardrobe. Crucial objection here is that Narnia is a work of fiction and we never seen such portals in real life. As devotees we can agree on dreams and upper planetary systems as being some kind of multidimensional reality imperceptible to our senses, but we never think of our Earth being organized in the same way. We’ve never seen empirical reality behave like that.

Fine, we’ve never seen it, but why? I would argue it’s precisely because we think it’s impossible. We created this theory of uniform and continuous space, which I mentally refer as “flat”, btw, and so the world appears to us according to this conception. We have become conditioned to perceive it like that. We have these shores on our eyes. We control our senses never to request access to hierarchical space and so access is never given. Pretty much lie if you don’t know what a “lassion” is you will never recognize it – you must have a concept before you can perceive the thing, otherwise you will interpret it as something else. We purged “portals” from our consciousness and we never see them, never perceive them even when they are theoretically there.

I don’t want to discuss how we can develop such concepts and how we can start perceiving these “portals” – it’s something for those interested in karma, I’m only mildly curious, but what it does explain is all kinds of weird things and numbers from shastra.

We can’t comprehend a quadrillion of Ugrasena’s bodyguards, for example, only because we try to fit them into our space where they have to stand next to each other and so our allotted square mileage can accommodate only so many of them. Hierarchical space, on the other hand, means that there is a branch called “bodyguards” and this branch has a quadrillion children. It’s attached to our physical space through a portal the size of a “guards house”. Once you enter there you can see the space inside where there are barracks upon barracks, there are access roads, there are armories etc etc. When you come back out there is a building called “living quarters” next to the “guard hourse” and it’s also a portal with quadrillions of houses, wives, and babies inside.

Or take the case of Narada observing 16,108 Krishna’s palaces in Dvaraka – each palace is its own space and, as siblings, they are not connected to each other so each queen thinks she has Krishna all to herself. They are only connected through their parent portal. There are many many more examples like this. Everything in Vrindavana works like this. Putana had a twelve mile long body lying outside of Nanda Maharaja’s house and it won’t fit on our maps of Vrindavana but it becomes easy if we have a portal called “Nanda Maharaja’s backyard and orchards” next to a portal called “cowshed” where there are 900,000 calves plus their mothers and all the bulls. Or was it 900 million calves? You get the point.

Puranas similarly describe our Bharata Vasra as being divided into nine “khandas” which are inaccessible to each other, only through a portal located in Himalayas. Okay, it doesn’t say “portal located in Himalayas” but that’s what is being described – all the entrances are in the Himalayas and each land goes from Himalayas to the sea.

To sum it up – subdivisions of physical space exist even on our Bhu-mandala, there are “portals” into spaces which are as physical as ours, and this idea of space branching out is not applicable only to the higher planets in the universe or other states of being like dreams.

Mayapur Miffs

With annual GBC meetings upon us, all the big guns are converging on Mayapur. Will GBC cave in to Indian RGB demand to withdraw FDG resolution? What are they going to do? How will the conflict be resolved? Will there be any actual female gurus approved and will they conduct initiations right there and then? There might be come other serious issues discussed as well but regional appointments reshuffles do not excite devotees nearly as much.

This week Mayapur authorities arranged for two consecutive Bhagavatam classes to be given by two most visible figures in pro- and anti-FDG camps. First was Anuttama Prabhu, ISKCON Minister of Communications, who tirelessly campaigned for FDG adoption and even rushed to IRGB meetings to make his case before Indians only to see IRGB to accept anti-FDG resolution. Next up was Basu Ghosh Prabhu, temple president in Baroda and either the IRGB chairman or some other big title like that. How did this battle turn out? Not well, in my not so humble opinion.

They were coming from the opposite corners but I was surprised how much they were actually alike. Both didn’t prepare for the class and quickly changed the topic from Bhagavatam text to their favorite subjects. Both didn’t know how to recite their verses, which is especially disappointing for Basu Ghosh Prabhu, who promotes learning Sanskrit on every occasion. Both quickly turned to promoting their stance on FDG and both used scare tactics to present themselves as the only potential saviors. Both avoided mentioning FDG directly, even it was clearly on both of their minds. Both relied on unnamed sources and hearsay in support of their stances. Both argued that we, the devotees, are not transcendental in our behavior and so have to learn a thing or two about culture first. Both appealed to Srila Prabhupada’s authority to make their cases. Both relied on some historical precedents. The only difference was in “which culture” and in “what scares you the most”.

For Anuttama Prabhu, what I liked most was that he didn’t cite Christian sources once during the class. At the same stage last year – public lectures before GBC meetings, he and then his wife talked about Mother Teresa, Saint Francis and quoted some truly humble Christian girl. It’s all nice but we have our own tradition to support any moral idea like humility or tolerance or seeing all souls as equal. I don’t expect Anuttama Prabhu to quote Bhagavatam in Bhagavatam classes – he is clearly not a scholar, but no Christian quotes was a major achievement for me.

On the other hand, for every case he cited I immediately thought of opposing examples from exactly the same sources. Lord Caitanya didn’t discriminate in who He gave His mercy to? Yes, unless you are a king of Puri and there’s no chance you get to meet Him. There was no discrimination if you passed Swarupa Damodara’s quality control, too. Otherwise you couldn’t present your poetry or shastric treatises to the Lord. Mahaprabhu didn’t tolerate any nonsense – one whiff of mayavada and you are out. Even Advaita Acharya got the business end if His mercy, though that was Advaita Acharya’s plan all along. In early ISKCON history there were devotees who cheated the public and collected donations in the name of non-existing charities, that’s true, but Srila Prabhupada also defended “by hook or by crook” book distribution on several occasions – that’s just history, and it’s not as black and white as we have been presented. I’ll given an example later.

For Basu Ghosh Prabhu, given that he knows Sanskrit, one could have expected delving into commentaries by other acharyas on these verses and pastimes. Jiva Goswami’s Gopala Champu, which is already translated, would have been a possible choice to start, but, as I said, he also didn’t know how to recite his given verse. Granted, it’s not an easy one (SB 10.8.31), but even I figured it out after looking at it for a few minutes, and I don’t know what any of these words mean. I do know where to look for examples, though. Anyway, Basu Ghosh Prabhu quickly steered the class to a Bhagavad Gita quote and, as is usual among our lecturers, never returned to Bhagavatam again. He did cite verse after verse from the Gita, which is a plus, but when will we have devotees who can find Bhagavatam support for Bhagavatam classes? Everything said in Bhagavad Gita is in Bhagavatam, too. Or look at Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu or Jiva Goswami Sandarbhas – there are tons and tons of quotes from Bhagavatam to support this or that assertion but I can’t remember a single one from Bhagavad Gita. In our classes it’s the other way around because our devotees study only the Gita and that’s what they know how to talk about. The real challenge in Bhagavatam classes then becomes how to quickly and transparently steer the discussion towards what they know from Gita. The taste for Bhagavatam itself has obviously not developed yet.

Predictably, the need to learn Sanskrit came up pretty quickly, too. I’m all for it, but at the end of the class one devotee in the audience asked a simple question – we don’t need to learn Sanskrit to understand Srila Prabhupada, who wrote in English for us, so why should we spend time on it? Traditionally, it takes twelve years to master Sanskrit – for the young people. Older ones, like me, are hopeless by comparison, and for what? India is full of Sanskrit “scholars” who totally miss the point of everything and even our ISKCON had a fair share of Sanskritologists who dropped out and went into different directions. Personally, I’d like to see more devotees in the way of Bhakti Vijnana Swami who doesn’t freely read Sanskrit, afaik, but who can give multiple explanations and shades of meaning for every word in every verse. This really helps to understand what the shastra is talking about and what different acharyas chose to highlight and why. So it’s a simple test – if knowing Sanskrit doesn’t help one better understand and appreciate Srimad Bhagavatam – what’s the point? I’ve yet to hear Basu Ghosh Prabhu make his Sanskrit useful in this way. “Skanda Ten, Adyaya Eight” is nice, but doesn’t add anything to our understanding. Neither is forcing everyone to repeat “pada-pataha”, which means “word for word translation”.

As for FDG case, I’d rather avoid discussing it here. I think Basu Ghosh Prabhu missed a chance at the end of the class when one of the female devotees objected “we [women] don’t want to be like men, we just want equal opportunities”. This is a common argument – we don’t want equality, we want equal opportunities. Do they even hear themselves when they say things like that?

On us being not transcendental – I don’t know how FDG support can be derived from here. To me it rather means we have to act according to shastric injunctions. I missed how Anuttama Prabhu constructed his argument there but I’d rather disagree with the premise itself. Yes, we are obviously not transcendental, but when we are fully engaged in spreading Lord Caitanya’s mission then our personal inadequacies as devotees fade away. We are always, always under His control and protection, even when we act less transcendentally than expected. And if the sad reality is that we are not engaged in the preaching mission and do not feel Lord Caitanya’s protection then following varnashrama won’t save us and neither will female gurus and equal opportunities. I mean it’s sad that our movement has come to this now when I still remember devotees riding waves of Lord Caitanya’s mercy and there was no question of these sankirtana pastimes not being transcendental. If our society can’t offer that – real connection to Lord Caitanya’s mercy, then what is the point of even having it?

Srila Prabhupada Lila app today gave a story of Vaikunthananta Prabhu cheating people at the airport, pretending that he was five dollars short for  his plane ticket and asking everyone for a spare buck. Actually, he collected to pay rent for the temple and Srila Prabhupada totally appreciated him saving the temple this way. There was no question of “this is material and not transcendental” – when the motive is pure a devotee is not constrained by notions of mundane morality. There are tons and tons of examples in our short history of that, just as there are examples when cheating has done some serious damage to the preaching mission, but the answer to this is not “no more cheating” but “do something for Prabhupada”. Mundane morality or even following varnashrama will not endear us to Lord Caitanya when we are not interested in selfless service and unconditional surrender. We HAD it, the opportunity was presented to everyone of us just a few decades ago, and now it’s absent even in the speeches of our leaders.

In any case, please forgive me my little rant. I’m obviously not going to comment on both lectures sentence by sentence and I’m obviously disappointed when this is what our leaders, for the either side, can present on such an important occasion. They are very senior vaishnavas and I shouldn’t speak about them in this way, but I hope, if they see this, they understand my plea here even if sounds uncomfortable at times.

Here are the videos:

 

 

Krishna Valley in Hungary

This is a thorough review of the most successful of our farms, at least in Europe. It was originally written by a friend of Hare Krishnas and the original is here. I used Google translate and deleted an introduction about his personal matters. What is left is awesome and there are plenty of pictures to illustrate the story. In fact, it’s inserting all these pictures into a post that took most of my time and I just can’t find the strength to go over the translation. I hope Google Translate did a solid job here, it’s usually pretty good with Russian.


I found the community’s website and address on the Internet and found out that its leader Sivarama Swami was awarded the Order of the Honorary Golden Cross for his outstanding contribution to the development of charity and spirituality in the Republic of Hungary – the second most important award in this country.

Although in Hungary this place is known to everyone as the “Krishna Valley”, those who live in the community call it “New Vrindavan”. Vrindavan is the birthplace of Krishna, in India it is a three-hour drive south of Delhi. It may be considered a coincidence, it may not, but the Hungarian Vrindavan is a three-hour drive south of Budapest. There are four railway stations in Budapest. And the southern station from which I started is called Delhi (!)…

 

The difference in trains leaving from Indian and Hungarian Delhi is, of course, significant. In India, as many people as can be packed in electric trains. If the cars were rubber there, then when they departed they would probably look like balls.

In Hungary, electric trains from Delhi, of course, are much freer. ?? What I liked about them was caring for mothers with children: in order not to keep the baby on his knees, if he wants to look out the window (and what else to do on the way?) There, next to the adult, there is a child seat next to the window.

New Vrindavan (“Krishna Valley”) is located twenty kilometers from the famous Lake Balaton, along which I traveled by train for about an hour. During this time I christened it to myself “Hungarian Baikal”: its length is 79 kilometers, its width is up to 11.5 kilometers. A sign leads from the nearest village to the Sri Krishna Valley

 

Two stone-white elephants and a lively friendly guard greet visitors at the entrance

Right behind the entrance is a completely different world, the world of reality-fairy tales. Since the “Krishna Valley” was created as a projection of Vrindavan, the red arbors here mark the places corresponding to the special, most significant places of Sri Krishna’s games in Vrindavan.

The ecological community of Hungarian Vaishnavas (those who worship Krishna and Vishnu are so correctly called) is located on the territory of 200 hectares. The river that flows through this valley is also called the Yamuna. Just like in India, the place for bathing here is made in the form of steps. Women and men here, in this place bathe on different days.

Instead of peacocks, pheasants fly here and run safely. Some forest animals also sometimes walk here. In wide meadows cows and bulls graze here.

Many visitors, leaving a car at the entrance, seeing a very beautiful yellow building on a hill, take it for a temple. When they come closer, it turns out that this is a school where children receive state diplomas. Since there are only forty students, boys and girls study together, only physical education classes for boys and girls are held separately. They do yoga, learn martial arts.

Seeing in the distance another large beautiful building, tourists come up to it and think that this is probably the Krishna temple. But it turns out that this is a barn, gosh. The cowshed here is a five-star hotel for cows. This is the best barn in Europe. Or maybe the best on this planet.

According to ancient Sanskrit treatises, three types of animals, if they die by their death, receive the human body in the next life: a cow, a tiger, a monkey. Therefore, cows here are treated with the same care as people.

There is a statement in the Bible, in the Old Testament, that killing a bull commits the same sin as killing a person. And in the same Bible there is a statement that retribution will come in the same measure as a person performed it: “an eye for an eye, blood for blood.”

The Vedas explain almost the same thing: the one who kills an animal unnecessarily will become this animal in the next life, and this animal will become a man and kill him in order to return the pain to the rapist, they will change places in the next life:

Or, for killing animals, for killing their defenseless cubs, a man who eats meat or his children is just as cynical, will be brutally killed in a war in this life – if a person does not listen to the Vedas or the Bible. It is in this connection that M. Gandhi, L.N. Tolstoy, Albert Einstein argued that the wars on Earth will not end until now, while people continue to eat meat, recalling that in a civilized society – in the Vedic ancient tradition, the killing of animals was condemned as same as killing people. And the king was obliged to protect the life of animals as well as the lives of people, considering them full citizens of his state.

Now many pseudo-spiritual idle talkers only talk about harmony, about universal love, while continuing to eat corpses of innocent and defenseless creatures. Those who have drunk us with their milk are called the nurse, the second mother. It was in this connection that the Slavs called the “Nursing Mother”, “Mother” the cows! Anyone who kills and eats his mother cow, who gave him milk, can hardly call himself human. More precisely, by Man. A cow is the personification of love, kindness to people and dedication.

With almost every meal, people consume cow products: cheese, milk, yogurt, cream, butter, sour cream, feta cheese, yogurt, airan, yogurt, buttermilk, fermented baked milk, cottage cheese … Without cows, there would not even be so much-loved ice cream of all kinds, milk chocolate, most of the sweets, whipped cream, cakes … In Russia they always knew that a house, if it has a cash cow, will never be poor. A house with a cow will always be in abundance. Man is not obligated to any creature on the planet like a cow.

Love awakens only in a grateful heart. And therefore, in the most ancient, undistorted scriptures – in the Vedas it is recommended to awaken the love for others, for the world, for the universe, to become grateful to the cow that gives us all this. God Himself, Krishna (Roof-Kolyada) is always depicted as the patron saint of cows – so that people appreciate the creature that He created to care for people! This large picture of the shepherd Krishna playing the pipes for them, for the pleasure of the cows, is located right in their barn:

The meaning, perfection of human life is to please God. Knowing that God loves when he treats all creatures created by him with care and tenderness, here everyone sees as part of their relationship with God, relationships with each other, including the attitude towards cows. Each of the forty cows and bulls located here has its own name, and each cow or bull has someone who has taken a personal special responsibility to take care of them.

Some of those who live in cities, theorists – “pacifist vegans” believe that taking milk from a cow means taking milk from a calf. But in reality, if a cow is milked daily, it “breaks up” and gives much more milk than the calf needs. Moreover, if the calf is constantly fed with milk alone, he will become ill. Therefore, at a certain stage, it must be transferred to another type of food. Even just looking at these calves, you understand that this is not a theory.

In addition, it must be borne in mind that cows are LIVING, sentient beings. And when they feel that they are loved, that they are cared for, they give milk, even more out of a reciprocal love for the people who care for them. There are cows that give milk without calves continuously for 5-6-7 years. But this is probably not to be expected from cows who know that they will be killed. Cows are kept here even if they don’t give milk – because they make biogas and compost from their manure.

The American Agricultural University not so long ago published a conclusion that it is economically feasible to keep bulls and cows even without milk simply because they provide the most valuable fertilizer on this planet – their humus. Humus, cow manure is able to completely restore the microflora and fertility of the most waste, completely depleted soils – in seven years, if seven years every six months, spread manure on these soils and then plow them finely.

And bulls are hard workers, laborers, bodybuilders from God. They like to feel muscle joy from physical exertion. Those who use bulls for work know this. Just as a horse in a stall begins to hurt, so a bull begins to feel sad without work.

One experienced farmer in Lithuania told me that a horse is not designed to be plowed: its legs, unlike a bull, do not rest on the ground so as to pull heavy loads. He said: “A horse is like a swallow, created to run! But the bull was created on the contrary – in order to transport, to pull weights, to plow – his legs rest against the ground so as to forcefully push. And he feels from it like a weightlifter, joy! ”Here the bulls are full members of the community, they work here with everyone and justify their“ bread ”:) Here they sow, plow and reap.

 

One of the seven goals of the International Society for Krishna Awareness ( International, Society for Krishna Consciousness ), recorded in its Charter, is to create a self-sufficient ecological farming communities. The founder of this movement, Srila Prabhupada , instructed his followers to show their governments how to build the state’s economy: each state, as opposed to the intentions of the greedy globalization-demons, should be autonomous and independent of others, and to ensure this fully yourself with everything necessary for life.

In order to avoid economic crises organized by international bankers, during which they cheaply buy up and take over the economies of different countries, Srila Prabhupada recommended restoring the gold standard: money should be silver or gold, not paper: “this will act as a straitjacket on the banking system shirt on violent obsessed ”- there will be no artificially created crises if villains cannot print and call money ordinary wrappers, not provided with absolutely nothing.

One hundred years ago, the Russian ruble was the hardest and most valuable currency of the planet. The growth of the Russian economy was 20% per year – because there were no economic vampires and parasites. The paper money system is designed so that people now work as slaves for fraudsters in the banking sector. One, to get something – you need to work. For others, in order to take from them everything that they have earned, you just need to turn on the printing press: inflation-crisis-acquisition of printed money of what others have created with honest honesty. As Henry Ford said, “If people knew the truth about the nature of money, they would have made a revolution before tomorrow morning!” …

Of the countries of the former USSR, only Belarus can be fully autonomous in terms of food products today. Belarusians not only supply themselves with all the necessary food products, but also feed half of Russia with their dairy products. I am familiar with the directors of the dairy factories of the Krasnodar Territory, the ит Zhytnitsa ’of Russia, and therefore I know that the dairy industry is already half destroyed, and the dairy plants of Russia for the most part do not produce butter, but only pack butter in their packages, which they buy from the cars Belarus. In the case of Doomsday, if all foreign economic relations suddenly break off, Belarus will survive without any problems: little will change there, because its economy relies on an excellently developed agricultural complex. There are no ones destroyed, as in Russia, collective farms, state farms. All collective farms, state farms flourish there; every piece of land in Belarus is cultivated. While the agrarian complex of Russia, which at the beginning of the 20th century completely provided itself with all foodstuffs and fed half of Europe, is now almost completely destroyed.

Today, Russia buys grain abroad, although before the October Revolution organized by the hangers-on by international bankers, it provided 80% of Europe’s grain needs. Now Russia rests only on the “needle” of oil and gas. The cost of hydrocarbons on the international market is artificially high – everyone knows that. And in order to kill the economy, now based only on gas and oil, of the once self-sufficient, agrarian great country, the Americans just need to lower oil prices once again to the real ones – as Reagan did before the collapse of the USSR. The Americans then persuaded the Arab sheikhs to lower oil prices in order to “fill up” the Soviets in exchange for weapons.

Now the Americans will soon be able to lower the price of oil themselves – for this they are now torn to the same in oil Syria – the next step after the conquest of Iraqi oil. If they subjugate the main oil market, they will be able to lower oil prices by their own power, then Russia will fall so that it cannot rise. Chinese tanks will then reach the Urals, the Turkish army will take the south, – Russia will be divided as planned by the butchers of international politics (description in this article) Putin’s adviser Oleg Matveychev gave the way out of the upcoming crisis in the Green Revolution program, but they don’t give this project course deputies of the State. Thoughts, most of which lobby the interests of not our country, but of other third forces.

Half of the deputies of the State. The Duma of the Russian Federation and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine are Jews. Democracy is wonderful, of course, but if half of the seats in the Israeli Knesset, the US Senate or the English Parliament were occupied by Russians living in these countries, the same ardent peddlers around the world of their demo (n) country would have sharply opposed this, declaring that Russians intervene in their politics, economics in their own interests. But when they do it in Russia, in Ukraine, then this is normal. The demo (n) democracy in politics is a one-way valve, aimed only at the economic and legislative suppression and enslavement of others.

In a few years, Russia can again become an agrarian superpower, because the real value is ALWAYS grain and food, which was mentioned many times by the founder of the International Society for Awareness of Krishna (a society for understanding the laws established by God, the laws of Nature)

As an economic scheme, Srila Prabhupada recommended that the governments of the countries take the tax system of Vedic India as a basis, in which there was only one type of tax: each gave the state 25% of the profit or of the products it produced, the food it grew. When taxes are not very large, people do not shy away from paying them, and as a result, the state only wins. In the Indian scriptures there is a whole section of “artha-sastra” – economic recommendations for rulers that lead to harmonious prosperity of society at all levels – as opposed to the generally accepted demonic legal Roman system, when one person can truthfully or false take over unlimited material resources, while not bearing any responsibility to society.

Following the Vedic principles, the inhabitants of the Krishna Valley in Hungary COMPLETELY ENSURE THEIR NEEDS and live autonomously, completely independently of the world around them. If tomorrow the “end of the world”, the “economic armageddon” suddenly happens, there will be no change in their happy measured life. In addition to the fact that they are provided with dairy products, they grow: rye, wheat, oats, buckwheat, millet. They themselves press sunflower, linseed, pumpkin oil, including grape seed oil, from the products they grow. They grow beans, lentils, several types of beans, and even grow Indian mung dal …

30-40 kinds of vegetables and 20 kinds of fruits are grown here, including apricot and mulberry. Of the fruit trees, there are only citrus fruits (the temperature in winter drops to -20 C here). Members of this community are able to produce their own clothes and shoes from the flax they grow here. They are completely independent of the energy sources of the outside world – electricity, gas. But at the same time, with all this, they are collecting a large crop of environmentally friendly and genetically perfect products (which 99,999 inhabitants of our planet can no longer afford) cultivating and collecting them with a competent ecologically perfect approach.

Using the experience of their ancestors, a scientific approach and international experience in growing agricultural crops in an ecological way, over 20 years of practice, members of this eco-community have developed ways to get the maximum yield at the lowest cost. Just like our grandmothers and grandfathers, they do not use chemistry not only to grow their organic products, but also to combat their pests.

Mutual compatibility and symbiosis of various plants for their highly productive growth and mutual protection against parasites are carefully taken into account here. Simply put – there are insects, aphids, parasites that love only certain plants and can not stand the presence of others. Although these plants, in addition, mutually enrich the soil with substances necessary for another, energy, and trace elements. And if you take this into account, if certain plants are planted with beds just next to each other, it’s just that you can increase their productivity in an ecological way without the additional cost of controlling parasites. This largely echoes the principle of Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture .

In this community, recommendations have been developed for gardeners and gardeners – what to plant with what to increase the mutual yield of plants and so that there are fewer problems with all kinds of pests and weeds. To generally reduce costs and watering – I would recommend combining this with the system of “Smart Garden” N.I. Kurdyumov.

In this diagram there is a drawing of what to plant from the calculation of a 5 by 5 meter plot. An important touch – around this site there should be a 50-centimeter hedge from, as I understand it, lavender.

According to this principle of combination, symbiosis of plants, all vegetables and different types of plants are grown here.

In order to popularize the experience of growing agricultural products in an ecological way, scientific conferences are held here annually with the participation of employees of the State Agrarian University of Hungary, environmental scientists from other countries.

Deputy organizer of environmental conferences and seminars – George (George) Kirs.

If you are a citizen of the European Union, he will tell you how to come to the conference (including food, accommodation) at the expense of funds allocated in each country of the European Union for the development of green projects, training in environmental technologies.

George can inform you about the following environmental seminars, eco-conferences. His personal e-mail: kirsgyu@gmail.com; kgy@okovolgy.hu; website: http://www.okovolgy.hu tel / fax: +36 85 540 002; mob: +36 30 825 31 34

I was very interested in what this community looks like, how their houses look. It turned out to be very modern. This is what this eco-village looks like now, after twenty years of selfless exploits of digging in the mud:

Motivated by curiosity, I knocked on one house and asked the owners to show me how the house looks from the inside. The welcoming host and hostess are called Goloka Party and Anuragi.

As we see, the inside is very beautiful and modern. In addition to the few exceptions created by the general council of the community: no one in this community has televisions, refrigerators, air conditioners, or washing machines. Chemistry, washing powders, synthetic detergents are prohibited here, so as not to pollute Nature with them. Soap, shampoos, aromatic oils – only their own. The only exceptions are incense and aromatic oils, which are also brought from India to worship the Deities.

The kitchen was very cozy. Here they cook on their own biogas, which is obtained by fermenting cow manure – it is enough to cover the basic needs of the entire community. But in addition, every house has a very practical wood stove: in winter, it also warms the house. In Europe, especially in Germany, neat, clean and very comfortable wood-burning stoves are very popular in private homes. Many very well-known firms produce them very soundly from high-quality cast iron. In these ovens there is also an oven for baking good homemade bread.

Toilet, bathroom turned out to be very modern.

 

Sewerage – general, water from the well is supplied thanks to solar panels. All waste that can rot – is sent to a compost pit. Those that can burn become fuel.

The same principle was recently applied all over the world in villages; it has now been preserved in Austrian villages: all waste is disposed of on your personal site. What burns is in the hearth, what rots – in compost. Glass – surrenders to a glass receiver, metal – to scrap metal. Plastic bags, bottles are prohibited.

The house is heated by two fireplaces, which are enough to be heated once: due to the fact that it is built of porous clay bricks, or rather clay blocks, the house keeps cool in summer and keeps heat like a thermos in winter: you can understand the thermal conductivity of such blocks very low.

In summer, the water is heated by solar water heating panels. Solar panels that generate electricity are almost eternal – the warranty period is 25-50 years. They generate electricity even in weak, diffused sunlight.

In order not to use batteries that are short-lived, electricity is mainly used here only in the office, during the day. It is enough for work of stationary computers, printers, faxes. But for the most part, community members do not use electricity here at all. Until today, firewood has been bought here, but from next year the community will provide itself with firewood from its own forest, instead of cutting down trees, constantly planting new ones.

Due to the weak natural slope of the landscape, sewage drains from the community’s buildings flow into the water bodies that clean them, in two of which a reed has been planted to filter water from sewage; and in the third, it is purified to the state of pure drinking water, once launched there by bacteria that purify the water once, which multiply and continuously reproduce themselves by themselves.

It is for Nature to be able to clean everything, in this community they do not use products of the chemical industry (why is it needed at all?) Clean water goes back to Nature.

In Russia, we know little about this, but in the West a whole industry of ecological purification of water to the state of spring with the help of natural natural bacteria is developed. In 2000, I lived for six months in an environmental center near Copenhagen, designed for 60 people. The water in this center was also heated by a roof of solar panels and panels, but there were washing machines – with the difference that they could only use washing powders produced by this company specializing in the construction of environmentally closed (like space) centers.

There did not grow reeds – different types of bacteria in closed underground containers cleaned all drains to the cleanest state. Although it was chemically absolutely pure, it was “morally not very”, they watered the garden with it, and took new water from the well. The sludge processed by bacteria fell out and became an excellent compost – ecological fertilizer.

In Russia, there are also companies that sell bacteria that neutralize the smell of a rustic Russian toilet and process its contents to a state of odorless fertilizers, but so far few know about them: no one is promoting green technologies in Russia.

The ecological community impressed me. It immediately became clear how much good can be done if you don’t drink, smoke, watch TV … If you do not violate the laws of Nature established by God, you can live long, harmoniously and happily, be mentally and physically strong, and if you work together, you can not only provide yourself with everything you need, but in your free time turn the surrounding space into a blooming garden.

The members of the community receive inspiration for inspired harmonious cooperation from joint spiritual practice. Economically, they thrive, because their main goal is not economic, but spiritual development through improving relations with each other. The center and meaning of their life is God, whom they perceive as the One Whole, and themselves as His integral parts.

The goal of their life is the joint satisfaction of God, just as different parts of the body work together to satisfy the whole body. A healthy cell leaves as much energy of nutrients entering it as is necessary to maintain its vital functions; it transfers the rest to other cells, without accumulation in the form of fat deposits, without the unhealthy tendencies of the cancer cell to “drag everything to itself”. Here they are trying to apply the main principle of Krishna Consciousness: simple life and elevated thinking. They don’t care about the future in terms of savings.

Community members live in the present, knowing that a good future is shaped by proper actions in the present. And the main enemy of man, progress is internal egoism and the laziness flowing from it. He who thinks not about himself, but about others, is driven by love, and love with laziness, intension are not compatible. This is the secret to the prosperity of this community. Everyone here thinks not of himself, but of the satisfaction of God, serving others as his parts. This is the essence of Krishna Consciousness: to feel like a Part of the Supreme Personality, and to consider the interests of others as their interests, understanding that they are all the same – parts of the One Whole, God, part of the One Supreme Person. It also means that you don’t need to indulge egoists, realizing that egoism is a condition of a sick cancer cell.

It is not necessary to nourish the cancer cells, you need to help them improve, change their attitude towards others, towards the world, directing their consciousness not to strive to drag everything to themselves, but to strive to give everything to the One, to God and to cooperate for His satisfaction, for the satisfaction of the One with all its particles. This, in essence, is the essence of all religions. Just different saints explained this each in their own words.

God permeates everything that exists with his consciousness, and in order to develop personal relationships with those who have not yet revealed their spiritual vision, according to the Vedic ancient treatises, he can accept worship through the Divine, made exactly with the description of His appearance, which is given in ancient Sanskrit treatises . The same worship of God through his image is practiced in every religion that accepts God as an omnipresent person.

Christians worship Jesus, worshiping his crucifixion; worship the Virgin Mary, worshiping her statue.

Muslims worship Allah, the Most High, worshiping in Mecca the stone of Hajar al-aswad, which, according to legend, was once in Paradise. Hindus also worship the all-pervading God, realizing that since He is all-pervading, then he is present in the same way as a person in his sculpted image.

Joint worship of God in his personal image is the center of all the activities of this community. Everything that is done here is done only for His satisfaction; all ministry He accepts through the deities established in the temple. In Krishna Valley, the day begins “with the first roosters” who cry for the first time before sunrise. Roosters and chickens are not kept here, because Vaisnavas do not consume even eggs as ethical vegetarians.

Nevertheless, even without roosters, they rise before sunrise and go together to their temple, which basically does NOT use electricity to illuminate. Before sunrise, the entire temple is lit only by the living light of oil lamps.

In terms of natural lighting, the temple complex here is made really very practical. A glass ridge-dome passes through the entire structure, located, like the entire building, in accordance with the movement of the sun, so that even the first sun’s rays immediately illuminate the entire building from the inside.

“He who lays down early and wakes up early, God gives health, wealth and wisdom to him!”, “Morning in the evening is wiser!” – they always said in Russia. This is caused by the rhythms of the Cosmos. And the early morning hours are especially beneficial for spiritual practice.

Here, the whole day is built in accordance with these cosmic rhythms. Up to seven hours – the time when the most susceptible subconscious; this is the time for meditation, prayers, and turning to God. From seven to ten is the period of maximum activity of the brain intelligence.

The first worship of the Almighty in the temple begins at four fifteen in the morning (the standard of classical Vedic temples), the second – at seven fifteen. Between services, Vaisnavas first worship God in their minds – meditate, and then repeat the names of God on their beads, which are kept in special bags so that they do not touch the floor and unclean things.

The second service begins with the worship of Srila Prabhupada as the one who discovered the philosophy of the Vedas to the Western world, translating into the English language many Indian sacred texts previously unknown to Europeans. It is thanks to him that the concepts of “karma”, “reincarnation” have now become well-known, few people knew about Vedic philosophy in the West before him.

As a sign of respect, each community member offers Srila Prabhupada’s sculpture flowers that he puts on silver sandals and bows – women in a belt, men – in full growth.

After the first service, the priests wash the Deities of Radha and Krishna, dress them from night to day clothes, decorate them with fresh flowers and, opening the curtain of the altar in the second service, bring them a mirror so that they can see how they are dressed today. After that, very beautiful songs are sung for their pleasure.

Eastern philosophy claims that God, the One, is eternally manifested in the form of the original male and female principles, in the form of Radha and Krishna. Taoists depict the principle of unity of masculine and feminine principles permeating the entire universe in the form of the Yin-Yang symbol.

See the white dot in the black stream, and the black dot in the white? Since God is not just “the Holy Spirit” or energy, it is a person, all His energies are also personalities, the esoteric meaning of the love of this Taoist symbol is that Radharani is always in the heart of Sri Krishna, and Krishna is always in Her heart. .!

The movement of energies in the Taoist symbol means that love is always dynamic. The one in whose heart love lives is not lazy, not static: he is always dynamic, he is ecstatic! ??

Looking at these Hungarian deities of Radha and Krishna, I could not help but get the impression that these are the same deities of Radha and Krishna that I saw during my trip to India. You can watch this blog and compare.

It seems that the very same Radha and Krishna are present simultaneously in both Indian and Hungarian Vrindavan. The morning program includes a lecture during which guests and members of the community read and discuss the texts of ancient scriptures, sharing each with their internal understanding that spiritual relationships come down to love and trust, and the meaning of life is to serve God in love, to each other.

After the lecture, members of the community eat breakfast together, after which everyone goes to do their ministry. Some meet here again at lunch time, but many prefer to have dinner at home with their children in order to maintain a warm atmosphere in the family.

Environmental friendliness in detail here is also manifested in the fact that disposable plates for guests are made of pressed paper, even disposable spoons are wooden. Not to mention the fact that you experience very unusual sensations, knowing that everything that this food is made from, with the exception of salt, is grown here, with your own hands.

In the temple, everyone walks in socks or in slippers, shoes, weapons ?? leaving vehicles outside.

Here’s what the temple complex looks like from the outside:

It is made as ergonomically as possible – so that the sun’s rays penetrate into it, illuminating the altar and all the interior without electricity.

In winter, when it gets dark early and before sunrise, the following lamps illuminate the temple:The altar is heated in winter by four fireplaces standing in the corners. In addition, marble floor heating.

To spend a minimum of energy and energy on its heating, the altar room and all the premises of the temple are surrounded by a glass gallery, which, being an air cushion, retains heat and freely transmits the sun’s rays, which heat the air and the temple in it. The walls of the gallery are decorated with great love paintings depicting stories from the scriptures.

In the Krishna Valley you can walk without a clock: every hour a bell sounds floating over the valley telling what time it is. At nine in the morning, the bell ringer beats nine times, ten at ten, etc. In between – one hit (half past ten). All work ends at half past five.

What I liked here is that many members of the community sing very beautifully and play different musical instruments. The very first evening I got to a spontaneous (as I was later told) improvised concert from a hand organ (harmonium), a drum and two guitars. “Love is in the little things.” Every little thing here is made in artistic taste, with love.

As I already wrote, refrigerators are not used here. Instead, they have traditional village cellars. Such a cellar is also used as a glacier for the summer: in winter it is covered with blocks of ice, which are sprinkled with a large layer of sawdust. Due to the fact that it is underground and covered with a layer of sawdust, ice in such a glacier can last all summer. In the glaciers you can store milk, cottage cheese, sour cream, because the temperature in it is at the very bottom, plus four to five degrees. And about the same temperature in it in the winter, even during frosts, which allows you to store vegetables, fruits, twists in it until spring.

Recently, they made a large new three-chamber stone cellar. This is probably the best cellar warehouse I’ve ever seen. It has three departments: for storing vegetables and fruits made according to homemade recipes for canned food until spring.

Soon these warehouses will be filled to capacity with products until a new crop. Community members podstichali that 200 hectares of land can provide all the necessary 500 people without bothering Nature. As you can see, the cook is very funny here (and by the way, he sings very beautifully!). This is important: because the consciousness, mood of the cook is transmitted to those who eat what he cooked.

Dishes prepared with love, in good high spirits, lead to prosperity.

The second law of dialectics says that quality inevitably turns into quantity. Gradually, this ecological settlement became a place of pilgrimage for tourists. Especially during bad weather, many tourists who came to Lake Balaton, so as not to waste time in vain, come here to see this community. But many tourists come here just as purposefully. This bus came here from Germany.

Many of the community members are former monks. (In the Vedic tradition, every man must marry through monasticism and marry chastity before marrying). They used to walk the streets and offer people books about Krsna.

Now, when they apply the knowledge of these books in practice, people themselves come to them to learn more about Krishna’s philosophy, being naturally attracted to the knowledge applied in practice more than the unfounded theory.

For tourists there is a shop where they can buy hand-made soap, body care products.

The community members admitted to me that they supplied the solar panels only for the operation of their restaurant and for the office, which became necessary for the coordination of arriving groups of tourists, for organizing eco-conferences and festivals. Every summer, a festival is held on the territory of the community for several days for those who are interested in a healthy lifestyle, to which 6-7 thousand people come. For a year, the community is visited by 20-35 thousand tourists.

For those who want to come here for a few days to immerse themselves in the atmosphere prevailing here, the communities created two small hotels with 8 rooms each. The cost of living is 20 and 40 euros per room. In addition to them, in the nearby village there are several guest houses, in one of which I stayed. Three-room house with hot water, a modern bathroom and a kitchen – 15 euros per day. Simple but cozy and very pretty:

While traveling in Europe, I learned what I had resisted for so long: washing clothes in the sink. Since childhood, I used to wash clothes in basins, at worst – in buckets. In Europe, it is customary to wash things in the sink, plugging it like a bathroom with a stopper. Over time, it seemed to me even a little practical. But still, at home, I prefer to wash things in a basin.

If you want to relax here, you can contact Koda Nitai Prabhu in advance; in the community he is responsible for receiving and accommodating guests. If necessary, he will arrange transport for you or tell you how to get to the community faster, more convenient. His e-mail: Koda Nitai das <knd@1108.cc> He was my guide on the farm, here he is online looking for the most convenient return ticket for me.

Performing, like many members of the community, the duties of a priest in the temple, he sometimes wakes up at 2:30 in the morning, however, he is always very cheerful, cheerful, and cheerful.

I didn’t want to leave here, honestly! Like many who come here, I received great spiritual and aesthetic pleasure from the atmosphere of this spiritual community and the beauty that they created here.

It even got accustomed to bamboo. In the river, the fish knows that no one will be here, so when you swim in the river, schools of fish swim fearlessly nearby, and some even curiously stick out of the water to look at people.

 

Saying “Goodbye!” To the elephants meeting and escorting tourists, I was soon again in Budapest. The feeling was as if he had fallen from a bright spiritual world into a colorless material one. Even the weather was completely different. In the Krishna Valley it was sunny, here it was cloudy.

An interesting point: Budapest was once two cities: Buda and Pest, located on opposite sides of the Danube River. Then they grew and merged into one city. But the Budapest people still divide it into Pest and Buda. Here I stand in the photo in Buda, and behind me, on the other side of the Danube, is the parliament building in Pest.

Upon returning home, I often return in my thoughts to that new Vrindavan, to the atmosphere created by the members of this community.

Krishna Consciousness guru Srila Prabhupada wanted such a spiritual atmosphere to reign on our planet. I join him!

Reflecting on the meaning of “nirviśeṣa-śūnyavādi-pāścātya..”

Part of our ISKCON folklore is a story of early devotees wondering who were those māyāvādīs Śrīla Prabhupāda always rallied against – because no one knew any particular māyāvādī at the time, and then it hit them – they (we) are the māyāvādīs! Not by our professed ideology but by our attitudes and by the quality of our relationships, which were often very impersonal in nature. A lot of Bhāgavatam classes were spent on uncovering impersonalism in our lives afterwards. Otherwise a question arises – why would Śrīla Prabhupāda travel to the western countries to fight māyāvāda? All the māyāvādīs were back in India, poisoning Indian society from within, why go fight them in the West? Or we can equate “nirviśeṣa śūnyavādi” with western atheism but Srila Prabhupāda attacked atheism separately from attacking impersonalism. Or we can say that nirviśeṣa, śūnyavādi, and pālscātya deśa are three different, not necessary overlapping categories. There are so many ways we can understand Śrīla Prabhupāda’s praṇāma mantras. I want to offer another explanation of this mantra and demonstrate its ultimate consistency and truthfulness.

Cardinal directions, like the west, in Vedic science are deeply meaningful but that meaning is not directly obvious. Thankfully, in the 4th Canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam Nārada Muni tells a parable of King Purañjana mentioning how different bodily gates lead out in different directions. Similarly, Lord Caitanya told Sanātana Goswāmī a parable of an astrologer giving advice in which direction one must dig for which treasure (CC. Madhya 20). In the purports Śrīla Prabhupāda gives us enough clues to understand these Vedic directions. East is where the knowledge is (or treasure in Lord Caitanya’s parable) while West is the direction of impersonalism. South is for karma and North is for mystic yoga. We can treat Vedic culture as gradually evolving in a part of the already existing natural world and then dismiss everything as geographic coincidences, but as students of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam we’d better see the universe as manifesting **from** different grades of Vedic knowledge, planet by planet and continent by continent, beginning with Lord Brahmā’s efforts.

What makes western civilization remarkable is its success in science, success in providing a broad range of scientific theories to explain almost all observable phenomena and provide the society with benefits derived from that knowledge. In this sense science has become a shelter for modern civilization and has fully supplanted religion as the foundation of western society – it dictates morals, guides economics, and supplies daily necessities and all kinds of pleasures as well. It has fully become “dharma” in the sense of “that which sustains”. And it is not coincidental that western science is impersonal at its very core – as Vedic science predicts above – West and whatever grows in that direction is a place of impersonalism. Today this impersonal science strives to erase all traces of subjectivity (meaning personalism), and it seeks universal laws which apply in every context regardless of one’s personal perspective. All pre-western descriptions of nature were personalistic – everything in nature had souls, even trees, mountains and rivers. There were deities everywhere and they all needed to be propitiated through personal service and sacrifices. Historically, it was Christianity first that fought against this “paganism”, but then science put a solid, rational foundation under this drive and made all manifestations of personal subjectivity illegal.

By seeking universal laws which apply everywhere equally western science cemented itself as deeply impersonal because in the world governed by gods and spirits they all had their domains where they enforced their rules and so all laws were local. There was no universality before western science. Typically, a man can walk up to any mountain but no one can walk up to Lord Śiva’s Kailāsa where men are not allowed, for example. For his own mountain Lord Śiva has his own laws. The laws of nature for Rakṣas and Yakṣas are different from laws for humans – they can fly, change their appearance at will, and do all kinds of magic, but we cannot. Western science declares this impossible because all true laws must be universal and no personal domain can be an exception. Personal laws and personal domains are simply not allowed in western understanding of nature.

In this way western science is a consistent and determined implementation of impersonal view of the world devoid of God, and so is the entire western civilization that is built upon it. It is nirviśeṣa and pāścātya – impersonalist and western, just as praṇāma mantra says.

What it means for us is that we should be cognizant of this underlying impersonalism and learn to notice it in our own worldviews. We all subconsciously embrace existence of “objective reality”, for example, without giving much thought to what this “objectivity” really means in Vedic science. Reality does look objective to us, but we can also say that as humans we are part of the same domain and so we can only share our subjective experiences within that common domain. Agreeing with each other doesn’t make our observations objective and observed similarities do not make our reality  truly objective either, it just means that our personal perspectives are not that different from one another. Someone higher up the chain, like Manu, can change these perspectives for the entire humanity for thousands and millions of generations at once and so they will all agree on something different from what we agree upon now. And what to speak of Kṛṣṇa, who doesn’t play by the same rules at all. And then Bhāgavatam and Mahābhārata are full of descriptions of beings who do not live by our laws and so they experience the world in very different ways. In science these contradictory experiences are dismissed as mythology because objective reality is one and what is impossible for us should be impossible anywhere and for anyone. Even as devotees we don’t know yet how to properly deal with all these divergent personal realities. We have the same sādhana rules for all, for example, and we shudder at the thought that some devotees might progress by not attending maṇgala arati. We’d rather standardize everything we possibly can, which is the opposite of personalism, So, imposing same sādhana on everyone is impersonalism, but at the same time we realize that this standardization is absolutely required for the society to function. How to reconcile? How much impersonalism is permissible or necessary? Why? Should everything be open to personal views and interpretations or must be there ground rules for all? This requires a lot of consideration and deep understanding of hierarchies and our places on the tree of the universe and even on the tree of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s followers.

There’s yet another, deeper meaning to Vedic directions and it stems from the very duality of this world where what is indicated by “this” is not what is indicated by “that”, and so “this” and “that” cannot point to the same thing. When Lord Caitanya, unconstrained by this duality, tried to express Absolute Truth terms of this world He simply called it “acintya”. We have no reference here for the logic where “this” and “that” are one and the same and yet also different. We cannot understand it on the basis of our observations because difference between objects is fundamental to our perceptions and all our experiences. If something is white it can’t be black, for example, and there’s no logic that can argue that white is in black and black is in white. Even when we look at Chinese Yin-Yang symbol we see a circle of black in the white area, not that there’s literally black in white. In any case, the point is that to know something here we also need to know what it is not, know how “this” is not “that”, ie we need to know that crows are not white, for example – that’s one trait by which we can tell them from other birds.  Similarly, every object here has a use and to know what it’s for we also need to know how not to use it, and this is how directions are manifested from two pairs of opposites – from what things are and what they aren’t, and from how they can and cannot be used.

Proper definition of an object (or concept, or any idea), means first gaining knowledge of what it is, which is “East”. Proper use of the object manifests South. In the earlier mentioned scheme South was for performing karmic activities, which is what “proper use” means, too. Opposite the East is the knowledge of what the object is not, and opposite of South is the knowledge of how not to use it. Mystic yoga is about refraining from karmic activities and so designating North as the land of yoga is appropriate. Designating West as a direction where we say what things are not – neti-neti – is a signature of impersonalism, too. So the two schemes perfectly overlap here. Ideally, we take knowledge (“East”), examine it, and start peeling away false assumptions about it. In this way we refine our understanding of the idea and so “West” is necessary for complete knowledge, as well as “South” (proper use) and “North” (misuse). In this way we must complete the circle to attain full understanding, and this is where Śrīla Prabhupada’s arrival in the West makes perfect sense as well.

I think it’s obvious that development of western civilization is also a story of negations. They (we – I’m also a child of western thought) negated everything, starting maybe from rising against authority of the Pope, then we went against Biblical descriptions of the world altogether, then we fought to overthrow superstitions and dogmas, then we fought to overthrow kings and empires – our whole history is an endless fight against authorities. We always have something to negate. Whatever idea or concept comes to establish itself, in no time we find faults with it. In this way we, as westerners, are eternal revolutionaries. Even as devotees when we went to India people there immediately noticed that we were very eager to dismiss things and traditions that they held sacred. It’s in our western blood – we find impurities everywhere and we purge them. This approach was very unusual for the Indians of the “South” where they are more concerned with how people can derive benefits from whatever idea they come across rather than dismiss anything completely. Naturally, in their “southern” religion of Hinduism everything goes and everything has a place and value for someone and nothing is rejected altogether.

Another example of such nihilistic “westerness” is the life of a brāhmaṇa from the first chapter of the second part of Bṛhad Bhāgavatāmṛta. Somehow his family got a new idea of a good life and moved from Mathura to Assam in the East (direction of new values). He grew up there but lost his brahminical qualities. Then, in his dream, his worshipable deity gave him a mantra and by chanting it his heart gradually became purified. Under the influence of the mantra he lost interest in his old life and, appropriately, moved west. He first arrived at Ganga Sagara where he found people busy practicing karma kanda rituals. He was very impressed by their knowledge and organization. Everything looked very developed there, and so he tried to become like them, but under the influence of the mantra he still wasn’t satisfied so he moved farther west. He arrived in Varanasi and became fascinated by renunciates seeking liberation there. Still dissatisfied, he moved farther west to Prayag where he found people worshiping Lord Viṣṇu. The deity of Lord Mādhava, presiding over Prayāg-tīrtha, closely resembled the deity of brāhmaṇa’s mantra, but still He didn’t bring him satisfaction and the Lord Mādhava directed the brāhmaṇa farther west to Mathura. Maybe it’s a coincidence but it’s an uncanny one – constant dissatisfaction with the state of things constantly pushed him in a western direction. When he returned to Mathura, the original point of his journey, he met Gopa Kumāra who elevated his life and his spiritual practice to a qualitatively new level, thus completing the circle.

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vision of a perfect candidate for receiving Krishna Consciousness was very simple: “Krsna consciousness is for those who have come to detest this material world.” (“Topmost Yoga System” Ch 3). That’s why his message was very welcome in the hippie communities in the US who, at the time, had come to the point of detesting prevailing materialistic culture. And yet it was simultaneously lost on those who went “North” and dedicated their lives to destructive practices of “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” which sprang from this defiance. Some of these people were reformed by Śrīla Prabhupāda but many could not be saved. His message also didn’t penetrate the ranks of those Americans who firmly believed in their way of life and didn’t see the need for any changes – the ideological “southerners”.

There is another point to the Vedic science of directions – it’s not just a circle but more of a spiral with high and low points on it, too. If East is a high starting point of knowledge (or sattva) then South is a descend into rajas, and West is tamas. If there’s any hope of saving the situation then the West is also a breaking point from where one can continue to a level down and accept outcomes of “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” as the new platform of lower grade East/sattva/knowledge for the next cycle, or western nihilism can give rise to uplifting practices which will elevate us to a platform of higher knowledge (which, in time, we will try to corrupt again). This is what Śrīla Prabhupāda did for his western disciples – he gave them knowledge and practices which appeared to the general society as opposites of their ideas of truth and karmic pursuits, but these practices were undoubtedly uplifting whereas those who didn’t take Prabhupada’s offer slid down into hellish outcomes of drug addiction.

As much as we glorify Śrīla Prabhupāda as a jagat-guru we have to also acknowledge the fact that it was the nihilistic west that was the most fertile soil for his preaching while karma admiring Indians didn’t see any value in it until we brought money and built very impressive temples there. We can also acknowledge the fact that Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t leave us a lot of detailed information about what to do with our lives after he saved us. He wanted to institute varṇāśrama, true, but he also gave up on the idea of managing our marriages, seeing us as hopeless and unable to follow simple vows which felt natural to him. Without guidance, managing the Northern leg of our journey leading to the happy and prosperous self-sustaining society of the new “East” where we can raise a new, higher grade of vaiṣṇavas had become problematic and our devotees learned the skill on the fly. One example could be our struggle with gurukulas and government demands for state controlled curriculum, or establishing self-sustained farm communities. I think we all can acknowledge that today’s ISKCON doesn’t look exactly like it was dreamed of in the 70s. In other words, if we choose Śrīla Prabhupāda’s main accomplishments for his praṇāma mantras then we probably have to leave out establishment of daivi-varṇāśrama (new East) and the detailed science of material happiness and prosperity associated with karma yoga of the Vedic South.

Another troublesome legacy of our modern education is that we look on maps and directions from the top, with the map lying on the table in front of us, but in Vedic science this top-down perspective on the world might not even exist.  When devotees brought newly published volume of the Third Canto of Śrīmad Bhagavatam to Śrīla Prabhupāda he admired everything about it until he saw the back cover which displayed “from above” view of Lord Brahma on a lotus flower, and Lord Viṣṇu farther below. This is impossible – no one can observe Lord Viṣṇu from above, such position doesn’t exist. “Helicopter view”, Prabhupada called it. We can easily imagine it, though it’s not real, and we assume it’s always there by itself and we can place the Lord within it . Such understanding of the world is very very close to māyāvāda. In Vedic science, on the other hand, we are facing East, which is a way forward. South is on the right, North is on the left, and West is behind. Pāścāt is a word both for West and for “behind”, and Dakṣiṇa is similarly both for South and “right”. And, of course, it’s the demons who appear as the back of the universal form – our demoniac western civilization fits perfectly there. We will never see the Lord’s face from where we are. So, being in the West means not seeing the Lord, which means religion of  śūnyavāda – emptiness. We don’t need to be Buddhists for that, simply by being westerners we can develop nihilism just as well. Śrīla Prabhupāda then made us turn around and go towards the light of the East where we can finally find God.

Just a bit of information – historically, maps were usually drawn with the most important thing at the top so that maps reflected natural hierarchy. Chinese invented compass and their needles pointed south, but because the emperor lived in the north they drew their maps with emperor’s palace at the top. During Crusade times Europeans also drew Jerusalem – the east – at the top of their maps. It’s not clear why the tradition changed. Possibly because of the fixed position of the Pole Star around which everything rotates.

Mundane geography also fixes our directions – North is always North, South is South, but Vedic science doesn’t. Rather every society, every individual, and even every phenomenon goes through the cycle of East-South-West-North and each such cycle folds into a bigger cycle like days fold into weeks and weeks fold into months. This means that we can’t blindly repeat Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words everywhere and at all times and expect the same results. By the very nature of his message – if our praṇāma mantras are right about him – it is most potent when addressing those in the “western” phase of their lives. If we approach a millennial sitting through the night in line for the next release of a smartphone so he would be the first one to buy it – he won’t listen to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words because he is still in the “south”, still enchanted by material prospects. If we approach that same person after he realized that promises made by the society when he was growing up will never come true and the society itself is not what it was pretending to be, he will probably be more receptive to the same message because that would be the western point of his personal cycle. If we are too late and this person takes to implementing whatever decisions he made on the basis of his disappointment, usually in the form of drug abuse and other immoral activities, then his descent would be very hard to reverse.

This model works on entire countries as well. In the 19th century westerners invented a social system opposing to all traditionally held beliefs – godless and classless communism. Then Russians, who live in the cold North, actually tried to implement it via unheard of practices of communal farming and even, at some point, communal wives. That’s a bigger picture, bigger circle. When Śrīla Prabhupāda visited Moscow Russians were still going through the “south” leg of their internal circle, fully believing that their new philosophy worked even if in the big picture it was doomed from the start. Śrīla Prabhupāda planted the seed there but nothing really happened until Russians turned back on their communist dreams – meaning they turned west in their own relative positioning and so became very receptive to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s message. Or we could look at Nordic countries in Europe which are now busy implementing bizarre ideas about gender and sexuality born out of western rejection of traditional values of marriage and gender roles. They happen to lead the world to the global North and for those who embrace these ideas our message might be too late, just like even Śrīla Prabhupāda himself couldn’t save everyone from clutches of LSD and marijuana.

So, in order to preach effectively we either need to find the “western” point in that person’s life or wait until he gets there, which doesn’t happen very often. Good news is that we, as a society, have by now developed solutions attractive for happiness seeking “southerners” – just look at how popular our messages about yoga and clever ways of living have become in India and elsewhere. These messages do not sit well with those devotees who reject “South” wholesale and this disagreement manifests as regrettable “liberal vs conservative” divide. We also have enough experience to help those struggling with their addictions and other people set on self-destructive ways of the “North”. Our Prison Ministry is an inspiring example in this area. There are also attempts to accommodate homosexuals in our movement, no doubt highly controversial. In this way we are becoming a truly universal movement covering all four directions, but our internal differences between South, North, and our original West are not recognized and we sometimes want to put everyone in the same slot, branding them as deviants if they refuse to comply.

We can say that Śrīla Prabhupāda is eternally present but we also have to acknowledge that he gave us direct guidance fifty years ago and we are not receiving it now. In this way his appearance was for the purpose of nirviśeṣa-śūnyavādi-pāścātya-deśa-tāriṇe and not so much for maintaining and developing us beyond the stage of initial deliverance, not for “southern” or “northern” stages of our lives. This means that as we want to continue our preaching mission in the spirit of Śrīla Prabhupāda we need to see where his words and methods suit the best – at the stage of the “West”, at the stage of nihilism, defiance, and disappointment in traditional values. We also need to recognize that in other places we need to derive instructions indirectly following Śrīla Prabhupāda’s spirit, his mood, his books and so on. There will be disagreements on how to do that but if we recognize that they are born out of necessity of adapting to “southern” or “northern” aspirations we might be more accommodating of disagreeing views. Our devotees are not always in the “western” stage of their lives either. Some want prosperity, some want to defy newly accepted norms of behavior and, consequently, their understanding will be different. It would be useless to argue about it because we are not “on the same page” to begin with. We should also recognize that we all have been there, that everyone goes through the same cycle and staying in one place is simply impossible, neither individually nor as a society – Vedic universe is not a static object, it always goes forward, though in circles.

It’s not the first time when the appeal to the “South” has been made in our history – Lord Caitanya Himself told Lord Nityānanda, lifelong renunciate avadhūta, to marry and settle down. As we sing during Gaura-aratik – dakhiṇe nitāi-cāńd – on His right side, ie South, is the moonlike Lord Nityānanda. I’m sure there were devotees at the time who thought it was a crazy idea and a gross deviation – we know from our literature that Lord Nityananda had quite a few detractors, but the cycle cannot be stopped, that’s how the universe moves forward. The best we can do is to find Śrīla Prabhupāda’s place in it and try to figure out how we can carry his legacy forward turn after turn, and also to learn to see his legacy in the actions of devotees we happen to disagree with. The worst we can do is to mislabel everything and forcefully apply some local rules and conclusions everywhere without any consideration. Śrīla Prabhupāda taught us better.

PS. The idea of Vedic directions step by step manifesting actual world is taken from a book Cosmic Theogony by Ṛṣirāja Prabhu/Ashish Dalela. There are lots of similar topics there, describing various manifestations of phenomenal world from fundamental philosophy of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.

Vrindavan Welcomes

While hanging around the temple the other day I picked up “Vrindavan Memories” book and read a few stories from it. This book is a collection of personal remembrances related to building Krishna Balaram Mandir. Usually our memoirs are centered on Srila Prabhupada, on what he had done, where he had gone, what he had said etc, but this book is about stories between individual devotees and Vrindavan and therefore it provides an unusual insight into the early days of our movement.

Take the story of Surabhi Prabhu, Krishna Balaram’s architect. First he was invited to design Bombay temple but construction there hit a snag with the court case against the original landowner who wanted to cheat ISKCON out of the land. Having nothing to do there Surabhi was sent to Vrindavan to work on design of Krishna Balaram instead.

When their group arrived in Vrindavan they had nowhere to go and so they decided to start with bathing in Yamuna first – you know, to get purified before they get to know Vrindavan itself. So they went to the river, changed into gamchas, and started bathing.

Right at this moment an Indian man from a local group bathing nearby, in other words a Vrijavasi, got swept away by the currents and started drowning. There was huge commotion and devotees went in to save him but he was drawn under the water and they just couldn’t find him. The man drowned and his body was never seen again.

Just think about it – you go to Vrindavana for the first time. You know it’s a sacred land non-different from the spiritual world, and the first thing you see is this sacred Yamuna River killing a man before your eyes. How do you react? Do you treat her as a person and therefore hold her responsible? Or do you think about it is a dumb river, a mass of water flowing under the law of gravity? What just happened? What kind of welcome message Vrindavan is sending you? 

I’m still not sure what to think. Was it a spiritual decision by transcendental personalities and the message was that “life” as we know it means nothing here and can be legitimately taken away at any moment with no recourse whatsoever? Or do you brush it off as an accident, a kind of natural disaster with no one responsible?

Second story was told by Gunarnava Prabhu, the name I don’t think I have heard before, and there are actually two stories here. He was in a group of devotees who flew into Delhi and were told to go to the train station and travel to Vrindavan. So, they started off in the “civilized” world when they got on an airplane, albeit Indian. They arrived in a half-civilized world airport, but their next stop was Delhi train station and they’ve never experienced  anything like this before. 

Sights, sounds, and smells of Indian train stations are overwhelming. They’ve never seen so many people in one place doing so many different things, all seemingly chaotic. “Vibrant” is one word to describe it. There were screams and shouts, everybody was dressed colorfully but at the same time filth was everywhere, too. There were smells of trains, diesel fuel, smoke from the exhausts, cooked food being sold, food being cooked, spices, sweat, and urine. 

Okay, they went to the ticket office and decided that because the journey was going to be only a couple of hours they could get by in a third class carriage. Little did they know that two hours on the schedule means four or more hours in real life, or that third class carriage means standing room only for many many passengers, and that “passengers” included chicken, goats, and even cows. 

From Mathura they took the last bus to Vrindavan and they arrived when it was already dark. If you seen Vrindavan at night – the city is practically dead. All the doors are bolted and there isn’t a soul on the streets, not even animals. Lucky for them, a man spotted a group of lost looking westerners and offered them to spend the night at the nearby Ramakrishna Mission ashram. 

You know how our scriptures describe the Sun as an eye of the Lord? They experienced it for real the next morning when they first got the chance to see where they actually were. The Sun literally opens our vision of the world around us, and they were taking in the sights with the thirst of a tired pilgrim. 

They were taken by rikshaws to the Radha Damodara temple where ISKCON devotees stayed at the time and so they went through a maze of narrow streets with open sewage on both sides and it all looked decidedly medieval. “What is this place?” question was on everybody’s minds. Welcome to Vrindavan.

After a while Srila Prabhupada sent them a letter asking them to move onto the newly donated land in Raman Reti – where our Krishna Balaram temple now is. At that time (1972) Raman Reti was far out on the outskirts from Vrindavan Town and there was nothing there, it was just overgrown land and nothing else.

They moved in, they got a few huts to stay in, and that was all. There was no running water, no toilets, no plumbing or facilities of any kind, but they did get an electric wire coming from the main road. By that time it was already summer and summers in Vrindavan are unbearably hot. During the day temperature regularly goes into mid forties, means ten degrees higher than the human body. I don’t know how much it is in Fahrenheit. 238923 to the power of ten? This would be a suitable place for a joke about non-metric systems but 108 degrees Fahrenheit is about 42 degrees Celsius so they got at least something right in that system there. 

To relieve themselves from heat, or to actually survive the heat stroke, devotees would soak gamchas and chaddars in water, lie down, and cover themselves with wet clothes, waiting for them to dry, then rinse and repeat. The highlight of their day was when one of them would ride a bicycle to Loi Bazaar to buy a block of ice from ice-walla, bring it back, and make it into a cold drink. Once a day. They didn’t have things like refrigerators back then. One glass of cool drink a day was all they had available in transcendentally unbearable 108 degree heat. 

There was one devotee named Vyala among them. He was a pukka brahmacharit – very neat and very organized. One day it was his turn to ride to Loi Bazaar. Devotees also got a watermelon and it was decided that they’d wait for ice and then have a nice, cooling watermelon with nice, cooling drink. This time, however, Vyala was not back on time. 

Tired of waiting they decided to have watermelon themselves first and they left Vyala’s piece on a plate inside a hut. At this point one stray cow, which are everywhere in Vrindavan,  smelled a juicy piece of watermelon, spotted it in the hut, and went straight inside to get it. 

Devotees tried to stop her but nothing can stand in the way between cow and her food. Except small doors. She went through the outer room okay but got stuck in the door to the inner quarters. Her stomach was too big to squeeze through. Lucky for her, she still could reach the watermelon and she started chomping on it.

Because she was stuck in the door devotees could not get into the inner room and save the watermelon either so they helplessly listened to the cow enjoying her food. When she was done she backed out of the door but cows are not very good at walking backwards so she tried to turn herself around inside the outer room. There were three-four devotees in that room as well and they all started pushing and shoving her. The cow thought that she was trapped and she backed up into the inner room again but this time it was her rear end that went in. Panicking, she relieved herself and a huge pile of hot steaming cow dung dropped on the same plate where there was Vyala’s watermelon before. 

When they eventually got the cow out Vyala finally came back. Turned out the bicycle had a flat tire and he had to fix it himself on the side of Vrindavan road and it took a very long time. He was hot, sweaty, and very very irritated. He was cursing the bicycle, the tire, everything, but mostly the heat.

To his disappointment the ice block completely melted so cool drink was no longer on the menu. “Where is my watermelon”, Vyala asked hopefully. “Well, about that….”

Vyala went inside the hut and realized that not only he spent hours out in the burning sun for nothing – no ice and no cold drink, but that for prasadam he literally had only a pile of cow sh*t. He just flipped out. “I’ve had enough”, he said, and he left Vrindavan soon afterwards.

When I replay this story in my head I can’t contain laughter, it’s pure gold comedy, but there’s a very important lesson here for us. Surrender everything to Krishna means surrender everything. There’s absolutely nothing that Krishna will let us to hold back. Nothing. We cannot demand water, food, tolerable temperature – we cannot demand anything. 

When we approach Krishna there will be severe tests given and we are expected to pass. One can chide this Vyala devotee for not being patient and tolerant enough but he was given a test no one of us is ready for yet. He didn’t pass it but we are not even in the same grade. From his example we can only estimate what will be asked of us when the time comes.

Alternatively, instead of imagining all the possible things we will have to tolerate or give up we can concentrate on the chanting of the Holy Name and then absolutely everything else in our consciousness will have to go. 

In our lives we try to orient ourselves relative to all kinds of phenomena. “How do I react to this? What do I do when this happens? How to I reply here? What about that? Is it safe for me to think this way?” Our true position, however, should be relative only to Krishna/Holy Name. Once we see this connection our positions in regards to all the other phenomena will be clear automatically. We won’t have to think or ask questions about it. Just try to develop Krishna consciousness and everything else will fall into place naturally without any extra endeavor. 

Perhaps it’s for this reason that I’m not eager to go to Vrindavan anymore. I feel like I’ve seen everything that there’s there to see already. That is – I’ve seen everything I can see with my present eyes and if I continue looking – meaning I continue engaging my senses in my current materialistic mentality – I will be making nama-aparadhas. New eyes are necessary. 

Of course it’s not just eyes – eyes are only tips of the senses but the main perception occurs in the mind. Then the intelligence catalogs the experiences in the vast library of dates, places, meanings, and connections, and then the ego decides what kind of experiences I want to pursue in the future. 

I feel the need to cleanse this whole mirror in the heart, the one that reflects reality for my perception, before I dare to have another look at Vrindavan. Interesting thing – once this mirror is cleansed Vrindavan can been seen everywhere and in its full transcendental glory, too.

Another aspect of it is that Vrindavan is not a city, not a town, and not even a village. Vrindavan is a forest and Krishna lives in Vraja, which is a special kind of place that needs to be described separately. This Vraja or Vrindavan doesn’t have electricity, air conditioning, cool drinks, ice boxes, apartment buildings, cars and rikshaws, or the Internet. Or rupees in your wallet. If I interact with these things I’m not in Vrindavana and these are the things that Krishna wants to be given up completely. There will be a test as well so I better get ready. First learn offenseless chanting, establish your own Krishna Consciousness, then Vrindavan will appear together with Krishna Himself. They are inseparable, you can’t see one without seeing the other.

ISKCON as acintya-bheda-abheda tattva

Never mind my previous post about doubts in ISKCON’s direction – it will all work out alright. The reason is that ISKCON is growing and spreading throughout the society, which means it draws more and more of less and less qualified people in. They all deserve their chance at getting the mercy of the Holy Name and so they all deserve a chance to become ISKCON members.

Our membership is very relaxed now, btw. Anyone who thinks that following teachings of Śrīla Prabhupāda can bring them to the Absolute Truth is qualified. It’s not about initiations, not even about rounds being chanted – the only requirement is śraddhā – firm faith in the teachings of our founder-ācārya, just as it’s said in śāstra – ādau śraddhā. Whether these people are still attracted by mundane qualities like easiness or practicality is immaterial. This definition of ISKCON membership is from one of the GBC resolutions a few years ago, 2013 or 2014.

Having said that, there’s also obvious difference between ISKCON of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s time and this expanded part of ISKCON today. It would be incorrect to say that it’s the difference between old ISKCON and new ISKCON because it would betray materialistic thinking, which is influenced by time and which assumes materially manifested phenomena as reality. Just because we don’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exists. Let me explain.

Under the influence of materialistic education we think that life comes from matter. As devotees we shrugged off this gross misunderstanding but vestiges of it still stay with us in various subtle forms. One of them is the assumption that if something isn’t manifested empirically it means it doesn’t exist or it’s “gone”. We don’t believe in independent existence of life, not for real. Instead we believe life exists on the spiritual platform as something magical, imperceptible, and unattainable. This includes all subtle manifestations of life such as mind, meanings, emotions, ideas etc. Our false, atavistic assumption is that if there’s no head to hold the brain and mouth to speak then ideas don’t exist. Even if we might verbally agree that it’s not right we are still prone to making the next logical misstep – that if heads, brains, and mouths disappear it means ideas disappear, too. In that sense old ISKCON is gone – true, but that’s not how it exists!

When we define ISKCON as Śrīla Prabhupāda’s child we mean that which comes from his unalloyed devotion. That devotion is eternal, it never disappears, it was never born and it will never cease to exist. Consequently, the same applies to the child of this devotion – ISKCON. It might get unmanifested, it might get embodied in different forms, which are ever changing in material perception, but it will never cease to exist. It’s eternal, its real state of being is immutable just like the soul.

What we see with our material vision, however, is simultaneously one and different from that eternal state of ISKCON’s being, and from my experience this simultaneous connection and divergence is inconceivable. Inconceivable in that it’s impossible to predict when we should treat it as the same and when as different. It’s kinda obvious when it actually happens but there aren’t any rules that would constrain any particular ISKCON manifestation to being one or another.

On one hand our Congregational Ministry reaching out to people with promises of fun and practicality is fundamentally different from pure selfless devotion of Śrīla Prabhupāda, but on the other hand if that is how we can bring people in and put them through the process of purification then even these materialistic goals become spiritual. I’m not going to share them myself but if it works for other people I’m all for it. In this way I see them as devotees and as non-devotees at the same time, as parts of “true” ISKCON and as impostors simultaneously. It’s inconceivable.

Empirically perceptible manifestation of ISKCON might grow and shrink. It’s like a wave spreading across the surface of the pond to reach the other shore. This wave will lift up all kinds of jetsam and flotsam, it will lift up and stir all kinds of silt and sediment, maybe even oil spills. If you meet this wave on the other side you might not recognize the water at all but it’s still the same wave, simultaneously one and different with the water manifesting it. In some places the wave will be almost invisible, in other places it will apparently grow in height, in some places it will appear as surf, but it’s still the same wave from the same source carrying the same transcendental vibration.

As individuals we are located in different places and experience it differently, but it’s the experience of the same vibration. Sometimes it might not resonate with us and sometimes it will, every strongly. Sometimes it will change us, sometimes we will affect the wave as well. These experiences are largely unpredictable, like in typical śāstric references to little straws being brought together and then drawn apart by whirlpools. We don’t have much control over what happens exactly, but the sincerity of our prayer, sincerity of our chanting is one predominating factor. Kṛṣṇa will not put us in a situation harmful to our spiritual progress. Challenging – yes, but never harmful.

On one hand it means that our situation doesn’t matter, we should simply go on chanting and let Kṛṣṇa worry about arrangements of the material nature. On the other hand it means all these arrangements are Kṛṣṇa’s arrangements and so should be treated accordingly – as His personal mercy. There’s inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference here as well. The world is material and, therefore, is of no interest, and yet it’s Kṛṣṇa’s world and, therefore, needs to be seen as His mercy. Eventually time will come when His mercy will be shown through fully spiritual energy instead but we can’t look in the mouth of a gifted horse, that would be selfish and, therefore, undevotional.

So, on one hand there’s ISKCON where they want fun and easy ways to get through Bhagavad Gītā, on the other hand there are devotees who made this video:

It deserves a post of its own, and one post would not be enough. I’ve been watching it for a month and a half now, a few minutes everyday. It’s is absolutely free from all contamination of karma and jñāna. It represents ISKCON I absolutely need even if my body is not manifested in the same place as devotees who made it. Does it matter, though? They encoded their devotion in this film and I decode it into instructions on my side of the world. In this way I obtain their association. In my experience it’s far closer than sitting next to a person you don’t really share your ideas with. In this way I’m part of the ISKCON I see but don’t appreciate much and a part of ISKCON I don’t see but feel so close to. It all is inconceivably one and different.

Vanity thought #1478. Complexity of the problem

From our literature we get plenty of clues how to define one’s nature, one’s varṇa. Just look at how the person earns his income, for example. There are several authorized ways for brāhmaṇas to get donations, there are ways for kṣatriyas to take money from others, there are vaiśyas and their trade, and there are śudras and their paychecks. Easy peasy.

It gets more complicated when we try to apply these rules to modern life and expect different outcomes than the ones suggested by śāstra. Everyone wants to be brāhmaṇical, for example, brāhmaṇas are praised all throughout our books and Śrīla Prabhupāda was stressing the importance of creating a brāhmaṇical class to save the modern society, everyone is expected to take the second initiation, which was known as brāhmaṇical initiation when I joined, everyone was proud of his brāhmaṇa thread, it was a no brainer – we need to become brāhmaṇas.

Well, that is not possible, not in the Vedic sense of the word. We can claim that devotees are higher than brāhamaṇas by the dint of their selfless service in any condition of life but we want that “any condition” to be brāhmaṇical one and that is just not happening.

We want to be build varṇāśrama but no one wants to be a śudra, how’s that possible? Then we say that we actually want a daivī-varṇāsrama so that we are all better than brāhmaṇas but perform the service of the śudras. Maybe this will work but probably not in our lives, so we need another solution in the meantime.

We can tweak the rules and allow for Kali yuga adjustments where we can discount some tell signs as non-essential and external, and focus on a deeper nature instead. Like teachers are brāhmaṇas, obviously, even if they live on paychecks like śudras. Being employed as a teacher is seen as a Kali yuga concession that does not affect the nature of the job.

Maybe so, but in many teaching jobs you won’t be allowed to act as a brāhmaṇa anymore because education has become an industrial process. Go stand in front of the class, say these words from the curriculum, mark the papers, pick the check, go home.

What I was talking about for the past couple of days approaches the problem of classification from another angle. In Vedic times one’s occupation was a solid clue about one’s nature but these days we are forced to do jobs we don’t want and so we need to look elsewhere to find our true aspirations so that we can take the jobs we do. We inquire about our svabahva because we are unhappy with our jobs and so the answer “your job indicates your svabhava” is unacceptable. It indicates what I DON’T want to do with my life, even if it is somehow a part of my nature it’s the part I want to shed off.

There’s also the reality of being pulled in different directions. There are so many distractions all around us, have a long look at something and you find yourself a new attachment. It’s not fair to say “you want this and you want that, therefore…” because these are not real “wants”, they are just temporary reactions of the mind, one can have dozens of them on any given day. We need vyavasāyātmikā buddhir which is ekeha – focused on only one thing in the world (BG 2.41). We need to look for our core nature and discard bahu-śākhā hy anantāś ca consciousness of Kali yuga.

So what I proposing here is to try and determine our svabhava not by our work but by our leisure. The process then would go like this – first forget all the nonsensical things you are forced to do by external circumstances. Next you need to learn to rest and be at leisure, then you need to develop an ear for your internal, natural aspirations, and then you can try and act on them and see how it feels. You might need to do it several times and you still might end with a complex personality but then there will come the most important realization of all.

Our “svabhava” is an anartha, it has no value, it only a false ego, and it needs to be given up. The more of these “svabhavas” we give up on our way the better. So if you start with five and end up with two – three anarthas off our shoulders, which is progress.

This is pretty straightforward, the part that interests me most is learning to be at leisure. We think we all know how to rest but rest is not the kind of leisure I am talking about here. Yesterday I talked about the original meaning of leisure, which is different from idleness. Leisure is crystallizing our aspirations and getting ready to fulfill them, it’s not sitting on the couch and pushing buttons on X-Box controller. We need to learn not to rest but to be at rest, which is a different thing.

I’ve tried it many times – people just won’t sit still, they won’t agree to sit still, and if they do, they’d be counting seconds until they can get up or pick their phones again. Being at rest means being under the influence of sattva, it won’t happen to those driven by passion or numbed by ignorance. One needs to develop the quality of goodness in his life first, only then he can become sensitive to his inner thoughts and desires, and it takes time.

Simple living and high thinking is one recipe for this. Drinking milk is another, though taken in isolation it won’t probably be enough for a long long time. I don’t want to touch on chanting here just yet, chanting is not for self-discovery, it’s for Lord’s pleasure, we shouldn’t be thinking of our own desires while we are doing japa, so let’s leave it out for now.

One sure way to develop sattva in our lives is to take shelter in it at every opportunity. This will gradually give us taste and eventually develop into a habit. If one doesn’t know where to find sattva, one can start by avoiding rajas and tamas, those are far easier to spot. A lot of time can be spend on explaining how to identify modes of nature around us. They are not “somewhere” but in everything we see and experience, always mixed but sometimes one gets more prominent than then others, so it’s really a question of being attentive, not some magical skill.

One could say that this will take a long time, which is uncharacteristic of Kṛṣṇa conscious solutions, but this is a solution to material unhappiness and our lack of patience. Fixing this will, theoretically, allow us to divert our consciousness to devotional service. We’ll become fixed in our varṇāsrama duties and varṇāśrama is only a preliminary step. Or one can skip this step altogether and simply take to chanting with all his heart.

This ultimate solution, chanting, is simple and works in an instant, but it’s not easy, and if we want to make it easy it becomes complicated and demands time. None of our efforts, whichever way we choose, will be perfect, too, it’s just the reality of life. By hook or by crook we need to make ourselves Kṛṣṇa conscious, no matter how long it takes or how much effort is needed, so we should try everything that works, it’s totally worth it.

Vanity thought #1440. Off the chest

There’s one other issue that aroused my interest while searching for information relevant to yesterday’s topic. Once again, I don’t want to ascribe any direct criticism to any senior devotee but rather deal with residual attitude. This approach might be hypocritical on my behalf – I take direct quotes and so one way or the other I accuse the author of being wrong. But what can I do?

For one thing, I take these quotes in isolation, as statements floating somewhere on the internet. When one reads them one is affected by their content and so it’s possible to disassociate them from their source. Another tactic is to use these quotes merely as an examples of what I see is erroneous thinking. I could have expressed it in my own words but then someone could say that I would be fighting strawmen as no one actually said these things. Here quotes come in handy – I do not create my own image of the opponents, I create it on the basis of the quotes.

It’s all a bit confusing, I know, maybe one day my thinking on this matter would crystallize and I would be able to express it in a few unambiguous words. For now it’s more or less like this – I do not want to attach quotes to personalities but rather use them as examples of memes floating around, pretty much in Dawkins’ sense of the word – ideas that have taken life on their own and got planted themselves in general public.

This is not a novel approach, btw, and I think I will address it again tomorrow.

Today’s quote is this:

    Kṛṣṇa stretched out his arms and embraced the gopīs. He further aroused their passion and enjoyed with them by touching their hands, hair, thighs, belts, and breasts, as well as by playfully scratching them with his fingernails, joking with them, laughing with them, and glancing at them. In this way, he engaged in erotic sport with them as prescribed in the Kāma-sutra.

It comes from a book on rāsa-līlā sold in book stores for general public. It’s a good question why would such exposé on “passionate love”, as its said in the title, should be put in Barnes & Noble.

Here’s our BBT translation of the same verse (SB 10.29.46):

    There Kṛṣṇa threw His arms around the gopīs and embraced them. He aroused Cupid in the beautiful young ladies of Vraja by touching their hands, hair, thighs, belts and breasts, by playfully scratching them with His fingernails, and also by joking with them, glancing at them and laughing with them. In this way the Lord enjoyed His pastimes.

Note how it’s a lot less, umm, arousing. In the first quote it’s “aroused their passion” instead of “aroused Cupid in …” and BBT’s last word “pastimes” became “erotic sport.. as prescribed in the Kāma-sutra”. I’m not going to argue which translation is more accurate, there’s no mention of Kāma-sutra in Sanskrit, for example, what is it there for? The book, however, wasn’t presented as a translation, it does not give numbered verses, so textual accuracy should not really be expected.

My impression is that the change is meant to titillate but I have not read the rest of the book, maybe it’s just an odd one out. Reference to Kāma-sutra is important.

The author defended it by saying that Kāma-sutra is a serious work by a serious sage and even Sanātana Gosvāmī mentioned it once when talking about pastimes of Lord Balarama (“..he is very expert in the various types of conjugal pastimes mentioned in the Kāma-sutras.”)

The use of the word “erotic” is also defended on the ground that practically all our ācāryas, including Śrīla Prabhupāda, used it when talking about Kṛṣṇa’s relationships with the gopīs.

That is true but, afaik, they used “erotic” as in “erotic principle”, or “erotic element”, or “erotic feelings”. This is definitely true for Śrīla Prabhupāda who even has this sentence in one of his purports (CC Madhya 14.158):

    Lord Kṛṣṇa’s lusty desires and all His dealings with the gopīs are on the spiritual platform… Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī are here talking about the relationship between Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs; therefore the subject matter is neither mundane nor erotic.

I want to point out that when talking about specific activities rather than the principle itself Śrīla Prabhupāda denied them being erotic, we should not use this term like this way, yet the quote in question does exactly that.

Now, the Kāma-sutra. Originally it might have been a legitimate Vedic scripture but to modern people it means Indian sex manual, basically an excuse to look at legitimate porn. I’m pretty sure that’s not how Sanātana Gosvāmī meant it, plus he says “expert in .. pastimes mentioned in the Kāma-sutras (also “sutras”, not one particular version). Someone said in defense of the quote that Kṛṣṇa employed this art in His dealings with the gopīs, but did He, really? I don’t think He was schooled in it at the time of the rāsa dance. As the Supreme Personality of Godhead He doesn’t need to be schooled in anything, of course, but then there’s no need to refer to Kāma-sutra as a source of His expertise.

Balarāma was expert in pastimes [also] mentioned in Kāma-sutras, that’s how Sanātana Gosvāmī put it. In the quote, however, Kṛṣṇa engages as prescribed in Kāma-sutra, giving people the impression that He learned from the sex manual just like anyone can do nowadays. This is not “erotic principle”, it’s mundane erotic behavior.

The back cover of the book reportedly carries an endorsement from the author of “Mystical Sex: Love, Ecstasy, and the Mystical Experience”, further cementing the impression that it’s all about sex and eroticism. Why would a devotional book need to be validated by a sex-guru is beyond me. Doesn’t it diminish its status as a serious work on the highest form of spirituality? And is it, really? Just because there’s no “erotic” in the title but “aesthetic” instead?

To the accusation that such confidential matters should not be disclosed to general public the defenders say that the part about rāsa-līlā is sandwiched between two chapters on philosophy, so it’s presumably okay, it prepares the readers properly. I would quote from the same purport by Śrīla Prabhupāda, no need to reach too far:

    One has to be transcendentally realized before even considering relishing the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs. One who is on the mundane platform must first purify himself by following the regulative principles. Only then can he try to understand Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs.

Does reading two chapters (actually only one before the reader gets to the juicy parts) enough? Is that chapter as purifying as reading nine cantos of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam while performing all the processes of sādhana-bhakti? Rhetorical questions, of course, the bits about philosophy is just a formality, like “Pamho, AGTSP” line we insert at the beginning of e-mails without much thinking. Even when we really mean it, it’s not the actual subject of our communication.

I’m not trying to prove that the book is an example of sahajiyā, that is not my concern at all, what interests me is how and why it might be seen as such. How translation is slightly tweaked to make it hot and sexy, how the word “erotic” is used in a different way from our ācāryas, how reference to Kāma-sutra is inserted for no particular reason and not in the way our ācāryas used it, too. All these elements on their own are legitimate but the way they are misused and put together makes the result unacceptable, at least to me.

That’s what we should watch out for in our practice – how and why deviations can happen even when we operate with legitimate sources.