Vanity thought #693. Krishna’s flute

It would be nice to reach a real breakthrough and get attracted by the sound of Krishna’s flute, then our progress would become irreversible, I hope. In real life, however, we might consider it magical, ie not real.

Practically all the things that attract us to Krishna, deities, taste of prasadam or sound of kirtan, are perceived on the material platform and so are material attractions. Those of us who have bodily predisposition towards such things are lucky, of course, and thank god I’m not lactose intolerant, but this is not the real luck of real spiritual discovery.

So, if sound of Krishna’s flute is unavailable for the time being, where can we find the Lord then? For material senses and mind there’s no discrimination between what is actually a spiritual substance, like an archa form of the Lord, and a material substance, like a statue of Donatelli’s David. If we are searching for the Lord where our senses take us we are bound to end up in some strange places, frantically looking for reasons why our fascination with something like Mona Liza could have spiritual underpinnings.

That’s not the safest way to go.

The only way the sound of Krishna’s flute manifests before our polluted consciousness is in the instructions of our spiritual master. Without necessary purity we can’t perceive Lord’s form and qualities and the Lord won’t accept our service, too. For us the Lord manifests through a guru parampara. Guru accepts our service and passes it on, and the Lord sends down His thanks the same way.

So, staring at the Deity and trying to figure our why they say Krishna is the most attractive being is not the way to go. Neither is listening to tons of stories about Him being strong or clever or playful. While these two methods are legitimate service there are limits on their applications, there are preconditions. One must free his hears from all duplicity and one must hear from his designated authority.

If these two preconditions are met, if one sincerely and with full faith hears from his spiritual master then even a simplest sentence of them all, “Krishna is God”, will fill his heart with transcendental bliss and remove the material illusion covering his eyes. Actually, even one syllable accepted in the right state of mind can immediately elevate one to the next level of devotion.

On the other hand, neglecting one’s guru and consuming large quantities of pseudo spiritual materials on his own will only create disturbances in one’s spiritual life and lead him down the path of sahajia.

The most common way to ascertain one’s level of spiritual progress is to observe compliance with nityam bhagavata sevaya principle but when we look at ourselves it becomes way to personal to be objective. We think we serve the Lord constantly but that might only be self-indulgence (look how great devotee I am!). We also can’t trust our interest in Krishna’s material manifestations, as I established above. So, what’s left?

Desire to serve our spiritual master. Most of the time his orders are not particularly attractive so we can’t fool ourselves like with listening to studio produced kirtans on CDs, most of the time his orders are personally inconvenient but not impossible to follow. It is relatively easy to take them on and ignore our bodily reactions, so our eagerness to follow them no matter what is a good litmus test of our devotion.

That’s our Krishna’s flute!

In the line of Srila Prabhupada the most pertinent order of all is to preach. If we don’t have desire to elevate the consciousness of everyone we meet, we aren’t really devoted ourselves. If we don’t follow on such a desire, we aren’t really devoted either.

The order to preach is our Krishna’s flute, it should raise us to action from our slumber like gopis who got up in the middle of the night and went to a rasa dance. If we can’t be bothered – we are not devotees.

So, if we ever stand and wonder what is it we should aspire to achieve in the foreseeable future – spontaneous and unmotivated attraction to following orders of our guru, which is to preach Krishna consciousness everywhere.

There’s no substitution.

PS. Of course it’s not only one’s initiating guru who Krishna plays His flute through, any devotee can be Krishna’s messenger, but with one caveat – there should be no divergence between all our gurus, Prabhupada, and shastra. Recent GBC paper on the lines of authority in ISKCON clarifies that very nicely.

Vanity thought #594. Skin, flesh, blood, muscle, fat, marrow, bone, stool, urine and pus

Not very attractive when you describe a body that way, is it? We are reminded of this reality over and over again in our books but it never truly sticks. Why is it so?

When we look at our own bodies we know what they are made of and very few of us are proud of what we got. Sometimes we look into mirrors and like what we see but it requires an effort and a mirror. On our own we might like our skin but we get enough zits and blisters over the course of our life to know that even the most beautiful skin is not what it seems. Several times a day we get calls of nature and we don’t like what comes out of our bodies at all. Everybody also knows what pus is, it’s not pretty, and if we forget what pus feels like, everyday we have the smell of sweat that we can’t fully hide from ourselves.

In short – we’ve been grossed out by our bodies often enough to be aware of their nature. Why do we assume that other bodies are any better just because they belong to the opposite sex?

In fact, I’ve met several women who were very aware of natural shortcomings of their bodies and who couldn’t truly understand why men find them so attractive. Not that it stopped them from manipulating their prey.

On the surface it seems very easy – you know what the body is made of, it’s not attractive, so stop being attracted to it. It’s unnatural to be attracted to urine and pus and all the other things so stop it.

Never works.

When we are attracted to the opposite sex we don’t see the grossness of their bodies at all, it goes straight past us and disappears totally unnoticed. We do not get attracted to bones, marrow and fat, we get attracted to some idea in our heads that has little to do with reality. How to stop that from happening? This idea is not related to bones either, it comes from somewhere else.

If you tell someone who is smitten by a girl that her shit stinks they wouldn’t even hear you. You can preach all you want about the reality, they become transcendental to it. You can preach all you want to yourself, too, it won’t stop you from being in love.

It’s not the lack of knowledge that causes us to fall in love, it’s something else. Perhaps instead of trying to see the body for what it is we should study love and infatuation and how they work to put us under their spell.

Sometimes they say it’s just lust. Not true, imo. Lust plays its part and it might be at the core of our existence but people in love are not particularly lascivious, not in the beginning, in fact they feel some sort of a barrier to expressing their feelings physically, they feel that sex is inadequate to express their love, they feel it’s much more than just physical actions. Eventually it goes away but in the beginning it’s definitely there.

Science has a pretty convincing explanation how hormones work and it might help us to see things more clearly when we feel attraction to opposite sex but what we need as devotees is the shastric version and, afaik, it doesn’t exist. We have this description of a human body and so far I’ve traced it to the teachings of some king AFTER he got dumped. My point is that we need different lessons when we fall in love and when we suffer from break ups, “pus lesson” is for break ups, we needs lessons for falling in love.

The only way that I know from our books is staying away from the opposite sex altogether. Of course these days everybody gets married so people might say that staying away doesn’t work, but it’s the injunction for married men, too. We should stay away from all temptations with all females. Anyone who could remind us of association with women should be outside our circles. No movies, not popular culture, no female “friends”, nothing. What more, we should not associate even with men who are attracted to women, so no male friends either.

Senses cannot be pacified by bringing them in contact with their objects, only by withdrawing them. There’s no such thing as “little harmless sense gratification”. It all starts with very little and then it grows and this growth can’t be checked, you’ll just see yourself rolling with it until you hit a wall.

So what about our wives then? I don’t know. Approaching them only for procreation should help but no one does that these days so there’s no way to confirm it. In the entire ISKCON there are probably only a handful of couples who stay with their grihastha vows like brahmachari stay with theirs, and I don’t know their names and no one is sure how long they can keep doing this. The situation appears to be completely hopeless.

So yeah, not very inspirational, I know, but that’s the reality of it.

Vanity thought #195. Missing Link.

I don’t mean the link scientists are looking for when they try to prove we all came from monkeys, though it’s a very interesting topic.

A few days ago Chinese made waves in paleontology when they reclassified some half bird half dinosaur. Now the entire path form dinos to birds need to be re-charted. It won’t affect the conclusion in the least but paleontologists world over have a lot of homework on their hands.

At least with dinosaurs they have plenty of material to work with, it seems everywhere you dig you are bound to find some wishbones lying around.

The entire human evolution, on the other hand, has produced only over a hundred human fossils. That’s for millions and millions of years. On average they have one or two human skeletons per hundred thousand years, for the entire planet, and they call it proof.

Our entire recorded history is only about five thousand years yet they have only a handful of bones to “prove” evolution over some five million years back. This is just ridiculous, just like the fact that we are soon going to celebrate fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing with the US not having a single spacecraft able to even leave the Earth! I’m sure they’ll find something, they still have eight years to go.

Half a century ago when people used dial phones and computers were the size of small buildings, in eight years they build not only the rocket to fly to the Moon, they also build a Moon lander, and not once that thing malfunctioned in a dozen or so missions. That just doesn’t compute, but I digress – that’s not what I was planning to write about.

The missing link I had in mind is the connection between people, living and recently died.

I don’t think I have it and that’s why I call it missing.

I seriously consider diagnosing myself as a misanthropist and a psychopath.

I wasn’t always this way. I remember I had plenty of friends in school, I had crashes going back to kindergarten and definitely the first grade. I remember in high school one girl told me she was amazed that I turn out so open and welcoming person despite my usual grumpy appearance.

At the last job I had people were really commenting on my grumpiness, it didn’t go well with the image we were trying to project. Eventually they got round and accepted me, however.

About ten years ago I had so many friends and acquaintances I was caught not remembering names of people and blaming it on new glasses or something.

Then the things have turned, gradually, day by day, year by year, I lost touch with all of them. Sometimes it worries me – it’s not normal, and today is one of those days.

This week my partner’s cousin has died and I totally forgot about it. This week my partner herself was late from work three times, and on Friday instead of having a big meeting with her boss about “margins” or something I saw her being in another part of town, in a residential neighborhood. You can see these things with Google Latitude on modern mobile phones.

That should have made me worried by I felt a cause for celebration instead – I was finally going to be free from the last of my obligations. Turned out it was a business dinner/party and there were pictures of it all over Facebook. What a letdown!

To be clear – I’m not totally immune to human emotions, and I have shed a tear or two in recent years but it’s demanding increasing efforts with each time.

Today, as Saturdays usually go, I watched something on TV and it was a touching story about death. A wooman was having such a strong connection that each day, around the same time, she had a physical need to hear the voice of her beloved. When one half of such relationship dies the remaining person really sees no reason to live and all the things that remind about the missing link bring out tears and drain out the life force.

I honestly don’t think I can experience these emotions anymore, not to the expected degree anyway.

On the other hand there are things that people love and want to have and they would do anything to establish some new links.

How does that work? What exactly is the nature of these attachments? Why do they affect different people in different ways? What is my situation in this regard? What am I supposed to do?

Suddenly I saw two distinct parts to this. First is the attraction to the object of one’s affection. That can’t be helped. I have been smitten quite a few times in my life. Senses are like magnets this way, they can’t be stopped.

Relinquishing all attachments doesn’t mean that eyes are not attracted to beautiful things and the entire body, gross and subtle, becomes indifferent towards the closest person. That aspect cannot be stopped. That is also the reason why we can always slip back into maya on every step from here to the highest stages of devotion. As long as we have our bodies they will be attracted to things, attraction will never go away.

Another aspect is the desire of attraction itself. We are dying to love and be loved. We want to be attracted to things, if we aren’t we think something is seriously wrong with us.

Right at this moment we have probably billions of people desperately searching for love, for their Mr or Ms Right, for a phone call from their children, or for a pair of shoes that would knock them off their feet, or maybe of a Saturday night fling, or for any validation of one’s attractiveness.

From this angle, it’s not the objects that people are attracted to, it’s the state of being attracted itself, and that, I believe, is our conscious choice, t least to the degree we have a free will.

This is not something that just comes over us, like love at first sight, this is our conscious decision and hard work to become entangled, and this is something we, as devotees, should be avoiding at all costs, and I think it’s doable.

There’s no need to go look out for trouble in this world, trouble will always find you.

When the thought of my partner having an affair appeared in my head I was clearly in two minds about it – I could indulge and suffer the consequences of being cheated, or I could celebrate the happy loss and spend my time in anticipation of Krishna’s next move. He made quite a few in this past year and I’d be very glad to know I’m ready for the next step.

Maybe I am turning into a misanthropist and sociopath incapable of experiencing the depth of human emotions, but I want to do it by choice, I just don’t feel like playing family or divorce or falling in love right now. Those are exciting games and they will surely take me for a spin but they have an end and they have a lot of unhappiness mixed in, too.

Unfortunately, I can’t just call it a day and throw the toys out of a pram. As long as I have the body I will experience strong attractions or dislikes, and I will experience the urge to have new experiences. Each of these two calamities has its own set of tricks to mitigate them but ultimately it’s only devotion to the Lord that can cool down this blazing fire of material existence.

Unfortunately, simply denying myself my indulgence or denying desire for indulgence is not going to cause devotion. Whatever I do to navigate this ocean is immaterial, no matter how good I get it’s only the matter of time before waves and currents get me.

On the other hand, it’s very important to stay afloat until the boat of the Holy Names anchors in my heart, yet the boat won’t come just because I’m such a good swimmer. Still, because I have one hand on the rope already, it would be a shame to get eaten by sharks now, so I better watch out and kick hard.

If there are any missing links between me and the sharks in the ocean of maya – so be it, I’m actually glad, I’m not going to actively seek re-connection.