I ended yesterday’s post with saying we don’t know how good we have it. Maybe, but we sure do know we have it bad – torn by mind and senses, drowning in the sea of temptations, and chanting without any visible progress. I must be crazy to recommend reliving this life to anyone.
I see that we have a graded variety of responses to questions about our prospects. First we learn about being with Kṛṣṇa in one of the five rasas. That’s the stage where Christians can asks us if we really dream of ourselves as girls having sexual relationships with Kṛṣṇa. That’s how they understand it, that’s how we understand it at first, too.
Then comes the realization that this world is not a place for a gentleman. I don’t think anyone actually dreams of his future life in Vṛndāvana, I don’t think it’s even a phase, but the initial fascination with pastoral leisures in Vraja needs to give space to dark reality of this world anyway. We need to realize that we are hopelessly fallen, no matter what everyone says. I mean there are tons of not so helpful devotees giving us all sorts of respect but they don’t know what they are talking about and we shouldn’t believe them. We are fallen. Period.
This is the stage where we temper our expectations and focus on immediate progress with constant questions in vein of “Are we there yet?” We don’t pay much attention to descriptions of Vṛndāvana pastimes anymore, we are more concerned with stuff that makes sense to lives instead – battles with mind and all the “wonderful” things that reside there – greed, lust, envy etc.
It’s the stage of battling anarthas and we are going to be stuck there until the rest of our lives, realistically speaking, but, of course, we can’t remain in one place for too long and we develop interest in something “better”. Many decide that absorbing our minds in Kṛṣṇa is the best. They trot out quotes how reading about rasa dance can free one from mundane lust and they dive into esoteric literature, seek association of “rasika-bhaktas”, and they can’t really stop themselves. Whatever I think about that path it needs to be acknowledged that they do constantly remember the Lord.
Btw, each of these stages is fully supported by quotes from Śrīla Prabhupāda or other ācāryas – that’s what I was saying in the beginning – we can easily calibrate our response to questions about goal of this lifetime and say whatever one needs, or rather wants to hear.
Beyond the stage of artificial sweetness is service to one’s guru and our mission. Some think they are above preaching and that only paramahaṁsas can do it right so everyone else is just wasting their time but we have clear orders and clear examples from history – our life depends on preaching and if we try to imitate solitary bhajana we will stagnate and eventually die off like Gauḍīya Maṭha did. Imagining himself an elevated devotee because one conveniently always thinks of Kṛṣṇa is easy. Whipping your mind and getting yourself out to face atheistic opposition in hope of finding potential devotees is hard. Not everyone cut for that but it’s the only way to move forward in our spiritual lives.
We are not Kṛṣṇa’s servants, we are servants of our gurus and all the other vaiṣṇavas. Self-appointed rasika bhaktas do not see the value in serving guru’s orders and they do not have the taste for it, which means they do not see non-difference between guru and God, which means all their alleged advancement it phony. Unless you realize that a second of selfless service to your guru, however inconsequential it might appear, completely eclipses all the arguments in the world you don’t know the first thing about Kṛṣna consciousness, you just imagine things.
Sometimes you can see it in debates – there are things that mature devotee will simply not say. It might be hard to explain this to neophytes but there’s a spiritual weight attached to certain thoughts and emotions and if you don’t feel it it appears all the same to you, but there are subjects that are too close to devotees hearts and they will never ever treat them lightly. It doesn’t require explanations, really, we should simply try to absorb their mood, their devotional attitude, then we might appreciate it ourselves. Fools rush in where angles dare to thread, as they say.
Anyway, how good do we actually have it? Doesn’t feel good at all, just average, so what’s the actual score? Repeatedly returning to our current situation is not even considered when we think about our prospects. Chant until you develop taste for the name. Remember Kṛṣṇa at the end of your life and return back to Him. Submit yourself to you guru’s feet and pray to be engaged in saṅkīrtana to experience some real bliss. Who wants to come back to the drudgery of our current lives? It’s nothing to be proud of.
This is where I beg to disagree. We chant, we take prasādam, we worship the deities, we worship the guru, we read Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, we tell others about Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we offer obeisances, we think about the Lord, we donate our time, energy, and money to the Lord. What more do we want? Why do we think that all these things are tasteless and immaterial and we need a serious upgrade in the next life? When we reach that next level are we going to say “I worshiped the deity in that last life on Earth but it was nonsense, nothing like the Lord we directly see here”? Are we going to say “Nah, the name as I chanted it in my last incarnation wasn’t sweet at all, in fact it was tasteless”?
Why do we think we deserve an upgrade when we haven’t achieved even a modicum of perfection here? What’s wrong with coming back to the very same life and trying to chant better and better? What’s wrong with trying in our service to guru again and again until we get it right? And when we do get it right, why will we be asking for anything else? Bhakti is its own reward, once we attain it we won’t be needing anything more. What stops us from developing bhakti right where we are now? Why do we need this “progress” to some other situation?
Hmm, these are just some thoughts. If there’s a need for us to serve in some other capacity in our next life then so be it, I’m just saying it’s not necessary and should not be expected automatically.