Vanity thought #205. When – Sanmodana Bhashyam 6.

It’s been a while since my last post on Sanmodana Bhashyam commentary on Siksashtaka, almost a month, so “when” is the appropriate question to ask in every respect.

To be honest, I was waiting for some sort of realization or maturity that would allow me to move on to this verse, sort of “ready to start the next lesson” feeling. It never came.

It is a good idea to progress from one verse to the next along with progress in one’s spiritual life. For this reason I’m not reading, much less commenting, on books describing confidential pastimes of Radha and Krishna. Siksashtaka, however, is meant for the benefit of every devotee, no matter how retarded. I was going to type “no matter how advanced” but who worries about advanced devotees here, it’s the retarded ones like me that need encouragement to study and speculate on Siksashtaka in depth.

My personal speculation is that the mula, the root word of this verse is kada, when. This is the word that sets the mood of the whole prayer.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur describes all the topics that have been already covered prior to this verse – shraddha, sadhu sanga, nine methods of executing devotional service, the science of self-realization etc. Now it’s time to talk about fruit of all these efforts – development of bhava. Pardon me for not making distinctions between rati, ruci, bhava and prema here, it’s all the same thing to me.

Whichever one of those develops first, the rest are sure to follow and none of them manifests to me at the moment so they are all equally alien and all equally obtainable at the same time. Get one, get three free.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura is deadly serious, though, all these stages are real and each one of them is elaborately described, if not in Sanmodana Bhashyam then elsewhere, so we have every right to study them and expect their appearance, too. This is what should happen, if we don’t believe it we are wasting our time and fooling ourselves.

I bet every devotee eagerly awaits for these symptoms to manifest, and sooner rather than later. I believe this is the kind of spiritual thirst that is entirely excusable.

The reality, however, is that despite all our efforts our sadhana-bhakti does not bring the desired results, and that can be off-putting for many.

Well, this is completely natural, too, as natural as developing the symptoms, and, unlike the tears or chocking voice this stage is easily obtainable. I mean lamenting the lack of progress.

I mean the entire verse is admitting failure to develop bhava, isn’t it? Lord Chaitanya knows what is supposed to happen, He knows what to expect, He, supposedly, have been practicing. He admitted His fallen condition, nanuragah, lack of taste for the Holy Name, He supposedly practiced kirtaniyah sada Harih in a proper mood of humility and tolerance, He renounced all material goals and attraction, He declared His eternal position as a fallen servant. He’s done everything right, yet the symptoms of bhava still do no manifest in His body. That’s exactly what He saying here.

I can relate to that. Everybody can relate to that. That is what devotee should be expecting from himself – sincerely lamenting the lack of progress. Many, including me, are expecting goozebumps and unrestrained flood of tears but this is just wrong – what happens next is that we experience acute realization that we are not getting anything.

So it’s all going according to the plan, just not THAT plan. I’m doing okay, I guess, except that the feeling of lamentation is not acute enough for me. Out of foolishness, pride or ignorance I was following a different plan all these years, it took me re-reading this verse for an umpteenth time to realize I was expecting the wrong things, wrong symptoms.

There are still two more verses to go in Siksashtaka and I will probably discover some new meanings or angles but I’m pretty sure there’s no verse there that says “Look, I got goosebumps! I got goosebumps!”

Yet Bhaktivinoda Thakura assures us that goosebumps are real, and so is prolonged yawning, hiccuping and drooling, among other things. Just think of it – who could possibly imagine these symptoms? Prolonged yawning? Tears, laughter, even body spasms and rolling on the ground – maybe, but yawning? Someone surely must have observed and documented it, and made sure this is the symptom of a real bhava before putting it on the list.

What about the devotee who actually experienced it and was the subject of the study? Did he ever say “Siksashtaka? Kiddy stuff for total neophites, I’ve been yawning and drooling whole morning while they can’t even shed a proper tear in those verses.”

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati in his comment sternly warns about any artificial displays, these symptoms are not for those who have not yet cleansed their hearts of all anarthas. They are not for those who have naturally moist eyes either.

These symptoms can’t be evoked at will. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati uses the words “obsequiously obedient” to describe a devotee who manifests these symptoms. “Obsequiously obedient to the eternal ecstasies that constantly ply within the heart.” These symptoms themselves command the mind and body, not the other way around.

I suppose one can’t objectively analyse and dissect them and record their appearance and disappearance. One might not even realize that they are happening at all.

If one is eager to achieve them then one should certainly heed Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s advice – artificial imitation is creating gigantic obstacles on the path to pure devotional service.

Personally, I follow Srila Prabhupada’s method when I feel something is up – chant more vigorously, it will go away.

Personally, I think I answered the “when” question for myself – never. The entrance of rati/ruci/prema/bhava is not caused by following sadhana bhakti alone but it surely is not happening for a slacker like me. I have way too many deficiencies in my personal practice that my just and generous reward would be only to practice better, not yawning or drooling.

I can’t possibly expect to progress further than my far more dedicated peers who execute their assigned service flawlessly and earn appreciation of their gurus and other vaishnavas and surely the mercy of Lord Chaitanya Himself for their tireless preaching efforts. Honestly, at most I should only expect to become somewhat resembling them in my life, and I haven’t even got time for that – my youth is gone, my energy, my enthusiasm are not what they used to be. I just don’t have time to catch up.

I’m yawning alright, btw, it’s time to sleep.

I will settle on this – it’s not the symptoms of bhava that I should be chasing, it’s sincere sorrow and remorse at my lack of progress.

Vanity thought #196. Contagiosity.

There’s another aspect of illusion I forgot to add yesterday even if it was in my plans. From Krishna comes both remembrance and forgetfulness but it appears they may alternate on the same topic.

Anyway, it’s easy to understand why we may get attracted to chocolate, for example. Taste buds’ experience is unforgettable, we want to relish it again and again.

With chocolate there’s also the issue of chemicals, not just taste. There are all kinds of things in there, especially in cocoa solids which are abundantly present in dark chocolate. The exact nature and extent of their influence is still not determined but it’s likened by some to effects of marijuana, for example.

A few years ago there was a news item about chocolate producing deeper and longer lasting effects than kissing. They said the whole brain lights up when chocolate melts in your mouth. Theobromine, one of the main chemicals producing elevated mood effect is similar to caffeine and, curiously, is poisonous to dogs. Dogs can’t metabolize it and can literally die. Chocolate is also prohibited in horse racing.

Leaving these psychotropic effects aside it’s easy to understand and even experience the attraction if one tries. It’s easy to understand why one might want to try it again or even become a chocoholic.

It’s also easy to understand why one might want to miss his loved ones when being away. Love for children, for example, doesn’t need explanation. In fact it does need an explanation because one is particularly attracted to one’s own offspring and not children in general, this doesn’t happen with chocolate, but that is the topic for another day.

Contagiosity is when this kind of feelings experienced by others forms attraction in ourselves, too. That doesn’t work with children at all, by the way. Contagiosity can be better observed when we are hunting not for the objects of sense gratification per se but for the emotions that accompany enjoying them. When it really doesn’t matter what we enjoy and we don’t follow any objective criteria for selecting the stimulants, we are going for the rush itself.

Sometimes we remember the rush we had experienced before, like with visiting fun parks we enjoyed when we were kids or reminiscing about old summer camps but most often we want to be infected by this rush from other people.

Put a normal person in a queue of Apple fans on their sleepover before the launch of a new Apple store just a half kilometer away from the existing one, and the enthusiasm will start to rub off even if the intelligence would scream that this is the stupidest idea ever.

Their enthusiasm is contagious. People can fight it but they can’t deny they feel its power, too. It’s like putting a man and a woman together, they will develop attraction sooner or later regardless of their marital status.

The most intriguing part of this contagiosity is, well, contagiosity itself.

It’s a perfectly normal idea if you consider it from the normal, conditioned soul POV. Our, vedic knowledge of how the world works is not so clear. We know about the soul and twenty five material elements but it doesn’t mention interaction between other souls and their own material coverings at all.

How is that we get attracted by other people’s feelings? What is the connection? Through what channels do we share our emotions?

Normal people also realize that this kind of emotional empathy happens on a higher, deeper levels than just eating and mating. It looks like it happens on the level of the mind, bypassing our own senses altogether. The mind comes up with a proposal it borrowed from other people’s minds, often without any personal experience.

There are many examples of the herd mentality exhibited by the crowd. Quite often the majority of participants in a mob haven’g got a clue about the actual reason. When they find out some end up disappointed, some satisfied.

When Krishna entered Mathura no one knew Him personally yet the whole city came out to see Him and everybody saw Him in a different light. This is an example of crowd mechanics working even if directed to God, Krishna.

The practical implications are boringly trivial but extremely important – we have to be very very careful with our association. Whether we like it or not but other people’s attachments are contagious. We can fight them but we can’t deny their power to corrupt our own minds, nobody’s immune.

We have to accept the right to existence of non-devotees around us just like we have to accept our own material urges. As long as we are in these bodies they will follow us everywhere and on every stage of our progress.

The only thing we can do is to manage them wisely.

Or I could offer another explanation – the capacity of other people’s attachments to be transferred to us and vice versa is the proof that there’s only one bhava, one material existence for everybody. We see ourselves as separate and unique but in reality our bodies are parts of the same giant jigsaw. Just like the molecules of water – each one of them doesn’t make water on its own, they exist as water only when they are together, in the same container and in the appropriate temperature band.

Similarly, thinking in terms of “I will do that and then he will do another thing and then I will respond in this way and then” is an illusion. We don’t exist as separate beings with separate wills and wits. Our bodies are all meshed up together, emotions rising in one heart are inseparable from emotions rising in another, and we can fight them only because we receive the power to do so from someone else.

Everything I’m thinking and typing now is dictated by what happened to many people long time ago, from the language I learned at school to the ability to organize my thoughts to the existence of the internet. There’s no originality or uniqueness in my actions, they are unique only in the sense that every atomic particle in this creation is unique in its current position in space in time. Otherwise my body is no more special than the computer I use and my fingers are no more special than the keyboard. One wouldn’t exist without another.

They are bound by the same law of cause and effect, we see one following the other only because we are bound by time. If time was not the factor it would be possible to rewind the world and observe how letters appearing on this screen caused me going to school many many years ago.

From this POV there’s no such thing as conagiosity as there are no separate objects to transfer anything between them, there’s only one bhava, one ocean, one blazing fire of one material existence for all of us.

It’s not how I usually see things because I’m in the conditioned state but I’m hoping one day I will. Right now I still put too much concern into illusionary interactions of this world, worrying about this and that. No time to think about Krishna.

By an unfortunate collusion of circumstances I haven’t chanted my rounds today yet. I’m waiting until everyone’s asleep and I can finally have an hour and a half for myself, or rather for Krishna, as I don’t really exist the way I imagine it.