Vanity thought #192. Restless.

That eternal beggar theory doesn’t let me sleep, it made me restless and I can’t stop thinking about it, but first about being restless.

Yesterday I mentioned entropy and the second law of thermodynamics. It is fascinating stuff when you get to know it better.

When I studied it for two years I didn’t appreciate it very much, I guess taste for finer things in life develops with age…

It’s hard to define what entropy actually is, standard physics definitions are confusing. Basically, entropy is inertia, indifference, conformity – the essence of tamas, so to speak. While in physics terms entropy is a neutral word when expressed in our everyday terms it has a rather negative connotations.

Wait until you hear the really depressing part – entropy always increases, as if we don’t have enough tamas already. Increasing entropy leads to eternal death.

Okay, enough with scary stuff already. Entropy is a degree of how energy is distributed within a system. If some part of the system has higher level of energy, the energy tends to spread from there and even out, and the entropy increases.

If we drop an ice cube in a glass of hot water we’ll have a system with two extremes – very hot and very cold. As time passes the ice melts, the water cools and before long we’ll have just a glass of evenly tepid liquid. The entropy celebrates a victory.

The process is irreversible – there’s no way the water would heat up again and ice would form a cube. Entropy always grows.

In practical terms it explains things like “you can make an omelet out of eggs but you can’t make eggs out of omelet” wisdom.

This second law of thermodynamics, that entropy always grows, is fundamental to many of interactions in our world and the universe beyond. All engines, for example, transfer energy from one place to another, like converting charged batteries into phone conversations. As everyone knows, batteries die and need to be recharged, and the charger needs to draw electricity from somewhere else, from a system elsewhere with higher energy concentration.

In the long run we come to a conclusion that our sources of energy are limited and eventually will run out. When we find new ones we, by law of thermodynamics, we will drain them, too. Especially evident in case of fossil fuels. Theoretically, however, there’s still plenty of energy in the universe to last us a few lifetimes. The Sun is not going to increase its entropy to a useless state for a few billion years.

Entropy also applies to information theory – gossips tend to spread around until they lose their capacity to excite. Or think of it as syncing with the newly launched iCloud – you got a new picture on your iPhone, pretty soon it will be available on all your other iDevices until they all have exactly the same content.

Well, the question is – where does the initial low entropy come from? That doesn’t sound right but low entropy means good, less tamas. Where does the initial concentration of energy or information come from? Who is the source of all juicy gossip? Who introduces it into a society?

Physicists have managed to talk their way out of supposedly low entropy during Big Bang problem, while there are still plenty of arguments left that Big Bang breaks the law nevertheless. Everybody and his dog enlist entropy to prove their view of the origin of the universe and the world. I’m no different.

In light of my yesterday’s refuse to settle on anything I think of increasing entropy as the force of maya. It makes us accept our false identities and blend us into the environment until we die and enter endless stupor. It kills life, in a way.

When a new political leader is introduced to a society, for example, he thinks he can change everything and he plunges into his work of changing the world. Everybody else is infected with his enthusiasm – entropy, uniformness, starts to grow, and it works both ways. As the rest of the society feels recharged, the leader feels drained of his power. He might last a while, years, decades even, but eventually novelty wears off, he is not unique anymore, people have nothing to take from him and nothing to offer back. The sync has been completed, new leader needs to be brought in to shake up things again.

When we want to learn rock climbing we enthusiastically start changing our environment – buy gear, take some training, start climbing. Pretty soon the environment around us is totally in tune with our new identity and we finally feel at home. That’s it, entropy has no room to grow anymore. Sooner or later we are drained of our interest, perhaps we get a good, encouraging feedback from objects or people we charged before, like old climbing photos or friends, but it won’t last forever, it’s the law of physics.

You see what I’m leading to? When a new idea enters our minds, any new idea, it immediately starts pushing the entropy up. Everybody is expected to appreciate it, everybody is expected to cooperate with us, help and nurture our dream, we want to be at home with it, we want to be safe in our illusion, and maya provides.

From this interpretation it would follow that material energy has unlimited entropy, unlimited inertia, and it’s the living souls that create sparks of interest to drive it. A soul, an alien source of energy not bound by laws of thermodynamics, creates an anomaly in the otherwise dull field of matter. That anomaly, manifested in material forms and shapes, is forced by the law to spread itself and eventually even out.

Sometimes several souls, even several thousands or millions of souls create a huge anomaly in unison, and they attract even more souls, some contributing, some sucking the energy away. Massive force like this has the power to alter massive things, like political structure of an entire country. Eventually, though, the rebellions and revolutions settle down, entropy grows, people settle.

What would it mean in terms of executing devotional service?

By law, whatever we invest our energy in is bound to settle, our energy will be drained, unless we draw it form an inexhaustible source ourselves.

Whatever pops up in our minds is not that source. Whatever pops up in our minds because of our own, separate desire to enjoy, will drain life force of our material bodies in no time. Years, decades at best.

Whatever new position we envision for ourselves in this world is bound to be corrupted by the increasing entropy. If we ever settle on it, we are doomed to oblivion.

Connecting to the higher source, to Krishna, means channeling His energy, His desires to the world around us. That would make a difference, on our own we are not that powerful at all.

Connecting to Krishna also doesn’t mean sucking His energy to build a sweet nest for ourselves, as I said yesterday, settling for anything will never work. The only way to stay connected is to keep directing our desires towards His service.

We shouldn’t think of Krishna as a reservoir of unlimited power we can draw energy from, it won’t work, entropy would swallow us if we direct our interests to living comfortably in this world. The only way for us to escape the entropy is to use our tiny batteries to charge Krishna.

Practically it means we should become restless. If our energy is not flowing towards Krishna, it’s bound to flow someplace else and pretty soon we’ll find ourselves tired and looking for rest.

We need rest because we direct our desires to the world of all-devouring entropy.

That’s why there’s no “peace” for a real devotee. Not when he gets initiated, not when he gets a brahman thread, not when he becomes a temple president, a guru, a sannyasi, a GBC – never. There will never be peace for a devotee.

There’s no stage that you would think you need to achieve to finally find peace. It doesn’t exist.

My constitutional position, the only real choice I have, is to be chasing after Krishna forever and without a pause.

It took me many many years to realize, sadly. Just like with concept of entropy, I didn’t appreciate the restlessness of the devotees I’ve met in my youth. Only now I begin to understand their real motives and their real fears of being swallowed by the entropy of maya.

I didn’t think it was a big deal then and I’m paying dearly for it now.

It better be “been paying until now”, I hope.

Vanity thought #191. Life of begging.

Today I reached a compromise, in a good sense. I’ve decided that my gadget interests will be given some time on alternative days and today I will only be chanting. It was a sigh of relief for me, finally I saw mutually acceptable solution. The blazing fire of needing to spend time with computers has been extinguished, if only for one day, and I happily took to chanting my rounds.

It wasn’t all so easy, however. Several times an hour I was catching myself thinking about what I was going to do tomorrow, in my allotted gadget time.

That’s when I realized that I’m damned to a life of begging. This is the most I can expect from it.

But first things first. All my life I’ve been happily living with my designations. If my real situation wasn’t quite satisfying I could easily dream up a better life. Actually there’s a very popular project on the Internet called “Second life”. You go there and you build yourself an alternative identity, a new set of skills, new place to live, new friends etc. Then you hang out together, go to each other’s concerts (I think everyone is a rock star there) and so on.

Usually, we discard these attempts as just another illusion to substitute our missing love for Krishna. Today I want to look at it differently – it gives us a sense of security, acceptance, and belonging.

It’s just one of the millions of ways to settle with ourselves, accept ourselves as we are or as we want ourselves to be. This is in our human nature – we adapt, we always settle. It’s like second law of thermodynamics applied to humanity instead of physics.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s little value in it, it’s just modifying our false ego to live in harmony with the illusory surroundings.

My point is – I can’t do it anymore. I will never settle, I will never live in harmony, I will never adapt.

In the spiritual world there’s no such thing as seeing oneself as something else, no disharmony in the first place. If I ever get there I will be eternally happy in my spiritual form but until then I’m screwed.

I can still adapt to anything, of course, I’m a survivor, but all these are my false identities, my goal is get rid of them all. Every time I settle I betray my true spiritual nature.

That is only half the problem. The other half is that I can’t settle on being a devotee either. This is the most unsettling half.

From my very first days I dutifully agreed that all my sufferings are due to misidentification so all I should do is to find my true nature as a servant of the servant of the servant of Krishna, then I’ll be happy. When I was initiated I thought that was it, my proper place had been found.

Sufferings didn’t go away, though, and I didn’t really expect them to – I was told I was going through anartha nivritti stage and everything would be okay if I become a perfect servant, when I completely clean my heart of all impurities and have only the service to the lotus feet of my maharaja as my life and soul.

I suspect lots of people live with this hope, too. Well, today I realized it is wrong.

I will never settle myself on being a devotee. I can settle on being a husband, a father, a buddy and then I can finally kick back and relax, but I can never settle on being a devotee.

You see, anyone thinking of himself as a devotee actually isn’t. A real devotee sees himself as the most fallen, unworthy soul, never as a devotee. If someone is convinced that he is a devotee it’s a sign of ignorance and so his settled position is only temporary and it will be bring back suffering like any other misidentification.

In other words, the more a person progresses on devotional path the less satisfied with himself he becomes.

Any kind of identification allows a person to relax and enjoy. Even hobos sleeping under the bridge have a concept of “home”, even prisoners feel like they live in “their” cell. That’s what Maya, the illusion, gives us – the false sense of security and belonging in exchange for accepting your false identity.

When a devotee gives in to the same proposition he ends up under the same illusion, he just positions himself differently.

Come to think of it – people want to improve themselves, become someone else, someone better. They think that if they become a company boss, for example, their lives would be so much better, they get to live in much better houses and enjoy much better food. Then they come across Hare Krishnas and they hear that being Krishna’s servant opens the doors to the ultimate happiness and bliss, and who wouldn’t want to enjoy that?

The problem is that it doesn’t work the usual way – no one gets to be Krishna’s servant, you’ll never be able to sit back and announce it with a sense of deep accomplishment – I am Krishna’s servant.

That’s what sense enjoyers expect from their lives, real Krishna’s servants never see themselves as having accomplished or achieved anything and so no chance to relax, ever.

So, what is left then? Begging. Eternally.

If I’m serious in progressing spiritually I should understand and accept that I will never ever be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of my hard service. There will never be a moment when I can say that I deserved my rest.

The reality is that every time these thoughts come into my head I should banish them and beg Krishna for mercy, for a chance to serve Him and never forget about it. Every time my body or mind gives out and I feel the need to take a break I should beg Krishna not to leave me on this break forever. Every time I sense that I’m not moving anymore I should beg Krishna to get me going.

Normal beggars actually have it pretty good – they have all the rights to enjoy their collected booty. No matter how far and how hard they travel during the day they still get a place they feel at home, maya provides.

A devotee, on the other hand, should never stop begging and there’s no such place as home for him either. Yes, Krishna’s lotus feet IS home but we can’t really expect to see them and even if we did – no one is able to keep them forever, not Lord Chaitanya’s eternal associates, not even gopis.

The only thing we get is a chance to beg, eternally, without rest.

What’s worse, we can’t settle even on that.

Earlier I proudly thought that I would try and serve Krishna no matter what, because it’s the only function of my spirit soul and no one can stop it. Well, guess what – I can’t settle even for that. I’m in the hands of Maya and she can make me stop or go as she pleases and if I really knew my capabilities as a spirit soul I would have never made such statements at all.

I have to beg for the chance to be a beggar, too.

Vanity thought #102. Unfortunate Souls?

I don’t even remember what I was looking for on the Internet but somehow or other I ended up with stories of Kala Krishnadasa and Chota Haridasa from Chaitanya Charitamrita.

This is the kind of thing I tend to ascribe to Supersoul’s gentle interventions, especially the forgetfulness…

Anyway, both of these devotees present quite a few problems that haven’t been, in my mind, adequately addressed yet, leaving much room for speculation.

Kala Krishnadasa was Mahaprabhu’s personal servant on the South Indian pilgrimage who got snared by gypsy women and Chota Haridas was in Lord’s singing party who went to ask for rice from a very old and very devoted woman.

Both were given cold shoulder by Lord Chaitanya, though Kala Krishnadas was first personally dragged away from the women’s company and was dismissed only after the tour was over.

Chota Haridas, whose transgression was insignificant by comparison was punished immediately and more severely and no one could save him. Eventually he committed suicide by drowning at the confluence of Ganges and Yamuna and was able to join Lord’s kirtanas in his spiritual body. Only then Lord Chaitanya’s heart warmed up a little and He finally accepted Chota’s sacrifice.

I don’t know what happened with Krishnadasa at the end but he was given service by Lord’s intimate associates and the Lord didn’t seem to mind, thus accepting their judgement.

What is puzzling to me is apparent lack of consistency in meted punishment. One devotee left Lord’s service and joined a company of women, another, on the order of his senior, went to get rice for the Lord from a woman old enough to be his grandmother. It seems nothing is as it seems.

Three things that might explain this inconsistency – devotees initial position, exact actions, and thoughts in their hearts.

It could be argued that Krishnadasa wasn’t an eternal associate of Lord Chaitanya, just an extremely fortunate  soul that was given the chance of personally attending to the Lord due to his previous devotional service. It could be argued that Chota Haridasa was in a more secure, more responsible position, having tasted full nectar of chanting the Holy Names in Lord’s presence, while Krishnadasa was only on the way there.

By comparing these two devotees to each other I might commit a terminal vaishnava aparadha but something went terribly wrong there so we have to look for possible pitfalls. It’s not to find how those devotees erred, it’s to find lessons for myself.

For all I know it could all have been Lord’s pastimes, like Kaikeyi’s “boons”  – soul crashing for Dasaratha but without them there wouldn’t be Ramayana, or like Maharaja Pariksit’s mistake of putting a snake on a sage instead of a flower garland. Pariksit was cursed to die in seven days while the rest of us got Srimad Bhagavatam.

Perhaps someone form the Lord’s party had to commit these “mistakes” for our enlightenment, so I’ll try not to smear the memory of those devotees and concentrate on principles instead.

I don’t think any of us will ever be lured away by gypsy women, and conversely, most of us will at some point talk to our grandmas or other women of that age, so taking the offenses literally is not practical.

Kala Krishnadas wasn’t a sannyasi, he wasn’t prohibited from talking to women but taking interest in them was considered a betrayal by Mahaprabhu, so, perhaps it’s this betrayal that was offensive, not the action itself.

It’s easier to understand but more difficult to follow – when do we commit mistake and when to we betray Lord’s trust? I’m afraid there’s no rule here, it depends on each individual’s position. For some reaching for ice-cream could be a betrayal, for others eating meat would be considered only a temporary weakness.

Should really look deep into our hearts here.

In the case of Chota Haridasa the Lord made a point of breaking the rules of sannyasi conduct, but the manner in which it came out shows that the Lord wasn’t playing by the rules Himself – He knew something was wrong without anyone suspecting a thing. I bet He looked into Haridasa’s heart and saw contamination there.

Perhaps He knew that Haridasa didn’t just ask for rice from a woman, perhaps he confided in her and sought her company, and, because he thought she was too old he didn’t think he did anything wrong and could just carry on being a sannyasi. That would explain why Lord Chaitanya spoke of hypocrisy. It’s not that Haridasa talked to a woman, it’s the assumption that it it’s okay for a sannyasi to misbehave that offended the Lord.

Perhaps it’s the lack of contrition that offended Him. Perhaps Haridasa felt like he was immune and untouchable. I can relate to that.

Means we can’t just walk around thinking Lord will forgive us each and every transgression and we should never underestimate the danger of our mistakes. Easier said than done.

Both devotees realized their mistakes and tried to win Lord’s grace back and both were assisted by merciful vaishnavas but even that was not enough. Krishnadasa, significantly, didn’t receive Lord’s forgiveness but was given a chance to serve. We don’t know how he felt about it but don’t we pray for the service ourselves?

I think it’s a good case to stress that devotional service is the highest benediction one can get while Lord’s mercy might come and go, especially for serial offenders such as myself.

Haridasa had to kill Himself to rectify his offense. I bet that is reserved for eternal associates only, they, with their spiritual forms, can’t get burned or drowned and can’t be expelled forever against their will. So he was expelled from Lord’s manifest pastimes only.

I wonder how many chances one gets before being kicked out for good. I wonder if spirit souls fall from Vaikuntha after getting carried away while participating in pastimes in the material world. Perhaps they think it’s no big deal, maya has no power over them – that attitude was at the core of Haridasa’s offense, luckily it didn’t get a chance to develop fully. In the material world it’s only a matter of time.

Perhaps millions and billions lifetimes ago I was the one in that position, telling the Lord to go ahead, I’d catch up with Him after talking to this sweet chick who is also so devoted and practically liberated already, what can possibly go wrong?

Now I know what.

Vanity thought #92. The thin line.

This is yet another mass media inspired reflection. Not really mass media, to be honest, but a searching and probing Turkish movie called Five Minarets in New York. Not really about New York either.

It’s a movie about Islam and its adherents’ search for God. Okay, they are not really searching for God in a sense they don’t believe God exists in any comprehensible form to search for but they are definitely searching for divinity in their hearts and that is something we can relate to, too.

Yes, fine, we have our temples and our Deities and paintings and pictures and stickers with Krishna while they have empty altars and patterned walls instead but how big our advantage really is? Is there a danger of abusing the boon of Lord’s presence in His murti form?

What I think can easily happen, and I speak from experience, is that we might treat our murties and pictures as nice accessories designed to make our lives happier. We seek spiritual safety in our temples, true, but we also often seek plain old material safety in them, too, and that’s where the lines might get blurred.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati famously complained that all his temples made his society weaker, fatter and lazier, sell the marble and buy printing presses instead. It would be naive to assume that this can’t happen in ISKCON, too. In fact it WILL happen, it’s unavoidable, it’s the law of material nature – you get a nice place to sleep and a steady prasadam flow and you start enjoying these things. It might be bad but, as a growing society, we must provide this kind of safety too all our members, all our congregation.

What will happen to our altars then? Will they become just a substitution to big screen TVs in karmis’ homes? What will happen to our kirtans? Will they simply replace Hi Fi stereo systems? Will our dancing satisfy our desire to go to discotheques?

In fact this is exactly what these things are supposed to be – replacement for less spiritual forms of enjoyment. Yes, it is great that we can turn any material activity like eating or listening to music into spiritual, it’s a great boon and benefit but it’s still seeking the same old enjoyment we have been seeking for thousands of lives.

Where exactly is that line that separates us from enjoyers and enjoyed?

I don’t know, I only know that it’s in our hearts and finding it is very very difficult. All those Muslims in the movie were searching for exactly the same things – turning their hearts to God.

We say “God has given us His murti form so that we can see Him”. They say “God is all around us and we so should learn to see Him in everything”. We say “Our Deities make us see God”. They say “Your Deities make you look outside your heart and miss the really important stuff”. We say “We see God”. They say “You also see a lot of things that you think are not God”, and then we say that “You don’t see God in our Deities, so what have you achieved?” I don’t know if they have a comeback for this.

It’s looking inside their hearts and being absolutely honest with themselves that I admire in that tradition. I their tradition you can’t BS your way through a small bathtub of prasadam and call it service to the Lord. We shouldn’t do it either but it happens all to often.

I’ve pretty much established for myself that I need temples to enjoy, not to serve. Of course I would have no chance to serve without temples, too, but it’s still no excuse for me. And is it only temples?

When I was young it was fashionable to talk about moving to Mayapur or Vrindavan, closer to the nectar. Precisely – so that I could enjoy the nectar. There was this Swedish lady who was asked if she wanted to live in Mayapur and she said “No, Sweden has everything I need”.  At that time I though it was a very mature attitude. Now I suspect it could be interpreted either way.

We are just looking for a place that gives us more comfort according to our version of what comfort is. God be damned.

In that movie the ultimate blossoming of the faith and understanding was overrun by old family feuds. Time, death, and karma wait for no one.

I wonder what the devotees in New Zealand felt after the earthquake broke and shattered their Deities. I am sure their faith wasn’t broken, far from it, I just want to have a glimpse of their new, deeper understanding of what God is and how He shows Himself to us.

I wonder what the devotees in Vrindavan felt five hundred years ago when all their newly built temples were destroyed and deities desecrated. I’m sure when God takes something away He gives something a lot better in exchange.

I’m not saying I’m past temple worship, but is it bad to think about it? I hope not. I hope if I find something it will make me appreciate the Deities even better.

Vanity thought #84. Rebellion.

So I don’t deserve the blessing of 24/7 chanting, how unfortunate. I was dead serious about it.

What I need to implement constant chanting is some tweaking to my body functions, and that can be avoided anyway by lowering daily round requirement, until my body settles in, and I also need an exit from where I am now.

Really, can I just tell everyone to get lost because I found better things do with my life?

Should I leave fixing this to the Lord? I wonder how that would work: “Sorry, folks, I’m  not going to explain why you should forget I ever existed, just accept this as the ultimate mercy you can’t comprehend. The Lord will reveal it Himself.”

If fixing it is easy for Him then I’m ready to go all the way, too.

I’m sensing hesitation on His part here, though, and that gives me leverage.

I’m going to abuse all my privileges here. I can’t have devotional service? Fine, then losing a few token resources here and there is not going to break Your bank either.

I will exploit whatever I can lay my hands on for my personal benefit and don’t You dare to stop me.

I don’t care for any of those things anyway,  but I’ll throw a tantrum all the same, just to spite You.

[insert “Beginning of a rant”]

Doesn’t matter, my Lord, You are my eternal master and I’m Your eternal servant and no expense on my behalf is going to change it. That’s the downside of “eternal”, get it?

I can go 24/7 even in this world, but  can You support it? I will need things, these and those, but nothing major, apart from love. I need love, without it I’m dead, without it I can’t go on, and the best part, it’s MY heart’s desire that YOU are bound to fulfill. You can’t give me love, it has always been mine. I have always been a part of you, I’m not something different, You can’t dismiss me and you can’t ignore me forever.

We are bound by eternal relationships, and I need a solid proof that what I’m doing now is better than forfeiting all my other, external obligations, and starting chanting Your Names without a pause. If that ever happens, YOU will be obliged to support it, and it is YOU who can’t wriggle your way out of it.

I might be a small and insignificant part of You forever drowning in the ocean of material existence, but being part of You comes with certain privileges, and I’m going to abuse them until I get your attention. I will blackmail You, and if You don’t like it You’d better do something about it, fast.

I am NOT going to put up with being separate from YOU. I AM your servant, if You want to dismiss me, tell me so, I will not abandon my hope of serving You just on a hunch.

We are in this together, if You don’t give me what I want now, prepare to face a battle with the part of You, and even if you “win”, prepare to accept Your loss.

You can’t start a fight with a part of You about that part’s privileges to love you unconditionally. This is a fight You can’t win, because even if You ignore me initially You can’t avoid me forever.

It’s either this or You tell me what’s going on and why I have to wait.

Best regards,

Your eternal servant you can’t ignore for long.

[insert “End of rant”]

Vanity thought #79. Motivations.

God knows how many times I caught myself feeling bored. And not bored in a sense “there’s nothing on TV” and I just flick channels, bored doing something supposedly Krishna conscious.

Bored as in “I don’t wanna do any extra rounds”, bored as in “I hope there’s some interesting fight with Christians on the Net”, bored as in “When will I finish reading that lecture on a blog?”, bored as in “I need to find some better bhajans to download”.

What’s wrong with me?

It came down to me praying to Krishna, while doing my japa, to give me something interesting to do when I finish. I know I can find some other stuff pretty easily but I want exciting Krishna conscious stuff instead and I pray for it.

So what’s going on?

I think being bored is an influence of tama guna, or maybe it’s actually rajas – the desire to do something really engaging. Come to think of it, this rush comes in even when I’m perfectly happy and satisfied so it must be rajas. The source is not really important, what’s important is that it gives me motivation to do something “for Krishna” and thus it can’t be all bad. Come to think of it’s actually pretty good, in a sense that doing something connected to Krishna is the only way to purify oneself in the process.

I don’t think everyone who does some big, big service, is absolutely free from any tinge of rajas or is starting off from absolutely pure state of heart. I’m no special in this regard, except I’m not doing anything big, but the principle should be the same.

I don’t have any special capacities, if I was a singer I could have recorded a devotional song and utilized my voice, if I was a writer I could have written a nice book or poem to motivate others or just to describe glories of devotees or Krishna Himself, if I was a businessmen I could have started some Krishna conscious enterprise serving devotees needs and donating proceeds to Krishna or to preaching programs, or opened a restaurant to attract people to prasadam. Whatever it was, I’m pretty sure the process would have given me a real rush.

As it is, I’m getting excited about downloading new books off the Internet instead, books that I probably won’t have the time or desire to read – what a waste of life!

So, should I be searching for more motivations? Should I really welcome the feeling of being bored as it’s the only impetus to doing something for me? Half the time I successfully banish this boredom from my mind. Should I declare a victory? Is it so bad feeling satisfied with just chanting instead?

I’ve found out that I can do my rounds faster than usual, what should I do about it? What’s the purpose of this speed chanting? Will I have more time to lounge on a sofa? Will I have more time to read? Or should I just chant more rounds instead?

At this point I have a rush of possibility to chant 64 rounds one day, and maybe even three lakhs, which is 192 rounds. What gives me the rush is calculations how it could be made possible.

This week, for example, I have a few days off and so doing 64 rounds shouldn’t be a problem, at my new speed it should take just a tad over six hours – not even a full working day. Even three lakhs doesn’t sound impossible anymore – mathematically I could do it in under 19 hours and so, as one off, it should be just one little chanting marathon. I’m not thinking of doing it everyday yet, though 19 hours a day should leave enough time for sleep, food, and showers. Tough schedule but not impossible.

The question is – what will I get from it? Would the result depend on my motivation? Would I get absolutely nothing if the only thing I want is imitating Haridasa Thakura?

Or can chanting three lakhs a day give me the Pure Name? As far as sacrifices go, this one is tough to beat technically, the grueling schedule leaves no time to enjoy my senses in any way.

The question is – will I really do it? It’s not a vrata by any means, I’m still a bit apprehensive about those, but when I really contemplate it and see a real possibility, I can’t back off easily either.

I will start with 64 rounds and see how it affects me. I’m not going to cancel my scheduled trip yet, I can still cancel in the last minute if I really want to go for 192 instead.

I can start with 32 rounds tomorrow, I guess, though it doesn’t sound as exciting now, when it’s getting real, as it was last week when it was only the stuff of my dreams.

God help me.

Vanity thought #61. Scraping for my life.

A short while ago I had a little car accident.

Some guy cut in front of me and, as he didn’t have enough space and wasn’t going fast enough, I chipped a little paint off his rear wing. The guy didn’t stopped and I was infuriated. I overtook him, cut him off, blocked his way but he didn’t want to stop at all, just drove around my car and went away. I got out my phone and tried to take a picture because I needed to file a police report for insurance purposes but, while I was fiddling with the pone buttons, he got out of clear view and then he shot up expressway ramp that was going in a completely different direction from me.

Adrenalin was rushing through my blood, my eyes were probably red shot with anger but I had enough presence of mind not to start a full blown pursuit and let him go. Then I started counting my chickens. Insurance would probably need me to cough up some petty cash as a “processing fee” or something because I didn’t have the guilty party to sign off the papers. The police report would have only slowed things forever and wouldn’t be worth the trouble. The real trouble was coming from my better half.

I can’t imagine facing her wrath in the evening, it doesn’t matter whether I was right or wrong, IT WAS ALL MY FAULT. After the anger there would be a lot of sulking, silent treatment, pent up emotions and reminders of MY FAULT for many years to come. I would never be able to overtake anyone with her in the car, she would always make caustic remarks about driving “too fast”.

It would be hell.

The accident happened in the morning, on the way to work. When I parked my car I looked with desolation at the large area of scraped paint, impossible to hide. With a heavy heart I went on about my duties. Whole day I was thinking about it, or trying not to think about it. At some point my mind put all the blame on Krishna – I was listening to a lecture on a CD when it happened, why didn’t He look out for me? Why do I have to suffer so much? Why doesn’t He protect His devotees? All kinds of unreasonable arguments. So silly and ungrateful that there’s no point in refuting them at all.

I got home early enough to survey the damage alone. I got some oil and alcohol and tried to clean up the mess. To my great relief most of it was the paint from the other car but I knew that somewhere underneath it there would be scars that can’t be hidden. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed and most of it was gone, then I got some special, hard rags and scrubbed some more until there was nothing left, not even a scratch. Paint on my car was completely untouched, no sign of accident left.

HURRAY!

Now it was time to deal with Krishna. As a die-hard ingrate I took it philosophically:

Well, I didn’t really blame You, I knew it was just my mind, so I don’t feel guilty at all. Thanks for saving my behind on this occasion, knowing me it won’t be the last, we have a lot of business like this ahead of us…

Did I fully realize that Krishna IS saving devotees? Not really – He wasn’t supposed to save me here and I wasn’t supposed to appeal to Him to clear my own mess, so I should be prepared to eventually deal with these things on my own. The fact that I couldn’t avoid those thoughts dampened my spirits significantly. Instead of celebrating I was already looking forward to the next test, and I probably won’t have to wait for long.

I shouldn’t even think of “mat prana nathas tu sa eva naparah” without passing “marma hatam” without a thought of my own salvation. If I can’t live through troubles inflicted by me alone and blame the Lord, what are the chances of me living through pain inflicted by Krishna? None, zero, zilch, nada.

My realization – if you feel happy making progress and earning Krishna’s attention – keep chanting, it will go away.

Vanity thought #39. Ineffable.

There’s a curious mix up in Christianity about the nature of God and ways to discover it. Mix up from our point of view, Christians themselves are perfectly fine with it.

 

In our ontology we have personal and impersonal understanding of God, and we also have ascending and descending processes of obtaining knowledge and it is pretty clear for us – impersonal, ascending – bad, personal, descending – good. Moreover, ascending process leads to impersonal understanding while descending process is the only way to learn about God as a person.

 

In Christianity it’s the other way around.

 

They use two Greek terms – cataphatic and apathatic theology, cataphatic means positive (God is great) and apathatic means negative (God is not this or not that), our “dear” neti-neti impersonalism.

 

Both kinds of theology have place there but their relationships are different from what we would expect. Apathatic, neti neti, is often percieved as superior and kapathatic, positive, as a way of neophytes.

 

They also ascribe ascending process, ie science and research, to practicing positive theology and that, obviously, imposes limitations on what can be achieved. Descending process, or revelations and mystic visions in their terms, are signs of apathatic, or negative theology, and that is obviously superior.

 

It’s not all straightforward as they also have some of positive, personal references to God in the Bible, ie Father, so if one wants to preach them about it one should find out how exactly the audience feels about this point first.

 

Nevertheless, it’s the tacit admittance that even their top tier mystics cannot achieve any personal realization of God that is interesting. I, personally, never closed the door to their opportunity to discover at least something about God in this lifetime. It appears that there really is nothing but faith in Jesus and his promise and no one has ever tested it, in all two thousands years of practicing.

 

Interesting.

 

My  first reaction is the feeling of superiority of our Gaudia Vaishnava tradition, but there’s more to that than just gloating. Personally I’m appalled at MY lack of faith and MY impatience with getting results NOW.

 

Look at all those Christians, they really get by on faith only, and I suppose over the time it grows on them. When I look at myself I see only a shadow of their enthusiasm, and that even with all the benefits of chanting the Holy Names.

 

What if, sometime in the future, I get tired of chanting and not getting anything, not nama abhas, not reaching nishtha, what if I give up? I am perfectly capable of falling down. Where will I find the desire to go on? I know Who will give me strength, but without my personal desire to get it the Krishna is not obliged to provide it either.

 

So I need to get it NOW. Any delay is potentially dangerous. Unlike Christians, I know that I might totally screw everything when death comes, Krishna’s mercy or not. I might get hit by a truck while crossing the road and thinking of some nonsense.

 

I was hit by a bus once, I was completely knocked out for a while, there was absolutely no time to remember anything let alone pray. When I came back I couldn’t even remember the moment of being hit and passing out. Nothing, nada, I could have died there and gone to the next life without ever waking up.

 

So I’m not kidding when I say I need mercy NOW. Postponing pure devotional service till later is very, very reckless attitude. Ok, I don’t really mean pure devotional service, that’s a lot to ask, but at least reaching the point of no return, no falling down, reaching the point from where I can only go up.

 

God bless those ineffable Christians, they are truly inspiring sometimes.

Vanity thought #37. Mind muscles.

I’ve been working on that “one last round” experiment for a couple of days now but it is difficult to replicate.

Sometimes I start chanting with my mind in an agitated state and there’s just no way I can keep it on the leash. Most of the time I don’t even remember I am supposed to be trying.

In order to make it work I need to take a serious vow to myself, I have to shake off whatever else is on my mind at the moment, gather all my strength and exert a lot of mental energy.

I’ve noticed I use two muscles in this process. The one that pulls the wandering mind back on the Names is a familiar one, it just gets a better workout – faster response time and no compromises, but the real discovery was a muscle that forces the mind to listen to the words (can’t say Holy Names, it just focuses on the words). That one really needs a lot of attention and it gobbles up energy like a supercomputer. After one round I’m completely exhausted there.

This muscle has a couple of interesting side effects. First, it kills off any “devotional” mood, like a drill sergeant it allows no emotions and it makes my voice very robotic.

Is it favorable to devotional service? Well, on one hand it prevents any hint of sentimental chanting, on the other hand I should still be crying for the Lord like a child for a lost mother, that mood is legit. But then again, it might show me the real, base feelings for the name on which my mind paints some artificial emotions that take away my attention. So I am in two minds about this one.

The other effect is that it makes time fly. No more “is it half round yet?” thoughts, no more worrying about the watch, keeping up the speed etc. Time ceases to exist when that muscle is pumping out in full throttle. Is it good? On one hand it can’t be bad as time is illusory energy’s main agent, absence of awareness of time is a first sign of being fully absorbed in something, and there’s nothing material in listening to and chanting the Holy Names.

On the other hand, the time is not supposed to fly when one is chanting, it supposed to stop – “yugaitam nimishena”! That means I’m not doing it right or I’m not there yet. Of course I’m not there yet, but shouldn’t I be unhappy that time flies faster than I expect? After all it’s taking me to my premature death – I’m not ready yet to die in full Krishna Consciousness. I have only so many days left and so much work to do? Is there any real benefit in this mechanical, robotic chanting?

Or will this muscle eventually develop some emotional flexibility? That would be perfect.

For now I can’t deploy it for more than two rounds and it doesn’t come on somewhere in the middle, it really needs serious mental preparation. Maybe this is what the acharyas meant by “intensity”. Not emotional intensity of praying but mental intensity of concentration.

This theory needs a lot more studies and some serious breakthroughs and the results could potentially have far reaching consequences. I will keep you posted, in the interests of science.

Vanity thought #24. Complacency.

I just caught myself having a very warm feeling as I was turning to my lunch rounds. It was like returning home, missing an old friend or something. It felt nice, but there’s another side to it, too – complacency.

 

I also caught myself settling for a compromise, enjoying my life AND doing a bit of chanting to supplement it. I’m not supposed to feel happy about my life, it’s a trick, and it makes me treat chanting Krishna’s Names as if they were there to help my enjoyment.

 

This complacency, I believe, is the core reason why I could be chanting life time after life time without getting any wiser, any closer to God. It’s just a huge waste of time.

 

Checked with books – there’s no other way to chant – one must feel desperate urgency and chant with utmost intensity and one shouldn’t settle for anything less than full realization of one’s relationship with Krishna.

 

Life is NOT happy, it’s an illusion, it might feel like it for a while but then it will change to feelings of sadness and sorrow, and then happiness again and so on, forever and ever. I MUST NOT become attached to any of those feelings, I MUST NOT relish dwelling in this material world. That is a huge, huge mistake – to trade this happiness for intense desire to meet the Lord.

 

I MUST NOT become complacent, I MUST NOT allow myself to feel satisfied. This place is not a joke and I can drown very easily.

 

And what is there to guarantee that I will not drown? The tiny, infinitesimal amount of what might externally appear as devotional service? If I engage in it to maintain my happiness here, where’s the service? Where’s the devotion? It is actually an offense – equate chanting Holy Names with karmic activities.

 

If I allow myself to go on like this I will most certainly be doomed.