Vanity thought #288. Sinful demigods.

Yesterday I caught a part of Srimad Bhagavatam class on Mayapur TV and people were discussing how demigods can commit sinful acts. As is becoming usual some smart cookie in the audience raised the question that the speaker couldn’t adequately address. I remember another one of those but will save it for another day.

Again, as usual, the better answer, I believe, lies not in knowing some obscure passages from shastras or utterances by Srila Prabhupada, but in understanding the question. Once you understand the question properly the answer appears well within our range of knowledge.

Anyway, the speaker tried to answer the question posited like this – if demigods live on heavenly planets only to enjoy results of their good karma, how come they occasionally engage in sinful activities. I didn’t hear what activities were referred to specifically and how exactly the question was originally worded, but this is how the speaker heard it and, posited like this, it is indeed a bit perplexing.

The clue to untying this knot, I think, lies in the assumption that only human beings on this planet can create karma. This is one of the very first things we learn about it, about the importance of human form of life. I don’t think we should take it in absolute sense and blindly employ this principle in each and every situation.

What does it even mean – create karma? The living being is not a creator of anything in this world, karma is created by material bodies acting under the influence of the modes of nature. Every time something happens in this world it’s bound to have reactions in the future. Perhaps the real meaning of “creating karma” lies in putting our consciousness into it.

Again – what does consciousness mean in this context? Does it mean that only human beings possess consciousness so that only human beings can create karma? That’s absurd, every living entity possesses some degree of consciousness.

This is where I think the answer lies – how much freedom to apply our consciousness is given in different forms and conditions of life. Some humans have better conditions to develop spiritual consciousness, some worse. Even in Bhagavat Gita Krishna mentions that – people in distress, for example, are more likely to turn to God than people enjoying their senses to the full.

I believe it’s not correct to assume that there’s a clearly drawn line between forms of life and the ability to project consciousness but rather that in certain conditions certain human beings appear to be more conscious than others of their kind, or of lower or higher species. Relatively speaking, not absolutely.

Thus even the demigods can commit sinful acts or worship the Lord. They can also express envy or greed and act on those urges, they certainly have the capabilities. I suspect that those a just petty crimes in the great karmic scheme of things. They are not genocidal, they don’t rape and pillage, they are far to civilized for that. And so are some of the people living on this planet right now.

Perhaps their sins are like taking home a pencil from the office. Sinful? Yes, but not the maha raurava level of sin.

Conversely, demigods live in far too opulent conditions to surrender their lives to serving the Lord, but there are exceptions, too, when they decide to descend on earth and take part in Lord’s pastimes. They don’t do it because our local sweet rice is so irresistible, though it’s often a treat deserving demigods.

We are not so much different after all, we just have different levels of help or distractions provided by the material nature.

Imagine being suddenly transferred to New York’s Upper East Side, into a family of immense wealth, and given dozens of platinum credit cards and an obligation to appear like an ordinary member of New York’s elite. That would throw anybody’s sadhana off the balance for a while. So is transferral to the heavenly planets.

I think arguing in this direction would have satisfied the person asking the question much better.

Thought for the day – devotees live their lives in conditions tailored by the Lord to provide the best chance at self-realization, there’s no greener grass on any other side, let’s make the best use of what is given.

Vanity thought #255. Asura Varnashrama.

Fascinating topic, can’t let go off it. Yesterday my main premise was that varnashrama exists in our degraded society in its own, however perverted form, and we don’t need to re-invent it. We might introduce something more traditional on a small scale, as a seed, and hope it will grow and attract more and more followers but it seems a huge impact from that is very unlikely at the moment.

We might have to wait until the current system collapses, oil runs out, electric cars won’t take off, nuclear energy will become too deadly and solar panels and wind mills fail to provide for our energy needs. Or we might wait for the financial system meltdown that would drastically redraw the landscape – industries, banks, services, modern agriculture, all of it will suddenly stop working and people would look for alternatives. It might happen but it’s unlikely, IMO.

What I propose is that we shouldn’t wait for the golden opportunity to present itself, we should strive to bring people to Krishna now, in whatever state they are in at the moment. There’s nothing radical about it, ISKCON has been focusing on community development for ages, our society is not made of fired up brahmacharies any more, most of our devotees do not live in the temples, that period has passed, we are reaching out now. This is good but it is still only about taking care of our own, not about changing the world.

We can try and bring this model to the society at large but they will just say that we maintain ourselves by working in their world, that we can’t sustain ourselves without getting their money and doing the jobs they tell us to do, that they let us do whatever we want in our free time but we are in no position to tell them how to live their lives.

In this way they make Hare Krishnas no different from other weirdos who believe in God and need half a day off on Sundays to attend to their “spiritual needs”. They can graciously give us that time to replenish our energy and come back on Monday to slave for another week. Why not, if our singing and eating makes us better workers? It’s better than binge drinking, right?

The problem, however, is that they lose any faith that Krishna/God is real. We agree to live on their terms and their terms mean that we accept they are our providers and sustainers, not God. God is there only for entertainment purposes and we play religion only on Sundays. We don’t go to Krishna when we need a new car or a house, He can’t help, instead we take more responsibilities and hope for promotions just like everybody else.

In a way we have become integrated in the society but it comes at a huge cost to our own spiritual health as we are forced to maintain undesirable association, and it also undermines our preaching mission. Something must be done about it. I don’t know what yet but I want to start with studying the enemy first.

We are gradually earning respect among the traditional religionists, at least in India. Our temples and our worship have gone mainstream there, very few people don’t trust us because ISKCON is run by westerners. Our relative purity, dedication to preaching and gorgeous temples prove to them that we are sincere followers of the same path. Most of them don’t realize what our real path is but in context of the traditional demigod worship we are doing fine, even impersonalists won’t object to that.

When we enter the demoniac Western society, however, things are completely different. Their value structure is completely different and we just don’t fit in. On our side we don’t look at them as following any religious principles at all, and in a way it is true, but I want to stress that they are not following the principles developed by demigod worshipers, those are indeed alien to them. I use “demigod worshipers” because I can’t think of a suitable Sanskrit term at the moment, asuric sounds okay but suric doesn’t.

When demigod worshipers want something they pray, they believe that if they perform their religious duties right the demigods will bestow all kinds of blessings and benedictions. In the West they pray to God but they are after the same thing as vedic karmis – their own material development. This business of propitiating the gods shaped the whole society, people’s duties and social norms, and that has come to be known as varnashrama dharma, maybe not daivi varnashrama that we are after but the varnashrama as most Hindus understand it.

Asuras don’t do anything like that. When they want something they work, they don’t pray. They don’t need faith to achieve results, they need to utilize their brains and work harder and smarter and they get their results just the same. I know only one thing about asuric planets – they get better life than the demigods, and now that culture is coming to Earh. Yay!

What this life means is that they have developed their own ethics and their own rules and procedures and they force them on their followers just as demigod worshipers force people to visit temples or give donations. They develop their own daily sadhana and they develop their own separation of labor and responsibilities and their own conceptions of what people should do at different stages of their lives. In short, they have their own varnashrama, and it’s not really that different from ours.

Young people are supposed to study, then they supposed to work, then they retire. They do not care for the next life so retirement plans are naturally different but up until then they go through ashramas just as we do. Their understanding of how the society works best when arranged in terms of kshatriyas, vaishnyas and shudras is a lot deeper than ours. We only talk about assigning varnas according to qualifications, they nailed the qualification process down, separating kids in their early teenage years and preparing them for their individual futures, and they don’t even need to do it personally, it’s all done by computers assessing standardized tests.

Once people enter the work force they constantly monitor their performance and natural strengths and move them around for better efficiency. They know art of motivation far better than we do, too. They know how to make people to perform to the top of their abilities and they know how to enforce their rules.

Basically, once you step into the system your duties and responsibilities are all laid out for decades ahead, they even have contingency plans for middle age crises when people get funny ideas in their heads. And their system works. We might argue that it’s unsustainable in the long run and it doesn’t make people happy but they account for that, too. Clumsily and slowly but they are getting around the idea of long term sustainability, as much as their long term interests that are naturally curtailed by the mode of passion allow. And they account for happiness, too, they promote love and social interactions and they provide counseling and what not. If they sense a problem, they tackle it.

They also reap rewards for putting in all these efforts. So much rewards that traditional religionists abandon their deities and duties and learn to follow new varnashrama instead.

So it is not fair to say that their lives are uncultured and unsystematic and will lead to their demise. Maybe eventually it will come to head to head confrontation with demigods again but asuras always win those battles, only Vishnu can manage to trick them into defeat. Apart from that they always have a very bright future ahead of them, rumors of their imminent death are greatly exaggerated.

This understanding of how asuric varnashrama works has serious implications on how we should behave within it but I’ll leave that for another day.

Vanity thought #204. Indebted three times over.

When Krishna was visiting Kurukshetra to observe the solar eclipse and hook up with the gopis there were many great sages present there who observed the grand family reunion. When the festivities were over and everybody was about to go home Vasudeva, Krishna’s father, decided to seize the moment.

He wanted to ask the sages how to counteract reactions of one’s work by performing further work.

That was a bit awkward – the sages just finished explaining Krishna’s position as the Supreme Lord and here Vasudeva was talking to them as if he didn’t hear anything.

Narada Muni, who was speaking on behalf of the sages, had two probable explanations for Vasudeva’s inquiry. First, familiarity brings contempt sort of thing – Vasudeva was still treating Krishna as a mere boy. The truth was, however, that his love for Krishna was pure and unconditional and on a relatively higher plane than reverential worship of the sages.

I bet at this point Narada was urged to say – what do YOU know about reactions to one’s work? You are eternally liberated soul, you are fully under Krishna’s protection, karmic reactions are no threat to you.

He even made a slightly caustic, imo, remark that Vasudeva was one of those people who live on the banks of Ganges but go elsewhere for purification.

The second explanation was probably that Vasudeva was setting an example for everyone else – one should never waste the opportunity to gain spiritual knowledge from the exalted sages and rishis.

They could answer Vasudeva alright but not in Krishna’s presence, they had the etiquette to maintain.

Anyway, eventually they got to the meat of the matter that is not so terribly important to what I want to discuss today. I was drawn to their statements that when the person is born into the world he comes pre-loaded with three kinds of debts – to the demigods, to the sages, and to forefathers.

If a person fails to settle these debts but takes to renounced order of life he is bound to fall down from his position. That’s what Prabhupada said in Krishna book. In Bhagavatam itself one is bound to fall into hell if one leaves the body without paying debts first.

Same principle, different application. It’s Prabhupada’s version that is directly relevant to our lives, I think, simply because it predicts what will happen to us NOW, not in the next life.

We don’t think too much about next life anyway, partly because we don’t really believe in it, partly because we are on the way back to Krishna already, if we don’t fall down from our path our return is guaranteed, but it’s the falldowns that can derail everything and scatter our chances of going back to Godhead at the end of our lives. It appears that avoiding falldowns now should be our main concern anyway.

I said we don’t believe in the next life because despite of our knowledge we often behave as if it’s not relevant to us, or we behave as if laws of nature don’t apply to us anymore. Either way – we never do anything serious just because someone said it concerns our next incarnation, that is just not enough motivation for us. Let’s be diplomatic and say that we are not motivated because of our attachment to Krishna instead.

Anyway, the point is that we carry big debts with us all the time and we have to pay them back one way or another. One big implication is that we can’t renounce anything on a whim.

We can’t just give up our jobs and become “devotees”, we can’t abandon our family responsibilities, we can’t go and take sannyasa anywhere we want either.

Surely, when one takes to devotional service all his debts to demigods, sages, and forefathers are immediately wiped out but there’s a very important “but” here – when we go through any initiation rights these debt settlement business is officially confirmed. Unless that happens our debts are still with us and we can’t declare ourselves debt free. Somebody should come and take our debts away, we are totally at the mercy of Krishna’s representatives here.

We can’t just declare ourselves Krishna’s devotees – we should be accepted as such. The only thing we can declare ourselves is our independence, rather foolishly, because it never helped anybody.

Moreover, fully renouncing all our obligations is not even required from the vast majority of us. Most of us still have to pay the debts back, devotee or not. We still have to eat and sleep and we still have to act to maintain our bodies, so why not act to repay what we owed from birth, too?

So, demigods, sages, and forefathers… Demigods are paid back by performing sacrifices. We are not slaughtering goats or horses and we are not putting demigods on our altars but it is still the easiest debt to pay – we satisfy the demigods simply by worshiping Krishna. They might not like going over their heads very much and quietly call us cheeky bastards but that’s just how it works. If Krishna is happy they also get something for themselves, we were told, so it’s not a total loss.

Debt to the sages is also not very complicated – we pay it back by performing tapasya. We don’t need to stay on one leg for a thousand years, I think if we eat only Krishna prasadam it’s a great austerity already. If we successfully avoid illicit sex it’s the best thing ever.

Basically, if we lead our lives as devotees and simply follow Prabhupada’s guidelines for us we’ll easily repay our debts to the sages.

That leaves us with forefathers. That’s the trickiest part.

I grew up in a society where no one looks at procreation as some sort of a debt needed to be paid. No one has children out of obligation, certainly not to some shadowy personalities calls pitas, grandchildren are pleasing to our fathers and mothers and that’s how far up the family tree we are prepared to go.

As devotees we don’t grant them even that. Our children are not there to pay debts to those people, they are for Krishna, not for them. We don’t think of our children as means to pay our debts, we expect Krishna to relieve us from these duties.

I don’t know how well it works, I suspect not everybody gets excused.

Personally, I gave up on these debts long long time ago, even before I joined. Maybe I will never be free, I don’t really mind now, I’m more concerned with success in my chanting. Demigods and forefathers can do anything they want with my body, it’s theirs, as long as I can chant the rounds, that’s all I want from it.

Maybe it’s a dangerous strategy but it’s the only one I’ve got, so it better work.

Actually the whole idea that my body was born heavily in debts to some entities I have never ever seen in my life is just another argument in favor that this is not my body at all, it has never been mine, it’s just a blob I foolishly lay claim to.

Its only purpose is to provide me with sounds of the Holy Name that I can’t hear otherwise in my diseased condition. Demigods can take the rest if they really want to.

This isn’t a great body for any particular purpose, it can’t be used to sing and dance, it can’t be used to worship the Deities, it can’t do anything right but I should be grateful as long as it can chant, that’s all.

I hope no demigods, sages or forefathers are going to take this away.

Vanity thought #162. Limitations.

Are there any? I mean limitations on one’s progress and success in devotional service, I mean any limitations for me in particular.

For one thing, we were raised to believe that there are not limits on Lord’s mercy, and there are certainly no limits on Lord Chaitanya’s mercy. Thinking that the Holy Name and its power has any limitations is an offence, too, but let’s take things in perspective.

There were at least two examples of dogs becoming devotees from Lord Chaitanya’s time so even animals have not been left out but that’s two dogs out of how many?

Once Srila Prabhupada told one of his disciples to chant Hare Krishna to a passing slug in the garden. Any living entity certainly benefits from hearing the Hare Krishna mantra but no one expects a slug to give up his mortal shell and ascend to heavens right away. Why?

Are slugs offensive? Do they even have enough consciousness to offend the Name?

I suppose they are being offensive by simply identifying themselves with their bodies, they don’t need to commit any other of ten nama aparadhas. Same goes for dogs and all other animals. Can the same logic be applied to people?

We expect slugs to get a better birth next time and get a chance to engage in devotional service. We believe that they should take births in human forms to get the full benefits of chanting. Why? Isn’t it limiting the power and mercy of the Holy Name?

We were raised to believe that the human form of life is the most precious because it’s the only chance for us to become devotees. Why?

One explanation is that denizens of the heavenly planets are to busy with sense enjoyment to be attracted to devotion and, similarly, denizens of the lower planets are experiencing too much suffering. Okay, how much is too much?

The Lord puts His devotees through some calamities to strengthen their faith and dependence on Him. People in hell must be crying their guts out, praying to God, too. How is that different?

Maybe the answer lies in fact that not everyone calling out to God is a devotee. Potential devotee, yes, a devotee deserving respect, yes, a devotee engaged in unalloyed service to Krishna – no. Just like in some of our literature a kanishtha adhikari is called only an imitation vaishnava, or “shadow vaishnava”, not the “real thing”. By “real thing” our acharyas meant one engaged in devotional service, in pure devotional service, not one begging God to become his servant and supply him with all kinds of necessities and pleasures.

Real vaishnava is humble, tolerant, respectful to others and he doesn’t desire any material benefits and he always engaged in serving the Lord. The closer we get to this ideal the closer we get to becoming real vaishnavas that are glorified in all the scriptures.

So today’s question is – are their any natural limitations to become a real vaishnava?

One must be a human. There hasn’t been any known conversions since Lord Chaitanya’s times so in practical terms it’s an iron clad rule. Theoretically it’s not a limit, of course, but I’m calculating my own chances, all other dogs might get a busload of mercy anytime and I hope I will be happy for them when it happens.

Another limitation is too much bad karma, too much suffering. To engage in devotional service without any self interest one must first be situated on a goodness platform. Passion and ignorance misdirect our endeavors and suffering is a result of too much ignorance and it forces living beings to be reminded about their bodily connections every living moment. In that situation one cannot be content and so cannot offer himself to the Lord without wanting anything in return.

Yet another limitation is a life form on heavenly planets. When Lord Chaitanya, or any other incarnation of the Lord, for that matter, appear here, the demigods always show up, too. Not born as humans but showering flowers and singing songs. They came to Mother Saci’s house and worshiped the Lord there on several occasions, the first time when Lord Chaitanya was still in the womb, then they came at His birth and then they were summoned a few times later on, if my memory is correct.

Question – if they came to worship the Lord, if they sang the Holy Names for Him, how come they didn’t get devotional service as “real vaishnavas”? In Chaitanya Mangala by Lochana Dasa Thakura they complained about this exact problem at least once. Why can’t they be blessed with ecstatic love of God themselves, despite being there, serving the Lord, glorifying Him, chanting the Holy Names etc.

It seems there really is a restriction, at least a practical one.

What about human forms? There are 400,000 of them, are they all suitable for devotional progress? First, what’s with 400,000 human forms? Even if we take racism into an account we won’t get more than five kinds of people. If we take all existing nations and tribes into account we will still be in hundreds.

We have no idea what a definition of species is according to the vedic tradition. The best explanation is that they are graded by levels of consciousness, not by number of wings or fingers, so, perhaps, there are 400,000 levels of human consciousness, some must be more suitable for devotional service, some less. Or could there be humans living on other planets? They might have their own criteria for becoming vaishnavas and they might decrease the number of human species in our own society but we are still left with plenty of variations here.

Could it be that some human forms, ie some people living among us, are, just like slugs, are expected to be born in better conditions next time to become devotees? People who get prasadam, people who meet Hare Krishnas on the streets and smile at them? They’ve come in contact with Krishna already but it’s impractical to expect all of them turn into real vaishnavas in this lifetime.

What about people like me – we’ve come a long way already, we got initiated, we engage in service of some sorts, we expect to go back to Godhead at the end of our lives if we stick to our contract, but do we have a real chance of becoming devotees now?

That would be heartbreaking if the answer is no, not all of us get a real chance. Too much enjoyment or too much suffering to offer any service without wanting anything for ourselves.

Hmm, if my body is nagging me and it’s distracting me from chanting – does it mean it’s the case of too much suffering? If I can’t seem to forget my pain even for a moment – does it mean I’m disqualified for the rest of my life? Or at least until the pain subsides?

Should one manage his life so as to become fully content with his lot in order to progress to the next stage?

Questions … questions…

I’m afraid that my chance to chant the Holy Name will be taken away from me and I’ll be forced to get a real job. What will I do then? I don’t believe in long distance relationships, not in Kali Yuga anyway. Separate me from the service and I’ll never take it up again, I’ll fill my day with all kinds of other things that would seem necessary at the moment.

I worked so hard to forget about them now, would it all be in vain?

Maybe that’s why we call it a causeless mercy, so that we could hope against hope.

At least in my own case I don’t see a practical, workable solution on the horizon. I just hope that somehow or other it will work out better for my opportunities for devotional service, but if history is any indication – it’s a hope against hope.

Vanity thought #70. Sitting in Krishna’s hand.

Yet another implication of treating chanting of Hare Krishna mahamantra as yuga dharma for all intents and purposes, not just obtaining devotional service – it makes a solid connection between Krishna and material world around us.

For now I believe my life goes on according to results of my karma, and I create even more karma in the process, when I do things for my own satisfaction or maintenance. If, however, I start to view all those mundane things as results of my sacrifice, as direct results of me chanting Hare Krishna, it should be very easy to see everything that happens to me as direct Krishna’s arrangement, okay, maybe direct Lord Hari’s arrangement, but it’s still sounds promising.

I always thought that it is neophyte enthusiasm to treat every little thing as Krishna’s special mercy but I think now I see a new reason to do so – all our gains and suffering are results of our sacrifices, not just turning up for work, and so everything we get or don’t get is related to how faithfully we chant.

Yes, a lot of this stuff comes just for the material comfort and enjoying it leads to further entanglement, but there’s also a chance, an opportunity, a very wonderful opportunity, indeed, to finally learn to see our surroundings as Krishna’s energy.

Yes, it’s material, but it is here because we asked Krishna for it. Food, shelter, warm and comfy bed, fast internet – it all came from Krishna, or Lord Hari, it is not given to us by demigods, we don’t perform any yajnas to get their favors, we chant Holy Names of Krishna and Hari, they supply us with everything we want or need. I don’t care where other people get their stuff, I ask for mine from Krishna and that’s where it comes from, as far as I am concerned.

Ultimately everything comes from Krishna, of course, but it is very hard to see how the chair I am sitting on connected to Him, it’s a lot easier, in theory, to see how it comes from Hiim if I asked Him for it.

It’s a chair, it looks like a chair, but it’s personal Krishna’s arrangement, accommodation provided by Him in response to my personal request. I might just as well treat it as His hand, spiritually they are non-different.

I should be ashamed to ask him for soft chairs and non-leaking pipes in the bathroom but since I want these things anyway, better ask from Krishna than get excited over the new plumbing outfit that has been leaving fliers on my doorstep and start begging them instead.

Makes me wonder, though – what should I think of sitting on the toilet?

Vanity thought #69. Body Maintenance.

This is another implication of accepting Hare Krishna mantra as the yuga dharma – my body maintenance. Having material desires now and then that require intervention of some higher powers is one thing, the thing I thought about yesterday, maintaining my body day in and day out is something different.

Over the years I developed an internal agreement that whatever I do to earn the money and whatever I do to try to please the Lord are two separate things. If I want devotion I appeal to Krishna, if I want promotion I appeal to my boss. This separation of powers itself is a thought for another day, but now I’m concerned with performing sankirtana yajna, its effects, and my motivations.

Over the years I’ve learned that God is for serving, we don’t pray to Krishna for our daily bread. By “we” I mean pure devotees and myself when I feel like being one, too. I’ve learned that it’s inappropriate to approach Krishna with mundane things, that it cheapens my otherwise exalted position.

Well, I don’t see any harm from this attitude per se, apart from boosting my ego, but when it leads to worshiping mundane demigods instead of Krishna there could be a problem.

I’ve learned that approaching Krishna as some material entity able to grant material wishes is an offense, so I approached anyone but Him, which, in turn, means worshiping demigods or worse. I ended up with worse.

I thought I needed to study this and master that, I had to attend these courses and obtain those certificates, get to know that kind of people and secure their support. That is what supposed to provide for me and my family, not Krishna.

Wrong.

I behave like an atheist who thinks he can force the higher powers to serve him the benefits independently of any devotion, or that devotion expressed as brown nosing can be used to extract those benefits.

Ultimately, I believe that there are powers other than Krishna and I can circumvent Him if I want to.

Wrong.

Now, what about trying to be the perfect devotee and avoid asking the Lord for material benedictions? Well, fine, if I can pull it off. Fine if I can drop those material desires and not ask anyone at all. In reality, however, if I keep wanting things then I shouldn’t try to imitate pure devotees, I shouldn’t try to place myself higher than I really am.

What I should do is to accept my unfortunate situation of approaching the Lord with silly, material hankerings and try to progress from there. It’s detrimental to my progress to imagine myself as a better devotee, or, indeed, as any level of devotee at all.

On the other hand, I want to present the best of myself for Krishna. To hell with his knowledge of my intimate heart, I utterly reject its desires anyway, I want to be the best for my Lord, wear my best clothes, offer my best obeisances, speak in my best voice and compose my best prayers.

Pardon me for not intruding with my constipation problems there.

Sometimes I screw up and have no choice but to pray to the Lord, I’m ashamed about me caring so much about external things but I really have no other place to go. I wish I didn’t want to go anywhere at all but I sometimes I need help.

I will patiently wait for the day when I feel indifferent to my problems. Today is not that day but I’m not going to beg my boss anymore. Okay, I will, for the sake of etiquette, but I will remember that the results depend on my performance of sankirtana yajna, not my boss’ mercy.

And by yajna here I mean chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra, it IS supposed to fix ALL my material problems, it is the only way to solve any problems in Kali yuga. I’m sorry for coming to Krishna with this crap but something tells me it’s better to approach Him than anyone else.

Ok, how about a compromise – I will approach Lord Hari, the maintainer of the universe, and ask Him not to tell a word to Krishna Himself.

Will it work?

Vanity thought #68. Sacrifice.

I had another thought about Kali Santarana Upanishad and its prescription of chanting Hare Krishna in Kali Yuga. There are some implications I haven’t considered before.

From a traditional vedic point of view chanting Hare Krishna has replaced the traditional sacrifices and temple worship and that means it’s supposed to bring similar results – material prosperity and satisfaction of material desires.

Forget the devotees, they are the special case, but ordinary people seeking better life in this world are prescribed to chant Hare Krishna to attain their vision of happiness – money, fame, wife, children – the whole nine yards.

I don’t think we ever treat our Hare Krishna mantra that way, not for ourselves, and not when we recommend it to other people. True, “Chant and Be Happy” was our first “marketing” slogan but we’ve grown out of that long time ago. We’ve long agreed that “happy” in this context means spiritually happy, spiritually content, not materially prosperous.

There’s also the point that since time immemorial people appealed to Shiva, Durga, Ganesh etc for their material desires, even biggest demons in the universe like Ravana worshiped demigods to attain their powers. They have never ever worshiped Vishnu, and our Hare Krishna mantra is all about Vishnu – Hari.

Even gopis in Vrindavana worshiped Kathyayini to get good husbands. They, of course, wanted Krishna, but they still went to Katyayani, not to Hari.

Even in this day some devotees ashamed of their material hankerings worship Ganesh because they know Hari is the one who takes things away, not gives them.

We also know all about offensive chanting, or do we? We know that maintaining material desires while chanting is a clear offense, but what are the results? We won’t obtain devotion that way but will our material wishes be granted? If we perform prescribed method of sacrifice, why shouldn’t they?

On what grounds do we believe that offering sacrifices to Ganesh the way it was done in the previous yuga will work better than following shastric prescriptions for this age? Are we better brahmanas? Do brahmanas able to counteract the influence of Kali still exist?

Why do we recommend worship of demigods for materially inclined persons? At least we tacitly agree that this is what they should do.

I don’t see why we shouldn’t tell people:”NO, the only yajna prescribed for this age is chanting Hare Krishna, all other forms of sacrifice lose their potency as Kali yuga progresses, engage at your own risk.”

Yes, Lord Hari is the one who takes away, but what does it really mean? If a person approaches Hari to achieve his material goals and faithfully chants Hare Krishna, why wouldn’t Hari fulfill his desires? Yes, Hari is an independent Supreme Lord, but for those who don’t see Him as such and follow vedic injunctions, why wouldn’t He behave like a Lord of the sacrifice that is obliged to give requested benedictions, why wouldn’t He play the role He is supposed to play in Kali yuga?

Hari maintains the whole universe even though He is not obliged to do anything, He maintains it through thick and thin, through creation and annihilation, and if in Kali yuga He is given the task of accepting sacrifices, why would He refuse to do so?

For all I know He doesn’t take away much even if I ask, why scare people away by telling them that if they worship Krishna they’ll lose their wealth wives and families and turn into traveling mendicants?

It’s very unlikely to happen and certainly not against person’s will.

I might completely misunderstand the advice given in Kali Santarana Upanishad, but what I see is that in this age Krishna, Hari, is not giving out benedictions via worshiping other demigods. You chant His names, He gives you what you want.

To me it looks as simple as that.

Vanity thought #58. Demigod solution.

Is it really a coincidence that it is Isopanishad that gives solid advice on this demigod dilemma? That book clearly has an issue with me. My mind is being pursued by a shastra! What a fortune.

In mantra eleven Sri Isopanishad says that one must learn both the nescience and transcendental knowledge side by side, which means one cannot neglect the worldly affairs and techniques. In the purport Prabhupada says that one should make the best bargain of the given material situation and from devotees point of view “best” means least unfavorable to learning transcendental branch of knowledge, and what kind of material knowledge is best followed in this regardĀ  – vedic injunctions! They were given precisely for that purpose – satisfy one’s material needs and in the process awaken our spiritual purpose.

Half problem solved. Half, because in the next verse those worshiping demigods are condemned to life in the darkest regions of ignorance.

To reconcile both views I think it helps Prabhupada’s rather unusual translation of some verses from Bhagavat Gita he gave in a purport a few pages earlier. They start with “One should become a perfect gentleman and learn to give proper respect to others”.

Learn to give proper respect, learn the ways of the demigods and how to obtain their blessings, but not worship them. Does it make sense? I thinkĀ  it does.

I am not going to Ganesha but if I happen to visit his temple I would offer my respects and obeisances and whatever it is available to offer there without asking anything in return. I am not going to Chinese Goddess of Fortune to ask for benedictions but next time my mom drags me there I’ll over the candles and incense without asking anything back. I might even shake the sticks there and see what my future tells me and express gratitude for her kindness.

I will try my best not to appear as a puffed up ingrate, at least not externally, and I will tell my mind to behave, too. Maybe eventually I will see that the demigods are doing a wonderful service and accept them as parts and parcels of the Supreme. After the guru and the devotees they are next in line for recognition of their divine nature. Or maybe parents are next, I don’t know.

Vanity thought #57. Demigods.

My mother is a religion junkie, if there’s any chance of getting something of it, she’d go to any temple she can lay her hands on.

So we’ve visited a whole bunch of them, all kinds of Hindu, Buddhist and Chinese temples and I got really lost with all these characters, especially the Goddess of Fortune. Everybody goes there to wish for something and it didn’t feel right for me to ask and it didn’t feel right for me to ignore her mercy, too.

How could I honestly say that I’m Krishna’s servant and I don’t want anything but devotional service. How about that iPad I was lusting for the other day? Or other things I have been really lusting about?

There’s no way I’m going to ask Krishna to provide them to me.

But lets look at it form another angle. I got a job, I do all kinds of things to please my boss – show up on time, do my work to the best of my abilities, don’t slack off, put in extra hours when necessary. I don’t feel any particular pride in me being a “devotee” anymore. I know that I have to do those things to get my paycheck that allows me enjoy all the nice little amenities I came to like so much.

It’s nice to be all philosophical about it and claim that it all comes from Krishna but by the same logic it is Krishna who made me do those things for my boss and it’s my boss who has been assigned by Krishna to do my performance reviews. House payments, car payments, big screen TV payments – I’m not in a position to “do my own thang”, I am a shudra for all intents and purposes, I survive at the mercy of my boss.

So what’s wrong with worshiping demigods? Why is it okay to write nice reports for the boss but not offer a candle to the Goddess of Fortune? Will it break my back to offer her obeisances? It is a fact that I am able to maintain this body by demigods mercy. I know I should worry about my soul more but there’s no escaping the fact that I love being my body very much, too. Ultimately, the demigods were given this very important duty to take care of my body by Krishna.

Why is okay to feel grateful and offer obeisances to devotees who serve us prasadam but not to the demigods who supplied bhoga for it?

If one accepts his lowly and fallen position in this material world, why shouldn’t he accept it all the way. Why is it okay to offer respect to one’s parents and celebrate their birthdays and such but not care one bit about the demigods? Is it because we assume that parents don’t know any better and need to be respected just for show, to keep them happy, but the demigods know all about our exalted positions and are dying to render us some service without wanting any recognition for their efforts?

Is it how Krishna’s devotee really supposed to feel? So far I get away by pleading white man ignorance and “we don’t worship demigods” excuse, but I feel this is just not kosher.

More on this tomorrow.