Vanity thought #1686. Not a duck

Returning to a post from day before yesterday – why is it that we are so different from all other students of Vedic literature?

Yesterday I talked about Sankaracarya’s translation of a controversial verse and how vaishnava acaryas don’t agree on its details either. At the end of the day everyone interpreted to fit with his own preconceived doctrine, so what makes us so different?

It was a typical example of dissecting Sanskrit verses and using grammar and dictionaries to extract a meaning, everyone did it regardless of the tradition. Results were different, of course, but the approach wasn’t. So, if we all use the same method, all use the same grammar rules, all use the same strategy of trying to fit whatever is said into an existing doctrine, what makes us in “not ducks”?

I think that it’s one of those cases where external activities of devotees are indistinguishable from non-devotees. Usually we take it to mean that devotees go to work just the same, take the money just the same, support their families just the same, but in this case the concept needs to be extended to studying shastra, too, which is somewhat unexpected.

In reality, however, it’s unavoidable. The books are the same, the grammar is the same, the goal is the same, so we can’t really do it any differently. I mean if we want to produce a commentary in support of a certain idea and we want this commentary to be accepted by others then we have to follow the rules. We have to resort to grammar and logic, we have to follow the format, we have to present it in the same way – written down in a decipherable form, there really isn’t any other option.

If we wanted to reach out to devotees and share our appreciation for the Lord then we would ditch grammar discussion, we would ditch alternative non-devotional readings so that we don’t have to refute them, we would ditch logic and rationality and simply talk about the Lord. The resulting work would not be acceptable to non-devotees, of course, and it would not be satisfying for devotees seeking solid arguments in defense of our siddhanta either.

Srila Prabhupada used both approaches. His Bhagavad Gita As It Is was a book meant for the masses, as an appeal to a neutral reader. His Srimad Bhagavatam was meant for devotees but it was still full of lessons on the superiority of the Vedic way of life. We take lots of arguments against atheists from there. Caitanya Caritamrita, otoh, was strictly a devotional literature without any appeals to doubting outsiders.

Srimad Bhagavatam is, of course, an amala purana dedicated solely to glorifying the Lord but Srila Prabhupada wanted to present it to a wider audience and he really wanted to convert westerners to its superior message, so there had to be a degree of logic and rationality. Even when he was writing for our own education he still had to talk in our language, gradually convincing us to accept each and every aspect of daivi varnasrama.  He couldn’t afford to simply share the taste for Lord’s nectarian pastimes. There’s still a lot it there, though, more than we can possibly appreciate, but the point stands – when we have any other goal rather than glorifying the Lord we have to follow rules other than simply chanting the names and reciting pastimes. It was for our spiritual benefit and it was a perfect sankirtana but it is an explanation of why it had to contain a certain amount of philosophy, too.

Caitanya Caritamrita was largely free of these constraints. It didn’t argue for anything but simply told us the siddhanta, and once the Adi lila was over it was all only about pastimes of Lord Caitanya. Even Mahaprabhu’s teachings delivered to Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami, even the arguments presented to Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya were full of sweetness and nectar and didn’t entertain even a shred of doubt in Lord’s message. I mean, unlike the verse from Gita I talked about yesterday, there is nothing to argue with Caitanya Caritamrita at all. There are no different interpretations, no arguments meant for outsiders, it’s all more like “if anyone has any doubt in Lord Nityananda I will personally kick them in the head” line from Caitanya Bhagavata, and that’s all the author had to say about opposition.

So, how should we treat other books that are written by devotees but otherwise follow non-devotional norms? If it’s written by a bona fide acarya we simply accept it as siddhanta but we can’t use this argument when talking to atheists of mayavadis. We need to prove that acarya’s opinions are correct and so we need to resort to the same grammar and logic as atheists.

There are also cases when we have disagreements among ourselves, like with Flat Earth theory or female diksha gurus or falldown from Vaikuntha. We all read exactly the same books, have the same respect for our acaryas, and still we can’t agree on our interpretations. What do we do then? Resort to grammar and logic just like the atheists, sadly.

The argument is often put this way – this or that acarya was certainly authorized by Krishna to spread the glory of the holy name but it doesn’t mean he was omniscient and on certain matters he could have made mistakes. Insisting on acaryas being always correct is foolish and go against all evidence. Prabhupada had to be taught how to use the dictaphone, for example, and on the subject of the structure of the universe he sought help from the outsiders or referred people to Bhagavatam instead of clearly explaining it in his own words.

The other side says that treating acaryas as fallible is a great offense and their every word should be taken literally as the Absolute Truth. It’s all confusing and I think it puts us into a wrong framework where we discuss irrelevant things.

The gift of a guru is transcendental realization of the Lord. We are supposed to receive direct spiritual knowledge and free ourselves from shackles of the material nature so why are we still arguing how these things appear to those in spiritual ignorance? Why do we still care for logic and grammar and things being right and wrong?

If we do our job right we should be elevated above such petty arguments. We should not be interested in reliving experiences of conditioned beings and solving their silly right-wrong puzzles just as we are not interested in sorting out who was right and wrong in a kindergarten sandbox fights. That’s all what these debates should be for grown up  devotees – little kids taking themselves way too seriously.

When an adult steps into a kindergarten dispute he would speak the language understandable to kids and appeal to their level of logic but it doesn’t mean he follows their train of thought, he only appears to be talking on their level. He might talk and walk like a duck but he isn’t a duck and neither are devotee commentators on Vedic literature. They speak from the position of knowledge of the Absolute Truth, not from the position of ignorance and using faulty brains to arrive at meanings.

 

 

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Vanity thought #1482. Christian hangups

Thinking about the sermon I’ve been discussing for a couple of days made me look at Christianity again and wonder what the differences and similarities between us and them are. I won’t go as far as to suggest that we can learn something useful from them, though we probably can, but I’d rather focus on hangups that are holding us (and them) back.

Two thirds through this Rhesa Storms’ sermon and there’s relatively little I can find in common with her. Sure, we all live in the same world and can relate to the topics and examples she raised, but then she, as a New Yorker, thinks she is special. We are not special, it’s the first thing we realize in Kṛṣṇa consciousness – because spiritual life begins with humility. When I listen to Rhesa I do not see a spiritual person on a quest for God, I see a woman who wants to make something out of her life and it just so happens that her Christian God has got to play a big role in her plans.

She talks, for example, how she one day realized that running around everywhere, angling for the best spot in front of the queue when waiting for the green light and checking Instagram when there were five seconds left on the countdown clock, is not the attitude most conductive to spirituality. Great, but we, in ISKCON, are being told that this is just stupid from day one. It’s rajas and tamas, it’s being in māyā, if we catch ourselves doing this we immediately think “Oh, shit, I’ve done it again.”, and when we shake it off we don’t go “Wow, I’ve never experienced this before, it’s really cool.” Instead we fill ourselves with guilt and remorse and lament slipping up. Well, maybe not so dramatic and maybe this isn’t the best reaction but the point is that it’s not a “discovery”, it’s pretty much the bog standard ideal for every bhakta.

Does it mean that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is superior? Umm, yes, it does. Let me approach this from another angle.

We talk about sanātana dharma, for example, an eternal nature of every living being. It’s not about being a Christian or a Hindu or a Hare Kṛṣṇa. Every living entity possesses it constitutionally, so we all are capable of manifesting it. The difference is only in the degrees of purity. Excuse me for generalizing, but Christianity is an upa-dharma for the less advanced class of men, in the same way as karma-kāṇḍa or jñāna kāṇḍa are objectively inferior to bhakti.

Christianity doesn’t translate directly into any of those lesser Vedic schools because it is about bhakti and loving God with all your heart but their problem is contamination, their miśra. They might get the main idea right but the execution holds them back just as anarthas are holding our progress towards pure devotion. We, however, have relatively few of those.

Christianity is for meat eaters and drinkers and woman chasers and sinners of all kinds, they openly admit so themselves, and that means that when they run into obstacles they have to deal with problems we, the Hare Kṛṣṇas, have left behind a long time ago. Not completely, of course, but on a doctrinal level we are solid. They, otoh, are wondering if they could have practicing gay priests. Practicing the gay part, I mean.

In Rhesa’s case and her vision of Christianity it’s about God helping us with our lives. Not us helping Him with His, as is the case in our philosophy. At one point she actually gets pretty close to an acceptable ideal, when she expands on that “Be still and know that I am God” psalm. Rise above the busyness of your life and seek solitude with God, realize that this busyness is not meant for us, it’s alien to our nature, it’s alien to spirituality.

She gives examples from JC’s own life, how he lived under considerable pressure himself. His ministry was short but an eventful one. Someone always was asking him to do this or do that, save this soul, cure that disease, do a miracle here, preach there, and he had his own GBC to manage, too, and they were equally clueless. In the midst of all this, just like Prabhupāda, Jesus found time to be alone with God and pray. Prabhupāda, of course, used that alone time to write books, which meant write down Kṛṣṇa’s dictation.

Jesus needed that down time alone with God to renew himself and prepare himself to withstand crazy demands of his mission. I think we can say that Prabhupāda used his connection with Kṛṣṇa to prepare for whatever challenges were facing him when the rest of ISKCON woke up and started pestering him for help, too.

So far so good, but then she reduced JC’s ministry to giving rest to weary people. Yes, Lord Caitanya does that, too, but we don’t stop on solving our own problems, it’s not bhakti, it’s not devotion, we aspire for something more, a lot more actually – serving guru and the Lord with all our hearts.

Here’s another thing that we have in common but which is holding us back – we want God to go along with our desires, want the same things that we do, so that when our wishes are fulfilled God is happy, too. Very few Christians realize that it’s still selfishness, just as very few of us realize that this is not an actual bhakti yet.

Bhakti starts when we want the same things as the Lord, not the other way around, when we fulfill His desires, often against our apparent self-interest. It’s not a one time sacrifice either, not one episode from our lives for the history books, but it should be our way of life, 24/7, nityam bhāgavata sevayā.

Again, philosophically we are solid on that but in practice very few of us can honestly say that we are are simply doing what guru and Kṛṣṇa want. Most of us are doing what WE want, but ostensibly for Kṛṣṇa. Getting ourselves into a situation where we go along with Kṛṣṇa’s flow is a rare privilege achieved only by the best of us, and, as far as I can tell, it happens only when preaching.

We can stay still and know that Kṛṣṇa is God and trust Him in every respect, He has enough power and supplies to look after us for the rest of our lives, but doing what HE wants means preaching, if we aren’t constantly engaged in preaching we are wasting His time.

Just think about it – Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī was an illustrious ācārya, a preacher of the highest standard, but among thousands of his disciples only Śrīla Prabhupāda can be said to have fulfilled his desire and got himself engaged in a worthwhile preaching mission. The ratio among Prabhupāda’s disciples is definitely better but if we ourselves are not included then generalizing won’t help.

I honestly don’t know how to earn this privilege, not for myself, not for anybody else. Perhaps it’s only by causeless mercy, but not the kind we usually reserve for saving our sorry asses from material troubles, we need the grant of love of God, that’s the only platform from which we can preach for real.

Preaching, btw, is another common area between us and Christians, but it’s a big topic I don’t want to start now.

Vanity thought #1472. Life and soul

Any talk about Prabhupāda Memories series that doesn’t give due credit to the deep love devotees feel for him would be incomplete. In fact, it’s the only lesson we really need to learn, everything else is superficial and only accommodates for our temporary interests. Śrīla Prabhupāda was/is their life and soul, and life and soul are far more important than the condition of our body, mind, or intelligence.

Unfortunately, and we can see it in real life, devotees had to accommodate their material desires, they drifted away, made careers, raised families, but all of this is superficial, even our dogfights over philosophical and institutional points. Kali yuga is the age of diversity, to put it mildly, conflicts arise for smallest of matters, people insult each other, commit offenses against the holy name, lose their taste and eventually their position in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but it’s all temporary and most of it doesn’t even register with Kṛṣṇa.

At the moment of our death we might feel strong attachments to material pleasures and it can be problematic but at least we don’t have to worry about Kṛṣṇa holding our sins against us, they don’t matter to Him. So, if we manage to remember Him when we die then all the superficial transgressions caused by the material nature will be written off as if they never happened. The only thing we need is our life and soul being where they belong – at the lotus feet of our guru and Kṛṣṇa.

So far I’ve come across two videos where devotees, when speaking about Prabhupāda, completely chocked on their emotions and broke down in tears. One was Kṛṣṇa Premī Dāsi, a well established singer who made quite a few sweet devotional records, so one would expect her to be a little sentimental, but it wasn’t like that at all. She wasn’t waxing lyrical and wasn’t even talking about singing but rather about quite an ordinary advice from Śrīla Prabhupāda – if you help Lord Caitanya to spread this movement He will give you all His blessings.

Simple things like that can completely trip up grown up men (or women, in this case). The whole talk was about how she and her husband should go about preaching in Sweden – whether it’s okay to wear suits when preaching in universities, what deities they should have, whether they should fly or travel overland. Then Prabhupāda went quiet and just watched them for a few minutes, and then he opened his eyes widely and asked her: “Who do you love more, Kṛṣṇa or your husband?”

She was caught completely off guard and couldn’t understand Prabhupāda’s mind. She realized that she didn’t love Kṛṣṇa at all, and, on second thought, she didn’t love her husband either. Seeing her confusion, Śrīla Prabhupāda grinned and delivered this blessing that she still can’t remember without breaking in tears. From the interview it appears they’ve discussed the content and she was going to talk about “Who do you love more?” question but, however prepared, she just couldn’t contain herself.

Simplest things can go so deep in our hearts that when we remember them all the outside world just goes away. That might not be technically a perfection in absolute terms but from our degraded position it’s as good as it ever going to get.

Another case was also of a musician, but this time a grown ass man Maṅgalānanda Prabhu. He didn’t have much personal association with Śrīla Prabhupāda, only attended a half a dozen lectures, following Prabhupāda on his tours of the US. His personal interest was in writing Kṛṣṇa conscious music using guitar and he was a part of some road show that eventually wound down.

I understand that not all of those roadshows were approved by either Prabhupāda or GBC, sometimes they went off the rails and were seen as over the top, so I can see why his local authorities were cool to the idea and didn’t offer much support, if not outright obstructed to using western instruments and western tunes, but that didn’t stop Maṅgalānanda who found his moment alone with Prabhupāda after a recording session in Los-Angeles.

Śrīla Prabhupāda was about to leave when Maṅgalānanda thought that it was now or never. He and his friend prepared a little demo and he came up to Prabhupāda, gave him the lyrics, and said that they had a few songs to show. The mere fact that Prabhupāda accepted his offering, sat down and agreed to listen melts Maṅgalānanda heart when he remembers the occasion.

Prabhupāda seemed to like the songs and asked what was the problem. Maṅgalānanda said that some of the big men didn’t approve of his approach to preaching but Prabhupāda said that sometimes you have to let the cows moo. “Go ahead,” he said, “and you will be successful.” This simple blessing, no big deal, as we hear this all the time in our movement, etched in that devotee’s heart forever.

These days we don’t give much weight to blessings, everybody’s got them, the problem is making them successful and we usually blame ourselves for bungling the mercy but it wasn’t like that for Maṅgalānanda, or for Kṛṣṇa Premī. They took these simple blessings very very personally and kept them deep within their hearts for the rest of their lives. Who can say their lives weren’t successful, devotionally speaking?

I can’t avoid a little doubt in my mind, however. Both of these devotees are musicians and so are somewhat more emotional than the general public so there’s always an excuse of sentimentalism, but I would rather put it down to incredibly soft hears of Kṛṣṇa’s devotees. AND they’ve been singing Kṛṣṇa’s glories all their lives. Why shouldn’t their hearts melt with love of God and Śrīla Prabhupāda? They are doing everything Lord Caitanya wanted us to do so their alleged sentimentalism is authorized.

Just listen to this video of one of Maṅgalānanda’s songs. It’s simple and pure, just as devotee’s heart should be. There’s nothing wrong with Kṛṣṇa Premī’s singing either, it’s perfect. Our musical tastes might be different but devotionally they are both absolutely perfect artists, and guru and Kṛṣṇa are clearly their life and soul.

Vanity thought #1456. Pashandis

Pāṣaṇḍīs is our go to word for atheists. I think it’s more technical than mūḍha, fools, though sometimes they go together like in this verse where Śrīla Prabhupāda expands on various meanings of the word pāṣaṇḍī as explained by the previous ācāryas. Apparently, there are many ways one can qualify as an atheist but can it happen to devotees?

Technically, it’s not possible, because Kṛṣṇa’s devotees never lose their bhakti and Kṛṣṇa forever preserves whatever they have, plus He assures failed yogīs that they can resume their path in the next life. This, however, is a long term view, outside of scope where we can use words like “he became an atheist”. In such a long run all those pāṣaṇḍī designations are temporary and not worthy of attention.

Say one commits offenses, gets cast in hell, returns, and resumes cultivating his devotion. Fits perfectly both with what Kṛṣṇa says would happen to such a person and with our immediate desire to label him an atheist. Devotees never go to hell, of course, but there are many other ways Kṛṣṇa can dish out an appropriate punishment, which is more of a lesson than actual suffering. By devotee here I mean anyone who has ever sincerely called Kṛṣṇa’s name, which is enough to save himself from clutches of māyā forever and earn a place at Lord’s lotus feet. In the long run – we are speaking of multiple lifetimes here – hundreds of lifetimes if one rejects his guru, for example.

The verse that promises to “carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have” has a condition attached, however (BG 9.22):

    But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form – to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.

One must continue worshiping the Lord with exclusive devotion to qualify for the assurance that his bhakti will be preserved, or so it appears from direct meaning. Śrīla Prabhupāda explains the kind of worship, meditation, and “exclusive devotion” needed in the purport:

    One who is unable to live for a moment without Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot but think of Kṛṣṇa twenty-four hours a day, being engaged in devotional service by hearing, chanting, remembering, offering prayers, worshiping, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, rendering other services, cultivating friendship and surrendering fully to the Lord.

There’s some leeway in not thinking of Kṛṣṇa twenty-four hours a day but “unable to live for a moment without” KC is tough. Can any of us honestly say we can’t live without Kṛṣṇa even for a moment? I’m tempted to say that I had plenty of those but, on second thought, I probably haven’t. One way or another, but ever since I first opened Śrīla Prabhupāda’s book I’ve always defined myself as Kṛṣṇa’s servant, or Lord Caitanya’s, to be precise, as historically it was this form of the Lord that I saw as my eternal master.

One could say it’s a pride talking and I am very well aware of that but denying and denigrating Lord’s mercy is a far greater offense to commit. People can call be proud and whatever but I’m not going to deny that Lord Caitanya has extended His mercy, took me under His shelter, and never left me since, even if always keeping me at a safe distance from Himself. I am not going to deny this reality for that would make me a pāṣaṇḍī myself. I’d rather be a foolishly proud devotee wannabe than a pāṣaṇḍī.

Here’s the thing that atheists don’t understand – that there’s another reality beyond what they are able to perceive themselves. They think that devotees imagine things but we don’t. Lord’s mercy is as real as anything else we see in the world around us and even more real in a sense that it’s constant and is always there while all other observed phenomena are like lose bits of colored glass constantly rotating in the kaleidoscope of life.

Atheists might come to a certain understanding how the world works and they think they figured it all out but with a little twist of fate the entire picture changes and new, previously unthought of connections are born and they need to rework their entire science again.

Look at the current financial market turmoil – in the past couple of days all stock indices crashed about 10%, which is huge, and it probably indicates start of a long term “correction” rather than a fluke. The projection so far has been that the US has finally overcome its recession and is headed for the first interest rate hike in September. Interest rates are important as basically they show how profitable the economy is – when everything is growing you ought to charge people more. Since 2008 it has been near zero while historical healthy average is about 2-4%. Current crash means that expectations of the US finally returning to normalcy need to be abandoned and with this come difficult questions about money printing and high level of debt. The answers so far hinged on “it’s all going according to plan” mantra but if it clearly isn’t then dollars and US bonds might become worthless and no one knows what will come next.

There’s plenty of ground for speculation about world economy but my point here is that science of economics suddenly has become useless and they need to create new theories about how it all works, which they will have to abandon the moment the next crisis hit.

The other day I saw a perfect definition of what atheism means but it was given as a sarcastic observation of a former Christian so it’s not quotable. The gist is simple, however – any answer to the question “Do you accept JC as your only savior” that isn’t an absolute unqualifiable “yes” is atheism. “Unqualifiable” is not a word but the meaning is clear.

By this logic we are all atheists in one way or another. We don’t particularly care about JC, of course, but any look at the world as real in its disconnect from Kṛṣṇa is atheism – we do not see God. Any time we do not see Kṛṣṇa we are atheists. Any time we instinctively enjoy our senses we are atheists because senses are meant for enjoyment by Kṛṣṇa, not by us.

The only question is the degree of our atheism and the duration of its spells, otherwise the word is meaningless for any conditioned soul because we are all atheists by our [conditioned] nature.

If we hope that as devotees we are spared of the full blown atheism and will never go back to our old life (never mind the habits for the moment) there’s still the mystery of jīva falldown. If we somehow turned our face away from Kṛṣṇa while in His company and got dropped into the material world it means there’s always a chance of going back on our nascent bhakti here, too. It’s not safe here for everyone, which is what our ācāryas have been saying all along.

I could finish this post by saying that the only answer lies in chanting the Holy Name but I think the immortal words of the original “pāṣaṇḍī”, Adi Śaṅkara, would be just as suitable:

    You fools, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda, just worship Govinda. Your grammatical knowledge and word jugglery will not save you at the time of death.

It’s the first verse of Bhaja Govindam often quoted by Śrīla Prabhupāda. Check out the full translation linked on that page, it’s worth it.

Vanity thought #1430. Swing vote 3

How do we exercise our free will here? I start with the understanding that as material bodies we don’t have any, whatever flashes in our minds and commanded by our intelligence is a result of interactions of material elements moved by the modes of nature and time. We have free only as spirit souls but since we don’t see ourselves as jīvas then how can we exercise it?

We’ve all heard that human form of life is special and as humans we have an enormous responsibility to inquire about the Absolute, athāto brahma jijñāsā and all that. What’s so special about us, though, and how do we take advantage of this uniqueness?

We can compare ourselves with animals and notice that their consciousness is very undeveloped comparing to ours. Christians are not even sure if animals have souls, for examples. Those who follow science, broadly speaking, aren’t even sure if plants and trees have consciousness or minds. I said broadly speaking because there’s no scientific consensus on this but no one would claim that trees have mind and intelligence in the sense these words are used outside of Vedic framework.

Consciousness and mind are as much philosophical terms as they are scientific ones, no one can say with any certainty where mind starts, for example, there aren’t any solid definitions there at all. Some say that having mind and consciousness means being self-aware, whatever THAT means. Human babies aren’t self-aware at birth, in their estimates, and they develop self-awareness at the age of five or six months, according to some studies.

According to other studies chimpanzees’ intelligence is as developed as that of five year old human babies. Does it mean chimps are conscious beings in the modern sense? Some would argue so, others would scoff at the proposal to grant them personhood. Legally this has already been tried, in some places with success, in others it’s still under consideration, and it’s not only about monkeys but also dolphins and whales.

The point is that usual definition of intelligence is very fuzzy one and so there’s no as much difference between humans and at least higher animals as we think, we aren’t that special. And we know from Rāmāyaṇa that monkeys can be as devoted to the Lord as any humans.

On the other side of the spectrum we have various kinds of demigods who possess far higher intelligence than we can even imagine, and yet it doesn’t work for them and human birth on Earth is still preferable for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Why? Clearly intelligence and ability to acquire knowledge about the Lord is not enough. Their Bhāgavatam is many times longer than ours, meaning they have far more Lord’s pastimes to discuss, and still being born on Earth is preferable, meaning even the ability to know more not just about the world but about the Lord Himself is still not enough. What’s our specialty then?

We don’t have any sixth sense for religion, we can’t see auras, can’t see demigods, can’t see Viṣṇu like they do on regular basis, can’t see ghosts, can’t see yamadūtas, can’t see the universe as it is, can’t see anything. In what sense can we possibly be special? Personally, I think none whatsoever, we are just happen to be in the sweet, Goldilocks spot of having everything just right.

That’s the typical explanation, isn’t it? Not too much suffering like in hell where people can’t concentrate on praying. Not too much sense enjoyment like in heaven where they can’t concentrate on praying with all the partying that is going on. I don’t know why we are in any better position than sages on Tapoloka or Maharloka, though. They must have some obstacles there, too, that we don’t have down here. Or maybe it’s because Lord Caitanya doesn’t appear there but here, so they don’t get His mercy but we do. If that is true then prior to Mahāprabhu’s appearance they didn’t think much of the Earth and its “opportunities”.

The question then becomes of what exactly this “just right” is. Are we all in equal “just right” position or there’s variation here, too? Obviously, yes. It’s a big question for Christians with their belief that everyone in the entire human history who didn’t get JC’s mercy had gone to hell, including newborn babies somewhere in Asia where they worship Buddha. They might be human babies but they are not equal to Christian babies, they don’t get the Christian “just right”.

We are not Christians but we shouldn’t go down that way, too. Meaning we need to be aware of our material constraints, our DNA, our background, the culture we grew up in, the culture we live in now etc etc. All these things affect our ability to exercise that elusive free will as spirit souls.

The “just right” position means that we have a relatively better opportunity than animals and demigods but it’s still not perfect, we have to admit that, too. We’ve got the brains and training to know that we must surrender to the Lord. Animals haven’t got that, plenty of humans, a vast majority of seven billion on the planet also haven’t a slightest idea. Demigods might know that theoretically but can’t actually do that.

If we analyze our situation very carefully we’ll notice that we experience waves of such conditioning, too. Sometimes we just forget about our duty, sometimes we don’t have enough willpower to perform it. Lack of willpower means commitment to something else, btw. We want that other thing instead, not that we don’t have any desires at all and this desire to surrender is just like a lone candle in the darkness. Nope, we have a blazing fire of material existence around us and we are too busy enjoying it so we don’t have enough SPARE willpower for Kṛṣṇa.

Once we have these other desires overtaking our heart there’s nothing Kṛṣṇa can do for us. Have you ever heard of a demigod being taken back to Godhead? Even when they get born on Earth and then get liberated by Kṛṣṇa Himself they don’t go to Goloka but back to whatever planet they came from. Isn’t it the greatest misfortune in the entire universe? Being so close to Kṛṣṇa, being personally favored by Him, and still being unable to engage in His service. This is what happened to Dhruva Mahārāja, too. He was forced to live out thousands and thousands of years despite explicitly rejecting his previous desires. Once we get our willpower directed elsewhere it can be guaranteed that we won’t get Kṛṣṇa’s service even if He shows up personally. We should be very careful about that, devotion mixed with karma can separate us from the Lord for a long long time.

Unfortunately, the way we were brought up makes it impossible not to worry about money, sex, health and lots of other things we consider our birthright. If we want them and we want Kṛṣṇa we’d better hope that the Lord is much more merciful to us then we deserve and He strips us of these selfish motives. The bliss of selfless service beats those material comforts by an incomparable margin, we should always remember that no matter what our minds tell us. Of course sometimes we have to admit that we aren’t in the “just right” position yet and living out those silly dreams is what we have to do in order to approach Kṛṣṇa truly selflessly.

What can be done then? Our only hope is the mercy of Lord Caitanya, who doesn’t have any limits and never sends anyone to soulless places like heaven or even Vaikuṇṭha. Dealing with Kṛṣṇa is far more dangerous in this sense – He can easily dispatch us to the planet of iPhones and keep us there until they run out of numbers for upgrades or can’t increase their size any further. Lord Caitanya would never do that, and that’s the only thing we can count on.

Vanity thought #1374. Conscious entanglement

With quantum mechanics being so weird and counterintuitive, what if we try to reconcile it with the world according to Kṛṣṇa? Yesterday i talked about quantum entanglement, for example, and how the same principle can be observed when we talk about the universe as a component of the Absolute Truth.

The way Kṛṣṇa knows everything is very close to how the quantum system keeps information about all its parts. There doesn’t seem to be any external reason for it. Nothing gets transmitted, nothing passes messages or comes into any kind of contact with anything, and yet the system knows its overall state and if we tingle parts of it, the other parts will respond immediately.

What stops us from comparing this spread of information with Lord Viṣṇu being all-pervasive? He is everywhere and yet He is unseen by non-devotees.

Consider the case of Hiraṇyakaśipu. He looked at a column in his palace and he only saw solid rock. There was no Viṣṇu there, and yet Prahlāda saw the Lord inside the column. What stops us from saying that Viṣṇu was in a quantum state of superposition? I know what – my ignorance, I just picked a random word without any clue to its actual meaning. I know only that it has something to do with quantum object being in all possible states simultaneously, unless you take a look.

Superposition is the state of Schrodinger’s cat, for example. In this bizarre and cruel mind experiment a cat is locked in a cage with some radioactive substance. When these radioactive atoms decay they break a vial with poison that kills the cat. So, in order to know whether the cat is dead or alive we need to know whether atoms have decayed or not. This, however, is impossible, because in quantum physics everything is a matter of probabilities. not certainty. So, without opening the cage and looking at the cat we don’t know and CAN’T know the “truth”. As long as the box is locked, the cat, for all practical purposes, is both dead and alive.

Lord Viṣṇu inside the column was exactly the same. He was both there and not there until someone looked. If Prahlāda looked, he saw the Lord, if Hiraṇyakaśipu looked, he saw the rock. When Hiraṇyakaśipu tried to interact with the column the quantum system responded counterintuitively, from his material POV, and Lord Nṛsiṁha came out. The difference was that this time both Prahlāda and his father were involved in the observation. When devotees like Prahlāda observe the same quantum system it loses its superposition and appears as the Lord Himself.

Had Prahlāda not stated that the Lord was in the column nothing would have happened, his participation in the experiment was absolutely necessary.

Once again, the act of observation reveals the system, and it reveals it in way that depends on how it’s being observed. I don’t know if the second part has a comparison in quantum mechanics, ie if it’s possible to tweak the measuring device to force a particular state out of superposition.

What happens there is that unless you look specifically for waves, photons behave like particles. Try to check if it’s a wave, and the wave appears.

In Kṛṣṇa consciousness it means that the Lord is always hidden unless we look for Him. The relationship is reversed, however. When scientists try to measure, they see the wave, which is a true state, according to some theories, but when we try to measure, we see the illusion.

“Measure” is such an appropriate word here as it also means māyā. We fall into illusion when we try to see the world, when we become seers instead of the seen. The difference between seeing and measuring is immaterial. Every time we look at something we get a good measure of the thing already. We recognize and classify it, we notice the color and the shape, and we can give pretty accurate estimates of its length or width or weight. Actual measurements can only confirm what we already see.

Simply looking at things and seeing them is already māyā, measurement. In quantum mechanics it reveals the wave property of the objects, which is unexpected, in the conditioned state it reveals nothing unusual, just confirms our illusion.

Leaving that contradiction aside, the principle of our outlook affecting what we see is still important in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We become consciously entangled with the world as we see it, not as it actually is. It’s not the same kind of entanglement as exists between two particles in quantum mechanics but it still means a loss of control over what happens.

When we see something happening in the world around us it affects our own state even if it shouldn’t. We are spirit souls, after all, but as part of our entanglement with the universe we are forced to act according to what happens elsewhere – in our mind, for example. If we leave this state of entanglement we become free.

Another way to look at it is to observe that if we see the world with the eyes of devotion we see Kṛṣṇa everywhere. This special kind of look renders results completely different from those obtained by seeing with material vision. The problem here is that looking is a sign of being in illusion so when I say we look and see the Lord it’s not exactly what happens. Devotion or no devotion, we cannot force the Lord to be seen like we force material objects to reflect the light. It’s not the process of seeing here but it’s the Lord displaying His form, the Lord looking at us from every direction at every single moment in time. It’s not that we have the vision here, it’s the Lord having a vision of us and in the process reciprocating by showing Himself, too.

This twist gives an extra dimension to the adage that we should chant not to see the Lord but so that the Lord agrees to see us.

Maybe it’s not immediately clear but our chanting and our service should not be done with the goal of making advancement and eventually getting results. It should be done solely for the pleasure of the Lord. When He is pleased He might also become visible, or He might not, in either case His satisfaction would be felt, nothing to worry here.

A couple of days ago I wrote that we shouldn’t really care about how well we do our service because we are not the actual doers. Today’s argument adds to that – being attached to results keeps us as seers and not seen, and it doesn’t please the Lord in the slightest, so nothing happens. We are fooling ourselves when we make up stories of our progress and drill mantras of hope into our brains. Attachment and dedication to results has nothing to do with devotion and it will never bring bhakti. It will never even bring actual renunciation as we simply trade attachment to food and comfort for attachment to glory in our service.

It’s not easy to implement this attitude in our lives but Kṛṣna is here to help every step of the way. When we decide what we want we’ll see the universe cooperating, even materialists observed that.

Vanity thought #1322. It’s all about power

I’ve got a bit tired of discussing Scientology or Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was nice to learn what these things are and what drives them but the reason I got interested in the first place was their struggle for power. If they didn’t make news I wouldn’t have cared, yet here they are, forcing themselves into public consciousness. What do they want? Power. When do they want it? Now.

The whole discussion out there is driven by the desire to control the world according to one’s will.

Scientologists are upfront about it, their sole goal is to gain as much power as they can, albeit on the individual level so far. They really want to become little gods and they are are intoxicated by it. Hanging around them would contaminate our consciousness because they are adamantly against devotion, they are antithesis of what religions should be, they are following in the footsteps of Hiraṇyakaśipu and so are natural enemies of those who follow in the footsteps of Prahlāda Mahārāja.

Somehow it works for them and we should recognize that. They have proven themselves, they’ve made sacrifices and they got results. Good for them, but it has nothing to do with devotion to Kṛṣṇa or to any kind of God. Sooner or later they’ll have enough of that nonsense and they will seek the sweetness of serving the Lord with a pure heart.

FSM and atheism are a bit trickier. They are obviously after power, too, but they hide themselves behind rationality and well-being of the entire human race. The danger there is not immediately obvious and lots of our devotees got drawn in by their seemingly innocuous arguments.

FSM in particular revolves around privileges. They want equality, they want all religions and non-religions being treated the same. It follows naturally from the argument itself – if FSM is a joke then so is any other God that can’t be proven empirically, and so no God or any religion should be given any privileges. If they want tax exemptions they should get them on the basis of a non-profit status, not religious. It means that serving God is not a useful job but planting trees or saving whales is, and if religions want to keep their taxes they should engage in mundane charities.

It’s an okay argument and lots of religions and churches would probably accept it on the ground that they are engaged in charities anyway. This, however, betrays their lack of knowledge and their lack of faith. By accepting this condition they sort of agree that pure service to the Lord is worthless and must be accompanied by serving people’s material desires, too.

If we were to accept it in ISKCON it would mean that chanting the Holy Name or doing harināmas is useless in itself but must be accompanied by food distribution and other visible benefits. Service must bring money, it must show something tangible for it.

In a way it’s right, that’s how Śrīla Prabhupāda argued in defense of ISKCON, too. His organization made it while GM did not. An activity must be judged by its fruits, a famous Sanskrit saying. This is what we have to keep in mind when dealing with all those other religions, too.

The fruit in this case is power, and power comes from people, it’s kind of democratic this way. The more followers you have the more influence you get, and better quality, individually more powerful followers will increase your influence accordingly. They will donate money and time and energy and help you accomplish any task you set for them. They will get political power, they will control public space and set values for the rest of the society to follow.

First you convince people to follow, then they should make sacrifices for your cause, maybe give big donations, maybe contribute free work, whatever, then you’ll have control over them and you could use them to affect any kind of changes you want.

This part is easy, but hooking people up is not. Their worship and their methods must bring visible results on the individual level first or they will just give it up and try something that works for THEM. To get good results for your activities one must follow his dharma, whatever it is for any particular individual.

For any particular individual there’s a variety of dharmas to follow. If one wants money he should work, if one wants a happy family he should act like a husband or wife, as the case may be, if one wants knowledge he should study and so on. A perfect religion would encourage people to apply themselves in all these fields and not waste their time on frivolous activities instead. This would bring visible results and thus validate the ideas.

For those who do not seek their spiritual welfare but care about their material life this is all that is needed, and it has nothing to do with God whatsoever. Whichever way one chooses to get people to follow their dharma would work just fine. It’s time for karma-mīmāṁsā all over again.

To remind, karma-mīmāṁsā is one of Vedic schools that rejected serving God, or any gods at all. It said that the universe works because we work and whatever demigods are there they are obliged to serve us. We just have to do our thing and gods will respond, there’s no need for bhakti or bribery or any kind of brown-nosing. This was one of the Vedic versions of modern day atheism, except that work on those days meant doing sacrifices and chanting mantras, which is nowadays dismissed as a stupid superstition.

Modern atheists don’t do yajñas, they only follow varṇāśrama or whatever is left of it. Their workers work, their businessmen do business, their rulers govern and so on. If they do their jobs very well they get results, as is expected from following varṇāśrama-dharma.

When these people get results they convert them into power, then they use that power to set the rules for everyone else to follow. It’s the same for Christians, Muslims, and atheists, too. Atheists somehow managed to get themselves secular governments even in countries where majority of the population is still religious. They knew how to leverage science, democracy, “human rights”, media etc, but, most importantly, they knew how to work hard and for their leaders it mean they knew how to use their brains and create compelling arguments to support their ideas.

Christians, meanwhile, have lost their early protestant ethics and were naturally left behind. Kali Yuga got to them, sorry. Whether atheism can continue to encourage people to work remains to be seen. Most likely they will succumb to degrading sense enjoyment and lose their current powers, too.

Thus the tussle goes on and on and on. Our only excuse for paying any attention to it is that Lord Caitanya’s movement must play by the same rules if we want to attract a sizable proportion of the population. We need to show results, and not just spiritual ones, because people in the early stages of bhakti still care about their material comforts.

When we get to power we will impose our own rules, we will set our own values for everyone else, and we hope that our values will stay. There’s a case to be made that our principles are better than those of the atheists but we should also keep in mind that we are a spiritual movement and as we make progress we naturally lose interest in material benefits and therefore we lose the power of attraction.

I don’t think we can make this world into Vaikuṇṭha right in the middle of the Kali Yuga and I don’t see why we should. Let it rot, for all we care, we exist to give people devotion to Kṛṣṇa, that’s all. We should also have firm faith that serving the Lord will solve all other problems as well. We don’t need to make extraneous efforts to encourage people to do their jobs so that they get rich and materially happy. We don’t need to make efforts to teach people secrets of the family life either. All we have to care about is chanting of the Holy Name, which will give people bhakti, and probably at the expense of everything else.

Let them struggle for power all they want, we are not interested. We’ll attract more people with our pure devotion than with material honey.

Vanity thought #1296. Superior taste

Following the day before yesterday’s post I realized I was onto something very important there. I do not have śāstric support for this and I wouldn’t even know where to look for it but it makes sense to me in every way so I’ll just go with it and see where it takes me.

The idea that we, in ISKCON, are somehow lacking the higher taste for Kṛṣṇa that is found in either Gauḍīyā Maṭhas or Vṛndāvana bābājīs misses a crucial point – the highest taste is not found in association with Kṛṣṇa but in separation from Him, and so we have that in plenty.

As I said, I don’t know if I can draw parallels like this – between Lord Caitanya’s mood of separation and our mood of not talking about Kṛṣṇa too much but I will get to that in a moment. I see the counterarguments but let me present my point of view first.

We do not spend hours and hours everyday discussing Kṛṣṇa’s intimate pastimes, that is given, but I see it as devotion in separation. We could have sat there and chew on these stories over and over and over and it’s supposed to bring superior bliss but would it be the highest possible, under the circumstances? Wouldn’t missing Lord’s association with all one’s heart be higher? Lord Caitanya demonstrated that it is, in principle.

So, I would argue that the moment when we realize that we’ve forgotten about the Lord and we direct all our resources to remembering Him are better than then moments when the Holy Name rolls over our tongues practically by itself. We have plenty of Kṛṣṇa in our lives but isn’t it true that most of the time we fail to appreciate His presence? When He disappears and we realize that He is gone it stirs up our entire beings.

Usually, it happens due to our faults, we forget Him ourselves, not because He leaves us for Mathurā, but the effect is the same – one moment we wake up from our slumber and realize that we haven’t thought of Him in a while and now our minds are filled with mundane stuff. We try to reacquire Him but it’s hard and we have to struggle against the flood of distractions and memories. We want our minds to be focused on Kṛṣṇa but it’s not so easy. We miss having Him front and center and isn’t it what love in separation is supposed to be?

I would also bring forth the arguments by Queen Kuntī who was grateful for the troubles beseeching members of her family because these difficulties forced them to seek shelter of the Lord’s lotus feet with more determination than usual. Despite being Lord’s eternal associates they, apparently, didn’t cherish Lord’s affection enough and so Kṛṣṇa put them into one perilous situation after another so that they could forget everything else and surrender their hearts and minds to Him only.

Queen Kuntī welcomed troubles because troubles made her realize that she had almost forgotten about the Lord. Wasn’t it love in separation, when suddenly you remember that Kṛṣṇa is not with you and you seek surrender to Him?

I posit that Kṛṣṇa doesn’t cherish what passes as our devotion so much but appreciates our efforts at finding Him better. On our level devotion is inherently impure, it doesn’t even reach the Lord, and if we remain where we are we’ll never get close to Him. To us it might appear that we remember Kṛṣṇa 24/7 but we aren’t swimming in the ocean of bliss yet, we are more like flapping about in a mud pit. We can’t come before Kṛṣṇa in our present state, no matter how exalted it seems by our standards.

What makes a real difference is efforts to become better. It’s these efforts that gradually elevate us higher and higher. They represent the movement up, towards the Lord. They represent an actual increase in our devotion, they add something new to our relationships with the Lord that wasn’t there before.

I say that we make greater efforts when we realize that we have fallen behind than when we think we are doing okay. If we make bigger efforts they, therefore, would be better appreciated by the Lord.

Practical example – we walk around “doing” our rounds, life seems to be good, we listen carefully and chanting appears easy and even enjoyable. That’s what I meant by flapping about in the mud – looks like swimming but forget about getting Lord’s actual company. Compare this to suddenly realizing that the mind has been gone for the past we don’t know how many minutes and we marshal up all our energy and willpower to bring it back to Kṛṣṇa. That’s an effort that was absent in the first case and I say that it is more pleasing to the Lord.

On our level, it’s love in separation. We miss being with the Name and our feelings become far more intense.

Now, the same can be applied to discussing Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. When we hear them we are kind of in Lord’s company. They are engaging, they could be purely spiritual, and if we do it right, it’s like actually being there. That’s how one is supposed to reach Vṛndāvana after all – by hearing and chanting, not by taking a plane. However, given our condition, it’s still like flapping in the mud. No matter what we say we are still far far away from actual Vṛndāvana. Realizing that we aren’t and trying with all our heart to bring those images back into our minds is an effort that Kṛṣṇa should appreciate more.

There’s an obvious question – if we miss discussing these pastimes so much, as I allege, why don’t we engage in talking at all? Here’s the answer, however – when we miss Kṛṣṇa kathā we don’t miss our muddy mundane interpretations of it. It doesn’t satisfy us anymore, we miss the genuine thing, the one that immediately elevates us beyond the material platform, the one that is impossible to describe in mundane language. There are simply aren’t words to describe how it feels. We just know that it’s not the same as talking about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes as if He was an ordinary boy and, perhaps, shedding a tear or two about it. People do that by watching cat videos, too. It’s just not the same.

Remembering Kṛṣṇa like that is not easy, in fact it’s impossible. In the example I’ve given earlier, about chanting, bringing the mind under control and putting it to hearing the Name is easy, everybody can do it. When we talk about effect of genuine Kṛṣṇa kathā, however, it’s beyond our control, Kṛṣṇa must manifest Himself or it won’t be genuine, and no one can summon Him to appear among the speakers and listeners.

This is like when He left Vṛndāvana – He was gone for good and it was impossible to bring Him back, no matter how much you could talk about Him.

Translated to our level – yes, we can talk and talk and talk but it won’t be anywhere near those precious moments when the words of our guru penetrated our hearts and manifested tiny glimpses of the Lord’s lotus feet there. So tiny they didn’t look like feet at all but they were still big enough to turn our lives upside down and seek shelter of our guru. That’s what we genuinely miss, not the cheap talk. That’s our love in separation – for the sparks of mercy that we carry in our hearts for decades without ever forgetting them.

It IS the superior taste, nothing else comes even close.

And here’s the thing – it’s available to every ISKCON devotee, it’s the effect that every one of us have felt at some point in our lives, and that’s what keeps us here despite all the external contradictions. It might not be fancy looking, might not be wrapped up in Sanskrit terms to describe every detail of our feelings, it might not look like much to outsiders, but we won’t exchange it for anything else.

Vanity thought #1193. How to please Krishna, once again

I don’t even remember what I wrote about it a week ago, the matter obviously hasn’t been resolved and the answer hasn’t been found. Today I’m going to look at it with the background of what I discussed yesterday – spiritual constraints in our search of His association.

In the beginning it looks very easy – we assume that we are eagerly awaited back home, in Kṛṣṇa’s abode, we just have to shake off our material contamination and everything will be back to normal. Well, it doesn’t address the reason we left. We don’t remember it, Kṛṣṇa does. We caused Him pain by turning away and choosing the material world.

Are there second chances in spiritual life? Obviously yes or we wouldn’t be here talking about Kṛṣṇa at all. Not only second but third, fourth, fifth and innumerable number of chances. Every new birth is a second chance, at least a birth in a human form of life. How many have we had? Thousands? Millions?

I’m not talking about chances given to us here, however. I’m talking about chances given in purely spiritual relationships, unadulterated by even hints of material life. Things we did to Kṛṣṇa when we were with Him – do we get a chance to set them right? Is it possible?

I don’t know how it goes in the spiritual world but down here second chances are often outright forbidden. A woman spending a night under another man’s roof is to be rejected regardless of whether she did anything truly inappropriate or not. No second chances there.

Betrayal is impossible to rectify. It’s possible to forgive but impossible to repair, it leaves permanent scars on one’s heart, be it a friend, a spouse, a mentor, or a protégé. We live in a material world and we always seek sense gratification so giving a second chance to another person is often a second chance at our own selfish pleasure we derive from that relationship. Sex is probably the best example, we can “forgive” anything for sex but it can’t repair a broken heart.

Just think of a term itself – broken heart. It’s broken, it can’t be restored to its original condition and all the talk about mending it is just about giving it time to find a substitute and hope old memories won’t interfere.

So, with that in mind, is it possible to return to Kṛṣṇa as if nothing had happened last time we were there? I don’t know how this interpretation of personal affairs in the material world is applicable to relationships in Vṛndāvana. I don’t see why it should work fundamentally differently, so we are probably doomed.

The fact that our pure, spiritual behavior in the spiritual world is integral part of our being, part of our rasa with the Lord doesn’t inspire much confidence either. We WERE serious when we broke up with Him, it’s how we WANTED to relate to Kṛṣṇa, and He obliged no matter how uncomfortable it must have made Him. He knew what we were getting ourselves into and it probably made His heart very heavy.

It was impossible to keep us then, He had to let us go. His heart was broken, our hearts were probably broken, too, for it takes two to tango, as I said yesterday. Can we both just forget it and move on, once we get out of here? Probably not.

Consider material life examples again – it is possible for people to get back together but it would be on new terms, with memories of old feuds being buried and dismissed. Old life never comes back again, especially if it ended in acrimony.

Same could be true for us – we can come back but we should come back with new hopes and new love, and whatever we did before should never be spoken again. Think of a guy in the office having some troubles. Maybe with alcoholism, maybe with the law, maybe some mental stuff, something that drives him away for a while. We would all be glad if he came back, we miss him, miss his old self, miss him being a part of the gang and when he comes back it makes us really really happy. Except we don’t want to mention old problems, don’t want to think of them, erase them from our memories.

I hope that’s what they think of us in the spiritual world, too. But we are in the position of the guy who went of tracks and we have to deal with the situation from his POV.

First of all, we have to make amends with the boss, Kṛṣṇa. We might have old friends there but without Kṛṣṇa’s acceptance no one would accept us back. Only, perhaps, to re-introduce us to Him and vouch for us, which would be very much appreciated, of course.

To make amends with Kṛṣṇa, however, we need to overcome our own demons, which we can do through chanting, and we need to also swallow our pride and beg for our old place back, which could be much harder. We have to overcome the same pride that brought us here in the first place and at the moment we have no idea how bad it was.

Christians regularly atone for their sins but these sins are not really theirs, it’s just material energy forcing them to do this or that. Even that kind of atonement is very hard for those who do not practice it regularly.

Our atonement should come from the very depths of our hearts we don’t even know exist. Everybody says that the reason we fell down into the material world is unknown and untraceable but we have to find it, accept our fault, and approach Kṛṣṇa begging for forgiveness. That’s not a small task, I bet much harder than practically mechanical process of cleansing ourselves from material contamination – we just have to chant and it magically goes away.

And what of Kṛṣṇa? Is He going to help us?

Sure, but only to a degree. Relationships with Him are a two-way street, we need to do our part ourselves. So far He has been merciful enough to give us this chance, giving us this choice and preparing us to make it but we have to make it ourselves. He would gladly keep us around, waiting for us to make our decision. He provides all the facilities, all help we need, but final decision is up to us, we have to find courage in ourselves.

Problem is – we probably don’t have it. It was our last spiritual decision, life in the material world hasn’t given us any experience with spiritual side of our life, it was frozen for the whole period we were here, so once we are “free” we come back to our “original” position that caused our falldown.

That’s why we should seek mercy of devotees – let them shape our desires, guide us and train us, it’s only from them that we can learn how to please Kṛṣṇa again. It’s only from them that we can pick up our new agenda that we can present to the Lord and hope He accepts it. We have no idea what His current interests are, how they have changed in our absence, and only devotees can tell us what to do.

So, we should forget our personal interests, even spiritual ones, we should forget even our spiritual selves, they are of no help here. We should rely solely on guidance from devotees. Whatever they say, is good, whatever we think, is bad or at least doubtful. Instead of seeking OUR relationships with Kṛṣṇa we should humbly serve OTHER’s relationships with Him. Theirs are legit, ours are corrupted beyond repair.

Our chanting, even if it comes from our hearts, is crap, we should accept the mood of others instead. We have the entire paramparā to learn from, we are in good hands in this regard, we just have to give up our selfishness and embrace the given path.

Vanity thought #1192. Envy of Krishna

This is a difficult subject to write about. On one hand it’s very simple – we, the fallen souls, envy God’s powers, and so I could go through them one by one, how we want to be as strong, rich, or as famous as Kṛsṇa. Easy, right?

Not so fast. Our envy lies at the heart of our hearts, it’s spiritual in nature, it existed before we were placed in the material world, while all the comparisons with Kṛṣṇa I can make now are based on our current conditioning. We can compare Kṛṣṇa’s strength, for example, to our estimate of how strong Hiraṇyakaśipu was. We can compare His beauty to our current standards of beauty, and so on.

We would also speak of our current, conditioned attitudes to these opulences. We might feel indifferent to fame and so consider ourselves free from that kind of envy. Well, no one is indifferent to fame, ie recognition by fellow human beings, but we might be relatively indifferent to strength or beauty, depending on our gender. None of it addresses our original envy and all of it reflects our false egos.

How can I talk about *my* envy of Kṛṣṇa if it’s based on my false ego? What is truly mine in this case? Articulating our inner heart desires is nay impossible. Even figuring out what is it exactly that we want with Kṛṣṇa is impossible, let along putting it into words.

There’s another problem here, too – we don’t speak from the heart. All the thinking, talking, and typing is done by material bodies and minds which work under the influence of the material nature, ideally engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service but we can never be 100 percent sure about that. Even if they are, they still work under the influence of higher powers, not our inner selves. Kṛṣṇa always censors what we do here, I can’t make a single keystroke without His ultimate permission.

This arrangement is for our benefit, of course, so that we don’t do anything stupid and screw up our spiritual lives through inevitable offenses, but it still means it’s nearly impossible to express our hearts’ desires. Moreover, envy is such a corrupting quality that we should never speak of it in public, it’s contagious, it’s a can of worms that should never be opened.

Holy Name will slowly work its way through layers of dirt and grime in our hearts and, in due course of time, defeat envy, too, but there is a problem with that scenario – our envy is OURS, it’s what we want and Kṛṣṇa would never force us to love Him against our will. The Holy Name would probably only strengthen our determination to confront and challenge Him, because Kṛṣṇa always reciprocates. If that’s how we want to relate to Him, that’s what we get.

Deep meditation on Kṛṣṇa through envy is entirely possible, that’s what Śiśupāla did, as I mentioned yesterday. It should be possible for us, too, we can be totally absorbed in Kṛṣṇa, 24/7 without a break, but it would be relationship of envy, which we can’t even express in material words due to limitations I described above.

Occasionally I get glimpses of that envy, it just flashes in front of me, takes over all of my being for a second or two before my mind gathers itself and my intelligence tells me I can’t indulge myself that way. As I said, I can’t articulate these feelings, can’t classify, qualify, or quantify them. Sometimes they are triggered by clear external factors, though, and in these moments I can sort of understand what really bothers me.

For example, I can’t accept Kṛṣṇa being the only bhoktā, the only enjoyer. I can’t see myself as eternal bhoga, to be enjoyed. I want to be an enjoyer just like Him, within reason, of course. I draw a line between what is His and what could be mine. If I don’t get what I think should be mine my fuse goes off. I can’t accept that everything, including my body and my inner being is meant strictly for Kṛṣṇa’s enjoyment. Nothing is meant for us. Well, the material world is, of course, but that’s not where we want to find ourselves again and again, is it?

From reading about lives of people in the spiritual world it’s easy to imagine them as being legitimate enjoyers, especially on Vaikuṇṭhas. They even get the same form as the Lord there, and all the facilities, including wives and husbands. They just don’t die and don’t suffer – sounds perfect for me.

Or is it false ego talking? Aren’t we all meant for Goloka Vṛndāvana? Isn’t it our spiritual home? Some forcefully insist that for real devotees Vaikuṇṭha is like a living hell, in our sampradāya there shouldn’t be any thoughts of getting Vaikuṇṭha liberation, be it sālokya or sārūpya.

It’s all very nice, but there’s also the reality of our current spiritual predicament. Far from being on Vaikuṇṭha, Kṛṣṇa banned us far away into the depths of the material world, and we shouldn’t think, even for a second, that we didn’t deserve it. This is exactly what we wanted, exactly how far away from Kṛṣṇa we desired to be.

So, even if stripped of our material conditioning, this is still what we want deep in our hearts. Envy is our life and soul. Well, I shouldn’t speak for others but mine clearly is.

Even more – you can’t clap with one hand, if our predicament is the result of our relationships with Kṛṣṇa turning sour then He shares some responsibility for it, too. He did or didn’t do something for us to make us turn away from Him this way. We know for a fact that He can be absolutely heartless, too. He can be colder than death, being the Absolute and all. Just look how He treated His devotees in His own Vṛndāvana. He hooked them up first and then left them wilt and shrivel out of separation from Him for many many years until they died, without relief.

We say that their separation is the highest rasa but we should also admit that it is extremely painful, it’s not a walk in the park.

Perhaps we were just like them but couldn’t pass the test of time and found ourselves different interests, which are better served down here, away from Kṛṣṇa and the associated pain. Now they try to lure us back with promises of eternal bliss. Thank you, but we’ve been there before, and this bliss is not what we understand by bliss in our current material condition.

Important point, however, is that they try to lure us back. We will never make it back to Kṛṣṇa on our own, we need to be dragged back there, kicking and screaming. We will never find enough attraction to Kṛṣṇa in our own hearts to make it all the way across the material ocean. We just don’t have the necessary love for Him, and it won’t arise simply from chanting the Holy Name, for reasons I already mentioned – chanting would only strengthen our existing convictions.

That’s why devotee association is so important – that’s where we can get the taste of real devotion, which we don’t have ourselves. The Holy Name along can’t grant us this taste, unless there’s some special mercy. Love of Kṛṣṇa can be learned only from other devotees.

That’s the only way to overcome our inner, spiritual envy. We have to learn proper relationships with Kṛṣṇa from others, our own having been doomed. We failed in it already, it’s gone, we can’t restore it on our own, Kṛṣṇa wouldn’t listen, we need someone else to bring us back and beg Kṛṣṇa on our behalf.

Good news is that only one eleventh of a second of such association can save us forever. Bad news is that we usually misuse this time on worrying about inconsequential things or try to learn something else from our gurus instead.

Not to despair, chanting will cleanse our hearts from material grime and then it will become easier to take full advantage of association given to us.

Just to reiterate – listening to our hearts in our current state is useless and possibly even dangerous, needs to be ignored in favor of the words of our guru.