Vanity thought #1345. The Lord and His energies

We are caught in the material world where we have ourselves, the material energy, and we hope to reunite with the Lord. There’s also Lord’s spiritual energy but it has nothing to do with us atm. Whatever spiritual worlds and opulences it manifests in the spiritual sky is irrelevant to materially conditioned souls. One day it will be of practical interest but not for now. We just read stories about it and that’s all we can do.

They say that Lord and His spiritual attributes, Name, form, activities, paraphernalia etc are non-different from Him. This is not exactly true – they are simultaneously one and different and we can’t understand how it actually works, not while we are under material illusion.

The Yogamāyā potency of the Lord is clearly a different entity but as she is fully spiritual it looks and feels non-different to us. Lord Balarāma manifests lots of Kṛṣṇa’s accessories and they are clearly different from Kṛṣṇa Himself but to us they are all spiritual and we’d be completely bedazzled by contact with Kṛṣṇa’s slippers just as we’d be bedazzled by the glimpse of His lotus feet.

So, let’s leave those esoteric topics alone and talk about what we see in the “real” world.

Here it’s just us, the matter, and the invisible and imperceptible Lord. We know how this triangle looks from our corner and nearly all the scriptures explain it with our angle in mind. This is all very well but as devotees our goal is to serve the Lord and so we need to learn how it all looks from His perspective. What pleases Him, what makes Him frown, what keeps Him indifferent, what aggravates Him etc etc.

Here we run into a danger of anthropomorphism. We tend to project ourselves onto the Lord. Whatever feels good to us must be appreciated by Kṛṣṇa. Whatever angers us must anger Kṛṣṇa, too. You can see it in religious debates all the time. Atheists usually cite anthropomorphism against the believers but actually they are just as guilty of projecting their own attitudes onto the Absolute.

Of course their version of the Absolute does not include God but partial aspects of the Absolute Truth are still worshiped – logic, rationality, knowledge, power, even opulence (not so much renunciation, though). They never see themselves that way but that’s their problem. We should immediately note that they hold their atheism in high regard because it brings wealth and prosperity, as it does in the West, and because it gives them power over the nature. Some are also attracted by the beauty of the universe. Beauty is one of the qualities of the Bhagavan, too, and that’s why it’s so attractive.

Atheists then imagine themselves a perfectly rational world based on knowledge and that’s where they project their personal feelings of good and bad, moral and immoral, just and unjust. Of course they think that their feelings are not emotional but rational and can be explained and accepted by everybody but that never happens because sooner or later all materialistic logic fails. Inevitably it turns out that the world cannot accommodate everyone’s desires, not in Kali Yuga, and no matter how hard you explain there will always be people with opposing views and a different set of “facts” to justify them.

But I wasn’t going to talk about atheists today. The point was that we assume Kṛṣṇa feels about things just like we do, but that is not always the case. We are conditioned beings acting out against our self-interest, why would Kṛṣṇa ever care what we think and agree with us on anything? As devotees we get our brains somewhat straightened but not in full yet. We think that as devotees what we feel is “spiritual” and therefore indicative of Kṛṣṇa’s desires, too, but good luck to those who want to untangle spiritual from material in lives of miśra-bhakti devotees.

The best way is to look at the world through the eyes of śāstra but, as I said, for our own benefit śāstra often explains the world as it looks from our corner and therefore even śāstra’s explanations warrant further investigation.

How does it feel to the Lord?

He creates the material world both for His own and for our pleasure. Kṛṣṇa, however, doesn’t create matter. We know that Mahā-Viṣṇu does but other accounts say that it’s actually Sādaśīva who impregnates total material energy and gets the world going. I reconcile this for myself by accepting that it could be simply different names for the same person used according to pastimes and activities.

Either way, Kṛṣṇa does not enjoy material energy in any shape or form. The Supersoul within our hearts is also completely free from any interest in material enjoyment. Unlike us, He doesn’t identify Himself with matter and therefore doesn’t feel for it. We watch other people doing things and we absorb their attitudes and values. We empathize, rejoice, or get aroused when watching other people’s lust. The Supersoul doesn’t fall for any of that. Like.., completely.

We think He’d appreciate this or that and disapprove of those other things but He is totally indifferent. We appeal to God for justice but forget that He does not have the same concept of justice as we do, not even close. When we condemn things like pedophilia we think that the Lord would be surely on our side, just as gays think God cannot possibly be against their gay marriages.

We think that some things in this world are fully deserved while others aren’t and therefore in need of correction, and we appeal to the Lord to put the universe in order. He surely must feel as strongly about it as we do, especially if we consider ourselves as devotees. And yet He doesn’t care.

For Him, everything is perfect already and, if we think about it, it can’t be any other way. He is God, He has all His desires immediately fulfilled to His complete satisfaction. We might not serve Him very well but His divine energies never fail. All imperfections, therefore, are only in our imagination. We want the world to be corrected to better serve us, not the Lord, who is fine with it as it is.

And yet it is also said that the Lord is very partial to His devotees. How could that be? He is either equanimous or partial, there should be no contradiction, and there isn’t, but we have to find a way to explain it.

The universe is never completely separated from the Lord. Kṛṣṇa Himself appears here from time to time and this means that parts of the universe serve Him directly. This means that He is not impartial to events surrounding His personal presence here. Devotees are parts of that experience and therefore Kṛṣṇa finds their activities pleasurable even in the material world.

Or, to put it another way – devotees’ service is NOT part of the material world but part of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, even if only connection is remembrance. Pure memories of the Lord are still fully spiritual. One day Kṛṣṇa danced on the heads of Kāliya serpent. The story was then written in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, eventually appeared in the Kṛṣṇa Book and given to us by devotees, now we remember it from time to time, and Kṛṣṇa still appreciates it. It’s not a material experience, it’s a reflection, however faint and distorted, of Kṛṣṇa own pastime. That’s what Kṛṣṇa likes about it.

The way the pastimes get deposited in our heads is kind of “material” and the reaction of our minds to them is “material”, too, but the souls who get to experience this part of the “material” world are called devotees.

Kṛṣṇa still retains His equanimity towards us as spirit souls but when the material energy engages in His glorification He is still flattered. We, as spirit souls, are lucky to be there when these stories flash through our brains. It doesn’t mean that whatever we enjoy for ourselves gets the same reception from the Lord.

He appreciates whatever pure devotees do but they never do anything for their own pleasure and are only put in situations where material energy manifests some form of service. Pure devotees are still not doers of anything, they are not little gods, just like us they are here to observe and desire. The only external difference is that material energy puts them in bodies and places connected with Kṛṣṇa, that’s all. I’m not going to speculate on their internal spiritual life.

Sometimes we don’t understand how their certain engagements could be possibly connected to the Lord but that’s our problem. If we had sufficient purity ourselves we would learn to look past it anyway.

We’d better busy ourselves with trying to learn how to please the Lord instead of asking Him to do things according to our illusory desires. He has no interest in that no matter how much service we think we’ve rendered to deserve fulfillment of our wishes. The moment we start thinking of ourselves He switches His attention off and becomes impartial, and the cold and impersonal material energy takes over. Good news is that He does not resent us for that and patiently waits for the return of our service attitude.

Vanity thought #1122. Banality of Bhakti

“Banal” is not a word one should ever associate with devotional service but I would be lying if I said it never feels that way. Yes, we should always be enthusiastic and full of joy but reality is that we are just as often full of boredom and can’t be bothered.

The reason is simple – we are doing sādhana bhakti, which is not a “real thing”. There’s no spontaneity or selflessness in our service and it is always interrupted by one thing or another, which means it doesn’t deliver ātmā suprasīdati, complete satisfaction of the self (SB 1.2.6).

It might be argued that for many of us it’s not sādhana bhakti either but only vaidhī – where we simply follow the rules without any comprehension and loving attitude. Such service is not even supposed to be joyful.

That shouldn’t be off-putting, of course, but we should adjust our expectations accordingly and we should not be discouraged by a lack of bliss.

In fact, I would argue that we better not feel any joy at all, that it would be in line with our actual position. Of course we can’t stop feeling happiness and distress but I mean spiritual joy, which is not supposed to be happening to people on our level. Senior devotees say that occasionally we all should get glimpses of spiritual pleasure but the key word here is occasionally. Normally it shouldn’t be there, if we feeling it we must be mistaken.

We didn’t invent the word ecstasy, it’s a fairly common feeling available to all conditioned souls, there’s nothing particularly spiritual about it. We just feel ecstatic about different things. Ours are spiritually legitimate but that doesn’t mean they are fully spiritual.

There are thousands and thousands of devotees in our movement who eventually exchanged this “spiritual bliss” for pursuit of ordinary sense gratification, which is impossible by definition – whoever tasted the fruits of devotional service will never ever, under any circumstances, desire material sense gratification again, occasional slip-ups in enjoying interactions between senses and sense objects notwithstanding.

What we should admit, I think, is that by Kṛṣṇa’s grace we have been put in situations where our material happiness was derived from service to our guru. Waves of love and devotion that occasionally overcome us are powerful and uplifting but we perceive them with material senses and as such they can be duplicated by artificial means, which is what the rest of the world has dedicated itself to. Sometimes they are successful and that makes them as convinced in the correctness of their ways as we are convinced in ours.

I mean science works for them, democracy works for them, communal spirit works for them, sex works for them, money works for them, love works for them – everything works, just not at all times. People remember successes and that keeps them going even if they are heading over the cliff.

We aren’t much different – our “blissful” experiences are just as rare and just as memorable, and they are usually sufficient enough to take us over our cliffs, too. Except we are supposed to be caught by Kṛṣṇa and lifted to His world rather than fall into the depths of hell like the rest of Kali yuga population.

I hope this works but this means that whatever we are doing now would matter only at the moment of death, on its own it doesn’t have much value, unlike pure devotional service that immediately takes one beyond material perceptions of life and death and identifying oneself with one’s body. We don’t get that, not yet, maybe not ever, only after taking another birth closer to Kṛṣṇa.

That next birth isn’t supposed to be a lifetime of uninterrupted ecstasy either. We can read about people who were with the Lord in Kṛṣṇa Book or in biographies of Lord Caitanya and His associates. They led “normal” lives in that they were born, went to school, many were poor, some were sick, they all got old and they all died. None of that felt particularly blissful.

Śrīla Prabhupāda promised us that Kṛṣṇa consciousness would solve the problem of birth, death, old age, and disease but the solution is not that the material world would stop, old age would stop, death won’t happen – no, the solution is that we will be raised above such trivialities and eventually leave this world altogether.

Until that happens, however, the world will go on complete with all the usual suffering. We aren’t free from suffering now and we are not going to be free from suffering if/when we get born in Kṛṣṇa’s or Lord Caitanya’s presence.

Remember how Gadādhara Paṇḍita got so old he couldn’t put a garland on his deity, Ṭoṭa Gopīnātha, and how the deity then took a sitting form to accommodate him? I’m pretty sure Gadādhara Paṇḍita’s body didn’t feel great about it. Pain and incapacity were surely there like they are going to become daily reality for us in a few years or decades, too.

Remember sores oozing pus on Sanātana Gosvāmī’s body? They surely didn’t feel great and didn’t make Sanātana Gosvāmī ecstatic. He even thought that his body became useless for devotional service and decided to kill it, only to be stopped by the Lord Himself who assured him there was still great future for him despite his current condition.

Remember how shortly after that Sanātana Gosvāmī took a path along the beach to avoid touching servants of Lord Jagannātha downtown and hot sand burned his feet?

Being with the Lord does not guarantee material happiness, whatever we do with our bodies, however we engage them, it would always bring a mixed bag of pleasure and pain. Why should we only pick what feels good about our imperfect service and declare it “ecstasy”? What about bad things that happen to us? What if they outweigh the good ones for a while and force us to reconsider our commitment? What if what we perceive as bad is as pleasing to the Lord as what we perceive as ecstatic?

We can’t make such distinctions simply on the basis of our feelings, that would be unwise. The key to success in devotional service is steadiness and this means that a large part of our experience here would be banal. Would it make bhakti banal? No.

Returning to sādhana bhakti – what makes it work is not how it feels but our underlying dedication to our service. We are supposed to be satisfied by executing it regardless of our feelings, disregarding perceptions of good and bad altogether. That’s what makes it different from vaidhī bhakti where we force ourselves to perform our service for the sake of the future payoff, not because we see its spiritual value now.

So, there’s no banality in bhakti but this needs separation between our materialistic experiences and expectations and the as yet imperceptible spiritual side of our life. If we group it altogether than some things we do WILL appear as less inspiring than others so the banality CAN be observed even if it’s not really there.

It’s all in our minds, unavoidable as long as we are stuck on this relatively low level.

Vanity thought #504. The meaning of life

I had another look at it the other day and I think it’s worth sharing. It was the last time I went to our local temple, I was running some errands in the city and I had nagging headache and it was getting late and, as I was battling evening traffic, I decided to give up on the idea, go straight home and put my head to the pillow asap. That’s exactly when I suddenly was presented with an opening in the traffic that had only one possible meaning – I need to get to the temple.

So I got there just as the evening arati was getting underway, there was about an hour of kirtan and then I realized that I walked in on a Hindi lecture. Five minutes in I was reminded of the headache, twenty minutes in I wished I got myself a sitting mat first, half an hour in I realized I had only a single meal that day, forty minutes in I thought I’d better go and pass out in the car.

Normally, if you become uncomfortable you’d just concentrate your mind on something else to pass time, but I couldn’t force myself to sit and listen to Hindi for so long and there was no apparent way out. That’s when it downed on me – my duty, my purpose in life for that evening was to haul my ass into the presence of Sri Sri Radha Govinda, that there was a deep, spiritual connection between myself as a soul and their Lordships, and even though I could not feel that connection at the moment, it was absolutely necessary for me to maintain.

All the discomfort of being hungry and tired and suffering from headache was not my problem, it was a problem of my body which I had no real association with, literally, it was not my problem, it did not feel like my problem, only when I tried to experience the world through it as if it was my real self.

This episode urged me to contemplate the meaning of life in a new light – usually we try to add meaning to the lives of our material bodies. We think that we, or our bodies, to be exact, should walk, talk, and think in a meaningful way. Even if we talk about re-uniting with Krishna we think “at the time of death of this body” and how to prepare this body for it.

Now I think that most of the time the body is a distraction, our connection to Krishna doesn’t happen through the body and therefore its life has no meaning.

Unfortunately, in the conditioned state our body is our only available tool of expressing ourselves and we can’t get anywhere without it but it’s still only a tool, and a temporary one. It has no meaning and it has no life to give meaning to.

Its only useful function is the opportunity to be engaged in the service of the Lord, that’s the only thing that matters, while its experience of pain or pleasure needs to be ignored and left to Lord’s agents and energies to manage, we should not concern ourselves with that or we’ll risk getting entangled in the illusion even deeper.

What I am trying to say it that our existence and our service to Krishna does not depend on the interactions of material elements that we call “life”.

I don’t know if this momentary glimpse into the nature of things is going to repeat itself and what other insights I would glean from it in the future, that’s all I got for now and I am already grateful.

Vanity thought #498. Just another ordinary day

This has no connection to Christmas or post-holiday hangover, this is an ordinary day in its own right, I was just reminded of what it means.

It’s ordinary because I haven’t met Krishna. If I did it would have been the most amazing day of my life.

This means that when I think about Him it’s only a theoretical speculation, not a direct experience of His form and qualities.

This means I haven’t obtained His mercy, or mercy of a guru and Lord Chaitanya for that matter.

Not getting their mercy doesn’t sound like a big deal, it’s once in a lifetime experience anyway, but mercy is not the goal in itself, it’s just an indicator of whether the Lord id pleased with my service.

So “another ordinary day” means that I failed to bring a smile to Krishna’s face, my service was in vain, and it actually wasn’t a service anyway.

That’s how we should think of our days – were we able to bring any happiness to Krishna? If not, it was an objective failure. A failure should not be an “ordinary” occurrence, it should fill our hearts with shame and regret.

I bet in the beginning all of us were ready to surrender our lives and souls to Krishna but as time went by we slipped into the comfort of knowing that if we chant our rounds and follow principles we will return to Krishna at the end of our lives. Therefore we don’t feel particularly bad about spending most of our day on petty things like work and family.

We convinced ourselves that we are entitled to our own little pleasures and to having a “down” time as long as we pay our tributes in the form of minimum sadhana. I think this is a dangerous mistake and it might cost us dearly.

We will never attain devotional service if we keep sharing our interests with mundane matters. If we don’t attain devotional service then returning back to Krishna would be useless, even if it happens according to our plan. Our life would just get a bit more comfortable, that’s all.

Without attaining devotional service even that sweet afterlife would be filled with “ordinary days” just like this one. What is the point of living it?

Also devotional service does not allow for interruptions and coffee breaks. We can’t do some service in the morning and a little more in the evening, if we still approach our service in such a mindset then it’s not a service at all, just milking Krishna for our own pleasure.

If we do not give Krishna 100% of our lives we are basically prostituting ourselves, offering our “services” in exchange for benedictions and comforts.

So, it’s not just another ordinary day, it’s a day of missed opportunities and a day of self-gratification at Krishna’s expense.

I should be ashamed of myself for living like this, and my greatest misfortune is that I really am not.

Vanity thought #465. Something’s amiss

As I am gathering my wits and regaining my composure after two hectic days of computer problems I’m also getting back my proclivity to speculation. The first thing I found is that there’s something amiss in the Damodara lila.

When you are busy or overwhelmed then simply remembering the Damodara form of Krishna could be considered a success, I think, like a drowning man who would grasp at any straw, but when you have time to analyze your remembrance of the Lord a little deeper you have to raise you standards, too.

I don’t know how I didn’t see it before – in Damodara lila there’s no service to devotees!

Earlier I said that if we imagine Krishna Damodara with our material vision we see a little boy that needs help and care, a perfect opportunity to selflessly serve His needs and wishes. Well, that’s not what we are supposed to do, are we?

We are servants of the servants of the servants, let Mother Yashoda and other senior gopis take care of baby Krishna, we should never consider ourselves qualified to do that. In a way it would be like looking at someone’s wife – Krishna Damodara is not ours to serve, He is mother Yashoda’s baby.

Afaik the only outsider who got close to baby Krishna was Putana, we don’t want to follow her footsteps, do we?

I don’t think there’s a need to explain how trying to serve Krishna directly could turn harmful to our spiritual lives. If He wants it then it’s okay but from our side we should never consider approaching Him by sidestepping lotus feet of our spiritual master and the entire parampara.

My point is – if we imagine Krishna and that image doesn’t include service to our guru then we are doing it wrong.

In case of Damodara lila it’s hard to fit anyone else but mother Yashoda and, perhaps, some monkeys. Something is amiss in that pastime – the chance to serve Krishna’s devotees. I guess we could supply rope but that would be even worse – we can’t just imagine inserting ourselves literally into Krishna’s pastimes.

In fact the only way we can legitimately insert ourselves into Krishna’s pastimes is by joining the sankirtana movement of Lord Chaitanya. Every other lila is just for appreciating the nature of the Lord and His loving relationships with His devotees, nothing to do with us personally.

You want to chip in – go on sankirtana, otherwise just step back and marvel at other people’s service. With that understanding nothing is really amiss, just another day on Goloka Vrindavana, we, as conditioned living beings, are not meant to be there, so how can we and our service be missing?

Vanity thought #431. Impersonalism and Christianity

When devotees read some passages from teachings of Jesus Christ they often see him preaching pure bhakti, but when they talk to Christians themselves those impressions quickly disappear and so devotees think they understand Jesus better than his own followers. Why is that?

Let’s start with the basics. Generally we have to understand the relationships between three things – God, jiva souls, and the material energy. These three subjects have been extensively covered in the Vedic literature and the truth was largely established even before the appearance of Lord Chaitanya.

Impersonalism, which obscures the eternal relationships between jivas and the Lord, has been solidly defeated, thanks to the works of Madhvacharya. We also had Srimad Bhagavatam as a natural commentary on Vedanta Sutra so Lord Chaitanya had it relatively easy. When the time came to expand His mission He relied on none other than Lord Nityananda and Advaita Acharya, and He entrusted setting forth our complete siddhanta to six goswamis of Vrindavana who are eternal, incorruptible servants of Krishna.

Christ, on the other hand, had nothing. He was the first messenger of God so before him the world had only Greek philosophical speculators, and without personal intervention of God they had a natural ceiling to their efforts – impersonalism, the vague understanding of some eternal reality beyond our senses. So Jesus had no foundation and no scriptures to preach from. His disciples also were somewhat of a letdown.

Lord Chaitanya didn’t have to send His representatives to preach to mayavadis on their home turf in places like Benares, which would have been futile, He covered Bengal and Orissa instead, and established a completely new community in Vrindavana. Early Christians had no such luxury, they had to preach in the land of Greeks, they had no other place to go.

HG Prithu Prabhu did extensive research on early Christianity and came to a conclusion that deviations started with Paul but Christians themselves vehemently disagree. Regardless, when Christians went to preach to the lands still in awe of the classical Greek culture they chose to speak the language of their hosts and rely on their hosts’ philosophy. Perhaps in the beginning they thought of it as a necessary compromise but they couldn’t maintain their purity and by the time Christianity finally established itself and formulated a clear doctrine it was firmly impersonal in nature.

While Jesus most definitely was a a jiva soul Christians equated him with God and came up with the idea of Holy Trinity. This non-difference between the jiva and God the Father (and the Holy Spirit) is the first sign of impersonalism. One could say that this non-difference does not extend to ordinary humans but there are other misconceptions as well.

By insisting on resurrection of Jesus they completely screwed the second side of God-jiva-matter triangle – God-matter (there’s their mayavada tendency), and by insisting that Christians themselves are going to rise from their graves and ascend to heaven they destroyed any difference between jiva souls and their material bodies, too.

To further complicate things for themselves they treat their relationships with Jesus in a very impersonal way – he is a savior, a liberator, and once you got salvation he is of no practical use, up there, in heaven, it’s democracy all around and they expect to reunite with their families instead. While this vision has many parallels in various Hindu schools and especially in modern mayavada, in Gaudiya vaishnavism our relationships with our gurus are eternal and continue in the spiritual world. We never become equal to anybody there, we will always remain dasadasanudasa, not direct associates of Krishna.

This is a crucial point – there’s no devotion without accepting our eternally subservient position to other devotees of the Lord, and without devotion we end up with impersonalism – denying those relationships, and we deny the nourishment of our souls, too.

Whatever bhakti was there in the teachings of Christ, it eventually got corrupted by accepting and enforcing these impersonal aspects of official Christian doctrine. This severely obstructed the flow of devotion, and without devotion people couldn’t get any real spiritual taste. With the idea that their bodies will be taken to heaven they naturally assumed that taking good care of them was the right thing to do and they discovered that sense gratification feels good, too.

This is how materialism was born in the West – through the lack of spiritual nourishment and through the lack of knowledge of the difference between the soul and the body.

When I went to school materialism was taught as self-evident while religious experiences as extraneous and unreal, a matter of belief. I think I will bear this particular “cross” until the end of my life. However, contrary to what I was taught when growing up, the spiritual side of life was actually real for hundreds and thousands of years even in the West. I was taught Newton’s mechanics but not that vast majority of his writings were on the nature of God. I was taught Darwinism but not that Darwin was a deeply religious man.

Meanwhile, over in India, the sweetness of the Holy Name was as self-evident as non-existence of God to me. I still can’t believe it but for the self realized soul, and we had thousands of those in our tradition, the reality is spiritual and material perception is illusory. They perceived the reality with their spiritual senses and paid no attention to their material ones.

I’m still on the stage where I have no idea if Krishna actually exists or not, I have no direct experience of Him, either in the form of Paramatma or the guru, I have only material perception of their external forms. I always assumed that it’s the norm but, as it turns out, it’s the result of Christianity’s failure to introduce real spiritual life in the society I was born into. Materialism that I was taught at school wasn’t born by itself, it is the product of frustration with impersonalism that penetrated Christian religion.

Come to think of it – no one is born a materialist, the Lord usually makes sure that every society has some kind of religious knowledge. They turn materialistic only because of the decline of their religion, and religions wither because they fail to cultivate devotional service, and that happens because of the spread of impersonalism in one way or another.

This is why we have to be very careful to avoid any tinge of mayavada in our lives, it is offensive to the Lord and it deprives us of spiritual connection to Him and, ultimately, leads to gross materialism. Christians learned it the hard way, we shouldn’t repeat their mistakes.

Vanity thought #430. Evolution of impersonalism

Two days ago I wrote about “evolution” of our knowledge of bhakti, a superficial process that makes our appearances incommensurable with our actual progress, because everyone can talk about very exalted topics and easily convince others of their advancement.

The danger of it is that once we consider someone to be in a superior position we tend to accept and follow whatever they do, as Krishna wisely observed in Bhagavad Gita -“Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow.” (3.21).

We tend to give any exalted devotee a position of an acharya, meaning letting them modify our devotional practices or introduce new ones, like offering clam sauce to the deities, for example.

Well, we are not alone in advancing bhakti further than we can actually comprehend, the same kind of evolution happened in mayavadi camp, too.

Buddhism has some very complicated philosophy and so when Shankaracharya blew them away with his Shariraka Bhashya commentary on Vedanta Sutra he became the king of logic. He introduced a very sophisticated school based on deep knowledge of shastra and requiring years and years of dedicated study to master.

In order to become proficient in their practice one needed to spend so much time and effort that sannyasis of their school were immediately given all respect as the most learned, most austere and dedicated men. That was probably one of the reasons Lord Chaitanya took sannyasa in that order Himself – it impressed the public much much more.

So it stayed like that for over a thousand years but in the time of instant gratification, in order to keep up with British Joneses, impersonalism needed to be adjusted to easily attract large swathes of population. Ramananda Roy started his Brahma Samaj movement, serving impersonalism in easily digested, modern form, and in the Indian west there was their own, Arya Samaj movement, too. Then came Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and finally the recipe for success was found.

According to Bhagavad Gita one needed to practice jnana yoga in order to achieve perfection in realizing Brahman and it is very very difficult. So the reformers threw away studying Vedanta and philosophy in general and went straight for the distributing the results.

Impersonalism leads one to understanding their spiritual quality as part of Brahman. It’s an ascending process and once you get to the top you a) feel yourself way ahead of all others and b) experience relief from daily tribulations which feels as some sort of bliss.

So, an accomplished impersonalist feels eternal, all-pervading love, and feels generous towards the lesser men, so he speaks a lot about mercy and compassion and spreading that love around.

With eyes set on that goal they only needed an easier process, and that’s where they chose bhakti over jnana. It made a perfect fit – no studying, practice love to achieve love, and you can start right away.

This is not what they practice in the monasteries established by Shankaracharya and it has nothing to do with his original ideas, but then Shankarites don’t get to fly all over the world and screw blond women, so who wants to follow them?

Another prominent feature of impersonalism is also very convenient – becoming one with God, or Absolute Truth, or Divinity, or Brahman, or Universal Love, whatever they call it – means you don’t need a guru anymore and you can start teaching everyone else yourself.

Notice how all prominent new age mayavadis do not talk about following their gurus much but guru worship in general is a very big part of their “bhakti”. If they ever mention their own gurus is when they talk about the source of their enlightenment, not as their eternal masters, life after life and in the spiritual world, too.

“I met my guru, I learned about mercy and compassion from him, I got enlightened, and now I’m traveling the world spreading that love around” – that’s their typical presentation. There’s no such thing as parampara or knowledge passing down or orders or mission to carry your whole life. Just “I got this, and now I’m giving it to you.”

This is how they turned austere book-worms of Shankara extraction into globe-trotting super compassionate mayavadis of the modern day. But does it work? How?

Well, they DO practice some form of a bhakti, they DO worship Krishna, among others, and if they take their practice seriously the Universe is bound to thrown them some bones. The Lord fulfills desires of all living entities, if they want some bliss thrown their way and they work hard for it they can surely get it. Nothing wonderful about it.

Can they obtain real devotional service? No way, not unless they drop their manufactured ideas and take full shelter at the feet of a real vaishnava.

What about the mayvada part of it? Impersonalists don’t call themselves that, they consider it a derogatory term, it’s used mostly by vaishnavas. Devotees call them that because that’s what they do to the Lord, who is most dear to vaishnavas. Devotees don’t care about their realization of the Brahman or about their faulty logic, we pick on them because they think that when the Lord appears in the material world He comes under the influence of maya, that He transforms His body, that He is not in His real form.

That’s part of their saguna-brahman understanding – they think that form and name of the Lord in this world is not truly spiritual, that it only represents some higher reality. That leads impersonalists to pancopasana worship of five Gods and the concept of ishta-devata.

The idea is that since all gods are just representations of the higher truth it doesn’t matter which one you worship, you select your ishta-devata yourself, no matter who, and you get exactly the same results.

You want to practice bhakti and become a devotee of Krishna – fine, they will cheer you on. You want to become a devotee of Hanuman – all the best to you, learn bhakti from his devotion to Lord Rama. You want to worship Durga – great, the Universal Mother will surely grant you all your wishes. Yata mata tata patha in action.

This has become their trademark feature – they approve of everything, everything is equally good to them, there’s no difference – nirvishesa. This is also one of the reasons they will never make any progress as equating Vishnu with other gods is an offense.

Another feature of the modern day mayavada is that they don’t talk about their ishta-devata himself, only about what they get from their worship. As their selected god doesn’t really exist and it’s only a means, not the goal of their practice, they concentrate on practice itself.

“I don’t know about the reality of Krishna and his names, but singing them surely feels good, so that’s what we are going to do” – that’s they typical attitude. Discussing Krishna’s own interests is out of the question. That is another reason why they will never become devotees – they do not accept that Krishna is the enjoyer and we are only objects of His enjoyment, they do not offer any service, they just leach off of His power and opulences.

Yet another distinguishing feature of easy-to-use mayavada is that all the love happens in the heart. You look into your heart, you cleanse your heart, you feel love in your heart, and your compassion flows from your heart, too. They cannot fathom the existence of the Absolute Truth in this world, anything not in their hearts is considered an illusion, therefore Deities or the Holy Name can’t be the source of love. Forget about seeing the Lord in the mission of the guru, serving that mission would never feel better than nurturing love “in your heart”.

It is true that our hearts are the seats of both the soul and Paramatma and it is true that real spiritual feelings happen in the heart, not in the minds or senses, but, in our present condition, our service that hopefully pleases the guru and the Lord happens in the material world, by applying our consciousness to the objects of this world, not by withdrawing it and hiding it inside.

Perhaps at this point mayvadis would say that we are not advanced enough yet but eventually we will find the peace in our hearts, not in our external service. Maybe so, but we also know that once we reach that level of advancement we will also see Govinda in each and every object, filling the entire universe. Mayavadis don’t see that and so their “perfection” is bogus.

And that is another reason why we should not give any consideration to their ideas of love in the heart and all that fluffy crap. They will never get to see Govinda everywhere, and neither will we if we give any credence to their ideas.

This article is turning way longer than I originally thought it would be but I think I got it covered pretty well. The point was in showing how the original, tough process of impersonal realization according to Shankaracharya evolved into easy-to-use new age mayavada of the present day. How it preserved the necessary components and accepted some new ones, how it preserved its essense, and how, despite practicing “bhakti”, it still has absolutely nothing to do with devotional service.

Vanity thought #419. A letter to Krishna

A couple of days ago a devotee commented on one of my posts suggesting the possibility that my blog might attract Krishna’s attention just like Rukmini’s letter to Him. That was very sweet but is it really possible? Can our writing attract Krishna’s attention?

Rukmini sent a letter to Krishna directly, Krishna personally received it and took action, nonchalantly snatching her from under the nose of her groom on the day of their marriage. This story is spread over three chapters of Krishna Book.

Our situation is completely different. Rukmini had a real chance to serve Krishna as His wife, she had a suitable body and it was her destiny. We live in the bodies that wouldn’t be allowed in Krishna’s presence at all. With bodies like ours Krishna prefers to stay only in our hearts, and only after they’ve been completely purified. Since we use our materialistic bodies as proxies to serve Him, He equally accepts this service through His own proxies – our spiritual masters and vaishnavas.

Rukmini needed Krishna’s intervention to remedy her situation. If she wasn’t taken by Krishna her life would have been a total waste. We, on the other hand, already got what we need – the grace of Lord Chaitanya and service to His mission. We do not need any more protection, no one in the entire universe can lay claims on our service.

Our souls, bodies, and minds belong to Lord Chaitanya, no one else. We can misuse them, of course, but this is only between us and Him, no Sisupala can take our service unless we voluntarily offer it to him.

We don’t need to send letters to Krishna, He already knows everything in our hearts and minds and He already answered our prayers – by placing us at the lotus feet of our gurus.

Therefore we don’t write blogs to attract Krishna’s attention, we write them for our own purification, or as a service to Lord Chaitanya’s mission. Our efforts in this world won’t attract Krishna’s interest anyway, He only looks at what’s in our hearts. If we want to address Him directly we don’t need to put it up on the world wide web, we don’t need to advertise our prayers to the whole world to be heard, it would sound like a show off rather than a sincere desire to connect with the Lord.

Having said that, it would certainly be nice if Krishna or His representatives bestowed on us some blessings after reading something they like. If that is the price we need to pay to obtain devotion, we should take it even if it means typing up stuff 24/7.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Real problem is not with what we do, the problem is with our contaminated hearts, we can’t substitute purification of our hearts with any external activity and we can’t accelerate the process with any extraneous efforts. Krishna has already arranged the best situation for the cleansing of our hearts, provided all the tools – cleaning liquids, brushes, manuals, expert advice and training – we’ve got everything we need already, just have to keep on working.

On the other hand, Rupa Goswami sometimes wrote books and verses for the pleasure of his brother Sanatana. That is a great example for any modern day blogger, too – write something that would please the devotees.

Vanity thought #416. XYZ to ABC

Let’s uncomplicate things a little. Gopis experience ten million times more happiness when they manage to make Krishna fall for Radharani. Who can implement that? We are so dependent on Krishna in everything we can’t take the high road like gopis do. We can’t be cool about Krishna’s mercy, considering it a distraction from the service to Sri Radha. Yet turning this spiritual XYZ back to ABC is actually very very easy.

We can serve Lord Chaitanya! You see, Lord Chaitanya does not want to behave like Krishna, He wants to attract Krishna’s mercy Himself, and this is where we can help. When we serve His mission we are not trying to steal Krishna’s attention, we are trying to facilitate Lord Chaitanya’s service to Krishna, just like gopis help Srimati Radharani.

Or look at it this way – unlike gopis, we can’t serve Srimati Radharani, but we can serve Lord Chaitanya who is like Srimati Radharani Herself. A perfect substitute.

Yes, we want to become Krishna’s devotees, but we shouldn’t forget that actually we are servants of Lord Chaitanya, not Krishna Himself. Our goal in life should be attaining the shelter of lotus feet of Mahaprabhu, we’ll worry about Krishna’s later. That’s the proper, rupanuga way.

One more thing about spiritual ABC, a couple of weeks ago a papyrus fragment from the 4th century made waves around the world because it apparently says that Jesus was married. There’s a new documentary about it but it was postponed for a couple of months until historians form a proper, politically correct opinion on this.

In the meantime our local funny man has proved that this papyrus must be mistaken – there’s no way Jesus could have been married. Why? Because of his teachings. There’s no way a wife would have allowed her husband to denounce a job and comforts and glorify hunger, thirst and spiritual treasures instead. It was pretty funny and backed up by Bible quotes, but there was also one idea there that struck me as directly relating to my yesterday’s musings.

This is from Matthew 6.25-30. It’s a pretty long quote the point of which is that our maintenance depends not on our work and our efforts, but on God.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

This is actually a very important point to understand – I work not to provide daily food, there’s no connection between the two. All that I need will be provided regardless of what I do or don’t do.

This is indeed our ABC, the starting point of surrendering to Krishna, and also the starting point of understanding the law of karma. Our happiness and distress, hunger and thirst, are already covered, were assigned to us before we were even born. We do not need to work for food and shelter.

Let me repeat that again – we do not need to work for food and shelter. Karma, Krishna, someone will provide. We have to work because it’s our duty, our nature, not because we want to achieve some results out of it.

The attitude of “I need to work so I can buy food” is undevotional in principle. We should perform our duties without attachments to their fruits, and if we get any, they should be offered to Krishna, not consumed for our own pleasure.

Tell me if it’s not an ABC and if a great number of our devotees still do not get it. I have an idea why – we think that by serving the mission of Lord Chaitanya we immediately reach the platform of devotional service where we shouldn’t bother with such things, and that might be true, but as soon as we cut ourselves some slack we are back to the level where we identify ourselves with our bodies and think that we control our destiny and so should work or the world around us will collapse because no one but us can provide us with anything.

Well, I’ve been developing this attitude for quite some time but now I was reminded that it is wrong so perhaps I’ll make some adjustments. The wife is not going to be happy though…. Married people are not allowed to think like that.

Vanity thought #414. From ABC to XYZ

The very first thing I learned about spiritual world is that this is where spirit souls go to experience real enjoyment, where all the trees are desire trees, every step is a dance and so on. The enjoyment one experiences there is incomparable to enjoyment experienced through material senses.

Vaikuntha – the place with no suffering, I’ve been taught, and Vrindavana is even more enjoyable than that. We go to Vrindavana and we see polluted Yamuna or dried up trees, but we are taught that spiritual Vrindavana is full of bliss in every respect, not at all like what we see with our material eyes. There are flowers everywhere, every tree bears the most wonderful fruits, birds sing the sweetest songs – the whole nine yards of utmost pleasure.

That was kind of spiritual ABC for me. If they talked about XYZ it didn’t register quite as strongly. I mean the fact that gopis are not seeking any kind of enjoyment at all. They might have the sweetest fruit ever but they do not have any desire to taste it. They derive pleasure from making other people to enjoy, mostly Krishna and Radharani.

Relating the talk between Lord Chaitanya and Ramananda Raya Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja says:

By nature, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī is just like a creeper of love of Godhead, and the gopīs are the twigs, flowers and leaves of that creeper.

When the nectar of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes is sprinkled on that creeper, the happiness derived by the twigs, flowers and leaves is ten million times greater than that derived by the creeper itself.

That means that not only gopis ignore all the unparalleled treasures of Vrindavana, they are also not keen on Krishna’s pastimes themselves, they get ten million times more happiness by getting their mistress to enjoy them instead.

Spiritual world might be full of bliss, but if it gets multiplied ten million times when you manage someone else to enjoy it, then on its own it’s really insignificant. That, afaik, is the X, Y, and Z of spiritual education.

Funny how it never occurred to me before, I mean how it never actually occurred to ME, not passed through my mind and into my long term memory, and I see that I’m not alone in missing this point. We live our lives in service to guru and Krishna subconsciously expecting to get a better deal at the end of our lives. Like we get onto Vimanas provided by Vishnudutas and then travel to the spiritual world where our lives will finally become perfect.

We complain, without a second thought, how inconvenient this world is, we listen to hundreds of hours of lectures describing all the bad things happening here, in addition to all the troubles we have to deal in our own lives. It all sets our minds in one direction – we should not seek happiness here, we should seek it in the spiritual world.

This attitude becomes something axiomatic and unquestionable, the driving motive behind most of our activities here.

In reality, that’s only getting spiritual ABC. Come to think of it, it’s the mentality of a karma kandi, the mentality of an enjoyer. Now, karma kandis want to enjoy in this material world, it not fair to compare devotees to karma kandis, we are way smarter than that, we think that instead of asking Krishna for another material body that is destined to get sick, old, and finally die, we should ask for a spiritual body that had unlimited strength to enjoy its senses and that never feels any inconvenience.

When we surrender ourselves to Krishna we do it with full faith that He would take care of all our needs. It takes us years and decades to accept that He would take care of our spiritual needs first and foremost, not our material comforts. Every time something goes wrong in our lives we appeal to Him for shelter and protection.

What we actually want is for Him to protect our material bodies and our material misconceptions about ourselves. That is not even spiritual ABC, it’s drawing lines and circles in the sandbox.

There’s cardinal difference between this attitude and the attitude of the gopis described earlier. Gopis do not dare to think of attracting any Krishna’s attention to themselves. For them getting the nectar of Krishna’s pastimes means sudden, ten million time drop in the level of their happiness. It must be devastating for them to stop Krishna from enjoying with Sri Radha and steal His attention form Her.

Practically it means we are not even remotely ready, we still see spiritual world as an improved version of the material world, only infinitely better. Our core attitude that got us kicked out and bound to our material bodies is still there, the attitude of enjoyers.

Not to despair, it might still work to get us out of our misery, but those of us aiming at becoming rupanugas might need to re-examine our core commitments. We should not aim at getting the best deal out of our relations with God, that is not what servants do, we should aim at getting the best deal for our masters, our gurus.

Sounds preposterous but that is the point of serving their mission – so that Krishna enjoys their presentation to Him. When Krishna showers them with love and appreciation we would be ten million times happier than if He would gave a nod to us personally.

This XYZ stuff is hard to achieve but if we’ve been told about it and so we should take it up seriously.