Vanity thought #469. Nail in the coffin

Of the idea that it’s okay to approach the Lord with material desires. I mean we all have them and it shouldn’t be the reason to stay back, but once we firmly decide to come forward and apply for Lord’s mercy, material desires should be considered as something unwanted.

It is true that if Dhruva Maharaja stayed cool and didn’t run to the forest to heal his wounded pride we wouldn’t have his story in the Bhagavatam but it should not be considered an excuse for us to do something similar.

One just have to look how it ended for him. Against all the odds he, a five year old boy, attracted attention of Lord Vishnu by performing tapasya unprecedented for his age. He saw Vishnu in his heart and eventually Vishnu appeared in person, he even gave the famous speech about searching for pieces of broken glass and finding the most valuable jewel instead but Lord Vishnu remained firm. Friendly but firm.

Lord’s edict wasn’t open for discussion, He simply said what Dhruva would to next – rule the world for thirty six thousand years and get his own star.

There’s a whole chapter in Srimad Bhagavatam entitled “Dhruva Maharaja Returns Home” but it’s not the same back home, back to Godhead we are striving for. Dhruva felt himself condemned, aggrieved and broken hearted. Yes, he had found the most valuable jewel and he’d earned himself the right to the place in the spiritual world but the Lord postponed that happy moment for thirty six thousand years and didn’t allow any pleas.

That’s what happens if you approach Krishna with material desires – you have to stay behind and “enjoy” them instead of being taken to the spiritual world immediately.

Of course one might say that for a devotee there’s no difference between living in heaven or hell but that argument does not apply here because that refers to devotees with no material desires. Those who are still attached to enjoyments of this world will be forced to enjoy, that’s where their consciousness would be for the duration of the punishment, not with Krishna.

Let me make it clearer – it’s one thing to live down here and always think of Krishna but it’s another thing to live here and always think about how nice it is, as this is what apparently happened to Dhruva.

He said it himself – he asked for the broken glass, got only a glimpse of the jewel, and was given the same broken glass he had no desire for anymore.

Actually, he didn’t say this in Srimad Bhagavatam, that phrase is apparently from some other book, in Srimad Bhagavatam he said about few broken grains of husked rice (SB 4.9.35).

Either way – try not to pray for material desires or you will be very sorry in the end, when Krishna fulfills them.

That turned out to be a very nice lesson from the story of Dhruva Maharaja. Can we get the same from Damodara lila? I don’t see how we could. That’s another point for Dhruva who now leads 2:0.

Tomorrow is the last day of Kartika, will Lord Damodara stage last minute come back or will He let His devotee to take the glory? I don’t know, it could turn our either way. Good news – I don’t have to wait very long.

Vanity thought #468. Clearing the confusion

Yesterday I puzzled myself with the story of Dhruva Maharaja, today, after listening to what proper authorities have to say on the matter I think I’m ready to dispel all my doubts.

In short the dilemma is posed like this – Dhruva Maharaja approached Lord Vishnu with a very strong material desire and succeeded. Who knows what would have happened if he wasn’t rejected by his father, probably nothing, at least in the context of this story. Main point – he was motivated by his severely bruised ego.

We, on the other hand, are advised to give up all our material desires and never act on the impulses of our egos, thus potentially depriving ourselves of attaining the Lord the way Dhruva Maharaja did. How are we going to follow his footsteps in this case?

Yesterday I thought that we might have to look at things in a different way, judging desires not by how strong or material they are but whether they are connected to the Lord or not.

In support of this one may site the yukta vairagya principle, engaging material things in service of the Lord rather than rejecting them, and also the warning against pursuing too much renunciation, as it hardens one’s heart. Bhakti won’t grow in the hardened heart, it has to be softened first.

We might site this Bhagavatam verse in support, too:

SB 2.3.10

akamah sarva-kamo va

moksha-kama udara-dhih

tivrena bhakti-yogena

yajeta purusham param

Akama – without desires, sarva-kama – full of desires, moksha-kama – desiring liberation – everybody is welcome.

Practical application of this solution is simple – do not try to give up your material desires but connect them with Krishna one way or another. Outside of ISKCON it leads to loosening regulative principles, including smoking pot, inside ISKCON it might lead to overindulging in Sunday feasts, for example. Let people stuff themselves to their necks, it’s all prasadam, it’s all good. One should not renounce taking prasadam and so on.

There might be some truth in this line of reasoning but I’ve heard much better solution and it lies in the same Bhagavatam verse.

Dhruva Maharaja didn’t approach Lord Vishnu with material desires, his bruised ego was only an impetus. He achieved the mercy of the Lord only due to blessings of Narada Muni, and even Narada Muni didn’t believe that it would be possible for such a small boy. If Narada Muni didn’t believe in it, why should we make it our principle?

Nevertheless, by the grace of pure devotee Dhruva Maharaja received his mantra and instructions on how to use it, and the next key to his success was the word tivrena from the third line in the verse above.

Presence or absence of desires described in the previous two lines does not have any value by itself. The key lies in what one does next – tivrena bhakti yogena – intense devotional service.

In fact we might even read the verse starting from the end (which is normal for sanskrit – take the first verse of Siksashtaka, for example). In order to succeed one must practice devotional service with intensity. This word, tivrena, appears several times in both Srimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita and the translations are always the same – intense, concentrated, firm, serious, strong.

How one comes to attain this tivrena doesn’t matter – either as akama, sarva-kama or moksha-kama.

It is wrong to build a connection between having strong material desires and strong service to the Lord, one does not follow the other, thus the original confusing question is also wrong – we won’t miss the opportunity to attain Lord’s mercy simply because our desires are strong or weak. We might miss the opportunity because we don’t turn our predisposition (akama, sarva-kama etc) into tivrena.

Well, as usual, the correct answer lies in formulating the correct question. It would be a waste of time to search for an answer to a wrong question.

Glad this has all worked out.

Now back to Damodara lila – how can one develop tivrena when thinking about it? I don’t see a way.

Dhruva Maharaja was given a mantra and he performed severe austerities, applying tivrena in a similar situation is easy – there will always be the need for more efforts.

Contemplating Damodara lila, otoh, gives no space for tivrena bhakti yogena at all. Maybe only in keeping your mind thinking about it. Still it can’t compare to efforts we exert when trying to control the mind while chanting.

So, today’s score – Dhruva Maharaja lila 1, Damodara lila 0, but it’s not the end of the month yet.

Vanity thought #467. Tribute to Dhruva

There is a couple of Krishna’s pastimes to fill these last few days of Kartika and the story of Dhruva Maharaja should be right at the top of the list, for Kartika was the month he obtained audience of Lord Vishnu. It also happened in Vrindavana and Madhuvana forest is now the first stop on the Vraja mandala parikrama.

To be honest, I’ve never appreciated this story even though it was one of Lord Chaitanya’s favorites. To my immature, materialistic vision it appears somewhat problematic, mostly because it’s about attaining Lord’s mercy while in pursuit of worldly affairs.

On one hand it should fill us with hope that even if we approach Krishna with impure motives He could still bestow His mercy which, in turn, would cleanse our hearts completely, on the other hand we shouldn’t be looking for excuses not to remove our anarthas before approaching the Lord.

In fact the general idea is that we can’t obtain Krishna’s darshan precisely because of our anarthas, it’s practically the one and only thing that prevents us from tasting the nectar of the Holy Name, but Dhruva Maharaja’s story tells us not to pay attention to them at all.

What we can learn from it is that desire to see the Lord trumps any other cards, and it’s a fair argument, but it would also appear that the strength of this desire depends on the strength of our material attachments.

In our situation it is useless to profess unmotivated service but still our attachments is something we are advised to abandon. Dhruva’s story, however, teaches us to properly leverage them instead.

I guess it could be considered as an early example of yukta vairagya – engaging everything in service of the Lord, as opposed to phalgu vairagya of renunciation simply for the sake of it.

Hmm, maybe that’s why Lord Chaitanya loved this story so much – from the pov of bhakti there’s no distinction between right and wrong, only distinction between whether it’s connected to Krishna or not.

Yet we also have four regs and a bunch of other rules as a precondition for engaging in Krishna consciousness.

That’s what I find confusing – in our lives four regs and other material attachments are considered absolutely negative, in the story of Dhruva Maharaja they are not. If one’s bruised ego is killing him he is advised to be more tolerant than a tree but the lesson from Dhruva Maharaja’s story is to seek blessings for revenge from Krishna Himself.

Imagine a devotee being upset with his authorities not appreciating his service, no one would ever advise him to take severe penances in order to make Krishna prove to everyone his real worth. If we had such a desire ourselves we would probably be ashamed of it but in Dhruva Maharaja’s case it was the main driving force in his progress towards the Lord.

We would try to abandon this desire but example of Dhruva Maharaja teaches us quite the opposite – we should take full advantage of having it because it might deliver us to Krishna.

Taking a little offense at being unappreciated is worse than taking a big offense at the same thing as long as we seek judgment from the Lord.

Strangely, it does make sense, but if we take this as a guiding principle, shouldn’t we reconsider some of the basic rules of our lives and our society, too?

One thing is clear – Damodara lila is far less complicated. Dhruva lila, otoh, has practical lessons for our own service we can’t easily extract from reflecting on Lord Damodara.

The remaining confusion is, perhaps, a sign that I haven’t achieved Lord’s mercy on this topic yet. Maybe some other day.