Vanity thought #892. Feeling better

One of the consequences of separating ourselves from our bodies is that we lose any criteria by which to judge our “progress”. I put progress in quotes because by progress we mean success, and, technically, progress means movement from one state to another, which is a material concept because it depends on time. Time is not present on the spiritual platform so talk about progress has no meaning. Yet we all strive for it.

By falling under the influence of the false ego we associate ourselves with our bodies and we start to believe that we interact with this world, that we do things and the world responds. We get to feel that response through our senses, though I don’t know what sense organ is responsible for feeling emotions. Is it mind? Intelligence? A mix of both? It’s a topic for further research but for now let’s assume that something in our bodies registers emotional security or distress, hopes and desperation, love and frustration and so on. These things are important for our “well-being” so they need to be considered, too, it’s not just food, nice music and something pleasing for the eyes.

When we come in contact with Krishna consciousness we continue gauging our progress in the same way, just in a different direction. While living under material paradigm we thought progress meant more money and more sex, when we decided to go with Krishna we think success is renunciation and other symptoms of advancement. We still use our bodies to measure, however, since we don’t have any other tools yet.

Will we ever achieve “success” by judging ourselves from a bodily platform? No, never, it’s an oxymoron. Bodies are meant to make us suffer and they use short term pleasures only as a bait. It’s a fact of life that if we go with bodily consciousness we end up old and diseased and eventually die, and then go through the whole thing again.

There’s no provision in our bodies to register spiritual happiness, no sense organ that measures spiritual health or Krishna’s satisfaction, it’s a useless tool for this purpose.

But wait, can’t we measure changes in the outside world that happen due to our devotion and our service? After all, when Krishna says “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you”, isn’t it supposed to be manifested on the material platform, too? Aren’t we getting stuffed with prasadam, aren’t we dancing ecstatically in kirtans, aren’t our hearts melt when hearing spiritually uplifting classes? Aren’t things like renunciation, loss of interest in material pursuits, following regs, compassion, gravitas, desire to hear more and more about Krishna meant to manifest on the material platform with our material bodies?

Well, yes, but there’s a limit. Bodies will never be eternal, for example, and that’s one major spiritual realization that they can never manifest. Renunciation is absolute but bodies will never achieve that either, they’d always need food and sleep, and breathing. Likewise, sexual attraction will never disappear completely, nor attraction to good food, nor desire to hear “news”, no desire to control things and make things better. These things can be reduced but they will never disappear completely.

This is why all our acharyas complained of personal imperfection and that’s why feeling of personal inadequacy is a hallmark of spiritual advancement. How can it be any other way? One might be the greatest, purest devotee in the whole three worlds but as soon as he identifies himself with his material body he sees that there’s no devotion there, which is the correct conclusion – bodies are not meant for service to Krishna but for observing interactions between senses and sense objects.

If we were to ask a sadhu how he feels about himself his full answer, which he would never give, would be “As this old man in a body full of diseases but still striving for comfort and pleasures I feel I have absolutely no devotion”, and he would be right. If we seek devotion we should never seek it through our bodily consciousness either. That question should be addressed on a spiritual platform and if that platform is not available to us yet then we should accept our limitations, that’s all.

Yet we still want to feel better about our progress. Foolishly, we seek spiritual rewards manifested through our material karmic reactions. Here’s another fact of life – devotional service is not meant to make US feel better, it’s meant to please Krishna. Devotional service means we should not expect any rewards in exchange for it either. If we do expect some rewards then this means we have no real devotion, consequently Krishna is not really pleased, and so there’s nothing to reward us for!

That’s why real tests of devotion are very simple – always remember Krishna and never forget, or nityam bhagavata sevaya – constant service to the Lord. Regardless of how we feel about it, we continue chanting the Holy Name, regardless of what our bodies tell us to do, we continue seeking Krishna, regardless of our own personal happiness or desperation, we continue seeking service. Even if the whole world becomes clear and united in one single thought and screams in our face: “Your service to Krishna brings you nothing by all possible standards”, we still seek that service.

Remember Krishna and never forget, it’s that simple, nothing more than that. Of course there could be more, we could be engaged happily in sankirtana, we could be worshiping deities, we could be known in our community as great, dedicated devotees, but those things are temporary, we can lose them and it won’t affect our spiritual status in the slightest. If we become attached, however, it will make our service dependent on these external rewards, which would make it un-devotional. Devotional service is ahaituki, causeless, remember, it has no external sources. Only then it can satisfy the soul, yayatma suprasidati (SB 1.2.6).

There’s one big caveat to this line of reasoning, though – our bodies are not really external, they are given to us as direct reflection of our consciousness. They are not caused by anything else but our own desires coming from our own souls. Our consciousness is polluted by matter, true, but it’s still OUR consciousness, we are not made suffer or enjoy someone else’s reactions. We get exactly what we deserve.

Why can’t we say that if our body is not spiritually engaged then this means we, as spirit souls, are not making any progress?

Yes and no.

Just today I listened to a lecture and I heard that Krishna can clear our hearts of all our anarthas in one moment. It’s absolutely no trouble for Him. How can we claim all responsibility for ourselves then? In as much as we identify with our bodies, would be my first answer, which takes me back where I started this post.

Let me present this argument – our bodies have full charge of karma to last until the end of this life. No matter what we do, no matter where we direct our consciousness, no matter whether we become liberated or not, this karma has to work itself out. We can’t stop it.

Doesn’t matter whether we identify with our bodies or not they’ll keep doing what they are meant to do like a wound up toy. We might just as well take a break from watching this freak show and concentrate solely on Krishna, our material senses will continue their interactions, our material mind will continue desiring things, our material intelligence will continue making plans – it doesn’t depend on our participation at all, it’s all driven by the laws of karma, not by us.

So, it doesn’t matter whether we feel better about our service or not, these feelings are immaterial, pardon the pun, for our actual spiritual life.

Vanity thought #877. Egocentric aspirations

Continuing yesterday’s rant, there is a very nice example from our Gaudiya history regarding relative value of our mundane spirituality. To recap – we egotistically assume that we are great devotees on a mission to purify the world and to support this delusion we assign great spiritual value to every mundane thing we find attractive.

Just today I heard someone telling a story from a movie in Bhagavatam class. I’ve learned that Betty Midler is a funny actress. There was a spiritual point in that story, too, but that I already knew, Betty Midler’s name, however, is something I didn’t expect to hear at all. Why do we have to learn who she is and what she said in that movie? Because the person giving the class liked it. He, apparently, watched it from start to finish, got fascinated by it, and thought he could extract a great spiritual lesson from it.

No problem, I do it all the time, but my ramblings here are not Bhagavatam classes, I’m not sitting on vyasasana, I’m not representing Srila Vyasadeva. I’m speaking my mind, not trying to convey unadulterated message of our acharyas.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to find fault with that speaker and I’m not against bringing outside things to make spiritual points, I’m trying to demonstrate how we bring our personal interests and present them as spiritual without giving it a second thought. And they are spiritual, no doubt about it, as they are clearly connected with Krishna, it’s just that they are not that important in the overall scheme of things.

So, the example from our history. There was a devotee who got a personal order from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and he carried it out with full faith and devotion, it was a kind of preaching mission and his behavior and humility won many accolades, success in that mission enabled him to receive full mercy not only of Lord Chaitanya but also of Lord Nityananda and hundreds and hundreds of Bengali devotees, all spiritual associates of Krishna and Balarama who descended on this Earth to participate in sankirtana lila.

What more could one expect from this life? That would be the perfection, the apogee.

All of that, however, has been reduced to this short sentence here, in his biography:

    By the mercy of Lord Nityananda he renounced a beautiful wife and an opulent family.

The biography then goes on to describe the glories of Srila Raghunatna Dasa Goswami, his renunciation, his devotion to Lord Chaitanya, his deep attraction to Srila Rupa and Srila Sanatana Goswamis, his books etc etc.

Actually, since he was the guru of Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, he could be considered as the most important of Six Goswamis because without Chaitanya Charitamrita we would know nothing. He was the junior among the six, of course, but just like Srila Prabhupada is the most important acharya for all of ISKCON, a special place should also be given to Srila Raghunatha Dasa Goswami.

And what of the mission I mentioned earlier? It wasn’t considered important enough to be included there. And that was a mission personally assigned by Mahaprabhu Himself. Why do we think that our fascination with a movie or a book here is important? Only because of our egocentricity. Only because we decide to judge the value of things from our own perspective, not from Krishna’s or from our acharyas’.

Anyway, young Raghunatha got a chance to serve Mahaprabhu on two occasions in the house of Advaita Acharya and he made up his mind about renouncing the world and joining Lord Chaitanya in Jagannatha Puri. Lord Chaitanya, however, told him to stay back and attend to family business until an opportune moment comes.

Turns out family really needed his help. His uncle became a tax collector for local ruler but he kept a bigger percent of collections for himself than was expected. He stole the money, in short. This, of course, didn’t go down well and he got himself a serious enemy. Interestingly, it wasn’t the ruler who was upset with him, it was a fellow tax collector who actually wanted his share of the loot.

Uncle went on the run and Raghunatha got himself right in the middle of the situation. He was held hostage to put pressure on his uncle and he was threatened with severe beatings if money was not returned. That’s when Raghunatha displayed vaishnava humility and settled things amicably for everyone involved.

He was young and innocent, despite the threats no one could raise his hand on him, and when he talked it was pleasing to everyone’s ears. He negotiated his uncle’s return and was let go, family peace was restored.

He was married at that time and I don’t think I’ll be stretching the truth if I state that he behaved like a perfect householder. He didn’t hide his devotion to Lord Chaitanya and I’m pretty sure he talked about him all the time, being the spiritual one in the family, like the woman in that Betty Midler movie. I’m sure he chanted lots of rounds and worshiped the deities, performing sadhana bhakti better than any of us.

I can think of lots of people who, if they went through similar tribulations, would never shut up about it. Exciting things like that – being held hostage, tend to make us feel very very important and interesting.

Not Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, though. He went to see Lord Nityananda, organized the chipped rice festival, and got a word that his family engagement was about to end. He then fled to Puri and was placed in the care of Svarupa Damodara Goswami, and the rest is history.

From our egotistical perspective, however, what is happening to us NOW is history, and the rest in not important.

I’m afraid if we like our lives here so much we might never be called by Lord Chaitanya to perform any real service and will be left here to discuss movies until the end of times. Who wants to risk that? It seems almost everybody – we all are guilty of this fault. We all see the world from our personal point of view and we all want spiritual bliss to be found right where we live.

Krishna can arrange, but is this what we really want? We ought to ask ourselves this question from time to time and we should not settle on something as insignificant as our material lives, no matter how purified we might want to make them.

Vanity thought #635. PVME

Every now and then generous folks at Guardian put out some clever observations of human nature. This one has become my favorite of late.

PVME is an acronym for Please Validate My Existence. Originally it stood “PLEASE AUTHENTICATE MY EXISTENCE” but I think “validation” is closer to the ball. Google the phrase and it will come right on top.

The author cuts straight to the chase with summation of the entire modern book industry – spreading one sentence of advice over hundreds and hundreds of pages of “escalating bibble”. If you ever been to a bookstore it’s hard to disagree – there are tons and tons of books that don’t say anything useful. He then takes a jab at screen writing with a quote about producing Doctor Who, which is a hit British TV show about nonsense (feel free to disagree). “Dialogue is just two monologues clashing,” it went.

That’s a very astute observation – everyone is always thinking and talking about himself, maybe not literally about himself but at least about his personal world view. It’s always a running monologue because no one really tries to see the world in any objective way, and, being conditioned by maya, they literally can’t see it objectively.

This is not an absolute rule but rather an observation of where the world is heading in this information age of social networking and stuff.

And then the author takes us to his main point – all our attempts to communicate with other people are really about validating our own existence. We need to hear that we’ve been heard, understood, acknowledged, sympathized and so on.That is the only reason we reach to other human beings. Not always, of course, but that’s where the modern civilization of rights and liberties is heading.

We are not completely selfish yet and we happily validate other people’s requests but only because it takes us closer to our turn to ping for validation.

What does it mean for us as aspiring devotees? First of all, we are not immune. As ordinary people seek validation of their existence we seek validation of our devotion. We want to be noticed by our guru and fellow devotees.

I was thinking about book distribution and it occurred to me that the number of the books sold is almost like watching karma at work. Sell more books and get more praise. Sell less books and no one will remember your name. If you break some sort of a record than the guru will be practically obliged to glorify your effort. Get into the top three and your name will surely be mentioned at the next sankirtana result announcement.

On its own, however, it doesn’t say anything about your actual devotional progress. You could have sold the books under completely false premises and didn’t encourage a single act of sankirtana but you’ll get your dues regardless. I’ll talk about it some other time. Today I just want to point out that externally our lives are not that different from non-devotees. We still don’t know our spiritual nature and we are still under the influence of the false ego. We are still enjoyers and controllers, albeit sometimes at God’s expense, and we still seek validation of our illusion.

That’s the gist of it – we are in illusion, it doesn’t satisfy the soul, and so we seek external validation.

Devotion, real devotion, is totally opposite. It should be atma suprasidati, it should completely satisfy the soul (SB 1.2.6), and it doesn’t require any external validation. As devotees we don’t ask anything for ourselves, we should only give people Krishna and only share our devotion to Him.

There was a time when such approach shocked people into full surrender to the preaching devotee but these days the crowd has become tougher. These days people know the trick themselves – even Guardian has figured it out, and once you get through with your sincerity they say “Okay, you got my attention, now what do you want?” They’ve been exploited for so long they can’t even fathom that anyone would offer them something without asking for anything in return. And even if they get past that step they still have the audacity to try and exploit the gift of devotion for their own ends, try to take advantage of the devotees.

Sometimes I feel that these people are hopeless. Other devotees, however, still try to get through, try to speak common language, play their own game. This means if people can’t take devotion for free then devotees offer them trade instead. This is not pure preaching, not preaching of pure bhakti as was done by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila Prabhupada but it’s better than nothing.

Personally, I think it’s a slippery slope but I’m not the one to judge. Important thing for us is not to get sucked into Please Validate My Existence vortex ourselves. There’s nothing there for us, this is the mentality we should try to give up.

Vanity thought #405. Elvis curse

I had an unexpected dream last night – I was attending some preaching program by my old temple community and noticed that there was one attractive female there organizing the whole thing. Within minutes of talking to her I realized that was becoming hopelessly attracted.

The problem is that it wasn’t a sexual attraction, it was rather like a burning need to feel and to know the person. I started asking her where she grew up, where she met devotees, tried to picture the place on the map and the more I talked the more obvious it became – I had a crush.

The problem with this is that unlike gross sexual desire that is nothing but an itch and can be dealt with, the “crush” is something that runs much much deeper and is practically incurable. That’s why I remembered Elvis with his “Can’t help falling in love with you” song. It hooks you up by your innards, your stomach drops, you start floating and your feet have no ground to stand on.

The problem is the sense of total helplessness, there’s nothing left in this body that is not affected in one way or another, no safe place, no shelter, and whatever you do or think becomes tinted with the ointment of irresistible attraction.

The problem is that there’s nothing in this body that could be similarly attracted to Krishna – it’s not its function, it’s not meant to have a crush on Krishna, that is a function of a soul but I have no awareness of myself as a soul yet, only as a body, and this body is falling in love like there’s no tomorrow.

In the Twilight series of vampire stories there were werewolves that were susceptible to “imprints” – once they met their soul mate they lost all freedom of choice, they were irresistibly attracted for life. Good for the society that values loyalty, an absolute nightmare for devotees who seek liberation from the bondage of their desires.

Perhaps this falling in love is the other side of coin of death – you know that you, as a soul, are not affected by it but you get to fight the full strength of your connection to your body. Death is unpleasant while falling in love is the sweetest thing that can happen to you but they are both illustrate the same materialistic bond.

Anyway, I was glad it happened in my dream and I was glad I realized how unfortunate such an incident could be. I’m too old to fall in love for reals, it doesn’t befit my status anymore, and it would be an earth shattering experience for my family life. Who needs this?

I don’t, but the curse of falling in love is that you can’t help it and you can’t even choose who to fall in love with. I guess it’s also similar to people who wake up one day and realize they are gay – they can fight it for a while but this genie is not going back into a bottle.

While giving in to the overwhelming attraction we also realize that the world as we knew it has ended, nothing will be same in our lives anymore. How can one continue with his sadhana under these circumstances? All our perception of ourselves as devotees doing certain things as our service turns upside down.

Glad I just had a dream about it. I secretly believe that Krishna plays out such dangerous situations in our dreams on purpose, so that we don’t have to deal with them in real life. That would be a huge relief.

I hope there’s nothing more to it but I’m thinking of a contingency plan just in case, meanwhile I was also glad I have “Govindam Adi Purusham” as my alarm ringtone, that shakes off all bad dreams in an instant.

Vanity thought #384. With us or against us

This saying is originally attributed to Jesus, though I heard he later modified it to sound less sinister than G.W. Bush version he introduced when he inaugurated his war on terror.

In the context of developing Krishna consciousness and going back to Godhead, however, I think it’s as uncompromising as Jesus’ original version.

From the very beginning I thought Krishna consciousness is the best thing in the world, in a sense “most appreciated”. Surely very few people know about it but I genuinely believe that God’s devotees actually form the cream of the society – the most educated, more prominent, richest individuals. Kali yuga, of course, screws everything up, but the wealthiest country in the world, the US, was build by sincere worshipers of Christ, so called WASP, there’s no denying it.

So I thought that progress in Krishna consciousness will eventually be appreciated by the whole world. We all cheer when devotees get acknowledged by the rest of the society, be it George Harrisson songs or HH Radhanath Swami meeting with presidents and Prime Ministers. I think that this is the path to perfection – with everybody throwing rose petals.

This attitude manifests in a variety of ways. We, for example, are absolutely convinced that we have the best philosophy in the world and we have answers to all questions. They just don’t know about it yet. We also believe that we present the most humane model of society – with no violence or intoxication or gambling or illicit sex. We believe that everyone would eventually give us credit for all those things.

We look at the devotees and we see perfect, fully accomplished human beings, or at least we want to see them that way.

The thing is, however, is that we are not with this world and they are not with us, they are against us and we stand against everything they hold most dear – their independence of God and their desire to be enjoyers. We can only pretend that we share the core values with them but we don’t. Our existence threatens them, they can’t have us around and lead “peaceful” lives of sense gratification.

Conversely, we can’t share their value structure either. Our concepts or right and wrong are fundamentally different, and let’s not talk about Krishna’s morals for a moment – it’s going to be disastrous.

They are not going to cheer our success and throw rose petals at us, they would seek various ways to validate their own values and that means they would never accept ours and they would try to bring us down to their level – feeling snug, safe and comfortable in their bodies and their “societies”.

We are far more likely to be condemned and humiliated for our faith in Krishna than appreciated and praised, they don’t need our logic and arguments, they don’t need our “high” moral standards – they want us to be sinners just like the rest of them, giving up reason for the great taste of a burger or any other national food that is supposed to be universally admired.

They want us to be good citizens and perfect patriots, putting the interests of the country above anything else. They would argue that serving the humanity is the best kind of worship. Not for us, sorry.

If Krishna ever sends vimanas to carry us to His planet no one will see them. People would probably be kicking and spitting on our agonizing bodies, moments from our deaths after being dragged through market places and publicly humiliated. Our relatives will, of course, cry, but that’s mostly for their own selfish reasons.

When Krishna said “My devotee will never perish” He might not have meant it as to be “universally worshiped”, not in Kali yuga at least. We can’t honestly expect a praiseworthy end to our material journey. In fact it’s going to be quite the opposite – we are expected to see ourselves as lowest of the lowest, with all the spite and indifference awarded for such a position, and it’s not just a figure of speech but an honest and blatantly obvious assessment of our situation.

So, we should welcome those who crush our egos as our best friends and stay as far away as possible from flatterers.

Actually, our only friends are devotees of the Lord, the rest of the world is in the “against us” category, forgetting this fact can lead to our eternal doom – quite within the grasp of developing true Krishna consciousness but never being able to make the last couple of steps.

Vanity thought #221. Paradigm shifts.

Ever since encountering Krishna consciousness we undergo several paradigm shifts. The first one is the most impressive one – we suddenly realize that there’s God watching over us and expecting our return. The sweetest moments of everyone’s life, no doubt about it.

Then we read the books, absorb the philosophy, and always wear very pink glasses. When we go to the temples everyone is a saint there, everyone is a pure devotee. We beg everyone’s mercy and we bask in it to our full satisfaction. We make a lot of progress in a very short time. Prema bhakti is just around the corner, maybe next morning when I wake up it will be there. Chanting, kirtans, prasadam – we’ve never seen so much bliss in our lives.

Then we move into the temple. Maybe it’s not a custom anymore but in the earlier days it was the natural next step. New sadhana seems like living on Goloka Vrindavana already, just need one more push to really feel it. Everything is easy – waking up in the morning, distributing books, preaching, sacrificing our lives for the mission of the spiritual master. You will never find a more determined bhaktas than those a few months short of their first initiation.

Then we start to settle in and that’s where we notice, for the first time in our lives, who the devotees around us really are. At first we tell ourselves that it’s okay, we came to a hospital and so we should expect to meet sick people but in a short while it starts resembling a mental asylum instead.

This is where we hit the second paradigm shift – we convince ourselves that we are a part of the select club of real devotees. We join our peers and we get the privilege of having some juniors around us, too. We got all the formalities right – initiation, second initiation, probably a respectable position in the temple hierarchy – we are truly in.

That realization of our own progress and importance and the maddening reality of a temple life lead us to become judgmental and critical of all others who can’t do a single thing right. It might not be so bad when we boss around new bhaktas but we start dispersing advice to our seniors, too – after all they are just like us, just a few years up the ladder, they are still human, not pure devotees for sure. In fact at this stage we are extremely skeptical about any pure devotees getting to live in this temple ever.

What naturally happens is that we commit enough aparadhas to seriously damage our enthusiasm for service. Material desires creep back – we get new dhotis, nice chaddars, an iPod, maybe a new computer, all for the service and for thinking of Krishna, of course. Then we get wives.

That is a third paradigm shift – we realize that we are nowhere near pure devotee level. Nowhere, never, not in this lifetime (well, maybe towards the end, when genitals stop working…)

If we overcome that big hit we emerge much stronger and humbler, much more appreciative of others, much more considerate, in some cases even the enthusiasm comes back. That’s when we really get noticed in the community, we might even become pillars, our lectures are sought out, maybe we’ll start giving seminars and travelling all over the place. We dispense wisdom and advice, we know shastras through realization, we made it. Another paradigm shift has been completed.

This is where we start teaching everyone. Not sannyasis and gurus yet, but we are watching them. They would often need our advice anyway, they can’t be expert in everything themselves. Sometimes they miss our advice and fumble things being left on their own. We are there to pick it up and put it back together. Marital advice, administrative matters – you name it, we know it inside out.

This is where we realize that gurus, sannyasis, and even Prabhupada himself were human. They have limitations, they are prone to making mistakes. We mean no disrespect, we just want to be helpful and make everything absolutely perfect.

If we step to that plate we complete yet another paradigm shift, so far the most dangerous of all, simply because the stakes are so high and we might become offensive towards really untouchable people.

Let me illustrate how it worked in Lord Chaitanya’s times. Jiva goswami was Rupa goswami’s nephew and he stayed with him in Vrindavana, serving his uncle and initiating spiritual master (it must have been sannyasa initiation). One day Sri Vallabhacharya of Shiva sampradaya visited Rupa goswami and pointed out a few mistakes in the new verses of Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu. Jiva goswami found a private opportunity to discuss them with Vallabhacharya and defend his uncle. Vallabhacharya was very impressed with his scholarship, Rupa goswami wasn’t.

In fact, Rupa goswami was incensed at Jiva goswami’s breach of etiquette – he was absolutely in no position to correct his seniors, devotees on the same level as his spiritual master. Right or wrong, knowledgeable or not – this is just not done. Sri Rupa goswami simply told Jiva to get lost, leave Vrindavan and don’t come back until he clears himself of his pride and bad attitude.

We must never ever “think objectively” when meeting senior vaishnavas. Objectively they might make mistakes here and there, it’s human nature, after all. Objectivity, however, is not devotion, it won’t give us love of God. As far as devotee is concerned – senior vaishnavas are guided by Krishna Himself and thus they cannot make mistakes by definition.

Objectively minded people might see things in terms of right and wrong, short, medium and long term. We are not objective people, however, we want devotion and we want unconditional surrender – everything Krishna does is right, every doubt that Krishna or His devotees committed a mistake is wrong.

Objectively, all other devotees we meet in our lives are on the same level as us – jivas, Lord’s marginal potency, prone to falling into an illusion. For our spiritual advancement, however, we assume a different position. We must treat our guru and his equals as representatives of Krishna, not as our equals in any sense, not as other humans, we must treat them as external manifestation of God, and also we must be trinad api sunichena.

For an objective observer this is plain silly – we can’t treat a mortal guru and his pals as God, this is delusion. We might respect them for what they have done in their lives but they are not God. If we want to live in a wider society we should drop this nonsense – no one can be God in this world, isn’t it our own philosophy, too?

Our current paradigm, if you followed me a few paragraphs earlier, assumes that we can see ourselves as part of the wider world and be vaishnavas, too. We practically set out to prove that we are not just some crazies wrapped in bedsheets, that we indeed are perfect gentlemen, just like Prabhupada wanted us to be.

Thus we understand that Prabhupada was not God, he was human, and he made a few mistakes here and there. Everybody can see that, he himself had a whole BBT department to correct errors in his books.

Objectively this is correct, devotionally it’s a massive fail.

For the sake of our spiritual health we cannot, under any circumstances, think that Prabhupada made any mistakes. Not with the Moon landing, not with astronomy, not with regulative principles – nothing, never, not possible by definition. Prabhupada was an external manifestation of Krishna, or Balarama, or Lord Nityananda specifically.

Maybe the problem is that we are still short of the last paradigm shift – seeing the whole world as working under the direction of Krishna and all devotees enjoying His special attention. Objectively speaking, I mean knowing that there’s nothing here but the play of Krishna’s energies, there are no such things as mistakes at all. Everything Krishna and His energies do is absolutely perfect and free from all illusion. We are not free from our illusion but that’s our problem. We see people making mistakes when it’s actually they are not doers of anything and every mistake is sanctioned by the Supersoul with utmost love and care and for that living soul’s ultimate well-being.

Before we get to that level we might try to see “mistakes” as Krishna’s special messages for us, too, as He knows exactly what He is doing and He personally oversees the process of committing those mistakes from start to finish and he knows how it might affect us.

If we see the “mistakes” then it’s probably a sign that we have the capacity to deal with them appropriately, too, and continue building our respect for the devotees that commit them. All to often, however, we decide that the mistakes are there so that we could come to the rescue and save the day. Sometimes it works, Vallabhacharya didn’t take any offense either, remember? That doesn’t heal the damage we made to our own spiritual advancement, however. If Rupa goswami didn’t point it our Jiva goswami wouldn’t have probably noticed it and continued living in Vrindavana and writing scholarly books, he had a perfect mind for that.

Rupa goswami, however, put him straight – this is not the attitude of an aspiring devotee amd it does not bring one closer to selfless loving service to Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. Jiva goswami probably didn’t really need this lesson himself, it was all arranged for our benefit, just like Arjuna’s apparent confusion before the battle.

Jiva goswami didn’t leave Vrindavan, btw, he was on his way and then he just couldn’t go any farther, he stopped and started fasting. It attracted attention of some other devotees and then they asked Sanatana goswami for help who eventually settled the matter between Rupa and Jiva goswamis, so it all ended well.

I’m not sure there will be help just around the corner every time we decide to correct Srila Prabhupada, or any senior devotee for that matter.

We just have to hold on until that very last shift to the real Krishna consciousness. I hope we are not too far away and Krishna will take care of us so that we get there safely.

Vanity thought #191. Life of begging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what is left then? Begging. Eternally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanity thought #153. Identity crisis.

I don’t know who I am anymore. I know I’m not this man. I know I’m not this body and I’m most likely not this mind, memories and intelligence, too. I haven’t felt the separation from subtle elements yet but it must be just around the corner, next logical step.

But who am I?

Many years ago I picked up the first volume of Srimad Bhagavatam and learned that I’m not this material body but an eternal spirit soul, covered by ignorance of my true nature. I’ve also learned that to rediscover my lost spiritual identity I had to join the temple, shave my head, eat only food offered to God, chant sixteen rounds of japa everyday, follow the instructions of the spiritual master and so on.

That certainly seemed like a totally appropriate proposal at that time. It still is, but the situation changed, more on that later.

Anyway, while living in the temple, doing all those things and serving the sankirtana mission I developed a new identity – a young man with sikha, chanting sixteen rounds a day, serving the sankirtana mission and so on. It was alright, I guess, one can certainly imagine himself to be much much worse.

One little thing was left out unattended, though. At that time I thought I have no place for sex in new life, it wasn’t part of my identity then. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right and maybe there was not much support in our society back then and maybe we had wrong ideals at the time but one way or another the hormones eventually took over and my freshly minted identity just crumbled.

I guess it served its purpose because instead of blaming the ISKCON for taking the best years of my life and spitting me out with nothing, as some of our enemies were whispering in my ear, I actually made a career out of a skill I learned at the temple, and it wasn’t much of a choice for me either, it just happened, by divine providence.

Then I was busy building another identity, a responsible family man, someone people look up to and cite as an example. It was a helluva ride and it was fun while it lasted but eventually this identity has crumbled, too.

And just as I was starting to worry what’s going to happen to me next, still under the “family man” illusion, I was suddenly shown that I’m not this body at all, it’s just some shlep shuffling around without any clue what’s going on around him and no clue about his future. It looked pathetic and hopeless, tossed about by the waves of nature. Am I going to tie my fortunes to this abomination?

But who am I otherwise? Do I have a choice?

Can I go back to my temple days identity? It doesn’t seem like an option anymore, I am not a temple material, I have no business of being there.

Then there’s some major philosophical problem with that brahmachari suit. When I was wearing it many many years ago I thought I was going to heaven. Just like that – put on tilak, purify my senses, eat prasadam for seven years so that all the cells in my body became spiritual, and just step into the heavens.

Okay, there were many more conditions, I had to serve the sankirtana, I had to do so many other things, I had to please my spiritual master, I had to serve other devotees, I had to perform all sixty four limbs of sadhana or whatever it is properly called, to lazy to check now, it’s from Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu/Nectar of Devotion.

It didn’t sound like a lot back then, just go through the checklist and entrance into Krishna’s pastimes was guaranteed.

I love the look of a young brahmachari, I’m sure Krishna’s heart melts, too, but, as far as I know, there aren’t any twentieth century shaved eggheads in His pastimes in Vrindavan, or else they have to rewrite the Krishna Book.

Maybe Lord Chaitanya can sneak some of them into His sankirtana parties but I seriously doubt they can enter without a total makeover.

That’s just a funny idea, but when it gets to praying and philosophy it becomes much more serious.

Yesterday I had a whole new appreciation for “use the body in Krishna’s service” idea. When I clearly saw the difference between my body and me it made much more sense. When I don’t see the difference I could just as well say “engage myself”.

I also suspect there’s a whole new understanding of “pure devotees sometimes take material bodies to help preaching mission” idea. When Lord Chaitanya descended into this world many His associates from the spiritual world descended, too, and for most part they had no idea who they were. Haridas Thakur, for example, didn’t go around telling everyone he was Brahma, or Prahlad Maharaj, so we still don’t know for certain.

Vrindavan Das Thakur is believed to be incarnation of Vyasadev but anyone who has read his Chaitanya Bhagavat can’t help but notice that he didn’t think himself as Vyasadev for a second. He actually left a lot of details out for “real” Vyasadev to fill in later, he specifically mentioned it at least a dozen times.

When all these devotees were descending here, were they under control of Lord’s internal or external potency? Silly question. What about me and people like me? Are we under influence of Yoga Maya as well? Another silly question.

So when I hear that many demigods are taking birth to help ISKCON mission it might very well be true but there are also many, I suspect a lot more people who are just ordinary souls making another step towards Krishna. We are not playing part in His ISKCON pastime, we are not going to wrap it up and go back to Vaikuntha, it’s not a game for us. If we screw up we are done for, if they screw up they still go back.

For them it was a conscious decision to come here, for us it’s an inescapable prison. We should not be imitating them, which, I think, might happen if we imitate their prayers.

Take a common theme, for example: “Please, Krishna, if you want me to stay and serve you here I will happily do it.” Krishna doesn’t want us to stay here. That’s madness.

Or sometimes we might imagine that we are on a some kind of mission to liberate the universe. Can’t liberate ourselves from honoring prasadam service yet think we have control over the universe. Our guru is on a mission, we are just helping, mostly for our own benefit. Krishna liberates people, not us.

Or what about spreading the love of God? We, conditioned souls, don’t have any love of God by definition, we just hope that people would appreciate Srila Prabhupada. We, as ourselves, might spread a lot of unwanted things instead, our anarthas, for example. We just as contagious that way as the next karmi.

But let me get back to “Let me serve Krishna here” prayer again. Who is this “me” here? I wasn’t given this body to serve, I was given it to enjoy myself. As soon as I agree to become this “me” all my service is over. A conditioned soul, identifying itself with a material body cannot render devotional service. It can strive either for enjoyment or for liberation.

We only can hope that by Krishna’s grace the body will become purified enough so that we could see that it’s not us, that we have nothing to do with it at all and Krishna doesn’t need it either. It might be of use to the preaching movement, though, that’s all it is really good for, that’s how we, the spirit souls, get purified from our misconception about our identity so there’s no “me” anymore.

Sometimes it sounds as if we want to enter into Krishna’s lila just as we are, sweaty, hungry and constipated, probably thinking that it doesn’t matter to Krishna, He loves us anyway. Who is us? Krishna loves our material bodies?

Krishna is not a pervert, we are. We think that by selling a few (thousand) books we made our bodies spiritual, that they are now our spiritual identities. They are not, never will be.

These bodies, when properly utilized, earn us, real us, the souls within, a large amount of brownies with Krishna who might one day relieve us of our misidentification and reveal us our real forms.

Until then the body is a prison forcing us to live by its rules, we can’t take it to Krishna, no matter how much we like it. We can’t make it love Krishna either – they are just bodies, some chemicals, minds and egos, they are dead matter.

Same thing with “Please let me love you, Krishna”. Who is this me that’s going to be doing the loving? Another pervert?

I’m sorry, I’m just ranting, I just got confused with everything that includes “I” and “me”. I know what “I” is not but I don’t know what it is, that’s all.

Oh, and it would be blasphemy to think that bodies of other vaishnavas are just puss and urine. Sometimes I have tendency to extrapolate like that. Mental note to myself – stop now!

Vanity thought #151. In love.

In love with myself, that is, not with people of opposite sex or, God forbid, Krishna.

I actually don’t always see it that way but there was some story I’ve seen on TV that made me pause and think about it.

It was a story of a woman in love, she didn’t mind that she was a mistress and her lover was married. She didn’t mind when she was told that he uses her position at the bank to launder money, she didn’t mind when she saw the proof that the money was financing terrorist activities. She didn’t mind when her love offered her to run away with him as a fugitive, hunted by CIA. She was still in love with him.

Turns out he lured her from CIA protection not to elope but to kill her. He almost strangled her when CIA operatives shot him dead. She didn’t mind, she caught her breath and hold tight to his dead body, crying tears of separation.

Great love story, on the surface, but what struck me there was that she was not in love with the man, she was in love with her own image of herself as being in love.

When she looked at herself in the mirror she saw this devoted woman, loyal to her lover with all her heart, all her being. When she saw this image in the mirror she loved it. The actual man didn’t matter anymore, she was maintaining and protecting her own perception of herself, her own ego.

When I thought about it that way I realized that this problem is far more common than I thought. Typical example is rich, middle aged women dabbling in philanthropy. They don’t care about starving African kids, they wouldn’t touch one with rubber gloves, but the image of themselves being so charitable is irresistible. They do it to boost their own ego.

Over the years I’ve collected enough little experiences here and there to convince myself that a frighteningly large number of people do good things not for others but because they’ve been told it would make them feel better themselves.

A man opens a door for a woman because he is a gentleman. Right, he doesn’t actually open it for a woman, he opens it because HE wants to look like a gentleman.

Someone finds a wallet on the street and decides to return it to the owner. How many times it is because he wants to look good in front of his friends and family, or because his consciousness told him it was the right thing to do? Either way, it’s not because the person who has lost the wallet might actually need it back, desperately. Let’s not discount the number of people who’d return the wallet only for a small reward, too.

All this makes me even more suspicious of modern concept of compassion, I suspect there’s a large doze of self interest in it, but I think I’ll write about it again later.

I don’t know if things have always been this way, probably yes, but popularization of ancient Chinese “Art of war” by Sun Tsu might have raised it to the whole new level of duplicity. Hardly anyone has read the whole book themselves, though, but its ideas made its way into Business Administration courses and so influenced the basic, fundamental moral principles and values of thousands if not millions business and political leaders. Its reach is truly frightening when you consider that these ideas are applied to billions of consumers around the world who happily play along and don’t even realize that they’ve been pwned.

The main idea, the essence of what I’m complaining about, is manipulating people’s self interest in such a way that they agree to accept your terms because they think it’s good for them. The offered deal might be fair and square, that’s not my concern, it’s the part where self interest has been made the main guiding force in people’s decision making and in their lives in general that I find abhorring.

Don’t we have enough selfishness going around already? Doesn’t the world provide more than enough as it is?

In vedic concept of life the whole society was operating to reduce self interest, reduce one’s attachment to one’s illusory self. From arranged marriages to burning bodies to accepting a spiritual master – the false ego must always be under pressure, always in check.

Let’s not forget the impersonalism, too. We might be determined to fight it tooth and nail but renunciation it preached for centuries also made people value their self interest a lot less conducive to spiritual practice. Looks like the only place to escape the pressure of pandering to self interest is prison. There one could finally be free.

I mean, the ability to renounce everything is one of the powers ascribed to Bhagavan Himself. You can’t really claim success in your own life if you can’t renounce it when the time comes.

Whatever your self interest is, you always have to put dharma above it, that’s the rule.

It was more or less the same before Sun Tsu in the western world, too, and Sun Tsu can’t be held personally responsible, but proliferation of these views has certainly made the world a lot less.

Didn’t Krishna and Balarama study these same things things themselves, btw? Srimad Bhagavatam says they learned military science and politics but in Krishna Book Srila Prabhupada specifically mentions “practical psychology” – how to influence another’s mind and thus induce another to act according to one’s desire. Prabupada also says that sometimes it’s referred as hypnotism. I don’t know about that, maybe there’s a doze in hypnotism involved in modern practice, too, that’s not really the point.

The point is that having grown up in this society I don’t even realize the actions of my self interest anymore. I love being a devotee, I love writing a blog, I love doing this and that, and I love being unattached to things, too. I love all these nice images of myself.

I chant so that at the end of the day I can see myself as a better devotee, more dedicated, more detached. It elevates my image, even if only in my own eyes. Actually, it’s only my own eyes that really matter. I don’t care what others think of me as long as I see myself as perfect.

Sometimes I catch myself watching my own actions and commenting and commending myself, too. Sometimes, not always. Last week I’ve learned to shoot down these thoughts as soon as they register but I’m not doing a very good job of it yet, also there might be some other manifestations of my love for myself I’m not aware of yet, I’ll keep looking.

There must be some offence against the Holy Names here, I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but I think this is one of the things that I should be conscientious about and purge from my mind if I were to achieve success in purifying my heart.

Good luck to me!

Oh, and I’ve read once that MBA courses are adopting Bhagavat Gita, too, for the times when motivating people’s self interest doesn’t work anymore, for when they need to bring the “big guns”. It’s a fascinating subject, I suppose, but I’m not qualified to comment on it.

Vanity thought #126. Give me a little maya.

For the past few days I was struggling with “trinad api sunichena” verse. It just doesn’t compute in my brain.

I do sort of accept the attitude but I don’t feel it whatsoever. I might force my mind into respecting people but this respect is only artificial, it doesn’t come from the heart. Occasionally I catch myself treating people with supreme disdain, and not only because I am a “devotee”, most often because of some material considerations.

Altogether I can’t describe by real attitude as anything else but condescending.

If I was approaching Krishna in any sense it would have felt completely opposite.

Hmm, that’s not entirely true, I take it back, as a kanishtha adhikari it’s entirely natural to feel superiority towards others.

That admission, however, opens another can of worms – I expect myself to be on a slightly more advanced platform after all these years. It’s too hard to accept that I haven’t progressed very far, if at all.

Next line, “taror iva sahishnuna”, is completely incomprehensible. What does tolerance mean in practice? Is it about chanting in a hot car without complains? I sort of understand how a tree would behave there, but there’s certainly more to it. A tree, in addition to not complaining about anything, also provides shade to the person who is going to chop it down in a minute.

How to translate that into practice? How to cultivate this attitude? Total mystery.

Maybe it means not feeling animosity to people who attack us in any way. Yeah, occasionally I can do that, but, I bet the key to being a tree is to NEVER snap. The success in being a tree is not in how long I keep patience but in never ever snapping. If I snap – I’m not a tree at all. Every outburst of anger resets me back to square one. Then I start all over again, there’s no other choice, it’s completely natural and it’s all very logical.

The demand of the verse, however, is to maintain the “taror iva sahishuna” always, and also chant the Holy Names at the same time. Without it very no progress. Evidently.

Then there’s “amanina” – no desire for respect from others. I find that totally impossible. Absolutely. No way. Even pretending doesn’t work for any period of time.

Finally there’s “manadena” – offering respect to others. It’s probably the easiest, we, including me, offer respects all the time to all kinds of people even outside of the devotional circles. Judging by how the previous three demands go I think I don’t even understand what offering respect means, it’s highly unlikely that I’m so successful with it, relatively speaking.

Okay, I understand that point – my large ego gets in the way. The real problem is that I don’t actually see it. Whenever I do some remotely devotional service see my own insignificance. Whenever I observe any degree of success I realize that it is only possible by Krishna’s grace and for His own pleasure, too. Whenever I try to do something I realize that I have no qualifications and it’s only by Krishna’s arrangement that anything ever happens.

The result is – I don’t see my ego anymore. But it’s still there.

So one day I thought it would be good to pray to the Lord to relieve me from the burden of my ego. I prayed to Krishna to show me my real position so that I would become humbler, false ego comes from imperfect knowledge, from the lack of real vision. By Krishna’s mercy that can be corrected.

So far I’ve got only half of the blessing.

By Krishna’s mercy I’ve been shown the size of the thing, now I know how big my ego is, at least I have an estimate – too big for me to handle. Maybe even bigger than that.

The problem is – I can’t do anything with the ego of this size tied to my chest – my hands can’t reach anything, I can’t see the path in front of me – it is a very very inconvenient thing to carry.

What now? How is it any better?

When I didn’t know how big my ego was I could go anywhere and do anything, there were literally no limits. Want to start another blog and even call it “FakeKrishna” – no problem, I’ll just pray to the Lord and He will help.

With a huge ego I can’t even pray anymore. No sound comes out of my heart at all.

When I didn’t know my ego was so big I could whip up a long post here anytime anywhere. With the full weight of it bearing on my heart I can’t find any inspiration at all, my heart is suffocating.

Whatever comes into my mind I now perceive as insincere.

Technically, I just became more aware and more sensitive about the sphere of my interests. Every little bump or prick sends my mind into a frenzy.

This post, in the meantime, is getting just as long as any other and it should be the proof that I’m wrong but my intention today was to write about Krishna, not about my wounded pride, but that’s all I can talk about, I’ve even chanted extra four or five rounds before sitting down – nothing about Krishna at all.

Now I’m aware of my problem but it’s only half the job – I expected the problem to become smaller.

What is the use of this half blessing, what is the use of this knowledge if it can’t cut my ego to a manageable size? And isn’t it better to wade in ignorance instead? Seriously, ISKCON had years of spectacular growth led by people who, later turned out, were not as advanced in their Krishna consciousness as expect. When they were opening one temple after another and bringing new devotees by thousands they just didn’t know that only a few years later they would be doing something else, it was completely unthinkable at the time yet their efforts were still very effective. Would they have done the same things with the same enthusiasm if they knew what was going to happen to them? What kind of effect it could have had on their faith?

Does it mean little maya here and there might actually be useful?

Isn’t it better to avoid wounding my ego in order for me to achieve anything at all? I always assumed that regularly punching my ego is good for me, keeps me in place, keeps me humble. At this moment, however, it keeps me bleeding and requiring sutures and rest. Is it making me humbler? I don’t see how.

I’d like to chant my rounds without thinking about my problems but that seems to be impossible.

Krishna, please send you maya back.

Or, at least, I need an explanation and assurances that this pain is not in vain.