Vanity thought #1429. Swing vote 2

Yesterday I got to the point where we can exercise our free will and either improve or diminish our chances of reacquiring our eternal devotional service. Let’s talk more about that.

Being servants of the Lord is our constitutional position, we don’t have any other spiritual identity, we can only cover it with our false ego, and so we assume that pure devotional service is our birthright. We just need to shake off our illusions and take it.

I bet it’s not that simple. Service means interaction and so we can’t serve without Kṛṣṇa. In fact, service starts only after Kṛṣṇa reveals Himself and mercifully decides to accept it. He is Supreme Independent, however, and we can’t demand or even expect His mercy, we can only hope in anticipation. Since He is not under the material conception of time even a little delay on His part might easily translate into several lifetimes in our calculations.

The answer to this is patience. We measure patience by how long one could maintain his attitude or his practice under unfavorable conditions. Then one inevitably loses it. Spiritual patience is different in that it, like all spiritual things, is immeasurable. Once we attain it it will never go away and we’ll never lose it. Kṛṣṇa might delay His mercy indefinitely but so would last our hope of receiving it – it would be indefinite, too, and without any discomfort, for there’s no such thing as discomfort on the spiritual platform.

Patiently waiting for the mercy would become a kind of relationship with the Lord – He is hiding and we are waiting, and even more, according to Lord Caitanya, this love in separation feels indefinitely stronger than pleasure of being in personal presence of the Lord.

In our situation where we don’t have any prior experience of meeting Kṛṣṇa we can only have a glimpse of this transcendental emotion, the kind devotees of Vṛndāvana feel when they know Kṛṣṇa is coming and can’t wait, but it is nevertheless spiritual – if we get it. As such it could last for eternity and we wouldn’t even notice passage of material time. The fact that we feel under pressure and afraid to lose it is a sign that we aren’t on the liberated platform yet. If we were we wouldn’t be constantly checking our progress or progress of other devotees, these things would become meaningless and unwelcome distractions to us in comparison with sweetness of eternally waiting for Kṛṣṇa’s mercy.

Another aspect of it is that Kṛṣṇa does not and probably will not appear to us while we are still in this world. It doesn’t mean that we have to wait for the next life, hopefully in His presence, to achieve perfection. We should never forget out guru instead because guru IS manifestation of the Lord specifically for us. Lacking the ability to see Kṛṣṇa we can express our love and devotion to our guru just the same, and it WILL be reciprocated.

If we do not see Kṛṣṇa in our guru and lament His absence we are absolute fools only pretending to be spiritually realized. If we can’t establish ourselves in service to our guru but wait for service to Kṛṣṇa Himself we are simply mad. We kill all our chances of spiritual progress there and then, for we commit a gravest offense by considering our guru to be an ordinary man.

We might not say so out loud and we might not even think so to ourselves but if we do not see guru as a direct manifestation of God infused with all necessary energies and powers we see him as an ordinary man, there are no other options.

Why does it happen? Because of vestiges of materialistic thinking and our immaturity, of course, and as such we are all bound to make this mistake. The question then becomes how to spot it and correct it so we can move forward in our spiritual progress.

Living in the materialistic society we naturally absorb their values and one of them is the idea that we can learn things through ascending process, that by reading books on spirituality we can become spiritual, for example. Essential aspect of ascending process is collaboration with others, we need to constantly check that everyone is on the same page, do a peer review of sorts, and form a community of like minded persons. This is not unique to materialists, of course, but when we end up in association with similarly deluded people we ask if they see our guru as manifestation of God, they tell that they don’t, we accept their answer, and that’s how we commit a spiritual suicide.

They tell us to look at a bigger picture, to place our guru in certain age and time, to see how his behavior is/was conditioned by his surroundings and the culture he grew up in, and imply that if our guru was placed in our circumstances he would surely behave differently, issue different orders, adopt different values. We might even conclude that he would have read less books then us and so be less spiritually educated. With the internet at our fingertips we can easily conclude that our guru was an ignorant rube and his knowledge is lacking in comparison to ourselves. Whatever he says, we are ready to second guess, double check, and correct him, or maybe mercifully think “I know why he would say things like that, he probably read only this and this but never seen that and that and so couldn’t place his quote in proper context, but I know better. Yes, I agree, he is probably right here, but, god, he speaks with so much ignorance I can’t take it anymore”.

This is how people start questioning their seniors, this is how they question their guru, this is how they question Śrīla Prabhupāda, this is how they question Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, this is how they question Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, if necessary. If they still consider themselves followers of Gauḍīya Vaiṣnavism it becomes a question of which particular deviation they decided to take shelter in. These days it’s still possible to find deviant vaiṣṇavas of pre-Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura lineage so denigration of previous ācāryas stops with him. If they had someone who disagreed with Six Gosvāmīs they would diss Rūpa and Sanātana, too, no doubt.

Obviously, we shouldn’t fall into this trap and avoid discussing our guru with non-disciples and don’t ask for their opinions, and the same goes for our more immediate authorities, too. Spiritual progress is a personal thing, we can share it only with those who will appreciate it equally, we should be able to see who they are and separate them from less mature and so still envious devotees. In other words, we should pick our association very carefully. If we don’t, they might be right in calling us kaniṣṇthas, though they do it for a different reason. We stop being kaniṣṭhas when we stop listening to them.

Whew, that was a lot or words but none of them on the topic. I don’t know what happened, I guess I got sidetracked. Well, it doesn’t look like it was a total waste, so I’ll continue next time.

Vanity thought #1192. Envy of Krishna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanity thought #1191. Deadly sins – envy

Just watched the second episode of 7 Deadly Sins, this one about envy, it was largely disappointing. It again had three segments, and since the first one featured some very explicit images I’m not going to link it here.

While they haven’t done anything wrong, they somehow misrepresented envy as an innocent domain of harmless freaks. In their presentation it wasn’t deadly at all but we are encouraged to rather show pity on them, maybe with tints of outrage here and there.

Envy is born of coveting something possessed by others, we are all affected by it and it affects our perception of the world, makes us “green with envy”, it leads to anger and aggression. Not according to this show, however.

Their first segment was about men fantasizing about being women, or, specifically, a small family business selling fake “female skin” suits that one can pull on and look just like a woman, with all anatomical details, full face with only slits for eyes. One can then admire himself in the mirror or take selfies, put on female clothing and so on. I seriously doubt people venture out in public dressed like that so it’s a private pastime only.

However despicable, there’s no great harm in that. It’s a fulfillment of one’s desire and so does not directly leads to anger, it rather gives an outlet for the crossdressers and transgenders or whoever is into this thing. I don’t think these people are even particularly envious of women, they are rather full of admiration for female form.

The man interviewed for this segment, in full “femme skin” outfit looked like a harmless freak, not someone green with envy. It’s cute how he tries to describe himself as normal but unusual because term “freak” offends him.

Second segment is even less provocative, it’s about a man who wants to be disabled. He got himself a wheel chair and he spends all his free time in it, pretending his legs don’t work. Again, not the best presentation on envy. He is not doing it for handicapped parking, though he is probably pleased with attention and service he sometimes undeservedly gets. He doesn’t often go outside, though, mostly wheeling around his apartment. Harmless freak again.

Come to think of it, I might have something in common with his affliction when I fantasize about being stripped of all the possessions and being forced to rely only on the Holy Name to survive and to entertain myself. It would be an artificial renunciation for me and I’m sure I wouldn’t last a day like that, I’m also not sure if it could be described as envy. Is it?

Am I really envious of real renunciates? Are they even real renunciates as opposed to those who engage material facilities in service of the Lord? In any case, it looks more like an aspiration to me than envy. Snow White was poisoned out of envy while I don’t feel any negative emotions like that at all, nor do I attach this renunciation to any particular person to be envious of.

This is an important point about envy – it must be directed at someone. Simply desiring wealth, for example, is not envy, it becomes envy when one fixates on a particular person whose riches he wants to surpass or emulate.

Third segment was about women buying very realistically looking baby dolls, so realistic that one can put them in a stroller or carry them around and people wouldn’t even suspect it’s not a real child. Women interviewed there all had their own children already, one had five of them, another is too old to have any more, so what’s the harm of them playing with dolls? Who are they envious of? Themselves in their younger age?

There are worse manifestations of Kali yuga affected obsessions than unfulfilled maternal instinct, as long as they are not stealing other people’s babies they are fairly innocuous. Freaky, but innocuous. There were shop assistants caught in this video who remained totally untroubled by adult women carrying baby looking dolls and trying baby dresses on them. Like I said, there are bigger problems in this world than excess of material feelings.

What all these presentations miss is that envy is not just for freaks, its domain is in everyone’s heart and we are all affected. What they also missed is showing how envy can ruin one’s life, so they made into a non-issue unrelated to our everyday lives. How did it become one of the deadly sins then? Unlike gluttony, there’s nothing deadly or harmful about it here.

Well, if they failed to demonstrate what envy really is and why it is dangerous, so what do we, as devotees, know about it? We know that we should be free from it, and that it’s our original envy towards God that brought us down to the material world, but that is obviously not all that there is to it.

I, for example, can’t explain myself why envy is supposed to be deadly, apart from general understanding that cultivating attachments is bad for spiritual progress. Perhaps envy compounds it by forcing us to commit offenses against people we are envious off, or at least to maintain offensive attitude.

There’s this curious verse to add more confusion to the matter (CC Adi 5.35):

    As through devotion to the Lord one can attain His abode, many have attained that goal by abandoning their sinful activities and absorbing their minds in the Lord through lust, envy, fear or affection.

One can attain Lord’s abode by absorbing his mind in the Lord through envy??? Originally, this verse is from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and translation there does not have the word envy (SB 7.1.30), dveṣāt there is translated as hatred, and this is not the only case of Prabhupāda using these meanings interchangeably.

There’s this phrase in purport to SB 4.25.24:

    The symptoms of rāga and dveṣa (attachment and envy) are described in Bhagavad-gītā (3.34)

but in the Gītā verse itself Śrīla Prabhupāda translated dveṣa as detachment and aversion (BG 3.34).

I don’t think we can make any clear conclusions as to why Prabhupāda used envy and hatred as synonyms and whether we can always treat them as such. Bhāgavatam verse is interesting because it mixes lust and envy as possible means of attaining the Lord but actual examples are at the opposing ends of devotional spectrum. Gopīs achieved Kṛṣṇa through lust while envy was displayed by Śiśupāla. Kaṃsa reached Kṛṣṇa by fear. Are we allowed to emulate them? Obviously not, their absorption in the Lord is not bhakti and therefore should be rejected.

There’s a place for envy in the spiritual world, but we can’t emulate that down here either. For us, envy is inadmissible in any shape or form. Kṛṣṇa makes non-enviousness a condition for receiving His message or for spiritual advancement in general. In one of His last instructions to Arjuna He says that one should listen to Bhagavad Gītā without envy (BG 18.71): who listens with faith and without envy becomes free from sinful reactions and attains to the auspicious planets where the pious dwell.

WITH faith and WITHOUT envy. Two conditions, what can be clearer?

In addition, Śrīla Prabhupāda often stressed that one must not be envious of an ācārya, which is easy to understand, too. It’s a bit more difficult to spot envy in our hearts, though. Our material life is based on envy of Kṛṣṇa and so envy becomes all-pervasive, to the degree that we don’t even notice it anymore. How often do we notice that we want to remember ślokas like others, or make compelling arguments like others, or even better than others? How often do we want to offer corrections to Bhagavatam speakers or other devotees? How often do we catch ourselves trying to be more knowledgeable than others or more respected than others?

I think all these feelings have something to do with underlying envy. I mean every time we feel any discomfort caused by comparing ourselves to other people it is envy by definition. Sometimes it’s irrational and impossible to contain, we just wants it.

How to deal with it? Simple, really, it’s one of those deep seated impurities in our hearts that is cleaned out by chanting. Just like any other desire for sense enjoyment, satisfying it, or dealing with symptoms, would bring only a temporary relief while the root cause must be dealt on a fundamental level.

As for symptoms, there’s a neat trick to contain envy. Latin word for envy is invidia, or literally “absence of vision”. It’s born of ignorance of our position and lack of appreciation for what is given to us. Out of envy we desire things we don’t need, once we understand that we would stop coveting them. That’s why in Bhagavad Gītā envy is contrasted with equal vision. “I’m not envious of anyone, I’m equal to everyone,” says Kṛṣṇa (BG 9.29). Or take this verse (BG 4.22):

    He who is satisfied with gain which comes of its own accord, who is free from duality and does not envy, who is steady in both success and failure, is never entangled, although performing actions.

Basically, we just need a little knowledge and we need to accept that Kṛṣṇa has provided us with everything we require for our progress. Satisfied in this knowledge we will have no reason to envy anyone.

I don’t think I’m ready to talk about our original envy of Kṛṣṇa but as far as every day situations in the material world these simple instructions should do the trick.