Vanity thought #1605. Random fit

There are some Christians who love to open their Bible and pick random verses to find answers to their pertinent problems. There are also those who don’t think it works. When it does, however, they tell everyone about this “miracle”. It’s hard to take these claims seriously, mostly because the connections look very stretched and, with enough imagination, you can probably connect each and every verse with anything you want.

Anyway, I had a few spare minutes today and I decided to read a random verse from our books, too. I had a mobile phone with me and I thought it would be a perfect randomizer. Phones screens are still relatively small so if you want to pick a link that you want you really have to read and watch where you are clicking, but phones are perfect for flipping the page to let it scroll however far it feels like going and then poking in the middle of the screen on whatever happens to be there. So I opened vedabase.com/en/sb/ and picked a random Bhāgavatam verse. TBH, it wasn’t really random – the selected Canto must be somewhere in the middle, then the selected chapter would be somewhere in the middle, too, and then the selected verse. There was a very little chance I’d pick SB 1.1.3 or something like that. I ended up with SB 7.7.8:

    Prahlāda Mahārāja said: My dear King, the source of my strength, of which you are asking, is also the source of yours. Indeed, the original source of all kinds of strength is one. He is not only your strength or mine, but the only strength for everyone. Without Him, no one can get any strength. Whether moving or not moving, superior or inferior, everyone, including Lord Brahmā, is controlled by the strength of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Random or not, but this is a relatively famous śloka we all remember. Maybe not Sanskrit but the verse is certainly known to every devotee, we can’t tell the story of Prahlāda Mhārāja without mentioning it. I don’t want to sound superstitious but this could be considered a very good pick on any random day and it also fits perfectly with the theme of my recent half a dozen posts.

But first – the superstitious part. There’s no such thing as a superstition, it’s an atheist invention and there’s nothing more to it than that. I don’t mean that all superstitions are real and atheists are totally wrong about it, I mean that people who “believe” in them are atheists, too – because they do not see the Lord and His connection to every material or spiritual phenomenon. When they find what they think is such a connection, a proof of supernatural supervision, they still do not see all-pervasive nature of these “interventions”.

I mean how can they talk about “interventions” when the Lord controls movements of every single blade of grass? They still see the world as separate from the Lord and the Lord only occasionally interfering, and not even being subtle about it – because these “seers” of omens can predict His every move. Well, not every seer attributes superstitions to God’s hand but that makes them only slightly more atheistic than those who do. The Lord controls everything, in and out, in the past and the future, and He knows everything and He arranged everything to happen exactly like He wanted long long time ago. He might delegate running the universe but it doesn’t take away His complete cognizance. It’s also not a matter of how much He can be bothered to remember like it is with us, He remembers absolutely everything in full, including the future, so the verb “remember” doesn’t apply either, it’s as anthropomorphic as us assuming He’s got the same memory as us but better.

To be fair, I didn’t mean these people to be atheists in a sense of openly rejecting God’s existence, I meant they do not perceive Him and so act as if He isn’t there or as if His powers are very limited.

The more important part is the meaning of the verse itself – the Lord is the source of everyone’s power. The way we usually tell it we stop at that and continue onto how the Lord was the source of Prahlāda’s power, a five year old boy who defied the mightiest person in the universe, but let’s pause a little and contemplate other implications of this śloka, namely how the Lord was the source of Hiraṇyakaśipu’s power as well.

Normally, we’d acknowledge it in the sense that Hiraṇyakaśipu was misusing power he ultimately derived from the Lord and then we cheer justice being restored but let’s rewind it a little – “the demon’s power came from the Lord”, and let it sink in. Do we normally see the power of our opponents as coming from Kṛṣṇa? And why do we cheer defeat of such power? Why, if we know that everyone draws his power from Kṛṣṇa, we want to defeat and destroy them?

I think that’s the difference between us and Prahlāda Mahārāja, who is one of the principal mahājanas. He had absolutely no beef with his father and absolutely no desire to see His father defeated and deflated. We, in his place, would be all “let’s kill the demon, let’s show him who is the boss, someone must finally stop him.” It’s not a very mature approach – what we call a “demon” is nothing else but a display of Lord’s prowess.

Of course there’s also a matter of the soul occupying this particular corner of the universe being inimical towards God but we should know better than accept his deluded claims of ownership as real. When we do and demand that this soul was stripped off its demoniac powers we display the same delusional mentality as he does. It’s not his powers, it’s Lord’s powers. They never slipped out of Lord’s control and they never belonged to anybody else.

When we see a display of Lord’s might we should rather offer it respect and appreciation, how else would a devotee react? All learning, all remembrance, all ability to argue, all ability to fight – it all comes from the Lord, even if it’s used in so-called opposition to Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism. No one can oppose Gauḍiyā vaiṣṇavism just as no one can oppose Viṣṇu Himself, it is simply not possible.

What we see as opposition is only a display of our unfortunate ignorance – when we go along with other people’s foolish claims and accept them as substantial. They are clearly in illusion, what’s our excuse?

All the claims about other spiritual paths and methods being equal to and even superior to ours exist only on the material platform, they have no spiritual substance whatsoever, and so we shouldn’t lower ourselves to that level and entertain them for real. It’s like someone rolling his boogers, sticking them into his mouth, claiming that they are very tasty and nutritious, and offering you to try some, too. It’s insane, especially if coming from a grown up man, and you are not going to win that argument no matter what you try. Why would you want to step into this delusional world at all?

And at the same time all the arguments they bring, all the quotes, all the logic, all the support, are a display of Kṛṣṇa’s powers and as such deserves our worship. It’s not meant to harm us just as Prahlāda Mahārāja didn’t see his father as a threat to himself – it’s Lord’s energy and the only “harm” it could do is to our false ego.

A devotee literally doesn’t have enemies because “enemies” is a product of the illusion, for a devotee there’s only the Lord and His energies, and then other spirit souls relating to the Lord in their own manner. None of that is even remotely threatening, rather the opposite.

Fear is a product of māyā, as simple as that.

Vanity thought #447. Fear

A devotee is supposed to be fearless because he relies on the protection of the Lord who is in control of every atom in the universe and every thought in the head of our “adversaries”, but what to do when the Lord Himself gets scared?

Because this is what happened to Krishna when he broke that yogurt pot, stole butter, and fed it to all His favorite monkeys. It was all fun until Mother Yashoda showed up and that’s when the Lord of the universe had to ran for His life in His little body of a small blue boy.

Okay, that is a bit over dramatic but Krishna was afraid, very afraid, when He saw that Mother Yashoda found out what He did, which wasn’t a difficult thing to do since He left His little footprints all over the floor when He broke that yogurt pot.

So there He was, sitting on a turned upside down mortar, enjoying best clumps of butter with His best buddies when Mother Yashoda sneaked up on Him with a stick in her hand. That’s when His heart dropped into His stomach and it was time to run. That must have been quite a scene and Isopanishad would have been left speechless, but Mother Yashoda caught up with the Lord and snatched Him from behind.

This is when fear turned into desperation and the Lord broke up in tears, confessing to all His “crimes” and pleading for forgiveness.

Why was He so afraid? We can say it was a lila but that doesn’t explain much, does it?

Over the past couple of days I talked about how Mother Yashoda made a mistake by dropping Krishna while He was happy sucking on her breast and how she ran to the kitchen to stop milk from boiling over. From our point of view it’s as clear as day – don’t leave the Lord hanging. From Krishna’s point of view it’s a bit different.

Yes, He is supremely independent and can to whatever He wants and expect all His wishes to be fulfilled instantly. Except it doesn’t work that way. His devotees are irreplaceable to Him, if He rejects someone’s service, ie Mother Yashoda prioritizing boiling milk over breastfeeding, He can’t get it anywhere else from anyone else. So, when she came back and saw how Krishna repaid for her taking care of His food, she decided to put Him straight – she serves Him like a mother and she is the only one around, He better get used to getting things exactly the way His mother desires.

That’s when Krishna realized that He upset His dearmost devotee and His heart must have sunk. It was all fun until then, but confronted with the righteous anger of His devotee He had no other solution but to hide and run. He could have run away very easily, as we know, but what would He do without Mother Yashoda and her love? There was no way out for Him, He had to surrender and pray for mercy.

So yeah, the Lord is supremely independent but He values love of His devotee above His own happiness and He is very afraid of losing it. He would do anything to get it back.

I hope this brings me to the conclusion – this is just another way to illustrate why devotional service is so valuable and why Krishna doesn’t grant it to anybody so easily.

There’s a whole spiritual world out there filled with all kinds of wonders and all various forms of the Lord and all those forms have their innumerable devotees but only a few extraordinary souls are granted the gift of pure devotional service. As the story of Gopa Kumara shows us we might get to pass all these worlds on our way to Krishna and we might stop and enjoy the view.

Many of us can’t shake the desire to enjoy material senses, many of us would really savor eternity of Brahman without any obligation to serve anybody, many of us would have fun in salokya or sarupya liberation. These are all distractions of the way back home, back to Krishna and generally we still have no idea how attractive they are, so we should be very modest in our prayers declaring undying love for the Lord – we don’t know what else is there and what we will be attracted to on our way.

Right now we think that devotional service is just around the corner – it isn’t, not until we have been thoroughly tested and our hearts thoroughly cleansed. Simply chanting a few rounds doesn’t a pure devotee make. Just like yesterday’s example of Nalakuvera and Manigriva – they met Krishna personally but if they wanted devotional service they had to go back to Svargaloka and put in the hours of hard work.

The tricky part is that while we might agree on these terms we still can’t think of how great the payout would be at the end – the very thought of returns on our service is against the idea of selfless devotion. Yes, Krishna will be afraid of losing our association but we can’t let a thought like that dwell in our minds.

Besides, Mother Yashoda is already there and she is irreplaceable. We better aim for a blade of grass receiving dust of the gopis’ feet, like Uddhava, but that is a story for another day.

Vanity thought #394. Fear of God

When Lord Chaitanya asked Ramananda Raya about the ultimate goal of human life He rejected progressive answers one by one, from performing one’s duties according to varnashrama system to offering fruits of one’s labor to Krishna to cultivating devotional service as Krishna taught in Bhagavad Gita. Eventually Ramananda Raya got to pure devotional service as described in Srimad Bhagavatam and that sparked Lord Chaitanya’s interest.

He approved worshiping the Lord as His servant but wanted to hear more and the next offering was, of course, service to the Lord in the mood of a friend. It’s at this point, CC Madhya 8.74, that Srila Prabhupada mentions fear of God.

He says that in relationship between a servant and his master there’s always fear, and that when one loses this fear he progresses further up the ladder of devotional ranks.

This made me think for a moment – am I afraid of Krishna or my spiritual master? Should I be? In this world we don’t get any other relationships with the Lord, only as servants – dasadasanudasa. Should we be afraid?

Quickly checking my inventory I don’t think I have that fear, I do have fear in connection with my body but it’s not fear of Krishna and I don’t take it as a spiritual emotion, just as a material reflex to external stimuli.

Maybe it’s because I don’t know Krishna very well, I have an image of Him that I built by listening to the devotees and reading books and this image is actually of shelter and safety, fear is the last emotion I expect from seeing Krishna.

Maybe if I saw Him face to face I’d realize how fearsome He actually is. Maybe not Krishna Himself but someone like Narayana or Vishnu – same thing for conditioned souls – we can’t relate to God in any other form without achieving liberation first.

There’s a case of Gopa Kumara who went to Vaikuntha and saw how everybody was full of deep respect towards the Lord and they were very afraid of Gopa Kumara acting inappropriately.

I don’t think I have that kind of fear yet. Sure, I’m afraid of committing offenses towards Krishna but that’s not fear of what Krishna might do to me in revenge but fear of upsetting Him, and this kind of fear is not unique at all.

In fact I’m far more afraid of upsetting my wife, she’s the one who can really make my life a living hell and she has far longer memory than Krishna. The fact that I won’t get very far spiritually without her blessings is even more worrisome. She’s not my guru, of course, but she’s under my responsibility and unless she releases me from it I’m bound to serve the family. No one can approach the Lord directly, you know, have to get blessings from all the devotees first.

Same goes for relationships with Maya, too. We are not her servants but we need her help and her blessings to progress in our lives and she can scare the hell our of anybody. Krishna wouldn’t do that to His devotees Himself but Maya can. The upside is that she scares us for our own good, so these fears should be welcome.

I also think of little Prahlad who had absolutely no fear of a huge, ferocious beast of a Lord, all covered in blood, still infuriated after tearing apart the body of a demon. Little Prahlad saw no danger for himself whatsoever, I think he should be my role model when approaching the Lord.

Devotees up on Vaikuntha have their own reasons to behave like they do and I will keep that in mind but for now I’m sensing no fear of Krishna at all and I don’t see why I should feel it. Maybe, as I said, because I don’t realize how great He is – in a sense how big and powerful and how He can crash me in a split of a second. Arjuna had this moment of realization once, maybe my turn will eventually come, too.

Vanity thought #192. Restless.

That eternal beggar theory doesn’t let me sleep, it made me restless and I can’t stop thinking about it, but first about being restless.

Yesterday I mentioned entropy and the second law of thermodynamics. It is fascinating stuff when you get to know it better.

When I studied it for two years I didn’t appreciate it very much, I guess taste for finer things in life develops with age…

It’s hard to define what entropy actually is, standard physics definitions are confusing. Basically, entropy is inertia, indifference, conformity – the essence of tamas, so to speak. While in physics terms entropy is a neutral word when expressed in our everyday terms it has a rather negative connotations.

Wait until you hear the really depressing part – entropy always increases, as if we don’t have enough tamas already. Increasing entropy leads to eternal death.

Okay, enough with scary stuff already. Entropy is a degree of how energy is distributed within a system. If some part of the system has higher level of energy, the energy tends to spread from there and even out, and the entropy increases.

If we drop an ice cube in a glass of hot water we’ll have a system with two extremes – very hot and very cold. As time passes the ice melts, the water cools and before long we’ll have just a glass of evenly tepid liquid. The entropy celebrates a victory.

The process is irreversible – there’s no way the water would heat up again and ice would form a cube. Entropy always grows.

In practical terms it explains things like “you can make an omelet out of eggs but you can’t make eggs out of omelet” wisdom.

This second law of thermodynamics, that entropy always grows, is fundamental to many of interactions in our world and the universe beyond. All engines, for example, transfer energy from one place to another, like converting charged batteries into phone conversations. As everyone knows, batteries die and need to be recharged, and the charger needs to draw electricity from somewhere else, from a system elsewhere with higher energy concentration.

In the long run we come to a conclusion that our sources of energy are limited and eventually will run out. When we find new ones we, by law of thermodynamics, we will drain them, too. Especially evident in case of fossil fuels. Theoretically, however, there’s still plenty of energy in the universe to last us a few lifetimes. The Sun is not going to increase its entropy to a useless state for a few billion years.

Entropy also applies to information theory – gossips tend to spread around until they lose their capacity to excite. Or think of it as syncing with the newly launched iCloud – you got a new picture on your iPhone, pretty soon it will be available on all your other iDevices until they all have exactly the same content.

Well, the question is – where does the initial low entropy come from? That doesn’t sound right but low entropy means good, less tamas. Where does the initial concentration of energy or information come from? Who is the source of all juicy gossip? Who introduces it into a society?

Physicists have managed to talk their way out of supposedly low entropy during Big Bang problem, while there are still plenty of arguments left that Big Bang breaks the law nevertheless. Everybody and his dog enlist entropy to prove their view of the origin of the universe and the world. I’m no different.

In light of my yesterday’s refuse to settle on anything I think of increasing entropy as the force of maya. It makes us accept our false identities and blend us into the environment until we die and enter endless stupor. It kills life, in a way.

When a new political leader is introduced to a society, for example, he thinks he can change everything and he plunges into his work of changing the world. Everybody else is infected with his enthusiasm – entropy, uniformness, starts to grow, and it works both ways. As the rest of the society feels recharged, the leader feels drained of his power. He might last a while, years, decades even, but eventually novelty wears off, he is not unique anymore, people have nothing to take from him and nothing to offer back. The sync has been completed, new leader needs to be brought in to shake up things again.

When we want to learn rock climbing we enthusiastically start changing our environment – buy gear, take some training, start climbing. Pretty soon the environment around us is totally in tune with our new identity and we finally feel at home. That’s it, entropy has no room to grow anymore. Sooner or later we are drained of our interest, perhaps we get a good, encouraging feedback from objects or people we charged before, like old climbing photos or friends, but it won’t last forever, it’s the law of physics.

You see what I’m leading to? When a new idea enters our minds, any new idea, it immediately starts pushing the entropy up. Everybody is expected to appreciate it, everybody is expected to cooperate with us, help and nurture our dream, we want to be at home with it, we want to be safe in our illusion, and maya provides.

From this interpretation it would follow that material energy has unlimited entropy, unlimited inertia, and it’s the living souls that create sparks of interest to drive it. A soul, an alien source of energy not bound by laws of thermodynamics, creates an anomaly in the otherwise dull field of matter. That anomaly, manifested in material forms and shapes, is forced by the law to spread itself and eventually even out.

Sometimes several souls, even several thousands or millions of souls create a huge anomaly in unison, and they attract even more souls, some contributing, some sucking the energy away. Massive force like this has the power to alter massive things, like political structure of an entire country. Eventually, though, the rebellions and revolutions settle down, entropy grows, people settle.

What would it mean in terms of executing devotional service?

By law, whatever we invest our energy in is bound to settle, our energy will be drained, unless we draw it form an inexhaustible source ourselves.

Whatever pops up in our minds is not that source. Whatever pops up in our minds because of our own, separate desire to enjoy, will drain life force of our material bodies in no time. Years, decades at best.

Whatever new position we envision for ourselves in this world is bound to be corrupted by the increasing entropy. If we ever settle on it, we are doomed to oblivion.

Connecting to the higher source, to Krishna, means channeling His energy, His desires to the world around us. That would make a difference, on our own we are not that powerful at all.

Connecting to Krishna also doesn’t mean sucking His energy to build a sweet nest for ourselves, as I said yesterday, settling for anything will never work. The only way to stay connected is to keep directing our desires towards His service.

We shouldn’t think of Krishna as a reservoir of unlimited power we can draw energy from, it won’t work, entropy would swallow us if we direct our interests to living comfortably in this world. The only way for us to escape the entropy is to use our tiny batteries to charge Krishna.

Practically it means we should become restless. If our energy is not flowing towards Krishna, it’s bound to flow someplace else and pretty soon we’ll find ourselves tired and looking for rest.

We need rest because we direct our desires to the world of all-devouring entropy.

That’s why there’s no “peace” for a real devotee. Not when he gets initiated, not when he gets a brahman thread, not when he becomes a temple president, a guru, a sannyasi, a GBC – never. There will never be peace for a devotee.

There’s no stage that you would think you need to achieve to finally find peace. It doesn’t exist.

My constitutional position, the only real choice I have, is to be chasing after Krishna forever and without a pause.

It took me many many years to realize, sadly. Just like with concept of entropy, I didn’t appreciate the restlessness of the devotees I’ve met in my youth. Only now I begin to understand their real motives and their real fears of being swallowed by the entropy of maya.

I didn’t think it was a big deal then and I’m paying dearly for it now.

It better be “been paying until now”, I hope.

Vanity thought #164. Sweet surrender.

Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj held numerous workshops on various aspects of leadership and devotional service. Once he asked people to write down their fears and one devotee wrote that he was afraid that the Lord would force him into displeasing situations or force him act against his will.

Not an uncommon worry by any means but more on that later.

What is it exactly that we are afraid of here? We know it all comes from our minds and the lack of faith but the fear itself is the fear of God, of God’s enormous power. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – we realize that God is unlimited and far far greater than us, it’s a good start, I guess. Next step should be surrendering to His will but it does not happen.

We are afraid that God will force us to suffer and act against our will instead. Why?

First of all, it’s because we still identify with our bodies and not only that, we actually love being these bodies even after all the philosophy, kirtans and prasadam we have taken in.

Philosophy might actually make it worse – we know for sure that our bodies, so dear to us, are worthless to God. He values our souls but not our possessions (love me love my dog apparently applies only one way). We want these bodies to be happy, successful and pain free, with large tilaka marks and rows of kantimalas and bean bags it should be guaranteed. Except deep down we know that this display is just a show to misdirect God’s attention when He is striking down the infidels.

Deep down we know that tilakas won’t save us from death or suffering, we decorate our bodies the best way we can but they can’t be saved. Thanks to our philosophy we know that it’s an exercise in futility, but these bodies is all we got, really, so we hang on to them as if there were our dear lives.

No wonder we are afraid of what Krishna might do to them in order to save our souls.

Then there’s the problem with surrendering to Lord’s will. Theoretically it sounds nice and safe but when you get your own little project going with your own little dreams relying on God becomes a very risky proposition. He is not going to support our little schemes, is He?

In fact, we are absolutely sure God is out to wreck our lives for His own satisfaction, because He doesn’t want whatever we are prepared to offer, He only accepts what He asked for, via our gurus, for example.

Even when Krishna says “whatever you offer – lead, flower, fruit or water, I’ll accept it” we know He doesn’t really mean it. We’ve been taught that we don’t offer anything to Him directly, only through a guru, and He only accepts our service if we strictly follow the desires of our spiritual masters.

So when we, of little faith, make our own little arrangements and we add some Krishna service to our lives we are afraid that it won’t be accepted, that if Krishna really took our service He’d rearrange everything, break our families and kick us out of our houses and onto the streets to preach. Thoughts like this are a bit too much to bear for great many people.

What to do about these fears?

I haven’t overcome them personally so I can’t give any advice.

When I thought about it myself I noted that in a couple of cases I, indeed, left it all to Krishna’s arrangements. I give up making plans. Superficially my mind certainly keeps planning and scheming and wishing and dreaming but I don’t take it too seriously. I’m preparing myself for the day when Krishna shows His hand and I’ll have to accept it.

Another explanation is that I’m just lazy to take charge myself. I’ve been given these facilities – body, intelligence, experience, skills and so on to use in Krishna’s service and solve all kinds of problems but instead I’m sitting on my ass waiting for Krishna to do all the job Himself.

To ease this guilt I occasionally make half hearted attempts at this and that and give up at the first hurdle, telling myself that I don’t think or feel Krishna actually wants me to proceed in this direction.

So I prefer to sit and wait and save my energy for when Krishna really needs me to show it.

Yet there are other areas where I’m still dead scared of what Krishna has in store for me. It’s been almost half a year and I still haven’t tried to go public with this blog, for example. I’m afraid devotees, or rather Krishna speaking through them, would prescribe too many alterations and change its course completely. It won’t be my blog anymore, it will be Krishna’s, for His pleasure.

Funny, but that was the original idea, btw.

Will Krishna accept this blog as it is? I don’t think so, I know He won’t. It comes from contaminated heart and what I’m actually afraid of is that Krishna will prescribe changes to my heart, inflict deep cuts straight through it, and it’s the only heart I’ve got.

Also it won’t be me anymore, after the operation. My heart is dirty and stinky, that’s the way I like it, and if Krishna takes it for purification He’ll return it glossy and squeaky clean, I won’t recognize it anymore.

Hmm, all I need is to trust Him but that’s not an easy thing to do.

Srila Prabupada once was talking about surrendering – it’s like a wayward son returning to His father. Father is forgiving and accepting, just come and ask, what’s the difficulty? What’s the difficulty in coming to Krishna, apologizing, bowing down to His feet and getting forgiveness, acceptance, and eternal happiness?

Well, not all fathers are the same and not all fathers offer the same quick forgiveness.

In Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s books he often puts mother in this position – forgiving and accepting and nurturing figure you can trust completely. Well, I trust my mother has my best interests at heart but I’ve been living by myself since I was sixteen and crying for my mother’s help seems awkward now. Her recent concerns about me are mostly annoying, to be honest.

It’s not only the absence of good role models, it’s fear of rejection, mostly. Like young people are afraid to open their hearts and get burned even when they feel they are in love. Old people opening their hears? Forget it, no one wants to even look in there, it’s gross.

With Krishna it’s guaranteed He is not going to accept us as we are, as we think we are – our false egos et al. First thing He’ll do is to change everything – cut, cut, cut, pain, pain, pain.

Unfortunately there’s no other way.

He gives us just enough spark so that we voluntarily change our bad habits, just like boys in love do.

Unfortunately even boys in love have their boundaries while Krishna doesn’t allow for any, we must give up all and everything.

Oh well, there’s really no other way, just keep them sparks coming.

Then we can finally surrender and fully taste the sweetness of Krishna’s protection but until that happens we just put on more elaborate tilakas to postpone this grand day as long as possible.

– I’ve given up newspapers, is it enough, Krishna?
– Not yet.
– I’ve given up internet, is it enough? Can you leave me alone and well protected now, Krishna?
– Umm, no, here’s a bit of sugar but you are doing it all wrong and for all the wrong reasons.

And on and on it goes. I guess this stuff can drag on life after life.

This time I’m determined to end it, though – I will be chanting as much as I can until I’m free from anarthas and until I can actually chant Krishna’s names out of pure devotion.

Unfortunately, He might not accept this sacrifice until it has full approval and blessings of all the authorities.

He is picky that way, and they ask us why we are afraid of Him…

Vanity thought #89. Confusion.

There are many examples of fearless devotees performing some wonderful deeds or going into dangerous fights, devotees who had absolute faith in Lord’s backing and protection – from Prahlada Maharaj to our Srila Prabhupada. Mankeys, or vanaras, helping Sri Rama to save Sita is another example.

They formed a mighty army but they also had no weapons, nor to attack nor to protect themselves. All they had is the faith that as long as the Lord Rama is on their side they will be victorious, and even if they die, they’d die for a good cause.

What I’m confused about is why do I get to feel quite the opposite. Granted, I can’t compare myself to those vanaras but the principle should still work, shouldn’t it? I should feel the protection of the Lord, shouldn’t I?

Next week my boss wants me to do something outrageous (or so I think) and I have a million of reasons why it should not be done and I don’t need a million of reasons to say right away that it is going to be a huge inconvenience to me personally. Okay, maybe you could say that as a devotee I should be equiposed in these situations, equally indifferent to good or bad karma, right? Okay, one might be equipoised but one still can’t claim total ignorance whether something gives pleasurable or painful feelings to his body and mind.

I mean I might accept the demands of my karma and plow through anyway as was instructed by Krishna in Bhagavat Gita but I can’t help but notice that these particular karmic results are less than welcome.

Forget that little confusing thought for a moment, where should I find the inspiration to rise up and fight?

Arjuna had Krishna and His very convincing presentation in Bhagavat Gita, he definitely had Krishna on his side, too. Not the case with me. This new assignment has all the hallmarks of a frivolous entertainment, if I begged Krishna to interfere it would be in my boss’ heart first. If I begged Krishna to interfere I would pray for his protection so that He could help me to get through this calamity. I mean, whose side is he on?

From my bitter experience I can say that Krishna is rarely on my side. More often than not He is on the side of my “adversaries”, teaching me lessons and giving me bitter pills. They are for the ultimate good, I know, but the result is that I can never count on the Lord’s help and protection. I’ve developed quite an opposite reflex instead. As soon as some fight or a trial is on the horizon I immediately feel Krishna deserting me and joining my enemies. As soon as it looks like a confrontation or some great effort is coming I sigh and resign to defeat – who can fight against the Lord?

If I was in that vanara army, I would have thought I was sent there to die and Lord Rama didn’t supply me with any weapons just to make it easier to kill me. In the midst of a battle I would have thought that the Lord is guiding my enemies arrows so that they could find me faster.

That’s why I’m not in that army and if I was available at that time I would have probably joined Ravana.

Jesus, when my mind gets caught up in thoughts like this I get all confused and whiny. In this state it’s very easy for me to empathize with the said Jesus when he cried “God, why have you deserted me!” before his death. If Jesus had these feelings, what to speak of me? My faith is nowhere near his level, I can get abandoned in a second.

Why is this happening? Shouldn’t Krishna’s interventions straighten my faith instead? Shouldn’t they make me more reliant on Him, shouldn’t they make me feel better protected? It is not happening. Why?

Okay, let me try to counteract – in order to receive Lord’s protection I must try to fulfill Lord’s orders first. The vanaras were not fighting their own war whereas I’m fighting for my own sense enjoyment. I can’t expect the Lord to serve MY needs and protect me seeking ways to forget HIM, because that’s what my sense enjoyment always leads to. So it IS Lord’s mercy, Krishna is not forgetting me, He is trying to prevent me from forgetting Him!

On the other hand – why are all my fights or other endeavors never in tune with Krishna desires? I mean I can agree that as long as I’m following Krishna’s orders I will enjoy His protection but in reality it is a meaningless assurance. It’s like saying “If I was rich I would never have experienced hunger and I would always had tons of the best food available”. Yeah, right, but I’m not rich so it means nothing to me.

Same with following Krishna’s orders –  it turns out I never do that and probably never will so Krishna’s promise of protection is meaningless and is inapplicable to me in my present state. He might just as well promise the Moon. It’s like watching game shows on TV with huge jackpots  – yes, people win, shows work, but not for me, thank you.

So, is the whole point of this is to prove to myself that I am not really a devotee because I’m always seeking ways of self gratification and never do anything for Krishna? Okay, point taken. Now what?

Next comes the logically following question – since a real devotee never feels himself as such, where does his confidence comes from? How does a real devotee juggle these two realizations – “I have no love for Krishna” and “Krishna is always on my side and he will always protect me”? One might say that a real devotee sees the Lord on everybody’s side as “suhridam sarva bhutanam”, then the argument would be – not every devotee who feels protected by the Lord has already reached the stage of perfection.

Mind boggling.

Vanity thought #76. Because.

Why do devotees love the Lord? Why do I try to develop attraction to Krishna? Why should I? What are the reasons?

Is it because Krishna is all attractive? I have no idea, considering how my eyes get attracted to all other beautiful things and people, that can’t be it (at first I actually typed “thighs” and I wonder if it really needed a correction).

Is it because Krishna is full of opulence? I have no idea, what is it to me anyway? I have some estimates of what extreme material opulence might look like, but I ain’t going to get it from Krishna. Whatever He has in His world I can’t even imagine and I don’t think I will ever get to enjoy it, so that’s not it either.

Is it because Krishna is all knowing? Is it because Krishna consciousness is the best knowledge available? Good reason, our philosophy is difficult to beat when I think about it myself. Other people, however, can find more holes in it than I can think of or let alone explain to their satisfaction. Why did we appear in material world, for example? No one knows and no one supposed to know, we just brush away these questions, let GBC slug it out with “no fall” people. So, philosophy is good but to a point.

Is it because Krishna possesses absolute strength? Come on, it’s 21st century outside, strength is for narcissistic bodybuilders. Who cares?

Is it because Krishna possesses absolute fame? Well, we have a lot of very famous people paraded every night on TV and most of them are repulsive, at least to me. I just read a news article that one American University paid more for a guest lecture by a winner of reality TV show than by a winner of a Nobel Prize. I’m sorry, fame doesn’t cut it for me anymore, that’s not it.

Is it because Krishna is all merciful? Personally, I think, that’s one of my main motivations. Krishna is one who will never let us down, lifetime after lifetime. Personally, I have no one else who I can trust to the same degree. Parents will eventually die, siblings will have commitments to their own families, I don’t know what women feel towards their husbands, as a man I feel like I have to take responsibility for women, but no one takes responsibility for me. Only Krishna.

But then Krishna also possesses full renunciation, and that’s where I begin to worry. He doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need anyone, for that matter. He surely showers a lot of mercy on His devotees but it is not absolute. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.

And here is the catch – there is no reason for unconditional love, there is no “because”. Krishna’s devotees love Him against all reasons. The truth is, Krishna is “lampatah”, a debauchee, one moment He loves someone, next moment He loves someone else and everybody suffers from broken hearts.

If I needed this aggravation I would spend more time falling in love here, there’s no need to strive for spiritual world if one wants to have his heart broken.

So, devotees don’t love Krishna because He is sure to love them back. They just love Him. No reason.

There’s a story in Chaitanya Bhagavat. Once, after disappearance of Jagannatha Misra, Lord Chaitanya threw a disturbing feat of anger when His mother didn’t have a flower garland on hand for Him to worship Ganga. The Lord got a hold of a stick and in extreme anger went through the house destroying everything in His path. He broke all the pots and let milk and ghee flow on the ground, He broke all the containers in the house, all bags – rice, sugar, grains – everything was on the ground mixed with milk and everything. The Lord went on hitting walls and windows and doors and then he went outside and hit a tree and eventually the Earth itself. Finally the Lord lost consciousness and fell asleep on the ground.

His mother was terrified and hid at the other end of the house, but she didn’t get upset, didn’t lose her temper, as soon it was safe to come out she ran to the Lord and cleaned His body and woke Him up and embraced Him and gave Him the garland He was asking for.

Lord Chaitanya didn’t behave like a Lord at all, it wasn’t even one of his mischievous pastimes – He was genuinely angry and lost control of Himself.

I don’t know how to explain it. I know that any earthly leader throwing tantrums like that would lose loving followers in blink of an eye. It’s what is expected of our dictators, not of the Supreme Loving Lord. If I saw anything like this I would declare the person unstable and unreliable.

Only our closest family members can expect forgiveness in these cases, I doubt a modern wife would stay with a husband like that, I doubt modern children would stay with such parents either.

It’s just not a good example, and so here I ran out of “because” reasons to try and love the Lord.

There are no external motivations left. It’s all me and my heart, and hope that Krishna would extend His yoga maya potency and trick me into continuing with my efforts.

Vanity thought #65. Dealing with kids.

Here’s another misconception I’ve been harboring for a long time – properly raising Krishna conscious kids. Modern education is all about potential and nurturing and drilling into little brats brains that they are the center of the universe, the most precious gifts to the mankind ever. Modern teachers are servants now, they are being paid good money and so they should do what parents expect of them and treat their offspring like parents would themselves, if they had the time and patience and inclination.

Somehow or other I absorbed that kind of attitude, too. Never raise your voice, never get angry, if a kid misbehaves, it’s a teacher’s fault and so on.

On a devotees side there was also plenty of talk about demigods taking births as ISKCON children and so they should be treated as very very special and that attitude didn’t help much either.

The story of Hanuman presents a rather telling case study on how children were raised back in the day.

As far as descending demigods go, Hanuman was the genuine article – son of Shiva, Vayu, and a Monkey King at once. He was so special he thought the Sun was a fruit he could eat, and so was Rahu, and Indra’s elephant. Innocent child as he was, he caused so much disturbance that Indra had to knock him out with his thunderbolt.

That didn’t go well with Vayu who raised a mighty protest about mistreatment of little children and so all the demigods had to line up and offer their apologies and give out blessings. Hmm, never mess with school board member kid…

Those blessings made Hanuman immune to any kind of threat or harm and he learned to abuse this privilege to the full. He became the most mischievous and playful little rascal who gave a lot of grief to everyone – teachers, sadhus, ordinary people, everyone. He got so annoying that people couldn’t take it anymore and eventually they managed to make Hanuman forget all his powers and that truly turned the kid around and made him into most obedient, exemplary student ever.

They still couldn’t punish him but he didn’t know that, and this is the part that went against my modern upbringing – fear works and threats are beneficial.

Despite being the greatest devotee ever Hanuman still had to learn humility and manners and respect towards superiors and there was no other way to teach him that but the specter of punishment hanging over his head.

No reasoning helped, no sweet talk, no nice sit downs with his father – when it comes to discipline, children are best motivated by fear. Fear is a negative emotion we would never inflict on modern day kids but back then it was apparently essential. Like a bitter medicine it needs to be taken if one is to learn his limitations in this world.

I somehow suspect that Hanuman was very very thankful for this lesson later on when he became the greatest servant of Lord Ramachandra. I believe, or rather want to believe, that he was very glad he didn’t bring his old, early childhood habits with him – he was nobody’s servant then and dropping coconuts on people’s heads just for fun was not something he could occasionally let slip out in the Lord’s presence.

He was born a monkey but his teachers made him into the best vaishnava imaginable, the most gentle, caring and devoted person full of compassion to all living entities.

Meeting Lord Ram has changed his heart but fear has changed his earthly personality. I wish it could have happened to me, too, but I’m an old dog and I won’t learn new tricks.

My bad habits are probably going to stay with me until I die, my education was not that great, I don’t recall ever being punished, and my heart is not transforming as fast as it should, and that transformation is my only hope left – I don’t have enough time to finish my three and a half crores of names to claim my benefits as per Kali Santarana Upanishad.

I kind of hope that retelling this story of Hanuman is helping.