Vanity thought #1640. Beneath time and space

Yesterday’s post about turmoil in Māyāpura raises an important question – how holy is the holy dhāma? Why does it allow such obvious corruption? This isn’t about just one latest incident, don’t get me wrong, the “problem” of apparent contamination is a persistent one.

Spiritually, both Vṛndāvana and Māyāpura are pristine and full of opulences but materially they appear as affected by the external conditions on Earth as any other place, maybe to a lesser degree but still. Up to a five hundred years ago Vṛndāvana was completely covered, for example, and no one had any idea that Navadvīpa was in any way special either. In fact, in Advaita Ācārya’s perception it was overrun by gross materialism. It was closer to vaṛṇāśrama than it is now but chanting of the holy name was absent and so it didn’t bring any pleasure to the Lord whatsoever.

Since then Vṛndāvana came under persecution by Muslim rulers and then later became a shelter for all kinds of materialistic devotees. Māyāpura, in turn, was completely abandoned and no one even remembered where birthplace of Lord Caitanya was. It was populated by meat eating Mohammedans and Hindu Bengalis living off the fruit of the sea (I mean fish). Even Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇavas were engaged in all kinds of abominable activities in the name of the Lord.

By historical standards whatever ISKCON is guilty of is peanuts, though alleged child abuse is not a matter to be taken lightly. It still isn’t as bad as desecrating altars or deflowering disciples’ brides. The point is, better or worse, but the dhāma always appear to be covered by faults, so we need to address the root of the problem, not our currently observed symptoms.

The truth is that the dhāma never manifests itself to neophytes like us, we always see only its material covering and then judge its quality by standards we borrowed elsewhere. Slapping kids is bad now but thirty years ago no one thought much about it, and in Prabhupāda’s time it was probably considered necessary. On that matter, I once saw a page from a book about party games in the 40s America – they were brutal, with assurances like “swelling would subside in a couple of days so don’t worry”. Our perception of criminality is time conditioned even though some moral values are more or less eternal. What I’m saying is that we always look at current material covering of the dhāma and judge it by our current standards, we never see the real thing.

Having this relativism in mind, is righteous outrage at perceived wrongdoings principally better than quiet complacency when things appear as “normal”. Constitutionally, for us they are never normal, after all, because the only normal condition is eternal pastimes of the Lord and whatever else we see is materialistic.

More practical question is how we should behave in these relative conditions? What should be our eternal anchor? The lotus feet of the Lord are a perfect shelter, of course, but we can’t see them yet, we just imagine them however we want, the only criterion being that our mental fabrication must be somewhat connected to śāstra. Even shelter of our guru is open to interpretation – because we constantly disagree on how to serve better or on who channels Prabhupāda better.

Does it also mean that dhāma we can’t see is no dhāma at all? If we see only the material covering, what spiritual value does it have? There’s a good, authoritative answer to this type of question from Prabhupāda himself. He said that devotees maintaining materialistic attitudes in the dhāma will get born in animal species where they can satisfy their material cravings, clear up their karma, and then go back to Godhead. In one class he had this to say about them:

    Vṛndāvana means, those who are in Vṛndāvana… If they actually want to live in Vṛndāvana, their business should be how to satisfy the senses of Kṛṣṇa. That is Vṛndāvana. Not that “I am living in Vṛndāvana and trying to satisfy my senses.” That is not vṛndāvana-vāsī. That kind of living is… There are so many monkeys, dogs and hogs also; they are in Vṛndāvana. Do you mean to say that they are living in Vṛndāvana? No. Anyone who wants to satisfy his senses in Vṛndāvana, their next life is dogs, hogs and monkey. You must know that.

As long as we try to satisfy our own senses instead of Kṛṣṇa’s we are not living in Vṛndāvana either, the only difference between us and these hogs and dogs is the type of our body and a type of our sense enjoyment. Of course we also have the opportunity to become Kṛṣṇa conscious while in human form of life but dogs and hogs are SURE to return to Kṛṣṇa after dying while we aren’t, we might become dogs and hogs in the future ourselves. Who’s more advanced now, once we consider this possibility?

It appears that dhāma is always a very special place but there’s a difference in perception and in the outcomes of our interactions with it depending on our consciousness. It would always be better to be born a dog in Vṛndāvana or Māyāpura than to be born elsewhere on this planet but it’s not what our ācāryas are expecting from us, it’s not what Prabhupāda and our gurus are training us for.

If we settle on the possibility of being born as dogs or monkeys in the dhāma we might consider ourselves lucky but it would still be a disappointment for our spiritual mentors. We shouldn’t shortchange their mercy for breadcrumbs, relatively speaking. They want us to serve Kṛṣṇa, not spend our days stealing bananas.

Sometimes, however, it’s all we can ever do and no one would blame us for not living up to our potential but it’s still not an excuse for fooling around and extending our spiritual childhood for as long as possible, we should become mature and take responsibility for our service. The fact that Kṛṣṇa’s service is not going anywhere and we can resume it in the next life or the one after next should not become our master plan, not even plan B. It’s something that can, unfortunately, happen, but we should not aim for it.

In not so many words, we all should grow up, stop stroking our egos, and rise above the material tribulations. Or rather go below them and keep our consciousness undisturbed by the waves in the ocean of the material existence. Then we might be able to appreciate the depth of the dhāma and Kṛṣṇa’s mercy.

Vanity thought #1245. Realm of the divinity

Continuing on the Harmonist article (p32) from last week – if we can’t see the divinity, how do we overcome this deficiency?

The solution follows from examining the taṭasthā nature of the jiva – we are bound to be overwhelmed by Lord’s energies. In Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvati’s words:

    The jiva is a particle of the positive zone projected into the no-mans land between the spiritual and mundane spheres of existence.

We are in the no-man’s land. What does it mean? I guess we are not a part of the material world, we really are not parts mundane sphere of existence, we are not really here, we are situated in the no-mans land in between. He says we are “projected into it”, which doesn’t make sense to me. As I understand it, we are projected into the mundane while being situated in between, but maybe there are other ways to explain it. It’s what follows next that is important – the discourse on the role of the realm of the divinity.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta says that realm of the divinity is the essence of divinity and it’s the plenary spiritual power of the divinity. In short, she is alive! Our relationships are ascertained as follows:

    The jiva can serve Godhead only in and through the aid of the divine realm. The divine realm is a spiritual entity with freedom to allow or disallow the overtures for the service of the divinity.

If we want to serve the Lord, we are completely at her mercy. We can approach Godhead only with the aid of the divine realm and it’s not really up to Kṛṣṇa to let us through. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta says that divine realm as a spiritual entity has the freedom to allow or disallow our overtures for the service of the Lord. We usually use the word “yogamāyā”, in case it’s not clear.

I must admit that I always thought of her as aid, not as a controller. I thought that if Kṛṣṇa accepts our service, yogamāyā would be obligated to help and arrange everything. Turns out I was wrong. She actually has the freedom to reject my overtures for service, Kṛṣṇa can’t help me, I need to satisfy her, not Him.

Perhaps this is the perfect time to switch to capital “Her” here but I’m not sure about conventions. Usually we reserve capital “Her” only for Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and so I’m not sure what’s appropriate. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta uses small “her”:

    ..it is necessary for the jiva to seek her aid against every sort of apparent discouragement. The sadhus, who are the accepted protegees of the divinity, teach us by their example and precept how to secure her favor.

Here we have the switch from discussing imperceptible divine realm back into mundane. We can learn how to secure yogamāyā’s mercy by following the examples of sādhus. It needs to be noted that securing this mercy is not automatic and we need to seek yogamāyā’s favor against every sort of discouragement. Just how many sorts of discouragement are there? Why is this the only condition mentioned? Is this what we are supposed to be doing all our time – fight against discouragement?

I can easily think of lots of examples of situations and devotees being clearly discouraged in their attempts at bhakti. GBC did this, guru did that, book editors did the other thing, local authorities are lacking this, those authorities are lacking that. There are personal problems as well – principles are impossible to follow, chanting doesn’t work as expected, gṛhastha aśrama is not what it was expected. Husband is not fit to be a husband, wife is a serious impediment to husband’s progress, or, more likely, she is a nagging wench from hell. There are great many reasons we tell ourselves why we don’t succeed. What’s even worse, we use some of these reasons to justify giving up and then invent our own ways or practicing devotion, and then we go around converting people into our views. We’d do anything not to follow the simple program and we justify it by saying “it doesn’t work”.

It’s not supposed to “work”! We should persevere despite all sorts of discouragement, it’s supposed to be an endless battle for no gain all the way until we secure the favor of yogamāyā, or divine realm as Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta calls her.

He assures us that “The sight of the divine realm admits us automatically also to the presence of the divinity who abides only there”, we should not despair but the road is not going to be easy. He explains again:

    ..the divine realm tests our sincerity as seekers of the service of Godhead before she condescends to aid our endeavor. If she finds that we want to dominate and not to serve the truth she presents her unapproachable face to our view. She appears as dumb as the sphinx to our hypocritical entreaties for her aid. This is the plight of the empiric pedant on the threshold of the living realm.

I can certainly relate to that – dumb as sphinx to my hypocritical entreaties. She won’t bulge, she won’t be moved, she won’t be appeased. Any hint of hypocrisy, any hint of desire to dominate the Lord, to use Him for our own pleasure, and she turns stone cold, as she should be. We can’t cheat her, our hearts must be absolutely pure, and the path to this purity lies through sādhus.

    But the sadhu is always at our elbow with his counsel of genuine submission to the plenary power of Godhead in recognition of Her divine nature. The sadhu speaks to us in concrete and intelligible language. But the sadhu speaks with real knowledge of the requirements of the position. There is thus imperative necessity of making the pilgrimage under the guidance of the real sadhu.

I’m not sure about the second “but” here, perhaps it’s an editing mistake, or perhaps this “but” relates to our plight described a couple sentences earlier rather than in the immediately preceding one, as we normally use “but” nowadays. What’s important is that submitting ourselves to the guidance of sādhu is imperative, against all sorts of discouragement, I should remind.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta warns us again:

    But the words of the sadhu also may appear to be irrational to one who is inclined to set up his experience of the world as the judge of the propriety of the sadhus counsel.

Eighty years passed but this advice is as relevant as ever. Those who imagine themselves as judges of the sādhu’s counsel are absolutely unfit for any kind of mercy. Frustrated by stone cold yogamāyā and rejecting sādhu’s advice they have no hope but to imagine their progress, too. That’s why outside of ISKCON it’s all talk but no substance. I can’t put a finger on substance within ISKCON either but something works here, preaching is going on, for one thing. There’s a clear sense of spiritual life even if there are no identifiable signs, if you listen to the critics.

It’s okay, we might do so many things wrong, but what’s important is that we do ONE thing right – follow the program and have faith in our society, its management, and our sādhus.

How to properly listen to the sādhu is described next, will discuss it on some other day.

Vanity thought #1242. Avoiding delusion

I’ll continue with Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s article (page 32) from where I left off yesterday, I’m getting to the real juice there.

When we visit the holy dhāmas we, well, I, for one, see them as places of great historical significance. This is where Lord Caitanya five hundred years ago…, this is where Kṛṣṇa five thousand years ago… These places still carry the spiritual surcharge left there by the presence of the Lord, it’s the same dust that touched Lord’s feet, it’s our physical connection to the spiritual reality.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī says that this attitude is wrong. Dhāma’s spiritual power does not lie in transcendental stories from the past. Dhāmas are fully spiritual right now. Consider the following sentence:

    The performance of circumambulation of Sridhama Navadvipa under the guidance of the Parikram sadhus is thus a purely spiritual function, and the pilgrim, in the course of his journey actually traverses not a number of mundane localities, but the various constituent spheres of the realm absolute.

When in dhāma, we are actually THERE, in the spiritual world. We don’t just go from one Navadvīpa island to another, from one Vṛndāvana forest to another, we actually traverse these spaces in the spiritual realm, too. We just don’t see it that way.

I guess everybody has this understanding from the start. Vṛndāvana is magic, Māyāpura is magic, everything is absolutely sacred there. As time goes by, however, our senses start telling us differently. People are people, monkeys are monkeys, pigs are pigs, it’s business as usual. The sanctity of the place is invisible to us and eventually we start telling ourselves that we should look at the dhāma in a different way, which we perceive as more mature, of course.

That’s when history takes such a prominent place. It’s a powerful motivator, no doubt about it. Seeing Vṛndāvana temples, places connected with Śrīla Prabhupāda, samādhis of our ācāryas, it’s touching, and the more one knows about these places and their history, the deeper it penetrates. It really helps.

Yet Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī demands more. History helps but our real problem is our mundane senses and our mundane vision. What we see with our mundane eyes is not spiritual either:

    No particle of mundane dust can have any spiritual value whatever.

It’s a bit hard to say what he means here exactly, I understand that he talks about dust we see in Navadvīpa, which has historical value but, apparently, not spiritual one. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī then describes spiritual position of Godhead even when He appears in front of our eyes and he says, significantly, that even on such occasions our eyes, unless spiritually helped, can see only a deluding mundane entity, not God, not His saints. Really:

    ..it does not.. follow that the fleshy eye can have the actual sight of Godhead even on such occasion.

He then addresses demands of proof of God coming from atheists. Nothing has changed in the past eighty years, huh? They are still asking same questions and some of us, what to speak of representatives of other religions, try to oblige. This will never work as a matter of principle, says Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, and he blasts the attitude with which such demands are made:

    The empiricist happens to think that it is his function to sit in judgement for allowing the claims of a person to the title of divinity. Nothing can beat the impudence of such a ludicrous claim. Has the empiricist any faculty by which he can allow or disallow the claims of the divinity?

Regardless of whether the proof is forthcoming or not, we should not indulge atheists at all. Their position as judges is unacceptable and we should not let it slide. Who do they think they are?!?

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta then says that they won’t see the evidence if it sat on their face, to put it in modern language. Fact is, the evidence of Divinity is everywhere, they just don’t have the faculties to process it. The final verdict is damning:

    The empiricist has thus attained the state of utter ignorance of the truth under the hypocritical conviction that what he is pleased to think as true for the time being, is, therefore, necessarily true. This may flatter his vanity, only at the expense of everything that really matters.

Flattering their vanity, that’s all what their demands for proof are. Why should we indulge them? It won’t be preaching and it would actually be offensive to glorify the Lord in presence of such individuals. Attitude must be changed first, one way or another, by hook or by crook, but atheists must be placed in a position where they make humble inquiries, not place orders for their entertainment.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta then turns back to the consciousness of the pilgrims on the parikramā. Agreeing with atheists that we can’t see proof of Lord’s divinity when we visit the dhāma we fall into the same pit as they do. We try to defend our position from THEIR point of view, we do not want to sound dogmatic and brainwashed, and we end up with this, speaking of an unfortunate pilgrim:

    By trying to avoid any concession to dogmatism he is made to grovel in the fit of abject submission to the degrading dogmatic freaks of the arch-enchantress who is the mother of this material world.

“Degrading dogmatic freaks of the arch-enchantress” – ermm, he speaking of falling into the traps of māyā, which is what we do when we accept atheist’s POV and agree that God is not visible in the dhāma.

On one hand – it’s true, we cannot see God due to our lack of vision, but stooping down to the level of atheists is not a solution, and neither does it constitute preaching. We don’t need to participate in some orgy to agree that God cannot be seen from there either. Our duty is to elevate our own consciousness, and, because it pleases Kṛṣṇa, it would automatically solve whatever preaching problems we have.

How to elevate our consciousness? Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta offers the recipe:

    It is necessary for the real seeker of truth to approach Him by his genuine serving disposition. The wish to dominate truth is the fruitful source of every form of ignorance. There is no other degradation for the soul than the hankering for such domination.

“Dominating the truth” is not an expression we use in our days but I can’t think of a way to improve on it. When we try to figure out God by our own intelligence that’s exactly what we are doing – trying to dominate the truth, trying to subjugate it to the power of our intellect. Or it could be power of our chanting, or power of our service, or power of our determination – we get so many powers even in the course of devotional service.

Our starting point should be humility in the face of God. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta then talks a little about the position of God and relative position of a jīva as marginal potency. On that subject I once heard an explanation that due to our taṭasthā nature we are bound to attract both material and spiritual potency of the Lord, it’s not really our fault, it’s our constitutional position. We have feet in both worlds but it’s not because of, and not the source of our strength.

Normally, we would consider it an advantage and try to extract benefits from having a foot in both doors. Reality, however, is different. We are eternally helpless and get overcome by Lord’s energies without even noticing it. Humility, therefore, is a must. We can’t defeat anything, we are meant to be defeated, meant to be dominated. Foolishly, however, we try to live under the illusion that we are in control and our efforts matter. We still think that truth can eventually be dominated.

Once again, I heard one devotee explain how, in the spiritual sense, we are utterly insignificant despite all our achievements and all our egos earned in the course of our ostensibly devotional lives. To overcome this insignificance, therefore, we should latch to the lotus feet of…

Wait a minute? Why should we strive to overcome our insignificance? To me it strikes as utterly materialistic mentality. What’s wrong with being infinitesimal? Why should we strive to be bigger and so supposedly better then we really are, spiritually? “Oh, my spiritual form is so small, it’s unsightly, I need a better one, I need to be important.” What kind of thinking is this?

I think that’s enough for today. I’ll leave eveloping proper relationships with the Lord through His Divine energy for the next time.

Vanity thought #1241. True blast from the past

I came across an article from an eighty year old issue of The Harmonist, an English language magazine published by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. Actually, big thanks to devotees from Gauḍīyā Maṭha who republish these articles in their own Rays of the Harmonist. In this particular issue, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta’s article appears on the page 32.

Publishing Rays of Harmonist is an interesting idea that needs to be discussed on its own, not today. Likewise, reading articles by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarsvatī instead of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books deserves its own consideration, perhaps later. Today I just want to focus on the article itself.

First, the language, I’m not a big reader but I’ve seen quite a few books in my life, no one writes quite like Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta. I’m not a big fan of that kind of language, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books are so much easier, but there’s an irresistible feeling of gravity produced by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta. He doesn’t write for pleasure, that’s for sure. Śrīla Prabhupāda also didn’t write for pleasure but he knew how to write for his audience. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta writes for Kṛṣṇa, not for us. That is, he doesn’t particularly care how WE feel when reading his articles, he only cares that cleansing our intelligence brings pleasure to Kṛṣṇa. He always succeeds, even though it’s nearly impossible to a make habit of reading this kind of English.

He starts off with rolling out routine information on Navadvīpa Parikramā, the dates and the places, then, without further ado, dives straight into it:

    There is an impression among a certain class of thoughtless people that the sanctity of a place or creed is somehow enhanced by its greater antiquity.

Umm… Yes, there’s such an impression, I have always been thoughtless enough to carry it without question. I don’t know where I got it, can’t really put the blame on Śrīla Prabhupāda, I don’t recall he ever stressed “antiquity” of holy dhāmas, it’s something I got elsewhere. Perhaps it’s from the devotees.

Come to think of it, guides on the parikramās I went to were very knowledgeable and they pointed to lots of places that were historically important in Kṛṣṇa’s or Lord Caitanya’s pastimes. I distinctly remember, for example, a mango grove where Lord Caitanya reportedly planted that mango seed that immediately grew into a tree full of ripe fruit. None of the trees looked ancient enough and I had an impression that the location was only approximate, which was fine by me anyway.

Now, reading this sentence from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, puts all my memories and impressions upside down. Even if that particular place was indeed the location where Lord Caitanya planted long since dead tree, I would still think of it as valuable due to its history, it’s “antiquity”. That goes for lots of other places, too.

Jagannātha Purī, perhaps, being preserved better than anywhere else – all the temples are still there, all the bathing places are still the same, the remains of the old Siddha Bakula tree under which Haridāsa Ṭhākura chanted millions and millions of names are still there. It’s easier to draw connection between what you see with your eyes and five hundred year old history. These are exactly the same things preserved more or less in the same way as when Lord Caitanya was there.

Elsewhere there’s no such luxury. Māyāpura is not a village anymore, no one knew where it was until Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta’s time. Lots of places on Navadvīpa Parikramā are modern, too (by Indian standards). It’s more or less the same and sometimes even worse in Vṛndāvana, mostly because Kṛṣṇa was there five thousand years ago. Short of old grinding wheels and columns of the old temple built by Kṛṣṇa’s grandson everything there is positively new. Govardhana Hill shrunk until it looks nothing like the glorious place of Kṛṣṇa’s time. It’s low and long, completely unsuitable for the lifting pastime. Even in Lord Caitanya’s time it was high enough for Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī to contemplate committing suicide by jumping from it. I don’t think it’s even possible to find a cliff there high enough to jump from now.

All the places there **remind** us of Kṛṣṇa, even in our lagnuage we look at them as historical locations. The sand and dust of Vṛndāvana is venerable because it lied there since Kṛṣṇa’s time. Personally, I can’t see it as sacred for its present day condition. Same goes for trees and flowers and peacocks and everything else. It doesn’t look sacred, save for the temples, it’s valuable because of history.

Now it turns out that this is an erroneous attitude prevalent among thoughtless people.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvatī mercifully explains the misconception:

    Spiritual connection with Godhead or His devotee is the cause of the sanctity of a locality, not because any mundane place is supposed to be able to recall the memory of the event which is transcendental, but for the entertainable reason that the locality itself is not mundane at all.

Somewhere in the middle of this sentence I get hopelessly lost, I can’t make heads or tails of the “but” clause and the ending.

The beginning is clear – sanctity of any pilgrimage place lies in spiritual connection with God or His devotees, meaning ever present connection, in the now, not in memories of transcendental events. This is clear and rather direct – if you went to the holy dhāma and didn’t see Kṛṣṇa you wasted your time on looking at mundane image of the sacred. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta elaborates on that a little later, but the rest of the sentence escapes me completely. Why there’s a “but”? Is it meant to bring us back to the first part – forget the memory, realize that the locality is not mundane at all. Why then there’s “entertainable reason” there? Is he asking us to contemplate the idea that the dhāma we see with our material eyes is actually purely spiritual but lies beyond our vision? I’m not sure.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta continues:

    Sir P.C. Roy, in opening Sridhama Mayapura Exhibition was led to declare that every particle of dust of Sridhama Mayapura is sacred due to its association with Sri Caitanya.

Okay, he probably invited this P.C. Roy himself, he surely doesn’t mean that Roy was mistaken…

    If the locality surrounding Sridhama Mayapura is annually visited for this antiquarian reason by pilgrims from all parts of the country, such a custom would be of no help in preserving the real memory of Sri Caitanya and His teachings

Oh, snap! He was wrong. We shouldn’t visit the dhāma for the reasons given by Roy, he knew not what he was talking about, a mundaner with no spiritual vision or appreciation for the spiritual value of the subject of his speech. Political correctness wasn’t invented yet back then, I suppose.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta then drives his point home:

    The circumambulation of Sridhama Navadvipa is not a national and antiquarian performance for showing respect to the memory of a great historical personality. Sri Caitanya is Godhead Himself. Sridhama Navadvipa is the eternal transcendental divine realm. Sri Caitanya, His realm and His activities are eternal and are also capable of being realized as such by devout pilgrims in their performance of the circumambulation of the spiritual sphere, by the grace of those perfect pure souls who serve Sri Caitanya in the spiritual realm.

We should not go to holy dhāma to REMEMBER Lord Caitanya, we should go there to ACTUALLY REALIZE His eternal presence. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta takes no prisoners here. He doesn’t lower the bar, he doesn’t pander to our sensitivities, he goes for the jugular of material existence – it needs to be severed, nothing else would suffice.

To be honest, I am very glad to see our ācāryas using such strong words, somehow our consciousness has been polluted by “Saints of Vraja”. I’m talking about a book by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta’s detractor who got all chummy with Vṛndāvana bābājīs instead. I have always thought of that group as people trying to sanctify the mundane plane of their existence and their perceptions. Without actual vision of the spiritual realm they substitute it with sweet talk, cheap friendliness, and outwardly renunciation.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta advises against such association, there’s no substitution to actual spirituality available to us through the words of our guru or devotees. More on how to obtain that vision and how to listen to those words tomorrow.

Vanity thought #835. Putting money in my mouth

Or rather where my mouth is, as the saying goes. I just talked about how this world is perfect and we have absolutely nothing to complain about here, and here’s an opportunity to put this theory to practice.

I’ve just heard accusations against Mayapur devotees that they have been filling the dhama with ugra-karmic activities and ignoring simple living high thinking principle. In the past decade or so Mayapur has seen an explosion of private property development and it’s gone more or less unrestricted, turning once pristine rice fields into ugly modern dystopia, as some say.

To become a respectable member of the community you now have to own a flat, a fridge, an air-conditioner and a motorcycle. Some have 500cc bikes which seem like an overkill but I’m sure look very imposing, projecting the image that their owners must have be really blessed by Lord Chaitanya. Of course there also must be wives, internet, laptops, smartphones and tablets, too, to keep up with the Joneses and to show the world that spiritual life can also be very rewarding.

What to make of it? First of all there’s freehold issue – how can devotees buy and sell land in the Holy dhama? All treasures of the universe are not enough to buy even a speck of dust of Navadvipa, are we sure that devotees who “buy” houses there do not think themselves as real owners? What about the sellers, how do they dare to sell land that doesn’t belong to them? Are we sure that they maintain the proper mentality when handling such transactions? Is it okay for them to benefit materially from it? They make a lot of profits, not to mention the value of the land and buildings that developers hold in their name.

Srila Prabhupada was very clear about it (CC Antya.3.101):

We must always remember that a devotee’s life is one of vairāgya-vidyā, or renunciation and knowledge. Therefore all devotees are warned not to live unnecessarily luxurious lives at the cost of others. Gṛhasthas living within the jurisdiction of the temple must be especially careful not to imitate karmīs by acquiring opulent clothing, food and conveyances. As far as possible, these should be avoided. A member of the temple, whether gṛhastha, brahmacārī or sannyāsī, must practice a life of renunciation, following in the footsteps of Haridāsa Ṭhākura and the six Gosvāmīs. Otherwise, because māyā is very strong, at any time one may become a victim of māyā and fall down from spiritual life.

Devotees in question are not avoiding opulences but rather try to accumulate them at all cost. This is definitely not right. At first it might seem easy, if you got funds to invest, but eventually maintaining such a lifestyle will become a read drag. These things have a rather short lifespan, your shining bike will become old news in a couple of years, air-conditioners and fridges need to be replaced for better, more energy efficient models if not for any other reason. Electronic gadgetry becomes obsolete with an alarming speed, too, you need a new phone, tablet, and a notebook every two-three years. Then you’ll need to replace your furniture, which is not as sturdy these days as it was before. Plumbing and various fittings also do not last as long as they used to. Fresh coats of paint aren’t cheap either.

What seemed like a wise initial investment gradually turns into a life time commitment and slavery. It’s okay to maintain such lifestyle if you are plugged into a global economy but I wonder if Mayapur will be able to provide enough economic activity to sustain these grihasthas forever. Temple itself will always be a magnet for visitors and donations but if people think they would work for the temple and share in the profits one day they might face a big disappointment.

I believe they’ve compartmentalized temple income long time ago, every department must be responsible for its own finances, so people don’t really work for the temple anymore but rather for success of their own projects. This is a recipe for disaster.

Capitalism might be totally at ease with varnashrama dharma but it has no place in a temple. For now we might not see a problem with merging temple with communities in Mayapur but that is a delusion. Pretty soon devotees themselves will sense the difference between maintaining their own lives and selfless surrender that is expected from temple dwellers. They themselves will strive to put a barrier between their lives and temple ideals. Pretending to be Krihsna’s mouth will work only for so long, eventually they realize that they are leeching off and feeding themselves, not serving the Lord and the society.

So with so many reasonable objections to what’s going on, how can I apply paramahamsa vision here? How can I not notice the deviations? How can I see this situation as absolutely perfect?

Actually, I don’t have any problems with Mayapur situation at all. Yes, it’s unsightly, but all our existence here is unsightly. Mayapur “problems” are not any different from problems anywhere else in the world. Should I expect something totally different from Mayapur? Why? Material existence is the same everywhere, people will always need to eat, sleep, and mate, and they will always have something to defend.

Ultimately, it’s the Lord who maintains everyone in this universe and He is extremely partial to His devotees and to the residents of His own dhama, so if someone qualifies to be sheltered by the Lord, why should I protest that he is provided a relatively better care? Out of envy? That is not a valid reason.

Are these devotees abusing Lord’s mercy? Maybe, but, to be honest, I’m abusing my limited privileges, too, I shouldn’t be the one throwing stones at that glass house.

We can also be sure that devotees pursuing their materialistic aspirations in Mayapur will get purified of them sooner than those who remain in the West. Somehow or other they must get over their obsession with big bikes, why not do it in the most suitable place for this purification?

Are they getting carried away? Well, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, the complete collapse of the world economy might not be as far away as we think and Mayapur’s bikes will probably the first ones to go down. For devotees who are ready for the next step the Lord doesn’t even have to wait for worldwide economic meltdown, He can strip anyone of any possessions in a minute, yet somehow He doesn’t, He lets His devotees to play with their toys for a little while longer, who am I to object? I’m not their guru and even if I was, they are in the hands of Lord Chaitanya now, why would a guru get in the way of Lord’s mercy to his disciples?

We should really learn to mind our own business and trust the Lord in having the best possible plan for everyone, including alleged deviants.

Vanity thought #834. Better vs closer

What will happen if we succeed in our lives and become Krishna conscious? In Bhagavad Gita Krishna states that we will never have to take birth here again but rather reach His abode. Elsewhere I’ve heard that we will take a birth in a universe where Krishna displays His pastimes and only after that go to Goloka Vrindavana. Is there a contradiction there?

Maybe not, anyone born in Vrindavana in Krishna’s presence could be counted as being in His abode already. Anyone born in Vrindavana in His absence is not an ordinary conditioned soul either. On the other hand, we have failed spiritualists who get born in Vrindavana as pigs and monkeys. They aren’t ordinary monkeys but it still looks pretty much like a birth to me, and an animal one at that.

Maybe we should accept that monkey in Vrindavana is a better birth than a human anywhere else. That would work, too.

So, what’s our destination? Considering that being born in the Holy dhama is as good as reaching God’s own abode I propose two choices – we can become closer to Krishna or we become better devotees where we are now. Not where our physical bodies are, I mean our distance from Krishna, or rather Lord Chaitanya. Technically speaking, being engaged in His mission is as good as living in Navadvipa, spiritually there’s no difference and materially we could be liberated in any condition and in any place on Earth.

From the writings of Six Goswamis it appears that our final destination is Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavana. As aspiring Rupanugas we shouldn’t get anything lower than that. I mean we could reach Mathura or Dvaraka, too, but there aren’t any opportunities there to serve in the mood of Rupa Goswami. In fact even in Vrindavana there aren’t many opportunities to display this mood rather than being gopi’s maidservants. Out of five rasas followers of Rupa Goswami fit only in parakiya. Or maybe we’ll develop appreciation for it but not the rasa itself, like what happened with Uddhava.

Point being – our place is with Krishna.

On the other hand, as followers of Lord Chaitanya we also supposed to be eternal residents of spiritual Navadvipa. That’s a special place in Goloka whose residents can weave in and out between Krishna’s pastimes and Lord Chaitanya’s kirtans. Sweet but there’s another question to answer here.

What about the fact that all followers of Lord Chaitanya we know were also participants in Krishna’s pastimes five thousand years earlier? Some were cowherd boys, some were gopis, Goswamis were manjaris – of course when they talked about going back to the spiritual world they meant restoring their original forms. What about us? We are just some trash Lord Chaitanya picked on the way, we aren’t avatars of anyone important, we are nitya baddha jivas, eternally conditioned. Why should we expect getting same positions as Lord’s eternal companions who appeared on this Earth along with Him? Our original forms could be anything.

It could be said that this sankirtana mission attracts souls with a certain kind of devotion, Rupanugas at heart, so to speak, and that’s why our place is in Vrindavana. Well, we preach to everyone and we expect everyone to react to our preaching regardless of their long forgotten spiritual forms. We don’t exclude non-Rupanugas from getting Lord Chaitanya’s mercy and when we ourselves were approached by devotees for the first time they didn’t check our original status. Srila Prabhupada never implied that this Krishna consciousness movement is only for Rupanugas, so our final destination could be anything anywhere.

Consider this – our relationship with our guru(s) are eternal, relationship of our guru with his guru is eternal, too, means that our relationship and our place within the entire parampara is eternal. Means we will always be a fixed number of steps removed from Lord Chaitanya. Pretty far away, actually.

What if this distance will never change? What if all we are good for is being five hundred years away from the Lord, birth after birth, no matter how successful? It’s not a bad place to be, after all. We are a part of a mind blowing expansion of Krishna consciousness that has never been seen before, we just don’t appreciate it as much as we should, grass is always greener on the other side, as usual.

What if perfection of our lives means uncovering our lost relationship with the Lord not somewhere very far but right here, in our present situation. I mean we have everything – we have the Holy Name, we have Deities, we offer food to the Lord, we have prasadam, we preach, we serve, our temples are outposts of Vaikuntha, what more do we need? There’s no better place to be a servant of the servant of the servant than down here. There’s no better place to practice selfless devotion purely for the sake of the Lord than in Kali yuga.

Gopis have nothing on this, they only thought about going to hell once, we live here permanently. They are pampered in their service by wish fulfilling trees, land made of rubies and surabhi cows, they have it easy, whatever they need, immediately appears. We try to serve the Lord with nothing, we have to use polluted objects and reach people in despicable places and most of the time it just doesn’t work but we never give up, forgoing any thoughts about our own convenience we keep serving preaching mission of Lord Chaitanya. What other service could be more glorious?

Therefore I’m in two minds about this – should we hope to become closer to Krishna or should we try to become better at what we are already doing? Birth after birth after birth, pretty soon being in the material world won’t bother us so there’s no loss of anything.

When I put it this way the answer seem to be obvious, and it’s not like we have any choice anyway, not until our death here, so why not make the best of our situation and stop looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

Vanity thought #624. In God’s hands

Continuing from yesterday – there’s one more difference between us and residents of the Holy Dhama – they are always in God’s hands whereas we are always in the hands of maya, albeit under Paramatma’s close supervision.

If they do something foolish they don’t make fools of themselves, if we do something foolish we end up as losers. See how that story with Vrajavasis mistkaking a fisherman for Krishna played out.

The villagers flocked to Kaliya lake for three days, thinking that the light on the fisheman’s boat was glare of Kaliya’s jewels and the fisherman standing in the boat was Krishna. Eventually they came to Lord Chaitanya with this news but He called them fools – if Krishna is not scheduled to appear in Kali Yuga then He won’t, no matter what you think you see in the lake or anywhere.

Mahaprabhu was, of course, Krishna Himself, so it was doubly amusing for Him. Anyway, after He called them fools He asked them again where they saw Krishna directly. “You are a sannyasi, you are a moving Narayana.” – “No, no, no, I’m just a renunciate, it’s a big mistake to equate an ordinary spirit soul with Vishnu. Those mayavadis who think that by taking sannyasa they become equal to Narayana are offenders and will go to hell.”

Srila Prabhupada elaborated on mayavadi’s offenses in the purports with references to Jiva Goswami’s Bhakti Sandarbha and framed the discussion in clear cut points – no one can call and ordinary human being Narayana. Villagers had appeared to be totally crushed for their mayavadi views. Not so fast, though.

“Ha! But you are not an ordinary human being, not an ordinary sannyasi,” they said – “You ARE the son of Maharaja Nanda, you ARE that same Supreme Personality of Godhead, you cannot hide your transcendental features under the golden luster of you body.”

More than that, they said that by seeing Lord Chaitanya everyone – men, women, children – everyone immediately starts chanting the name of Krishna and becomes inundated with ecstatic love of God, dance like a madman, and becomes capable of delivering all three worlds.

Hearing this Lord Chaitanya had nothing else to argue but to bestow His mercy on the villagers and they spent the rest of the say chanting and dancing, and the three days after that, too.

If we express mayavadi views we will be cast in the dark shadows of ignorance for many many lives. We would have been crushed and condemned for eternity. Vrajavasis, on the other hand, were given intelligence to recognize the Lord for who He was. You can’t fool them in important matters like this, even if display momentary lapse of reason their pure devotion will always prevail in the end.

To put it another way – when we say something inappropriate we commit an offense, when Vrajavasis say something it doesn’t affect the purity of their hearts in any way. They physically cannot become mayavadis, their souls are not designed that way. Whatever happens with their lives, whatever words are forced out of their mouths, their souls are always in Krishna’s own hands and they can never consider themselves as equal to Him like ordinary mayavadis do.

Thanks to Srila Prabhupada’s mercy we enjoy the same protection, too, but only as long as we stay in the shade of his lotus feet. As long as we maintain our loyalty we will always be forgiven for whatever mistakes we make in the course of our lives. If, however, we disregard his instructions and seek shelter elsewhere or rely on our own intelligence, thinking we know better, we lose his protection and protection of Lord Chaitanya.

So, loyalty, which is a symptom of faith, should be our main defining quality. If we keep faith in our guru all the import of Vedic wisdom will be automatically revealed to us. We should never forget that.

Vanity thought #623. Luxury of being stupid

We don’t have it, others do, and it ain’t fair but it is what it is.

Residents of the Holy Dham are special souls, not of this world, they are like Krishna’s family. In this world no matter what you do you will still be someone’s son or someone’s father or brother. Family relationships do not depend on the happenings of the material world, once you incarnated you’ll stay in your position until you die.

We accept the right of children not to testify against their parents and vice versa, we accept that our criminal laws do not apply to family matters. It’s a lot more difficult to accept that ALL the laws of material nature do not apply to dhamavasis. Yes, they surely get born and then die like everyone else but no matter what they do in between they will never cease to be Krishna’s dearest devotees.

When we visit Navadvipa or Vrindavan we are told to treat dhamavasis as residents of spiritual Goloka even if they appear in a material form, and we sort of accept it but it’s very difficult to implement it practice, especially if we get ourselves in regular dealings with them. It’s very easy to forget their vastly superior position.

They can cheat us out of our money, Krishna won’t mind, they can even eat fish or eggs and Krishna wouldn’t mind, too. They might get some sort of punishment for their material misdeeds but it will be behind closed doors of their family, not in public view where we will have the chance to basque in our “righteousness” and feel vindicated. It’s for our own good not to give us this chance of self-destruction.

They also have the luxury of being stupid.

There was an episode during Lord Chaitanya’s travels in Vrindavana when all the locals became convinced that Krishna has manifested Himself again in the Kaliya lake. They were sure they saw Him on top of the serpent and they were sure they saw the glare of the jewels on Kaliya’s hoods.

Their devotion to Krishna was natural and spotless, He was their life and soul and they were happy to see Him everywhere and in everything. They were also fools, Lord Chaitanya Himself called them so.

Here’s the fundamental difference between them and us – they can afford to see Krishna where He is not present while we cannot. Their foolishness does not affect their spiritual position but our foolishness affects ours. They didn’t become any less dear to Krishna for being fools but Lord Chaitanya’s assistant brahmana who took their proclamations for real got “mercifully slapped”.

You can almost see Lord Chaitanya’s frustration. He is Krishna Himself, people come to see Him but mistake Him for an ordinary human but when they see an ordinary human fishing they mistake him for Krishna (that’s what they saw in the lake). It’s even more frustrating when Lord Chaitanya’s personal servant thinks that he has to go see Krishna directly elsewhere despite being with the Lord for many months.

There’s also a powerful message there and Srila Prabhupad explains it in the purport (CC Madhya.18.99) – we should learn to see Krishna through the words of our spiritual master and do not deviate or be fooled by people suggesting there’s a better vision to be had elsewhere.

Many of our devotees decided that they would reach Krishna faster by going to this or that magical babaji of Vrindavana, they thought that listening to far out revelations of those babajis is a better and more exciting way than reading our books, chanting rounds, and following four regs. They do not think they can see the Lord in the words of Srila Prabhupada. What fools!

And there’s no one to slap sense into them anymore, as if Lord Chaitanya has withdrawn His mercy, too.

Vanity thought #461. Damodara vrata and sankirtana

Is there a connection between taking some form of Damodara vrata and sankirtana? Nothing immediate comes to mind, which begs the question – why take such a vrata in the first place?

I haven’t officially taken this vrata, I just thought it would be nice to try and remember Damodara lila for the duration of this Kartika. What happens now is that I try to keep it going everyday and if I manage to think of Damodara one way or another I consider it success. But why?

Isn’t it a mission drift? Practicing smaranam is a legitimate service and we can’t turn it down but there’s another reality as well – we are servants of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and our main and only service is to try and help Him in sankirtana mission.

We can try to do something else but after a while we always should come a full circle – without sankirtana, without preaching, everything simply fails. Even if things appear to go along very nicely it doesn’t guarantee anything. There are billions of people on this planet and many of them are convinced they are doing the right thing, and their karma is apparently helping them on their way, too. If that happens to me, with my “smaranam” invention, it’s not a big surprise and not a sign of anything really important.

This the fact – the vrata appears to be progressing nicely but with one remembrance of the sankirtana all the comfort of doing the perfect vrata flies out of the window.

There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, that can replace preaching the glory of Krishna and His Holy Name. No amount of smaranam, no amount of kirtanam, no amount of books read and filed away, no residence in the Holy Dhama, nothing can come even close to going out, approaching people, and begging them to consider offering service to the Lord.

So, if I can’t immediately connect Damodara vrata to sankirtana, why should I keep doing it? Well, first of all it’s a vrata. Let me finish with it first and make adjustments next year.

Secondly, Kartika is a very special time to recharge our spiritual batteries, pretty much like going to Mayapur for the Gaura Purnima festival. Kartika has never been as popular among book distributors but it serves the same purpose, it’s meant to inspire us, to fill us with things to share. If we don’t know or don’t feel anything about Krishna we can’t preach effectively.

There’s a little detail here, however. Devotees who come to Holy Dhama to recharge their batteries are the ones who make big fuss our of silly little things – from the perspective of “old dhama hands”. Generally, they look like neophytes, they are filled with enthusiasm about some things but totally oblivious to value of the others. For example they might not worship dhama residents enough to satisfy those “old dhama hands”. Sometimes they go to worship places where Srimati Radharani would never come to, the areas of the rival gopi group, and so these enthusiastic bhaktas commit a grave sin in the eyes of wise souls “in the know”.

I think there’s an element of truth to this – this charging of the batteries might indeed look like an activity on a materialistic, external, bodily level, not as purely spiritual.

I also think there’s a good answer to this- most of our preaching happens on materialistic level, too . Yes, we need spiritual purity to preach but we also need to engage with material nature. Lord Chaitanya took sannyasa for the sake of preaching even though it was absolutely unnecessary for His own service.

If we want to preach we need to present ourselves on the level attractive to the people we preach to. That’s what life on this planet is given to them for – so that they can be put in situations where they can make conscious choices about serving the Lord. Spreading out agyata sukriti, like feeding people prasadam, does not always give them the chance to make a conscious choice that would count as real devotional service.

If Vamsidasa Babaji suddenly appeared in the middle of a modern city no one would pay him any attention. On the other hand, a well dressed devotee with books in his hands, with a gleaming face he got from recharging his batteries, can implore hundreds of people every day to voluntarily do something for Krishna, even if it’s as little as lend a respectful ear.

So, there’s no problem with looking like a neophyte when visiting the Holy Dhama. The purpose of it is to take as much enthusiasm for sankirtana as possible. What looks like immaturity in the Dhama would look extremely attractive to morose people of the modern cities back home. We don’t want to come back home being too wise to preach. That kind of realization would be absolutely useless.

This rule goes for the rest of our learning about Krishna, too. We might appear as making progress in our understanding of Krishna lila, for example, but if it doesn’t fill us with energy to go out and preach then it is a total waste of time.

There are many ways to engage ourselves in the service of Krishna and many criteria to judge the progress but for us there’s actually only one – does our service and our progress make us get up and preach or not?

We should never forget that. We are servants of Lord Chaitanya and we serve Him by preaching.

Vanity thought #235. Holy residence evolution.

I think I need a short break from Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji lila and reflect on something else, though it so happens that I look at a lot of things through the memory of what he said or did about it in his days.

Today I wanted to try and apply his attitude towards living in the Holy Dhama to our days and I’ve got perfect help from HG Hari Shauri’s Transcendental Diary, from the part where Srila Prabhupada dealt with his disciples in Mayapur.

Let’s start how it was in the old days, how vaishnavas of Srila Gaurakishora and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s caliber thought about it. Before Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati started his preaching mission residence in the holy places was the ultimate goal and absolute minimum for any serious devotee.

People who left for Gaudiya Math or Radha Kund babajis still remind us about that, along with quotes of Sanatana Goswami and others. One who wants to develop love for Radha and Krishna should go and live in Vrindavan or Mayapur, that’s the starting point of developing one’s devotion.

Okay, maybe not the real starting point but it’s the test of commitment. Is one ready to give up his material attachments and dedicate himself to chanting the Holy Names? Vrindavana was given to us exactly for that and if one wants to live somewhere else his motives are certainly contaminated. I mean, if you serious about surrendering to Krishna than why would you want to live in Paris or New York or on some tropical island? All those places have a lot going for them but all their attractions are purely material. If you want Krishna, go live in Krishna’s place, as simple as that.

So it was a test, new devotees were coming to Vrindavan or Navadvipa all the time. I don’t know much about Vrindavan traffic but from Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji’s biography it appears there was no shortage of aspiring devotees in Navadvipa.

Simply moving in wasn’t enough, though, Srila Gaurakishora and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati had a lot more tests coming. What are your living arrangements? What are your eating arrangements? What kind of association do you maintain? How do you present yourself and how do you treat others?

All those questions needed to be answered satisfactory or you wouldn’t get recognition as a genuine vaishnava.

You can’t buy land to live, and you can’t beg for land to live from unworthy persons. You can’t eat for your own pleasure, you can’t eat food prepared by non-devotees, you can’t associate with non-devotees either, and you can’t, under any circumstances, demand or enjoy any respect as a devotee. That’s a short list but it’s really tough to follow.

Basically, the only way to comply is to become a renounced babaji like Srila Gaurakishora himself. You should give up all, absolutely all material interests and consider yourself to be the lowest and most fallen servant of every living being and the land itself. We all know what an advanced vaishnava looks like, more or less, and if you are not advanced yet then living in the Holy Dhama isn’t for you, come back when you are ready.

Fast forward to the days of Srila Prabhupada. ISKCON had land and beautiful temples in both Vrindavana and Mayapur and everybody wanted to be there, it was a pinnacle of one’s progress. If you made it to the status of Brijabasi you made it, and it seemed so easy – just buy a ticket and go, and then you become a resident of the Holy Dhama.

There was also a question of preaching, and entirely new strategy to achieve success in Krishna Consciousness, thanks to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. Living in Holy Dhamas and doing your bhajan had become the sign of selfishness because Lord Chaitanya’s real request for his followers was to preach the glory of the Holy Name in every town and village.

Vrindvan is great for your own advancement, that hasn’t gone anywhere, but putting yourself out on the streets of ugra-karmic cities and calling people to come back to Krishna is a far bigger sacrifice. The babaji club probably has different opinions on this and they might be very exalted devotees but we were not born to live in Vrindavan, we were born to live as disgusting meat-eaters and drunkards, if vaishnavas like Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila Prabhupada hadn’t left Vrindavan for our sake we wouldn’t even know about its existence.

We can never ever overestimate the value of preaching, no matter what anybody says, preaching saved us, no less than that. It makes me sad when some devotees denigrate the very thing that gave them the ability to become devotees in the first place.

Anyway, there was an influx of devotees to both Vrindavan and Mayapur and I’m reading the part from Transcendental Diary where Prabhupada had to deal with it. Clearly, not everyone was ready, and that’s being very, very generous. Factually speaking, not a single person would have qualified by Srila Gaurakishora Babaji’s standards, not a single one. Massive fail on each and every account, so there’s that.

There is also preaching, devotees who were otherwise unqualified could stay in Mayapur for the preaching purposes, that is the only excuse our faults could be tolerated, and that is the only safeguard for us not to fall the victims of dhama-aparadhas.

Devotees who were not in the preaching mood paid dearly. I think no one can live in the Holy Dhama unless he preaches or becomes a first class vaishnava, in which case he would naturally live as a babaji. There’s also a class of people are are simply meant to be there, whose service has been practically reserved until their appearance, but, just like with mahabhagavatas, no one can imitate them even though many have tried.

Today I read the story of the devotee who decided to chant hundred and fifty rounds a day. He genuinely thought he could pull it off. Unfortunately, the first thing that is mentioned about him the Diary is that he didn’t want to see other devotees as they disturbed his bhajan. That is a major misunderstanding of the value of vaishnava association, the way I’ve heard this story before it didn’t have a happy ending, let’s see how Hari Shauri ends it in his diary.

Yes, I also try to chant many rounds every day but my excuse is that I really have no other choice. I’m not in the presence of my spiritual master ready to engage me in various preaching missions and I’m not living in a temple where there’s always lots of service to be done. All I can practically do now is to chant and type this blog. I’m not forfeiting any other duties by doing that.

Another devotee solved the problem of living in the temple in another way. If you live in the temple you must pull your share of work and you must follow the management, in those days our temples weren’t in the business of providing babaji service. So that devotee decided to rent a piece of temple land for himself, that way he wasn’t obliged to anybody.

Well, that’s the problem, though – we are not seeking independence, that’s actually exactly opposite to what we are trying to achieve. “Devotees can’t come and order me around anymore, I’m finally free” – what kind of attitude is that? I hope that devotee didn’t feel like that but others following his footsteps might. Afaik that story didn’t have a happy ending either.

The most interesting part is how Prabhupda was not in the position to criticize them. That’s an outrageous statement, the spiritual master is the only person allowed to criticize other vaishnavas, how come Prabhupada couldn’t? In answer to this question I’d say that he certainly had the right but it doesn’t mean he could do it freely.

Criticism is only a tool in developing disciple’s devotion and it doesn’t work in each and every case. In Transcendental Diary Hari Shauri Prabhu made that point very clear – in some cases Prabhupada restrained from open criticism to retain devotees in our society. If he blamed them they could have left and instead of chanting a gazillion of rounds they could have been doing a million of other, non Krishna Conscious things. What good would that criticism bring then? So Prabhupada stayed non-committal and restrained in his response. I think it made him sad that some devotees thought they could imitate Haridasa Thakura so easily but it’s the lesson they had to learn themselves, he just helped.

That’s the thing about gurus – they don’t make devotees by magic, this is something we must desire ourselves, gurus are their to guide and inspire us, the ultimate decision is still ours to make. I might be wrong here, I just don’t like shifting responsibility for my faults on my spiritual master.

And now we have a large community of devotees living in Mayapur and especially Vrindavan, unfortunately many of them have left the shelter of Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON, at least externally. I don’t know what Srila Gaurakishora might have said to people who left their gurus because they were not good enough and made long lists of their gurus faults. Personally I think this has absolutely nothing to do with vaishnavism, but since becoming a pure devotee is a process we should just let it play out itself, it’s all for our own good, Krishna wouldn’t have it otherwise.

I too had been badly burned by trying to maintain my materialistic lifestyle in the Holy Dhama. I thought the whole world outside existed to support my residence there and I just had to go out and milk it. It didn’t work, I was not, and still am not on the level where living in the Holy Dhama is possible and probably won’t be for a long, long while, perhaps for a lifetime or two, or two thousand.

It’s sad, really, and I hope thinking about it purifies my heart and brings me just a bit closer to becoming ready. One way or another, I will be there, I have to keep that goal in my mind at all times. Rome wasn’t built in one day either, I just have to build my house of devotion brick by brick, however long it takes.