Vanity thought #951. Choosing the beneficiary

Who should benefit from our chanting? Our first slogan has always been “Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa and be happy” which leaves no questions about our goal – our happiness. There’s no shortage of Śrila Prabhupāda’s quotes along these lines, too. What about Kṛṣṇa, though?

The mantra itself comes from Kali-Saṇṭāraṇa-Upaniṣad where it is is given to Nārada Muni by Lord Brahmā as the best means of counteracting effects of Kali Yuga. It goes without saying that Kali Yuga affects us, the conditioned living entities so chanting is meant to benefit us, but what about Kṛṣṇa?

Similarly, mention of chanting in Śrimad Bhāgavatam (12.3.51) starts with kaler doṣa-nidhe rājann – Kali yuga is an ocean of faults, chanting then is recommended as a means to counteract those faults, so it’s done for our own benefit again.

Even our harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam verse mentions age of Kali. It does not specifically mention our own benefits but mere association of the mantra with Kali makes it dependent on material conditions which, in turn, makes its purpose contaminated with self-benefits.

This is the thing – as long as we are here our motives are selfish no matter what we do. Our consciousness here is contaminated and this contamination does not exist in the spiritual world, only down here, and it’s impossible to shake off, so we always chant for our own pleasure, not Kṛṣṇa’s.

Our Gauḍīyā literature of course sets the course straight – devotional service must please Kṛṣṇa, not ourselves, and it should be free from all material desires by definition. There’s no shortage of verses explaining that from all possible angles, too. How to make Kṛṣṇa the beneficiary of our chanting, though? That is the question.

We chant japa everyday for up to two hours, how to make this pleasing to the Lord? I don’t know.

Lots of thoughts enter our minds while we chant. Some are about solving problems, some are about future hopes, some are about scrutinizing the past, some are about proving our own righteousness, some are about blaming others – none of them are about Kṛṣṇa. Thoughts about Kṛṣṇa simply do not occur in this world, that’s not how mind works here. At best we can have thoughts about advancing our mission and improving service to our guru but that is not without contamination either.

If we were sincere about carrying out orders of our spiritual master then the order concerning japa is simple – do not think of anything else. If we start devising ways to do this or that we are already breaking this order, everything else is just excuses. So what to do? I don’t know.

It seems very simple – chant for Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure, let Him enjoy our kīrtana, but how to put this in practice? We assume that He likes hearing His name over and over again but put yourself in His shoes – it must be really annoying to hear someone constantly muttering your name, hoping to attract your attention to his problems. Actually, not someone – everyone! Our only hope is that Kṛṣṇa is truly Absolute and so has unlimited patience.

Similarly, the prescription is to always remember about Kṛṣṇa. I try to follow it and as I observe myself I notice that all my remembrances of His existence are about my own problems. Whenever I decide to mentally chant His name it’s always about my own interests.

It could be about headache, it could be about helping to wake up, it could be about helping me to fall asleep, it could be about avoiding dangerous situations on the road, it could be about taking my mind off everyday problems, it could be about praying for some good luck, it could be about seeking protection, it could be about influencing other people, it could be about sustaining my fundamental assumption that things WILL get better. None of it concerns Kṛṣṇa Himself, and this is the problem I don’t know how to solve.

Generally, it goes like this – something happens in the world and it makes me remember Kṛṣṇa. On one hand it’s perfectly okay but on the other hand it contaminates me with material interests, especially if things happen to me.

Kṛṣṇa has no connection with this world and no interests in its goings on whatsoever, He left the business of running it to His trusted agents, so any time His name comes up in our minds in connection to happenings here He has no interest in it. I bet for Him our constant “prayers” is like spam texts from hell. First thing I’d do is to find a way to unsubscribe.

So I chant the mantra, something comes over me and pollutes my consciousness, eventually I notice it and try to purge unwanted thoughts and concentrate simply on listening to the name but the contamination persist for a while. It affects my attitude and with the wrong attitude we won’t get anywhere even in this world, what to speak about satisfying the Lord.

What is the right attitude then? I don’t know, I don’t think it even exists. We know what it should be:

    ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-
    śīlanaḿ bhaktir uttamā

Free from material desires and favorable to Kṛṣṇa but in conditioned state we are never free from material desires and on close examination our “favorable to Kṛṣṇa” part is based on using Him for our own ends. The fact that He is not lacking in anything doesn’t help either – what can you do for a person who is fully satisfied in Himself? He’s got absolutely everything He could ever desire and He does not desire anything we see in this world.

That’s why bhakti is so rare. In its absence we really have nothing to go on but Lord Caitanya’s instructions in Śikṣaṣtaka (CC Antya 20.21):

    tṛṇād api su-nīcena
    taror iva sahiṣṇunā
    amāninā māna-dena
    kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ

Notice how there’s nothing about love, service, or bhakti here. It does not require any qualities to our attitude that are not available in the conditioned state, just patience and humility, and in the next several verses Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī explains how to cultivate this attitude on examples of trees – objects available in this world.

It’s still not easy to follow in everyday life. Our mental attitude depends on what happens to us, not on what happens to some hypothetical trees. We can’t just feel being below the grass when our minds come with completely different estimates of our position here. We can’t practice tolerance when nothing seems to affect us either. When problems come tolerating them is not straightforward, too – we naturally wish for problems to go away and for us to be free from suffering but that’s not what Lord Caitanya wanted and it’s not how we could attain devotional service.

There’s a big debate always going on about real meaning of humility, too. What it means to be humble according to the dictionary and according to Kṛṣṇa consciousness are two different things.

It seems we are truly trapped in this world with no escape. We know that chanting must help but we don’t know exactly how. We, as our bodies, are simply not designed to be liberated, nor are we designed for serving Kṛṣṇa. Attaining devotional service to Him is a hope against hope, and that’s why it’s called causeless mercy.

In the meantime, chanting is the only way, pure or not, there’s no other solution. We are totally in the hands of Kṛṣṇa here, let Him arrange everything in the best possible way.

Vanity thought #591. The impossible truth

It’s not really impossible, actually it’s the only reality for liberated souls and pure, unalloyed devotees but it’s impossible for us in our present state, without exceptions.

In every personal conflict where things do not go as we like we are always wrong and our opponents are always right. Whenever we see injustice done to ourselves it isn’t there – we have to accept whatever is forced on us no matter what.

This rule follows straight from the third Siksashtaka verse – lower than grass, more patient than a tree, always offering respect to all others.

It means that in no confrontation we are allowed to come on top, it should always be – you are right, I’m wrong, prabhu, I’m too low to even argue with you.

If we are upset at not getting something, like food, for example, then we cannot argue that it’s unfair – amanina – we should not allow false prestige dictate us that we deserve more than we get.

Another foundation for this rule is the fact that we are conditioned living entities struggling in a world controlled by the Lord through His maya potency. This plainly means that maya is always right and we are always wrong. Another way to put it is that karma is always just. Yet another way to put it is that our feeling of injustice and of being unfairly treated is also the result of our karma, we can’t increase of decrease it, we just have to accept the discomfort and carry on.

Sometimes we come in contact with devotees, and they are controlled not only by maya but also by Krishna who personally takes care of them no matter what they do. Obviously when we pop up with our selfish desires then we are wrong and Krishna is always right.

There aren’t any other actors in this world – only Krishna and His maya potency, every other living entity is just an observer.

Once we try to apply this rule in real life it quickly becomes apparent that we are nowhere near that platform, ie it’s impossible. It’s pretty hard to sustain this attitude even for a few moments, and it’s okay because that is the natural feature of illusion we are in – as soon as we identify ourselves with our bodily interests we see ourselves as superior to the world around us and we start believing in our divine right to shape it according to our desires.

Sometimes, however, we fight for our rights and we win our trophies – does it mean that the rule can be broken? No, not at all, it’s a rule for those who seek spiritual progress, it’s not the rule for those who desire to control material nature as they like. If someone wants to control the nature and obtain desired things than maya makes them work hard and eventually grants their wishes. This has been going on since time immemorial and it will continue to go on because that’s what material world is for – to grant us our illusion.

If we want to be freed from the illusion – that’s when the rule comes in with full force.

It ties up beautifully with the ability to chant the Holy Name – as long as we think we have some rights to stake in this world we can’t be Krishna’s devotees, we have to give up all and every right and aspiration. It is possible to be like little gods in Krishna’s presence and draw power from him but that is not devotion, that is not service and that is not love. It might be a perfect setup for personal gratification but it’s not what we are looking for at all.

There’s one important catch with this rule – when we represent Krishna we gain a lot of power and we can argue on His behalf with all given strength and intelligence. This is very important because if we fail to do so then we are practically refuse to carry our service. Yet at no point we should assume that these powers are our own.

The moment Krishna withdraws His endorsement we are back below the straw on the street where everybody, and I literally mean everybody, can trample upon our egos and display their superiority in all imaginable ways and we should patiently accept it, for without Krishna we are nothing.

I just remembered a shastric example to illustrate this point, hopefully will investigate it further some other day.

Vanity thought #514. Don’t touch this

brāhmaṇasyaiva pūjyo ’haṁ śucer apy aśucer api strī – śūdra-kara-saṁsparśo vajrād api suduḥ sahaḥ

Let’s not forget this verse from Hari Bhakti Vilasa (5.454) – “I am to be worshipped only by the brāhmaṇas, whether they are clean or unclean. The touch of the hands of a woman or śūdra is worse than a thunderbolt to me.

It’s a bit of an old chestnut because it doesn’t refer to vaishnavas and Sananta Goswami explains it very nicely that we have nothing to be afraid of. Still there’s something we don’t often remember about our Lord.

What we usually remember is that He is the Lord of the entire universe and is sitting in the heart of every living being, that He is the ultimate well-wisher of all. Here He says that He can’t stand even a touch of mortal men. In Kali Yuga there are no brahmanas who would qualify under this verse so it covers all of us, except vaishnavas, of course.

Why is it so? What is His opinion of the conditioned souls? Is He really a well-wisher or He pays to the ungrateful jivas, who turned away from Him, in kind? I mean that would easily explain gang rapes and other puzzling incidents that make people blame God for not taking care of them.

In these situations we start talking about karma, about how we ourselves to blame for whatever happens to us and that Krishna would love to but He can’t help, He lets the laws of nature to run their course and so on. What if in reality He can’t stand us and our touch for Him is like a thunderbolt? Far from being a well-wisher He hates our guts and would have nothing to do with us if possible.

That isn’t very contradictory – He loves us as spirit souls but can’t stand the degraded projections of our consciousness – the selfish, revolting, self-absorbing way we behave in this world and which we enjoy. He doesn’t want to be touched by that, and who would?

Now we say we are vaishnavas and from us Krishna would accept any offering no matter what. That might be true of vaishnavas but if we look at ourselves we hardly qualify. In the best case, on our best behavior, under the direction of our authorities, we are to be treated as vaishnavas. On our own, in privacy of our homes, consumed by greed and enslaved by our desires – we aren’t.

Fact is, most of our offerings are made for our own enjoyment, we just seek Krishna’s blessings, thinking that cleared of bad karma our offerings would be even more pleasurable to us. That’s an attitude we can’t avoid as long as we see ourselves as material bodies driven by material senses.

Because it’s unavoidable we can’t stop it, and we better offer whatever it is we are about to consume anyway, the only real difference we can make is if we remember that our current mode of action is not okay, it’s only a temporary solution, a display of weakness that needs to be overcome if we are ever to approach the Lord.

Maybe it’s my age but I see lots of devotees take solace in setting a nice little place going, getting all mellow and wise. Life is pretty good, service to Krishna is finally paying off, sattva is all around, and we even start thinking about changing the world.

Well, maybe it’s not the time to sit back and relax just yet. A little number we got for ourselves means nothing to Krishna and our attitude of having a good, ostensibly Krishna conscious life could actually be revolting to him.

I think when Krishna talked about women and shudras he actually meant enjoyers, and that makes most of us most of the time, vaishnavas or not.

Perhaps Jiv Jago! Jiv Jago! wasn’t a call to only materialists but to all of us who got pretty comfortable without bothering to fully give up the attitude of enjoyment in this material world.

Maybe it’s a call against our complacency.

And what is this VAD thing we try to propagate in the wider society? We use it to justify our own lack of surrender and clinginess to material comfort, and instead of curing ourselves from it we wish to inflict it on the rest of the world?

It’s a big topic and I’m not ready to discuss it yet, let’s leave it at this today.

Vanity thought #492. Up up up in the winding circle

There are many implications from the Haridasa Thakura’s lesson I discussed yesterday, I don’t think I can cover them all. Today I’d like to focus on progression in our devotional service in the light of Haridasa’s lesson on humility.

Time and life doesn’t simply go in a straight line from past to present as we believe in the West. Actually, even in the West we have noticed its circular nature which is best expressed in “history repeats itself” saying. In Vedic culture there’s kala-chakra and the rotation of the yugas, but does history really repeat itself? Only for those who are circling in the whirlpool of material existence. Devotees of the Lord, even if they don’t reach His abode at once, make their circles higher and higher until they finally break free.

So up up up we go, each circle tighter and tighter, taking us closer and closer to the Lord.

What has it got to do with Haridasa Thakura? Let me explain what I mean.

Each one of us, and especially those born in India, have been hearing about benefits of spiritual practice all our lives. There are holy places in Christianity and Islam but they can’t beat the quantity, quality and variety of Hinduism. We are expected to reap those benefits at every chance. In India it’s practically impossible to get a tour without hearing a million of blessings bestowed on those who visit those places. It seems as if every corner of the country is a place of pilgrimage. The Puranas are similarly filled with descriptions of all the good things that will happen to those who chant some mantra or offer something to someone at the appropriate time and what not.

Frankly, I was once bored to death to hear about all this stuff.

So, when Lord Chaitanya’s devotees came down from Bengal to see the Lord in Jagannatha Puri they were technically visiting one of the four main holy dhamas in the whole of India but apparently they didn’t think of it as such at all. They were supposed to fast, shave and bathe and perform all the other dhama visiting rituals but devotees of Lord Chaitanya are above such petty regulations.

They came to see their beloved Gauranga. Then they went to bathe in the sea and then they all sat down and had plenty of prasadam distributed by Lord’s own hand. Only after than they went to the temple to offer their respects but they didn’t do much of that either, instead they had a massive, earth shattering kirtana there. Hearing that kirtana must have pleased the Lord Jagannatha more than following rules and regulations for visiting the dhama.

So, this was the first circle of life – in service to the Lord devotees rose above the service of the ordinary people. Shaving and bathing can wait, sankirtana cannot. Once you get into the circle of Lord Chaitanya’s devotees the mundane priorities go out of the window.

Yet this was not the end of the journey, as we can see from the example of Haridasa Thakura. Even in the association of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu there is place for further advancement. Some devotees are closer to the Him, some not so close. Some please Him more, some upset Him with their immature service, like that devotee who splashed water on Lord’s feet and then publicly drunk it.

Apparently there are many things to learn even if you are allowed in Lord’s company.

Then we get to the next circle – the level of Haridasa Thakura who didn’t have interest in getting close to the Lord. When Mahaprabhu personally embraced each and every Bengali vaishnava, Haridasa offered obeisances in the dust in the distance. His ambition, his goal in his life wasn’t to get closer to the Lord, get more mercy from Him, more prasadam, dance closer, rub your shoulders with the likes of Swarupa Damodara or Advaita Acharya.

Haridasa was above all that. Not saying he was more advanced than, for example, Swarupa Damodara, but if there were devotees who made it their ambition to be closer to the Lord and His most prominent devotees, Haridasa Thakura was higher than that.

It shows us that the real mercy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is not in getting His personal association, taking prasadam from His hands and wiping His tears with our cloth. His real mercy lies in granting us love of Krishna, which means getting real taste for chanting of the Holy Name. Once we get that we’ll automatically lose interest in where and how we get our food, where we stand, where we dance and whether we get any spiritual rewards for our service or not.

Suppose one day we reach this circle, or this kind of circle because we have to scale it down to our personal situation, maybe substituting Lord Chaitanya with our guru, visits to Jagannatha Puri with visits to Mayapur and so on.

Suppose we get over the urge to be in the first row everywhere we go, what next? Is there some other level above it?

Maybe yes, maybe no, what definitely is there is taking pleasure from seeing the Lord happy. Normally if we imagine Lord Chaitanya serving prasadam we want to be recipients of His mercy but a real devotee would experience bliss from feeling how happy the Lord is to serve His devotees.

I’d venture to say that devotees of Haridasa Thakura caliber have absolutely no interest in what happens with their bodies, whether they get far or close to the Lord, their only interest is in sharing the feelings of the Lord Himself. They simply do not feel what their bodies feel, they do not share aspirations of their bodies and their egos.

Perhaps Haridasa Thakura was far more blissful sitting under his tree and feeling the happiness of Lord Chaitanya, he had far more pleasure being there than any “social climber” getting within three feet from the Lord.

This is a major reversal of our attitudes, from seeking spiritual progress, a very legitimate aspiration for us, to sharing in the happiness of the Lord.

Maybe this is where the next circle would take us – complete disappearance of any trace of self-interest, even spiritual self-interest, and experiencing the world through the eyes of the Lord.

This doesn’t mean that we become one with the Lord, and externally we might be very busy in rendering service, but what we feel is not our feelings but the feelings of Krishna when He accepts our offerings.

Practically, we don’t feel anything like that yet but that is because we still see the world and devotional service with expectations of what it would bring to us, not what it would give to the Lord.

This transition might take a long time but it’s necessary, it should be our ultimate goal, ie if prema is our ultimate goal we shouldn’t think of prema-bhakti in terms of how it would feel in our bodies but in what pleasure it would bring to Krishna.

This is where the circles of progress should eventually take us.

Vanity thought #491. A poignant lesson from Haridasa Thakura

Haridasa Thakura is our namacharya but, curiously, we are not allowed to imitate his bhajan and his behavior. There’s a good reason for that but today I want to talk about a lesson we CAN learn from him and apply in our lives.

Haridasa Thakura’s life in Jagannatha Puri was pretty sweet and simple. Lord Chaitanya secured a place for him to stay and arranged daily delivery of prasadam, He also regularly visited His devotee to keep him company and the disappearance of Haridasa Thakura is one of the sweetest Mahaprabhu’s pastimes.

Being a Muslim Haridasa Thakura couldn’t enter the temple and we can relate to his plight in this regard, we, the western devotees among us, can’t enter the temple either. No big deal, we think, it’s just one of those outdated customs we don’t really mind. Srila Prabhupada, to show solidarity with his disciples, didn’t go to the temple either, and we all can get the mercy of Lord Chaitanya.

We might not be allowed in the temple but as far as Mahaprabhu is concerned we are all in His good graces. If He were to appear among us again He’d surely shower us with His mercy and we’d all have a big kirtan and then sit down with the Lord for the best prasadam ever.

The reality, I’m afraid, is different.

Haridasa Thakura’s exclusion did not stop with the temple, and our western births are much much lower than him so we should expect even more restrictions than he had.

Take cleansing of the Gundica temple. Haridasa Thakura was surely not allowed inside, so he knew about the pastime, he was there, probably trying to help in any way, but he wasn’t allowed to do much. Maybe he wasn’t even allowed to stand in the line passing waterpots from Indradyumna lake to the temple. What else could he do? Perhaps help with managing the dirt thrown out of the temple, keeping in neat piles away from the road or something.

How do you think it feels when you see the Lord happily working together with all the devotees and you are not allowed to join? Not even to handle waterpots.

When the cleansing was over Lord Chaitanya had a huge sankirtana and then took a bath. Haridasa Thakura was usually allowed to take part in singing and, perhaps, he participated this time, too. At last the happy ending, one would think, but it wasn’t the end yet.

After the kirtan the Lord took His bath and then “entered the garden” to take prasadam, according to Chaitanya Charitamrita (CC Madhya 12.152). It’s unclear what garden it was, maybe at the Gundica temple, maybe somewhere near Indradyumna lake.

Everybody sat down in lines and there was enough prasadam to feed five hundred people, and Lord Chaitanya personally called for Haridasa. but Haridasa could not enter.

He just stood outside and waited for Lord’s mercy, but he couldn’t enter. He couldn’t sit down and eat with all the exalted devotees and brahmanas present. Since Lord Chaitanya personally called him he was probably allowed in the garden itself but he thought it would be inappropriate for him to take prasadam among the devotees. He didn’t want to disturb their minds.

“I am abominable, I cannot sit down among you” – he said.

If you think Lord Chaitanya immediately rectified this “injustice” you are wrong. If some devotees considered Haridasa abominable then so be it. Lord Chaitanya understood Haridasa’s mind and He thought the matter should be closed.

So, if Lord Chaitanya suddenly appeared in this world again we’d better not impose ourselves on His company. We’d better stand at a distance and humbly wait for remnants of the Lord’s food, we should not think that we have a reserved place at His table.

Due to our low birth we’d be lucky if they let us join the kirtan and maybe laugh at our awkward dancing, but we should forget about mixing with Lord’s devotees at will, we should see ourselves as abominable and undeserving.

Perhaps being right here right now is the closest to the Lord we can get in this life, perhaps He keeps His distance from us for a purpose – we are too fallen to be in His company.

On the other hand it’s all only external considerations. On a spiritual level there are no distinctions like this at all. If Haridasa Thakura was Lord Brahma himself than Srivasa Thakura, the incarnation of Narada Muni, was his son. There’s no way Narada Muni would refuse to sit down to eat with his father. Srivasa Thakura didn’t mind Haridasa’s company, too (or did he?), but there were others who apparently did.

Another way to look at it is that Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes in Jagannatha Puri weren’t on the same spiritual level as His pastimes in Navadvipa Dhama. Maybe there were devotees who could approach the Lord physically and sit just meters away from Him but who didn’t get the same love and affection as Srila Haridasa Thakura.

This would explain the unfortunate case of Kala Krishnadasa, Lord’s personal servant who got lured away by gypsies.

I think this is an important lesson in humility and relative value of relationships visible on the material plane. We can think of being close to our guru or being first in line for abhiseka or something, but that in itself does not guarantee spiritual acceptance by the Lord. Some devotees, like Swarupa Damodara, were very close in both senses, some weren’t.

What is important for us is to swallow our false pride and cherish what the Lord has given us already. If we are not invited to the front of the line we shouldn’t feel wounded. Nowadays in ISKCON we have a special ministry to look after devotees, to make them feel accepted and appreciated, and I’m sure it’s a very important service, but it wouldn’t hurt us to take a lesson from Srila Haridasa Thakura and humbly let karma beat our egos all she wants.

This is actually a bigger blessing than stroking our false egos.

Vanity thought #470. The wrap up

It’s the last day of Kartika and my attempt at remembering Krishna Damodara every day is coming to an end. There are other important events to celebrate this month, too, and I think I’ve covered the most important ones.

Let’s see how much I remember without checking back – Damodara lila, of course, then Govardhana puja, then the story of Dhruva Maharaja, and one thing I left out – Bali Maharaja surrender to Lord Vamanadev.

One thing I still don’t understand is how any of this relates to Srimati Radharani, why do we have deities called Radha-Damodara, for example? I don’t want to talk about pastimes not mentioned in our books – if Srila Prabhupada didn’t share them with us then we have no business celebrating them publicly. I’d be very skeptical about personal realizations, too, but those are personal, let’s not pass judgments on that.

From Damodara pastime of the Lord the most memorable lesson is the two fingers rule – in order to achieve success in anything, even in devotional service, one must fully apply himself and one needs the mercy of the Lord. If applied to everyday life it sounds very depressing – do I really have to bother about money, family, success, legacy and all that other crap that is expected of life? Or am I genuinely lazy, with no idea of what sacrifice really is?

I’ve never lifted a finger for anything or anyone else, and the most I’ve done for Krishna is chant a few rounds when I feel like it. I look at some devotees who make big commitments and sacrifice everything to succeed in their service and I feel totally inadequate. I feel inadequate even when I look at some parents and how they have dedicated their lives to their dharma as they know it.

If I were in Mother Yashoda’s shoes (which is funny, since she probably didn’t wear shoes inside the house), would I even bother to tie Krishna up, or would I just sit there and watch, like some stoner who still lives off his mom?

What is the point of remembering Lord Damodara if it doesn’t inspire one to sacrifice his life to the mission of Lord Chaitanya?

Interestingly, while I might not know why we have Radha Damodara I do know that it was the first and best known sankirtana party in our movement. Somehow the connection worked.

And from Dhruva Maharaja I’ve learned about the danger of carrying material desires. Even if Krishna bestows His mercy He might force one to endure the fulfillment of his hankerings. Thirty six thousand years for Dhruva, maybe millions of years for us.

From Govardhana pastime I remembered Indra’s mistake – it’s nice to be on the Brijabasis’ side but to get there one must have his ego destroyed first, i.e. play Indra’s role. Then, when one’s pride is shattered to pieces, he might earn the privilege of taking Krishna’s shelter along with residents of Vrindavana. We can’t cheer for them simply because we know they will win, we must become just like them, simple and single-minded in their lives, thinking only about satisfaction of Krishna and not caring about the rest of the society and its norms.

If we keep any self-interest in our hearts taking shelter under Govardhana Hill is not for us. Let’s be humble and go through heart purification process first, never mind how it might appear to fellow devotees who expect us to always be the best and the purest. I mean we always try to present the best side of us – how we are bathing in the ocean of nectar, by guru and Krishna’s grace, and if something is offered to us we blush for a moment – “Oh now, I couldn’t possibly”, but within our hearts we know we deserved this and more.

How often do we publicly admit that we are wretched souls unworthy even a particle of dust from devotees’ lotus feet and really mean it? Not just as a polite thing to say but really really see ourselves as wretched and undeserving?

I think I’m getting off-topic here, that’s what happens when I don’t prepare myself, don’t exert enough effort, and Krishna consequently leaves me battle my articles alone.

From this pov my “vrata” failed on this last day. God, it was so close!

Better luck next time.

Vanity thought #457. Krishna’s mercy

When we talk about Krishna’s mercy during Govardhana Lila we usually mean those seven days when Krishna lifted the hill but there was a moment a bit earlier, too.

When Krishna persuaded Nanda Maharaja and his people to offer puja to Govardhan the King of Heaven, Indra, got very angry. He decided to teach those insolent cowherds a lesson. He couldn’t believe that Krishna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Narayana Himself. Out of this ignorance he couldn’t properly judge the position of Krishna’s devotees either.

The Vedic law might have been on his side but from Krishna’s point of view Indra had to be punished.

Indra, as we know, released the cloud Samvartaka that he normally uses during universal destruction. Attacking Vrindavana like that was the use of deadly force. So far Krishna killed all the demons who attacked Vrindavana and so Indra’s life was also in question.

This is where Krishna thought that He wouldn’t kill an offender acting out of ignorance, He would destroy His pride and turn him into a devotee instead. Demons didn’t get such a mercy, even if they got liberation after being killed.

The main difference, of course, was that Indra was still a devotee of Lord Vishnu, his life would always have been spared. We, after being accepted under the shelter of the lotus feet of our parampara, are in the similar place.

Sometimes we forget ourselves and we don’t know what we are doing. Krishna won’t kill us for that, but if He decided to show us His mercy He would completely destroy our pride.

Usually we think ourselves as being on the side of Brijavasis huddling around Krishna for seven days, but actually our position is more like that of Indra – as ignorant would be devotees who got carried away and commit offenses against the Lord and His devotees.

Of course the gentle readers of this blog would never do such a thing but if we look into our hearts we would have to admit that being puffed up, not humble is our preferred state of mind.

So, during the time of Govardhana festival I think it would be prudent to pray not for shelter of Krishna’s favorite hill but for Krishna’s mercy in destroying our pride and our anarthas. Only after that we might humbly beg to stand under the umbrella of Govardhan, too.

Sri Sri Giri Govardhan ki – Jaya!

Vanity thought #444. Humility, the KC way

We all know that we need to be humble to make any progress in our spiritual lives, but what is humility in the first place?

It appears there’s a slight but potentially crucial difference between a dictionary definition of humility and Krishna conscious definition.

Dictionary defines humility as a state of being humble, and humble means “having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc.” It also means not being proud or arrogant, and also a synonym of modest. In essence it means a feeling of inferiority.

Srila Prabhupada defines humility in a purport to Bhagavat Gita 13.8, a verse where Krishna lists what constitutes knowledge and humility comes right at the beginning:

“Humility means that one should not be anxious to have the satisfaction of being honored by others.”

Notice the difference – instead of feeling inferior he talks about absence of desire for recognition. In our lives most of the time feeling inferior before the authorities is sufficient, for now, until we reach the paramahamsa stage, but if we look deep into it and compare our humility with humility as it’s practiced in the outside world the difference becomes more and more prominent.

A businessman looking for a favor from a government official might feel truly inferior but the desire of reward, desire for recognition is obviously there. People might come and apologize and feel genuinely sorry but they do it with the desire of being forgiven and accepted.

If you look at it that way you will see desire for acceptance and recognition everywhere you look, this seeking of satisfaction of being honored. People might not seek an equal status, sometimes even being accepted as a minion is okay for them, but they want that honor and satisfaction of getting it.

Thus in the world there’s no real humility, real humility is a quality of a self realized person, completely disinterested in what kind of impression he leaves on others.

Looking at ourselves we can find plenty of examples of mundane humility (hopefully we have at least that) but not many examples of absence of desire for satisfaction of being honored. Whatever we do we expect a pat on the back, sometimes we even think that this is our undeniable right and we demand it as a pre-condition for surrender. We feel that being mistreated in ISKCON is a valid excuse to go our own way.

Sometimes we feel that vaishnavas are not properly appreciated and we set ministries and committees looking that all the devotees get proper satisfaction of being honored. On the face of it it’s all very nice but there’s downside to it, too – we make devotees addicted to seeking satisfaction. This is actually a disservice.

Looking at the broader picture, humility is not only absence of desire to seek honors, it’s also absence of any interest in being judged one way or another. If someone wants to blame us we should not be averse to it either. While mundane humility defines it in relation to other people, Krishna conscious humility demands fidelity to the message of guru and Krishna with complete disregard for the rest of the world.

On the surface it might appear insensitive but the truth is that the only proper way to relate to the rest of the world is through Krishna. Without seeing Krishna we can’t see the world for what it is and all our relations with it will be polluting.

That is a lofty goal but for now we can stick to feeling humble without desire for approval and recognition.

It is okay to seek approval from guru and Krishna, though – it’s trying to establish rapport with the outside world that is against our definition of humility.

I still feel like I’m missing something here but that is all I got at the moment.

Vanity thought #436. Tribute to calendar

Tomorrow is a big “disappearance day” but if I want to talk about calendar events I should say a few words about past week holidays first.

Last Sunday we had Durga Puja, yesterday was Ramachandra Vijayotsava, and today is Ekadashi.

Durga Puja has become big for ISKCON congregation, I understand. In the early days devotees paid no attention to demigods but things are changing. I don’t want to discuss reasons for this, I think as long as we keep proper consciousness we should be alright.

One reason why we have Durga puja in a vaishnava calendar is the story of the gopis worshiping her as goddess Katyayani. The idea is that we can ask her to help us to attain Krishna, so Durga puja is okay. Well, gopis prayed to her because they had no idea Krishna was the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. On the other hand, even if they knew Krishna was God Himself they would still probably ask Katyayani for help – pure devotees have no pride whatsoever, they would beg anyone for Krishna’s mercy, they see everyone as His devotee already.

Our own progress is also dependent on Durga’s cooperation, she is the one who can distract us forever if she wants to and we generally don’t have enough power to resist her charms, so we better play nice.

On the other hand we should simply surrender to Lord Chaitanya, if we do this there’s no way Durga would take any offense and there’s no way she would dare put obstacles on our path.

This is a very important point – if we surrender our body, mind and soul to Lord Chaitanya we should not concern ourselves with being nice to everybody else, including demigods. Sounds harsh but that is the price we need to pay if we want to join Mahaprabhu’s party.

He is not giving us a joy ride within this world, He is taking us out, meaning that we should give up all our attachments to everything we hold dear and valuable here, we can’t bring these attachments to Mahaprabhu’s kirtans in Sri Dhama Navadvipa. If we still want to be nice to demigods and forefathers then we are not ready yet and we might miss our train.

Ramachandra Vijayotsava is a different affair, though. Lord Ramachandra, unlike Durga, is a vishnu-tattva and so there’s no difference between Him and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, there are only different moods of service. Actually, we could learn quite a bit from devotees of Lord Ramachandra, in particularly Hanuman.

Yesterday was the day when Hanuman burned Lanka and informed Lord Ramachandra that he had found Sita. Some people say that Hanuman didn’t display trinad api sunichena attitude by being so vindictive and destructive – he burned the whole city, what kind of devotee is that?

This is total nonsense – Hanuman displayed true humility – completely unselfish desire to server His master in any necessary way. If Lanka had to be burned – he burned it. He wasn’t doing it to show how powerful he was, he rather showed Ravana that by the mercy of Lord Rama even one single devotee can destroy his entire city.

The act of burning Lanka wasn’t a celebration of Hanuman’s power, it was celebration of power of Lord Ramachandra. Anyone thinking that Hanuman was enjoying himself there has a demoniac mentality and shouldn’t be making such comments in public.

So, Hanuman was a personification of trinad api sunichata principle which is not an outward displaying of humility by being nice to everybody but internal surrender that leads to performing any kind of action on behalf of the Lord, even the one that brings condemnation from the general public.

Being truly humble is not submitting to false egos of materialistic persons, it’s seeing those persons as parts and parcels of the Lord. We should feel ourselves lower than the grass because we see Krishna in the heart of everybody else, not because everybody else has any claim to greatness.

Consequently, worldly people can’t appreciate devotee’s true humility because they don’t see it in connection to the Lord, they expect devotees to subjugate themselves to their own material ambitions. If they fail to impress anybody else they might want to go see a devotee to massage their egos, thinking that a devotee must lower himself before them because that is what prescribed in the scriptures.

Oh, how wrong they are! What a despicable, devilish mentality. They think that if a devotee is a servant of every living being they can get some of that service for themselves. What they forget is that in reality they want to enjoy service meant for the Lord, it’s like stealing from the Deity’s donation box.

We should never indulge them, we should never let anyone to take anything that is meant for the Lord, we should protect His interests at any price. We should remember that in this world there’s no connection between us and any other living entity but through mutual service to Krishna. If someone intends to exclude Krishna from the equation we should immediately cut the connection to that person, too.

Preaching means reconnecting people with Krishna, nothing else. Not making a good impression, not being nice to people, not being friendly, not attracting people with our good qualities – only connecting them to Krishna. If they don’t like it we must leave them alone, we can indulge them in above mentioned sweeteners only if it serves fanning a spark of their relation to Krishna. If they want to use us for something else it would be abuse of Krishna’s mercy. We are Krishna’s tools and no one has the right to engage us in anything else. We must say no to abusers.

This is not pride, this is real humility.

And we can learn it from Hanuman.

Vanity thought #404. Celebrating Gaurakishora style

Appropriately clueless, the error number 404 is just a sign that I do not have necessary resources to display any useful information regarding today’s holiday.

In light of my recent thoughts on the subject I decided to celebrate it Gaurakishora style. Once Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji declared that he was going to celebrate some vaishnava holiday. Next day some of his followers gathered in anticipation of a big feast but he deflated their enthusiasm by saying that his kind of celebration means fasting and chanting extra rounds of japa, nothing more.

Considering the gravity of the situation it’s better not to pollute the world with thoughts of extra feasts, sumptuous prasadam or allegedly high-minded talks on esoteric matters, I can do this any other time.

To actually understand the import of the appearance day of Srimati Radharani requires full and unshakable knowledge of samdanha jnana, a fully realized understanding of our constitutional position. Short of that realization everything that comes out of our mouths is actually namaparadha.

Usually discussing transcendental pastimes is beneficial for the conditioned souls as it helps us to overcome the namaparadha stage but today is not an ordinary day. Our desire to dabble in pastimes of Radha and Krishna is materialistic in nature but by indulging it we also purify it just like we purify our desire to eat by consuming prasadam or we purify our sexual desire by trying to produce children. Bottom line – we do these things for our own satisfaction, we simply try to get the best deal out of our infatuation with our own bodies.

If, for one day, we suspend this self-indulgence and limit ourselves only to chanting the Holy Names, that would be a real sacrifice showing our real desire to please the objects of our devotion.

We can’t maintain such a strict regiment forever, only on special occasions, and today is the most appropriate one.

On appearance days of Krishna or Lord Chaitanya we can expect some extra mercy and some extra leeway, hoping that the Lord won’t mind granting us some of our materialistic wishes (better food, louder kirtanas etc). Srimati Radharani, however, is not Krishna. Krishna might forgive us but for Her indulgence in any kind of selfish desires is very offensive towards the Lord, I bet She could only sigh watching us wasting the few remaining days of our lives on something so frivolous.

Let me put it a bit differently – watching us fishing for some extra benefits on days when we are supposed to give everything and more to Krishna is upsetting for Her. Krishna might not mind but She does. We cannot expect Her mercy in this situation because our desire to have some fun for ourselves is directly opposite to what She wants from us and what She might be eager to grant.

This is why I think Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji style of celebrating vaishnava holidays is more appropriate for serious sadhakas. Let’s try and rein in our minds for the day, let’s celebrate by putting more efforts into avoiding offenses while chanting and reading extra pages from Bhagavad Gita or Srimad Bhagavatam describing spiritual ABCs – we are not the bodies, we should not be following the interests of our bodies, we should not underestimate our fallen position and we should not pretend to have any taste for the Holy Name and pastimes of the Lord.

Let’s try to be smaller and humbler, let’s not claim any spiritual rights and let’s not inflate our egos by pretending to be ready to talk about Srimati Radharani. There are devotees who are obliged to deliver these talks and we are obliged to listen to them very attentively but let’s also remember that proper spiritual conclusion from listening to these talks is realization of our total inadequacy.

If we expect increase in our self esteem, or if we perceive any increase in our self esteem, than we are simply deluding ourselves.

Maybe if we are able to pull this little sacrifice we will be able to bow down with utmost sincerity and offer our prayers to Srimati Radharani.

Even if we fail, there will be another day or another year. We should not dare approaching Her in our thoughts while imagining ourselves having accomplished anything, as if claiming something we deserved by acquiring some service points. Even a slightest thought in the line of “now I’m ready” immediately disqualifies us.

Today I caught myself many a time diverting my thoughts from serving the Lord, what to speak of the purity. Unfortunately even a fallen situation does not qualify one to worship Sri Radhika. Her attention is the rarest gift for all conditioned souls, we shouldn’t be expecting it here, only after our liberation and only after we are fully engaged in serving the Lord on a fully transcendental platform.

I just realized that the more I talk the more I entangle myself. Let’s stop for now and chant an extra round or something instead.