Vanity thought #1030. Window of opportunity

Several strange things happened in the world politics recently that might show us the way back into big scale preaching. The window might be opening again, after several decades being on the back burner.

When we were a novelty things were very good for us as a society, everyone was interested, books were flying out of our hands, temples were opened, we were growing bigger and stronger. Then we became old news, cataloged under a weird Indian cult, or even simply masquerading as an Indian cult, offering nothing of substance to the society.

History repeated itself in former USSR even though we are still growing strong there. Soon it will happen in India, too. We just tend to go out of fashion.

That’s not what Śrila Prabhupāda meant for us, for his movement. He really wanted to change the world, not serve nostalgic Hindu immigrants or become a cultural icon of days long past.

We have some very good ideas about what went wrong and how to move forward, we have a recipe for success, we have history, we survived through very tough times and we are not going away, but none of that guarantees our future. I would say that we aren’t looking forward enough, that we are still too involved with our past to matter to those who live around us, much less to the future generations.

Eventually we will grow out of this self-absorbed teenager like life and start doing something really useful, or we could self-destruct like many a teenager and disappear without a trace.

The world is full of rebels, especially young ones. They come, they shout, they make demands, they make promises, they see nothing but the bright future for themselves, then they fade away because the real world is nothing like the stuff of their dreams. It’s ugly, it’s messy, and people start to value completely different things once their teenage years are over. They grow up, become humble and patient, they become stronger, they make bigger sacrifices, and they make compromises they never thought were possible just a few years earlier.

We were like that once, too, and now we are coming out of age, all we need is to stick to our beliefs and seize new opportunities, and the opportunities might just be coming our way.

So, the events, the case studies – Russian annexation of Crimea, Thailand’s bloodless coup, EU and Syrian elections – that’s where I see the opportunities for us to assert ourselves once again.

Let’s start with Russia. They have been involved in two ugly Chechen wars, then a quick Georgian campaign, but this one really stands out. They took over prime real estate belonging to another country without firing a shot and nobody could do anything about it. Ukrainians themselves just sat there and watched in disbelief. Their Western partners made a lot of noise but didn’t offer any help but symbolic sanctions. Two months on and the matter seems to have been put to rest completely, no one is even talking about it anymore. How did Russians pull that off?

By sticking to their values, by being honest about their identity, and by offering people hope and protection. While the West didn’t accept Crimean referendum, fact is that 80% of the population supported the Russian idea, they saw that Putin meant what he said and backed up his words with deeds, he wasn’t duplicitous, he didn’t want anything for himself, he was upfront, he clearly identified common enemy and he wasn’t perceived as an enemy himself.

By values and identity I mean their shared history, especially WWII one, the heroes, the stuff of schoolbooks, the aspirations, standards of honesty and justice. Mainland Ukraine, meanwhile, went into anti-Russian overdrive since its independence, new history was quickly made up, new heroes put on pedestals, and some of those were unacceptable to those who grew up in USSR.

Given the choice between shifting allegiances and pseudo-democratic rhetoric coming from Kiev and solid, stay on course, Russian narrative, it wasn’t really a competition. I say “pseudo-democratic” because Kiev has got nothing to show for twenty years of its democratic rule, they only learned to hate their Russian speaking citizens and their Soviet past, going totally against their “equal rights” ideology.

Next, Thailand’s bloodless coup. Before it happened everyone was saying that this time people (red shirts) will come out with arms and will fight the generals for democracy. All the news reports were warning of an imminent civil war, counting the guns and interviewing various militant leaders of pro-government red shirts. Then nothing happened. Instead one red shirt leader after another publicly pledges to work with the junta for the betterment of the whole country. One even offered to write songs about unification.

Why? How’s that possible? Because the generals are not seen as an enemy, they do not dictate, they beg people for support, and they tackle problems everyone got tired of long time ago. After a decade of street protest of one color after another, finally some adults have taken charge and so far people trust them.

Surely, there’s an opposition movement, but I can’t find any substance behind their “no coup” protests, they’ve got nothing to offer but the return of the stalemate of a month ago when the country was paralyzed without a working government or parliament.

Democracy didn’t deliver good governance there while generals at least look sincere in their efforts. Turns out people want to be governed for their benefit, not propagandized by serial liars in the name of democracy.

Next, EU elections. Last month all EU countries voted for their supranational EU parliament. It doesn’t mean much yet in terms of real power but the outcome was interesting – almost every country that matters saw a huge rise and, in some cases, outright wins for right-wing, nationalist parties. Part of it is that EU elections don’t really matter and so only energized radicals showed up at the polls and come national elections these “winners” will be swept away again, as it happened in France several years ago, but my point is the clear sign of rising popularity of the “right wing” agenda.

Hmm, actually it’s a big topic that won’t fit in today’s post so I’ll leave it for the next time and try to explain why any of that matters to us.

We should be the ones offering solid, immutable values, we are the ones who should be seen as selfless servants of the society, we are the ones who should be seen as sincere and honest, we are the ones who should be free of hypocrisy and duplicity, we are the ones people should turn to when they can’t trust anyone else.

Five-ten years ago no one was really interested in such a proposition, people were still in the grasp of “democratic” ideals, they thought Obama would bring them change and repair the damage done by his predecessor. Now they don’t buy that anymore and they seek their change elsewhere – in Putin, in UKIP, in Thai generals.

It’s a chance for us to remind them that there’s a philosophy they are all looking for, there’s an ideology they all can trust. They are ripe for the taking, they are tired of being lied to, they will welcome us with both arms if we’d only bother ourselves to get out there and reach to the people. They’ve opened their hearts and we can, we must come out and give them Kṛṣṇa.

The dog days are over, illusion lifted its veil for a second and it’s time for Kṛṣṇa consciousness to shine through again.

Vanity thought #271. The King is Dead. Long Live The King!

Will take a short break from Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s biography to catch up with latest events.

One thing that stirred me up last week was the killing of Gaddafi. I’m sure he had fully deserved what was coming but it’s not his legacy that worries me, it’s the manner in which his fate played out and the future that lies ahead.

Western powers have been bombing Libya for half a year, initially to protect the civilian population from attacks by Gaddafi’s armed forces. Pretty soon Britain, France and the US turned their planes and unmanned drones into rebel airforce, supporting the armed and violent rebellion against the ruling government. Observers of course knew it all along, the public talk about protecting civilians didn’t fool anybody, but it kept the presentation civil.

After the fall of Tripoli two months ago the bombing continued but now it was directed at rooting out the remaining forces loyal to Gaddafi from their stronghold towns. In the media it was made to appear as if it was only Gaddafi, a handful of his bodyguards and a bunch of mercenaries that kept fighting. The loyalty of thousands of citizens of those towns was never in the spotlight. As rebel forces, now accepted as legitimate Libyan government, took town after town they discovered that some were completely deserted, in others they sought out the “mercenaries” and punished them. Tribes that were traditionally supportive of Gaddafi were driven out and black Africans were summarily executed. So far I haven’t seen any news of what has happened to the town of Sirte where Gaddafi stayed and fought until the end.

Here you can read an account of how his final hours played out. There are many versions, though, this is just one possible reconstruction.

Two citizens celebrating with Gaddafi's golden gun

Two citizens celebrating with Gaddafi's golden gun

These two look quite nice comparing to the lynching mob that actually did the deed, and here lies my biggest problem – we got rid of one dictator but what have got in return?

I’ve written quite a few posts on the asuric version of varnashrama. People of the West that follow it faithfully did everything according to their rules – they had the UN mandate, they supported the rebels all along, they offered Gaddafi a “safe” way out, facing a court trial that would have most certainly sentenced him to death, and when he refused they kept helping the rebels to finish him off.

It was all righteous and civilized and now the public can pat itself on the back for the job well done and course well stayed. Their armed forces haven’t had a single casualty and Gaddafi’s frozen assets would probably pay for the expenses. I don’t think they will just release the money back without taking a substantial cut but it’s a matter for the future.

What I see instead is cold blooded outsourcing of violence. Just as they do with slaughterhouses.

I have always wondered if people would actually step over the threshold and apply the same method of killing that assures their clean looking steaks, pizza and KFC chicken. Now I can see that they have just managed that.

One might argue that it’s not the fist time when Western public had been desensitized to war violence but with Iraq and Afghanistan we all know that violence is there. The US might not allow broadcasting the burials of their killed servicemen but the violence is still conveyed through the media and popular culture. Not so with Libya – it looked clean and nice from start to finish.

There are some muted calls for official investigation into the circumstances of Gaddafi’s death but we can be rest assured nothing will come of it and no lessons will be learned by the general public. Brutal lynching of a man has been successfully turned into a stream of polite obituaries and celebration of his death.

It all looks just like “Happy Fried Chicken” or “Happy Cow” restaurants where people are told that slaughtered animals are actually happy to be killed.

Once again, Gaddafi fully deserved his violent death, his sponsorship of terrorism and personal brutality are well known. Right now they are discovering the extent of his hidden wealth stashed overseas. Latest estimates put it at 200 billion US dollars, twice the Libyan GDP, and three times more than leading men on Forbes list.

At this point his body is put into a cold storage room of a vegetable store and there are hundreds of people queuing up too see his corpse.

Libyans queuing up to see Gaddafi's body

Libyans queue up to have a look at the bodies of Muammar Gaddafi and his son Mutassim, displayed inside the cold storage room of a store in the outskirts of Misrata on Saturday.

They all look presentable and orderly here, just like polite waiters that bring you your slaughtered food. No one wants to remind you how it ended up on your plate, what’s important is the presentation.

These muslims follow their own dharma, and if the asuric dharma I was talking about could only be a fragment of my imagination, Islam is a proper authorized religion. What is the difference, though? Why do these people want to see Gaddafi’s body? Pay respects? Hardly, citizens of Musrata where the body is displayed never had any love for Gaddafi. Do they want to spit on his corpse? Maybe.

Perhaps it was Gaddafi’s karma that assured his inglorious death and people lining up to spit on his corpse, but what about the karma of those who stay in line for hours to have a chance to further humiliate a dead man?

What kind of bright new future is being ushered on us?

Are we going to live with the society that hides the despicable murder of human beings and pretends that no karma is created? Don’t we have enough of abortions and realistically looking wars already?

We should keep that in mind when we discuss human rights and charity with these people. They all seem so genuinely concerned, they truly see themselves as well-wishers of the mankind. We should have stopped listening to them when they refused to give up eating meat, will we stop pretending that they are all frauds now that they graduated to killing people? I don’t think so, we are gullible and we also want to help.

I just hope we don’t lose the sight of the goal and the sight of the line that separates any material dharma from where we want to be. Only genuine, pure, transcendental varnashrama as practiced probably only on Vaikuntha is safe, everything else is doomed, especially in Kali Yuga.

Maybe those Muslims in the queue make some sort of an advancement if measured on their terms and maybe the Westerners who cheer the new government built on violence they don’t want to see also make some progress towards something, our participation in this crap should be held to the absolute minimum and we shouldn’t lend any credence to them and their leaders.

When Barak Obama was fotographed with HH Radhanath Swami earlier this year it was a great achievement. Not an achievement for Radhanath Swami and ISKCON as our PR teams naturally assume, it was an achievement for Obama.

Radhanath Swami and President Obama

June 2011, US President meets HH Radhanath Swami in Florida

We should never forget that people like Obama, by the nature of their job, have so much blood on their hands we should try to stay away as far as possible. As soon as we subscribe to their views and subtle preaching we contaminate ourselves, not only with their denial of animal slaughter but now with denial of murdering people as well.

A few weeks ago Americans killed an Americal citizen who they accused of being a terrorist. He most probably was, but it’s against the US constitution to deny that man a chance to defend himself in a judicial system. The US government acted as the policeman, the prosecutor, the judge, and the executioner, and what’s more, none of the steps in this process is open to the public, even to the family of the murdered man.

We are just asked to believe the word of President Obama.

I hope Srila Radhanath Swami washed his hand and his clothes really really well after Obama touched him, preferably with Ganges water.

Bottom line – this world is going to hell and we would go down with it, too, if we don’t protect ourselves from its propaganda.

Vanity thought #246. Sources nest.

I was getting ready to resume writing about Srila Vamshidasa Babaji but run into a little problem with sources and now it’s spiraling out of control. It’s not a total waste of time, there are a lot of things that I should settle at least for myself before I can continue with a peaceful mind.

HH Bhaktivikasa Swami rejected some accounts of Vamshidasa’s life because their author failed to pass authority tests. I don’t know why, there’s not explanation given, but I think I have an idea now.

Vamshidasa’s biography presented on Gaudiya Math sites borrows heavily from “Saints of Bengal” by one Dr O.B.L. Kapoor, a book that is not mentioned by BVKS at all. What about some of the stories that came from that book? Are they authoritative? Can they be cited with any confidence or should they carry a disclaimer? With this questions in mind I turned to the good old Google for answers and discovered that those are surely some muddy waters to wade into.

This Dr OBL Kapoor surely had some history. He was an initiated disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and he joined Gaudiya Math around the same time as Srila Prabhupada, meaning that both were junior members and that’s what brought them closer. Srila Prabhupada mentioned him on a couple of occasions when talking about strict sannyasa vows.

Once they approached Srila Bhaktisiddhanta together – Srila Prabhupada, Dr Kapoor, and his young wife. They were young and they were excited about this opportunity and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was in the final years of his pastimes, Dr Kapoor’s wife was like a granddaughter to him, yet when she asked for a word in private Stila Bhaktisiddhanta refused her plea.

Srila Prabhupada and Dr Kapoor haven’t seen each other for some forty years until they accidentally bumped into each other at Radha Damodara temple in Vrindavana, they didn’t even recognize each other at first but when they did they both were very happy to be reunited and so Srila Prabhupada always had a soft spot for Dr. Kapoor.

Once Srila Prabhupada asked him how old he was, he wasn’t sure about their age difference. It turned out Dr Kapoor was nine years younger and then Srila Prabhupada asked him about his teeth, “All there”, Dr Kapoor answered, “never leave the house without them”, and he took his false teeth out to everyone’s laughter. Srila Prabhupada showed him his teeth, beaming like a little boy, he was happy he got one up on a younger man.

Dr Kapoor took part in many Prabhupada’s conversations in Vrindavan and they talked about all kinds of things, about the past, about the present. Dr Kapoor was always there to support Srila Prabhupada with his facts and arguments, he was like his consultant on all kinds of trivia and business dealings.

So, should we take his book as authoritative? I’m afraid not. The last conversation involving Dr Kapoor was a disturbing one. It was about his presentation at some scientific conference where he undermined our own Swarupa Damodara with “all matter is illusion” argument that sounds very much like mayavada. Devotees didn’t like it at all and countered him with our usual “if it’s all an illusion, let me take this illusory chair and hit you on your illusory head”. They were very happy to have defeated him and Prabhupada seemingly concurred “He has become mayavadi.” In Dr Kapoor’s defense it could be said that it was all hearsay and he wasn’t present during that conversation to defend himself. Fair enough, but he had a mayavadi history before he joined Gaudiya Math, too, and devotees remembered that.

That is just the beginning, however. Turns out that after the passing of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Adi Keshava Das, Dr Kapoor’s spiritual name, got attracted to Vrindavan’s babajis and after his retirement he took siksha and eventually sannyasa from one of them who he was told was a siddha mahatma, and the only one siddha who was currently present there and that’s how the blessings of his diksha were finally manifested. I don’t want to offend his memory but it sounds like he confused “diksha” and “ditching”. They might have the same verbal root somewhere but actually one is the opposite of the other.

I don’t know how they settle these things in the spiritual world, we are talking about major devotees here, people do not get to reside in the land of Vraja if they weren’t. By our standards, however, it is just not done, mahatmas or not. I think we have enough examples from Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati to raise plenty of suspicions about self promoted siddhas of Vrindavan.

While I was looking up those stories I also came across a series of articles in defense of Bon Maharaja. As I read them it appeared he was a genuinely humble soul, one of the best and foremost disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, fully engaged in bhajana and loved by all his saintly godbrothers. Then we have Srila Prabhupada addressing him by unprintable names. I say unprintable because I am not in the position to repeat them, no because of the strong language. Obviously there’s a story behind that and I think I’ve read it once or twice already but the particulars escape my mind. Suffice to say that Srila Prabhupada was not his only critic, maybe I’ll find out exactly what happened later. It’s just an example that there are all sorts of complications between all kinds of exalted personalities and it sometimes gives me a headache how to avoid contaminating my mind either by reading some unauthorized stories or offending their authors.

Back to Dr Kapoor, however. At this point I tend to think that he played for both sides there and pleased everybody by appearing as a perfect gentleman, he told people what they wanted to hear to score himself some brownies in every house.

Once I’ve heard that in one of his books he denigrated Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s preaching mission by calling it neo-Hinduism. Factually it might be correct, if you are talking to historian and sociologists, but for any genuine follower it would be highly offensive. They didn’t invent anything, they restored the principles of religion, they were empowered by Krishna Himself to carry out His mission. Dr Kapoor’s approach is understanable, however, if he really bought into “all that preaching is bogus and it’s only about money, learn the real bhakti from the babajis” propaganda.

I do not have exact quotes and even the book title but I heard that this argument is now picked on by those Russian Christians I mentioned yesterday in their bid to outlaw our Bhagavat Gita As It Is.

This is funny, because Dr Kapoor Himself had never shied from using his Prabhupada connection to promote his own books. If you read some of the introductions that are freely available on the Internet you’d think he is an officially recognized ISKCON writer.

Dr Kapoor was also telling the devotees that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had never been properly initiated by Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji and lead them away to Nitai Gaura Radhe Shyam babaji community. Not only that, but Dr Kapoor also led people to believe that because Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati wasn’t properly initiated and offensive towards Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s initiating guru, Bipina Bihari Goswami, his path back to Krishna was closed forever and all of his followers were doomed, too. I bet he never dared to say such things in front of Srila Prabhupada, it didn’t happen just recently, his first convert left ISKCON in 1973, when Dr Kapoor was all sweetness in his recorded conversations.

That’s why I don’t see any reason to trust Dr. Kapoor’s writings on anything. He might have gotten even the facts wrong as his interpretation of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s initiation shows on close examination.

As far as Vamshidasa Babaji is concerned, Dr Kapoor was also a follower of some Haridasa Goswami who, I suspect, was the same Haridas that Bhaktivikasa Swami dismissed as untrustworthy, probably on the same grounds.

Finally, people who actually read Dr Kapoor’s books, particularly “Saints of Vraja” and “Saints of Bengal”, say that he really thought that crossdressers who pretend to be gopis and engage in sex with other dudes who dress as Krishna have some genuine and spiritually valuable interactions.

Anyway, digging up these old stories is fascinating, sometimes they bring the third, human dimension to the personalities we usually judge in black and white. Sometimes these personalities forgive each other transgressions, sometimes they don’t, sometimes they fool people, sometimes, like real paramahamsas, they pick only the nectar from collective memories.

This is the world we have to live in and deal with, and we have to try our best to keep our own noses clean. Let Krishna sort them out, no one but Krishna Himself is capable of keeping them in their proper places and arrange everything for everybody’s ultimate benefit.