Vanity thought #1453. Oh women..

I think I haven’t paid enough attention to problems of women devotees. Personally, I didn’t know they had any, every time I had a chance to check they were doing fine, often visibly better than me, so when I hear talk about women abuse in our society I just draw blank. I really have no idea what they are talking about.

Sure, I’ve heard stories of personal mistreatment and bruised egos but, while being sympathetic, I thought to myself that it was a par for the course, everybody suffered from this and I got my fair share, too, or at least I feel like I do/did. I don’t think it qualifies as institutional mistreatment and subversion of our siddhānta, no more than all the other things that we did wrong but somehow managed to survive.

First thing that comes to my mind is how female devotees were pushed back after Prabhupāda took them to India and they had to behave appropriately for that culture. It was a sudden let down for them, I understand, but I also think they were understanding back then, too. No one revolted against it, afaik. It’s much much later that those old wounds were reopened and suddenly they wanted “prabhu” title back, just as they were called in the 60s.

They were also literally pushed back in our temple rooms so that they didn’t “bother” male devotees. I guess that was rather painful but in my temple they weren’t in the back, they had half the temple room to themselves, they were seated back only during the class. Bhāgavatam speaker is not a deity, though, he is not supposed to treat all people equally but follow etiquette. Women should not sit right in front of the sannnyāsīs or brahmacārīs, I think that’s obvious.

Even if they were told to stand in the back during deity darśana I, personally, don’t see it as a problem. It’s where I stood most of the time, too, and by choice – it’s good for the ego and develops humility. Or maybe our female devotees didn’t understand that part – how humility might get more appreciation from the Lord so if somebody shuts you down and you learn not to take it personally is actually a good thing. Women might not understand that, the are less intelligent, after all (sarcasm).

That’s another thing – about women’s intelligence. We frame this discussion in such a way that it doesn’t answer questions or solve problems anymore, perhaps we should try another tack.

In general, females have smaller heads which necessarily host smaller brains, which means there are less neuron connections (though it might not be true), and neuron connections are a sign of higher intelligence. Science should be on the side of Prabhupāda in this case but, as with everything female, facts don’t matter when feelings get hurt (another stereotype).

Judging by actual measurements of intelligence women are doing just fine and can often wipe floors with their men competitors if it comes to IQ battle. They have proven themselves just as capable in many fields of human endeavor, including science, so stereotypes might have some basis behind them but when dealing with each particular woman personally they are often useless. Well, not entirely useless, ‘cos if you want to manipulate women you can play on stereotypes, too, and trick them into following traditional women’s roles, but I’m talking about honest estimate of women’s abilities.

I don’t think the situation was very different in Vedic times, too, though it could be that modern women advantages are due to men degrading faster in Kali yuga rather then women getting smarter. I mean girls who do better at school are also better in every aspect of their personalities, they don’t lie or cheat, they work hard, never give themselves any slack, and are usually morally upstanding children. Those who fail at that are not very good with grades either, at least in my limited experience.

But let’s say that women were just as smart as men even in Vedic history, how does that square up with limits on their traditional roles? If they were equal or better, why did they always have to be subservient to their husbands?

That’s where I think feminist liberals are wrong – when they assume that strong, intelligent women were put in service to weak, not so smart men who didn’t deserve their position.

The phrase that I can’t get out of my mind is “rectification of names”. It’s a Confucian concept and at its heart it means that people should follow their dharma. Rulers must act like rulers, teachers like teachers, fathers like fathers, husbands like husbands, and wives like wives. Somebody must wear pants in a marriage and it should be a man.

A woman, therefore, can be as strong as she can be, but she must be paired with a stronger man. Arranged marriages should never put them with men of inferior quality, it would simply not work. That’s why there are rules that allow a higher varna man to take lower varna woman as a wife but not vice versa. Afaik, a woman must never under any circumstances be put in service to someone inferior to her.

That’s where the rule than grooms must be older helps, too – to give men at least the advantage in years and experience, which can hopefully translate into wisdom so that his wife sees him as her superior.

Personally, I’ve met plenty of women who are “way out of my league”, though nowadays this phrase means mostly sexual attractiveness. They come from a better backgrounds, have better education, better jobs, have always been richer and so on. We just won’t match in the long run no matter what or how we feel towards each other, it won’t work and I’ve always been fine with that, but that’s might be due to lessons in humility I mentioned above. These lessons are hard when they come but they do bring benefits later on.

I can’t even count how many times I worked for female bosses so when somebody accuses me of patriarchal misogyny or something I don’t accept it at all. What I am saying is that these bosses, brilliant as they are, must be married to someone even better than them.

If they don’t then their husbands would play female role in their relationship and while there’s nothing particularly wrong with that it might complicate things in a number of unpredictable ways because those men have to cleanse their male propensity to control and be in charge and if they don’t do that then they get to keep those anarthas.

I can also understand that some women develop so much power than finding suitable men for them is next to impossible but that’s the problem entirely of their own making, they are the ones who declare “self-fulfillment” as the ultimate goal and want to compete with men in every area. So they won, what next? It’s a Pyrrhic victory.

These problems with women are no different from problems with science – people invent new things, don’t have a clue what they are really doing, accept first signs of success as proof of concept, and then get buried by side effects later on. When global warning finally gets us some might realize that inventing the internal combustion engine wasn’t such a good idea but back then, in the 19th century, they were too shortsighted to see where it would all lead. Same happens to feminists – at first it feels great and liberating but then the whole thing collapses, just in a few decades of practicing.

And then they all frantically scramble to patch the problems and give themselves hope that it will all work out in the end but, as with global warming, all those solutions are too little too late.

Unlike with car engines, feminists have been warned from the start – don’t do it, it will ruin social fabric of the society, but they didn’t listen. Perhaps women do have lesser intelligence after all.

Vanity thought #1431. Swing vote 4

Yesterday I talked about obstacles to our surrender caused by excessive material desires. Sometimes, despite having this blessed human form of life, we are just too full of them, like the demigods, and so even when we receive Lord’s mercy we still continue on the same trajectory. It’s a kind of demigod syndrome making human form of life more of a curse than a blessing. It’s not the only problem, of course, so let’s talk more about these unwelcome obstacles.

This demigod syndrome is not related to the demigod level of life per se, ie it’s not only for the rich, but I don’t think it applies to those used to poverty. Poverty is in a class of its own, more on it later. In order to be cursed like a demigod one needs to have a certain level of commitment to good life which can come only through experience, simply dreaming about it is not enough.

Our desires go through several stages as they eventually fructify. First it’s just a thought (that’s what poor people think about money), then we make efforts, then we get first results, then we get the taste, then we can’t have enough of that thing, and that’s when demigod syndrome manifests itself in full. We need to have invested too much to let go and even Kṛṣṇa doesn’t do anything about it but lets our karma run its course out first. Poor people don’t get to that state, they don’t have anything to invest to begin with, but more on it later, as I said.

Another class of unfortunate people are those who learn too much nonsense, or māyayāpahṛta-jñānā, as Kṛṣṇa defined them in Bhagavad Gīta. It might seem that I’m trying to provide a different list from that of Kṛṣṇa (grossly foolish, who are lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons – BG 7.15) but my list is on a different topic. Kṛṣṇa spoke of those who do not surrender, I’m speaking of those who try to but are too limited by their conditioning. People I’m talking about are an addition to Kṛṣṇa’s list. Btw, the very existence of Kṛṣṇa’s list means that not all people are created equal, for some even a human form of life is not a guarantee of the possibility to surrender.

I saw somewhere a claim that 93% of scientists are atheists. If one grows up in such a family or makes a career in science then he would naturally have a great obstacle in exercising his free will. Everything he learns, everyone around him would scream that God does not exists, Kṛṣṇa is only a heart-warming myth, and there could be no such thing as spiritual reality. Trying to surrender under these conditions will go against literally everything one knows.

Doctors are part of the same club, too. They spend too much time studying how human body works to leave any space for the soul. In case someone thinks that if we learn as much about the human body as doctors our faith would also be shaken, the answer would be that they create a self-affirming bubble and filter out any alternative explanations. It’s like if we ask a sociologist to describe our movement he would present a compelling picture explaining every aspect of our lives but he would totally miss the spiritual part of it. We do not perform any miracles and every our action conforms to material laws of nature and so externally it would look like spirituality does not exist but as spirit souls, not sociologists, we have a very different experience of actually living with it. The deities, for example, in sociologist’s view would only be dolls for adults, never the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Similarly, a doctor would see only the material part of our bodies and it would work according to material laws, and that would convince him that there’s no such thing as a soul. If he tried living as a soul and experiencing the world as a soul he would see bodies very differently, but then he wouldn’t be practicing medicine and wouldn’t be a doctor anymore. Part of being a doctor is denying spirituality and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Being forced in such a situation where one must see himself and the world around him as only matter is going to have an effect on our ability to reject this view and surrender to the Lord instead. As I said, it would go against everything one knows and his mind and intelligence won’t be very receptive to the idea.

On the other side of the spectrum would be an archetypal Vedic brāhmaṇa who might never see an atheist face in his life and never hear materialistic view of the world explained to him at all. His mind and intelligence would have no idea that alternatives to serving the Lord are even possible.

We are somewhere in between these two extremes and so we should try, if the opportunity arises, to structure our lives in such a way as to make the idea of surrendering to the Lord look very natural to our minds. A vaiṣṇava, after all, is a person who rejects everything unfavorable to the service of the Lord, and that means rejecting lifestyle that confuses our minds.

But let me get back to the “swing vote” for a moment. The idea is that our progress through material time does not have a very significant effect on our progress on the spiritual scale. Generally, even if one appears to possess a solid knowledge of spiritual basics, the Bhagavad Gīta, for example, or Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes as any Indian knows them, it doesn’t mean he won’t go through periods of total ignorance. He might be struck by Alzheimer’s, he might become a vegetable and slip into a coma, he will be born again and spend first years of his life in total ignorance, and yet the level of his spiritual realization would remain more or less the same.

It’s not like reading Gīta makes us see Kṛṣṇa any better than a toddler, and if we don’t see Him now we are not going to see Him when we lose all our mental faculties either. Hopefully, our spiritual trajectory is gradually ascending, life after life, but our ability to remember ślokas is only temporary and does not have a big effect on its own so we shouldn’t take it too seriously.

The “swing vote” in this context refers to the few years of our lives when we can really make a difference the way toddlers and senile people can’t. It refers to the peak of our abilities to influence our spiritual position for the better, the time when we can really exercise our free will despite limitations imposed on us by our materially contaminated mind and intelligence. We better not waste it on less productive pursuits, like memorizing ślokas instead of living them in our lives. Memories will be lost, attempts to serve our guru won’t, they will be counted and added to our spiritual balance while parroting Sanskrit verses will be erased.

I’m not saying that learning ślokas is totally useless but it’s not the cramming part of this process that is beneficial, it’s taking them to the heart and trying to act on them that is. One śloka learned this way is better than remembering the entire Gīta. That’s the kind of swing vote opportunity that we shouldn’t miss in our lives – act on our knowledge, not just acquire it for keeps. Our opportunities to act are far fewer than opportunities to learn, we shouldn’t waste them.

Here’s an example to clarify what I mean – Śrīla Prabhupāda had only a few minutes of association of his guru and received only one short instruction from him while he spent decades reading and learning, and yet dedicating his entire life to following that one order, a suggestion even, was far more important then everything else. Many of our devotees have similar experiences with their gurus, too, but even if they haven’t, we all can find one single thing that we can build our lives around, be it preaching or book distribution or Food For Life or chanting or kīrtana or serving the deities, we should hang onto that thing and never forget it, never ever let it go. We should then use it to swing our lives around, hopefully all the way back to Goloka.

Vanity thought #1430. Swing vote 3

How do we exercise our free will here? I start with the understanding that as material bodies we don’t have any, whatever flashes in our minds and commanded by our intelligence is a result of interactions of material elements moved by the modes of nature and time. We have free only as spirit souls but since we don’t see ourselves as jīvas then how can we exercise it?

We’ve all heard that human form of life is special and as humans we have an enormous responsibility to inquire about the Absolute, athāto brahma jijñāsā and all that. What’s so special about us, though, and how do we take advantage of this uniqueness?

We can compare ourselves with animals and notice that their consciousness is very undeveloped comparing to ours. Christians are not even sure if animals have souls, for examples. Those who follow science, broadly speaking, aren’t even sure if plants and trees have consciousness or minds. I said broadly speaking because there’s no scientific consensus on this but no one would claim that trees have mind and intelligence in the sense these words are used outside of Vedic framework.

Consciousness and mind are as much philosophical terms as they are scientific ones, no one can say with any certainty where mind starts, for example, there aren’t any solid definitions there at all. Some say that having mind and consciousness means being self-aware, whatever THAT means. Human babies aren’t self-aware at birth, in their estimates, and they develop self-awareness at the age of five or six months, according to some studies.

According to other studies chimpanzees’ intelligence is as developed as that of five year old human babies. Does it mean chimps are conscious beings in the modern sense? Some would argue so, others would scoff at the proposal to grant them personhood. Legally this has already been tried, in some places with success, in others it’s still under consideration, and it’s not only about monkeys but also dolphins and whales.

The point is that usual definition of intelligence is very fuzzy one and so there’s no as much difference between humans and at least higher animals as we think, we aren’t that special. And we know from Rāmāyaṇa that monkeys can be as devoted to the Lord as any humans.

On the other side of the spectrum we have various kinds of demigods who possess far higher intelligence than we can even imagine, and yet it doesn’t work for them and human birth on Earth is still preferable for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Why? Clearly intelligence and ability to acquire knowledge about the Lord is not enough. Their Bhāgavatam is many times longer than ours, meaning they have far more Lord’s pastimes to discuss, and still being born on Earth is preferable, meaning even the ability to know more not just about the world but about the Lord Himself is still not enough. What’s our specialty then?

We don’t have any sixth sense for religion, we can’t see auras, can’t see demigods, can’t see Viṣṇu like they do on regular basis, can’t see ghosts, can’t see yamadūtas, can’t see the universe as it is, can’t see anything. In what sense can we possibly be special? Personally, I think none whatsoever, we are just happen to be in the sweet, Goldilocks spot of having everything just right.

That’s the typical explanation, isn’t it? Not too much suffering like in hell where people can’t concentrate on praying. Not too much sense enjoyment like in heaven where they can’t concentrate on praying with all the partying that is going on. I don’t know why we are in any better position than sages on Tapoloka or Maharloka, though. They must have some obstacles there, too, that we don’t have down here. Or maybe it’s because Lord Caitanya doesn’t appear there but here, so they don’t get His mercy but we do. If that is true then prior to Mahāprabhu’s appearance they didn’t think much of the Earth and its “opportunities”.

The question then becomes of what exactly this “just right” is. Are we all in equal “just right” position or there’s variation here, too? Obviously, yes. It’s a big question for Christians with their belief that everyone in the entire human history who didn’t get JC’s mercy had gone to hell, including newborn babies somewhere in Asia where they worship Buddha. They might be human babies but they are not equal to Christian babies, they don’t get the Christian “just right”.

We are not Christians but we shouldn’t go down that way, too. Meaning we need to be aware of our material constraints, our DNA, our background, the culture we grew up in, the culture we live in now etc etc. All these things affect our ability to exercise that elusive free will as spirit souls.

The “just right” position means that we have a relatively better opportunity than animals and demigods but it’s still not perfect, we have to admit that, too. We’ve got the brains and training to know that we must surrender to the Lord. Animals haven’t got that, plenty of humans, a vast majority of seven billion on the planet also haven’t a slightest idea. Demigods might know that theoretically but can’t actually do that.

If we analyze our situation very carefully we’ll notice that we experience waves of such conditioning, too. Sometimes we just forget about our duty, sometimes we don’t have enough willpower to perform it. Lack of willpower means commitment to something else, btw. We want that other thing instead, not that we don’t have any desires at all and this desire to surrender is just like a lone candle in the darkness. Nope, we have a blazing fire of material existence around us and we are too busy enjoying it so we don’t have enough SPARE willpower for Kṛṣṇa.

Once we have these other desires overtaking our heart there’s nothing Kṛṣṇa can do for us. Have you ever heard of a demigod being taken back to Godhead? Even when they get born on Earth and then get liberated by Kṛṣṇa Himself they don’t go to Goloka but back to whatever planet they came from. Isn’t it the greatest misfortune in the entire universe? Being so close to Kṛṣṇa, being personally favored by Him, and still being unable to engage in His service. This is what happened to Dhruva Mahārāja, too. He was forced to live out thousands and thousands of years despite explicitly rejecting his previous desires. Once we get our willpower directed elsewhere it can be guaranteed that we won’t get Kṛṣṇa’s service even if He shows up personally. We should be very careful about that, devotion mixed with karma can separate us from the Lord for a long long time.

Unfortunately, the way we were brought up makes it impossible not to worry about money, sex, health and lots of other things we consider our birthright. If we want them and we want Kṛṣṇa we’d better hope that the Lord is much more merciful to us then we deserve and He strips us of these selfish motives. The bliss of selfless service beats those material comforts by an incomparable margin, we should always remember that no matter what our minds tell us. Of course sometimes we have to admit that we aren’t in the “just right” position yet and living out those silly dreams is what we have to do in order to approach Kṛṣṇa truly selflessly.

What can be done then? Our only hope is the mercy of Lord Caitanya, who doesn’t have any limits and never sends anyone to soulless places like heaven or even Vaikuṇṭha. Dealing with Kṛṣṇa is far more dangerous in this sense – He can easily dispatch us to the planet of iPhones and keep us there until they run out of numbers for upgrades or can’t increase their size any further. Lord Caitanya would never do that, and that’s the only thing we can count on.

Vanity thought #1425. Catching the wave

I don’t think I was clear yesterday about the connection between Lord Caitanya and my indecisiveness but it’s actually very simple – when Lord Caitanya SAW Kṛṣṇa’s hand in everything, everything had become clear and fell into its place. When we don’t see Kṛṣṇa anywhere but only theoretically speculate how it might be connected to Him we can have doubts. Which connection is better? Are they all real? Are multiple connections even possible? Did Lord Caitanya saw everything connected to Kṛṣṇa in different ways simultaneously or was the variety only instances of the same connection? Does this alleged variety even register when one sees Kṛṣṇa?

All these questions can come only from someone who doesn’t know the Lord, someone who can only speculate what it means to be in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and my yesterday’s answer stands – don’t worry about it, it will somehow work itself out, our job is to remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget.

There’s another way to approach the dilemma and rule it out as inconsequential. Our understanding of spirituality is temporary. For some time it manifests in our brains and then it goes away. Our true spiritual position, however, is not. We see our progress as a journey through time but time doesn’t exist neither for Kṛṣṇa nor for us as spirit souls.

Think of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s life, for example. Was he dearer to Kṛṣṇa when he was five, twenty, fifty, or seventy years old? He himself said that he realized that Kṛṣṇa is God at the age of five, does it mean that when he was three Kṛṣṇa didn’t care much about him? From our conditioned POV it would appear that Kṛṣṇa was waiting for Prabhupāda to prove himself, pretty much like Prabhupāda’s godbrothers did.

Śrīla Prabhupāda was no one special for them, most probably didn’t even know he existed as he didn’t play a visible role in the Gauḍīya Maṭha as an institution. Then, after he went to America, he suddenly became the talk of the town. Did any of his godbrothers ever guessed his future success? I don’t think so, and I bet there were all very surprised when it happened. Then they probably started to rationalize and seek explanations. Some went to the West, too, but nothing big came out of it. For them it was a story of progress and if they were wise, they’d pick up some very important clues why it happened to Prabhupāda and not to any of the “ācāryas”.

We look at Prabhupāda’s life in the same way, except from the point in time where Prabhupāda’s success already happened, we don’t have memories of what he was before that. We can highlight faith in the words of a guru, dedication to carrying out his order, staying clean of institutional politics, preaching over comfort of renounced life and so on. If one does these things then other things would happen. It works.

Well, Kṛṣṇa doesn’t see it that way because He is not bound by time like we are. The sequence does not exist for Him, transformations of our bodies do not exist for Him. Prabhupāda is always Prabhupāda, His dearmost servant, no matter what shape or what place his body was at any given moment.

One could say that this might be true for our ācāryas who are Kṛṣṇa’s closest associates sent down to our material world but for the rest of us progress is clearly there, from one moment to another, from one lifetime to another, from lower species to humans, we are inching closer and closer, especially after we have met Kṛṣṇa’s devotees. Kṛṣṇa must appreciate our service more than He appreciated the time we were it total māyā.

I don’t know the answer to that yet but let’s look at our lives in zoomed out view.

According to Lord Kapila the living entity is conscious of the Lord when still in the womb and prays incessantly. When it comes out this consciousness somehow gets lost and, as a baby, he needs to learn all the basics again. I’m not sure if Lord Kapila was talking about ALL babies or just in general. Perhaps his description is not valid for the majority of Kali Yuga population at all but it doesn’t mean there’s no change in consciousness between fetus and newborn.

We don’t know how it happens and what facilities a fetus can use to pray to the Lord but consciousness does not depend on the body as much as science tells us. Being born forces the living entity to behave like a baby, so he needs to learn stuff like speaking and reading even if he did it in his previous life, no matter what he did or did not know while in the womb.

If he is lucky he’ll learn something about God, he might even become a devotee. With time he understands these things deeper and deeper, becomes wiser, gathers a lot of knowledge, learns ślokas, learns KC philosophy inside out, learns his occupational duties and so on. It’s a long way from the total ignorance of a child and so far it has been only up and up.

Then old age takes over and he becomes senile. Memory becomes weaker, intellect dwindles, ślokas get forgotten, his professional skills become outdated, and eventually he becomes a vegetable. Some people stay in good mental shape until the end but for most deterioration is inevitable. Then comes death and one loses all his acquired knowledge, if you ask him what 2+2 is and he probably won’t even understand the question, or that he is even being asked something. These last moments, minutes, days, sometimes weeks and years might be spent in total darkness. That’s when the oscillator of our “knowledge” swings down.

I hope for devotees it is replaced by spiritual realizations and they don’t need to command their brains in order to stay Kṛṣṇa conscious, but even if it happens, it’s a different kind of intelligence, it’s not the same intellect that we use to decide what to do next in our lives, as devotees or otherwise. It relies on different bank of memories and it juggles different kind of values. We might see spiritual beings or Viṣṇudūtas and have a conversation with them about our fate, our destination, perhaps about staying a while longer to complete some sort of a mission. We can be rest assured that whatever concerns us now will become completely irrelevant then.

So why worry? Just because, materially speaking, our intelligence now is at the crest of the oscillator’s wave it doesn’t mean it has any value in things that really matter, things that would make Kṛṣṇa decide whether to come and get us or to leave us here for another life.

Even Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī lost some of his mental capacities with age. Sometimes he couldn’t remember ślokas, for example, and he probably didn’t have mental energy to produce something like his earlier treatise on Surya Siddhānta. It doesn’t mean his preaching was any less effective, his conclusions became erroneous, or he forgot the import of the ślokas. It didn’t really matter.

What we really need to know is that Kṛṣṇa is God and we are His eternal servants. Everything else is extraneous, it comes and goes like ocean waves or ocean tides. And to “know” here means know with all capacities available at the moment. It must become a conclusion of all our arguments and reasoning regardless of how much ground they cover. What I mean is that we don’t need to explain a connection with Kṛṣṇa in situations we are not aware of or in situations we have long forgotten. Kṛṣṇa must become a center of our own mental universe, no matter how small.

Right now, as the universe of our knowledge is still expanding and we learn new stuff everyday, we might struggle with finding Kṛṣṇa in everything we learn, we might have doubts, like in the case with Moon landings – what if they go there again and conclusively prove according to all our empirical experiences that they really went there this time? What if they learn to stimulate certain areas of the brain and produce visions of the spiritual world? Will we be able to reconcile those developments with our śāstric knowledge? Who knows?

A dying person, however, is free from these troubles, he remembers very little and can process even less, and so in his shrinking universe there’s no space for doubts. If we live our lives right it could all be only about Kṛṣṇa in our last moments, and all the stuff that we worry about now would just fade away.

This means that our job is to separate really important things and concentrate on getting them right, expanding our horizons is not it and we can survive perfectly fine without getting confused by all this incoming “knowledge”. That’s why devotees are expected to be simple minded and are even asked not to read too many books.

The problem is that we are riding the wave and for the moment it feels good, it’s our perverted rasa we can’t deny. Hopefully it will go away on its own, we should not feed it just as we should no feed remaining vestiges of the sexual attraction. It won’t be a big loss and one day we’ll appreciate not polluting ourselves with all these doubts, arguments, and counterarguments. In the meantime we should make sure they are still connected to Kṛṣṇa one way or another.

Vanity thought #1390. Anti-intellectualism

This term has extremely negative connotations but, truth be told, it describes Kṛṣṇa consciousness rather well. We, of course, will never label ourselves like that in public but it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. In public it’s sometime unwise to say that children get cancer because of karma so hiding our anti-intellectualism is a similarly political decision.

One can immediately object, however, that we can’t be called anti-intellectuals because we have vast philosophical tradition that defines every aspect of our lives and studying it is our daily duty. One could also say that, among other things, we practice buddhi-yoga, seeking God through sacrifice of our intelligence, and it’s buddhi that the Lord provides to help us find Him.

We aim for bhakti but bhakti comes only after the liberation and we are not actually practicing it yet. We convince ourselves through application of our intelligence that we must follow the vaidhī process which we hope would lead to bhakti. We control our minds by our intelligence, too.

It’s all true, but intelligence does not equal intellect. Intelligent persons chant the Holy Name, “intellectual” persons do anything else but. Modern intellectuality would label chanting as stupid and so we are certainly not that kind of intellectuals.

One could then object that we are not against using intellect per se, we apply whatever God has given us in His service, be it intellect or physical strength or natural charisma. Rejecting intellect would be false renunciation, it belongs to Kṛṣṇa, it’s Kṛṣṇa’s energy and so it’s meant for service to Kṛṣṇa, denying Kṛṣṇa this enjoyment would be undevotional.

Correct, but our application of intellect is different and we should realize that it has a rather low priority. The anti-intellectualism accusation is also relative – plenty of people would find us way too philosophical for their liking, I’m talking about a certain level that is above the average. Well, the word “intellectual” implies we are talking about above average person, too. We are anti-intellectual compared to this elite group of people, not the general population.

I’ve recently read an account by a follower of Madhvācārya, a genuine one, proper maṭha dwelling Hindu, or so he says. I’m not sure if it’s true about their entire tradition but what he says is that they spend A LOT of their time studying opposing philosophies, to the point they joke with each other they’ve read so much advaita they’ve convinced themselves of impersonalism. They know all the arguments pro and against every major Vedic philosophy, nyaya, all kinds of “dvaita” and so on and can recite them from memory with references to supporting śāstric arguments and commentaries by respective ācāryas.

This is when it struck me that we, the Hare Kṛṣṇas, do not accept this path at all. We are anti-intellectuals.

He didn’t explain why they do that (and they might not, genuine accounts of what they do in Madhva sampradāya are hard to come by) but it’s not hard to guess. They way he presented it it looked like a good thing, comparative study of philosophies in order to ascertain the truth and pre-eminence of their dvaita interpretation of Vedānta. This approach appeals to any intellectual person out there including atheists, it also gives weight to vaiṣṇava tradition in general. It keeps impersonalists in check, too. The level of knowledge displayed by Madhvas is really really impressive, and yet it fails to impress us. Because we are anti-intellectuals.

What is the point of studying all those other philosophies? To establish the truth? We already know what the truth is – devotional service to guru and Kṛṣṇa. We don’t need to convince ourselves of anything anymore, our only concern is slack in our practice, which is usually cured by studying OUR philosophy, or rather taking association of the devotees through such studies. Sometimes discoveries by other traditions might help us appreciate some finer aspects of our arguments but that is such a limited and accidental use we don’t rely on it as a method. There’s also something wrong with us if we can’t accept our instructions on the basis of what we hear from Bhāgavatam or Gīta and need to look elsewhere for confirmations.

As for Madhvas – since they don’t accept Lord Caitanya’s mercy they get stuck in their devotional advancement and so their inability to progress beyond a certain level is predicted.

Now, about our application of intellect – we might engage it in philosophical speculations as opposed to mental speculations by scientists and atheists. The difference is that they don’t know the answers, they pick up whatever arguments that come into their minds and try to make a coherent theory out of them. We, OTOH, know the answers already and we are interested only in explaining how evidence fit with Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This approach would be definitely marked as anti-intellectual by atheists. Their intellectualism means being open minded and ready to embrace opposing evidence, and adjust their views accordingly. We are decidedly against that. If there’s opposing evidence we’ll try to cram it into Kṛṣṇa consciousness no matter what. We are anti-intellectuals.

Should we be? That last argument is pretty persuasive – what if we do find the opposing evidence that refuses to fit in? Moon landings, for example, or archeology. What should we do then?

Truth is, many of us try to use the intellectual approach and re-interpret the śāstra to fit with the evidence. In some cases people do not take śāstra literally. In some cases they accept that the śāstra must have been corrupted. In some cases they say that śāstra maintains spiritual purity while on the material level it reflects imperfect material understanding of ancient Indians.

Sometimes these solutions give us peace of mind, sometimes they don’t. Should they be acceptable? Not at all? Maybe to some degree?

I think the question itself is wrong. Kṛṣṇa consciousness should be about establishing our relationship with guru and Kṛṣṇa and acting on the basis of this relationship. Going around looking for trouble, ie opposing evidence, is not a part of this relationship and not a part of the process. Anything that is not part of the process is illusion and WILL lead to illusion. The opposing evidence is actually everywhere outside of our service. It’s not just some scientific or historic facts, those are just a subset of it. The perception that we can enjoy our senses is opposing evidence, the perception that observable phenomena are disconnected from the Lord is opposing evidence, the perception that we and people around us have free will and act on their own volition is opposing evidence.

We should avoid all of it in all totality. Those familiar examples of māyā are far more dangerous than some scientific facts anyway. With science we can at least wait it out until it proves itself wrong, which it always does. The Aryan invasion of India theory got debunked before I got the opportunity to find for myself why it was wrong. And it’s even faster with dietary prescriptions, for example. By the time you learn what supplements we must take as vegetarians they will change their advice already so I don’t even bother discussing diets anymore. Whatever Śrīla Prabhupāda gave us works perfectly and that’s enough for me.

The real catch, however, is that the more we practice our devotional service the less we feel the need to engage our intellect. It gradually falls aside just like our interest in eating or sex life. And it’s not just the interest, it’s our ability to pursue these activities, too. Verses and references get forgotten or very hard to remember, arguments become blurry while their conclusions clear, and soon enough we won’t even be able to “prove” our beliefs anymore. Something something something reincarnation. Something something something life comes from life. Something something something Kṛṣṇa is God. Something something something don’t waste your time reading other books.

Should we hold onto these fading memories? I don’t think so, let them disappear and become replaced by chanting, and let trying to understand and memorize the verses become replaced by relishing Prabhupāda’s association when we read. If Kṛṣṇa needs our intellect back He will provide it again, but for now let Him take it away just like He takes away our sex drive.

Vanity thought #1312. Pure devotees cont’d

Yesterday I was talking about qualities of a devotee as they were described by Kṛṣṇa in His reply to Uddhava. They are spread over four ślokas (SB 11.11.29-32) and I finished only one, seven features out of twenty-eight in total. When I looked at the same list today, however, nothing stood out of the ordinary and so I am kind of disappointed. Let’s see if I can still find something inspirational there.

Next quality, after endeavoring for the welfare of others, is freedom from desires, kāmair ahata-dhī. Exact translation is intelligence undisturbed by kāma. It’s a great one but not specifically devotional, all transcendentalists must have it to be called transcendentalists. In the purport explanation of this quality is the longest of all, and probably for a good reason because this point is deeper than it looks at first.

I think it’s been years since I discovered that problem with controlling our minds is actually a problem with our intelligence. It’s not that our minds are exceptionally strong, it’s that our intelligence is weak and inadequate. Of course Kali Yuga acts both ways – we have more desires and we have less intelligence, but the mind doesn’t have a mind of its own, it just registers attraction between senses and sense organs. It’s very simple in that way and it is said that it is originally born out of mode of goodness, hence the simplicity.

We should give it to our minds – they are not duplicitous, they aver very upfront about what they want, our only misfortune is that they want all the wrong things. Why? It has been explained in this purport – “the Supreme Lord supplies the desired fuel that causes the fire of lust to burn painfully in one’s heart,..” We come here to enjoy and the Lord dutifully provides.

We take being born for granted but if we consider how many millions and billions of living entities surround us every second, mostly as bacteria, and they don’t get a chance to enjoy a human form of life. When Bhāgavatam describes how living entities fall from the sky with the drops of rain, get born as grains of rice, get eaten by a man, transferred to semen, and only then get to become human. Most of the grain nowadays is fed to pigs and chickens, being eaten by a man is a rare privilege, and lets not forget anti-carbohydrates diets.

I have another question in this regard, though – does every spermatozoon in men’s semen carry a soul within it? Or is it one soul taking shelter in the impregnated ovum regardless of which spermatozoon did the job? I think the former makes more sense – every spermatozoon appears to have a life of its own, each has got it’s own flagellating tail that propels it forward. If that is true, then one discharge carries some fifty million spermatozoa, give or take ten-twenty million. Only one of them gets to be born. What are the chances?

Otoh, it might be that all these millions of souls are destined to live only a short life and die, again and again, while those destined to become human get their bodies on the first try.

Anyway, my point was that getting this human form of life is very very rare and should be considered as great mercy even before we talk about spiritual potential. We can also consider the amount of patience needed to attain a human body and get an idea how long we might have to wait to see results of our chanting. We probably need incomparably more patience than we have now.

The purport continues: “..but the Lord does not give self-realization to such a misguided person.” If we just follow our mind and engage our senses we won’t get self-realization from the Lord, therefore we need strong intelligence to keep our mind under control. We need to know how this world works, how illusion works, how modes of nature compel us to act and so on. Armed with such knowledge we will consider urges of the mind as insignificant when compared to our real benefits. As I said, this part is more or less the same for us, impersonalists, or Buddhists, but the purport then takes it further and discusses the situation of a devotee, which is indeed unique.

Devotees do not rely so much on their intelligence but on being engaged and protected by the Lord. Impersonalists learn to tolerate their minds through austerities but devotees control them not because they “know better” but because the Lord gives them a higher taste. Their senses are sharp and active but they are not engaged in personal enjoyment, only in service to the Lord.

It’s ABC for us but we shouldn’t take the opportunity to serve for granted either. It can happen only by Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement, we can’t do it on our own. Consider how many variables need to come together for us to perform a simple arāti, for example. There need to be Deities first. There need to be a temple. There need to be a program of temple worship, the schedule, the funds, the paraphernalia etc. Then we need to have a second initiation and proper training. We also need permission from our authorities, we can’t just get up on the altar and conduct an arāti. We also need to take turns with other devotees because on person can’t physically carry all the ISKCON deity service by himself.

For many of us, actual, authorized service to the Lord takes only a small part of our day while we are forced to spend the rest of our time chasing our minds. Perhaps this is when having strong and clear intelligence is helpful.

Speaking of duplicity – it mostly manifests in our intelligence. Our minds are too simple to scheme, our hearts are mostly in the right place, but it’s our intelligence that works very hard to find ways to justify our sense indulgence and not feel guilty about it. It’s our intelligence that scans our memory for quotes and examples where enjoying matter looks innocent and even welcome. We never forget those, I know I don’t.

Devotee’s intelligence is strong and independent of the modes of nature. It’s impossible to sway, it doesn’t give in to passion and it doesn’t devise elaborate plans to enjoy in the future, nor does it give in to the mode of ignorance which leads one to self-destructive activities.

Well, it’s time to wind up this post and I covered only one word. At least the next one is very close – dāntaḥ, controlling one’s senses, which is a natural next step, that’s what intelligence undisturbed by material desires is for. A devotee achieves this by engaging sense in Lord’s service, as I already said, but, perhaps, we should give the credit to the Lord for engaging His devotees’ senses. On our own we can’t do anything, we are totally dependent on the Lord to provide the opportunities for us to serve.

I’ll end this up by saying that this dāntaḥ shouldn’t be confused with dantaḥ, a word that relates to guess what? Dentistry. Dantaḥ with short “a” means teeth.

Vanity thought #1259. Seeds of karma

I’ll start with a quote attributed to a forgettable English novelist of the 18th century Charles Reade:

    Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.

Lately this turn of thought has been adapted into many forms, including presenting it as an Indian proverb. It appears in a great vaiṣṇava book “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen Covey, too. Of course it’s not vaiṣṇava book in any sense but it held a strange spell over our management at one time. Or maybe it wasn’t Reade who first said it, there isn’t any definitive proof one way or another, just people repeating each other.

Whoever the author is, the observation is beautiful and fits perfectly in our understanding of the struggle with our minds. Leaving free will out for the moment we can easily see how we might succumb to this chain of destiny. Think, act on your thoughts, create a habit, habits shape character, character determines the next life. Can it be broken, though? And how?

We can interfere with this natural course of action at every step. Our practical, all-ISKCON solution is to put us through daily sādhana that takes over habit forming stage. It’s a beautiful solution – no matter what you think, do certain things. No matter whether you like doing them or not, make it a habit. These habit will form our character, and our character, now centered around serving Kṛṣṇa 24/7, will take us back to Him.

We could have started earlier, at the thought stage or an act stage, and we actually do, but not in a similarly powerful way. As a society, we can’t control what goes on in the minds of our members and we can’t micromanage their actions either, so we have a blunt but powerful tool of sādhana which is easy to scale up to thousands and millions of people.

Some might say that it’s brainwashing or slavery or a very cult-like behavior and they would be right, but we don’t need to attach negative connotations to these labels. We, as devotees, consciously want our brains to be brainwashed by Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we want to be faithful servants to guru and Kṛṣṇa, and we prefer to live our life with similar-minded individuals who “get” us, and because we are so different from the mainstream we can probably qualify as a cult.

Afraid of these labels and worried about what non-devotees think of us we try to deny our dedication to Kṛṣṇa and try to conform to atheists expectations by using a legitimate excuse – it’s for preaching. We need to look the part not to scare away the innocents. Our “normal” lives with jobs, wives, children etc. are for “preaching”. Right.

We also support veganism, gender equality and gender freedom, and can display proficiency in all kinds of things that make us look attractive in materialists’ eyes, ostensibly for preaching. Some also argue that those are right things to do for us as vaiṣṇavas, too.

It might work, it might not, I have my suspicions but today I want to see those things from karma perspective.

We engage in all kinds of nonsense activities that make up “modern life” and we realize that they are not spiritual but accept them as an unavoidable trade off. If you want to raise a kid – a legitimate service – you have to learn so many things that have nothing to do with devotional service, starting from pregnancy and all the way up to college. Without working varṇāśrama we have no choice but to raise our children in modern societies with their modern ways.

Do we accumulate karma for that? Yes, to the degree we are not sincere and devoted in our actions. Everything done for our own pleasure instead of the pleasure of guru and Kṛṣṇa will come to haunt us.

We don’t mind, we tell ourselves. We accept this karma as a necessary trade off for trying to serve the Lord. Being philosophically minded we disassociate ourselves from these reactions. They are the life we are supposed to tolerate, as Kṛṣṇa told us in Bhagavad Gītā.

We tell ourselves that we don’t mind getting results of our karmic reactions and we also hope that Kṛṣṇa would protect us if things really turn for the worse. On one hand it’s an offense – to engage in karmic activities on the strength of the Holy Name, on the other hand we have no choice but to have a firm faith that Kṛṣṇa will indeed protect us.

With a bit of a skill we can learn to departmentalize our lives and focus only on what is important – our service, and dispassionately observe everything else.

Let’s go back to that quote, though – karma won’t stop working if we stop paying attention to it but we can feel ourselves immune to it. However, that quote starts at the “thought” while karma starts way earlier. We can learn to deal with our thoughts and subsequent actions but we should also be aware of what comes before.

Every time we perform an action it produces the desire to do it again, which appears to be a separate thing from its direct reactions. Usually karma starts as a seed that gradually grows and eventually fructifies. There are arguments about classification but what we experience now is the last stage of karma – prārabdha. Everything before that is aprārabdha, unmanifested. All our stored karma, all our bījas and phalonmukhas are there and they follow from our actions. Desire to do it again is different.

I’ve heard this desire called kūṭa-stha, which means “unchangeable”. In this case I guess it means unchangeable proclivity to more karmic actions, unchangeable attitude towards sense enjoyment. Śrīla Prabhupāda used this word interchangeably with bīja, the seed, but if we look at it carefully it appears that future seeds come from the presently existing, unchangeable, kūta-stha attitude.

My point is that we can ignore the results, we can ignore the seeds and everything that grows from them, we can disassociate ourselves from the thoughts in our minds and all the things we need to do to live in the material world but we can’t disassociate ourselves from our kūta-stha.

I mean if we just consciously ignore our karma then we are not committing offenses against the Holy Name (by hoping that it would nullify karma), but we can’t stop kūta-stha from forming.

In this sense kūta-stha is the extent of our free will. All we can do here is desire to serve Kṛṣṇa or desire to enjoy the world. Kūta-stha that is generated by karmic activities gives us the attitude towards sense enjoyment and that means the misuse of our free will. It blocks our attempts at serving the Lord, it perverts all our attempts at devotion, it blackens our hearts, and there’s nothing we can do about it once it’s there. Only the Holy Name can purify our hearts but expecting it to do so would be offensive again. It’s a catch 22.

So simply accepting results of our karma and hoping to ride them out won’t work, or only work partially – kūta-stha generated by our actions is beyond our control. Our intelligence can’t reach it, it lies deeper than that, inside our hearts. What can we do then? Not much.

With intelligence we can prevent ourselves from indulging in karmic activities altogether and that seems the only choice available to us. Sometimes karma doesn’t feel like much, it produces an average level of pain and happiness, something quite tolerable, so we might feel it’s not such a big deal but even that pollutes our hearts where we can’t even see it.

In short, there’s no alternative to complete and total surrender. There are no deals to be made with material nature, we have to let it go completely. I’m afraid anyone who promises any different is a cheater, there are no compromises to be made here, they won’t work.

Vanity thought #1255. Thought process explained

Somehow my mind lost its focus and keeps forgetting things when I write these articles. It’s a curious situation, actually. I know what I’m going to type but no matter what I do, I always forget half of it. Sometimes the reason is that I just don’t fully prepare myself mentally, don’t visualize every turn of the argument before hand, so when time comes to sit down and type I follow a different path from what was intended before.

You’d think that the solution would be to think the post through and memorize the key points but that doesn’t work either because when time comes to sit down the mind does not follow previously covered tracks, it tends to think new thoughts instead. As much as I want to stick to the program it follows “inspiration” and things get forgotten.

Inspiration is an important consideration in itself. “Writers block” is a real thing and I don’t want it to happen to me. Real writers have the luxury to wait for their inspiration to come but I took a vow to post something everyday and I don’t feel satisfied until the article reaches a thousand words. I can’t wait for the inspiration, I can’t depend on it, I have to produce it myself. How?

I used to think about it while chanting but I stopped a while ago. I used to pray for it but then I decided that it’s not worth diverting my attention to during chanting. That took almost two hours of preparation from my day and so sometimes I just don’t have the time to think these articles through. I just pray that when I sit down Kṛṣṇa would not forget me and accept my efforts as a service.

With an attitude like that I have to respect the flow of my mind. Well, it’s actually mind under the direction of intelligence under the direction of the modes of nature under the direction of the Lord. And, despite of what my mind tells me, I’m not the one writing these things. I’m here just to observe. Mind sees something interesting, takes a note of it, contemplates the topic, gets suggestions, remembers things, looks for confirmation, and finally presents it as an idea for an article.

Personally, I try to learn to distance myself from it. It would happen with or without my participation, the material world is not going to stop just because I decided to lose interest in it. Well, it will eventually stop for me but not for everybody else.

Usually, when a devotee writes something about Kṛṣṇa we treat it as devotional service coming from his heart, authorized and supervised by Kṛṣṇa. A devotee has to make an effort to please the Lord and we can judge the result by the purity of this effort, and also by the quality of the presentation. No one likes to read half-arsed messages that do not elicit any interest or inspiration.

I”m trying to distance myself from such thinking. I’m not this body and I’m not a doer of anything. By the arrangement of the material nature this body sometimes does something related to the Lord and that’s what I should be grateful for. Sometimes these efforts look relatively more accomplished, sometimes they look sloppy, sometimes they look pure, sometimes they look contaminated with envy, ego, or desire for sense gratification. I really have no control over it, my body lives in certain conditions and it reacts to them.

We will not obtain devotion by building up our temporary intelligence and “understanding” things. We cannot go on on chanting only either, we need our heads in the game, too, at least for the time being. We need classes, we need books, we need devotees exchanging opinions, we need to argue in favor of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and against atheism, we need tips on overcoming our anarthas. All those things are necessary but only from the bodily consciousness point of view. As long as we are here the body will be doing something but that alone will not lead to devotion.

Bhakti is not the result of activities on the material platform so our interest in what happens here must be limited. We also need to learn to focus only on Kṛṣṇa related things and look past everything else. I can’t stress this enough – look past everything else that bodies do and focus only on their engagements in Kṛṣṇa related activities.

Sometimes there’s not a lot to get focused on, our appetites for sensory inputs might be bigger than what little Kṛṣṇa consciousness is available, and so we might get involved with something else, less directly related to the Lord. That’s natural, too, but then we should build patience and realize that simple remembrance of the Lord is more important than having mind and intelligence fully engaged in any other topic. Mind and intelligence are moved by the modes of nature, sometimes these winds don’t blow in the desired direction, but should’t it be an opportunity to disengage ourselves from the material world altogether? Let it do whatever it does and let not become judges of that. There’s still Kṛṣṇa to be remembered.

Judging things is what keeps us here. We need to have a look and form an opinion. We need to feel the satisfaction of figuring out something. We need to feel comfort of being properly adjusted in our position. We need safety of knowing our situation in time and place. We need to have a grasp on things. We need presence of our minds, and not only that, we need clarity. All that is on top of lower sensory engagements.

Well, we don’t need any of that. That’s what false ego wants – to be a fully integrated and fully adjusted part of the material nature. It’s not in our real interest at all.

To step back a bit – all these arguments started with two episodes I experienced while chanting. First was when I was doing japa in total darkness and very comfortably seated on a sofa. I couldn’t see anything, I couldn’t hear anything, the whole world just disappeared and there was only the sound of the Holy Name. After a while I stopped trying to produce this sound and just listened to it. I couldn’t really locate its source then – I didn’t hear it coming out of my mouth, I didn’t hear it entering my ears, the sound vibrations turned into the Kṛṣṇa’s names somewhere in my brain, which is impossible to locate. That’s when I started hearing “myself” as an outsider. The effect was similar to listening to recordings of one’s voice for the first time – our voice always sounds different from what we imagine when we speak.

So that was the point when I started to realize that my body does its chanting on its own, I’m here just to listen. It chants by the mercy of guru, Kṛṣṇa, and devotees, and it’s the material nature that makes my lips move accordingly. I can only express interest in the process, that’s all.

Second episode was when I just woke up and immediately took my japa bag. I wasn’t fully awake yet, had no real concept of what time it was, how much time I had, what was my schedule for the rest of the day, and where everyone else was. It took me a few minutes to get my bearings and during this time I realized that I don’t need to know any of those things, chanting is perfect without this kind of knowledge.

So there… Word of caution, though – these articles shouldn’t be seen as inspired by Kṛṣṇa from within or anything like that. They are written by a conditioned soul under the modes of nature and according to its limited experiences in this particular incarnation. It so happens that during this time we see a rise of the movement of Lord Caitanya and so some of these experiences are influenced by the Lord and, accordingly, some of this stuff becomes related to the Lord, and that’s what should be appreciated, the rest is best forgotten. It will be forgotten at the time of death anyway, and whatever is taken by the soul into the next incarnation is not worthy of remembering either. Only the Holy Name matters, and it’s there with us at all times and it never changes, as fresh and youthful as ever.

Now I have to go and change the title of this post because that’s not what I had in mind when I sat down to type it at all.

Vanity thought #1248. Rationality explained

Yesterday I got to yet another uncompromising assertion by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī – spiritual realm is ready to be revealed to anyone who actually listens. We’ve heard this from Śrīla Prabhupāda, too, but I don’t remember it ever being presented without some sort of a disclaimer.

A typical example is that of a tree. We embrace a tree trunk and beg for māyā to let us go but the tree is not holding us and neither does māyā, we hold onto it ourselves. Despite our loud proclamations we still want to live in the illusion. The implication being that slipping out of māyā’s control is easy.

Well, it is not, and I don’t remember anyone practically demonstrating how it could be done. Some devotees would give inspirational speeches on the subject but when the push comes to shove, no one is really liberated, meaning everyone is still holding onto the illusion and not letting it go, no matter how many times they declare that it’s an extremely easy thing to do.

Some devotees are honest in this regard and so they present disclaimers. We can’t let it go because of this or because of that. We have history, we have habits, we have material bodies, we commit offenses, we need to purify our consciousness through engagement, devotees are not renunciates so instead of seeking liberation we can happily engage in service from the position of our false ego, real devotees do not care for the liberation, they spit on it. Tons of excuses why we are still attached to the illusions and tons of reasons why we should continue in this vein.

I don’t think Śrīla Prabhupāda meant it this way. He asked people to serve the Lord, chant the Holy Names, and that was already above liberation. Later he saw that ISKCON devotees weren’t as transcendental as he hoped and asked us to deal with problems at hand first. That’s why we need the varṇāśrama, for example – according to the famous conversation where he says that chanting is not possible for an ordinary man and asks “Who will chant? Who’ll chant?” He then continues lamenting how people cannot take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness without undergoing varṇāśrama training first.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī left no room for compromises, though, and presented the subject as a matter of fact – what one needs to do to attain the spiritual realm and how one must go about it. I believe if we analyze his proposed method we’ll find no room for compromise, too, except that we’ll have to discount our own prospects of success, which aren’t very bright, just as Śrīla Prabhupāda observed in that conversation.

So, the failure to attain spiritual realm is only due deliberate withholding of our attention, as was quoted yesterday. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta continues:

    It is in ones power to correct this error of method when it is pointed out by the sadhu. In proportion as the receptive attentive hearing is perfected, the true import of the words of the sadhu manifests itself to the soul of the hearer. It is necessary to offer this form of service by way of the preliminary on the threshold of the realm of the divinity by all those who really want to enter there.

Actually, there’s room for compromise here – he talks about degrees of receptive hearing corresponding to degrees of realization. He discounts this stage as only preliminary, though. That’s what we should do to get to the threshold – try to develop receptive hearing, and not just develop, we need to perfect it. How?

    The pilgrim is required to give up his preference for pseudo-knowledge if he is to be benefited by his pilgrimage of the divine realm under the guidance of the sadhu who has a natural and exclusive attachment for the real truth. The guidance of the sadhu is necessary for enabling him to lend his full attention to his words by discarding all explicit or latent partiality for untruth.

Highlighted words tell us what we need to do. We need to give up all pseudo-knowledge and all our interests in pursuing it, both explicit and latent. Explicit interests are easy to see in others but probably not very easy to notice in ourselves. There’s also the need to understand what this pseudo-knowledge is. It’s not just the materialistic philosophy, we can deny and defeat it with full conviction, pseudo-knowledge goes much deeper than that.

We don’t need philosophy or big brains to know that eating would satisfy our hunger or sex would satisfy our lust, but that is a pseudo-knowledge. Love, family, relationships, entertainment, jokes, work, kids – extracting hope and satisfaction from any of those things is pseudo-knowledge. We know it by heart and we act on it without thinking. Our instinct of self-preservation is pseudo-knowledge, too. We can talk big words but the real test is very simple – do we instinctively reach for food? Do we instinctively try to protect ourselves from danger? These are acts based on pseudo-knowledge and, unlike Kṛṣṇa consciousness, this pseudo-knowledge is actually realized. It’s what Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta called “latent partiality for the untruth”. It needs to go.

    The function of the cognitive faculty is to be relieved from the consequences of its willful and perpetual attraction towards untruth.

We should use our intelligence to free ourselves from this latent attraction. It means we should identify our weaknesses and convince ourselves that they are not worth hanging on to. This is easy to understand – anartha-nivṛtti, right? Another point we should take away from this sentence is that this anartha-nivṛtti is declared the purpose of having the brain. This is the only thing it is useful for, as will be explained later, along with answering concerns about our freedom:

    Guidance for such an end is not any curtailment of ones freedom of rational choice. The rational faculty is only then true to itself when it submits to be guided by a competent person in the quest of the truth which is located beyond his reach.

Atheists, and most educated modern people, for that matter, would immediately object to the stated need to follow a guru. They cherish their freedom too much to become someone’s intellectual slave. They say it’s irrational, that people who act on faith, both in God and in their guru, are irrational. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta answers both of these questions.

No, following the sādhu does not deprive one of his freedom and it is not irrational. Rationality is true to itself only when it is used for discovering the Absolute Truth and so it is practiced only when one submits to the sādhu. Contrary to what atheists assume, search for the Absolute Truth is rational, everything else is not.

    Neither the end nor the method indicated above proposes any form of mechanical subordination to an external agency which is being always enforced without any protest on the part of the conditioned soul by his material environment.

Submitting oneself to the words of the guru is not the same as mechanical subordination to an “external agency”. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta is telling us here that people are always forced to do that, forced to follow dictates of the material nature but they don’t even notice it and therefore never protest.

What people call “rationality” is simply following the prevailing ways of thinking and applying them to externally imposed fund of knowledge. We aren’t free to think any differently from how we’ve been taught. Westerners are very proud of being “open minded” and “free thinking” but actually we are not, our mode of thinking is totally predictable. We cannot think like Chinese, we would always think like westerners. Or we can train ourselves to think like Chinese and see the world from their POV but that would still be mechanical subordination to the forces of nature because even the choice to train to think like a Chinese would be forced on us and then rationalized. When we rationalize our choices we, in effect, strip ourselves of the free will – we ought to choose this or that because…

There’s no freedom here, only following the laws of nature. Learn to think in a certain way, see the input, process it, and produce an output. It’s not freedom, it’s subordination to the material energy, and it’s an irrational choice for anyone aware of the existence of the Absolute Truth.

    Unless we are prepared to adopt the only rational course that is open to us, the attainment of the knowledge of the absolute truth in the form of willing submission for receiving Him from His agents we really abdicate our rational function by preferring to follow the irrational alternative.

Irrational alternative here is trying to find happiness in the material world while rational function is seeking the Absolute Truth. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta concludes the paragraph with the following:

    We are of course free to go astray. We are also free to maintain that such irrational course is rational. But such sophistry will not enable us to avoid the logical consequences of such a procedure in the shape of losing sight of the truth altogether.

Basically, he says that we are not free to invent our own truth. If we decide to pursue our own course of action and call it rational, the truth will never reveal itself to us. There are lots of people, many among devotees, too, who convince themselves that they are doing the right thing. However, convincing oneself and even creating a following will not have any actual, spiritual effect. It won’t take us closer to the truth and it might force us to lose sight of the truth altogether.

The only rational choice is to submit to the authority of the sādhu, all other paths are misleading and go against our real self-interest, they only feed our pride and ego.

Article Source – navigate to p 34.

Vanity thought #1247. Seeing eye

More like a seeing ear because spiritual reality is realized through hearing. The effect itself, however, is better than seeing. In modern culture seeing rules, people remember things by looking at them and a lot of memory exercises and aids use visual and spatial clues, practically no one relies on hearing to memorize things. I don’t really know the reason. It’s easy to blame it on Kali Yuga and weak memories but it doesn’t answer the question why visual memory is not as affected and has become relatively stronger. Or maybe it was always strong, it just that it never mattered in spiritual practice.

I mean when we say that Vedic sages memorized verses by hearing them once it doesn’t mean their visual memory was weak. I guess they remembered faces just fine, it just that it didn’t matter for their spiritual development. Vedic sound is perceived as eternal, it never changes, while the looks of things (and especially people) are always in a flux. What’s the point of remembering them at all? Yes, it makes practical sense in a bodily concept of life, in pursuit of artha and kāma, but is of limited value in pursuit of dharma and even lesser value for mokṣa.

Knowledge gathered through seeing gets lost during body change, wiped out along with all our memories, while knowledge acquired from listening to śabda-brahman gets deposited directly into the soul, so to speak. We can’t easily access it with our mind and intelligence but it’s there as the foundation for all our attempts at devotional service.

Despite being invisible and imperceptible it’s the only thing that matters, it’s the one that underwrites our “always remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget” principle. Sometimes I think that all the things that we do in devotional service are just aids in remembering Kṛṣṇa, nothing more. Okay, sometimes we might do some very useful things that change other people’s lives but as far as our own relationships with Kṛṣṇa are concerned, remembering Him deep inside our own heart is our only function as spirit souls – everything else is carried out by the material energy. Sometimes she mercifully engages our bodies in Kṛṣṇa’s service but I’m not sure how much credit we can legitimately claim for it ourselves and whether it matters to Kṛṣṇa at all. Only our remembrance of Him does.

Perhaps remembrance is not a suitable word here. I’m talking about exercise of our free will, which is limited to desiring to be with the Lord or desiring to enjoy bodies provided by the false ego. I’m talking about something in between desiring and remembering, there probably aren’t any words to describe what exactly our souls are doing. They are not doing anything in the material world, after all, so there aren’t material labels to attach to souls’ activities.

Remembrance of Kṛṣṇa is not the same as trying to recall His descriptions in the books or mentally visualizing His form or remembering the look of the deities. Maybe awareness of His existence is more appropriate but, generally, awareness is our open connection to a memory stored in our brains, awareness of Kṛṣṇa goes deeper than that. Likewise, desire to serve Him is nearly impossible to isolate because when it manifests in our minds it is always tinged with selfishness and desire for our own enjoyment, too.

We reject impersonalism but I think there’s a lot to be said about their ability to identify selfish desires. As devotees we do not worry about it too much because these desires can be purified if connected to Kṛṣṇa, and we would rather express them in connection to Kṛṣṇa instead of hiding them or pretending they are not there. In any case, it’s our remembrance of Kṛṣṇa even while still in pursuit of our material dream that matters.

So, how do we acquire this purely spiritual knowledge that we can’t express in material words? By hearing to sādhus, for course.

Back to the Harmonist article (p34 today).

    The spiritual realm cannot be seen by the mortal eye, nor touched by the hand of flesh. Neither is it the closed ear that can hear the true voice of the sadhu. The ear of the soul is to be opened to the spiritual sound.

So far so good, but the next sentence is somewhat puzzling. Personally, I expected a clarification on what this “ear of the soul” is and how it can be opened.

    In other words one is to listen to the words of the sadhu with the conviction that the words themselves are identical with the object which they signify, that if the words are only received by the fully receptive rational impulse the whole indivisible substantive reality will stand self-revealed.

The goal is clear – the whole spiritual reality with be self-revealed, but what is “receptive rational impulse”? Is it the conviction that words are identical with objects (purely spiritual) they signify? Does it mean we have to rationalize this conviction for it to become a “rational impulse”? Does it mean we have to convince ourselves, meaning convince our intelligence and then force it onto our minds, that our basic philosophy is absolutely correct and there’s no difference between Kṛṣṇa and His Holy Name? It would appear so.

I don’t see any disclaimers there and so the requirement is clear – we need to firmly believe in our philosophy. No ifs, no buts, the Holy Name and everything connected to it are indistinguishable from Kṛṣṇa Himself and are as spiritually real as Goloka Vrndāvana. From here it follows that guru is as good as Kṛṣṇa, too.

Our eyes usually tells us otherwise. Externally, guru behaves like an ordinary human, he eats, he sleeps, he makes mistakes, he is imperfect in so many ways, and so some devotees put themselves in the position of judges of guru’s behavior and his spiritual advancement. They refuse to consider him as good as God on the strength of the philosophy, on the strength of the received sound. They rationalize their rejection and present tons of arguments to support their decisions.

Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, however, demands rationalizing exactly the opposite. “How could we, in the face of all the evidence?” detractors would ask. “Umm, have you been on the Internet?” I would answer. “Have you seen people rationalizing all kinds of things, some are truly despicable?” Where there is a will, there’s a way. If you want to see guru as perfect, GBC as spiritual authority, ISKCON as a spiritual entity, BBT editors as authorized agents of Śrīla Prabhupāda etc. you will find a way.

That’s just my opinion at the moment. It’s not the first time I heard a similar instruction – one must have full faith in one’s guru and the scriptures, I just try to develop this kind of faith, that’s all. There are people who would like to convince me otherwise but I just don’t see their point. What would destroying faith in guru, GBC, and ISKCON in general achieve?

And to those who say that neither I nor the best of the best “rubber stamp” gurus achieved anything, there’s the next quote from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta:

    If the result is otherwise, it can only be due to the deliberate withholding of ones full attention.

We do not “see” the Lord, do not perceive His presence in either His name or His representatives because we are deliberately looking elsewhere. Our consciousness is not fully absorbed in hearing sādhu or the mantra. Instead of being lost in the sound we see the world around us, we are more aware of our situation within the material reality that we are aware of Kṛṣṇa. It’s the truth, we are so used to it we don’t notice it and we can’t imagine of “being” otherwise. For us being means being a part of the material world with all the designations and relationships we have here.

Our consciousness is directed outwards, into the material nature, not towards Kṛṣṇa who, as the Supersoul, is the closest thing to our souls. The Holy Name can’t be located in the material world at all, we can locate the source of the sound but that is also external. Spiritually, it exists outside of our three-dimensional space and also outside the power of time.

Unfortunately, we are not looking there, and that’s our problem. Lack of attention.

The good news it that attention is the function of intelligence. If we can convince ourselves of its value we can force our minds to listen carefully, which will result in full attention, as desired.

That’s what I tell myself every time I analyze some material phenomenon – I need to prove to myself that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the best and only answer. When my intelligence knows this, my mind will follow. When the mind is concentrated on the sound of the Holy Name it will eventually develop a habit and, perhaps, even the taste for it. Then, hopefully, words of sādhu will finally penetrate my material coverings and real, fully spiritual Kṛṣṇa consciousness will be established in my heart.