Vanity thought #1072. Baby Jesus

This week on The Leftovers: bla bla bla and the story of stolen baby Jesus. There was nothing particularly interesting in the latest episode, more drama about people in the cult and their former families, some barefoot weirdos with a bull’s eye for tilaka, but the baby Jesus story somewhat justified the wasted time.

To remind – The Leftovers is a TV series about time after “rapture”, when roughly one in fifty people had simply disappeared. Everybody assumes they went to heaven and those who are left, well, they are the leftovers. This changes everything for them. Suddenly they are more aware of God but also feel snubbed.

Everybody reacts in his own way, some join a cult of “nothing matters”, some try to prove that raptured folks didn’t deserve it and so it can’t be the real rapture. There’s a side story about another cult, too. Everyone seems to have ground taken away from under their feet and they just can’t come to terms with being left without God’s mercy. How would you feel if you were left down here after all the chanting and praying?

I don’t know how I would have reacted. On one hand it would prove that Kṛṣṇa is “real”, on the other hand it would prove that He doesn’t really need me so I’m free from an obligation to serve Him. It’s quite hurtful to be ignored like this by the Lord. We are supposed to develop a personal relationship with Him, it’s hard as it is and being snubbed like this isn’t helping.

Maybe that’s why this show is a product of someone’s imagination and the Lord doesn’t put is into situations like that for real.

Moving on, the town was prepared to celebrate Christmas, they setup a nativity scene in a public place – sheep, Mary, Joseph, the whole family, and, of course, baby Jesus. Then someone stole him.

Town police chief, when hearing about this, said it doesn’t look like his business but then everybody he met started asking him about it, all the way up to the mayor. He was surprised people really cared. He offered to buy another one in a department store but that wasn’t acceptable either. People wanted “real” Jesus back, not a cheap substitution.

This is an interesting insight into human psyche, I hope it is real and people would react like that in real life, too. That street display was nothing special but people thought of it as sacred and that particular baby Jesus as unique and irreplaceable, like a deity.

If we translate this into our language, baby Jesus was properly installed by the town priest and so he cannot be substituted. Deity is a deity, it’s alive, it’s not just a lump of metal or marble, you can’t replace it just as you can’t replace real people around you.

The rest of this story was about people’s relationships with this “deity” of baby Jesus.

I should mention that the opening sequence to this episode showed how that baby Jesus doll was made in a factory. Not a particularly pretty sight – how they molded the plastic head, how they fitted the eyes, it was eerie, I half suspected they were making another Chucky, the doll character from horror movies that mercilessly kills everyone. Turned out it they were making baby Jesus.

I suppose even when Indians make our deities there are stages when unfinished statues look scary, not ready for public display. There’s ugliness in birth for everyone, I guess, part of life, everyone goes through it, even the Lord Himself.

Of course when Kṛṣṇa appears as an ordinary child there’s nothing scary about Him, or so we think, but maybe real devotion is loving Him with all our heart and soul no matter how unattractive He appears to a materialistic eye. Okay, Kṛṣṇa’s birth was special, but what about Lord Caitanya’s? He looked like an ordinary baby – covered in blood and slime and with the umbilical cord instead of a lotus flower stemming from His navel.

He obviously looked better than other newborn babies but that doesn’t say much in absolute terms. One more reason to remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that unless we look at the Lord with “the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of love” we won’t see anything. We should always remember that.

That was just one step in creating the “deity”, however. It came out of a factory just like any other doll, in a pretty box. It was standing on the ordinary shelf with hundreds of other dolls of all shapes and colors. It became Jesus only after the priest “installed” it.

When the police chief went to buy a replacement he picked one up from the shelf but it just didn’t feel right, he just couldn’t fake “installing” it, ie turning an ordinary doll into authentic Jesus. Believers or atheists – when it comes to real stuff everybody want to do right by God. It’s not a joke.

This takes us to the thieves themselves – a bunch of teenagers who wanted to mock an object of someone else’s worship. They went full retard in that, doing unmentionable things to baby Jesus and laughing about it. Finally, they decided to burn it but then the one given the task of lighting the fire couldn’t go through with it.

I hope it’s true of ordinary people, too – even hardcore demoniac atheists won’t dare to do the Lord actual harm. Whatever their did in their mockery, they knew there are limits.

Actually, the fact that they intentionally desecrated the “deity” of Jesus should tell us that they believe he is real, they just want to relate to him in their own demoniac way.

That’s how I myself see atheists. It’s not that they don’t believe in God, it’s that they want to relate to Him in a certain way, openly defying His laws or His powers, for example.

Next morning, after the designated girl couldn’t set baby Jesus on fire, teenagers dropped him on police chief’s front steps and ran away in shame when the chief saw them.

I hope this is true for the real people, too – that at the end of the day we all want to do right by the Lord, no matter what we have done, we all hope for forgiveness.

Yes, those kids were awful, and there are many people much more hostile and offensive than them, but I hope they all remember that no matter what, the Lord is our father, in Christian speak, and we can never change this fact no matter what we try. Eventually we all come back and seek His shelter.

The police chief picked baby Jesus and later that day went to put him back where he belongs. He eventually accepted that this doll in his hands was something special, real baby Jesus. Turns out that the priest had already installed the replacement. He simply said he had a spare and he put another doll in the crib, case closed.

Police chief put the original baby Jesus back in the front seat of his truck and drove home. Baby Jesus was looking at him with his blue eyes in the dark of the cabin and eventually the chief decided he had enough of this craziness. He stopped and threw baby Jesus no one needed anymore out of the window.

The end.

Was it, though? Was it the end of that man’s relationship with the Lord? Had he been frustrated beyond his limits? Has the Lord let him down?

I’m afraid the answer is yes to all these questions, but, on the other hand, the chief has learned that there’s more to the Lord than His external manifestations. He has also learned that the Lord appears only through authorized channels. If the priest says “This is Jesus” then it is, you can’t make Jesus on your own out of any ordinary doll. The priest can, we cannot.

We, as devotees, often make the same mistake, too. We think that because we know the Holy Name, possess books, and maybe even deities, we can relate to all these manifestations of the Lord directly ourselves. We can’t. Only our guru can authorize our worship. Without his mercy and his blessings there’s nothing spiritual in our lives no matter what service we do externally.

Two things to remember from this story – we can’t expect the Lord to conform to our standards of beauty – we need to develop real devotion to appreciate Lord’s appearance, and we should never try to serve the Lord without medium of our spiritual master, it won’t work

Vanity thought #749. Crisis of faith

So I investigated the end of Orange Is The New Black to see how it played out. Just as I expected, the faith of that bewildered Christian woman was broken. Don’t want to repeat the whole story, it’s here.

The pranked woman, Dogget, came back empty inside and angry at Jesus for abandoning her, for not working through her, but she was also angry that everyone laughed at her faith. Turns out she was in jail for murdering someone who “disrespected” her so it was very close to her heart and, I’m sure, very hurtful.

She was healed by one single verse, though, Matthew 5.11:

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

She was told to forgive her tormentors and that God gives her strength to forgive, and that her enemy was trying to hurt her because she wasn’t forgiven herself, and so Dogget went on her merry way to make peace.

It didn’t last long, though, for when shove came to push the inner atheist shone through and that woman refused baptism and declared her allegiance to science and its prophets instead. The episode ended on Dogget promising to kill her, forgiveness was forgotten.

Incidentally, her decision also relied on a single Gospel verse, Luke 19.27, spoken by Jesus himself:

But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be a king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me.

Pretty straightforward stuff, huh? I’m sure Christians have their own, less murderous interpretations but nevertheless.

Well, this is pretty clear, we reject it out of hand, just one of those Christian inconsistencies probably stemming form the Old Testament where God is portrayed as an exceptionally bloodthirsty character.

What of forgiveness, though? Why is it so important to them? And why didn’t it work?

I think it’s due to their lack of knowledge of the difference between body and soul and the law of karma. As vaishnavas we are taught that our suffering is caused by our own actions, other living entities are not the cause of it and so cannot be neither blamed nor forgiven.

Christians do not know that, they generally see the world through materialistic eyes and so “forgiveness” for them is a way to dissolve natural feelings of anger and revenge that arise when we don’t get things going our way.

The end result is the same – they don’t fight their enemies, they stop seeing them as their enemies, and they offer them service to God instead of revenge. Perfect.

Except sometimes it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for us and it doesn’t work for them, too. People are not obliged to interpret and appreciate our behavior the same way we expect them to. Sometimes they just see a freebie and jump on it. Whatever we gain from behaving humbly and exemplary does not automatically change their relationship with God. They might need many many more examples before they become interested in surrendering, or maybe they are holding their own grudge that goes back several lifetimes and so their hearts cannot be easily touched by outward display of forgiveness or humility.

Just let it go. Poor Dogget lost her faith twice – first when she thought God abandoned her and second time when she thought that if she couldn’t convert her adversary then murder was the correct course of action.

We shouldn’t make same mistakes – we shouldn’t base our faith on external circumstances. Sometimes they are favorable to our devotion, sometimes the world looks completely godless. The words of guru and shastra, and the Holy Name, however will never fail.

We won’t develop causeless devotion if we keep seeking external validation for it either in our minds or in the words and actions of others, or in our own behavior. That’s not where God resides in Kali Yuga. He is present only in the Holy Name. There’s no other way, there’s no other way, there’s no other way.

Vanity thought #431. Impersonalism and Christianity

When devotees read some passages from teachings of Jesus Christ they often see him preaching pure bhakti, but when they talk to Christians themselves those impressions quickly disappear and so devotees think they understand Jesus better than his own followers. Why is that?

Let’s start with the basics. Generally we have to understand the relationships between three things – God, jiva souls, and the material energy. These three subjects have been extensively covered in the Vedic literature and the truth was largely established even before the appearance of Lord Chaitanya.

Impersonalism, which obscures the eternal relationships between jivas and the Lord, has been solidly defeated, thanks to the works of Madhvacharya. We also had Srimad Bhagavatam as a natural commentary on Vedanta Sutra so Lord Chaitanya had it relatively easy. When the time came to expand His mission He relied on none other than Lord Nityananda and Advaita Acharya, and He entrusted setting forth our complete siddhanta to six goswamis of Vrindavana who are eternal, incorruptible servants of Krishna.

Christ, on the other hand, had nothing. He was the first messenger of God so before him the world had only Greek philosophical speculators, and without personal intervention of God they had a natural ceiling to their efforts – impersonalism, the vague understanding of some eternal reality beyond our senses. So Jesus had no foundation and no scriptures to preach from. His disciples also were somewhat of a letdown.

Lord Chaitanya didn’t have to send His representatives to preach to mayavadis on their home turf in places like Benares, which would have been futile, He covered Bengal and Orissa instead, and established a completely new community in Vrindavana. Early Christians had no such luxury, they had to preach in the land of Greeks, they had no other place to go.

HG Prithu Prabhu did extensive research on early Christianity and came to a conclusion that deviations started with Paul but Christians themselves vehemently disagree. Regardless, when Christians went to preach to the lands still in awe of the classical Greek culture they chose to speak the language of their hosts and rely on their hosts’ philosophy. Perhaps in the beginning they thought of it as a necessary compromise but they couldn’t maintain their purity and by the time Christianity finally established itself and formulated a clear doctrine it was firmly impersonal in nature.

While Jesus most definitely was a a jiva soul Christians equated him with God and came up with the idea of Holy Trinity. This non-difference between the jiva and God the Father (and the Holy Spirit) is the first sign of impersonalism. One could say that this non-difference does not extend to ordinary humans but there are other misconceptions as well.

By insisting on resurrection of Jesus they completely screwed the second side of God-jiva-matter triangle – God-matter (there’s their mayavada tendency), and by insisting that Christians themselves are going to rise from their graves and ascend to heaven they destroyed any difference between jiva souls and their material bodies, too.

To further complicate things for themselves they treat their relationships with Jesus in a very impersonal way – he is a savior, a liberator, and once you got salvation he is of no practical use, up there, in heaven, it’s democracy all around and they expect to reunite with their families instead. While this vision has many parallels in various Hindu schools and especially in modern mayavada, in Gaudiya vaishnavism our relationships with our gurus are eternal and continue in the spiritual world. We never become equal to anybody there, we will always remain dasadasanudasa, not direct associates of Krishna.

This is a crucial point – there’s no devotion without accepting our eternally subservient position to other devotees of the Lord, and without devotion we end up with impersonalism – denying those relationships, and we deny the nourishment of our souls, too.

Whatever bhakti was there in the teachings of Christ, it eventually got corrupted by accepting and enforcing these impersonal aspects of official Christian doctrine. This severely obstructed the flow of devotion, and without devotion people couldn’t get any real spiritual taste. With the idea that their bodies will be taken to heaven they naturally assumed that taking good care of them was the right thing to do and they discovered that sense gratification feels good, too.

This is how materialism was born in the West – through the lack of spiritual nourishment and through the lack of knowledge of the difference between the soul and the body.

When I went to school materialism was taught as self-evident while religious experiences as extraneous and unreal, a matter of belief. I think I will bear this particular “cross” until the end of my life. However, contrary to what I was taught when growing up, the spiritual side of life was actually real for hundreds and thousands of years even in the West. I was taught Newton’s mechanics but not that vast majority of his writings were on the nature of God. I was taught Darwinism but not that Darwin was a deeply religious man.

Meanwhile, over in India, the sweetness of the Holy Name was as self-evident as non-existence of God to me. I still can’t believe it but for the self realized soul, and we had thousands of those in our tradition, the reality is spiritual and material perception is illusory. They perceived the reality with their spiritual senses and paid no attention to their material ones.

I’m still on the stage where I have no idea if Krishna actually exists or not, I have no direct experience of Him, either in the form of Paramatma or the guru, I have only material perception of their external forms. I always assumed that it’s the norm but, as it turns out, it’s the result of Christianity’s failure to introduce real spiritual life in the society I was born into. Materialism that I was taught at school wasn’t born by itself, it is the product of frustration with impersonalism that penetrated Christian religion.

Come to think of it – no one is born a materialist, the Lord usually makes sure that every society has some kind of religious knowledge. They turn materialistic only because of the decline of their religion, and religions wither because they fail to cultivate devotional service, and that happens because of the spread of impersonalism in one way or another.

This is why we have to be very careful to avoid any tinge of mayavada in our lives, it is offensive to the Lord and it deprives us of spiritual connection to Him and, ultimately, leads to gross materialism. Christians learned it the hard way, we shouldn’t repeat their mistakes.

Vanity thought #384. With us or against us

This saying is originally attributed to Jesus, though I heard he later modified it to sound less sinister than G.W. Bush version he introduced when he inaugurated his war on terror.

In the context of developing Krishna consciousness and going back to Godhead, however, I think it’s as uncompromising as Jesus’ original version.

From the very beginning I thought Krishna consciousness is the best thing in the world, in a sense “most appreciated”. Surely very few people know about it but I genuinely believe that God’s devotees actually form the cream of the society – the most educated, more prominent, richest individuals. Kali yuga, of course, screws everything up, but the wealthiest country in the world, the US, was build by sincere worshipers of Christ, so called WASP, there’s no denying it.

So I thought that progress in Krishna consciousness will eventually be appreciated by the whole world. We all cheer when devotees get acknowledged by the rest of the society, be it George Harrisson songs or HH Radhanath Swami meeting with presidents and Prime Ministers. I think that this is the path to perfection – with everybody throwing rose petals.

This attitude manifests in a variety of ways. We, for example, are absolutely convinced that we have the best philosophy in the world and we have answers to all questions. They just don’t know about it yet. We also believe that we present the most humane model of society – with no violence or intoxication or gambling or illicit sex. We believe that everyone would eventually give us credit for all those things.

We look at the devotees and we see perfect, fully accomplished human beings, or at least we want to see them that way.

The thing is, however, is that we are not with this world and they are not with us, they are against us and we stand against everything they hold most dear – their independence of God and their desire to be enjoyers. We can only pretend that we share the core values with them but we don’t. Our existence threatens them, they can’t have us around and lead “peaceful” lives of sense gratification.

Conversely, we can’t share their value structure either. Our concepts or right and wrong are fundamentally different, and let’s not talk about Krishna’s morals for a moment – it’s going to be disastrous.

They are not going to cheer our success and throw rose petals at us, they would seek various ways to validate their own values and that means they would never accept ours and they would try to bring us down to their level – feeling snug, safe and comfortable in their bodies and their “societies”.

We are far more likely to be condemned and humiliated for our faith in Krishna than appreciated and praised, they don’t need our logic and arguments, they don’t need our “high” moral standards – they want us to be sinners just like the rest of them, giving up reason for the great taste of a burger or any other national food that is supposed to be universally admired.

They want us to be good citizens and perfect patriots, putting the interests of the country above anything else. They would argue that serving the humanity is the best kind of worship. Not for us, sorry.

If Krishna ever sends vimanas to carry us to His planet no one will see them. People would probably be kicking and spitting on our agonizing bodies, moments from our deaths after being dragged through market places and publicly humiliated. Our relatives will, of course, cry, but that’s mostly for their own selfish reasons.

When Krishna said “My devotee will never perish” He might not have meant it as to be “universally worshiped”, not in Kali yuga at least. We can’t honestly expect a praiseworthy end to our material journey. In fact it’s going to be quite the opposite – we are expected to see ourselves as lowest of the lowest, with all the spite and indifference awarded for such a position, and it’s not just a figure of speech but an honest and blatantly obvious assessment of our situation.

So, we should welcome those who crush our egos as our best friends and stay as far away as possible from flatterers.

Actually, our only friends are devotees of the Lord, the rest of the world is in the “against us” category, forgetting this fact can lead to our eternal doom – quite within the grasp of developing true Krishna consciousness but never being able to make the last couple of steps.

Vanity thought #337. Holy Jesus!

Perhaps I’m too late to the party but I’ve just seen a page on Stephen Knapp’s site about Jesus and our Bhavishya Purana. There’s the translation of the passage and the opinions of two Indian scholars on its content and significance.

In short, the passage could be fake and even if it’s not fake it’s not something we should be eagerly telling inquiring Christians.

It also casts some doubts on ALL our quotes from Bhavishya Purana.

It turns our that we don’t have any pre British Rule versions of the book and some people suspect that it was the English who inserted the Jesus passage, improving on the earlier proposal to translate Gospels into Sanskrit and quietly distribute them among Hindus, giving them extra weight.

Also it seems that there are too many suspicious passages in the existing version of Bhavishya Purana that many people think were much later additions. The purana itself is kosher – it’s mentioned on the list of eighteen major puranas in ancient dharmashastras but some say it’s been too corrupted over time and so couldn’t be the same purana as was known in pre-historic times. And then the English might have messed up with it when they first published it in 1829.

Still, it makes for fun reading, or for fun listening when someone tells about its predictions. I like the one about passing stool in water in Kali Yuga. Stool in water? How barbaric, but wait, this is what our toilets are for!

The passage about Jesus, regardless of its authenticity, is interesting in itself. There as a king who met a saintly person of golden complexion somewhere in Himalayas and the saint described himself as a preacher of the mleccha religion who strictly adheres to the Absolute Truth. He also said he was born of virgin.

The king asked about the principles of that religion and the saint said he saw the degraded condition of the mlecchas and decided to help them out by teaching them about being subjected to good and bad influences and about importance of purifying one’s mind through japa meditation.

That sounds a lot like a Hare Krishna devotee approaching people on the street – chant the mantra, it will purify your mind.

So people should follow rules and regulations to keep their purity, they should speak only truthful words, they should chant mantras and meditate on the Supreme Lord, who he curiously identified with the Sun God.

Speaking only truthful words is a very wise idea – honesty is the last surviving pillar of religion in Kali Yuga and people should be warned not to lose this remaining good quality. Everything else is more or less rotten already and, perhaps, beyond salvation, and so people might get confused about the priority of different rules that no one can follow anyway.

Here Jesus, or as he called himself, Isha Masiha draws a very straight and simple line for them – speak truthfully. Everything else will be lost in Kali Yuga so stick with what CAN be saved. Brilliant solution.

He also says that he preached these principles through mlecchas’ own faith, meaning that’s not exactly what the mlecchas heard, which is a sign of a deep realization and knowledge of the subject, as well as of great skill and quick thinking.

The king listened to him and then asked Isha Masiha to keep on doing what he was doing and stay there in the land of mlecchas. Could have said “Good job, now come with me and relax here in the land of Gods, visit holy places, drink the nectar, recharge your batteries, you surely deserved a break.”

It’s like keeping book distributors away from our temples – if they like preaching to the mlecchas so much let them live there on the streets forever.

I’m sure the king meant well, however, it’s probably English who screwed up the story.