Vanity thought #1643. Making world into a better place

So something happens in the material world, someone gets agitated and demands justice. Who do we blame? Who do we punish?

In the western civilization there are laws. Some of these laws require the aggrieved party to lodge a complaint but some trigger an immediate response so it’s out of everybody’s hands. Murder, for example, does not require the victim to go to the police station and file a report. Less grave offenses allow feuding parties to come to an agreement first, but not because the law does not care, it’s only because the justice system is overloaded as it is.

They can’t have take every law infringement to trial and even when cases are filed they push both sides to accept a settlement first. Depending on the severity, up to 95% of all lawsuits result in settlements, meaning the law is not going to be applied as it is but the plaintiff and the defendant decide between themselves what is the proper resolution and if any punishment should be there.

This means that while western societies put a big value on the “rule of law” what they do in practice is try to avoid applying it as much as possible. They’d rather see people sorting out their problems themselves and not bothering the “law” at all. The trials then serve as guidelines for the people negotiating their own settlements, so what they mean by the “rule of law” is public perception of what the law is, not the actual rule.

Consequently, no one likes Social Justice Warriors stirring the trouble and demanding actions. Well, not no one, of course, but what SJWs do is unsettle the cart, break the balance, and stress everyone out. Typically they encourage defendants to demand more than usual and sometimes they demand amending of the laws to bring them up to the standard of their current enlightenment.

In their defense SJWs would cite racism and other similar issues that we now take for granted but which required a lot of social justice agitation and great sacrifices. Change does not come by itself, they say, everybody has to work for it.

This assumes that the world is bad and SJWs are making it better. The natural state of the world, they believe, is inherently unjust and lawless and it’s through SJWs agency that we make the world into a better place. Every aggrieved party seeking justice would certainly agree and when everyone else sympathizes with their plight we get the conditions ripe for a change.

In Kali yuga, however, everything only gets worse so we have ourselves a contradiction. SJWs would say that it’s the Kali yuga that makes “natural” world unjust and unfair and they are the ones trying to overcome the influence of Kali. If not for them the world would degrade very rapidly and they are the ones holding it together.

It’s a good argument but SJWs are not the only ones making “improvements”. Corporations, perhaps, change the world at a much faster pace than SJWs can even imagine. SJW is a hobby, after all, but the world is run by professionals who are busy affecting changes at least eight hours a day and who are also much more skillful than SJWs at what they do.

For example, SJW might campaign against unfair trade agreements but these agreements are already there and they have been negotiated by hundreds of countries over the course of decades, they have been put into law and occasionally enforced. Standing outside G7 meeting in Davos and waving a piece of paper is an incomparably small amount of work. Might be very visible but still incomparably small.

The fact is, very few people see themselves as bad guys, they all – governments, politicians, corporations, banks etc see themselves as benefiting the world through their work. Quite often they’d say that SJW simply do not see the whole picture and therefore raise inconsequential points, sometimes maybe very good ones but still mere side effects of an undeniably good medicine.

If you listen to both sides then it becomes harder to decide who are the actual agents of change for the better. There are good arguments for both and there are downsides to every proposal, too. People can justify even clearly bad qualities, like greed, thanks to the “greed is good” principle of western economics. If it’s the greed that pushes banks to offer credit and other banking services to billions of new customers then this greed clearly makes the world into a better place. And if it’s revenge that drives SJWs to stop greedy bankers from enslaving hapless villagers in the unending circle of debt then revenge is good, too.

Ultimately, however, everyone acts on the basis of the false ego, assuming ownership over actions carried out by the material nature under the influence of time and guṇas. Over the past few days I hope I showed how we are not independent in our choices but that it’s imperative for us to act this or that way depending on history and conditions of our birth. We wouldn’t differentiate people into “white” or “Indians” if they didn’t act according to stereotypes. The leeway for free choice in their actions is also determined by material conditions – how receptive Indians are to pre-marital sex, for example. Those who have been exposed to the western civilization and liked it are more receptive, those who haven’t are less.

So all these “agents of change” simply take shelter in the movements of nature according to their taste. If it’s the feeling of vindication that they seek they become SJW, if it’s the feeling of quiet sacrifice they join the government. If it’s the thrill of making things happen they go to corporate world. No one is actually “making the world into a better place”, they only think they do because they identify themselves with some particular forces.

And since they are all acting out of ignorance of their spiritual nature and ignorance of dharma they are all agents of Kali. It’s just because Kali is going to rule for over four hundred thousand years and we are only in the beginning of his reign that things appear as moving back and forth. He is simply taking his sweet time, destroying the last 25% of religion can’t be done in five minutes anyway.

Also up until very recently dharma mattered, whether expressed through the medium of Bible or traditional wisdom. Nowadays all these old rules are vigorously questioned and if they don’t support our current understanding they are mercilessly ditched. When that happens Kali progresses faster. Since modern civilization puts satisfaction of the senses at the front and center rather than spiritual needs, of which they are not even aware, we are going to see more and more cases of current thinking going against dharma, with all the unpleasant consequences.

At the end of the day, no one is making the world better and the world isn’t getting better at all. It’s just that some good aspects of today are better than some bad aspects of last century, on average the world is still going down and Kali still rulez.

Need I remind that only the chanting of the holy name and discussing Lord’s pastimes, preferably in the company of like-minded individuals, that can protect us from degradation of Kali? There’s no other way, all this social justice activism is a delusion.

Vanity thought #1620. Adharma

It’s not only the materialists who concern themselves with upholding justice, even Kṛṣṇa descends from time to time to uphold dharma and punish miscreants (BG 4.8). Adharma is also quite a popular word in our books so the fight is legit, right? Not so fast, I think.

There’s fundamental difference between Kṛṣṇa’s concern for dharma and atheistic quest for justice. It’s more or less the same as with sex – when connected with Kṛṣṇa it’s the highest form of devotion, when disconnected from Him it becomes a soul degrading lust. If we take this analogy further – we must free ourselves from desire for justice just as we must free ourselves from lust to make any advancement in spiritual progress.

There are religious systems of justice, most notably Islamic sharia law, but they are all ultimately atheistic because none of their practitioners have actual realization of God and so they are forced to interpret even God given laws according to their “God does not exist” perception of reality. They, and most of us, for that matter, do not see God and so can’t escape acting as if He doesn’t exist. We are all in illusion and all illusion is atheistic.

Besides, sharia law is not the most popular system of justice in the modern world to say the least. The fact of the matter is that all modern societies are forced to submit themselves to international norms of behavior which, despite their name, are set by western secularists in an explicit attempt to create power structures completely free from any notion of God.

It might not have started that way and it took secularism a few centuries to assert itself but it’s finally there, overriding any God given laws it wants even in outwardly religious countries like the US. Same sex marriage is one obvious example. They wants it, they gets it, Bible is not an obstacle.

Obviously, we should not have a horse in this race, it’s all adharma – all their laws, all their legislature, all their courts, all their judges, all their “public opinions”. They all serve the Devil, so to speak, there are no sides in their battles we could unreservedly take. Not Republicans, not Democrats, not liberals, not conservatives, not Christian Democrats, not Labour, not nationalists, not Greens, nobody.

The problem for us is how to manage our innate atheistic desire to control the world and express opinions on how it should be run. Our first outlet is to apply laws we learn from our books. “According to Vedic culture”, we say, or “according to laws of Manu”, or even “according to Bhāgavatam and Bhagavad Gītā”. The attempt is noble, the execution, however, is far from perfect.

The ability to quote does not make us śāstra-cakṣu, no more than parrots can claim to understand humans. Śāstra, especially the kind we profess to speak for, is beyond perception of our senses. It’s not just words on paper that we can translate with dictionaries – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is non-different from Kṛṣṇa Himself and so is Gītā. We cannot honestly claim to speak through the eyes of śāstra unless we see Kṛṣṇa Himself appearing on its pages.

Still under the spell of the illusion we are doing what the rest of the world is doing, too – express our own desire for power and control, we just enlist Kṛṣṇa related books as our help while they enlist their logic and rationality. The goal is still the same, though our means should gradually purify and liberate us from this illusion. Until that happens – it’s all adharma. I would say that very few of our interactions on this subject are done with the unalloyed desire to please guru and Kṛṣṇa, we always want to see ourselves being right first.

Now, the argument can be turned around and the opposite conclusion drawn out – that everything is dharma and adharma does not exist.

The key lies in certain assumptions about our definitions. The Bhāgavatam is a commentary on Vedānta sutras which start with athāto brahma jijñāsā, that the meaning of our lives is to understand God. That’s our starting point and we judge everything according to this principle – does it improve our understanding of Brahman? If not then its adharma, very simple.

Otherwise, dharma is not just law but it’s the very nature of everything and no one can go against nature, therefore adharma is impossible. When we act against prescriptions of the śāstra we simply give in to our lower nature, take shelter in the material energy, and forgo our athāto brahma jijñāsa commitment.

It is natural for a young woman or a man to feel attracted to each other. Their bodies naturally produce necessary hormones and naturally develop sexual organs specifically designed to interact with their counterparts. We cannot say that it’s unnatural and therefore adharmic for them to engage in sex.

What we do say at the very beginning is that we are not our bodies but spirit souls and for spirit souls materially expressed sex IS unnatural and, therefore, is adharma.

Likewise, it’s natural for us to want food or oxygen, it’s our dharma to walk on two legs and not swing from trees. Even if we do desire to live like monkeys this desire does not come from anywhere else but our nature, it’s just that it’s somewhat different from other people around us.

Dharma, therefore, is an expression of karma and it is equally unavoidable. And if we remember that the entire material world and every little movement of karma is meant for our gradual self-realization then there cannot be adharma here by definition. That’s how the world is seen by paramahaṁsas – for them everybody is already a perfect servant of Kṛṣṇa, it’s just that their relationships can see some improvements, but all in good time when both parties are ready.

The argument can be turned once again, however. The above picture is somewhat impersonal because it does not take into account living entities own desires and their own commitments. We want to understand Brahman, for example. We might not understand what it is and how to acquire that knowledge but the desire is still there or we wouldn’t be in this movement. This desire might be innate, because jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya — kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’, but it is planted into our hearts by guru and vaiṣṇavas and we are not free to pursue it on our own, we must always confer with others in the spirit of dāsadāsānudāsa and so they MUST correct our behavior when necessary – therefore some of what we do must be adharma.

After all, we want to develop Kṛṣṇa consciousness, not our consciousness. What is dharma for us might not be dharma for Kṛṣṇa and this is especially true in the conditioned state.

Still, what is adharma for us might not necessarily be adharma for others, we don’t know what commitments they have made and we are not their accepted authorities to pass judgments. We can take notes for ourselves but we should be very careful with disturbing others. Rules of saṅkīrtana must apply – voluntarily, congregational glorification of God.

Vanity thought #1619. Man made law

In modern society justice and rule of law are inseparable, you can’t have one without the other. Exact relationships between them should probably be left to philosophers, I just want to look at it from the Vedic perspective. It’s interesting how both justice and law has been discussed throughout western history, ever since Plato, and there are countless theories about it, but they all miss simple points brought to us by Śrīla Prabhupāda.

They can argue all they want about natural law or retributive justice, all it ultimately does is enriches the lawyers – because the more learned they appear they more they charge for their services. There’s also the illusion of justice being done to justify our spending on it but, ultimately, there’s only karma and dharma. Everything else is just pointless fluff distracting us from pursuing the goal of human life.

Why can’t we just live with karma? It is perfectly just as it is, why do we want to improve on it and offer our own ideas what results should come for what actions? Materialists don’t believe in karma and so their position is understandable but what about us, the aspiring devotees? I think it’s a manifestation of our still atheistic mentality.

One obvious hurdle is reincarnation. Without rebirth karma makes no sense, and we don’t see people being reincarnated, for us it’s a matter of belief, not experience. Consequently we believe in karma but we don’t experience it to the degree required to erase all doubts. We just don’t live long enough to see every action maturing into a reaction and even when we think we see karma working we can’t be sure of the connection between activities and their results. Who knows, maybe getting a good job now is the result of our trying hard in the previous life and not studying hard in this one? It looks like people’s jobs are directly related to their studies but how can you be sure it’s not something they deserved in their previous birth? There’s no way of knowing.

Vedic sages could see past, present, and future but even they could not understand karma in full, even they had to rely on the belief that karma is always right. I mean you can’t make a statement that karma works in each and every case unless you can check each and every case directly. It’s like saying that there are no people with blue skin. All the people we’ve seen so far haven’t been blue. We obviously haven’t met Kṛṣṇa, Viṣṇu or Śiva, or even Uddhava whose body resembled Kṛṣṇa’s in every way.

I guess this approach – believing that karma is always right, will always end in confusion. In Kṛṣṇa consciousness we offer a different solution instead – karma relates to the movements of dead matter and therefore it is not important. We can’t know it, we can’t control it, and we are not interested. What we are concerned with is dharma.

If karma can be compared to justice dharma can be compared to law, ie it’s not about punishments but about prescriptions. Transgressions against dharma is a different matter, we just want to know what it is and follow it as best as we can. We are not concerned with offenders and their fate, we are concerned with what we will get out of following our path. The only way offenders could matter is if they show an alternative method of achieving the same thing. If we don’t care what they offer then their very existence should be irrelevant to us.

In real life, however, we are concerned because we are not sure we ourselves are doing the right thing. What if it’s possible to achieve bhakti by not following a guru and by concocting our own mantras? What if it’s possible to please our guru and Śrīla Prabhupāda by not cooperating with GBC and even openly denying its authority? What if those people really learn their siddha-svarūpa from bābājīs who can really see it? What if there’s spiritual life outside ISKCON? What if we want to try all those alternatives?

Christians used to burn their heretics but our GBC does not prescribe any punishment for all these transgressions. Their only prescriptions is to cut off association with those people. We are not suing them for perversion of dharma and we are not seeking karmic retribution for distracting our devotees, which costs us manpower and therefore money. It’s because, as I said, we are concerned with following our dharma, not with the karma of other people, or any karma at all.

Of course if we want to achieve some other results like building temples and communities then we must have some sort of laws to govern our relationships and some system of punishments when these laws are broken. We can’t have someone stealing funds and say “it’s not our concern, it’s just karma, we should be above it.” Spiritually speaking – yes, but if we are building a temple then funds should be used only for this purpose, not for anyone else’s sense gratification.

So, we do need man made laws to live in a man made world. It doesn’t mean that our laws substitute karma, though, ie if we have laws and enforce them than law karma gets suspended. It means that our institutions become channels for karma to manifest itself. No one in the universe get punished twice for the same sin – first by government and then by karma. Rather all forms of punishment – judge’s sentencing, social sanction, loss of job, family break up etc, are different aspects of the same karma in action.

If we think about it this way there are no man made laws at all, it’s all karma, we just claim our ownership of it. We do the same thing when we think we are our bodies, too. Nope, it’s just material elements interacting with each other under control of the Supreme. They are not alive, they are not conscious, they are not causes of action either. They are moved by time and guṇas but we imagine that it’s us who move things and cause things to happen. It satisfies our desire to be controllers but it’s an illusion, we are never in control of anything here, not even our desires.

That’s why, once again, we should only concern ourselves with our dharma and pursue our goal without worrying about karma. We need to become Kṛṣṇa’s devotees and start serving the Lord, what everybody else is doing and whether they get rewarded or punished for their actions is not our business at all.

Vanity thought #1618. Illusion of justice

Apart from freedom the other most fundamental idea intoned in victims of western civilization is justice. I don’t think I’ve done a good job explaining why freedom and choice are illusory phantoms yet but I think I’ve got the basics right already. Maybe more will come to me soon, for now I want to address the problem with justice.

Come to think of it, strife for justice is universal – communists were big on justice, too – justice for the workers taken advantage of by capitalists. If you think about this it should already sound alarm bells because no one cares about this kind of justice in the West anymore. It’s all talk but no action.

That’s why people like Bernie Sanders are getting so much traction – he talks for the interests of the common man while other presidential contenders are beholden to their donors and masters, the infamous one percenters who keep getting richer and richer while the middle classes slowly lose all their white privileges.

On the other, the Republican side the situation is really grotesque because Republican supporters are known to vote against their interests. They’d get riled up against cheaper healthcare and increase in minimum wages and stand united behind tax breaks for people already swimming in money. Their predicament points to the root of the issue with justice – no one knows what it is and people approach it from their own angles.

Communists put workers ahead of everyone else (besides party leaders, of course) so their idea of justice is what is good for the labor. One percenters think that they are the backbone of the country and everyone else is just helping so they naturally put their own interests first. Everyone is affected by this myopic vision and some feel more righteous about it than others so they raise more stink than usual.

Middle classes think that it’s them who make up the society and everybody else should do right by them. Their strength is in numbers and so their opinions tend to dominate public discourse, especially in democracies. They look at their welfare and freedoms as results of their struggle for justice or against injustice and they will protect their position by any means necessary. Those above them, politicians and one percenters, must be kept in check and must be under constant watch to prevent corruption and nepotism.

They’ve got this idea into their heads that they know what everybody else should be doing and how they should be behaving. They have no problems with demanding that extremely powerful people conform to middle class patterns of behavior but that’s not how things work at at the top. Looking from this middle position towards the bottom is not much better and is not much different from how elites look at the middle – simple people who don’t really matter but who are useful in making us comfortable.

They don’t pose even for a second to contemplate how they appear to those below them and whether they themselves might be open to charges of preferential treatment. Their financial dealings are too insignificant to be labeled corruption but they won’t miss a chance to get ahead by less than honest means. They’d justify it by saying that their careers and families must come first and throwing a few benefits to people who can facilitate their advancement is a fair game. This, btw, is exactly how the one percenters justify their shenanigans but in their case they move around millions so it’s called “corruption”. Besides, as far as I know, reciprocation between truly rich rarely involves passing around large sums of money, too. In the end they get their financial rewards, of course, but they trade power and opportunities and speaking of them in monetary terms is considered low class.

So, exactly the same things done by middle classes become unacceptable when done by the rich, and it’s only because of the scale, not some moral considerations.

Given all this it’s no wonder that all around the world people complain about rich and powerful being above the law. They ARE above the law that middle classes wrote to govern themselves. The problem is that this commoners’ law is being imposed on everyone else without any consideration for the starting positions – because everyone is equal. People are not equal, however, and the universe rewards everyone accordingly regardless of what middle classes think about it.

This explains the paradoxical situation where we have unprecedented levels of openness and transparency which should guarantee justice and fairness but the rich manage to amass more wealth even faster than before.

Ultimately, justice is an artificial construct altogether. There’s the law of karma and it governs the entire universe without a fail or even a glitch. What other form of justice do we need? This demand for justice appears when people evolve to the stage of prāṇamaya, when they figure out that they live in a society and that enjoying stuff together is more pleasant than doing it alone, which is the stage of annamaya. That’s when they invent various rules to facilitate their mutual enjoyment. They feel bad when others don’t get their fair share, they develop empathy and such, and they develop envy, too. That last feature is probably the strongest driver behind seeking justice – forget the orphans, we can’t stand other guys enjoying something we don’t get ourselves, it seems unfair and it needs to be corrected.

In the East justice as it is known in the West doesn’t even exist. There’s no such thing as equality and without equality there are no uniform demands on behavior. Chinese are communal people instead, serving justice for them means restoring balance in the community and making everyone happy, not putting someone in jail just because “the law”. Westerners think of the law as an abstract that must be imposed by the state, Chinese think of the law as real live relationships between real people. In this sense they are closer to the prāṇamaya explanation of justice I offered in the previous paragraph.

In Vedic culture justice means dharma but dharma is never translated as “law” in the Western sense. Dharma is more like a duty here and everyone’s duties are different. Dharma does not come from the level of prāṇamaya, it’s not about feeling good or about accommodating others’ interests. The only interests that must be upheld are those of the Lord, which is way above prāṇamaya on the scale of evolution of consciousness.

Most people have no idea what they Lord likes, however, and so no one knows dharma in full. Most of the time we just go by the words of the ācāryas and by the śāstra. Oh, wait, if we are completely honest then most of the time we go by our interpretations of the śāstra which is not the same thing and deserves a separate post.

What’s important to remember today is that “justice” is important only in as much as it aligns with śāstra, every other application for any other purpose is illusory and serves someone’s selfish interests instead. It might take a little intelligence to spot this selfishness or to recognize that even atheists might occasionally do the right thing but what we should remember is that the Lord is impartial and rewards everyone according to how they follow HIS dharma, not by how much WE like or dislike them.

Vanity thought #1613. Propitiating news gods

Yesterday I talked about results of the British inquiry into the murder of Litvinenko. It was a work of an activist judge and from there I managed to link it to the famous criterion of Hare Kṛṣṇa popularity – vaiṣṇavism will win when judges will wear tilakas. The way justice is done these days, however, it would probably be an indictment rather than a victory.

I haven’t finished the story and I have no idea how to connect it to Kṛṣṇa today. My mind was quite agitated by report’s revelations and I think I need to put my thoughts into writing so that the gods controlling the news leave me alone. I should’t have stumbled into their territory and now they have a firm grip over my consciousness, demanding a significant share of my mind’s attention.

Anyway, the “inquiry” was more of a trial even if not legally so. The judge not only tried to determine the facts of the case but also find the perpetrators and determine their guilt. Two individuals, Lugovoi and Kovtun, were judged guilty and Russian president Putin “probably guilty”. Since it wasn’t an actual trial the judge could get away with real travesty of justice – there was no defense whatsoever and despite proclaiming the inquiry “open” it relied on classified information never seen by the public and a statement by a code named individual to the police in another country. He simply didn’t want to testify in front of the judge and there was no defense to cross examine him anyway. Also there was no jury so whatever judge liked to hear easily became “facts” and “truth”.

Maybe they are facts, who knows, but with “trials” like this Britain should never ever complain about judicial systems in the rest of the world, which they love to do whenever there’s an occasion.

Despite the guilty verdict the inquiry discovered that a lot of public information about this case was plain wrong but this was never announced and needs to be gleaned from their report itself, which is 300 pages long and therefore beyond the comprehension of an average citizen.

Litvinenko’s deathbed statement, for example, was confirmed to be a hoax, a paper typed up by his friend without any factual basis to it. The polonium that killed him could have come from anywhere and there’s no way to prove that it was from Russia. It could also be bought quite cheaply in the West. The most striking discovery in my view, however, was the background of the alleged murderers. Wikipedia still states that one of them, Kovtun, has worked for KGB. It fits the “everybody knows” theory that he was a brutal KGB trained assassin sent by Moscow. The inquiry found something entirely different.

Kovtun was drafted into Soviet army just like every other man in the country and was sent to serve in Czechoslovakia and then East Germany where he met a local woman and got married. When news came in that his unit was about to be transferred to Chechnya he deserted and fled to West Germany. He lived in Hamburg until 2003, mostly on welfare but he also supplemented his income by collecting trash and bussing tables. Eventually he was picked up by another alleged killer, Lugovoi, who was his childhood friend, and given a place by his side.

Lugovoi did work for KGB but he left in mid-nineties to start a business providing security to VIPs. He was doing very well but then his patron, Russian oligarch Boris Berezovski, fell out of favor when Putin came to power and fled from Russia to London. Lugovoi helped arrange escape of one of Berezovski’s acolytes, got caught, and spent fifteen months in jail. He then continued riding Berezovski’s coattails and that’s how he got to know Litvinenko, the victim. They met numerous times and Litvinenko didn’t suspect him to be his killer at all.

After the murder Lugovoi became a minor celebrity in Russia and appeared on TV. He then used his newly found popularity to get elected as an MP for the opposition party. The end. Does he look like James Bond, a KGB trained assassin? I bet if this biography was presented to the jury they would dismiss him as a potential suspect. Litvinenko himself pointed to a different man, an Italian, of whom I know nothing and don’t want to learn any more.

Litvinenko’s brother told the media last week that Russia had nothing to do with the murder and that KGB/FSB didn’t care about him at all. His work there didn’t involve any classified information, he wasn’t a spy, and no one cared what he had to say.

These days when we talk about defectors and intelligence gathered from various dissidents we point to Iraq and how they all screamed about WMD’s there. It was all lies designed to impress their western handlers and talk up their own value. They probably learned this method from Russians, however, who played this trick over and over again for a decade before Iraqi debacle.

Just last year, when Russian opposition politician was murdered right outside Kremlin the media said that the motive was his explosive investigation into Russian involvement in Ukraine. A couple of months later his paper came out, compiled by his friends from his notes, but no one bothered to report on it because it was a dud.

Same thing was with Litvinenko. Maybe Russian FSB did blow apartment buildings themselves to blame it on Chechens but by 2006 when Litvinenko was murdered Chechens had already committed a long list of despicable acts of terrorism and no one would taken claims that their were innocent seriously. They held a theater hostage, they held a hospital hostage, including a maternity ward, they had a school hostage, though some of these acts might have happened later, I don’t remember.

Anyway, the inquiry was a joke but it was meant to influence public opinion, not seek actual justice, and to satisfy judge’s ego, too. And now I hope gods of news are satisfied and I will never have to revisit this subject again. I don’t know who the real murderer was, just one quick look at the report shows an unmanageable number of details. Maybe Lugovoi and Kovtun did it, I don’t care, I’m just appalled at how justice is done in the UK.

Last offering to gods – I’ve also watched a video compilation of Hillary Clinton’s flip-flops on several issues and I actually came to trust the woman. I know she almost certainly lies when he mouth moves and that every thing she says is meant to brainwash the listeners but she is consistent in that and therefore predictable. She WILL make mistakes and she WILL deny making them. She has her own warped version of reality that she presents everywhere but behind that she is just a woman. Maybe I’m being sexist but I believe that is a fact. I mean it’s a typical female behavior – never admit to anything and always turn everything in your own favor. Even when you approach her in full confidence that now you finally nailed her she’ll still manage to make you feel guilty. At heart, however, women know they are wrong and they know they are vulnerable and they do want to do the right thing, everything else is just fluff.

Finally, the gods of news were favorable to me and directed me to the latest Bernie Sanders’ campaign ad. I don’t want to comment on its content but at 9 second mark there’s a face of a Hare Kṛṣṇa devotee there, so I’ll leave you with that:

SandersAd

Vanity thought #1612. Justice needs to be seen

The full saying is that justice needs to be seen to be done but these days people are quite satisfied with the first part only. Whether it’s actually justice and whether it has been done doesn’t matter. They see it, they feel good about, and that’s all they really want.

Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura famously dreamed about a day when judges would wear vaiṣṇava tilakas and we’ve accepted this as a sort of a prediction that is very desirable. Is it, though? I don’t think in the current atmosphere association with “justice” would do devotees any good, though it’s admittedly better than association with politics. Tulsi Gabbard handles herself very well but she is a first timer with no baggage, politics will eventually get to her – it’s like wrestling with pigs, everybody will get dirty.

Last year I wrote a long analysis of the US Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage, mostly it was about dissenting judges opinions and how they made far more sense than the pro same sex majority. Their arguments, however, have been totally forgotten and everyone talks about that decision as if it was some kind of legal achievement. On that note, a couple of months ago a trio in Brazil sued for legal recognition of their relationship, which is an example confirming “slippery slope” argument advanced by the opposition. Their civil union has already been legalized, next step is getting a full marriage status. It’s the second such case in Brazil, too.

Today I want to talk about a new legal precedent that came to public attention about a week ago – the outcome of the British inquiry into the murder of ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko. The result was a guilty verdict for his two killers, Lugovoi and Kovtun, and “probably guilty” verdict for the Russian president Putin. The first part was a foregone conclusion and the second part made the news worldwide.

It wasn’t actually a trial but an inquiry, or an inquest by an activist judge that gradually got elevated to the inquiry status, and then the inquiry got promoted to determining the causes of death and the guilt of the accused, which is, in effect, a trial, except no trial would have ever been done under conditions used by this inquiry.

The narrative pushed to the public ever since Litvinenko’s murder in 2006 was that Russia refused to cooperate and refused to extradite the accused so no proper trial could have been held, Britain even imposed sanctions on Russia for this refusal. In public view inquiry was as good as it was gonna get and people are perfectly satisfied with the verdict, not thinking twice that punishment is not going to be served. Justice needs to be seen, as I said, the rest doesn’t matter.

So it was all about spin and appearances. I’ve never paid any attention to this case, it was too complicated and learning all the details was unnecessary, but after the result of the inquiry has been published I read a long article taking it apart. The official inquiry site is here and the article is here. I haven’t checked all the claims in the article but so far they simply follow what is included in inquiry’s report.

The story line pushed to the public for nearly a decade is like this – Litvinenko was an ex-KGB spy who threatened to expose some nefarious KGB dealings and his betrayal of his country was unacceptable. To silence him FSB, which is KGB’s successor, sent out two killers to poison Litvinenko with polonium. They slipped it onto Litvinenko’s tea and after about a month he died of a mysterious illness. Eventually polonium poisoning was discovered and following traces of radiation a trail was found leading around London and then onto Moscow. It’s like 007 mission that got busted. The inquiry’s verdict confirmed what the public knew all along, so justice was definitely seen.

What people didn’t notice is that several crucial pieces of this narrative were dismissed by the judge. One finding was that it’s impossible to trace this polonium to the Russian facility and that it IS possible to buy it on the open market, and it’s not very expensive either. Basically, there’s no proof tying this polonium to Russia. Another myth was about Russian non-cooperation – the judge admitted that extraditing the accused is impossible under Russian law, it’s not a matter of government discretion.

Moreover, Russians did offer cooperation but it was deemed unacceptable. They offered to try the accused in Russian courts with evidence supplied by Brits, and there was even a possibility of holding BRITISH court in Russia. Brits decided that it would inconvenience the witnesses and so the option was refused. Under British law it’s possible to interview witnesses via video link but that wasn’t considered. Perhaps the real reason is that a proper trial would fall flat on its face while the inquiry could get away with some outrageous stuff from legal point of view.

The third myth that was quietly buried is Litvinenko’s death-bed statement accusing FSB of poisoning him. It’s what gave the original impetus to the narrative but turned out to be a hoax, it was composed by other person, not by Litvinenko himself, and the person who compiled it admitted that there was no factual basis for this “statement” whatsoever.

But back to inquiry – it’s got capital p “Public” prefix to it and it was touted as an open investigation, a triumph of justice where justice can’t, unfortunately, be enforced. In real life defendants were not present and were not represented, they didn’t bring their own witnesses, didn’t tell their side of the story, and didn’t cross-examine prosecution witnesses. No trial under such conditions would ever be considered as just, but if it only needs to be seen so then repeating words like “public” and “open” does the trick already.

Speaking of open – crucial evidence linking the accused with Russian government was classified and presented only to the judge. Its source and content are unknown and therefore cannot be questioned. One key prosecution witness also remained anonymous and refused to testify in court even though his identity is well known to the defendants. Still, the judge accepted his statement given to the police in another country as unquestionable truth. That would also not fly in a proper trial, so legally calling it an inquiry was a boon to the judge who, incidentally, made his mind up before the inquiry even started. He was the one who pushed for it to prove that he was right. And there was no jury, of course.

Was justice even remotely done in this case? Who cares, it was shown and seen, and that’s enough.

Note that up to this point the circumstances of the case itself have not been mentioned, so far I talked only about preconditions of this inquiry that looked very much like a trial. I might get to the details tomorrow, there are more myths to be dispelled there.

Bottom line – justice system that allows such travesties and prides itself on being one the most fair in the world is no place for a vaiṣṇava. The world is going to hell, we can’t stop it and can’t take responsibility for it. Our service is to pick selected souls who are eligible for surrendering to Kṛṣṇa and chanting the holy name. We can’t save the rest and they have their own demoniac desired to fulfill anyway. They are not going to live under our varṇāśrama and we should probably leave them alone.

Vanity thought #1166. Spiritual justice

Continuing the old topic from last week – so far all talk about hell and atonement has been confined to karma kanda interests and therefore inapplicable to devotees. Vaiṣṇavas don’t go to hell, Kṛṣṇa won’t allow it no matter what we do. Why? Interesting question.

Common answer is that He just wouldn’t let us suffer that much, He is very kind and forgiving. It would break His heart to see His devotees in pain. Another answer would be is that He promised in Bhagavad Gītā to absolve His devotees of all sinful reactions and specifically told us not to worry about it anymore.

If we think about it a little, however, it would appear to be slightly more complicated than that. Practically, it is still true so it doesn’t matter if we understand the mechanics of it or not, but if we happen to push the boundaries or find ourselves in a difficult situation then a little more knowledge wouldn’t hurt. I can’t claim to know anything special here but simply considering what we already learned in our classes might be useful enough.

First, the boundaries – we might not go to hell but we certainly continue to suffer just like everybody else. We certainly can’t escape old age and death, and we can experience what others call hellish life here. In some cases it might actually be necessary for our spiritual advancement.

Kṛṣṇa can take away our wealth, for example. Money means a lot in this world, most of the time we have no idea how poverty really feels, how many things we might lose when money goes away. Our creature comforts will go, our position in the society will go, respect we got accustomed to will go, maybe friends and even family.

Generally, it’s fairly easy to survive on whatever is provided by our karma no matter how bad it gets because it’s one of the major functions of the illusion itself – it WILL force us to feel content about our lives no matter how miserable we become. There’s also the fact that as long as we have the body there will also be minimal provisions for its maintenance. Air, water, and some food will always be there, and we’ll always have time to sleep.

In this sense we’ll never experience real hell on Earth. Moreover, Kṛṣṇa taking away our family affection, OTOH, will feel like a real help and losing our family might be impossible to escape anyway. It’s like sex – if we want to be with Kṛṣṇa we must give it up, will hurt in the beginning but it will be worth it.

To that end we might be forced to live with people who genuinely hate us and the worst part would be the sense of betrayal because this hate would come from people we relied on all our lives. The realization of this irreversible loss of humanly love might also feel like a torture. Unlike water and air, love is not included as part of conditioned material existence.

So, losing family affection might be a very painful but also very necessary to give up all hope in happiness of material life. As long as we harbor even the faintest of hopes we won’t be able to surrender to Krishna, we can’t approach Him with a plan B in the back of our minds.

And if you think losing family is bad, wait until vaiṣṇava community turns its back on you. It’s been known to happen and it CAN happen to anybody. Or, more often, one can just lose its support. That happened to thousands and thousands of devotees, a common thing.

The point is that such material suffering is spirituality useful and no matter what Kṛṣṇa has promised He might force it on us for our own good. Question is – will it be fair?

Fair in what sense? In the material, karmic sense of things it might be not – we worship the greatest, the most powerful, the wealthiest God in all creation and we get nothing useful in return. That has always been vaiṣṇavas’ fate, even in Lord Caitanya’s time. From the POV of a materialist or even a worshiper of demigods, vaiṣṇavas are stupid. There’s no return on their investment.

In the spiritual sense, however, all material treasures are not worth a drop of attraction to the Holy Name. We will never put one against another for comparison. All the treasures in the world can’t bring one even tiniest bit of devotion so whatever we lose in the material sense is insignificant.

Comfort, health, wealth, family, love – none of that matters to devotees. None of that is even considered when begging Kṛṣṇa for a drop of bhakti. Bhakti itself is non-negotiable, it doesn’t have a price, it doesn’t have an equivalent, it can’t be expressed in dollars and cents, or lifetimes, or piety, or fame and respect. It’s transcendental to all those things.

It means that all our concerns about arranging our service here in the best possible way are futile – none of the material conditions of our service matter. It doesn’t matter what it brings to us, it doesn’t matter if it makes our lives more difficult or easier, it doesn’t matter what it makes people think of us, it just doesn’t matter.

Wait, but shouldn’t we take responsibility for our service and see that we do our real best for our guru and Kṛṣṇa? Yes, but we are not entitled to results, only to efforts. It’s not the results that we offer to the Lord, it’s our attitude.

Generally, there’s a connection between responsible service and satisfactory results but it should not be taken backwards, ie good results are not caused by good service. Kṛṣṇa doesn’t judge us by the amount of money we raise for Him, He doesn’t judge us by the taste of food we prepare for Him, He doesn’t judge us be the opulence of our deity worship – all of that is so insignificant that it doesn’t even register on His radar. There’s no such thing as “good result” for Him.

What we consider “good enough” here is nothing by the measures of the spiritual world. It’s like Rāvaṇa who thought he was the biggest badass in the whole universe until he was taken to a golden mountain that turned out to be just an earring that fell of slaughtered Hiraṇyakaśipu.

Another point to consider is that this is Kali yuga, things are generally going so bad here that anyone who has lived long enough notices how they deteriorate from one year to another. Fruit and vegetables become tasteless, for example. They have no vitality in them anymore, only looks, even “organic” stuff doesn’t cut it. Flowers don’t smell as nice as before, and don’t even start on people’s religiosity and other virtues.

So, if Kṛṣṇa doesn’t judge us by the results, why should we judge fellow devotees that way? We tend to think, if not say it outloud, that if someone doesn’t bring results then his devotion is lacking. That is actually offensive. We cannot say such things about others’ bhakti as a matter of principle. There would never be a valid reason to accuse any devotee of lacking surrender. We can accuse them of all kinds of material faults, including sloppy service, but we should never question their surrender.

In our society Kṛṣṇa is everybody’s life and soul but we all got material bodies to deal with and so we might not look pure enough but it doesn’t change the fact that even the slightest drop of devotion, even expressed years and decades ago, outweighs lifetimes of sinful activities. Once surrendered, always surrendered, people don’t go back on their bhakti, only their bodies appear to.

Now, if we apply this rule to ourselves it certainly doesn’t look that way but our own humility in this case should not be projected on others – we can see ourselves as fallen but we can’t even think about other devotees that way.

Hmm, spiritual justice is a tricky thing, and I haven’t even touched on actual spiritual component of our lives here, only externalities.

Vanity thought #576. In defense of GBC

From official GBC response to yesterday’s story it appears that our authorities have acted in a cold manner, not quite as expected from devotees of their caliber. They did okay by materialistic standards and it seems that’s what they wanted to display by releasing their statement.

We are not materialists, however, we should look beyond the letter of the statement and understand that GBC is obliged to act in a formal and forceful manner to appear faultless to our critics. It doesn’t reflect the essence of their reaction.

What they actually did was to formalize a normal, compassionate and mature response, nothing more. Detractors are ready to jump on us and declare that we are covering a scandal and protecting abusers so we have to address their concerns. Even Lord Chaitanya was very careful about His external appearances, He had to act in such a way as not to give our critics reasons to blame us.

GBC disapproved of the initial reaction of one North American member, saying that announcing a formal investigation before talking to either the guru or his disciple was inappropriate and made matters more difficult. As devotees we should not automatically assume that abuse has taken place, rolling out big guns is a tacit admittance that indeed something terrible has happened, which it wasn’t.

If you were not burdened with official responsibilities you would naturally hear from involved parties first, listen to them and hope that this action along would be enough to establish the truth. When we approach devotees with full trust in their faith and dedication to Srila Prabhupada and address them with proper respect, chances are they would feel remorse if they did something wrong, and feel embarrassed if they didn’t but caused so much inconvenience to others.

There should not be any need for actual mediation, devotees naturally are averse to discussing unfortunate events of this world and do not dwell on each other mistakes.

This mediation lasted for several hours, we don’t know what it was like, I hope it was filled with both parties expressing genuine devotion and concern for for each other and our common mission. I also hope that the atmosphere was cordial and not as formal as GBC official statement suggests.

So, two things we can learn from this lesson – we should try our best to keep faith in our authorities. Maybe I’m wrong in my guesses about how the mediation actually transpired but, regardless of the facts, it would be much much worse for me if I harbor doubts and lose respect for the GBC.

Second thing is that we should never ever think that devotees are some kind of criminals. Whatever happened, they are dear to Krishna first and foremost and we would ruin our spiritual lives if we think of them as some ordinary abusers. Even if they are it would be safer for us not to see them like that.

The truth is that we are not seekers of justice, we are seekers of devotion. Justice is provided by the laws of karma, there are very few people who carry any actual responsibility in this case and most of us have no personal stake in it so we should leave justice to its agents and concentrate on cultivating our devotion instead.

Vanity thought #129. Krishna Unhinged Part II

Picking up from where I left off yesterday – I think I figured why Krishna appeared so unappealing in Buddhist Ghata Jataka, and structural failure of our perception of dharma.

First, it could be discounted as simple ignorance. People who compiled that version of the story presumed that Krishna was just a village ruffian on his first trip to the city, that His behavior was in no way justified. Ignorance is probably the best excuse, if they knew the background and intentionally didn’t tell us it would be just sinister.

Let’s imagine how it all looked from Kamsa minions side of the story. As a faithful subject/henchman, one would never admit to any of Kamsa’s wrongdoings which included murdering hundreds if not thousands of infants, some of them personally, just crashing the tiny newborn babies against the walls and pillars, maybe stomping on them or suffocating them. There was also a matter of sending countless demons and rakshasas to kill Krishna Himself.

So, pretending that none of this had ever happened, some imaginary Kamsa’s lawyer would attack Krishna for what He has done in response and holding Him to some lofty standards. “How dared He to enter Mathura uninvited”, for example. “How dared He to take garments meant for Kamsa, the king!” Suddenly it all becomes about rules and civility, forget that Kamsa set the wrestling match specifically to kill Krishna and Balarama. Actually, no, they never forget it, they just pretend Kamsa was an innocent victim there.

Next step would be to demand a full trial, the higher the court the better, and with jury, of course. There should be plenty of options to appeal, too, and there should be bail. The purpose, of course, is to keep Kamsa free to do whatever he wants including hutching new plans to assassinate Krishna. The general public, however, must be made to believe that all Kamsa wants is justice and fairness.

And it’s from this point of view, the position of the cheated public, that Krishna is described as an ungrateful villain in the Buddhist version.

I wonder if all our modern claims of justice are following the same path, too. Our “heroes” kill whoever they want under flimsiest pretenses yet to the world the preach complete faith in justice and fairness. Presumption of innocence is not applied to their enemies at all. A month ago they killed Osama Bin Laden without any trial, not even an attempt, not even a chance to present his version of what has happened with 9/11.

Surely, it looks as if Bin Laden had fully deserved his fate, but what do we really know about his involvement? Could it be that he just claimed the glory for himself, being appointed a symbol of terrorism/resistance? Could it be that he had no personal involvement with planning and execution at all? No one stopped to ask, and no one even pausing to ask now. There are some muted opinion pieces in non-US media about potential dangers of targeted assassinations but no one takes them seriously. It’s a good think they killed Osama, the common wisdom goes.

A few days ago they captured another mass murderer, Serbian Ratko Mladic. That guy was responsible for the worst case of genocide in Europe since World War II. Fifteen years he has been in hiding and now he is about to be brought to trial. Good.

Except people who are going to try him have been complicit in the genocide themselves. They just set back and watched and when shit hit the fan they feigned ignorance and lack of resources. In on account they even turned down the bombing mission against Ratko Mladic forces because paperwork hasn’t been filed properly. The planes just flew several circles above the troops slaughtering civilian men, women and children, and then turned back.

Now they are going to put it all on one man.

Some justice indeed.

Oh, even more, the whole hunt for Osama Bin Laden was illegal from the start to the finish. They got their first clue by torturing terrorist suspects in secret prisons outside of the US and outside US laws, and hidden from the public of the host countries, too. Then they set up surveillance in Pakistan without local authorities knowledge, and finally they executed the raid which was a straightforward challeng to Pakistani sovereignty, and they are saying they would do it again, laws be damned.

Though no, not actually, the laws will be praised and “upheld” – for public consumption, while the might makes right and people with power can abuse laws in any way they like.

So, I no longer wonder how it came to be that ordinary people might try to judge Krishna by these modern standards.

I also find it ridiculous that justice should be blind. The only thing it’s blind to is people with power to subvert it. That is the reality, the slogans for the rest of us are just that – slogans.

When Krishna came to restore dharma He most certainly didn’t mean our modern interpretation. I’m sure it counted as adharma in His view.

Actually the only acceptable dharma is to serve God. There’s no such thing as “blind” justice at all. Blind justice denies the supremacy of the God by definition, it might be the only way a demoniac society can function but for people who believe in God there should be no blindness at all.

As I said yesterday – in a demoniac society everyone looks for equality because they all want to be equal – equal to God. Everybody deserves the same rights and freedoms because everybody’s born equal – equal to God.

We, as devotees, should always remember this fundamental flaw in modern interpretation of justice and fairness when we try to explain why Krishna did this and that.

How did Buddhist got caught up in this, too? I can only speculate, but, let’s not forget – they don’t have any special position for God, too. They are all equal in their impersonal understanding of the world and the creation. Everybody can become Buddha, and Buddha wasn’t God, He was just one of us who advanced further than anyone else.

I can see how their denial of the existence of the Supreme Autocrat can lead to blaming Krishna for what He did to Kamsa, and, ultimately, how that kind of philosophy can lead the rest of us to the travesty of justice that passes off as law in our days.

God, it looks like I can’t finish this story today, too.