Vanity thought #1647. Out of step

Yesterday I used the example of punishment of Kali by Mahārāja Parīkṣit to try and better understand how Kali works. He is not a violent demon, I concluded, he is more like a kid goofing around when no one is looking.

This makes sense. Kali yuga is not there to snatch control of the universe from the Lord, it’s just an increase in the mode of ignorance with all that follows. It’s not an asuric challenge, it’s not a battle for supremacy, it’s just time when stupidity prevails.

The first sign of ignorance is assuming that one is his own body and that the goal of life lies in sensory pleasures. We can look at is as degradation of pure consciousness from ānanada maya to anna maya, from transcendental bliss to the pleasure of stuffing yourself with food. At the very bottom are some primitive microorganisms whose main function is to consume stuff. They are very good at it and when there’s food they grow exponentially. Animals are a few steps above but anyone who has seen dogs going crazy over treats knows that getting food is their primary objective in life. They’d forget everything for a juicy bite, even their guard duties.

Even in the human society food is supremely important. Armies can’t fight on an empty stomach, they say, which means that people are ready to sacrifice their lives for some political or patriotic cause but not if they are still hungry. Get some food first then go and die without a second thought.

My point is that as ignorance increases jīvas become attracted to lower and lower modes of enjoyment. Material elements encapsulate the soul starting from the subtle and progressing to the gross ones. Enjoyment of the mind is still considered higher than enjoyment of the gross senses even without Vedas telling us about it – poetry, science – that kind of thing. When people think they need to elevate themselves this is the stuff they go for – feelings, abstract ideals, convictions, relationships, love. Once they get hooked they can forego lower creature comforts, too.

Goodness and passion move jīvas up the ladder, ignorance pulls them down (if you start from goodness then passion pulls you down, too). The more ignorance is there the less intelligence we have, less knowledge, less appreciation for knowledge, less will to control ourselves and so on. It’s not a particularly demoniac attitude, just ignorance, as I said.

What happens next is that we start looking at the world from our own degraded position. Whatever brings pleasure to ourselves and our senses becomes a golden standard of knowledge. Ānanda maya manifests itself in full knowledge of the Absolute, anna maya reduces “Absolute” to what is eatable and no other aspect of the Absolute is even conceived on that platform. We are somewhere in the middle and we define the Absolute by what brings pleasure to us. It might be love, it might be service to humanity, it might be service to one’s country, it might be service to one’s family. The truth could lie in drugs, alcohol, women, sex, or always on full internet access on your mobile.

In this condition we consider ourselves as pace setters for the rest of the world to follow. Or if we choose some role model then we want the world to follow him or her instead. That’s how we define progress – whatever we do is good, whatever other people do is degradation and corruption. My favorite saying on this matter is that whoever drives slower than you is a retard and whoever drives faster is a suicidal maniac.

Last year the US Supreme Court legalized the right to same sex marriage, for example. Gays and their supporters have been waiting for it for a long time, it’s been a struggle and they invested themselves heavily into it. Consequently, they judge the rest of the world through the prism of LGBT rights. More rights – the country is progressive, less rights – the country is lagging behind and needs to catch up.

Feminism works the same way, too – they judge other countries and societies by how they treat their women. Vegans also display the same attitudes but about animal rights. Caring for the environment is another direction of progress, and so is eating “healthy”. Democracy is always big and it’s a common denominator for all progressives around the world. Whatever cause one accepts it becomes a yardstick to judge others, it’s just how ignorance manifests itself. Whatever we think we “know” becomes “truth” and others need to learn it, too.

This attitude leads to ridiculous declarations like “Islam is out of step with the rest of the world”. I chose Islam here because it’s a popular religion to debate these days but they say the same thing about Catholics or Hindus, too. They say it without thinking and completely miss the point that religions are supposed to MAINTAIN the traditions, they are not supposed to run after progressive liberals. It’s not a race – from Islam’s view, but because liberals are all about progress they want religion to run along, too.

They expect religion to keep up with science, too, though most them have given up on Biblical explanations of the universe. Still they think that because science discovers so many things and pushes boundaries of the human knowledge religions must develop in the same direction, too.

In short – they want us to be in step with them as if their steps are somehow special. We, as aspiring devotees, have our own progress towards knowledge, we have our own steps, our own goals and our own milestones. Why don’t they try and keep pace with us? Really, why?

Because Kali yuga. It increases ignorance while our path of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is meant to increase goodness. They are drawn to the lower forms of enjoyment while we try to develop attraction to the higher ones instead. For us it’s swimming against the current while they go with Kali yuga flow, that’s all.

Devoid of actual knowledge they don’t even realize how far they have drifted and, speaking of Islam, they consider women covering their faces as either being forced to do so or mentally ill. When Muslims say that pre-marital sex must be severely punished they don’t get it at all because in modern society pre-marital sex is an absolute must, and with a good number of partners, too. It was only a few decades ago when it was still a no-no in the West but now it’s become totally forgotten and it’s Muslims who are declared weird.

It’s actually funny to see how self-absorbent, self-centered and self-indulgent modern people are, they are like animals and they don’t even realize it anymore, the ability for abstract thinking and looking at issues from different angles is gone, it’s always my way or highway now.

In that sense we should be proud to be out of step with progress of their delusion.

Vanity thought #1646. The fate of Kali

It wouldn’t do justice to the 17th Chapter of the First Canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam if I didn’t talk about actual punishment and reward of Kali. The bull of religion, dharma personified, has spoken and refused to name Kali as the cause of his suffering, hopefully we get that, but it still feels like Kali is responsible for a lot of bad things happening to us, both as embodied soul and as aspiring devotees. What is his role in all this? Let’s try and find out.

In the previous chapter Sūta Gosvāmī told the sages how Mahārāja Parīkṣit ruled his kingdom in the absence of Lord Kṛṣṇa. The Kali yuga had already started and the first symptoms were noticed by Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira who, along with other Pāṇdavas, had called it a day and timely retired. Mahārāja Parīkṣit saw further degradation and once, in his travels, came across that śūdra dressed as a king and beating a cow and a bull. There’s a nice conversation between that bull, personality of dharma himself, an the cow, personality of earth. They were really worried for the state of the world which was in sharp contrast with just a few years earlier when Kṛṣṇa was still present.

So, when Mahārāja Parīkṣit met that śūdra “king” he shouldn’t have been surprised but maybe astonished at the depth of degradation. These things were not supposed to happen in his kingdom, he was trying to hold it together regardless of the change of the yugas and he did everything right. He was trying to find the source of the troubles but I don’t think he was prepared for what he saw.

It’s not just hurting of the cows that was bad but that it was done by a man dressed as king. That’s the two pronged attack of the Kali on dharma – not only openly destroy it but all the while pretend that you are defending it, as expected from kings. That’s what we get all the time too – people doing all kinds of bad stuff and at the same time preaching their own saintliness. Well, the last remaining principle of religion in this age is honesty so it’s no surprise that Kali tries to destroy it by cheating.

How Mahārāja Parīkṣit was supposed to react there? His first impulse was to kill the bastard on the spot, that would have spared all of us a lot of trouble for millennia to come but that’s not what happened. The main reason was that it’s Kali yuga, this degradation is scheduled by the universe and it can’t be stopped, but for Mahārāja Parīkṣit there were more immediate concerns. He didn’t kill Kali because of the universe, it’s Kali’s behavior that earned him mercy.

The moment Mahārāja Parīkṣit took his sword and was going to behead Kali on the spot Kali immediately abandoned all pretense and surrendered to him. He dropped his “royal” clothes and decorations, kneeled, and bowed his head. Well, the text doesn’t say “kneeled” exactly but it’s in our accompanying pictures. Hmm, I just realized that BBT doesn’t have an official gallery of Bhāgavatam illustrations. It’s a pity, our pictures have a lot going for them, they are like windows into a different world. There’s this collection I’ve never seen in our books, it’s not as good, in my opinion, but it’s illustrative.

So, Kali or not, but a proper Vedic King can’t kill an unarmed, surrendered person. I don’t think kings are allowed to kill śūdras either – śūdras are meant to be protected and provided for, not punished. Being the lower class they don’t know what they are doing and they shouldn’t bear the same responsibility for their actions as fellow kṣatriyas. In that Kali was like a pet animal and we don’t kill pets no matter what mess they make.

In hindsight we can discuss whether killing Kali would have been beneficial or not, whether breaking kṣatriya principles on that one occasion would have been justified by greater good, but Mahārāja Parīkṣit didn’t have such dilemmas. He wasn’t going to act against dharma himself, period, not open to discussion. Kali could not have been killed.

From Kali’s perspective it all went according to the rules, too. He might have pretended to be the king for a while and engaged in illicit activities but faced with the prospect of immediate justice he gave it all up. Suddenly his indulgence was exposed and he wasn’t going to die for it, it was not worth it. Partly it was also because Kali doesn’t have principles other than being a servant. When no one is watching he might do all kinds of things but in the presence of a master he has no other choice but accept his subservient position.

Demons are different in this regard, they are ready to fight and ready to die for what they believe is right. Kali doesn’t have the same backbone, he is a servant, not a warrior. When the master is not around he is serving his senses – he must always serve something, that’s the nature of a śūdra.

When Mahārāja Parīkṣit exposed him he was trembling with fear, knowing that he had made a real mess this time, but he still had no other choice but surrender and beg for mercy. Just like a dog, really. Mahārāja Parikṣit said that he wouldn’t kill him but he wouldn’t allow him to stay in his kingdom either. It’s like telling the dog that the office or the bedroom is off limits. “But where shall I live?”, asked Kali.

That’s another feature of a śūdra – they can’t do anything themselves, they must always depend on their masters. They can’t even think of living on their own. Brāhmaṇas depend on the Lord, kṣatriyas take what they need by force, vaiśyas can at least provide for themselves, but śūdras need to be provided and protected by others in return for their faithful service. Well, to be exact, brāhmaṇas depend on charity, which they see as ultimately coming from the Lord, and kṣatriyas do not take things by force but their mere presence inspires others to pay taxes, but that is beside the point.

Now the nature of Kali starts to make a lot more sense. Forget the personalities, we won’t see Kali personified walking among us, but we can see symptoms of his presence and signs of his influence. Kali makes us into śūdras – unable to control our senses and unable to live on our own. When called on by our masters we realize our guilt but we can’t do anything about it when left alone. Mind and senses always take the better of us even if we heard all the good lessons from our gurus.

We also tend to present ourselves as righteous and saintly and we love to dress up as someone we are not – as our masters. Our best time is when the master is not watching and if we can go out and fool others into worshiping us it makes our lives complete. Then time comes to face our master and we feel guilty, we beg for mercy, we plead for lenience, we usually get it, and then we abuse this mercy again.

That’s why saṅkīrtana makes a lot of sense – it keeps us on our toes and always in the presence of devotees. Engaged in saṅkīrtana we do not have a chance to let our mind and senses take control and we don’t have a chance to go and and fool others into admiring us. Of course even saṅkīrtana can be subverted for these purposes but not if we are doing it right – honestly and with open hearts. We should also always be in the presence of our master – the holy name, if we happen to serve someone else, or our senses, then Kali would quickly take over and we would be lost.

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 #1642. Zooming out

According to my last post, the current turmoil in Māyāpura is caused by differences in our bodies and in our bodily perceptions. These differences didn’t appear magically but they have been governing our behavior our entire lives and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

White devotees will remain white and they will always consider themselves superior to Indians by the dint of being from the first world. Indians have their own take on the situation and see themselves as superior to white devotees because ISKCON in the West is in decline. White devotees might appear as being from the first world to them but in real life they have only advertising value when Indians come to other Indians to collect donations. “Look how cute they are, don’t you want to sponsor training them yourself? It’s our duty as Indians to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness and we in ISKCON are very successful at it, so give us the money.”

Of course I’m overly cynical here and I hope none of our Indian devotees would ever actually say such things in public but that’s how it looks from their material perspective and that’s the vision our sponsor can share, too. Westerners import Indians to server as pūjārīs, as I said, but Indians import westerners to collect donations for their training, like an expensive breed of dogs. It’s just what often happens whether we talk about it or not.

At this point it’s very important to avoid the temptation and criticize any of the sides to this conflict. This dynamic in the relationships is not caused by anyone in particular, nor even by ISKCON, it’s only a local manifestation of a deeper, long festering discord sowed in the society by Kali yuga.

We did not invent the first world – third world dichotomy. Devotees from former USSR used to be lumped with third world when they came to Māyāpura festivals and where offered special prices but I don’t think this policy is still in place. This discrimination only reflects the material differences across the globe. White people have more money and they can, therefore, consume more services. Even Prabhupāda acknowledged this special power of his western disciples, thought he obviously used this for their spiritual advantage.

Since the 70s, however, the material world has changed. There’s still the division into first world and developing countries but the differences are becoming blurred and supremacy of the western civilization often openly challenged. Muslims with their ISIS is probably the prime example but China and Russia are losing their respect for the West, too. They have seen it, tasted it, and found their own way better.

I think India is on the way to the same discovery, too, even if they still consider British and Americans to be inherently superior. Some people there are more advanced than others but even those who do not realize how utterly corrupt western societies are can listen to Americans glorifying themselves only for so long before the resentment settles in.

Iraq war was probably the biggest turning point that destroyed West’s moral authority but it was only a one step in the long journey. Feminism and emancipation have run into pushbacks and gay rights even more so. The media might report on progress and westerners might give out Nobel prizes to girls like Malala but there’s a large segment of third world population that is having none of it, it’s just no one ever speaks for them in the media.

There’s pushback in the West itself, too – just look at success of Donald Trump or rising nationalistic movements in Europe. The days of unrestrained “progress” are almost over and the utopia that has been sold to the public for half a century is getting stale. European Union’s very existence is under real stress and American Dream is getting further and further from the reality.

Trump might be seen very negatively by the progressives but the fact is that Democrat’s possible contender for the presidential post, Hillary Clinton, is very unlikable, too. She has many detractors who see her as lying, unprincipled politician who cannot be trusted, and many of these detractors are themselves progressives, too!

Hillary Clinton in many ways exemplifies the brand of progress that has been pushed on the society for decades now. By typical progressive standards she says all the right things and supports all the right values but there’s a loss of faith in this model of progress itself and it’s not only Americans who have noticed it.

There’s also the perception that current US president is weak and lacks a backbone. He shies away from confrontations and countries all around the world are taking advantage of it. Russians took Crimea, for example, while Chinese are taking over contested islands in the South China sea. Turks are attacking Kurds despite American objections. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are both sponsoring ISIS. Israeli Prime Minister openly snubbed Obama and went to speak in front of Republican dominated Congress instead. Egypt had an outright military coup where the army deposed a democratically elected leader and slaughtered over a thousand of his supporters and the US eventually accepted it just fine.

In this atmosphere white people lecturing others on how to live their lives are not viewed very favorably. Hardly anyone takes their talk about democracy and human rights at the face value, it’s not the 90s anymore. One look at the US presidential campaign and people think that Americans have gone total nuts, and everyone is aware of the possibility of American sponsored “regime changes” for those who don’t toe the line.

My point is that being white used to be an advantage but not anymore, the world is more nuanced now. White people should be very aware of what they say and to who, they have billions of potential enemies who would snatch any opportunity to put self-righteous to the point of being obnoxious white men in their place. Some would chop their heads off, some would take their money, but everyone would use their available means.

It’s the side-effect of promoting democracy and rights – you can’t mistreat those who you preach to, they will use these same rights to push you back.

So the point today is that our little conflict in Māyāpura plays out according to general plan set for the Kali yuga, it’s not this or that person’s fault, it’s not even the fault of devotees from this or that country, it’s the Earth-wide natural animosity. We are being driven to fight with each other by hundreds of years of history so we shouldn’t take it seriously but rather tolerate it like we should tolerate changing seasons. It’s not who we are and it has nothing to do with us and our spiritual lives.

Vanity thought #1639. Nowhere is safe

This week had brought as a great deal of turmoil in the unlikeliest of places – Māyāpura itself. I won’t even pretend I know what’s going on there, all I have is what was released on hostile news sites. Our trusted Dandavats decided not to report anything. I don’t know if it’s a wise decision in the long run but not agitating devotees who are far away from the problem seems like a good idea when tensions are still high.

Details are scarce, all we know is that one Indian devotee was in charge of collecting funds for TOVP and now he isn’t, though there also was an announcement that it’s his “adversary” who is out and the Indian devotee got a promotion for his troubles. At this point I don’t know what the facts are and how to separate them from rumors. There are letters presenting each side of the story but I’m not sure we can trust anything even it’s got a letterhead on, not after that NA GBC letter on banning Bhakti Vikāsa Svami’s book.

Access to official stationery gives one appearance of power and authority but it’s just an appearance until all the facts are in and judgement has been passed. This gives people a window of opportunity to push their own agenda under official cover and hope that when dust settles no one would care very much about misuse of letterheads and stamps. Politically it’s a shrewd move but why should we care about politics unless it’s our duty? If someone gets this apparently unfair advantage why should we be envious? Kṛṣṇa fulfills all desires, especially for those who are dear to Him, so no one would be able to actually abuse his position without Kṛṣṇa’s permission. Somehow or other the Lord lets it happen, who are we to demand amendments or justice? Law of karma is just enough, we can’t improve on it.

Anyway, it appears that it was a clash of two egos, each devotee thinking that he does a great service for Lord Caitanya and Prabhupāda, certainly greater than “that other guy”. When devotees openly try to cut down each other’s egos it’s a sad sight and an argument no one can ever win, no matter the outcome. Then other people got involved and it was all downhill from there.

Apparently one female devotee felt strongly about injustice, got a stick in her hand and set out for the temple. By the time she arrived she cooled off and posed no threats to anyone whatsoever, she just went inside and did her worship. Those who have heard of her approach, however, were already out looking for blood, or to defend what is right – depending on your perspective.

A large crowd gathered, people were giving angry speeches, some devotees needed to be whisked away for safety, some were rough handed, no one was injured, though. Temple security was there, then the police showed up, and that’s when we should all realize that we screwed up and put shame on Prabhupāda’s legacy – in the spiritual heart of our movement we need outside police to come and separate feuding parties. Have we forgotten how to behave like vaiṣṇavas?

One could say that it’s Kṛṣṇa līlā, that He did a similar thing with his own Yadu dynasty. Maybe so, but Yadus were completely wiped out and Dvārakā sank to the bottom of the ocean – we are not ready to go down that road yet, our TOVP is not even finished.

So far the only reasonable explanation I have is that it’s Kali Yuga (duh!). What’s unusual about it is that Māyāpura is supposed to be safe with all the chanting that goes on there but turns out that it isn’t and the influence of Kali penetrated it just fine.

Instead of talking about people and events we can contemplate the background situation and how it eventually allowed for lower guṇas to spill out. It’s my personal opinion that does not do justice to the entire Māyāpur project but I think it captures at least some of its aspects that we can try to avoid in our own lives.

Māyāpuya has become too big and too comfortable for its own good. For decades devotees flocked there not so much in search of peaceful chanting but to prove that they “made it”. Earning yourself a place there is a major devotional achievement, a sign of recognition by higher powers, it doesn’t come easy and people would make huge sacrifices to secure themselves a position there.

Our management got ideas from materialists and their business practices and made everyone in Māyāpura earn their own upkeep. On one hand it was a right idea – Māyāpura is not meant for idling about and we had no shortage of wannabe renunciates who’d be very happy to avoid any service AND live in the holy dhāma. They should have been weeded out, no doubt about that. The downside was that people could only stay if they made money. No money, no honey.

The whole project was compartmentalized and each department had to prove its own worth. If they couldn’t they were out. They could collect donations, they could provide services, they could sell stuff, they could charge for match making and horoscopes, they could develop real estate, but if they didn’t make money no one was gong to maintain them. It did wonders for the bottom lines and made the entire temple very very rich but it also made people invest too much sweat into building their nests and when their income comes under threat they are not going to take it with humility. We just can’t expect them to be aloof and detached after all they had to do and with all their responsibilities. Their egos grow proportionally, too.

The devotee in the center of the scandal claims to have collected tens of millions of dollars for Māyāpura. We are not talking rice and dhotis here, we are talking serious business. It would have been nice if he and everyone who depended on him took it in stride but we can’t really expect that to happen.

Sad to say, but Māyāpura has become too materially advanced for letting things go, it’s not for simple living and high thinking anymore. Should it even be? With TOVP we are not even aiming for simple living, we want to impress the hell out of everyone who goes there. It’s the eternal problem with preaching – devotees have to walk the edge, constantly under threat of developing attachments for the things that are meant only to impress others. It’s not an easy job and someone has to do it, so what if they fail? We should appreciate the effort instead.

Having said that, I don’t want this particular kind of aggravation in my life, I’m more into simple living right now. Maybe I’m misusing my body but I just don’t feel capable of getting too closely involved with things that bring temptations. Other people’s situations are different, to each his own.

Vanity thought #1465. There’s no other way

How literal is the famous śloka from Bṛhan-Nāradīyā Purāṇa is? First thing – I don’t have English translation of this purāṇa and so know only that it’s a verse 38.126. There’s unnamed source floating on the internet which claims that there are only twenty two chapters in that purāṇa, I don’t know how credible it is. There’s a paperback on Amazon with Vyasadeva himself listed as the author but I’m not going to order it just to check, sorry. The verse, of course is this:

harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā

Since it appears in Caitanya Caritāmṛta (Adi 17.21) there’s no reason to believe that it’s a new invention as it has been around for some five hundred years. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja wrote it down many years after disappearance of Mahāprabhu but during that time we had Six Gosvāmīs, particularly Śrīla Gopāla Bhāṭṭa Gosvāmī, going through all the Vedic literature to put books like Hari Bhakit Vilāsa together, which is nothing but a compilation of authoritative quotes. It’s inconceivable that harer nāma verse went unnoticed and unsourced and no one ever checked its authenticity.

It is also highly unlikely that anyone would insert this verse there prior to the appearance of Lord Caitanya because hari nāma wasn’t a thing then, no one was interested, no one had a motive, and so the verse should be accepted as genuine.

Next question would be about the context and this is what we don’t have. The context won’t change the primary meaning but it could give us a scope for its application, though even the scope is given in the śloka itself – the age of Kali. Someone who can read Sanskrit can check the original online but I bet that there are no excuses given there after the verse repeated “there’s no other way” three times.

So, the meaning should be taken as literally as we possibly can, there’s no leeway in interpretation, and here is where our intelligence often fails us. I have tried to find any alternative prescriptions so that people could object “it’s just one verse, there are others that contradict it”, but there aren’t any. There’s Kali Saṇṭāraṇa Upaniṣad which is just as clear and explicit.

It’s a short conversation between Lord Brahmā and Nārada Muni at the end of Dvāpara yuga and Nārada Muni gets straight to the point from verse one – how can people save themselves from the degradation of the incoming age of Kali. Lord Brahmā congratulated him for asking a question for the benefit of the whole humankind and replied that they can protect themselves simply by chanting the names of Nārāyaṇa. “Which names specifically?” Nārada asked, and in reply Lord Brahmā recited our mahāmantra.

Now, there’s some confusion whether it starts with Hare Rāma or with Hare Kṛṣṇa. There’s an opinion that the original order was later switched by Rāmānandis who naturally wanted to put Lord Rāma’s name first. This one is a bit of mystery but we shouldn’t have a problem with whatever order because once you start chanting non-stop you still get to pronounce the whole thing, wherever the true beginning of the mantra is. We also have the testimony of our entire sampradāya that it works.

Lord Brahmā then said that chanting this mantra destroys illusory cover of the soul and allows Parā Brahman to shine within one’s heart. Nārada asked about the rules for its chanting and Brahmā replied that there aren’t any. He then said that this mantra destroys sins of killing a brāhmaṇa and some other serios ones, if chanted 35 million times, and concluded by saying that it delivers one from sins of abandoning all varieties of religion (exact words Kṛṣṇa used in Bhagavad Gītā) and repeated that it’s the only way three times, just like Nāradīya Puraṇa.

That’s the whole upaniṣad, btw, only eleven verses.

Once again, the meaning is clear and indisputable – in this age of Kali there’s only one method, chanting of the holy name, and there aren’t any others. Other methods are obviously there, too, just look around, but they don’t work, and that’s the most important part.

We clearly have alternatives in our lives, from atheism to Christianity to Buddhism to impersonalism to māyāvāda and they appear genuine and attractive to conditioned souls but they don’t work, period.

Our disbelieving nature would then prompt us to ask “Why?” We think it’s a good thing – to ask questions, we are told to question everything right from the start of our education, the whole modern western civilization is build on “transparency” and “openness”, demanding answers is not only our right but a duty, we’ve been taught.

Nārada Muni didn’t ask why, what makes us better than him?

We might never know why practices of yoga and jñāna are ineffective in shielding souls from the effects of Kali but we can observe it in real life. No one achieves perfection by doing yoga anymore. We might have some examples somewhere high in the Himalayas but then they wouldn’t be under the influence of Kali there, would they? It’s not the yoga that protects them there, it’s the mountains.

They, if they even exist, avoid Kali by all means. They stay away from people, who are prime carriers of this disease, and they stay away from animals and vegetation, too. There isn’t a living soul around them to contaminate their environment with their egoistic attitudes. Air is still clean, there aren’t smells of urine or cooking meat wafting through their caves and there’s no industrial pollution either. Since they only breath air, once in a while, they do not interact with the world in any way and they wouldn’t even know if Kali was there, his influence doesn’t reach them and therefore can’t disturb their meditation.

Needless to say, it’s not for us, we are full blown Kali carriers, we ARE the disease, caves won’t help us. Our defensive walls should be built right around our hearts and spread from there, gradually purifying all aspects of our existence. Simply isolating our bodies won’t be enough, the disease is already within.

Karma isn’t even a serious yoga and it requires full support from the material energy, and in Kali yuga the material energy just doesn’t cooperate. There aren’t even suitable ingredients for the sacrifices, there aren’t qualified priests, and that’s in India itself. In the west this way of life is simply implausible. Karma yoga is a societal, communal effort, and in this day the best we can do is to give small part of our money to temples and hope they don’t misuse it, which they very likely will. The misuse will bring negative karma back to us and reduce our ability and desire to continue. Protecting ourselves by doing karma yoga is out of the question.

That leaves jñāna yoga and it’s not so easy to rule it out effectively, I’ll explain why I think so the next time.

Vanity thought #1104. Su-medhasah

Over and over again chanting of the Holy Name proves itself to be the supreme and only occupational duty of all human beings. There’s literally nothing else to say left for our tongues. Whichever way we can argue this, nothing comes even close to an alternative solution. No words are worth saying if they are not glorifying the Supreme Lord, and, if we examine it even further, nor glorification is worth uttering if it doesn’t consists of the Holy Names.

Let’s start at the beginning, though, and take some practical examples.

On Sunday, Ukraine celebrated its Independence day. For that country, it’s the day of life or death as its very existence comes under a serious threat from pro-Russian rebellion. After breakup of the Soviet Union it emerged as the second biggest and most prosperous republic (after Russia). It had huge nuclear arsenal, extremely fertile land, highly educated workforce and world class hi-tech manufacturing. They’ve made biggest transport airplanes, for example, designed from scratch there, among other top end weaponry and space components – the only truly high-tech things to come out of USSR.

And they blew it all.

Somehow or other they couldn’t make in on their own and, not counting alcoholics of Moldova, came out the poorest place out of all western parts of the former Soviet empire. That isn’t their biggest problem, however, they have enough resources to have it fixed, their real problem is that it has lost its national identity and broken apart pretty much like Yugoslavia in the the 90s.

It might not look so from their ever enthusiastic pronouncements but it’s the reality – Crimea is gone, it’s not coming back, Eastern rebellion has taken away it’s industrial heartland, and half the remaining population openly detests the ruling powers without any sign of reconciliation any time soon. Well, maybe less than half outside the East but enough to make any future co-existence unfeasible.

I’m not exaggerating – they have too many pro-Russians and the schism is too deep, and no one needs “independent” Ukrainians in Europe. They are twenty years late to that party, European project has run out of steam and faces uncertain future itself, it’s in no mood to fix Ukraine and integrate its economy into European industrial complex. They don’t need Ukrainian agriculture, they waste too much money supporting their own as it is, and they don’t need Ukrainian industry, the only viable market for which is Russia.

And the schism between its people? To “celebrate” Independence day rebels had drove their forces deep into Ukraine held territory and announced surrounding of thousands of troops, and they also held a parade of Ukrainian prisoners of war through the streets of Donetsk where they had to restrain the crowd chanting “Nazis, Nazis” from lynching them (Geneva conventions, anyone?). The reaction from Ukrainians was predictable – all those separatists needs to be killed, wiped out off the face of the Earth. These two parties are not going to live together ever again, the differences have become irreconcilable.

Originally, today was supposed to be the day rebellion was to be crushed and eastern lands liberated but when the day actually came it looked rather the opposite.

Ukraine was bankrupt even before the whole mess started a year ago and the program IMF put together has been stopped – without the East the country is simply insolvable, no one knows how much money it needs to be pumped in to make it work, and it probably won’t work anyway – it’s like trying to make a severed leg to walk on its own.

For the sense of scale – IMF pledged roughly the same rescue package that was offered to countries like Portugal, Ireland, or Greece, and all those, much smaller countries were not torn apart by war, just had ordinary economic hiccups, and they didn’t have to be reoriented to fit into completely foreign markets. This package (which is stopped anyway) wouldn’t let “Eastless” Ukraine last even through the winter, and then what?

Why have I wasted so much time talking about Ukraine? Because it’s unsolvable. There’s no magic formula to fix it, there’s no escape from the ever degrading civil war, and there are no parties one could take shelter of and hope to reach the bright future. Not independent Ukrainians, as I explained above, and certainly not Russian volunteers who lead the rebellion now but will leave the place the moment they achieve “victory”. You can’t hitch yourself to any wagon there.

It’s Kali Yuga at its worst, it’s undefeatable. There’s no dharma, no religion, no method, no theory that could save it. There’s no hope for anyone caught there.

That’s why intelligent people in this age chant the Holy Names – they don’t foolishly try to fix the unfixable. They don’t try to untangle their karma either – what’s done is done, let the results come, we can’t change them and we can’t hope to “do better” the second time around.

Even materialists notice that the sign of true intelligence is the realization of how little we actually know and control. Only ignorant fools think they know it all and can “improve” the world – as Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

One could say – but it’s just Ukraine, an unfortunate fluke of nature, our paradigms work just fine elsewhere. Except it’s not just Ukraine – demonizing Russia and Putin and increasing economic sanctions draw the rest of the world into this war, too. The US, for some reason, put its reputation at the stake here, and for Russia is has become a matter of survival. No one can back off without suffering serious consequences, not Russia and not America, and there are no forces in either camps that advocate peaceful solutions to this geopolitical conflict.

What’s worse, it all happened on Obama’s watch, Russians won’t blame it on crazy Bush like they did with Iraq. It’s American best side that waged economic war on them and there’s no one there left to trust. At the end of the Cold War they were willing to consider western democracy as an alternative but not anymore – for them, the US turned to be as evil empire as communists were saying all along.

This new cold war would take a long time to unravel but we can be sure nothing good will come out of it. Good old times will not return and anyone looking into the future with hope is fooling himself, even the Chinese who might want to swoop in when two other major powers have exhausted themselves.

The world is unfixable. It’s Kali Yuga, we can’t go against its tide, it would be foolish, and that’s why sane people in this age chant the Holy Names.

It’s time to bail out.

Vanity thought #1100. Spiraling down

This post’s number is unique, it will surely never happen again, but, seriously, we all look at orderly occurrences of some digits as having special significance. There are nutcases who link them to the end of the world but ordinary people mostly think of some special luck, which is never identified anyway. Two ones and two zeroes – wow, must be something really special about it.

There’s this latest craze going on, “ice bucket challenge”, where people dump a bucked of ice water on their heads and invite three others to join in and spread the message. This is the way they are soliciting donations for battling some disease. They’ve raised millions already and will probably raise some more before this fad subsides.

What they are really spreading, however, is sheer lunacy and herd thinking. Refusing the invitation is considered bad sport, it’s a “challenge”, after all, and so we see endless stream of celebrities and CEOs dutifully joining in to appear hip and in touch.

There has been several similar fads in the past couple of years, like planking and that twitchy dance I can’t remember the name already. Also, at the same time, a stupid video of some Korean fat dude doing a horse dance has become the most watched on youtube ever, reaching well over a billion views.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with people doing silly things for fun but lately they have started taking all theses games too seriously – in this latest ice bucket challenge they actually pressure others to join or face being publicly ostracized.

It must be some kind of quirk in the mode of ignorance that pushes people to do these stupid things. Will it become dangerous? Not at first, but this herd mentality might come very useful for the next genocide or something – successfully gaining control over what people think is essential in democracies.

Come to think of it, the west has been obsessed with demonizing Russia and Putin for about a year now, economic sanctions are in the third or fourth round and no one knows where all that will end. Another Cold War, perhaps? The world is not ready for it, people and countries are too interdependent to go for a second round of that, and for what? There’s no communism threat anymore, it makes no economic sense whatsoever, unless it’s some nefarious American plan to keep their military industry going on at the time when no one wants wars anymore. But I digress.

The fads like ice bucked challenge are extremely short lived, a few months at best, and that is only because they have to spread over the entire world. In each locality they last maybe a week. Then, after a while, people start craving for the next “big thing”, and then the next, and the next. I guess it’s a law of supply and demand, and once the current demand for short-lived highs is satisfied they would move onto something else.

I don’t want to even try to predict what it could be but it would probably be more degrading than the present. There’s no way out of this downward spiral of ignorance, except at some point even the lowest of humans must suddenly realize that their lives are meant for something better.

We found our purpose when we met with Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We struggle with it, we can’t find a proper way up, we get frustrated, we seek compromises, but we always remember that at the end of the day only serving Kṛṣṇa matters, everything else is just to fill the time allotted to us in this world.

We don’t know how to please Kṛṣṇa, nothing we do seems to work, but we also know that this is the only way, He is all-attractive, after all, we can’t avoid trying to please Him again and again against all our bitter experience.

One might object that we do get a real taste from our service, we wouldn’t be doing this for decades if there was no “payback” for it, if it wasn’t real. I would answer that we could simply become acculturated and so the pleasure we derive from our service is no different from the pleasure other people derive from being part of their cultural group, like Americans with democracy or Russians with vodka and Mother Russia.

Being satisfied in our situation is the symptom of māyā, it’s one of her primary functions. We don’t need to become pure devotees to be happy with our lives, māyā would make sure of that on her own, so there’s a danger of mistaking our happiness with being devotees for the sign of actual spiritual progress, and that brings me to the second argument.

If we were really making spiritual progress we would have passed the stage of anartha nivṛtti long long time ago and be on our way to bhāva. In reality, however, we aren’t even devotees – devotional service starts only after liberation, when our hearts become absolutely pure and free from all material contamination. Until then we serve not Kṛṣṇa but our own interests – everyone under the influence of his false ego must work for his own, selfish causes.

Still, we have been told what the purpose of our life is and we cannot forget it anymore. Clumsily, committing offenses at every step, we are trying to fulfill it. People tell us we are crazy, and that’s just devotees, materialists don’t understand us at all. People expect and pressure us to behave in their prescribed ways – go to work, enjoy our lives, be “normal” – yet we don’t give up, we persevere and hope that one day, before we die, we will be able to fully surrender and Kṛṣṇa will appreciate our efforts.

Btw, people’s desire to cast us as normal is driven by their own insecurity. They need to know that what they are doing is right by God, too. Their faith depends on their confidence and we shouldn’t undermine it for their own sake.

They have their own version of “dharma” – you should do this and that and then you deserve a break and an assent to heaven when you die. Their entire world view would collapse if we insist that their meat-eating guarantees their advance to hell, and so does their drinking and out of wedlock sex. That would be too much for them to bear and so they don’t want to see devotees leading pure lifestyles and setting much higher standards.

It’s not a reasonable response, of course, but it’s an understandable one, and over the time we have learned how to preach to them without freaking them out.

Anyway, I’m starting to lose the sense of time. I remember when two years meant an era, I couldn’t have possibly planned my life so far, and yet now I can’t believe some things happened five years ago already because they still feel fresh as if it was yesterday. My time seems to stand still while the rest of the world is speeding up.

Maybe it’s just me, or rather it’s a general change in perception of time as people grow older, but, I believe, a big part of it is a change of pace of the modern society, too. Everything happens so fast now, we forget things before we actually learn them, and this can’t be good for the future of the humanity.

Hmm, Kali yuga seems to make faster progress than the promised Golden Age, or, perhaps, it’s “things will get worse before they get better” principle at work – people must become frustrated with their material lives before they turn their attention to God. The illusion of happiness must disappear first. That fundamental rule will always, always hold true.

Hopefully, this is what it is and Golden Age, which for us should mean the world full of Kṛṣṇa’s devotees, is still on schedule.

Vanity thought #1083. Tactics

The world is going to dogs and this means that confrontation with atheists is unavoidable. There’s no such thing as co-existence with them, we should gather strength and bide our time for the final showdown. Lord Kalki will come and solve the problem of atheism once and for all but there surely must be multiple tactical engagements in the meantime. Each one would look like a matter of life and death for us even though life, as usual, will go on.

Hope for peace, they say, but prepare for war – describes our situation perfectly. We see our mission as introducing ten thousand years of Satyalike golden age but for the atheists we will look like death personified. Someone always ends up on the wrong side of history, it’s us or them, so it’s better be them this time.

After those ten thousand years are over atheists will have their day in the sun, too, but it won’t be our concern anymore. We can do only so much for the world and we are not meant to stop Kali Yuga altogether. Our concern is to make sure atheism is destroyed now so that golden age would become possible.

They won’t go down without a fight, however, they never do. Despite all their talk, modern civilization of “peace” is backed up by the biggest military force in the history of humanity (modern history, not Vedic). One could argue that military expenditures around the world are stable if not going down but the US more than makes up for everybody else’s slack, the world just outsources policing to the Americans.

Internally, police force presence might not be very obvious but their skills at crowd control are growing all the time. Mobs overthrowing elected governments is so “third world”, in Europe and the US people simply can’t win. Just to have a feel of how police is prepared – there are over a hundred SWAT team raids happening every day, more than in an entire year back when Hare Kṛṣṇas were taking over the world for the first time. Defeating atheism won’t be a walkover.

Śrīla Prabhupāda famously said that if the government knew our real purpose they would have outlawed us from the start (the need for the source of this quote is answered by me using the world “famously” – it’s the best I can do atm). At that time we simply flew under the radar but it won’t last forever – consider that the government still won’t allow us to build a temple in Moscow, a place where there are tens of thousands of Kṛṣṇa worshipers. They, and the Orthodox church, correctly see us as an unacceptable threat. We can say that Russians have always been into totalitarianism but the same thing would happen everywhere as soon as we demand regulative principles being legally enforced.

If we think that making these decisions, to follow regs or not, should be everyone’s personal choice we would be fooling ourselves. Varṇāśrama is impossible without kṣatriyas and kṣatriyas are impossible without threat of force.

The whole idea that we can just sing our songs and the whole society would happily give up sinful activities is demoniac propaganda – that’s what atheists tell their enemies. They go to foreign countries and tell them to give people rights and freedoms so that their governments can be “democratically” overthrown. Whoever wants to contest power must do so democratically, they say, but they don’t even think about following this rule themselves.

Perfect example is the current civil war in Ukraine. When previous president was still in power he was condemned for “brutal” crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and for outlawing people’s right to protest. When he lost power and some regions refused to accept the new authorities, ie when the situation reversed, Ukraine moved their entire army to military subdue dissent. Well, they have lots of excuses and explanations but the fact remains – atheists are more than ready to use force when it suits them but deny this right to their opponents. I assume Kiev playing the role of atheists here because of their solid backing by the US and clear secular, liberal democracy agenda.

All these considerations should, in theory, affect our tactics and policies. We must be ready to protect our right to live our lives as Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted us and we must be ready to eventually take over the rest of the society, too. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not a democracy, it requires leadership and so there should be people telling others what to do and there should be people enforcing their advice. If everyone is born as a śūdra then this is what people will happily embrace – certainty and patronage, and strong laws.

Taking over governments is, obviously, not on the cards yet but this revolution must start at home, within our ISKCON. We can’t become the society of anything goes. We need a strong, enforceable code of conduct based on principles of varṇāśrama, we need to strictly follow Śrīla Prabhupāda, which is our only source of strength, especially philosophically.

It might look, as we attract thousands of able people, that we can rely on the strength they bring to us but that would be a wrong understanding. Their skills is only one side of what they bring, their materialistic ambitions and aspirations is another. We cannot accept them “as they are”, we need to purify them first. Our strength is purity, not skills, and purity comes from strictly following our ācāryas.

If we ever hope to produce a sustainable Kṛṣṇa conscious society that could serve as an example for the rest of the world we need to build it as close to varṇāśrama and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vision as possible.

Our brāhmaṇas must be as close to the ideal as possible and their advice must be as close to what Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted as possible and our leaders must be able to propagate, and enforce their advice effectively.

Men must be men, women must be women, children must be trained in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, not in atheistic curriculum, leaders must be leaders, vaiśyas must develop the land and raise the cows and so on.

Unfortunately, we spend all our energy on such non issues as whether we should adjust for modern feminism and let women become gurus. On how to train our people in the art of divorce, On whether we should become vegans and serve vegan food at our Sunday feasts, and the biggest time waster of all – whether we should revert to 1973 edition of Bhagavad Gīta or not.

Obsessed with trivial things like that we have no time to build a functioning society. Actually, discussions like this means that we are becoming dysfunctional instead.

Why is this happening? Because we foolishly think that everyone has the right to practice Kṛṣṇa consciousness as he desires, not as our leaders tell him. When we insist on ISKCON accommodating our own ambitions we destroy our society from within.

We must remember that ISKCON is not ours to do whatever we want in a democratic manner, it’s Śrīla Prabhupāda’s. GBC is there not to practice democracy and represent opinions of ordinary members on the ground but to collectively decide on what would Śrīla Prabhupāda do if he was here. These two roles are fundamentally different. GBC is not a concession to modern times, it’s not introducing democracy into a religious institution, it’s an autocratic tool of our founder ācārya.

Somehow we slipped into thinking that having better, more responsive GBC and lots of various ministries should empower and serve us, the ordinary members, or that our society has become “self-governed”. This should not be happening, GBC should become stronger and more autocratic instead even if we might not like it at first, and it surely must purge itself of all outside influences like feminism and democracy.

I say “should” a lot but my approach is actually descriptive. This is what should be happening as ISKCON grows and there are signs that it is actually so, there are currents in our movement that flow in this exact direction. What I’m saying is that they are our future while those opposing them are our obstacles, and obstacles should act as obstacles, I don’t mean to tell anyone to change their ways. The changes that I “prescribed” in this post will happen on their own anyway.

I’m not as militant as I sound, I just want to identify certain trends and present them as our inevitable future, and I might be totally wrong, too.

Vanity thought #1082. Future prospects

Yesterday I looked at the subject of avatāras from a perspective of an atheist – can they serve as a proof of God? Most likely not. There’s no hard rule against it, of course, but the Lord descending onto the material platform is still the Lord, He is still beyond the reach of material laws and, therefore, is not obliged to respond to testing in the way that would satisfy the atheists.

He could, but that would also go against His stated purpose (BG 4.8) to destroy that kind of people. Exact word was duṣkṛtām, translated by Śrīla Prabhupāda as “miscreants”, and atheists are most likely to fall into that category.

There are cases when they wouldn’t, however, and so their lives might be spared. “Miscreants”, interestingly, comes from the same root sound “kṛ”. “Duṣ” and “mis” are prefixes of practically the same meaning, indicating effects opposite (and negative) of what is expected from the root verb. “Creants” in English comes from a Latin word that we know as “credo” while Sanskirt “kṛtam” means performing good work. “Credo” and “creed” in Latin were meant “to believe” and “to trust”, as in “put one’s heart into”, and related to Sanskrit śraddhā, firm faith. Seems to me that this etymology avoids making a direct connection to “kṛt” but what can I do? To me “miscreants” and “duṣkṛtina” sound as having practically the same meaning, which is not equal to “atheist”.

Atheism is denying existence of God and as such it’s a quite popular interpretation of Vedic scriptures. There are jṇāna yogis, for example, who simply can’t find God by their ascending process, and Kṛṣṇa doesn’t say anything about destroying them, He rather accepts their method as legitimate even if slow and unreliable. There are karma kandīs who reject existence of God behind Vedic rituals, they claim rituals work perfectly well on their own, as laws of nature, and do not require God behind them. They sound just like modern day atheists but, as followers of a legitimate Vedic sage Jaimini, they would probably be spared when the Lord comes after duṣkṛtinas, too.

Agnostics, people who do not deny God but simply state that His existence can’t be determined at this point, ie they “do not know”, should probably escape Lord’s wrath and quite possibly get the confirmation they profess to be ready to accept. Those are in the minority among modern atheists, however. Most atheists are of a militant kind, wishing to eradicate religion from the face of the Earth altogether. They stand no chance and will be first against the wall when revolution comes.

Kṛṣṇa’s determination to restore dharma and punish duṣkṛtinas, or infidels, let’s not beat around the bush here, should tell us that there’s no prospect for the peaceful co-existence with atheists. This is an important point because peaceful co-existence is the mantra of the day. “Enlightened” society of the present and especially the future is seen as being at peace and allowing everyone to express himself in any way he likes, allowing for full religious freedom while secular and atheistic at its heart. That is not going to be possible.

Policy makers in the West have designed laws and practices to provide said religious freedoms but only as a concession, only as long as they don’t threated atheistic foundation of the society. They make religion a private matter and provide time for indulging in it but this time must not be during office hours. People’s life force belongs to atheists, their faith must be practiced in their free time, preferably when atheists are still in bed after the night of drinking and debauchery and so their paths do not cross – on Sunday mornings, for example.

Christianity lends itself perfectly to this arrangement since it was meant to accommodate Christians first. They are perfectly content to perform their religions rights only once a week and their religious aspirations are not that different from atheistic ones – buttered bread, happy family life, good health, and tons of money.

It’s not so easy with Islam – Muslims tend to take their religion way more seriously. They, like us, understand that there’s fundamental incompatibility between religion and atheism and they correctly predict that atheism would win if allowed to compete in a “free market”.

This is Kali Yuga, after all, no matter what we do, no matter what we preach, people will become corrupted and irreligious. They can’t maintain their purity, mercy, honesty, and they can’t remain austere in the face of temptations. You don’t need to be a Muslim to have one look at modern women and conclude that men don’t stand a chance in their company, they WILL for them and fall hard.

Sexual discipline is absolutely essential to any religious practice, we know it very well – it’s either lust or devotion, we can’t have both. There’s pure form of sex, too, of course, but it must be free from lust and that can be achieved only by strict following religious rules.

Everybody knows that religion and politics are two sensitive topics that better be avoided in unfamiliar company. There are families that consciously keep them off their dinner tables for the sake of peace. It isn’t peace, however, it’s temporary truce, a breather, a timeout used to fill one’s belly before resuming the fight. Agreeing to disagree does not solve the problem here, only postpones the confrontation until a later date.

At some point things must come to a head and decisions must be made, and somebody is going to be very upset about it. Perhaps even Kṛṣṇa would come and give the miscreants a figurative smack on the head – He is not going to actually kill anyone for the next four hundred something thousand years.

Kali Yuga is the age of quarrel, even without religion conflicts appear everywhere without any particular reason, under all kinds of pretexts. In some cases the original reasons are buried deep in history so no one remembers what they were and even if they did, new ones have been piled on top and addressing the “root problem” won’t pacify anyone anymore.

So Muslims often take a different approach from the West – instead of solving problems they prevent their appearances. They stop Kali Yuga influences at their borders, they legally restrict their women to behave in a certain way, for example, so that the men’s minds can be peaceful and relatively free from lust. They don’t drink, that helps, too, and this means two of the four regulative principles are being legally enforced.

If we ever get a chance to build our own society we should probably legally enforce all four, issuing bans on cow killing and gambling, too. Atheism should also be legally prohibited just like Holocaust denial or racism in the West.

It won’t stop Kali Yuga but it would keep it under control. As long as we engage in Yuga dharma, saṇkīrtana, we should be okay. Ultimately, however, it’s a lost cause. We can’t stop planned deterioration of the world and we can’t stop its eventual destruction.

When we say that saṇkīrtana in Kali Yuga brings the same benefits as temple worship or Vedic sacrifices in previous ages we shouldn’t assume that this means material benefits. Dharma in this sense is a spiritual practice that pursues spiritual goals. If we look to emulate material gains we should remember that dharma practiced previously ended with us suffering Kali Yuga consequences anyway. Why would we want to emulate that?

So, the prospects for us blending into the general society and practicing Kṛṣṇa consciousness side by side are not very bright. They are actually pretty dim. I know we WANT to make it work but it’s simply impossible, in the long run we’ll inevitably lose, so we must find another way for us to move forward. Big topic for ISKCON, I don’t even know where to start with its practical application, and I don’t have time for it today, so I’ll leave it at that.