Vanity thought #1095. What’s this “Krishna” thing anyway?

They say it’s a “who”, not a “what”, but how do we know? We have no direct experience of “it”, only faith. More importantly, how does “it” affect us? If we experience “it” as a thing, not a person, then what does it matter who He is in real life on Goloka?

Over there they have very deep, detailed knowledge of His personality but down here He doesn’t exist – He is not of this world, has nothing to do with it, He manifests Himself indirectly.

It would be nice if we could establish our personal relationships with Him while still in the conditioned state but, as a general rule, it doesn’t happen. All we can experience here is His potencies acting through the inferior energy, matter.

This is our direct experience, this is what we really know about Him, and it matters to us more than our faith or our imagination. Of course we can live by our hopes and prepare to dismiss our expectations if or when we get to meet Kṛṣṇa in the future. We are not likely to be disappointed anyway, we’ll just have to ditch our current images of what Kṛṣṇa might look or feel like. Still, hopes or not, but in our present life most of the time we act on what we experience directly. Our visions and dreams of Kṛṣṇa are also part of this current empiric experience.

We also have orders of our guru and we can act on those regardless of whether we understand them or not. In that case we would forgo our direct experience, what our intelligence tells us, and act transcendentally. That, however, doesn’t happen very often. somehow or other we have corrupted the guru system and demand accountability, meaning guru’s orders must make sense from our material perspective. and if they don’t we are more likely to censor such orders than to execute them solely on faith.

Gurus have taken notice of this practice and they have started censoring themselves, too. They probably spend as much time rationalizing their orders as we do scrutinizing them.

This is not how paramparā is supposed to work but we counter it with a perfectly valid argument that our gurus are not transcendental, they speculate about what their disciples should do as much as anyone else, they don’t convey Kṛṣṇa’s direct orders and they know it.

So far, Śrīla Prabhupāda acts as our fall-back, we just do whatever he said and assume that doing it would give us Kṛṣṇa’s blessings, too. Prabhupāda is assumed as infallible and his words as eternal but there are limits to their application we are not yet ready to confront.

Ācāryas teach others by their own example, they have the authority to implement new rules and practices or modify old ones, that much we all agree on, but the other side of “ācārya” phenomenon is that it’s temporary, their innovations and modifications are by their nature tied up to a set of particular circumstances, they are not eternal in the way our philosophy is.

Sanātana Gosvāmī compiled Hari Bhakti Vilāsa, for example, it was revolutionary at the time but now we don’t even bother reading it – times have changed. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī set a new standard of vaiṣṇāva ācāra, new sādhana for devotees to follow, overriding some of Hari Bhakti Vilāsa rules, and we accepted these changes as authoritative. Śrīla Prabhupāda changed some of those rules even further and we accept that it was done to suit time, place, and circumstances.

I don’t want to discuss examples – the way we chant Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra in whole rather than splitting it in two parts in our kīrtans, or the way we chant premādhvani, or the order we put pictures of our predecessor ācāryas on our altars, or the permission to chant only sixteen rounds per day.

It all worked very well when Prabhupāda was present and it’s totally understandable that in his absence our new generation of gurus didn’t dare to mess with anything and strictly following Prabhupāda in every respect was considered a virtue.

Time are a-changing, however, and they are changing faster than at any time in history. We need new rules, we can’t keep what was considered innovations in Prabhupāda’s time frozen in history for all eternity. Ironically, that would be against our philosophy – the only thing that should never ever change.

The demand is there, the supply is there, too, if we consider Kṛṣṇa West or Bhakti Fests as valid examples of next generation ācāryas trying new formulas. Is any of it legitimate, however?

It’s one thing to acknowledge the necessity of change, it’s quite another to accept any particular example as being sanctioned by Kṛṣṇa Himself, as should be the case with ācāryas.

Most of our gurus modestly think that they can’t claim the right to innovate, that they don’t have some magic iPhones that they can use to contact Kṛṣṇa and get His approval. I think it’s only fair of them to acknowledge that all they do and think is rather rational, ie has very reasonable explanations based on their material knowledge and experience, and anyone else can double check it if they wanted to.

Their inspiration is transcendental but it still manifests through dull matter and according to material laws. We, as their followers and disciples, second guess their reasoning as a matter of habit now. If it checks out we accept it, if it doesn’t we speak of deviations and some of us dare to openly reject their guru, too, and no one says a word about it.

That’s the thing – material logic and rationality rules.

So, who or what is that Kṛṣṇa thing anyway?

We don’t experience Him on a spiritual level, we don’t see His direct representatives, our gurus, as transcendental either, what is left there for us?

That’s why I say that for us Kṛṣṇa might as well be “it” and not a person – it would all depend on our current stage of perception of the Absolute Truth, of which Kṛṣṇa is only a part.

Well, that is an apocryphal thing to say but it’s true – Kṛṣṇa IS the Absolute Truth but He is also distinctly different from some aspects of it. He is the source and the origin but He is not equal to the whole of it, not in the way we are taught to relate to Him.

I mean we are told that eventually we get to serve Him in five of the primary rasas but those relationships are not possible with God as He manifests in relation to the material world, dasya would be the higher rasa possible here, and even then it’s not the same dāsya as practiced in Vṛṇdāvana.

Down here our closest friend and the closest person to us is the Supersoul, up in the spiritual world we’ll never get to be so close to Kṛṣṇa.

What I mean to say is that we always, always relate to the Absolute Truth but we do so in relatively inferior modes. Some have their concept of God to whom they pray, others meet Absolute Truth as their death, yet there are others who see the Absolute in alcohol or drugs, others see it in sex. Some see it as impersonal Brahman, some see it as Paramātmā. Some see it as deity, some see it as a book, some see it as a Holy Name. Some see it as their family, some see it as their country, some see it as inviolable laws, some see it as morals.

There’s nothing in our lives but the Absolute Truth but we don’t get to relate to it as Kṛṣṇa at all.

So, what does Kṛṣṇa mean to us?

Hmm, I spent so many words trying to establish the legitimacy of the question that there’s no space left to speculate about the answer.

There’s also a hanging question about what to do with our gurus – how can we see them as Kṛṣṇa’s representatives when they do not have a genuine, transcendental connection to Him and act as ordinary people?

I’m not ready to answer that yet, but, as they say, forming the right question is half the job done, so I’ve got that going for me today, unless I realize that these questions are stupid, too.

Need to give it a second thought.

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Vanity thought #697. Where’s Krishna? – Authoritative Answer

Turns out that Lord Chaitanya Himself explained Krishna’s appearance through material universes in His teaching to Sanatama Goswami, starting with CC.Madhya.20.381 onwards.

Lord Chaitanya also resorted to the example of Sun’s movement through the universe to explain the model. Sun travels along its path, around Mount Meru, I suppose, but also over seven islands and across the separating oceans. Mount Meru is wider at the top than at the bottom, all planets rotate around it, and it all happens inside a stem of a lotus flower growing from Lord Vishnu’s navel.

Very easy to visualize… NOT!

As soon as Lord Chaitanya mentioned the example of a zodiac I knew it would be a waste on a person like me. Actually, I don’t know anyone who can visualize Vedic model of a universe that is also totally in line with our sense perceptions. Mount Meru in the center of the universe? Seven islands? I hope when they display this model in the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium it will become clearer but I don’t hold my breath.

We see the universe with our eyes, not with our ears. Nasa sent people to the Moon but they didn’t find any life there and that has left us doubting the words of shastra and Srila Prabhupada.

On that subject – what if we are completely off mark in identifying Vedic Moon planet with the the Moon we see in the sky? What if Vedic definition is all about Chandra and his associates drinking soma rasa all day long? If you didn’t see them then you weren’t on the Moon regardless of you location in space? What if being on the Moon is a state of karma rather than the position of your body? This opens up a whole new discussion I’m not prepared to go into.

Anyway, just like I imagined yesterday – Lord Chaitanya also used the example of a wheel of fire (what is that, btw?) and said that Krishna’s pastimes constantly manifest through a succession of the universes. Each universe can see only one moment from these pastimes at a time but it also gets to see all the pastimes in succession, one after another.

In reality, however, Krishna is always sucking the life out of Putana somewhere and He simultaneously dances on the heads of Kaliya, it’s just in the material world there’s no single place from where you can see these pastimes at the same time. To see Krishna doing that non-stop you’d have to travel through the universes along with Him.

This begs a question – if Krishna can manifest Himself in all the innumerable universes at the same time, what about His entourage? Do we also have innumerable quantity of Nanda Maharajas and Mother Yashodas?

Or am I getting caught in egocentric view once again? Maybe Krishna doesn’t travel through universes, maybe He stays in one place and it’s the universes that go past Him and His associates?

When Lord Chaitanya used and example of the Sun He talked about Sun going places, not being stationary. I knew that zodiac thing would be confusing.

Or maybe the word “manifested” is misunderstood here. It implies action on behalf of Krishna, but if we use the word “visible” than Krishna doesn’t have to do anything or go anywhere. He is visible to us and this visibility depends on our situation, not His.

So, the correct answer is that He never leaves Goloka Vrindavana, which we knew all along, but I also hope I’ve got better understanding of His appearance in our world. He doesn’t come, per se, He just becomes visible for the span of 125 years.

Time appears to be the main culprit in this confusion – it doesn’t exist in the spiritual world and so Krishna’s pastimes do not have to be sequenced and wait for their turn. In the material world, however, this is not possible, we always have to move to the future and we always have to see things becoming past. That’s why we observe Krishna for some time and then move on to observe something else.

This is actually a very mature way to look at our overall lives, too. Normally we assume that the world stays in place and we age through it but the reality is that we stay and time rotate things around us, showing us one event after another, sometimes it shows pleasant things and sometimes unpleasant, and sometimes it gives us a glimpse of Krishna.

From this point of view, disassociating ourselves from time would be a great sign of progress towards liberation. Then we can open our spiritual eyes and see Krishna as He is, not as shown to us by time as a picture on the cover of our books, and that vision will never ever go away like everything else in this world.

Vanity thought #339. Science strides

It’s been a long time since I looked at how Wikipedia treats historic origins of Krishna Himself and I was pleased to see that progress has been made.

It will never catch up with writings of Stephen Knapp but they are determined not to fall too far behind. As it stands now, even with atrocious editing, mentions of Krishna are traced as far back as Rig Veda, Chandogya Upanishad and Shatapatha Brahmana which makes Him a genuinely old and ingenious Vedic personality.

Other corroborating references show that stories from His life and His worship was known at least half a thousand years BC. They missed Baudhayana Dharma Sutra that prescribes worship of various demigods every evening, includes Vishnu, of course, and mentions familiar names like Keshava, Govinda and Damodara (BDS 2.5.9.10). That’s part of Yajur Veda.

They mention Panini’s Ashtadhyayi but not Bryant’s footnote in his Krishna Sourcebook, p17, that suggests Vasudeva was to be worshiped in the mood of bhakti.

There’s probably more in various other upanishads but as far as pushing Krishna’s worship back in time it’s already a good job.

On another front Stephen Hawking recently published a new book, boldly entitled “The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life”. I haven’t read it but, perhaps, his new answers are best encapsulated in this quote:

There is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality. Instead we will adopt a view that we will call model-dependent realism: the idea that a physical theory or world picture is a model (generally of a mathematical nature) and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations.

I don’t know if it answers any of the Ultimate Questions of Life for anybody but the gist of it is that Hawking admits that we know nothing about the world around us and instead of knowledge we promote various theoretical models that describe it.

We just create theories, one after another, some of them fit better, some worse, but they are just our mental constructions.

What he calls models we call illusion. Every time we want to examine something Krishna’s energy presents us with a unique illusion, specifically for our bewilderment, and then we go around telling people that it’s the truth, until the next illusion strikes us (SB 11.14.9).

That’s a big admission on the part of the allegedly smartest man on the planet. This is not all he says in his book but this is his central tenet. The rest are his other illusions.

Of course not everyone would agree with this interpretation of Hawking’s latest mental achievement. Richard Dawkings, the allegedly most famous atheist, happily welcomes it:

Darwinism kicked God out of biology but physics remained more uncertain. Hawking is now administering the coup de grace.

Apparently he said that before the book hit the streets. I wonder what he’s thinking now, though he’d probably twist this “model-dependent realism” to argue that since they don’t include God in their models than He can’t possibly exist or something like that.

All in all – very encouraging developments. There’s bad news, too, but I’ll keep it for another day.

Vanity thought #112. Devilish plan.

Just hours after I cleared up my schedule and resolved to chant 108 rounds on this coming Monday the whole thing went south.

The decision to scalper my plan was made even before I wrote about it here, I just didn’t know about it at the time. I forgot to mention that actually there are lots of people who can lay claim to my time, it’s not all Krishna’s. All Krishna gives me is a couple of hours for my daily quota, not much more than that. Nothing less, too, but if someone else wants to use my time Krishna doesn’t seem to interfere.

My soul belongs to Him, my body belongs to the material world, and no matter how hard I try it seems He just doesn’t need this blob of fat and lust, it’s got to take of itself and there’s only a thin connection between the two – no more than an hour and a half to chant my rounds for my soul, the rest belongs to the body.

I can’t chant my 108 rounds anymore – devilish plan, but who’s the devil here?

Is it me? Demoniacally seeking some extra time I can dedicate to chanting the Holy Names? Yesterday I was wondering if it’s worth the time and effort, today the answer from higher powers is clear – it’s not, or at least they are not going to support me in this endeavor.

Or is it someone trying to insert himself between me and the Lord? I don’t think so, who would dare? And even if they did they couldn’t do anything without Krishna’s permission, so it’s all His fault anyway.

Maybe it’s me, as if I got some magic powers to control the material nature, including the behavior of  other conditioned souls. Hmm, I don’t think so.

No matter how many fingers I got in this life form they all point to one and only doer of all things past and present – Krishna.

It could still be all me, of course, but consider this – what power have I got over the material energy? None whatsoever. Whatever it does, however it presents itself to me and anyone reading this, too, it’s all sanctioned by Krishna.

Okay, you can say Krishna lets it do whatever I desire. Fine, but is there any difference between Krishna letting me use material or spiritual nature?

In this world I desire to use His energies for my gratification, in spiritual world I supposed to desire to use His energies for His gratification – that is clear, but is it really? I can cite quite a few cross purport uses. Don’t we learn that the only differentiation between material and spiritual energies is in what we use them for? If I want to use my body for Krishna it becomes spiritual, doesn’t it?

So why can’t I use my body to chant 108 rounds of japa on Monday? And it’s not this one particular day either. Originally I planned at least three-four days of at least 64 rounds each. It all went down the drain. All of it, not a single day left.

It is some transcendental plan I can’t make any sense of.

All I know is that as long as I am doing something for Krishna I am happy. I got to chant 16 rounds a day because of a promise I made a long time ago, even Krishna can’t break that one, we, the devotees, can control Him this way, he has to oblige and give me enough time everyday to chant by daily quota, but everything else is a fair game.

So He won’t let me chant extra rounds, I wonder why. What is He afraid of? Me falling in love with Him? I can see that, who in his right spiritual mind would want me?

I know one person who can’t refuse, too  – Krishna.

Maybe He is so sick of me that He doesn’t want my company anymore and feels it’s easier to keep me down here instead. Wise choice, as long as He keeps the juice coming. I can be a stalker, fine, just give me enough attention to keep me busy dreaming about Him.

One day I will claim my victory and stalk my territory and force the Lord to surrender to my irrational love. It will be ugly but I am just doing my part, and don’t tell me it’s not exciting.

Krishna can win, too, and have His temporary celebration for a while.

In the end, though, I’ve got to do what I was created for, can’t help it, sorry.

Vanity thought #101. Chanting is thinking.

That’s what Prabhupada said when a devotee asked him what we should think about during japa. Striking answer, isn’t it? My problem is that I can’t figure it out, can’t find a proper practical application. Here are my thoughts so far.

First, I know what thinking is, it’s a mental activity that takes my mind away and I makes me forget about everything else, forget about where I am and what I am doing, even if for a few minutes. If it happens while I drive my body goes on autopilot and I forget several miles of my journey as if I wasn’t even there.

If it happens when I’m chanting I forget several rounds of my japa, but that’s exactly the opposite of what Prabhupada meant. So far that opposite kind of enthrallment has never happened to me and I wonder how it is possible. How to make chanting into thinking?

If I endlessly repeat some random words that would be called “semantic saturation”, the words will lose their meanings, and it’s not “thinking”. I guess it would be better if I say some meaningful phrases instead, like “That chick from accounting is really hot”, not *better* better but closer to “thinking”.

Now let’s add a name “Natasha from accounting is really really hot”. Now, with the name in it, it’s closer to chanting names. Actually the name “Natasha”, assuming one is fascinated with that woman, would evoke a whole gamut of emotions and thoughts. Depending on the stage of the relationship it could produce warm feelings in one’s heart or passionate desire or, if it’s going south, uncontrollable hatred.

My point is  – once you know the person the name is not just a sound anymore, you might not exactly “think” about it, in a sense of producing a series of coherent ideas, but it is just as engaging already. When a person in love says “I can’t think of anything else” he/she really, literally means it. It is not an intellectual exercise per se, people can’t rationalize it, it goes straight to the heart, the name speaks straight to the heart and mind is completely absorbed even if it’s not really thinking.

When it goes wrong and you do some stupid things people ask: “What were you thinking?” The answer is usually: “I wasn’t, I was in love.”

I guess this kind of total immersion is what Prabhupada meant when he said “Chanting is thinking”. Question is – how to achieve it?

First of all, the name must mean something to the person. It must come with images and memories and experiences. If the name is Krishna – what kind of personal effect it has on me?

I know that He is the creator of the universe and the cause of all causes but those are very abstract, impersonal statements. I have no clue how big the universe is, I have no appreciation how far the causes go.
I know that He is extremely attractive boy of bluish color with a flute and a peacock feather but I’ve never seen anything like that so it doesn’t elicit any emotional response either. Should it? I like our paintings of Krishna but they never really speak to me. At best I can say Krishna doesn’t look bad in many of them but I don’t feel any attraction.

So, how to put meat on my mental images of Him?

What about the other two names in the maha mantra? To this day people don’t even agree who they exactly mean. Is Rama the same Krishna but in a different mood, or is it a different expansion of the Lord. And Hare? Is it calling for Lord Hari sitting in everybody’s heart or is it a call for Srimati Radharani?

I think I’ve found a solution but it is a shaky one.

First I must admit that Krishna is not a complete stranger to me. Maybe it hasn’t been Him directly but Paramatma in my heart, Lord Hari, but some form of the Lord has been watching over me ever since I remember. It varied from subtle urges in my heart to choose this or that to alarm level wake up calls when I risked missing planes or something really really important. I won’t go into details but I don’t think my experiences are unique. I think every devotee can recall quite a few of the situations where Krishna’s hand was quite obvious.

So, I do have an image of Krishna in my heart, it’s not really an image, like a cowherd boy has an image, it’s just a “voice” but it is reliably there. Even if I have only one personal characteristic to it – helpful, it’s a start already. I, in return, occasionally feel grateful and occasionally guilty, not much but it’s a start, too.

Technically it must be the Supersoul, Lord Hari, not Krishna, so I appeal to  Him as  “Hare” when I chant, but I don’t think this degree of precision makes any difference at this stage. I don’t think I’d do anything wrong if I chant the entire mantra for Him only.

Another way to personalize Him is to apply our philosophical principles to my personal life. If I understand them well, if I realize them in my heart or at least in my intelligence, I can see that Krishna is the one who arranges these and those things in my life, Krishna is the one who gives me inspiration for this and for that, and Krishna is the one who gives inspiration to people around me, too.

I guess everyone has a few memories where we were about to blame someone else only to see in the last moment that the person was actually doing us a favor, sometimes without even realizing it. It’s easy to see God’s hand in these situations, too, and it’s easier to rationalize this behavior with our philosophical explanations.

Whatever works, but the result should be that we actually see God’s presence in our lives and chanting the maha mantra is actually calling for that aspect of God we realize personally.

Than chanting can really become thinking, even if for a short while.

The risky side of this method is that we might simply imagine things and assign them God’s hand when, in fact, there wasn’t any. Then there’s indisputable fact that our own images of God are not that of Krishna, at best we might have tiny realizations of the Supersoul, not of the most attractive boy in Vrindavana.

Even if I agree that I’m calling to Supersoul, He supposed to have four hands and hold various objects – that’s not what I “see” at all.

I said that my own images and experiences of God’s presence in my life is just a start. That maybe so, but I don’t have any guarantee that this method and path will eventually lead to Krishna.

I just hope that Krishna’s name will slowly reveal itself, more and more, as long as my mind is firmly fixed on chanting it. I know that it won’t reveal itself if I keep thinking of something else  – so what have I got to lose?

Vanity thought #95. Asking for trouble.

Just heard this in one of the audio lectures I was listening while driving – guru’s purity and qualifications are not so important. This is a very dangerous ground – discussing qualifications of senior vaishnavas and gurus. One step to the side and I’m done for. Still, the topic is too important and thought provoking to pass.

In traditional vedic practice of performing sacrifices demigods are practically obliged to deliver the results, the whole karma-mimamsa philosophy is build on that – you do your thing and the universe will deliver, demigods are always at your service. If we look at the history there’s enough evidence to build a case for it. Ravana was doing his tapasya and Brahma had to deliver, for example.

There are ways to cheat demons out of their hard fought and deserved victories and benedictions, like stealing the nectar in churning the milk ocean story or entering the tongue of Kumbhakarna in Ramayana but these ways only underline the basic premise – sacrifices must be rewarded in one way or another, and, we know from Bhagavat Gita that these rewards are actually coming from Krishna, demigods have no say in the matter, even if we have no idea of Krishna supreme nature or even His existence.

We, on the other hand are dealing with Krishna directly, who is not a demigod and who is absolutely independent and thus can ignore all our sacrifices for thousands of years if he wants to. We can’t force Him to give us our rewards. In traditional practice the bigger the sacrifice the better – more ghee, more rice, more brahmanas, more severe and longer tapasyas – the results are directly proportional to the input, if you do it right, of course.

Not so with Krishna – He might bestow His full mercy in exchange for just a little leaf, a flower, and little water. Actually it’s in exchange for love and devotion, but you get the point.

So, how does it work when we follow the instructions of our spiritual master? What’s his role in delivering Krishna’s mercy and benedictions? Is he similar to demigods in a sense that if we do our part he will have to deliver? Just as with demigods, the actual benedictions come from Krishna as He is the source of all spiritual energies.

Or could we make the case for guru’s special position compared to demigods? Indeed Krishna’s mercy is contingent on guru’s blessings. No one approaches Krishna directly and the actual benediction is to be placed in eternal service to guru and vaishnavas, not Krishna per se. It could also be argued that since we are all spiritual personalities engaged in personal relationships of absolute nature then faceless, impersonal rules can’t be applied.

The guru is not obliged to bestow his blessings in exchange for chanting so many rounds and massage. He will most likely be very very merciful but he is not obliged. If we manage to displease or offend him in any way no amount of service is going to counteract that. He might forget, being human and all, but Krishna won’t.

There seems to enough ground to build the case that guru is in full and complete control of our progress. Or is he? Or to what extent?

It’s easy to talk in absolute categories, ie if our guru is a nittya siddha completely free from any influence of material energy, fully realized maha bhagavata. In real life, unfortunately, it would be safe to say that this won’t be the case.

That’s when the question of connection between guru’s own purity and our advancement becomes very important. It took ISKCON just a few years after Srila Prabhupada departure to realize that many of our gurus were not of the highest possible standard, and, as the society grows and new generations come in, this has become a standard perception and attitude.

Some asked the question very loudly – how much progress can we expect in this situation? Some went to search for better gurus elsewhere at the risk of offending their current spiritual masters and displeasing their godbrothers and other devotees. I don’t want to talk about them here, though, I’m looking at it from the perspective of devotees who choose to stay with ISKCON.

It’s from this perspective that the case for limited guru role in our progress becomes more prominent. It appears that we can indeed make progress even if our gurus are failing in their service themselves. If we are sincere in following their instructions that have been passed to us from previous acharyas than it doesn’t matter if our guru is secretly developing lust for young gurukulis, we still get our benefits. So the case can be made that the guru in his human, fallible form, is not in full control of our progress.

That makes sense if you consider that guru is an external manifestation of Paramatma within our hearts, or a manifestation of Lord Nityananda, the adi-guru, or Balarama –  doesn’t really matter. When the guru passes away the principle of giving us spiritual guidance does not cease to exist. At least we got the instructions that will stay with us forever.

What if the guru didn’t pass away but left our society and fallen off the path of devotional service? Does it mean we immediately get disconnected from the parampara and Krishna mercy? Silly thought, but all too real.

The reality could be that the guru falls of the devotional path several times a day, or even every couple of seconds – if his mind wanders away during japa, for example. Timescale and gravity is different, principle is still the same. It is perfectly natural for a living being in the material world to forget Krishna from time to time, we shouldn’t pay much attention to that, we should celebrate remembrance instead.

Situations like this are very very difficult to navigate if these “discoveries” suddenly blow into our faces and demand action on our behalf, but it only strengthens the argument that we should put a lot of personal effort to make guru “work”. If we leave no leeway for him to make mistakes we will eventually blame him for what happens to us.

Or we could decide that I will follow my guru one hundred percent no matter what he does. Such dedication sounds admirable but what if the guru really deviates from the path of devotional service and his disciples engage in activities that are not pleasing to Krishna anymore? I think in this case the disciple taking the absolute stand subtly asserts his own infallibility, too – there is no way I do anything that is not pleasing to Krishna. Then there’s the danger of getting attracted to non-Krishna conscious activities themselves, accepting them as a new standard and misleading future devotees.

So, at the end of the day I tend to think that while guru’s role in our progress is supreme we should also remember that a lot depends on our own efforts when the guru is not there or not in the position to appreciate them.

There is danger of impersonalism in both extremes – on one hand I might imagine that I don’t need a guru and thus deny the existence of spiritual relationships, on the other hand I might feel that devotional service to Krishna does not matter anymore and He will provide me with progress regardless, which the denial of our spiritual relationships, too.

Need a lot of skill and guidance from the heart and elsewhere to navigate these problems safely.

Vanity thought #85. Surrender.

The rebellion didn’t last very long and I’m prepared to surrender. Not surrender to the Lord, surrender to my conditional existence and lack of devotion.

I can’t chant 24/7 and piss everybody off by doing that instead of performing my other duties. Maybe I could, theoretically, but it’s just not happening, I don’t have enough faith and I have too many attachments instead. I tried doing it last night but everybody was already sleeping and so no one noticed, and this morning I forgot about it and it was too late to start when I remembered.

The whole episode made me think of who is actually responsible for all of this. There’s me, the conditioned spirit soul, there’s Paramatma, Hari, there’s Lord’s external energy, maya, there’s Lord’s internal energy, yoga maya, there’s Krishna, there’s Lord Chaitanya, there is the guru parampara, there’s Rama, which probably refers to Balarama, the supplier of all Krishna’s parafernalia – too many cooks, I’d say.

Could it be that at some point they are all pointing fingers at each other, passing the blame and tossing the hot potato? Who exactly is supposed to fix things when I go rogue? What is this “I” anyway? Which part of my rants is enacted by maya, which part is advised by Paramatma and which part is merely sanctioned by Him? Is there a possibility that yogamaya pools her own wool over my eyes from time to time?

Ultimately the buck stops with Krishna but He has so many management layers for a reason and each of His agents here is perfectly capable of dealing with me on their own.

Besides, what’s with being a part of Krishna, qualitatively the same but quantitatively different? Does it mean I have my own powers I can exercise in some way, too? Say, if I want to sacrifice some of the resources provided by maya, or Ananta Shesha, in the service of the Lord, does it mean I’m exercising my own powers? I do have a spiritual body perfectly capable of serving Krishna and that body has all the relevant powers required for the service, is it possible that I can project some of them in this world, too? I sure don’t realize it but the powers are still there, even if dormant.

Say, if I get angry at Krishna, which everyone probably does every now and then, even Mother Yashoda and Srimati Radharani, would it be a legitimate spiritual feeling as long as it’s directed towards the Lord? I don’t imagine I am some sort of demoniac creature like Kamsa but anger towards the Lord is a common enough emotion even if there are no demons in Goloka Vrindavana.

Well, enough with the excuses, I better shape up and humbly accept that I can’t perform any supernatural devotional service right now.

So I surrender.

[insert “Quietly plotting my revenge in the meantime”]

Vanity thought #76. Because.

Why do devotees love the Lord? Why do I try to develop attraction to Krishna? Why should I? What are the reasons?

Is it because Krishna is all attractive? I have no idea, considering how my eyes get attracted to all other beautiful things and people, that can’t be it (at first I actually typed “thighs” and I wonder if it really needed a correction).

Is it because Krishna is full of opulence? I have no idea, what is it to me anyway? I have some estimates of what extreme material opulence might look like, but I ain’t going to get it from Krishna. Whatever He has in His world I can’t even imagine and I don’t think I will ever get to enjoy it, so that’s not it either.

Is it because Krishna is all knowing? Is it because Krishna consciousness is the best knowledge available? Good reason, our philosophy is difficult to beat when I think about it myself. Other people, however, can find more holes in it than I can think of or let alone explain to their satisfaction. Why did we appear in material world, for example? No one knows and no one supposed to know, we just brush away these questions, let GBC slug it out with “no fall” people. So, philosophy is good but to a point.

Is it because Krishna possesses absolute strength? Come on, it’s 21st century outside, strength is for narcissistic bodybuilders. Who cares?

Is it because Krishna possesses absolute fame? Well, we have a lot of very famous people paraded every night on TV and most of them are repulsive, at least to me. I just read a news article that one American University paid more for a guest lecture by a winner of reality TV show than by a winner of a Nobel Prize. I’m sorry, fame doesn’t cut it for me anymore, that’s not it.

Is it because Krishna is all merciful? Personally, I think, that’s one of my main motivations. Krishna is one who will never let us down, lifetime after lifetime. Personally, I have no one else who I can trust to the same degree. Parents will eventually die, siblings will have commitments to their own families, I don’t know what women feel towards their husbands, as a man I feel like I have to take responsibility for women, but no one takes responsibility for me. Only Krishna.

But then Krishna also possesses full renunciation, and that’s where I begin to worry. He doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need anyone, for that matter. He surely showers a lot of mercy on His devotees but it is not absolute. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.

And here is the catch – there is no reason for unconditional love, there is no “because”. Krishna’s devotees love Him against all reasons. The truth is, Krishna is “lampatah”, a debauchee, one moment He loves someone, next moment He loves someone else and everybody suffers from broken hearts.

If I needed this aggravation I would spend more time falling in love here, there’s no need to strive for spiritual world if one wants to have his heart broken.

So, devotees don’t love Krishna because He is sure to love them back. They just love Him. No reason.

There’s a story in Chaitanya Bhagavat. Once, after disappearance of Jagannatha Misra, Lord Chaitanya threw a disturbing feat of anger when His mother didn’t have a flower garland on hand for Him to worship Ganga. The Lord got a hold of a stick and in extreme anger went through the house destroying everything in His path. He broke all the pots and let milk and ghee flow on the ground, He broke all the containers in the house, all bags – rice, sugar, grains – everything was on the ground mixed with milk and everything. The Lord went on hitting walls and windows and doors and then he went outside and hit a tree and eventually the Earth itself. Finally the Lord lost consciousness and fell asleep on the ground.

His mother was terrified and hid at the other end of the house, but she didn’t get upset, didn’t lose her temper, as soon it was safe to come out she ran to the Lord and cleaned His body and woke Him up and embraced Him and gave Him the garland He was asking for.

Lord Chaitanya didn’t behave like a Lord at all, it wasn’t even one of his mischievous pastimes – He was genuinely angry and lost control of Himself.

I don’t know how to explain it. I know that any earthly leader throwing tantrums like that would lose loving followers in blink of an eye. It’s what is expected of our dictators, not of the Supreme Loving Lord. If I saw anything like this I would declare the person unstable and unreliable.

Only our closest family members can expect forgiveness in these cases, I doubt a modern wife would stay with a husband like that, I doubt modern children would stay with such parents either.

It’s just not a good example, and so here I ran out of “because” reasons to try and love the Lord.

There are no external motivations left. It’s all me and my heart, and hope that Krishna would extend His yoga maya potency and trick me into continuing with my efforts.

Vanity thought #70. Sitting in Krishna’s hand.

Yet another implication of treating chanting of Hare Krishna mahamantra as yuga dharma for all intents and purposes, not just obtaining devotional service – it makes a solid connection between Krishna and material world around us.

For now I believe my life goes on according to results of my karma, and I create even more karma in the process, when I do things for my own satisfaction or maintenance. If, however, I start to view all those mundane things as results of my sacrifice, as direct results of me chanting Hare Krishna, it should be very easy to see everything that happens to me as direct Krishna’s arrangement, okay, maybe direct Lord Hari’s arrangement, but it’s still sounds promising.

I always thought that it is neophyte enthusiasm to treat every little thing as Krishna’s special mercy but I think now I see a new reason to do so – all our gains and suffering are results of our sacrifices, not just turning up for work, and so everything we get or don’t get is related to how faithfully we chant.

Yes, a lot of this stuff comes just for the material comfort and enjoying it leads to further entanglement, but there’s also a chance, an opportunity, a very wonderful opportunity, indeed, to finally learn to see our surroundings as Krishna’s energy.

Yes, it’s material, but it is here because we asked Krishna for it. Food, shelter, warm and comfy bed, fast internet – it all came from Krishna, or Lord Hari, it is not given to us by demigods, we don’t perform any yajnas to get their favors, we chant Holy Names of Krishna and Hari, they supply us with everything we want or need. I don’t care where other people get their stuff, I ask for mine from Krishna and that’s where it comes from, as far as I am concerned.

Ultimately everything comes from Krishna, of course, but it is very hard to see how the chair I am sitting on connected to Him, it’s a lot easier, in theory, to see how it comes from Hiim if I asked Him for it.

It’s a chair, it looks like a chair, but it’s personal Krishna’s arrangement, accommodation provided by Him in response to my personal request. I might just as well treat it as His hand, spiritually they are non-different.

I should be ashamed to ask him for soft chairs and non-leaking pipes in the bathroom but since I want these things anyway, better ask from Krishna than get excited over the new plumbing outfit that has been leaving fliers on my doorstep and start begging them instead.

Makes me wonder, though – what should I think of sitting on the toilet?

Vanity thought #12. How to be a rascal.

Here’s a fireproof method to become a top grade rascal, I’ve tested it myself countless times.

First, you need to chant

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama

Rama Rama Hare Hare

for a little while, to build up “shakti”.

Then you need to find something heroic and impressive to achieve but you can start small, like wanting to chant one round of japa attentively, or desiring a prime parking spot in the city center. Then you need to pray really hard to Krishna, with utmost sincerety, until you get it. Don’t worry, have faith, Krishna usually does this kind of things for people.

And just when your prayers have been answered and Krishna has arranged everything for you, you should immediately claim all the credit to yourself, perhaps even brag to others about “your” achievements. The effect on your spiritual health is immediate, and if you put a lot of planning into this, it will be devastating, but not as bad as vaishnava aparadha and so is easily reversible.

I believe I’ve perfected this skill and now I’m proud to say I can do it automatically and without fail, flawlessly from start to the end. Not sure if it fools Krishna, but he apparently likes to play this little game over and over again.

Anyone else would have given up on me long time ago.

And that’s another good reason to try it again tomorrow…

When will I ever learn anything???