While typing up yesterday’s post I thought about interacting with the Lord via His material energy. Usually we call it our enemy, we want to escape her clutches, we want to be free from her influence, but it’s God’s energy after all. Maybe we should relate to it somewhat differently.
First of all, we shouldn’t blame anyone else for our problems. Our lack of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is OUR lack of Kṛṣṇa’s consciousness, it’s not māyā’s fault. She is not holding us here, we ourselves do. As is often said, we ourselves are hugging the tree while blaming it for not letting us go.
We also talk about being in the ocean of material existence or hoping to escape blazing fire of material existence. If it happened to us in real life we would, without pausing for a second, attributed our suffering to this ocean or that fire. Fire and oceans cause trouble.
This assumption is totally materialistic, of course. We are drowning or being burned to death because we want it ourselves. No one forces us to be here. In Bhagavad Gīta Arjuna also asks about external force that makes us do stupid things and what we learn is that it’s lust and/or modes of material nature. Also time. Technically it’s correct but it still shifts the blame from ourselves to the third parties.
Another point to consider is that tree in the above metaphor is an inanimate object. We hold it tight while it doesn’t do anything. That does not describe our relationships with māyā correctly, nor does it describe our relationships with Kṛṣṇa. This metaphor does make a point about our own responsibility but we shouldn’t stretch it any further than that.
Māyā is not a tree, and it’s not even simply Kṛṣṇa’s energy the way material elements are. We, as spirit souls, are superior to matter and māyā is superior to us, she is more *alive* than us and it doesn’t mean she is like a president – his power penetrates everywhere but you don’t have an actual relationships with him. We have relationships with māyā and she is more aware of this relationship than we are. We can forget about her and be blissful in our ignorance but she never forgets, just like our guru, she always knows what’s in our hearts better than we do ourselves.
She is not Kṛṣṇa, of course, not even the Supersoul, but she knows because she is much closer to God than we are and she is a much better servant than we are, and she interacts with us strictly on Lord’s orders.
Especially with us, aspiring devotees. Kṛṣṇa promises to take personal interest in our lives but He still does that through the agency of māyā. She, in this sense, is nondifferent from Him. Whatever we say to Kṛṣṇa we can say to her, there are no secrets between the three of us.
Things are not much different in the spiritual world, too, except there it’s the agency of Yoga Māyā that runs the place but here it’s Mahā Māyā. Being in the material world all we can hope for is being engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service by this Mahā Māyā, we can’t hope to fall under the influence of Yoga Māyā which brings spiritual bliss and other goodies from the spiritual world.
Practically, it means we can pray and meditate and cry and experience separation but we can’t enter into Lord’s unmanifested pastimes in neither Vṛndāvana nor Māyāpura. Pastimes are there, eternally going on, but we can’t be a part of it yet. Under the shelter of Mahā Māyā we can see and experience only external, material manifestations of, say Govardhana or Rādhā Kuṇḍa. Okay, they are not material and they are not any less spiritual than actual places and pastimes in Goloka but it just doesn’t feel this way while we are under Mahā Māyā.
This means that ALL our relationships with Kṛṣṇa while in the material world are going to be through her. This also means that all Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is going to manifest through her. It also means that all offerings, all our exchanges with the Lord, all our service, all rewards, all emotions, all reactions – everything goes through her.
If we remember that she is Kṛṣṇa’s closest confidante in this world it also means that everything she does to us is Kṛṣṇa’s grace, no one but her can intrude or be present between us and Kṛṣṇa and there’s no other agenda in her involvement but facilitating our service and/or giving us Kṛṣṇa’s messages.
That’s why as Gauḍīyā vaiṣṇavas we do not support renunciation the way it’s commonly understood by everyone in India or the rest of the world. Since everything that happens to us is Kṛṣṇa’s mercy we are not going to ignore it, we can’t renounce it, we have to properly honor and relish it. That’s what having a relationship means.
Too bad that we can also misuse this mercy and indulge in pleasuring ourselves but it doesn’t change the fact that proper engagement with “material” energy is the purest form of relating to Kṛṣṇa we can have here.
If He gives us a knife to cut the vegetables but we try to stab Him instead it’s not the knife’s fault and neither it’s Kṛṣṇa’s. Likewise, if He sends us prasāda we should cherish it as His gift and not as ordinary food for stuffing ourselves.
What I am driving at is that it’s not only prasāda that is His gift but everything else that happens to us, too. Everything we experience in this world, everything given to us, even if it comes through our karma, has been blessed by Kṛṣṇa and has been deployed by Him as an expression of His love and care.
It doesn’t happen only to devotees. Or, I could argue, everyone is Kṛṣṇa’s devotee anyway, they just relate and serve Him differently. In the spiritual world they serve Him under Yoga Māyā, in the material world we serve Him through Mahā Māyā, and ordinary people do not so much serve Him but take whatever He gives, which is still a relationship. We, as aspiring devotees, just hope that our relationship will be less selfish and less greedy and we also offer something to the Lord instead of only taking from Him.
This attitude could mean a crucial difference to our spiritual progress but it’s not principally different from the rest of the world, especially from anyone else who has an idea of God and hopes to reach Him at the end of their lives.
What I am driving at is that we should learn to properly enjoy this world just as we need to learn to properly enjoy prasāda. We cannot refuse prasāda, we cannot criticize it for its taste, we cannot criticize it for being too delicious and tempting us into indulgence either. Prasāda is always just right, always perfect, being tasted by Kṛṣṇa Himself it’s a standard of perfection.
Same goes for money, love, friendship, happiness and sorrow – everything else we experience in this world. We are usually okay with accepting suffering as Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, at least theoretically, but this also holds true for accepting happiness and pleasure.
Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is not a battery that comes with plus and minus signs, there’s no duality in it, whichever way it makes us feel it’s still His mercy, still purifying and transcendental, still a sign of our ongoing relationships with Him.
Sometimes we can politely decline it, just as in any other relationships, sometimes we can say that accepting it makes us uncomfortable, but we can’t reject it altogether, only talk up its value – “Oh, it’s so great a gift, I can’t possibly accept it…” Accept it, however, we must, we can’t blow off Kṛṣṇa like that. He gives us something and we should take it.
Sometimes it might be outright sense enjoyment but even such indulgence is meant for our eventual purification – we need to build an experience that sense gratification does not lead to ultimate happiness. If we still have unrealized hopes they might hold us back later on in our spiritual lives, so if Kṛṣṇa forces us to live through some otherwise unacceptable stuff, it’s still for our own good, even in the worst case scenario where we actually forget about Him and enjoy to the full extent of our senses.
I don’t want to finish with warnings and horrifying descriptions of how things might go wrong. We should know better than to make obvious mistakes. This post is about appreciation of Kṛṣṇa’s mercy even when it comes in unexpected ways. It’s not an endorsement of breaking regulative principles or engaging in vaiṣṇava aparādha.
Even these things are Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, however, He, through His energy of Mahā Māyā, makes us do these things because that’s what we want and He appreciates our desires. That’s all part of our relationships with Him and it’s only going to get better.