Vanity thought #1055. Amazing Grace

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.

Vanity thought #582. Krishna will arrange, or will He?

This is part of our conventional wisdom whenever a devotee wants to make some progress but external circumstances hold him back. If we see that the devotee is punctual in his sadhana, that he is improving his patience and tolerance, that he genuinely wants to serve other vaishnavas, and that he wants to move to the temple or move to India or become a temple president we would say – just hang on, persevere and Krishna will arrange. Or will He?

There are so many problems with this promise that I don’t know where to begin, but let’s look at “pro” examples first – this is exactly what Lord Chaitanya said to Raghunatha Dasa and Sanatana Goswamis. What can be more authoritative than that?

I don’t know the way around this “pro” argument, it’s simple and straightforward and I’m not going to turn it around by word juggling. I see only one way to accept and avoid contradicting it later – these instructions were given to devotees in the very beginning of their devotional careers when they were as impatient as children, and sometimes to pacify children we say things to them that are not entirely true. We don’t outright lie to them (though that happens, too), we just give them some hope to hang on to knowing that when they eventually reach it they won’t bother tracing back to our “treachery”.

So yes, there’s an undeniable connection between making progress in one’s devotion and Krishna arranging circumstances for that devotion to flourish further but it might not necessarily be of “you do this and then Krishna will do that” variety.

First of all Krishna is not obliged to do anything, much less anything connected to this world. He, of course, will unfailingly protect His devotees but that doesn’t necessarily mean that He’d make them into temple presidents or dhama-vasis.

Genuine devotion does not depend on any external circumstances so Krishna does not have to move you to Mayapur or Vrindavan. Besides, moving somewhere means you’ll be starting a new chapter in your life but what if you were to die in a car accident later this year or develop cancer? Krishna might arrange for your passing in the Holy Dhama but that would not be the kind of move you were praying for.

Another problem, and potentially a major one – why would Krishna re-jiggle the entire universe every time someone successfully gets up for managala arati? Apart from a few genuine miracles that we can’t even properly examine everything in this world acts under strict laws of nature and karma and everything is interconnected on so many levels we don’t even begin to imagine.

So what if there’s a visiting devotee from Mayapur and he sees you get up for mangala arati before everyone else, for once in your life, and he says to your temple president that, perhaps, there’s an important service in Mayapur suitable for studious devotee just like you.

Just imagine how many things need to be arranged, well in advance, for that to happen? And what happens to all those arrangements if someone asks you to help with something and you enter the temple room just a few moments later, fail to make the impression, and nothing happens?

Does it mean Krishna now has to re-jiggle someone else’s entire life circumstances so that he can go to Mayapur instead of you? What if that other potential candidate is married and needs different living arrangements there? What if Krishna has been clearing a place in dormitory for you but now needs to find a house for that other devotee’s family? These things don’t grow on the trees, you know. Houses needs to be build, land needs to be bought, materials need to be sourced, contractors need to be hired, money needs to be prepared – and all of this needs to be planned in a advance so that we can say “Look, by Krishna’s arrangement there’s this opportunity for you.”

What happens if between someone noticing your advancement and telling you “Krishna will arrange” and the day that actually happens you slip in you standards, offend some devotees somewhere and no longer qualify? Does it mean Krishna has to re-juggle the universe for you all over again? Just think how deep the modifications might need to go – materials for your house or marble for the floor you are going to sleep on might have come from mountains that are million years old and were created or moved during battles between demigods and asuras, like Govardhan was dropped in place by Hanuman during Ramachandra lila.

Does it mean Krishna has to re-arrange that as well? Just for you?

Another point is that Krishna, unlike us, is not under the influence of time. He doesn’t follow cause-effect chain the same way we do. For Him there’s no “get up early – get a worm” connection, He might just as well approach it from the end – there’s a worm for you so back in your time you have to get up earlier.

This way He doesn’t have to change anything – everything is perfectly arranged already, the universe is full and complete just like Isopanishad says: purnat purnam udachyate.

This means that there’s no causal connection between signs of our devotional progress and its fruits. This means that getting up early is not the cause of moving to Mayapur, it’s a sign that there’s a move in your future.

If we think that by doing something we can cause other things to happen we are still trapped in the “I am the doer” mentality of illusion.

Perhaps the better way is to look at something that is happening to us now as a sign, not the cause of things that will happen in the future.

This change in attitude could be potentially profound for how we live our lives, just short of getting a real, unalloyed devotion.

The minus side of it is that we might relinquish responsibility for our own progress, which is still our responsibility, not Krishna’s. Perhaps on neophyte level we still need that “do this now, Krishna will reward you later” carrot dangled in our faces.

How does the change from this sadhana bhakti (do now, see results later) to real bhakti happen is a mystery to me. I guess only devotees who went through this change already can attempt to describe it. Oh wait, they already did, it happens by the mercy of guru and Krishna, not by our own efforts, yet efforts should always be there.

But that is a whole other thing.

Vanity thought #505. Self-medication

Sometimes Krishna shows us His mercy and that temporarily cures us of our material disease. Sometimes, however, it feels like we need to self-medicate.

Actually, I don’t think there’s such a thing as self-administration of Krishna conscious medicine – Krishna is the only one who dispenses it, but let’s say it’s possible, that He notices our efforts and slips us some pills off the record.

Normally we would concentrate on our sadhana, on our japa and reading, but what if that’s not enough? What if it doesn’t bring about the desired intensity? It’s the intensity that I’m talking about here, not the ecstasy or goose bumps or any other pleasurable emotions.

If we are hooked on pleasant feelings we are bound to measure them via our material senses and that would only mislead us. I think intensity is the better measurement as it doesn’t depend on how we feel, only on how seriously we take our relationships with the Lord.

What if our mind wanders off the pages of Prabhupada’s books, what if it daydreams when we chant, what if it merely glances at the form of the Deities?

I think this lack of intensity is comparable to how soldiers feel when they return from war, or how adrenaline junkies feel in a crochet lesson. Maybe these are not the best examples but the yearning to transcend the daily routine and get back on the edge should be comparable.

That’s when I don’t want to wait for Krishna’s mercy and would gladly incur His anger instead, if it would jolt me out of my slumber. Somehow I observe that going through some difficulties is a much better method than being “happily engaged”, and if Krishna doesn’t send me enough problems, I’d create some myself.

I don’t know – pick up a fight, postpone japa until bed time and then struggle to stay awake, anything.

Queen Kunti knew that problems in her life where actually blessings, and that’s what I want, too. Also devotees of Lord Chaitanya were happy to be chastised by the Lord because that was better than not being noticed at all.

All in all, I’m in a good company, just need to find a way to make Krishna angry at me.

So it’s not self-medication after all, it’s trying to poison oneself hoping to get doctor’s attention quicker. I hope it works.

Vanity thought #387. Krishna and Mother Isa

About a week ago I watched the latest video of HH Niranjana Swami where he mentioned that he was going to visit his godsister Mother Isa. I thought it was a little strange for a sannyasi to plan such visits so far ahead and there must have been a special case. Indeed it was.

Mother Isa, it turns out, is a ninety five year old devotee who in 2006 had a severe stroke and lost all her memory. When she woke up she didn’t know how to eat or dress herself and she didn’t remember her name either. She was administered therapy and eventually she got better – she was telling her doctors that her home was Vrindavan! No one but the devotees understood what she really meant.

In recent years, however, her external consciousness got a lot worse. Right now she can hardly remember anything and communicate with the outside world again. She can’t remember names or faces of her visitors and she has trouble recognizing pictures of the Deities.

At the moment the only task she commits herself to is singing Hare Krishna mantra. Her consciousness, apparently, cannot handle anything else, but that is not all – she doesn’t want to waste the opportunities presented to her even with such a fragile and practically useless body – she does weekly kirtans where she gets everyone to sing “Krishna song” with her!

Here’s a video made shortly after Niranjana Swami’s visit.

Looking at this video I can’t imagine how she manages to do her scheduled kirtans but it is really happening. The only explanation I have is that Krishna is in full and total control of her body and soul. When it’s time to chant He provides the necessary strength to her external consciousness and let her love and devotion shine through.

This is the sweetest example of loving care Krishna provides for His devotees I’ve seen in recent memory and it filled my heart with appreciation and hope that one day He will remember me, too. Unfortunately, by the time I sat down to type this up the feeling was lost.

Here are the sources:

Dandavat’s article by HH Niranjana Swami

His 2008 Vyasapuja offering describing the life of Mother Isa.

Vanity thought #199. The new normal.

These past few days have been a study of contrasts. Sometimes I think of Krishna whole day long, or at least about something connected to Krishna. Sometimes I don’t remember Him at all, like today.

Last week I discovered the way to complete three lakhs of names on a normal working day and I thought I’d try to do this three times this week. Today was the first, and the worst, too.

I’ll try again on Friday and possibly on Saturday but now the schedules have moved around and Saturday seems unlikely. Friday is still on, though.

But first I have to come to grips with what happened today. Is it a new normal? I’m afraid it might be the beginning of the end, no positive prospects at all.

Last night disaster struck – everything that could go wrong, did. I didn’t finish my blog, left it till morning, and I spend half the night finding possible solutions to unwelcome technological challenges. I had merely four hours of sleep when I realized this morning that I had big plans for the day.

It was simply impossible to tear my head from the pillow, and it was still aching from the night before. I was on autopilot, didn’t even have enough energy for a cold shower.

That was my condition when I started my rounds, and if that was bad, I still had a gazillion of things to do left from last night. I had no choice but to fire up the computer and operate the mouse with the left hand.

Actually I had a choice – dedicate myself to chanting sixteen rounds first and then spend the rest of the day working. Somehow I didn’t like it. Okay, sixteen rounds in peace I understand, I can always find time for that, I’m unemployed, after all, but it’s the problem of the rest of the day that eats me up.

Why can’t I chant and do my things at the same time? I’m not ambidextrous yet but I’m pretty good with my left hand already. Why can’t I do both?

Yes, chanting took a big hit, even simple clicking around kills the concentration, what to speak of searching the web for solutions and installing a million programs, but would it have been better if I was NOT chanting?

Anyway I look at it – no, chanting is always better than no chanting.

I can’t honestly call it japa, though, but it’s still better than nothing. Yes, it is offensive to the Holy Names but not chanting is even worse. Devotees who perform various services for the Lord don’t need to chant to keep their connection alive. Fixing computer stuff is not the same, it’s not even computer stuff used for Krishna, even remotely.

It’s my karma – I have this certain interest in technology and maya provides me with plenty of opportunities to indulge. Actually no, that’s not correct either – I wanted this stuff myself, nobody pushed it on me. Now that it has gone wrong it demands more attention than I hoped but it’s entirely my responsibility from start to finish.

Even the interest itself. Let’s say I have a natural predisposition, but I also spent years of my life completely away from any gadgets. Even a year ago I had no interest in tablets, for example. Now it takes most of my waking life and it’s only the beginning.

I should have enough intelligence to understand how these things snowball our of hand, I should have enough intelligence to avoid falling into this trap but I couldn’t stop myself.

My recent mumbling against renouncing material interests didn’t help either. Now I’m drowning in the whirlpool of problems. Wouldn’t it have been better to stay away from them in the first place?

Well, yes, it would have been perfect if I lost all interest in those things and engage my mind and body in chanting instead. It would have been perfect but that’s not how the world works.

I’m still a very conditioned being, I still have no attraction to chanting whatsoever, it’s only incredible mercy of the Supersoul that empowers me to chant so many rounds, it’s not my personal achievement in any way.

So far I agreed with my conscience that I will chant more than sixteen rounds only in my free time, if anyone wants me to do anything, I should oblige. I haven’t refused anything to anyone so far and I still have plenty of opportunities to chant so by Lord’s grace it’s working. Looking back at these past few months I think I have proven at least one point for myself – there’s nothing to stand in the way between me and Krishna.

Yes, objectively speaking, there are millions of things that can go wrong and stop me from chanting my rounds but they don’t happen as long as I have plenty of determination and Krishna’s support. Objectively speaking these obstacles don’t exist.

The only way this glorious opportunity can get screwed is if I drop the ball myself, and I’m afraid I’m about to let it slip out of my hands.

Today I spent at least six hours fiddling with computers entirely for my own satisfaction of seeing things fixed. I invited these trouble on myself, too, and I made a new deal with my conscience that I would compromise my chanting to accommodate these new interests.

Following the logic and available evidence I should build enough determination to not allow anything to stand between me and Krishna’s name. If lots of other people who can legitimately interfere get distracted by Krishna’s mercy then some technical glitches surely can’t have so much destructive power on their own.

It’s the failure of my devotion.

That’s why I’m very afraid of this “new normal” – I’m supposed to be driving the distractions out not invite them in. If this is a necessary compromise I hope it’s only temporary but it might be hope against hope.

These desires are overwhelming and with the body I’m having they sprout like zits on a face of a horny pubescent boy. It is certainly true that lust in young men and woman would lead them into the depths of material existence but telling them so hardly even stopped anybody. They can’t be stopped by risks of STDs or pregnancies – things they can personally understand and relate to, what to speak of some lofty talk about karma and illusion?

Somehow or other we all have to battle through it. Lust, career, children, vanity – at every stage of life there’s something to distract us from reaching Krishna. It’s a miracle I still remember Him at all.

So I should probably not despair. I still have ten rounds left to finish today, this post taken less time than I expected, too, everybody’s asleep – I have no excuses to fumble my remaining japa.

Off I go.

Vanity thought #195. Missing Link.

I don’t mean the link scientists are looking for when they try to prove we all came from monkeys, though it’s a very interesting topic.

A few days ago Chinese made waves in paleontology when they reclassified some half bird half dinosaur. Now the entire path form dinos to birds need to be re-charted. It won’t affect the conclusion in the least but paleontologists world over have a lot of homework on their hands.

At least with dinosaurs they have plenty of material to work with, it seems everywhere you dig you are bound to find some wishbones lying around.

The entire human evolution, on the other hand, has produced only over a hundred human fossils. That’s for millions and millions of years. On average they have one or two human skeletons per hundred thousand years, for the entire planet, and they call it proof.

Our entire recorded history is only about five thousand years yet they have only a handful of bones to “prove” evolution over some five million years back. This is just ridiculous, just like the fact that we are soon going to celebrate fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing with the US not having a single spacecraft able to even leave the Earth! I’m sure they’ll find something, they still have eight years to go.

Half a century ago when people used dial phones and computers were the size of small buildings, in eight years they build not only the rocket to fly to the Moon, they also build a Moon lander, and not once that thing malfunctioned in a dozen or so missions. That just doesn’t compute, but I digress – that’s not what I was planning to write about.

The missing link I had in mind is the connection between people, living and recently died.

I don’t think I have it and that’s why I call it missing.

I seriously consider diagnosing myself as a misanthropist and a psychopath.

I wasn’t always this way. I remember I had plenty of friends in school, I had crashes going back to kindergarten and definitely the first grade. I remember in high school one girl told me she was amazed that I turn out so open and welcoming person despite my usual grumpy appearance.

At the last job I had people were really commenting on my grumpiness, it didn’t go well with the image we were trying to project. Eventually they got round and accepted me, however.

About ten years ago I had so many friends and acquaintances I was caught not remembering names of people and blaming it on new glasses or something.

Then the things have turned, gradually, day by day, year by year, I lost touch with all of them. Sometimes it worries me – it’s not normal, and today is one of those days.

This week my partner’s cousin has died and I totally forgot about it. This week my partner herself was late from work three times, and on Friday instead of having a big meeting with her boss about “margins” or something I saw her being in another part of town, in a residential neighborhood. You can see these things with Google Latitude on modern mobile phones.

That should have made me worried by I felt a cause for celebration instead – I was finally going to be free from the last of my obligations. Turned out it was a business dinner/party and there were pictures of it all over Facebook. What a letdown!

To be clear – I’m not totally immune to human emotions, and I have shed a tear or two in recent years but it’s demanding increasing efforts with each time.

Today, as Saturdays usually go, I watched something on TV and it was a touching story about death. A wooman was having such a strong connection that each day, around the same time, she had a physical need to hear the voice of her beloved. When one half of such relationship dies the remaining person really sees no reason to live and all the things that remind about the missing link bring out tears and drain out the life force.

I honestly don’t think I can experience these emotions anymore, not to the expected degree anyway.

On the other hand there are things that people love and want to have and they would do anything to establish some new links.

How does that work? What exactly is the nature of these attachments? Why do they affect different people in different ways? What is my situation in this regard? What am I supposed to do?

Suddenly I saw two distinct parts to this. First is the attraction to the object of one’s affection. That can’t be helped. I have been smitten quite a few times in my life. Senses are like magnets this way, they can’t be stopped.

Relinquishing all attachments doesn’t mean that eyes are not attracted to beautiful things and the entire body, gross and subtle, becomes indifferent towards the closest person. That aspect cannot be stopped. That is also the reason why we can always slip back into maya on every step from here to the highest stages of devotion. As long as we have our bodies they will be attracted to things, attraction will never go away.

Another aspect is the desire of attraction itself. We are dying to love and be loved. We want to be attracted to things, if we aren’t we think something is seriously wrong with us.

Right at this moment we have probably billions of people desperately searching for love, for their Mr or Ms Right, for a phone call from their children, or for a pair of shoes that would knock them off their feet, or maybe of a Saturday night fling, or for any validation of one’s attractiveness.

From this angle, it’s not the objects that people are attracted to, it’s the state of being attracted itself, and that, I believe, is our conscious choice, t least to the degree we have a free will.

This is not something that just comes over us, like love at first sight, this is our conscious decision and hard work to become entangled, and this is something we, as devotees, should be avoiding at all costs, and I think it’s doable.

There’s no need to go look out for trouble in this world, trouble will always find you.

When the thought of my partner having an affair appeared in my head I was clearly in two minds about it – I could indulge and suffer the consequences of being cheated, or I could celebrate the happy loss and spend my time in anticipation of Krishna’s next move. He made quite a few in this past year and I’d be very glad to know I’m ready for the next step.

Maybe I am turning into a misanthropist and sociopath incapable of experiencing the depth of human emotions, but I want to do it by choice, I just don’t feel like playing family or divorce or falling in love right now. Those are exciting games and they will surely take me for a spin but they have an end and they have a lot of unhappiness mixed in, too.

Unfortunately, I can’t just call it a day and throw the toys out of a pram. As long as I have the body I will experience strong attractions or dislikes, and I will experience the urge to have new experiences. Each of these two calamities has its own set of tricks to mitigate them but ultimately it’s only devotion to the Lord that can cool down this blazing fire of material existence.

Unfortunately, simply denying myself my indulgence or denying desire for indulgence is not going to cause devotion. Whatever I do to navigate this ocean is immaterial, no matter how good I get it’s only the matter of time before waves and currents get me.

On the other hand, it’s very important to stay afloat until the boat of the Holy Names anchors in my heart, yet the boat won’t come just because I’m such a good swimmer. Still, because I have one hand on the rope already, it would be a shame to get eaten by sharks now, so I better watch out and kick hard.

If there are any missing links between me and the sharks in the ocean of maya – so be it, I’m actually glad, I’m not going to actively seek re-connection.

Vanity thought #178. Reunion.

We are going through a Ratha Yatra season with many ISKCON centers holding their annual festivals in addition to the original one in Puri, this year it started on July 3. Festivities in Puri are already over but ISKCON’s events are still going in full swing. I don’t want to go into the dispute about arbitrary dates, different from Puri, it’s a giant waste of time, I believe.

It’s rather the significance of the trip itself that interests me today.

In Puri, Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra visit Gundici temple and then, on the way back, stop at their auntie’s temple where they spend a week before returning home. It’s all nice but I prefer the story about Krishna meeting gopis in Kurukshetra where they went to see the solar eclipse.

I don’t know the origin of this version, everybody knows it from the first days in ISKCON, though, so it must be true.

Gopis, of course had lived in Vrindavana in separation from Krishna for many many years by then but they certainly couldn’t forget Him. According to Lord Chaitanya their love in separation is the highest possible form of devotion to Krishna. When Uddhava, Lord’s dearmost devotee in Dwaraka, visited Vrindavana to see the gopis he was humbled by their devotion – they were so intensely absorbed in thoughts of Krishna they talked to animals and insects about Him, they saw Him everywhere.

Krishna was their first and only love. Everyone knows about the power of first love. Some call it puppy love because it’s immature and eventually goes away but when it’s there it’s the most powerful, selfless feeling in the world.

Young people in love have absolutely no regard for their own self interest or self preservation. Romeo and Juliet, in fact, killed themselves when they realized they couldn’t be together, and theirs is not the only example.

Young people in love are known to do all kinds of crazy things – they elope, they sneak out of the house at night, they make unbelievable promises, they follow the objects of their adoration to the end of the world, they are completely blind to any faults and deficiencies of their lovers. We all know it.

What normally happens is that they have to be broken, like horses and circus animals. In fact, until a young boy or a girl has suffered his or her first real heartbreak no one takes them seriously. They need to learn cynicism. We laugh at their idealism because we know their will can and should be broken, “for their own good”.

The worst part of it is not the heartbreak itself, it’s the forceful surrender and inevitable compromise with the realities of their bodies. You can’t have your lover, it’s “for your own good”, but we also force you to “love” someone else. Give enough time and your hormones will assert their power. You might hate yourself for giving up on your first love but you WILL eventually want someone else and you WILL settle. No one can be allowed to remain pure and innocent.

I hope gopis had it easier then. They managed to remain pure and innocent and no other man had ever entered their hearts, and they suffered for it. They suffered immensely. I’m sure there was pressure on them to accept life with their regular husbands. The scriptures avoid that point but I can’t easily imagine a scenario where all the gopis were allowed to stay single forever, some of them had husbands even when Krishna was there.

This looks like a very very painful exercise – faithfully serve your given husband, provide him with all the comforts your body can provide, yet keep you heart pure for Krishna. I don’t know how it worked. Maybe they had some form of reprieve, or maybe they really didn’t think much about it – too busy thinking of Krishna.

I wish I could perform my material duties with similar detachment and unwavering concentration on Krishna. So far I fail miserably.

Anyway, many years have passed and gopis surely thought to themselves that they were going to die without seeing Krishna again, and then Nanda Maharaj announced a trip to Kurukshetra to see the solar eclipse and that Krishna was going to be there, too.

What a joy! What a reprieve! Gopis were surely losing their minds in ecstasy.

Finally they were there, Krishna was there, too, they caught a glimpse of Him as He talked to Nanda and Yashoda first. He was within their reach but they couldn’t say a word or make a move – they had social etiquette to observe. I’m sure they were just stunned and lost control of their senses, their bodies were trembling with anticipation. Anyone who has ever met the object of their intense love after a long separation knows the feeling, it’s overwhelming.

Lord Balarama quietly excused Himself and finally Krishna sneaked out to the private area for the meeting – that’s according to the Bhagavatam, and I don’t particularly like that version.

According to our Ratha Yatra story gopis tried to pull Krishna’s chariot back to Vrindavana and Krishna, suddenly remembering His first love and seeing gopis unprecedented devotion for Him fell into a trance, His limbs became shorter and went inside of His body and His eyes became wide and round and He lost consciousness.

This version is so touching that I bet everyone had goosebumps at least once when thinking about it. I’ve heard of simple Orissa man who had tears streaming down his face when he heard this story in an assembly. Of course he was born in the dhama and so is not your ordinary person but I doubt there’s any devotee anywhere whose heart is so stone cold that it hasn’t softened at least once.

Anyway, I have a little issue with Bhagavatam account of that meeting. It is definitely less romantic and cynical minds like mine see Krishna in a somewhat unfavorable light there.

Here how it goes according to my understanding. Krishna saw the gopis, had to go outside for a little meet, and He blew them off, mercilessly.

He gave them vedic version of the “don’t worry about your broken heart” talk. First He laughed. Yeah, seeing all these heartbroken girls who hadn’t still grown up was surely a lot of fun. He talked to them about laws of nature and karma, about clouds, blades of grass, wisps of cotton and particles of dust, and the will of the Supreme Lord. Anything but His own feelings and responsibility.

He basically told them that there are more important things to do than to wallow in teenage fantasies. There are enemies to kill and friends to protect, and, most importantly, there are thousands of women to marry and have children with. That’s real life, not your teenage romance, grow up, will you?

There’s no trance here, no wide eyes, no pulling chariots, just a vedic version of “why I didn’t call” excuses.

Gopis weren’t taking it seriously, too. According to comments by Srila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura and Sridhara Swami that are quoted in the purports to our translation gopis playfully told Krishna that His excuses were ridiculous – He is the Supreme Lord and He Himself brings wisps of cotton and blades of grass together, and, moreover, all this “serious” talk is lost on devotees who don’t care a bit about all this knowledge, they just love Krishna no matter what.

Maybe that can be construed as another sign of gopis’ perfection – you can’t possibly blow them off and hurt their feelings. There’s absolutely no way you can make them un-love Krishna, no matter how rude and heartless He might appear.

Well, for Him it’s probably manifestation of His supreme renunciation but for us, aspiring devotees, it’s actually a very convenient way out – we don’t really need His mercy to be happy. In the matters of mercy and affection Krishna is not very reliable but if we learn to love Him we won’t care in the least whether He reciprocates or not. We get special kinds of hearts that just can’t be broken.

I need one of those for myself, pronto.

Vanity thought #155. It’s all His fault. Again.

Actually I mean all credits should go to Krishna but there’s no problem with assigning credits, we all easily take them for ourselves, it’s when the time to spread the blame comes no one steps forward, so for those awkward situations – it’s all Krishna’s fault.

Actually it’s all our fault, originally, it just as removed from us as the original sin – we aren’t even supposed to speculate how we fell down here. Very very few people see it as their own fault in their hearts. We’ve been told about it, we see the results – our attachment to the material nature, but we still have no clue how that happened.

It’s like punishing a three year old kid for breaking a vase two years earlier – now he can understand that it was wrong and so is eligible for punishment even though he doesn’t remember it, so let’s put him in the corner or take away his toys – he deserved it.

So when some devotee feels unhappy and wonders why it is so, why he has lost the taste or inspiration and why devotional service no longer satisfies him, ie me a few days from now – I’ve got the answer. It’s all Krishna’s fault.

Last time I posted an article under the same title it was about responsibility for starting sahajiya movement but that’s not what I mean today.

Why does Krishna make His devotees suffer? It’s one thing to take away their possessions so they lose their attachments or put them in dangerous situations so they could surrender to Him fully, but why does Krishna make them suffer while executing their service to the best of their abilities?

Chanting supposed to make you happy, not apathetic and indifferent. Marrying another devotee supposed to protect you from into the falling deep well of family existence, not lusty and guilty of it, not push you even farther down the hole of family problems. Taking responsibilities supposed to make you stronger and protect your dependents, not utterly fail and appear hopeless when others are still relying on you.

There are all kinds of troubles that we, as devotees, find ourselves in against all our hopes for Krishna’s protection. Why is that?

Let’s start with credits first.

Who has provided us with a chance to meet the devotees? Who arranged our births in countries blessed with ISKCON presence? Krishna.

Who gave us intelligence to understand our books, who gave us intelligence to understand how to apply our philosophy in our own lives? Krishna.

Who gave us the opportunities to visit the temples and engage in worshiping God there? Krishna.

Who sends us powerful preachers who inspire and comfort us with their enthusiasm and strong faith? Krishna.

Who gives us enough time everyday so that we can finish our daily rounds? Krishna.

Who gives us determination to finish our daily rounds against all odds? Krishna.

Who puts books in our hands so that we can flip pages and read about Him? Krishna.

Who allows people to put up free vedabase and lots of other vaishnava literature online? Krishna.

Who gives us memory to think about Krishna when we get in trouble? Krishna.

Who gives us remembrance of Krishna when we see some seemingly mundane objects? Krishna.

Who inspires devotees to sing sweet songs that we keep playing in our heads? Krishna.

Someone smarter than me can go on for a lot longer but my point is – if it’s Krishna who gives us all the good things in life, who is responsible for all the other, bad things?

Our original sin? As I said, it would be like punishing us for a mistake we not only can’t remember, we are prohibited from looking into altogether.

There must be some other reason.

Let’s examine how the process works in some hypothetical situation. A person comes into the temple for a Bhagavat Gita class, sitting cross legged on the floor is not the easiest position to maintain for a long time and eventually he loses concentration for a moment, trying to make himself mode comfortable. Unfortunately at this exact moment the speaker is making an important point about dealing with other devotees and our visitor totally misses it. Some words just enter his ears but they do not register in his long term memory, he does not internalize them, and when a crucial time comes he lashes out another devotee, completely forgetting the lesson he has missed earlier.

I don’t know why he got angry. Our bodies and minds have millions of reasons to feel frustrated, one way or another it came out wrong.

The result is a serious vaishnava aparadha that leads to the loss of interest or the loss of association, things start snowballing, his bosses give him more work, wife presses with her own issues, kids start acting out, too, and pretty soon he finds himself in a middle of a mess of royal proportions. Each new problem elicits more anger and more frustration, meaning less taste and less interest in Krishna.

Whose fault is that?

Who provided the temple and the speaker and the floor? Krishna. Who told us to sit on the floor cross legged against our habits and physiology? Krishna.

Who gives us the ability to concentrate and understand the lecture? Krishna.

So why is that when we lose that ability for a few seconds it’s entirely our fault? From Krishna comes BOTH the remembrance and forgetfulness, right?

Or should I believe that Krishna remembers to help us only from time to time and when He turns away we are totally at the mercy of the material elements – the bodies, the emotions, our minds and so on?

There’s an argument that we CAN control our mind ourselves, but not without being taught, by Krishna, ultimately, how to do it.

In the example above the devotee could have sat through the pain, mentally suppressing it but where would that mental strength come from? Where would the determination not to miss a word from the lecture come from? Krishna. Sometimes He just doesn’t provide enough, or so it seems.

I dare to say that Krishna doesn’t forget any one of us even for the moment even when we feel like being totally abandoned, or when we feel we don’t deserve his attention anymore.

When we feel happy it’s due to Krishna and when we are in pain it’s the same old Krishna showering His mercy again, paradoxically.

No, not really. We feel pain because we mislead ourselves to believe that we are in our spiritually cleansed bodies already that shouldn’t feel any pain or suffering, two days ago I argued that we are most definitely not. I guess the stronger our misconception and attachment to this particular identity is, the more painful it becomes.

I understand that we also under pressure from other devotees and our seniors to fully grow into our new identities and behave like perfect vaishnavas, and we naturally strive to meet their expectations. It’s kinda hard to achieve that without full dedication, meaning developing a strong false ego. On the plus side it’s a better false ego than one given to us at birth or by our families, coworkers and society in general.

However good it is, it still has to go at some point and pain is the essential part of the separation from attachments.

Okay, pain can be beneficial, what about loss of taste? How’s that Krishna’s mercy?

Well, if you realize that it’s missing you are probably learning better what it is and its real value – how’s that not a lesson? The taste will come back, Krishna preserves everything we have achieved, and we’ll have better appreciation for it then.

But what about devotees who not only lost the taste but also don’t seem to mind it at all. How’s that Krishna’s mercy? They are surely in maya, aren’t they?

Maybe they are, but it is also only temporary. First of all, we “forget” about Krishna all the time, some only for a few seconds, some for a few minutes, some for a few years or even lifetimes. What’s the principal difference? We are on the same platform of absolute ignorance because actually we, as conditioned souls, never ever remember anything about Krishna at all. Sometimes He manifests some of His images before our material minds and sometimes He doesn’t. It is completely our of our control, and by “us” I mean our original spiritual identities.

It’s a bit presumptuous to say “I remembered Krishna and then …” because I don’t mean I remembered Krishna as we were in our eternal spiritual relationships. More correct would be “A particular image of Krishna, as has been taught by my spiritual master and other devotees, has flashed in my mind”. I didn’t do anything, I’m not a doer, just an observer.

For practical purposes, however, we have to assume one identity or another and act accordingly, eventually it will purify us enough to see us as we really are.

At this point my duty under my given identity is to chant at least 108 rounds tomorrow and put all my energies into it. I’d much rather sit back and observe my body doing it by itself but I have not been purified enough yet.

For me, not knowing real self, the only reality is the sound of the Holy Names, everything else is silence, or white noise – doesn’t really matter which, it just fills the space between the sounds of the maha mantra.

That’s how I prepare myself for another day of chanting. This gives me confidence.

It also makes me a bit irresponsible and rebellious, like a son trying to test the limits of his father’s love and forgiveness – everything goes until the father gets serious.

Vanity thought #136. Dharana.

As I said, it means holding on.

In my case I’m trying to maintain my new regiment of chanting lots of rounds. It’s not a novelty for me anymore, there’s no excitement, no rush, no curiosity to see what happens. I know what happens already – nothing major, but there are changes and not all of them for the better.

Bad news first – somewhere on the third hour I had to admit that I’d rather be doing something else. There are plenty of interesting things out there waiting for me to finish, I only caught a glimpse while scanning newsfeeds but that was enough.

Perhaps I went in too fast, perhaps I should cut on my rounds and check out those juicy news first. One should not pretend to be more advanced than he is and one should not imitate practices that are above his own level. Very reasonable argument, and to add salt to the injury – if I still insist on chanting I would be doing it to feed my pride.

While I was thinking like this the rush has gone. Still, to make a compromise, I allowed myself to go online during the lunch break. Then I went on chanting and during the break, among other things, bought Bhakti Tirtha’s Swami first book The Beggar I: Meditations and Prayers on the Supreme Lord . I’ve read only the first few chapters so far but they’ve already helped a lot. There’s nothing like prayers of real vaishnavas to shake off one’s ignorance.

Thankfully, the “japa is boring” feeling has disappeared for now but I’m afraid it will come back, just like any other material distraction. One day I will have to give up, there’s no way I’m going to chant so many rounds for the rest of my life. I will make the best of the opportunity I have now, feelings and boredom would have to wait.

Now the good news – I observed some progress, that’s part of the reason I called today’s blog “dharana”. Yet again I experienced a period of unusual absorption in chanting, last time it lasted for about three rounds, today it extended to eight or even ten, depending on where I agreed that it was totally gone.

During these first rounds I was completely unplugged from the rest of the world. I kept my eyes shut, I didn’t moved an inch, and the sound of the Holy Names seemed to be reaching the depths of my very heart. My mind was conspicuously absent, the sound of the maha mantra was the only experience I registered.

I was trying to hold on to it and it lasted a lot longer than before but eventually it disappeared. I managed to observe how it happened and it might help me in the future. First, the memory was back online. I started to remember what I said about this stage yesterday, then the mind started analyzing the reality of what is happening. Then I remembered “pratyahara” stage – ignoring the sense objects, but, in my case, I started noticing things that I was supposed to ignore instead. The whirring of the fan was first, then I opened my eyes – lots of new information to ignore, took careful notice of it all.

Then I felt the urge to get up and stretch my legs, and so I did, and it went downhill from then on.

I have to say, though, that it was quite a long seesaw battle. Open my eyes, lose concentration, close my eyes again, concentration comes back. Walk around a bit, lose concentration, sit down, close my eyes, concentration comes back.

That’s why I’m not sure when exactly I realized that this morning spell has gone completely and couldn’t be revived. I started really losing it on the eighth round and by the tenth I had only a vague memory of how it felt.

Never mind the loss – it’s still very inspiring. I count on Krishna when He said that results of one’s devotional service are never lost, so I figure that even if I can’t repeat the same success tomorrow, eventually the day will come when I get to experience it again, and probably for a bit longer. At the end of the day I’ve added another brick to the tower of devotion that is supposed to reach Krishna.

Please don’t think that when I say “I added” I mean I actually did it. It was entirely Krishna’s mercy, from the start to the end, I was just trying to hold on to it for as long as I could, and I was praying for the power to hold on for even longer.

Another important point is that even this display of Krishna’s mercy is not the goal of our practice. Yesterday I was talking about yogis finally reaching their goal on the stage of “samadhi”, and it was a similar experience of going through the stages for us, but there’s a gulf of difference.

Yogis, you see, are trying to achieve perfection of their practice. They do all the hard work, and their motivation is only theirs. They want success, Krishna, the Supersoul in everyone’s heart, grants it.

Our practice is completely different. We don’t want anything from Krishna, we don’t want yogic perfection, we don’t want to enjoy our success. We simply do whatever is pleasing Him. If He wants us to chant we sit and chant but if He wants us to go and cook instead we happily get up and go, without a shred of discontent that we might miss the chance of getting the taste of the Holy Names.

We know that among various kinds of service chanting of the Holy Names is the most sublime, absolutely perfect way to reach Krishna, but we also know that our own desire to see Krishna is inferior to serving Krishna’s devotees.

Keeping that in mind I contemplated my next steps. Finally I decided to continue chanting, however imperfect. If Krishna withdrew His mercy it doesn’t mean I should stop, not at all. In my life I’ve offered plenty of service to the Lord, probably 99% of it was rejected out of hand. I don’t know how to please Him or His representatives or other devotees.

My constitutional position, however, is to keep on trying no matter what. Krishna can show me His mercy or He can break my fragile heart, He is still my eternal Lord and Master.

So I kept on chanting, and I was rewarded yet again. Comparing to my previous efforts I had far less distractions from the mind and it was far easier to bring the mind back to listening the mantra. Then I started worrying that I won’t have time to proofread my yesterday’s entry and no time to type up today’s but by Krishna’s grace it’s happening, He somehow squeezed the time. I completed the eighty rounds, just as I planned, and I have some leftovers, too!

Oh, and I noticed that my speed doesn’t drop anymore, never. It could be the achievement of my mouth and tongue but it could be my minds failure to distract me. Today my mind was just not as strong and powerful as before and couldn’t affect the rhythm.

So here it is – empirical observation of the effect of chanting the Holy Names, in a space of just a couple of days and magnified by chanting as much as possible.

It works.

Hare Krishna!

Vanity thought #131. Me. The End.

Finally, jobless.

Couldn’t postpone the inevitable any longer, some stuff finally came up and me and my job kissed each other good-bye. Officially I’m on a month or maybe two months trip but that is just an excuse I gave them because I just don’t see how I’m coming back ever again.

It wasn’t really my decision to make, somebody, and I always thought it was Krishna, stopped supplying me with certain things I need to operate in a society. He just stopped doing His job, I couldn’t blame it on Him and took the fall myself. There’s no way I can tell people it’s Krishna’s fault and they should show mercy on me.

Or maybe it was my karma all along and Krishna had nothing to do with it. Either way, the supplies have run out.

I will not be lying when I say that I’m shaken and unbalanced now. All I can think about is my future – immediate, mid term, and long term prospects, too. There’s a lot of changes going to happen – all the stuff and trimmings, or should I sat trappings that I’ve learned to take for granted will eventually disappear. Where will I get the money for food? My insurance? My car insurance? What will happen to my internet access, my mobile phone? There’s a lot to think about.

What will happen to my habits? What can I afford from now and what I can’t afford anymore? What if I lose the house? What will happen to my eating, sleeping, mating and defending?

If Krishna’s plan was to take all things away so that I wouldn’t worry about them – so far it’s not working.

Thank God I still have the presence of mind to explain to myself the positive side of it – I finally have time for more chanting. I should start with a minimum of sixty-four on weekdays, when I was supposed to be working.

Actually it’s an interesting point – I used to work to support myself, now I can try the sacrifice method, let’s see if it works in real life. Let’s see if chanting the Holy Names, the prescribed sacrifice for this age, can actually replace worship of capitalism.

At this point I still think of chanting Hare Krishna as an add-on activity, something I do in free time. Okay, maybe it’s a bit more important than that, and I also can tell myself that I’m chanting for the spiritual progress, but shouldn’t the prescribed sacrifice also bring material results? Can it actually put food on the table? Let’s wait and see, this is something I will tell youngsters when I finally get over this calamity.

I’m not Arjuna anymore, I mean Arjuna when he displayed doubts. I don’t have any doubts, I’m not avoiding my worldly responsibilities, they were just taken away from me, and I did everything I thought I should have done – went to visit this person, went to visit that person, tried this and that – nothing worked, just as I sensed all along.

I’ve done my duty, the result isn’t there, and I’m trying to be detached. It’s not easy but manageable, maybe the full realization of what I have lost will dawn on me later, for now I’m looking forward, not lamenting what I have left. Yet.

I believe it’s some kind of Krishna’s plan but that is just that – a belief. Maybe there’s no plan at all, maybe Krishna is just easing my way down to hell or poverty or whatever it is my karma has in store for me. He is doing brilliant job with this, so far, but I’d like it to be a plan – who wants to be useless, excluded, and forgotten?

There were moments today when I really felt that Krishna is my only shelter, but they were quickly overcome by another “realization” – I’m always in His hands, it’s just most of the time He holds me with maya’s gloves.

There’s also a tested and proven method – engage in thinking, chanting, or listening to the glories of the Lord. When I’m doing something like this I really, literally forget all my other troubles. Unfortunately, there’s a argument that this is just escapism, that if I wanted to forget the real life I could have tried alcohol. From the “reality” perspective both activities – chanting and drinking serve the same purpose and both are destructive, drinking, of course, is more so.

Wasn’t it me yesterday who argued that there’s no such thing as “reality perspective”? It’s the same demoniac, godless perspective under a different name. The argument, however, is very real – something good must come out of my chanting, especially if I quadruple it and also have more time for reading.

Due to my offences, however, the progress might be statistically insignificant, and then what? What would Krishna have to say for His Krishna Consciousness then?

That’s why I’m still skeptical about chanting more rounds – Krishna has thwarted at least two of my attempts to chant more rounds, actually he thwarted them all, ever since that chanting marathon of two months ago.

Will He really let me chant sixty four rounds tomorrow? Luckily it’s not a long wait. Then there will be next week and something better start happening, I don’t have the patience of a tree yet, sadly.

In the meantime I have to break the news to the family, it’s not going to be pleasant, probably my greatest worry – I’ve really let people down.

Gosh! Can’t mention “Krishna’s mercy” again.

What kind of mercy is that? Only stalwart devotees can see it that way. I’m not one of them, and I can’t expect my family to accept it either.

My mind is filled with ideas how I can spend my newly found time usefully, about various other opportunities, but, truth be told, I don’t believe in any of that for a second. Maybe it will work on them, I guess I can get a week off, on recuperation from trauma, but then what?

Crunch time – that’s what. There better be time for chanting and there better be results or I will go into a meltdown.

Hooray! What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.

It’s better be Krishna’s plan, or my whole perception of Krishna Consciousness will need a serious readjustment. Good thing, isn’t it?

Hmm. What is wrong with me? I have more time to chant, I have a chance to actually immerse myself in chanting, I have less distractions, I’m going to learn valuable lessons – and yet I spend all my time whining and complaining.

I suppose that’s the just fate of the conditioned soul.