Vanity thought #1768. I cannot compute

Before continuing with Vedic Cosmology I want to say a few words about a nice metaphor I found in author’s article on Dandavats in November last year. I missed it then, sadly.

The article discusses devotees’ approach to science and it’s hard to summarize it in one post so I’ll just pick one apt comparison that illustrates the problem. We know world to be illusory. There are disagreements on the exact nature of this illusion in various schools on Hinduism and sometimes we ourselves are hard pressed to define our exact understanding of it. Regardless – illusion is involved in one way or another.

The consequence of this fact is that material nature produces falsities. Once again, we can argue if things are false or only our understanding of them is, but, in general, it means māyā convinces us that there’s no God. This particular aspect is compared in the article to a computer that prints out statements like “I cannot compute”. How can we interpret them?

Scientists can take the statement at face value – there’s no evidence of God’s existence in our empirical experience so there must be no God. This will lead to incomplete knowledge of reality – God is there but we don’t know it. The article shows that this kind of knowledge would be a falsity, avidyā, comparing to studying Vedic scriptures which make up inferior knowledge – aparā-vidyā.

The difference is quite important but I don’t want to talk about it today. Scientific knowledge is based on false representation of reality, on māyā, and so it does’t produce any truth. This seems like an overstretch at first but, methodologically, all moderns scientific theories are false and are waiting to be replaced by something better, which will also be eventually found false and replaced again.

Another food for thought in that article is that when we think that avidyā or apara-vidya relate to this world while parā-vidyā relates to spiritual world where we all want to go then this thinking is aparā-vidyā in itself because it implies seeking liberation from this world rather than correct understanding of it. Parā-vidyā is not somewhere out there but how we should see THIS world correctly, too. Parā-vidyā is a vision of paramahaṁsas and they are not seeking liberation and transfers to anywhere else – they see Kṛṣṇa in everything already.

Back to confusing “cannot compute” prints. If we accept God’s existence it would be contradictory to what māyā prints out for us. In practice it would lead to endless questions that start with “If your God was real, then why..?” Once again, our experiences are created by māyā and her work is to deny God every step of the way, so there will always be contradictions between “beliefs” and “real life”.

The author applies “cannot compute” contradiction differently and I don’t fully get it. I think it goes like this – regardless of whether a devotee or a scientist, a person would accept some things as literal truth and will try to interpret what appears to be false. That is, if we accept the fact that railway tracks run parallel as literal truth than the vision of them converging on the horizon appears as falsity and, therefore, needs an interpretation (solved as visual illusion) – it is not taken literally for what it is. Devotees take the opposite approach – we declare deities, gurus, and scriptures as truth and interpret the rest of the world because it appears to us as false.

Unlike the devotees, scientists take the lie (“I cannot compute”) as truth but this lie contains a contradiction (a computer that computes that it cannot compute) and so everything that starts from here will have more and more contradictions piling up. This is why science always have new theories because old ones can’t explain contradictions, and it resigns to the fact that new theories will have contradictions of their own, too.

What is not clear to me is why both incompleteness and contradiction rise from the same literal interpretation of the statement. In fact, two statements seem to be considered here, or rather two different readings of the same one. The reading that leads to incompleteness denies existence of either God or a computer, and the reading leading to contradictions implies acceptance of God – the “I” in “I cannot compute”. Scientists do not accept God so the second case should not apply to them but rather to religionists.

Contradictions, however, are an important feature of modern science and it’s the one all of them should always be aware of, though it might not be taught at schools. I think the author argues that scientific theories are either incomplete or inconsistent because he discussed Gödel’s theorems elsewhere. I thought I understood these theorems but now I realize that my brain is not what it used to be and, presented formally, they become undecipherable. In short – we can create theories with axioms and solid logic but in the end our theories will be incomplete, and if we make them complete they will become inconsistent. This is a law that we can’t avoid and it has been widely accepted with only a few holdouts that argue the theorems has not been proven.

It would be nice to demonstrate how our different approaches to “I cannot compute” statement resulted in logical systems described by Gödel, that the results would be either incomplete, or, if complete, it would be inconsistent. Perhaps Ashish Dalela covered it somewhere else but this is what we have in this article and Gödel is not even mentioned.

I don’t disagree with the author when he says that modern academia runs in problems with consistency if they accept “I cannot compute” statement as true, I just feel that this approach fits more with religionists than with scientists.

In any case, the important point for us here is that all of this arises from science not recognizing the world as illusory but going along with the illusion instead. Even Christians and Muslims don’t include illusion in their theology so they are constantly dogged by questions about the source of evil and others in the same vein. Knowledge of māyā is indispensable to having a correct knowledge of reality.

Vanity thought #921. Fighting temptations – pride

Here’s another nasty feature of the material world that comes into our hearts and destroys any hope of attaining devotion – pride. It’s one of the six greatest enemies of the mind or six effects of māyā – kāma, krodha, lobha, moha, mada and mātsarya. Pride here is mada, which is also the word for intoxication.

Interestingly, pride is also one of the seven ingredients of mahābhāva, which isn’t that surprising because that list also includes things like anger and envy. When it’s related to Kṛṣṇa it’s all good and one is allowed to be proud of becoming a pure devotee of the Lord, as was stated by Śrila Prabhupāda many times.

Pride which destroys us comes from mundane fame, pratiṣṭhā. This was specifically mentioned by Lord Caitanya in his instructions to Rūpā Gosvāmī (CC Madhya 19.159) as one of the unwanted creepers that might grow alongside bhakti.

Pride being bad as it is, it also compounds our sufferings because it often becomes the cause of anger, as was evident from the episode of great sage Durvāsā Muni becoming angry with Mahārāja Ambarīṣa. IIRC, Durvāsā Muni thought he was so great and important that he expected Mahārāja Ambarīṣa to drop his concerns with proper rules of breaking the ekādaśī and become concerned with attending to Durvāsā Muni first. This lead to Sudarṣana Cakra chasing Durvāsā Muni all over the universe because no one messes with Lord’s devotees. Pride, anger, offense, death – that is the karmic chain of events that we should always be aware of. Durvāsā Muni survived, luckily for him, but we are not great sages and will be crushed.

If sex is the gold standard of unwanted temptations, pride, in some ways, is even worse. For sex to take over your mind you need a counterpart, either in person or in imagination, but pride can creep in completely on its own and at any time. Sexual urges require suitable body – it doesn’t affect children and even old people are usually spared but anyone can be affected by pride, even dogs. Oof, oof, grr, grr – I’m such a powerful dog, don’t come near me.

Pratiṣṭhā implies adoration by other people yet we can manage to be proud of ourselves entirely on our own. We just have to set some standards and achieve them, that’s all. It’s so easy – complete sixteen rounds early in the morning – great achievement, congratulate yourself and ruin the rest of the day by doing it. Fasting is another great source of pride – look at me, I’m such a great yogī, māyā has no power over me, I control my senses. This, of course, is māyā talking, not you, so pride also leads to delusion.

If you look at it this source of pride it becomes clear that pride, in its essence, is a willful acceptance of illusion of being our bodies. If we become pure devotees and attain pure spiritual bodies then pride rising from that achievement is purely spiritual and to be commended, so pride by itself is okay but pride that leads to illusion is not. I still don’t quite get it but who am I to argue? I mean – do people in the spiritual world walk around full of pride like ordinary ***holes down here? I hope not but who knows.

If pride is so bad, how can we avoid it? I’m afraid it’s not possible. It looks like pride is an essential, defining feature of being a conditioned soul. Pride is liking our illusory identity and satisfaction with our given bodies and this is one of two functions of māyā – āvaraṇātmika. It makes us feel satisfied with ourselves in ANY position, no matter how low. We can’t avoid it, it’s what makes us live here in the first place.

So, if we can’t avoid it, how do we deal with it? Rejecting it would be the wrong option, it would be false renunciation stemming from desire for liberation, which is deeply impersonal in nature. As devotees we need to learn how to see pride in relation to the Lord just as we need to learn to see the rest of the creation of as Lord’s energy and all happenings down here as Lord’s pastimes with the dumbest of the souls. I mean we don’t like interacting with the Lord in the spiritual worlds and prefer to deal with Him manifested as māyā – how dumb is that?

There is another way pride is worse than sex – sex we can simply avoid altogether, never think of it, never acknowledge its existence, purge it our from our consciousness. We can’t do that with pride, it will always be there as long as we identify ourselves with our bodies, there’s no escape.

Here we have to keep in mind that pride is a relative term. As a mere satisfaction with being in illusion we feel it only ourselves but as this satisfaction grows other people notice our self-importance and that’s when we get pratiṣṭhā, mundane glory, and that’s when they start talking about our pride. Does it mean we are too far gone? No. Can we stop it? Not really.

It’s the same Lord’s energy awarding us results of our karma, just as this birth is the result of our karma or our paina and happiness are the results of our karma, there’s no qualitative difference, sometimes we get more, sometimes we get less, we have to learn to deal with it regardless. Likewise, if we manage to disassociate ourselves from illusion it won’t matter how much karma is coming our way, when qualitative difference is there, quantity doesn’t matter.

In that sense big pride noticed by others is better – it’s easier to recognize, understand, and accept as external to our being, subtle pride of simply being “ourselves” is much harder to see and much harder to separate ourselves from. Perhaps we should start with dealing with big pride first, learn how it feels, learn how to respond, and then tune our consciousness to recognize it in progressively subtler forms. I’ve never heard this prescribed anywhere but it makes sense.

To make it clear – we should see mundane recognition as results of our karma, it comes and goes according to the laws of nature, nothing to do with ourselves being great or small, and recognition for any devotional practices comes due to guru and Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, nothing to do with ourselves either. If we see the cause of fame as separate from ourselves we would not give in to pride so easily. We’d see it as external and related to our bodies, not to our souls. It would be: “Yeah, if I were to assume my bodily identity I’d feel very proud at this moment but since I’m not this body then I’d rather not, it has nothing to do with me and it’s very dangerous.”

Easier said than done but there’s no other way – illusion is defeated with knowledge and knowledge starts with theories, not realizations. At least we’d know what we need to know.

Vanity thought #322. Surrendering free will

Today there was an article about free will on Dandavats and it offered some interesting insights in this often confusing subject.

Mataji Vrindavanlila compares free will of a living entity to free periods in her school where students were allowed to do anything they wanted but this offer still came with certain restrictions once you think about it. You can’t leave school, for example, you still have to follow school rules and general decorum, and the timing of these free periods is regulated by the administration.

I think it’s a very nice comparison – we are free to act here but within strict parameters given to us by the material nature. We can’t leave, we are given a certain lifespan to exercise our free will and we have to reap the consequences. Those who used their free periods at school to study got different results from those who used them to goof off, too.

To me it means that we aren’t given genuine “free will” but rather material nature grants us fulfillment of our desires. We want something and she provides. There’s a question of why some desires are easier to fulfill than others but that’s a discussion on relativity and is a good subject for another day.

Another very important feature of exercising our free will is that it always ends in tears. We might want this and that and even get some but in the end we always have to get old, sick, and die. Not only that but in Kali Yuga even happiness from achieving our desires leads us only to more misery as there’s very little mode of goodness to go around.

Next the mataji reminds us of Krishna’s advice in Bhagavad Gita supported by Srila Prabhupada’s explanations:

“You stop your so-called freewill. Just surrender to Me… If you surrender to Me, that is good for you. But if you go on keeping your free will you’ll not be happy.”

This is also brilliant, simple and to the point – free will does not lead to happiness, forget about it and surrender to Krishna. Also means that estimating how much free will is awarded to different people and how to prove whether free will really exists or not is a waste of time. Whatever we have, in whatever quantity, we should drop it and surrender to Krishna instead.

It raises an important question, however – what does it practically mean to surrender to Krishna? How are we supposed to behave now, after we have supposedly surrendered? Vast majority of us cannot surrender to the point of hearing instructions of the Supersoul in our hearts, our perception of the world doesn’t change that much, so how are we supposed to know what to do and how to act?

Some say that we should act according to the instructions of our spiritual authorities. That is fine, if you live in a temple and become, essentially, a temple property. Those of us living on our own can’t expect anyone to micromanage our lives and so we have some tough questions to answer when we have to make choices – what is my free will that will lead me to bondage and what is the desire of the Lord that will lead me to liberation? What is the proper course of action? Which course is dovetailed with the will of the Lord?

Mataji Vrindavanlila recommends acting according to our svabhava, our varnashrama position because varnashrama and its duties were created by the Lord and so reflect His desires. I think this is a brilliant solution, too, but I’m afraid practical application might require a bit more broad definition of what svabhava is and how much it’s dovetailed with Lord’s will.

Take four regs, for example – very few of us were born to follow them naturally and for many of us it requires tremendous effort to strictly follow the principles. Many of us, especially from western countries, were born in degraded families and we have inherited degraded habits and tastes. We don’t belong to varnashrama, we are outcasts and so we can’t seriously let our svabhava out if we wish to remain devotees. How to deal with that?

Srila Prabhupada didn’t give us any leeway in this regard and certain aspects of our svabhava need to be repressed and I guess in these cases we should put priority on promises we made to our spiritual masters, never mind what our varnashrama situation is.

There are other situations where neither the desire of the guru nor varnashrama nor even generic prescriptions given in the Vedas are clear. I guess in these cases we just have to do what is considered “right” by the society we live in. I suspect that Krishna’s varnashrama system still exists even in our demoniac societies, in a sense that everyone has some duties according to his age and occupation even if they fall far outside of what is considered varnashrama according to the Vedic tradition.

More importantly, however, I think that surrendering our free will to Krishna means accepting that for the time being He will guide us through His external energy and so we basically have to act according to and not against what we know as maya or illusion.

After all, all the “spiritual” guidance we receive in our lives comes to us via external energy, too. Our gurus bodies are made of external energy, our books, our records, our conversations with other devotees, even the Deities Themselves – they are all manifested by the same maya that controls our illusions, she just acts in a different way.

Maybe we should trust her more.

Sometimes we talk about her as our worst enemy but I think surrendering to Krishna means trusting His external energy, too. She is not there to hurt us and she faithfully acts under Lord Hari’s orders anyway.

Maybe this is the test of the true surrender – can we trust that Krishna is the ultimate controller of the illusion that tormented us for ages, or do we think that maya has independent source and power?

Is it another case of “love me love my dog” scenario?

I think it is, as we mature in our devotional practice we are supposed to realize that we aren’t Krishna’s servants after all, we are dasadasanudasa, remember? Why not recognize the superior spiritual position of maya, too?

I’m not sure what rendering service to maya would look like in this case but that’s a thought for another day.

Vanity thought #285. Surfing the waves.

Recently I’ve tried to develop better tolerance in face of daily troubles – stress at work, family disagreements, body ailments etc. I told myself that I should treat happiness and distress as waves, they come and go in due time and instead of panicking about it and thinking of the ways out I should just soldier on and wait until relief comes naturally.

It works magic. Surely it sometimes tests the limits of my patience but, generally speaking, the relief comes without me having to wait for it for too long, and every time I feel satisfaction when it does. Mostly it’s the satisfaction with myself for sticking around with my rule of ignoring my personal discomforts.

It’s only in the past couple of days that I realized that this much awaited relief and the sense of satisfaction is actually me falling head over heels with maya, with the illusion that I’m this body. Suddenly I remembered that it is actually maya’s first business to make me feel welcome and comfortable in my life.

It appears that when I ride the wave of distress and await the lull in suffering I’m actually waiting for the maya to embrace me and show me her good side and I buy her proposition hook, line and sinker.

All the while I thought I was developing my Krishna consciousness but it was actually quite the opposite. So what IS Krishna consciousness? Negation of suffering is not it. Attraction to happiness is not it either, but avoiding those too feelings and getting some sweet spot of temporary equilibrium is also not the answer.

It is said that impersonalists have to give up all their interests in comings and goings of this world in exchange for nothing whereas Krishna’s devotees replace those interests with interests in Krishna and His service. Fine, but the fact is that I’m not aware of any of my spiritual senses that I can engage in service anyway, so there’s not much practical difference with impersonalism.

When I strike out time when I feel happy, distressed and all the other feelings in between, there’s absolutely nothing left. I can experience feelings when tasting prasadam or looking at the Deities or reading books but those manifest in my material body. They are pleasant but there are many other things that could be pleasant in exactly the same way.

I’m afraid I do not have an easy answer to this problem. I’m afraid that all my Krishna consciousness can be tested by what I feel when I say or hear Krishna’s Name without trying very hard to pretend I like it. What I feel is indifference, but that is good indifference, it’s indifference of my material senses, material mind and material emotions. Somewhere behind this indifference lies my dormant Krishna Consciousness.

Another test is how much aware I’m of Krishna during my deep sleep. Not much, but I’m going to look for that little part of my soul that never really sleeps. Until I find it all I have to go on is Krishna’s manifestation on the external platform – Deities, books, devotees etc. That’s how He keeps His connection with me and should hang on to it at any cost.

Well, this post grew longer than I originally planned but, perhaps, it’s a good thing. I could have been typing away on local politics, Facebook IPO, Apple’s evil plans or something, that would have been an enormous waste of time, it always is.

Vanity thought #278. Constitutional position.

So my constitutional position is a tiny spark of life covered by a thick layer of ignorance because that’s what I chose.

I also know that underneath these coverings I have my original identity, very well hidden from me, also because I chose it that way.

If I rediscover that original identity I will be engage myself in devotional service to the Lord and His associates, I will engage my spiritual body and senses, not the arms and legs I identify with now.

It is possible to develop that level of spiritual awareness even while being confined to the material body as examples of Six Goswamis and other exalted devotees show.

Or maybe it’s not so clear and there are different ways to look at the situation and its development. The following is an attempt to analyze my position from a different perspective. It might look convincing but it’s just a speculative play at this point, I have no idea how it could reconcile or deviate from the shastras.

Why am I doing this? Mainly because I can, it’s not the worst way to spend my time after all. I’m also interested in finding the difference between material and spiritual activities and fine-tuning my own behavior. Hopefully it will help me to remember Krishna at all times better.

What if I didn’t have an eternal, permanently fixed spiritual identity at all? No shape, no form, no senses – nothing permanent, and all these things are being supplied to me according to my desires and Krishna’s permission. If I choose not to exercise this option I would be dissolved in brahmajyoti but, as we know, the desire to act cannot be suppressed indefinitely and I would eventually fall down from the platform of the Brahman and into the material world, or into Krishna’s service, doesn’t matter at this point.

My point is that if my identity is not fixed I can express it through a variety of means and according to the variety of desires available to me, and Lord’s internal potency, yogamaya, would take care of the implementation. One day I might want to impress Krishna with a new game, another day with a new dress, and then with some intrigue or maybe just with a nice massage. My imagination is quite crippled, forgive me, but I think I’m clear on how it would work – the living entity wants to serve the Lord and Lord’s energies enable it to please Krishna.

Isn’t it what is going on in Vrindavana already? Gopis can sing and dance but even their clothes and decorations need external sources – the saris need to be bought, make up needs to be applied from make up kits and so on. I imagine there are people in Vrindavana whose main service is making beautiful saries for gopis to wear and there are manjaris there who go to the forest and collect ingredients for gopis’ make up, too.

I mean there still needs to be the difference between what service one can produce himself and what needs to be outsourced, even if the entire world there is made of a purely spiritual energy.

Okay then, why should it work any differently in the material world where I am now? How much service can I render on my own? Shravanam, for example, implies that there’s a separate source for the sound. Book distribution implies that someone else produces books. Even smaranam and kirtanam require material organs like mouth and mind.

Basically, there’s me, as my material body I misidentify myself with, and Lord’s external energy, mahamaya, that takes care of implementation of my desires. Most of these desires have nothing to do with Krishna but occasionally He bursts into my experience as well. I get to see His form, I get to hear His glories, I get to read books about Him and so on.

It might not be the same experience as devotees have in the spiritual world because I look at Krishna not with love but with indifference but hey, indifference is a rasa, too!

I was also promised that my envy will gradually go away if I keep looking at Him, listen to stories about Him and chant His Holy Names.

Moreover – yesterday I was thinking about Lord’s extending His internal energy to engage His devotees in the material world. He CAN do it if He wants to, then their material bodies would become tools for their service to the Lord.

I don’t claim to be so special but, as I said, there are things that I can observe that couldn’t come from anywhere but Krishna’s mercy – from books to ISKCON devotees. If I serve them, I serve Krishna. Maybe not as perfectly as in the spiritual world and maybe tainted with selfish desires, maybe at first tainted beyond repair but it’s still service and I should be grateful for this opportunity.

That makes me think – what is the difference between material and spiritual worlds anyway? Is this world material only because my desires are impure? Wait, hold on, how could my desires be impure? What does it mean? Impure comparing to what? To Srimati Radharani? I’m afraid everyone’s desires will be deemed impure comparing to her.

They are MY desires, coming from MY soul, how can they be impure? I think I can use this word only when talking about my desire to serve Krishna, that desire is indeed mixed with all kinds of selfish motives, but as a desire on its own it can’t be impure.

Okay, maybe it could be called impure because I have these desires according to my conditioning and the influence of the modes of material nature. Okay, I agree, but how is it different in the spiritual world? Aren’t the desire to wear a beautiful sari dependent on the modes of the spiritual nature equivalent of our gunas? If a devotee who supplies saris produced a red one today – how’s that different from me going into the shop and selecting from a limited choice of t-shirts presented there? T-shirt selection was dictated by gunas – the colors that were presumed popular, the fabric etc. etc.

The argument could be that in the spiritual world if one wants a green sari instead it would immediately be produced right away but more or less the same thing works in the material world, too, you can even order a custom made shirt if you want to. There’s a delay, of course, but who’s to say there’s no delay in the spiritual world either? Their concept of time might be different or non-existent but at least the devotee supplying saries should desire to make a green sari first, on your request. That implies delay, even if not in minutes and hours terms. Originally he thought that a red sari would serve Krishna nicely but now he had to change his mind and create a green one.

I’m afraid I’m losing the difference here.

Maybe delays in the material world are more painful because our desires to serve are not perfect. Maybe if we really wanted to please Krishna we wouldn’t care about delays, or things would be procured much faster.

Even in the material world – first time we want a car it might take us some time to save the money and we might not get the model we wanted, but if we really really want a particular car we won’t mind putting in extra time and waiting, then, ten twenty years later, we could get ANY car we want in a snap, waiting just the time the dealers require to make their deliveries.

With passage of time not only our desires become stronger and we acquire more power to fulfill them but the passage of time become less painful, too. Isn’t it the same thing that happens with Krishna’s service? At first we don’t have anything to offer but with practice and perseverance we acquire nearly unlimited powers, and we don’t mind waiting anymore as we develop extraordinary patience and humility?

And here is the last, the killer argument – what if my original, constitutional position is right where I am now? I’m connected to Krishna via my spiritual master already, I’m removed a certain number of generations from Lord Chaitanya, for example. Why do I assume that there’s a better place for me, closer to Krishna? Maybe even as a servant of Srimati Radharani as presumed in certain circles. Why do I assume that besides the service I can render to Krishna here there’s an entirely new place for me where I can see Krishna directly?

What will happen to the parampara then? Would it mean me jumping to the position much closer to Krishna than that of my spiritual master in this world?

My answer to this is that there are two paramparas – one manifested here and one existing in the spiritual world. I would still be X generations removed from Lord Chaitanya but I won’t be typing blogs on ugra-karmic computers anymore, I would be doing something truly spiritual.

Take Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis – they were manjaris in their spiritual form and they were very close to Lord Chaitanya in their material forms. Maybe devotees serving them as their spiritual masters are serving them in the spiritual world as well. And we all have direct access to Krishna in the form of a Deity, for example, just as they all have direct access to Krishna in the spiritual world if they so desire – remember that on the stage of perfection we will desire to serve Krishna’s devotees more than to serve Him directly.

Either way, the line between the matter and the spirit is totally blurred for me right now. There’s also a touch of impersonalism in my proposal, and I intend to deal with it later.

Vanity thought #227. Comfort zone.

This is an old idea that doesn’t want to go away yet hasn’t ripened into a proper shape for a blog post. For one thing, it’s all based on one single verse from Srimad Bhagavatam, 3.30.4, and I haven’t found any collaborating slokas or commentaries, it’s just that I can’t seem to let it go. It’s from Lord Kapila’s description of fruitive activities.

So, the verse,:

The living entity, in whatever species of life he appears, finds a particular type of satisfaction in that species, and he is never averse to being situated in such a condition.

Nothing seems to be out of the ordinary but to me this verse carries a profound revelation into our lives and offers new clues I’ve never understood before. Basically, it says that we love ourselves, love who we are.

If, however, I look at it form the point of view of constant whining and endless suffering it suddenly casts a big shadow of doubt over all our motivations.

Materialistic people never ever stop complaining about their lot. They always find reasons to be dissatisfied with their lives and they always find plenty of reasons why. Forget the fat cats from the west for a second, they are often being told that they are just big babies comparing to real suffering folks.

Right now it’s the drought in Somalia that melts people’s hearts. They say it’s entirely man manufactured, in a sense that droughts come every year on the clock but poor Somalians are not given a chance to prepare themselves and are being held hostage by the heartless thugs who run that country instead of a government.

These thugs are the only means of distribution of any help there and they make sure the donations go to all the right places, like buying new weapons to maintain their military superiority. Giving food to the people is the secondary objective so they are not in a hurry to help.

Meanwhile, Somalian mothers have to travel across the desert for many days and weeks to escape the drought. They travel with their children and all their belongings and they just can’t carry it all at once. They have to take one child up, carry him as far as they can, then return and pick the other kid and carry him to the new spot and they have to do this routine many times a day. Eventually they admit that they don’t have enough food and water to maintain both so the mother must make a choice – which child to leave dying in the desert. They promise him they would come back but they never do, they just keep going, trying to run away from the drought, from thugs, from their dying children, from their guilt, from their lives.

Material nature is merciless that way, BUT, it is also so powerful that it still finds a way to make the mothers feel good about themselves and enjoy their miserable conditions. They can’t help it, the maya forces them to love themselves no matter what. That is the meaning of this particular verse.

I know that this is the most controversial topic but maya makes people love their miseries and they hate themselves for that. Even victims of the most horrible abuse imaginable find bright moments among all the suffering inflicted on them. The Stockholm Syndrome is well popularized in the media but it actually points to the darker secrets of the human soul – all victims are made to find something attractive in all abusers. Not at all times and always against their will but it happens anyway.

We fight it tooth and nail, we deny the existence of this attraction and rightly so, because it excuses the perpetrators, but it would be unwise to deny it forever. Sad fact of life – there’s some perverted enjoyment in being humiliated and violated, it’s the force of the material nature, and it’s also the law of nature – we get what we want.

I’m not going to give examples of empathy the victims develop towards their abusers. Victims know about it and abusers know about it. They know that it’s wrong but they can’t help it.

Anyway, enough with dramatics, we have everyday lives to live.

I was always wondering about the moments that define a man. Is it at the peak of his glory, when he is on top of his little world, or is it in the moments of defeat and despair when he finds courage to pull himself together and persevere, or maybe give up? Is it in his relationships with others, when he is the most generous and noble or greedy and selfish? Is it when he is hopelessly in love with his heart laid out on his sleeve? Some say that you should listen to the man when he is drunk because that’s when he tells the truth about his real feelings.

These are the moments that people are remembered for when they enter the annals of history but I’ve never been quite satisfied with these definitions. Too much is left for passion and chance, too little for the expression of the soul itself. Men in love are going through chemical imbalances in their bodies and the effects are temporary, not to mention completely materially based. People often become heroes by circumstance, by being at the right place at the right time and with the right set of skills. For most of us these moments never come, should we consider our lives “undefined” then?

In all these situations I see mostly the interaction of the modes of nature and results of one’s karma. They do not define a soul.

What I found the better assessment is catching people in their most private moments when they let their guard down and simply enjoy being themselves. They could be chilling out on a sofa or they could be cuddling to their loved ones or they could be just sitting quietly and smiling to themselves. These are the moments when they truly love their fate, truly love themselves and their present incarnation.

These are the moments when one could note to himself – oh boy, they have been truly fooled! Hook, line and sinker, they are going down.

This has become the test of my own conditioning, too. I notice the moments when I feel good about myself, satisfied with just being myself, and I try to remember Krishna instead. I hope eventually it would come naturally for me – I hope I will develop natural aversion to being myself.

I hope one day I will be more like Prabhupada who, in those private moments, saw himself as a humble servant of his guru and Krishna. He surrendered his life and soul and dedicated his body to Krishna’s service and that has become his real identity – he loved being a servant.

So far I only love being an enjoyer and despite all my chanting I still strive for the moment I can lay down my japa, sit down, and just enjoy being myself and indulge in whatever little pleasures my life has in store for me.

Sadly, these moments define my life not as I want it to be, much work lies ahead if I want to change it around.

In the meantime I got sudden interest in how other people, especially our acharyas, managed to shake off their material identities and stopped seeking the safety of their maya provided comfort zones.

More on that later.

Vanity thought #192. Restless.

That eternal beggar theory doesn’t let me sleep, it made me restless and I can’t stop thinking about it, but first about being restless.

Yesterday I mentioned entropy and the second law of thermodynamics. It is fascinating stuff when you get to know it better.

When I studied it for two years I didn’t appreciate it very much, I guess taste for finer things in life develops with age…

It’s hard to define what entropy actually is, standard physics definitions are confusing. Basically, entropy is inertia, indifference, conformity – the essence of tamas, so to speak. While in physics terms entropy is a neutral word when expressed in our everyday terms it has a rather negative connotations.

Wait until you hear the really depressing part – entropy always increases, as if we don’t have enough tamas already. Increasing entropy leads to eternal death.

Okay, enough with scary stuff already. Entropy is a degree of how energy is distributed within a system. If some part of the system has higher level of energy, the energy tends to spread from there and even out, and the entropy increases.

If we drop an ice cube in a glass of hot water we’ll have a system with two extremes – very hot and very cold. As time passes the ice melts, the water cools and before long we’ll have just a glass of evenly tepid liquid. The entropy celebrates a victory.

The process is irreversible – there’s no way the water would heat up again and ice would form a cube. Entropy always grows.

In practical terms it explains things like “you can make an omelet out of eggs but you can’t make eggs out of omelet” wisdom.

This second law of thermodynamics, that entropy always grows, is fundamental to many of interactions in our world and the universe beyond. All engines, for example, transfer energy from one place to another, like converting charged batteries into phone conversations. As everyone knows, batteries die and need to be recharged, and the charger needs to draw electricity from somewhere else, from a system elsewhere with higher energy concentration.

In the long run we come to a conclusion that our sources of energy are limited and eventually will run out. When we find new ones we, by law of thermodynamics, we will drain them, too. Especially evident in case of fossil fuels. Theoretically, however, there’s still plenty of energy in the universe to last us a few lifetimes. The Sun is not going to increase its entropy to a useless state for a few billion years.

Entropy also applies to information theory – gossips tend to spread around until they lose their capacity to excite. Or think of it as syncing with the newly launched iCloud – you got a new picture on your iPhone, pretty soon it will be available on all your other iDevices until they all have exactly the same content.

Well, the question is – where does the initial low entropy come from? That doesn’t sound right but low entropy means good, less tamas. Where does the initial concentration of energy or information come from? Who is the source of all juicy gossip? Who introduces it into a society?

Physicists have managed to talk their way out of supposedly low entropy during Big Bang problem, while there are still plenty of arguments left that Big Bang breaks the law nevertheless. Everybody and his dog enlist entropy to prove their view of the origin of the universe and the world. I’m no different.

In light of my yesterday’s refuse to settle on anything I think of increasing entropy as the force of maya. It makes us accept our false identities and blend us into the environment until we die and enter endless stupor. It kills life, in a way.

When a new political leader is introduced to a society, for example, he thinks he can change everything and he plunges into his work of changing the world. Everybody else is infected with his enthusiasm – entropy, uniformness, starts to grow, and it works both ways. As the rest of the society feels recharged, the leader feels drained of his power. He might last a while, years, decades even, but eventually novelty wears off, he is not unique anymore, people have nothing to take from him and nothing to offer back. The sync has been completed, new leader needs to be brought in to shake up things again.

When we want to learn rock climbing we enthusiastically start changing our environment – buy gear, take some training, start climbing. Pretty soon the environment around us is totally in tune with our new identity and we finally feel at home. That’s it, entropy has no room to grow anymore. Sooner or later we are drained of our interest, perhaps we get a good, encouraging feedback from objects or people we charged before, like old climbing photos or friends, but it won’t last forever, it’s the law of physics.

You see what I’m leading to? When a new idea enters our minds, any new idea, it immediately starts pushing the entropy up. Everybody is expected to appreciate it, everybody is expected to cooperate with us, help and nurture our dream, we want to be at home with it, we want to be safe in our illusion, and maya provides.

From this interpretation it would follow that material energy has unlimited entropy, unlimited inertia, and it’s the living souls that create sparks of interest to drive it. A soul, an alien source of energy not bound by laws of thermodynamics, creates an anomaly in the otherwise dull field of matter. That anomaly, manifested in material forms and shapes, is forced by the law to spread itself and eventually even out.

Sometimes several souls, even several thousands or millions of souls create a huge anomaly in unison, and they attract even more souls, some contributing, some sucking the energy away. Massive force like this has the power to alter massive things, like political structure of an entire country. Eventually, though, the rebellions and revolutions settle down, entropy grows, people settle.

What would it mean in terms of executing devotional service?

By law, whatever we invest our energy in is bound to settle, our energy will be drained, unless we draw it form an inexhaustible source ourselves.

Whatever pops up in our minds is not that source. Whatever pops up in our minds because of our own, separate desire to enjoy, will drain life force of our material bodies in no time. Years, decades at best.

Whatever new position we envision for ourselves in this world is bound to be corrupted by the increasing entropy. If we ever settle on it, we are doomed to oblivion.

Connecting to the higher source, to Krishna, means channeling His energy, His desires to the world around us. That would make a difference, on our own we are not that powerful at all.

Connecting to Krishna also doesn’t mean sucking His energy to build a sweet nest for ourselves, as I said yesterday, settling for anything will never work. The only way to stay connected is to keep directing our desires towards His service.

We shouldn’t think of Krishna as a reservoir of unlimited power we can draw energy from, it won’t work, entropy would swallow us if we direct our interests to living comfortably in this world. The only way for us to escape the entropy is to use our tiny batteries to charge Krishna.

Practically it means we should become restless. If our energy is not flowing towards Krishna, it’s bound to flow someplace else and pretty soon we’ll find ourselves tired and looking for rest.

We need rest because we direct our desires to the world of all-devouring entropy.

That’s why there’s no “peace” for a real devotee. Not when he gets initiated, not when he gets a brahman thread, not when he becomes a temple president, a guru, a sannyasi, a GBC – never. There will never be peace for a devotee.

There’s no stage that you would think you need to achieve to finally find peace. It doesn’t exist.

My constitutional position, the only real choice I have, is to be chasing after Krishna forever and without a pause.

It took me many many years to realize, sadly. Just like with concept of entropy, I didn’t appreciate the restlessness of the devotees I’ve met in my youth. Only now I begin to understand their real motives and their real fears of being swallowed by the entropy of maya.

I didn’t think it was a big deal then and I’m paying dearly for it now.

It better be “been paying until now”, I hope.

Vanity thought #185. Oneness.

There’s one aspect of the material energy, maya, prakriti, that I haven’t considered before oneness.

There’s only one maya, as far as we are concerned. It can surely manifest a great variety of things and appear to everyone as something different but it is truly one and only energy. It is said so in Bhagavat Gita 13.31 – nice verse number, mirroring the chapter, don’t you think?

Anyway, the verse says that we see a great variety of different and separate things and identities but they are all created by one and the same illusion.

Actually, I’m not sure I can safely use words like “illusion”, “prakriti” and “maya” interchangeably, there must be differences depending on context and the POV. Liberated souls can see the prakriti but they don’t fall in illusion over it, for example. Generally speaking, however, I assume no liberated soul would ever waste time on reading this blog so there’s no harm.

So, one illusion creates the perception of great variety of living and non-living forms. We perceive them as objectively different but they are not. Yes, there are spirit souls inside some material forms and there aren’t inside others but forms are still material.

We tend to give more value to life, as we see it, and we tend to give more value to human life and less value to insects or plants. This is an illusion – they are all the same, all created by the same prakriti and have nothing to do with the souls within.

Making such distinctions is practical for aspiring spiritualists as we have to navigate the ocean of material existence but once we have safely crossed it we will see all other forms of life as equally precious. Forget the Gita for a second – a devotee sees all living entities as equally dear to Krishna regardless of their material forms and he is eager to serve each and every one of them, too. Why do you think that happens? Because all the material differences we see in the “real” world are illusory.

So there is a place of a bit of mayavada in Krishna consciousness!

Oneness – never thought I would advocate it but it seems it is a necessary step on the path of self-realization.

There are several practical applications. First is bhava as mentioned twice in Siksashtaka – <bhava maha davagni and vishame bhava ambudhau, blazing fire of material existence and ocean of nescience respectively. When I recite the first verse I always assume that I’m talking about MY blazing fire of MY existence. This is wrong.

I assume that my “bhava”, my material existence is objectively mine, objectively different from anything else I perceive, as a subject. Well, not according to the Gita verse – I should develop the vision to see that ALL material manifestations of EVERYBODY’s existence is one and the same thing, being made of and situated in the same prakriti.

It is an illusion to see them as different and separate.

Maybe it’s easy to make this mistake when thinking about the first Siksashtaka verse, and equally easy to make the mistake when thinking about the fifth, but not if you carefully look at word for word translation – bhava ambudhau – the ocean of nescience. Ambudhau is ocean, bhava is nescience – you can’t possibly think of it as MY nescience. It’s just an ocean everybody has fallen in, one ocean for everyone, and it’s called bhava.

Now I have to make the shift in my (!?!) consciousness when reciting the prayers and trying to absorb their mood – it should no longer be about me. It’s not like chanting can extinguish my blazing fire but leave everybody else’s blazing on. I can’t wrap my(!?!) mind around it yet. This is exactly what I think is going to happen, isn’t it?

Well, objectively speaking, from the POV of myriads of bodies all objectively existing on their own, this is what will happen – one tiny soul, me, will cease to be under the illusion. This objective POV doesn’t exist, though. This transformation in my heart, if it ever happens, will be observed differently by my family members, for example. Some would say I’d gone nuts, others would be mildly understanding, but they all don’t exist as separate entities – it’s the same energy.

It’s one and the same illusion creating appearance of objectively different opinions that I am supposed to react to differently. So, it’s basically for my entertainment only – some opinions might enrage me and some might soothe my mind, and it’s maya’s choice which opinions to present. It might choose to hide what my uncle thinks and my mother might have an opinion but express something else in public.

Ultimately, the only judgment that matters is whether I agree to go along with this illusion of things that matter or stick to Krishna consciousness instead and let the maya play it out to her satisfaction and remain unperturbed. I’m perplexed how I would express my unperturbedness if the only means to do so are the ones provided by the same illusion – my mind, emotions, and intelligence. Probably I’ll have to figure out the way not to take it personally – stop looking at life from “what’s in it for me” angle.

Bottom line – there aren’t any people giving me any opinions – all of it is just maya’s play. Objectively they don’t exist.

There’s another practical implication and I think it’s a very useful one. You know how people often put you in hypothetical situations to try and prove that our adherence to vegetarianism is not absolute. Typically it goes like this – imagine you are one of the survivors of an airplane crash, ala that movie “Alive”, when people had to eat the flesh of the deceased crash victims to survive.

The question posed to us is – “What would you do if you life depended on it?” “Would you eat fish if you were on the deserted island?” is another variation.

To be honest, I never knew a good answer. All I could do is to hope that I will never be put in such a situation. Today, however, brings a whole new take on this. There’s no such thing as a combination of a miraculous survival, non-existent means of subsistence, and an odd Hare Krishna vegetarian. None of these things/conditions actually exists as separate entities free to combine or fall apart. People pose questions like this only from the POV of someone overcome by the illusion that the world we perceive has variety and freedoms. Those with better vision see it as manifestations of one and only material energy. There’s the soul, here’s bhava, and there’s the Lord, that’s all there is to it.

Maya serves the Lord and does only what He allows her to do. God is not expected to interfere in the dozen survivors, one fish, one frozen corpse scenario – none of those things exists. For Him there’s just the soul and the energy that can convince the soul to believe in this or that, or in eating fish or even cannibalism.

Of course, cannibalism is not conducive to self-realization and neither is fish eating and the question is better be posed this way – What would you mind and intelligence make your body to do if maya had manifested a situation like this? The correct answer would be – I don’t really care, it has nothing to do with me. Maya can do whatever she wants, I’m not in control of my mind and intelligence, she is.

Of course a conditioned soul can’t give this answer on its own, without engaging the same mind and intelligence that is not under the soul’s control, but, reversely, a conditioned soul won’t pose a question like this either – it can’t, it’s the same old maya playing the same old tricks on us. There’s no one to ask us questions, if we don’t imagine them ourselves, maya creates and illusion for us that they are real but they are not.

That’s why there will be no judgement day when I will have to answer questions under oath and my answers will seal my fate. This trial of a lifetime is also an illusion.

And the same goes for this blog, too.

Urghh, it’s so hard to find Krishna in this mess…

Vanity thought #184. The third wheel.

So, Maya, welcome to the party.

I admit I can’t get rid of her, she will always be there, messing with me. Three is a crowd, you know, why does she do that?

I want to be Krishna’s devotee, His servant, or a servant of His servants – what purpose does Maya have for being here, too?

Some say, and it’s a standard answer, that Maya is testing us, testing our determination and devotion. Maybe.

There is a deeper problem, though – if I can’t see myself as a spiritual soul, all words about wanting to be a devotee come from the material body, material intelligence and very material vocabulary bank. The very “I” that is claiming to want devotion is the product of the material elements, the false ego etc. It is also the product of Maya, so it’s like Maya declaring a war on herself. It doesn’t compute.

It could be argued that all those calls for devotion is nothing but dressing on the underlying desire for either enjoyment or liberation from suffering but I can’t make myself to agree with this completely. Quite often it could be so but I won’t dare to deny devotional aspirations of other vaishnavas as manifestations of Maya. That would be mayavada.

It’s a lot easier to explain if we assume that Maya cooperates with our desire to go back to Krishna. Occasionally she helps, occasionally she puts up obstacles, but it’s all for our own good.

Here I come back to the questions of tests.

The assumption is that we can freely choose to act in a certain way. One choice would be to remain in maya, the other choice would be to try and reach Krishna. Practically it manifests in thousands of ways, some are more familiar, some choices are very hard to make. Eat another helping of halava or go read books is an easy choice, and anyone deciding to leave brahmachari ashram knows that it is darn impossible to say what choice would lead to maya and what choice would lead to Krishna.

Ultimately, both choices would lead to Krishna, one road would be faster, one would be slower, but I dare to say that there are no shortcuts to Krishna consciousness. Due to our conditioning we must travel our assigned roads. I’ll leave space for a very very few very very special cases of causeless mercy that in one single move completely liberate one from his duties and place him at Krishna or guru’s lotus feet.

For the vast majority of us everything has to be earned, I mean everything that happens to us on the material platform. No matter what happens to our souls our bodies still have to follow the laws of nature – there’s no real choice.

We choose halava because our taste buds have been conditioned that way and we can’t stop them. We can try, sure, try to overcome desire to enjoy with desire to renounce the world, like impersonalists do, but is it any better? Maybe it is, relatively speaking, but from the devotion point of view there’s no difference in honoring prasadam or reading books. Unlike impersonalists, we don’t use the power of knowledge to deny our senses their gratification.

Just like reaching for a another sweetmeal might have little to do with honoring prasadam, so is reading books might have little to do developing devotion, we might just need to study books to convince ourselves that senses should be stopped, like good mayavadis do all the time.

What I’m saying is that what appears as a test is actually not. We don’t make choices, the material nature goes on about its ways, as devotees we shouldn’t be concerned with interactions of the material world, they have little to do with our relations with Krishna.

In the spiritual world Krishna pulls Yogamaya to manipulate the devotees, in the material world He relies on Mahamaya. When conditioned souls here want to return to Krishna they are still under the control of Mahamaya, but her work is different. For those who want to forget Krishna, she provides, for those who want to remember Him, she provides, too. This is completely unconfirmed by any scriptures or authorities, btw. Just speculating.

When Krishna says that He is situated in the heart of every living being as Paramatma He also says that He provides us with faith in whatever we want, and in every other aspect, too. Well, what if He doesn’t do any of that personally but employs the agencies of Mahamaya? We want to worship money and sex – Krishna provides, but via the illusory show that convinces us that money and sex are indeed the highest worshipable objects ever.

If one wants to sit and meditate on emptiness, who’s there with a vast array of Buddhist literature to support this decision? Isn’t it the Mahamaya?

Wouldn’t it be the same Mahamaya who makes us reach for the wallet and hand over the money to the nice young man with colorful books in his hands? Something has to send those neurons flashing in the brain, something has to make the muscles contract, something has to make sure the wallet has been placed in the bag and that it has enough money in it. Why would this be the work of a completely different agency?

Or how about this – guru is considered as the external manifestation of the Supersoul, but there are countless other manifestations as well – everything that reminds us of Krishna or teaches us important lessons about Him. We might see a tree – the work of Maya, and we might think of tolerance and Siksashtaka and we might feel the need to develop humility. Wouldn’t it be the work of Maya, too?

Why should we be at war with Maya? Isn’t she Krishna’s most faithful servant in all three worlds?

Remember that Krishna has created them for our own satisfaction and so He needs someone to service them, service us.

It is undeniable that sometimes we are more attracted by the illusion than by Krishna, that we want to be in maya. Fine, but from the moment we turned to Him the first time our fate has been sealed – Krishna’s far more attractive than the illusion He created, in the long run He would always win, and who is to say Maya is not helping Him, too?

What if she tries her best to be repulsive to devotees? We are attracted, like men to women, mostly by our own fantasies, but what if Maya wants us closer only to show her real self?

I’m speaking from my own experience here. Lately I’ve been trying to find something really absorbing but all my attempts so far have been futile though I refuse to give up. I still want to find a better substitute to the life of chanting the Holy Names. When what has been provided to me does not excite me very much I try to imagine better things, mostly in vain.

I calculate how much time I have left until the end of my japa and then I think about what I might do next. Somehow or other all my usual activities seem paler and paler everyday. I blame it on Maya – she isn’t really trying to keep me in illusion, she turns a dull side of her for me on purpose, she basically gives me a free pass to chant as much as I want.

Sometimes I think she is not the third wheel between me and Krishna, she is the only wheel that does any job around here, and for that I will be eternally thankful.

Vanity thought #183. Shades of maya.

I must admit I have no idea what maya is. I know it’s Lord’s external energy designed to dupe rebellious souls into thinking God doesn’t exist but that leaves so many holes for so many questions I don’t know where to start.

I still have to start somewhere, though, so here it goes.

If this whole world is covered by maya then how come EVERYONE here has heard at least something about God? It’s easy to say that God sends His messengers or even advents Himself to establish religious principles because He wants us to come back to Him but does it do to His external energy and how can it coexist with religion here.

It surely does not go away but does it mean its purpose/service to the Lord changes?

What is the difference between the world itself and maya? Sometimes we assume that the world is the product of maya but at other times we believe they are different.

We also often say things like “in maya” and we know the term “pure devotee” but we don’t leave anything in between.

If maya is Lord’s own energy then it must be very very attractive and very very beautiful, yet we treat it only in terms of black and white, no gray areas and no colors. I bet it has millions and millions of all kinds of shades, and not only on the gray-scale either.

Generally speaking, maya is an illusion, something that is not real. Mayavadis say that this world is not real hence it’s an illusion. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu insisted that the world is not an illusion, that it really exists but it’s simultaneously same and different from Krishna. Moreover, this simultaneous oneness and difference is inconceivable.

I suspect this “inconceivability” has a lot to do with the way maya works here.

First of all, the world is not maya, it really exists, but maya makes us see it separated from the Lord and we oblige. So far so good, but what happens when God is reintroduced into the picture?

What happens when we come to the temple, see the Lord’s form there, offer Him service, and feed Him clam sauce? It’s an unfortunate episode from our ISKCON history but it’s a good case study in itself and it illustrates the general principle, too.

Was the devotee offering clam sauce to the Deities in maya? If the answer is yes then it’s clear that presence of the Deity and offering of service is insufficient to free oneself from the illusion God is not there. It means we see God on the altar but we don’t see GOD.

How often does that happen? Does it happen only when we offer impure preparations or does it happen when we offer food with our personal motives in mind, too? Does it mean that the devotee who offered clam sauce was in maya only on that one occasion and not in maya when he was offering acceptable items? Or does it mean that it was a special case and none of the other devotees is under any illusions as long as they offer only correct stuff?

There’s another way to look at it – we are all deeply in maya, we have never ever left and many of us never will in this lifetime. As long as we identify ourselves with our bodies we will be in maya, meaning we know nothing but illusion until we can see our own spiritual identity, which is a very rare gift to expect within this life.

It’s a very clear theory – can’t see your original form means you are in maya, can see your form means you are not under illusion anymore.

This approach, however, doesn’t address the shades problem either, it’s still “either or” proposition and it still doesn’t answer many questions, including about that clam sauce.

Yes, we don’t see the Deities as Krishna Himself yet and we offer Them food prepared according to our tastes, or at least how we ourselves imagine how Krishna likes it, but does it mean we are totally in illusion? Obviously not, so we need to introduce degrees of illusion.

We have no problems with degrees of devotion, we qualify and quantify devotion without giving it a second thought. We progress from kanishtha to madhyama to uttama and we progress in out chanting from offensive to the cleansing stage to the pure chanting. We cleanse the anarthas one by one, going further and further, one step at a time.

So why can’t we similarly describe degrees of illusion?

We are all in maya, fine, but those offering sweet rice are in less maya than those offering clam sauce and considerably in less maya than those who fall off the wagon for some time. Interestingly, when we talk about people’s devotion in these cases we realize that the setbacks are only temporary and continuous chanting will eventually elevate each one of us to the stage of pure devotion.

Maybe we should apply the same approach to judging maya, after all it’s only the filling agent for the missing devotion, so to speak. One day it’s here and the next day, by Lord’s mercy, it’s gone.

There’s another aspect to it, too – engaging maya in service of Krishna. Okay, I don’t think it makes any sense, but we engage the world in service and preaching just fine, yukta vairagya, as Prabupada taught us, we take everything and engage it in service of Krishna, there are no limits.

Can we engage maya, too? Let’s say maya makes a person think that he is a young, healthy male who is very good with his hands. This is obviously an illusion, but if that male body is engaged in building chariots for Ratha Yatra – is it still maya? Isn’t it engaging the illusion in service of Krishna?

In ISKCON history we had so many wonderful gurus who had inspired thousands and thousands of people only to fall a few years later. Does it mean they have always been in illusion and none of their previous service has any devotional aspect to it and we should avoid any mention of them as a plague?

Who’s to deny that during their best years they have been delivering perfect knowledge that had perfect purifying effect and, perhaps, actually delivered a soul or two, or maybe several hundred? During their best years no one would have allowed himself to think that these gurus were in maya, even those who suspected or actually saw it. Their maya was perfectly engaged in service of Prabupada and the preaching mission, for a few years the external energy was reunited with the Lord, at least to some degree.

So I submit that there are shades of maya, we simultaneously see Krishna on the altar as God and as a doll and understanding how these two aspects in our hearts unite and differ at the same time is impossible, it’s inconceivable.

When we offer service to the Lord we are pure devotees in maya – it’s inconceivable but it happens.

Due to our position we can’t be freed from maya, we can only add some devotion to it, practically it means following the orders and instructions of our spiritual masters, to be safe, as we can’t profess any devotion on our own yet.

Next big topic – does maya have a soul? How does it cooperate with us or how does it hinder our progress, does it have any discretion on her own? Is Krishna always in control or does He allow maya any freedom? To what degree? Does it really matter?