Vanity thought #1685. Rare and pleasant surprise

I came across a common complaint about Srila Prabhupada’s translation (sorry, no diacritics on this machine, too lazy to set it up). Critics usually say that he imposes his own meanings and shoehorns the text to fit with his vision of bhakti.

First of all, these accusations are born of ignorance – people assume that our Hare Krishna philosophy of devotion started with Prabhupada, they have no clue of Gaudiya vaishnavism five hundred year old history, and that is only for subtle points of devotion – supremacy of Krishna over Vishnu or teachings on rasa. On the level of Bhagavad Gita we can confidently subscribe to any vaishnava commentary – Madhva, Ramanuja, doesn’t matter and so to say that Prabhupada started it is foolishness.

The same is true of our criticism of advaita – we didn’t start it, as a matter of fact, we haven’t added anything on the subject since Madhvacarya. We have no new arguments and we hardly even bother to learn the old ones, we just know that advaita is an incomplete understanding and it leads to far more dangerous philosophy of mayavada. We didn’t invent that word either.

Of course every devotee should be able to explain why advaita is wrong and give a few verses in support but actually defeating it is not so easy. Sankaracarya was a very good grammarian and he gave a very convincing interpretation of the sastra. It’s generally beyond our competence to refute his arguments because we can’t even read Sanskrit and all we can do is parrot what other Sanskrit scholars said about it. Generally, we take the words of our predecessor acaryas on faith there. They said that Sankaracarya twisted some grammar rules to support his advaita and we trust that it was indeed the case, we can’t prove it on our own.

It’s in this context that I’m talking about a rare and pleasant surprise. It’s not rare because we can’t usually refute advaita, we can – Srila Prabhupada left us plenty of common sense arguments, it’s rare because in this case Sankara himself admitted that grammatically vaishnava interpretation appears to be correct.

I’m talking about a verse from Bhagavad Gita that Prabhupada didn’t quote very often – BG 13.13. There’s only one lecture on this verse, too, and it doesn’t address the point of contention – anadi-mat-param.

    jñeyaṁ yat tat pravakṣyāmi
    yaj jñātvāmṛtam aśnute
    anādi mat-paraṁ brahma
    na sat tan nāsad ucyate

    Word for word:

    jñeyam — the knowable; yat — which; tat — that; pravakṣyāmi — I shall now explain; yat — which; jñātvā — knowing; amṛtam — nectar; aśnute — one tastes; anādi — beginningless; mat-param — subordinate to Me; brahma — spirit; na — neither; sat — cause; tat — that; na — nor; asat — effect; ucyate — is said to be.

    Translation:

    I shall now explain the knowable, knowing which you will taste the eternal. Brahman, the spirit, beginningless and subordinate to Me, lies beyond the cause and effect of this material world.

From out pov there’s nothing controversial here but advaitins split the words differently here – anadimat param rather than anadi mat-param. In our reading brahma (meaning Brahman, not Lord Brahma) is subordinate to Krishna and anadi is one of its features. When advaitins split it into anadimat and param the “subordinate” part is gone and we have two features of brahman instead, it’s anadi and it’s param, beginningless and supreme. In Sankara’s translation this part of the verse reads “Beginningless is the Supreme Brahman”, there’s not subordination there.

What about “-mat” then? What is “anadimat”? Here’s where Sanskrit goes above our understanding. Suffix “-mat” generally would mean possession and in this case it becomes tautological because anadi itself is already clear – one which does not have (beginning). I guess in English it would be like “does not have possessing” or something like that.

Sankara has duly noted it and acknowledged that “anadi mat-param” split is known but he still rejected it because it would go against the intended meaning. “Intended” in Sankara’s view, of course, not in vaishnava. He explained addition of “-mat” to “anadi” as exigency of the meter, as if Krishna was a bad poet.

Here is how Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura commented on this verse:

    That form has no beginning (anadi). That means that since it is his svarupa, it is eternal. Mat param means “of which I alone am the supreme shelter.” What is it? It is called brahman of which I alone am the supreme shelter, which is beyond cause and effect (na sad na asad).

That’s just proof that Prabhupada didn’t invent this particular translation. Same thing is in the commentary by Ramanjacarya:

    Anadi means that which is beginningless. Indeed, there is no origination for this individual self (brahman) and for the same reason, It is endless. The Sruti also declares: ‘The wise one is not born, nor dies’ (Ka. U., 2.18). ‘Matpara’ means having Me for the Highest.

Sridhara Svami’s take is a bit unusual:

    Although the word anandi meaning without beginning and eternal would convey the same meaning alone by adding the suffix mat to it utilises it as a bahuvrihi compound which is a metrical ornament and so it is spoken anandimat which denotes subordination to param being the Supreme Lord. If it were spoken as anandi matparam it would mean Lord Krishna’s supreme, attributeless form but that would not validate the words na sat tan nasad which states it is beyond both the cause and the effect.

He advocated anadimat but to him it still means subordination to Krishna, go figure.

Madhvacarya also advocated anadimat but dependence on Krishna was not in question:

    The brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence is the brahma referred to here. This is given as a reminder of the dependence of the Supreme Lord Krishna by whose energy everything is transpiring. The word anadimat means without any origin and beginning and denotes that the Supreme Lord is without origin and beginning also. If only anadi was used a doubt might arise that there is an origin for Him and so how can He manifest something without beginning if He is not as well. So the word anadimat is used as a matter of clarification.

We should also note questionable English in these last two quotes. There’s “anandi” instead of “anadi” on two occasions and “reminder of the dependence OF the Supreme Lord..” should clearly be “reminder of the dependence ON the Supreme Lord..”

Not to be confused by faults and discrepancies, the main point is that in Sankaracarya’s view anadi mat-param is grammatically correct but he rejects it because it does not fit with his philosophy – he obviously can’t accept that Brahman is subordinate to Krishna.

Nice and sweet, huh? We should remember that when dvaitins accuse Sankaracarya of twisting Sanskrit rules they mean some other occasions in his commentary on Vedanta, not specifically this one.

The quotes are taken from here but Sankaracarya’s commentary is better presented here.

Vanity thought #1684. Irreconcilable difference

India is a big country and, apart from Indians themselves, there are plenty of people attracted to Hinduism and Hindu way of life. Among those there are students of philosophy and yoga and by the look of things they should be our best friends – they say the same words, eat the same food, go to the same temples, read the same books, even listen to the same music. Why doesn’t it always click, however?

Many of our devotees came from those circles and many went back there when they dropped off the map. They open same bog standard new agey shops, they go to the same mantra concerts, they are certainly not averse to Govindas or Sunday feasts, sometimes it’s hard to say whether one came from ISKCON background or any other branch of Hinduism. Some of our devotees joined other Hindu traditions outright, too. I’m not going to write about them, though, I’m just making a point that we and all other “Hindus” have quite a lot of commonalities and sometimes are virtually indistinguishable, never mind the current “Hinduinisation” of ISKCON.

There’s one irreconcilable difference, though – they are not devotees and probably never will be. Ours who went that way should still be treated as devotees, of course, and that makes it hard to relate to these people appropriately. In the future life everyone will eventually get another chance but probably not in Kali yuga. We might have only one shot at joining and then it will be gone if we decide to follow some other path.

We can still talk about Bhagavad Gītā, for example, and discuss the importance of guru, yoga, bhakti, śāstra and so on. We can talk about Sanskrit and Vedic history, we can talk about ego, māyā, all the stories from Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa, we can talk about Śiva and Śakti, even Tulasī, we can appreciate spices and incense and temple architecture, and yet we will always be on the opposite side of the spectrum.

The more we talk about these things the more we realize that instead of bridging the gap all this talk only contaminates us with their godless, atheistic attitude. It’s all māyāvāda, as we like to brand it in ISKCON, though they would object to such a broad classification.

First thing we should really ask – have they accepted a guru? Have they accepted their guru’s orders as their life and soul, or is he merely a teacher whose name they won’t remember twenty years from now. Well, many people remember their favorite school teacher’s name but what about all others? Do you really remember everyone who has taught you at middle school or college? What about all the training seminars and courses in this and that? Sometimes we only remember faces, sometimes only a general impression, but are we going to say that we have taken their words as our life and soul? Of course not – they are just teachers, and after many years even their authority in their subjects could be questioned.

It is a certain bet that none of these “Hindus”, for the lack of a better term, have fully surrendered to their gurus, assuming they even accepted one. At most they have met someone at an “aśram”, maybe stayed there for a while, and moved on to expand their horizons. We can look at an autobiography of one of our prominent ISKCON gurus who went through a whole gamut of gurus before finally landing at Prabhupāda’s feet. All these gurus undoubtedly helped and all of them deserve respect, but how many of them do you remember? They were all only steps on the path. You take the step, put you foot on it, and push yourself up, raising your another foot to look for the next one. That’s exactly what these people do.

Out millions who walked this path in the past fifty or so years it has been popular, how many reached their destination – the feet of a vaiṣṇava guru you would never ever even think of stepping on? Very very few, and it was in the days when we, the Hare Kṛṣṇas, weren’t widely present in the West. I seriously doubt that anyone who went through this “eastern trail” would ever come back and surrender himself at a local ISKCON temple. Why? Because of a non-devotional attitude of everyone on that ladder to hell – māyāvada.

Externally, they might agree with us on a lot of things but in their hearts they cannot bring themselves to surrendering, it’s not how they relate to gurus at all – they will forever see them as stepping stones and nothing else.

Many of these people, as well as ex-ISKCON devotees, too, take full advantage of easy access to a big library of Vedic literature, much of it translated into English, and they try to make sense of it using typical academic methods – with dictionaries, for example. They also buy into the academic delineation of Vedic ages and would object to us using the word “Vedic” without specifying whether we mean real Vedic or Puranic or Brahmanic or Upanishadic. That seals their fate, as far as I’m concerned – they are never ever going to be devotees in this lifetime, and probably in the next one, too.

I think I’ll write another post on how exactly this mechanism works but for now I’ll just say that most of what they read comes from māyāvādic sources. The influence of Śaṅkarācārya on Hindu thought should never be underestimated, he and his followers are all over the place and they have been dominating government supported way of thought for a century, roughly from Vivekananda on.

What is remarkable about māyāvāda is that it matches very well with atheism and the marriage between academic studies of Hinduism (since they don’t accept “Vedic”) is made in heaven. They perfectly complement each other and feed of each other’s ideas. Take Śaṅkara’s prasthānatrayī – the three most important texts – Upaniṣads, Vedānta sūtra and Bhagavad Gītā. It automatically categorizes Vedic periods into those worth learning from and those that can be largely dismissed. Vedas themselves are not studied and so real “Vedic” period in Indian history can be dismissed as the age of early ignorance. The Purāṇas are not accepted either so the later part of Indian history is dismissed, too, as the age when people became foolish again and started believing in silly stories. Only the “golden” age of Upaniṣads and Brahma sūtras, which can be categorized by the rise of philosophy, is considered worth studying.

Brahma sūtras are also considered a logical foundation of Śankara’s teachings and that’s why this emphasis on logic and philosophy is so welcome in modern academic studies. There isn’t really difference between these māyāvādīs and modern wannabe academics, they all come to the same conclusions regarding the nature of the world, God, and Brahman. And they are never ever going to surrender, but the exact mechanics of it will have to wait for another day.

Vanity thought #1444. Trivializing insanity

Continuing on yesterday’s topic with a rant. Perhaps it’s not the offense itself (the one towards Prabhupāda) that I find most unacceptable but the ease with which it was made and then dismissed by the community. To me it reflects prevailing attitudes there. Good thing is that now I can detach them from personalities and discuss without fear of causing offenses myself.

Maybe this “community” doesn’t exist and is only a product of my imagination, maybe if I got to know them better I would see them differently. OTOH, if the offensive attitude is so pervasive there then knowing them better would only poison my own consciousness beyond salvation. Once you get to know someone better everything he does starts to look rational and natural as you absorb their views, but that’s the whole point – we need to get to know Kṛṣṇa’s devotees so that “natural” for us becomes unalloyed devotion. We don’t want to see all kinds of perversions that exist in the material world as natural, and therefore we must choose our association very carefully and avoid “getting to know better” various offenders of the Lord and the vaiṣṇavas.

I’ll just be blunt – treating Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇavism as science and hoping then one doesn’t get stuck with teachings of one ācārya for eternity is nothing but māyāvāda.

How so? Actually, very easy.

Normally, we understand māyāvāda as a particular form of impersonalism where Kṛṣṇa’s personality, form, appearance, pastimes etc are considered illusory. Well, not really illusory as they accept Him as Brahman but illusory in the sense they are not eternal but only helpful in reaching a higher state of consciousness.

This higher state of consciousness is impersonal liberation, realizing one’s unity with the Brahman, and, subsequently, realizing you and God are one and the same, ie His forms and pastimes are your forms and pastimes as well.

I heard an account how one visitor to our temple felt very grateful at the end of the program and was saying to the devotees “Thank you for worshiping me so nicely”. That’s the height of the māyāvāda even if this dude hasn’t detached himself from his senses and hasn’t overcome pleasure and pain yet. That might take him another hundred of lives, if everything goes well, but, intellectually, he got the conclusion right already. “Your Kṛṣṇa is Brahman, I am Brahman, too, so I am qualified to accept your worship even if you still think in your ignorance that you are serving this Kṛṣṇa fellow.”

That’s what we think māyāvāda is but that is only the final twist of insanity which might not even come if māyāvādīs in question become proper impersonalists and merge themselves into Brahman and never come out again to accept our worship. Mostly, they’d just die somewhere along the way and so we’ll never get to see it, but that doesn’t make māyāvāda any less dangerous or any more acceptable to our spiritual practice.

And it starts with thinking Lord’s forms as illusory in one way or another. That’s it, that’s enough, that’s the point of no return to the shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya. Sinful behavior He can correct but māyāvāda has zero tolerance policy, we better not play with it even in our dreams.

Okay, but what makes me ascribe māyāvāda to this particular community? They do not think Kṛṣṇa’s form is not Absolute, they to not think His pastimes are not eternal, they do not think any less of the deities than our devotees.

Right, but they reject Lord’s appearance as a guru. They think that it’s illusory, temporary, prone to mistakes, and just one of the tools in their arsenal on the path to higher truth.

Like māyāvādīs do with Kṛṣṇa, they think that serving guru is just a step towards something better. It’s not a goal but only means to higher realization.

Whether this “higher realization” would lead them to declaring themselves to be God or not is not very interesting. It might happen, it might not, but the dice has already been cast and, I’m afraid, there’s no return.

Guru is not a tool, you are a tool yourself for thinking like that. If someone treats his guru any differently from how he treats the Lord he is in grasp of severe ignorance. It’s not even kaniṣṭha level of realization, it’s lower than that.

Conversely, we can judge one’s relationship with the Lord by looking at one’s relationship with the guru. Of course external manifestation is different but the attitude is the same. Unlike the Lord, guru also does not accept rasa but that is for liberated persons anyway, not a problem for us at our level.

We can see how one is ready to treat the Lord by how one is treating his guru now. If one seeks personal benefits from his guru you can bet he asks the Lord for them, too. If one is duplicitous with his guru, relying on diplomacy to extract concessions, you can bet he wants to negotiate terms with the Lord in his heart, too.

If one does not see his guru as manifestation of the Lord he has no idea of Lord’s spiritual form either, not a single clue. Whatever shapes that come into his mind when he thinks of Kṛṣṇa are only imaginary but he believes they can become real. That won’t happen unless one starts seeing his guru as non-different from the Lord.

Well, you can’t just declare guru and God as non-different and be done with it. You can’t pretend to see God if you only see an ordinary person, just with a bit more knowledge and experience than yourself. I mean you’d be right – guru and God ARE non-different to you, but you see them as material.

I mean if you see your guru as an illusory, temporary tool to achieve higher truth then that’s how you see God, too, and that’s māyāvāda. It doesn’t matter what you say, it’s the level of your realization and you can’t paper it with words.

If words can’t help, what can be done about it? One can’t change his level of advancement at will. That’s true, but what we can do is to seek shelter in pure devotees and reject association with māyāvādīs. It can be argued that we aren’t in control of even this simple choice but if we feel we can make it then we should.

Practically, it’s very easy – wherever we see non-devotional attitudes to one’s gurus and ācāryas we should avoid those places like a plague. Pretty soon our noses will be well trained and finely tuned to this kind of deviation, we won’t even have to think about it to smell treachery. We won’t need to explain it to rush to safety.

We should always try to maintain our purity, and spiritual purity is even more important than external one because Holy Name does not depend on externalities but is highly sensitive to our internal moods and thoughts, and disrespect of one’s guru is suicidal.

Vanity thought #1443. Reading curse

While “researching” that new twist to jiva origin topic I had to read a lot of stuff posted by adherents of no-fall-vāda, and this made me think – what is the actual value of reading in devotional service. Coming off this binge I declare “None whatsoever!”

Maybe I’m being overly dramatic and I’m prepared to modify that statement a little bit, but not its essence. Our ācāryas might have spat on thoughts of sex, I’m far from that realization, but I’m getting close to spitting on thoughts of reading.

What about reading devotional literature? Aren’t we supposed to read one or two hours a day? Important question but my answer to this is simple – it’s not really reading, it’s taking association of Śrīla Prabhupāda through books. It’s not the knowledge and the ideas that we should be seeking when we do our daily “reading” routine, we seek Prabhupāda’s attitude to them, it doesn’t even matter which ideas in particular, any would do.

When reading Prabhupāda’s books we should be perfectly content with going over the same old passages over and over again and it shouldn’t matter if we might come across the same facts and solutions. Intellectually, we might not add anything to our bank of knowledge anymore but spiritually we hope that Prabhupāda’s pure devotional approach might rub off on us, too.

We shouldn’t read to improve our memories, we shouldn’t read to memorize ślokas, we shouldn’t read to improve our self-image of learned scholars, we shouldn’t be proud if we can manage two hours daily, not any more than we should be proud of completing sixteen rounds of japa.

All these things are unavoidable but they are anarthas, we should eventually let them go, they have no value.

What about dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ promise given by Kṛṣṇa (BG 10.10)? Well, what about it? Prabhupāda’s translation and purport make it unambiguous – the knowledge will be given so that one can come back to Him, not for any other purpose, and it will be given, not developed through analyzing reading material.

Whatever we need to know for our devotional progress will be illuminated from within without any efforts to obtain this knowledge on our part. The conditions Kṛṣṇa places are also unambiguous – constantly devoted to serving Me with love. Satisfying our egotistic thirst for knowledge is not “serving with love and devotion”, it will be responded to as any other karmic activity – by further entrapping us in this world and by strengthening our taste for enjoyment, which in this case would come in the form of academic pride, for example.

We’d better hope Kṛṣṇa does not take these attempts seriously and carefully guides us to eventual realization that they are materialistic in nature, just as we hope He does with all our other anarthas.

We can approach this subject from another angle, too – desire to know things is a contamination by jñāna and as such it won’t lead to devotion but to impersonalism, which in our age would probably manifest as dreaded māyāvāda rather then innocence of the Kumāras.

To me it seems like a straighforward argument not opened to interpretations because it goes to the heart of devotional process – it should be jñāna karmādy-anāvṛtam, free from karma and jñāna, can’t get any more basic than that, there are no shortcuts and no ways go around this injunction.

There’s a way to question classifying reading devotional literature or devotional discourse as jñāna, however. Śrīla Prabhupāda translated jñāna in this verse as it appears in Caitanya Caritāmṛita (CC Madhya 19.67) as “knowledge of the philosophy of the monist Māyāvādīs” – I hope none of us ever reads māyāvādī books, so it doesn’t apply. Elsewhere, however, Prabhupāda rendered jñāna in this verse as mental speculations, empirical speculations, speculative knowledge, and even philosophical speculations, which I’m still very found of, I must admit. Checking if our reading material is speculative in nature is very easy.

On the surface the discourse might revolve solely around Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa conscious philosophy and all of the participants would strongly disagree if accused of expounding māyāvāda inducing impersonalism, what would I answer to that?

Well, māyāvādīs are also very fond of Kṛṣṇa, we’ve been told, they are not averse to describing His glories and activities, but their attitudes are fundamentally wrong and their glorification only causes pain to the Lord and to pure devotees who happen to hear it. This is an often repeated theme that I don’t need to find supporting quotes for, I hope. What I want to say is that our “devotional” discourses can be exactly the same – overtly about Kṛṣṇa but completely devoid of devotional substance.

Take this passage I had a misfortune to recently read, for example:

    It seems that you believe that Srila Sridhar Maharaj, BVT etc should not be challenged. But if that is so, then you will have to relinquish the claim that Gaudiya Vedanta tradition is scientific. Rather it is dogmatic. Dogmas cannot be challenged, science can be challenged. I acknowledge the great contribution of BVT and Shridhar Maharaj and they are truly heroes. But that dosen’t mean that whatever they said should be cast in stone. If ideas no longer make sense, they should be revised. And the idea proposed by BVT has logical flaws as is being pointed out by many people here, hence it needs to be revised.

The worst part is that this outrageous view wasn’t challenged, unlike all other “misconceptions” pounced on in that community, the person who commented on it actually supported the general thrust of the rest of that posting.

This cavalier attitude to our ācāryas (Śrīla Prabhupāda and Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura) is evident from another quote from that community:

    I hope we are not stuck with SP’s interpretation for eternity and reject BVT’s interpretation. Is SP the end of thought? Who knows what SP would have done in today’s time?

When accused of disrespecting Śrīla Prabhupāda the poster defended himself and even his guru didn’t see anything problematic with it:

    My disciples may have any number of opinions, as long as they can support them reasonably with sastra or the writings of previous and present acaryas. None of them disrespect SP.

That’s what māyāvādī do, too – they do not count their attitude towards Kṛṣṇa as offensive, they just don’t see it that way.

Here devotees talk about our ācāryas as mere contributors to our pool of knowledge and put themselves in the pole position to decide what to accept and what to reject. They don’t need no illuminations from within and they reject illuminations from outside, too – guru does not provide spiritual illuminations but only suggestions they are free to reject at will.

With this attitude ANY spiritual illumination becomes closed to them and so all their discourse turns into worst kind of speculations that poisons everything. It will never ever lead to bhakti growing in their hearts, no more than it grows in the hearts of māyāvādīs, and it can externally grow pretty big there, so we shouldn’t be fooled. I mean they might become like mini-Ramakrishnas and impress everyone around them but in the eyes of our ācāryas this kind of “devotion” has no value whatsoever. Why our ācāryas say things like that against apparent evidence of advancement is a whole different topic, however.

Vanity thought #983. Bloop – the sound of Entrance Into Eternity

Ekādaśī Śrimad Bhāgavatam class in Mayapur usually consists of a recording of Śrila Prabhupāda followed by a short discussion about what he said. This discussion is done more in a format of inverse questions and answers where devotees in the audience get picked up by a teacher to demonstrate that they have been listening, rather than audience asking the speaker as usual. I’m glad I’ve never been caught out this way, I can never answer anything on the spot, my brain is too slow for this.

This ekādaśī, however, was different. Instead of the usual memory check something else came up on the screen. There was a moment of confusion as the MC didn’t know himself what exactly was going on. After a short consultation with video team he told everyone to simply watch a short film “about Prabhupada”.

Turned out it was this video (Vimeo). I don’t want to include it here for reasons explained later.

I don’t know if this episode will find its way into ISKCON bashing sites but I won’t be surprised if it will. If you watch it without sound there are no problems – you can see Mayapur, ecstatic devotees, scenes of the dhāma, Prabhupāda Samādhi etc. Elephants might have been a bit out of place but they are okay for a video about India, no problem.

There was no Prabhupāda in the video, however, not that I remember, but it’s a minor detail, devotees who arranged this presentation on ekādaśī needed it to sound legitimate and so “about Prabhupāda” line was born.

Real problem was that the soundtrack for this video “about Prabhupāda” didn’t have any devotional singing. We can see kīrtanas but we cannot hear them. No mahāmantra, no bhajanas, nothing, just modern instrumental music, “trip hop”, as they called it on wikipedia. The musician himself is not a devotee, or at least he doesn’t declare himself as such anywhere in public.

The music was kinda nice to hear, good choice, but that’s exactly what is wrong about it – it pleases our senses, not the Lord’s. We enjoyed it, not the Lord, we want to hear more of it for ourselves, forgetting about the Lord’s enjoyment completely.

At first I thought maybe it was a recording from one of those “bhakti-fests” where they might not sing but at least everyone is supposed to be in devotional mood. Nope, it’s a studio recording from eight years ago, which only raises more questions to people who selected it for video about Mayapur.

The way I see it, they didn’t look for any devotional music at all, they just remembered this nice track from years ago they thought was attractive and pleasing to the ear. Looks good, sounds good, and it’s “about Prabhupāda”. Okay, really it’s about Mayapur but in a very loose sense anyway.

Here’s my second problem with this video – what does “Entrance into Eternity” mean? Are these just words thrown around by neo-māyāvādīs that are meant to invoke nice feelings rather than make logical sense? If that’s how they chose this title then there’s no point in dissecting it, every meaning is good, everything is okay, it’s “about Prabhupāda”…

Well, my interpretation is that these ecstatic kirtanas shown in the video are nothing more than just entrance, and then they lead to eternity. Or maybe Maypur is an entrance that leads to eternity. Somewhere there must be entrance that leads elsewhere, to eternity. Images of Rādhā-Mādhava is just an entrance, devotees are just an entrance, kirtans are just an entrance, Prabhupada is just an entrance, Kṛṣṇa is just an entrance to eternity, which is the ultimate goal.

That’s pure māyāvāda, there’s no other way to see it.

Of course the title can be interpreted differently, like watching this video is an entrance into devotional life – seeing ecstatic devotees will make one try their kīrtans for himself. Maybe someone’s devotion will start with this video, maybe it will blossom. This means that it’s not what you see but the act of watching itself is entrance into eternity, not the most direct explanation. It gives too much benefit of doubt to its creators, imo.

My interpretation matches with kīrtanless soundtrack better – what you see is only the means, there’s no point in dwelling on exactly what they are singing, there’s no point in sampling their music, we go for eternity so this “Anthem by Emancipator” fits it better than kīrtans themselves.

From māyāvāda point of view devotees shown in the video are just neophytes, they haven’t entered eternity yet though they discovered a cool way to reach there. Once they see beyond their singing and dancing they’ll appreciate the eternity and universal love, and then their journey will become their destination, or some such crap.

I really hope that it was all just a misunderstanding and that no one on that production team harbors any māyāvāda ideas. Otoh, someone deliberately chose trip hop soundtrack over devotional music, so…

If there’s some outrage expressed somewhere I would totally understand it – why would anyone bring sensual, non-devotional music to Mayapur, of all places? What are they trying to prove? What are they trying to show? Why would anyone play it during Bhāgavatam class? Why would anyone play it right after Prabhupāda’s lecture? On ekādaśi?

I guess I can imagine how these actions can be defended, too – someone just wanted Mayapur to look nice, and they did, the cinematography is superb, everything looks very professional and it sounds nice, too, so what’s the problem?

One could also say that it was not originally meant for devotees but to attract outsiders. Typical line of reasoning would be about bad connotation that comes with “Hare Kṛṣṇas” so it’s better to avoid it at the first meeting, let people just see how ecstatic our life is instead.

We usually say that Prabhupāda was always a straight talker and he would have none of this nonsense but that is not entirely true. He knew very well that for preaching purposes our message sometimes needs to be modified and sweetened. The goal is to give people the medicine of the mahāmantra, if they don’t like the taste at first we can mix with with sugary words and attractive imagery.

I can look it up but I’m sure that Prabhupāda didn’t insist on straight on Kṛṣṇa consciousness being presented in places like Soviet Russia or Iran, he had no objections about taking it slowly there first. There’s no reason we can’t employ this same method in a hostile western environment. Forty years ago we were welcome as a novelty but we ourselves sullied our reputation and so there is a need to disassociate us from people’s bad memories. We can’t start with “We are those Hare Kṛṣṇas you surely must have heard about years ago”.

This is walking a thin line, though, if we present Kṛṣṇa “forcefully” and make mistakes we at least force people to hear the message and the Name. It’s transcendental, it will work its way into people’s hearts regardless of their initial reactions. Mahāprabhu is also not strict with those who make mistakes while preaching about Kṛṣṇa.

If we take it slowly, however, and didn’t get a chance to introduce Kṛṣṇa at all – what have we achieved? Nothing. We get only a few minutes for our presentation and if it didn’t work we have completely wasted a precious opportunity.

There’s a much bigger downside to caution here, and beating about the bush does not please Mahāprabhu as much as preaching straight.

Still, if the preaching attitude is there and the goal is to attract people to Kṛṣṇa then criticizing this video is unwarranted. People preach according to their abilities. If they come up short by somebody else’s standards it doesn’t mean Kṛṣṇa does not appreciate their effort at all, and if Kṛṣṇa appreciates it – who are we to argue?

Somebody just have to make sure that videos like this are produced and distributed in good faith. If the attitude is wrong then it all smacks of māyāvāda and needs to be condemned in strongest possible terms.

I’m not the one doing this attitude check so I better shut up for now

Vanity thought #816. Between rock and a hard place

Lately, while charting the way of our spiritual progress, I found myself navigating between two of our mortal danger enemies – sahajiya and impersonalism. Getting close to one in my speculative attempts causes me to bounce back and that makes me closer to the other.

Let’s look at sahajiya first. I don’t mean putting a feather in your hair and imitating Krishna, that’s just nonsense, I mean mistaking our material emotions for spiritual ones. The obvious example is discussing Krishna lila and assuming we can understand what’s going on there.

There’s a boy and a girl, they are in love, they engage in a variety of exchanges – what’s so complicated about that? If we read enough we develop a taste for it and that’s when we assume that our mental and emotional reactions are actually fully spiritual. We become rasikas.

My question to such practitioners – what is spiritual about it at all? You can substitute names for some Romeo and Juliet and it will be just as engaging. You don’t need any spirituality to emphasize with a couple of teenagers and you might just as well drool over some Japanese manga. This kind of idealized puppy love is not unique at all and everyone, literally everyone, can understand these feelings.

Even outside of rasika circles we can fall into the same danger if, for example, we accept our relationships with other devotees as purely spiritual. Every human being has friends, most animals have friends, too. The fact that association of a particular person makes us feel better than usual is not a sign of spirituality. The fact that we are drawn to devotees when facing a crowd of strangers is also not a sign of spirituality. Warm hugs and tears of joy are also not a sign of spirituality, people have this kind of reactions about their college friends, too. Sharing food, gifts, and intimate secrets is also nothing special. You can have this everywhere and most people do.

The fact is that most, if not all of us, are under the influence of the material nature, under the influence of our false egos, and so we are still selfish and our hearts are full of anarthas. This also means that we are attracted to each other on the strength of our material compatibility. Same tastes, same outlooks on the world, same level of intelligence, same level of emotional maturity, but not too similar. I bet there are astrological charts for this type of compatibility as well.

Okay, that’s about dangers of sahajiya and the solution I propose is to focus only on what is undeniably spiritual. In case of devotees – remembrance of Krishna when you see them. This can’t be faked, it can’t be polluted, in as much as Krishna means anything to you, devotees will remind you of that.

However, if we dismiss all out daily interactions as material they immediately lose their value and pretty soon we’ll be left with nothing. We don’t have any actual spiritual experiences, we do not see ourselves in our original spiritual forms, we do not see Krishna, we do not see other devotees in their original forms either, so we behave as if they (spiritual forms) don’t even exist.

Deities are not spared either. They are made of material elements, they are shaped into forms and when they deteriorate, like wooden bodies of Lord Jagannatha, they are discarded and merge into material elements again. When they are Deities they are fully spiritual but, more than anything else, it’s a matter of perception. Lots of people see Them as idols, we see them as Krishna with a sense of duty rather that with actual realization.

When we reach highest levels of advancement we will see Krishna everywhere, not just in the temple. We’ll see Him in the hearts of devotees first, then we’ll see Him in the hearts of every living being. At that point it would be impossible to point at something and say “Krishna is here but not there”. When Hiranyakashipu asked his son Prahlad “Where is your Vishu? Is he in this pillar?” Prahlad replied “Yes” and Lord Nrishimha jumped out of it. Prahlad Maharaj didn’t say “Oh, He is in the temple, you should go see Him there.”

So, it looks like manifestations of the Lord visible to our material senses are an artificial construct, we need them only while on the lower stage of advancement. Actual spiritual form of the Lord remains hidden from us and whatever spiritual feelings we might occasionally experience are of non-differentiated character. We don’t have any spiritual senses and we don’t see the Lord as having a spiritual form – it’s all very impersonal.

What’s even worse, it’s a sort of mayavada because we have plenty of temporary manifestations of the Lord that we treat as merely helpful but not as eternal. This is especially true of our interactions with devotees – they come into our lives, they stay with us for some time, and they move on. We assume that our relationships are eternal and that they will continue in the spiritual world or at least in the next life but we do not have direct experience of this, for us it’s still a matter of faith, not reality.

So, which one of these two extremes is more dangerous? The immediate response, if you put a question like that, would be “stay clear of both” in one hundred percent of cases, I guess. I, however, propose that mayavada is better and that it’s even necessary.

I base this proposal on the fact that Absolute Truth is realized in stages and that impersonal realization of God is a common step even for accomplished transcendentalists, and it’s even unavoidable.

Look at how we are supposed to chant the Holy Name – first there’s offensive chanting, namaparadha, then, as we cleanse our hearts of anarthas, we experience a shadow of the Holy Name, namabhasa. This stage grants liberation but not realization of the personal form of Krishna yet. This is where we become impersonalists, this is why impersonalism is unavoidable.

As we are being saved by the mercy of Lord Chaitanya I hope we won’t get stuck on that stage forever and we won’t become hard core mayavadis but quickly progress to the next step that would bring realization of our own spiritual form and our own relationships with Krishna. Quickly, however, is not how things have been going so far, so take that word with a pinch of salt.

This is also the reason why I tend to be skeptical about declarations of eternal devotion either to guru or Krishna. We are not in the position to make such promises until we reach the liberated stage, otherwise it’s just maya talking, and once we get to that stage there’s no guarantee that we won’t enjoy the eternity of it. It’s not ananda but it would certainly feel so much better than anything we have ever experienced here. Try that first, then make promises.

Actual devotion will start to grow only after we make a conscious choice to seek Krishna beyond the stage of liberation, until then it could be only a tool to get what we want – nice an comfortable living. We do that now – we pray for jobs, success, money, love, children, and those are goals of the lowest class of spiritualists, the karma kanda followers. Impersonal liberation is next, and we can’t even imagine how it would feel. We only know that it would be great. Who knows how long we would want to enjoy that?

Having said that – the necessity of passing impersonal liberation stage, I would stress the need to follow our acharyas, mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. They have been through this already and they laid out the best possible path for us to follow. We might speculate of how it would go exactly but if we stick to it we will be alright even if we don’t understand it completely.

This means that we shouldn’t worry about hitting either the rock or the hard place but rather about where footsteps of our acharyas are. Scenery is not important.

Vanity thought #624. In God’s hands

Continuing from yesterday – there’s one more difference between us and residents of the Holy Dhama – they are always in God’s hands whereas we are always in the hands of maya, albeit under Paramatma’s close supervision.

If they do something foolish they don’t make fools of themselves, if we do something foolish we end up as losers. See how that story with Vrajavasis mistkaking a fisherman for Krishna played out.

The villagers flocked to Kaliya lake for three days, thinking that the light on the fisheman’s boat was glare of Kaliya’s jewels and the fisherman standing in the boat was Krishna. Eventually they came to Lord Chaitanya with this news but He called them fools – if Krishna is not scheduled to appear in Kali Yuga then He won’t, no matter what you think you see in the lake or anywhere.

Mahaprabhu was, of course, Krishna Himself, so it was doubly amusing for Him. Anyway, after He called them fools He asked them again where they saw Krishna directly. “You are a sannyasi, you are a moving Narayana.” – “No, no, no, I’m just a renunciate, it’s a big mistake to equate an ordinary spirit soul with Vishnu. Those mayavadis who think that by taking sannyasa they become equal to Narayana are offenders and will go to hell.”

Srila Prabhupada elaborated on mayavadi’s offenses in the purports with references to Jiva Goswami’s Bhakti Sandarbha and framed the discussion in clear cut points – no one can call and ordinary human being Narayana. Villagers had appeared to be totally crushed for their mayavadi views. Not so fast, though.

“Ha! But you are not an ordinary human being, not an ordinary sannyasi,” they said – “You ARE the son of Maharaja Nanda, you ARE that same Supreme Personality of Godhead, you cannot hide your transcendental features under the golden luster of you body.”

More than that, they said that by seeing Lord Chaitanya everyone – men, women, children – everyone immediately starts chanting the name of Krishna and becomes inundated with ecstatic love of God, dance like a madman, and becomes capable of delivering all three worlds.

Hearing this Lord Chaitanya had nothing else to argue but to bestow His mercy on the villagers and they spent the rest of the say chanting and dancing, and the three days after that, too.

If we express mayavadi views we will be cast in the dark shadows of ignorance for many many lives. We would have been crushed and condemned for eternity. Vrajavasis, on the other hand, were given intelligence to recognize the Lord for who He was. You can’t fool them in important matters like this, even if display momentary lapse of reason their pure devotion will always prevail in the end.

To put it another way – when we say something inappropriate we commit an offense, when Vrajavasis say something it doesn’t affect the purity of their hearts in any way. They physically cannot become mayavadis, their souls are not designed that way. Whatever happens with their lives, whatever words are forced out of their mouths, their souls are always in Krishna’s own hands and they can never consider themselves as equal to Him like ordinary mayavadis do.

Thanks to Srila Prabhupada’s mercy we enjoy the same protection, too, but only as long as we stay in the shade of his lotus feet. As long as we maintain our loyalty we will always be forgiven for whatever mistakes we make in the course of our lives. If, however, we disregard his instructions and seek shelter elsewhere or rely on our own intelligence, thinking we know better, we lose his protection and protection of Lord Chaitanya.

So, loyalty, which is a symptom of faith, should be our main defining quality. If we keep faith in our guru all the import of Vedic wisdom will be automatically revealed to us. We should never forget that.

Vanity thought #433. The end is nowhere near

I was hoping to put the issue of disturbing divergences from Srila Prabhupada to rest but somehow I landed on a website that I never read and will not recommend to anybody, and I discovered they’ve been on this case for years already.

Most of their earlier criticism is not fit for an aspiring devotee’s ears but the latest entries, in the past couple of months, have been very factual and well supported. Of course their innate prejudice to all things ISKCON is still shining through but, increasingly, they speak in the language of quotes and links and not judgments and opinions.

Leaving personalities aside, the main group of neo-mayavadis penetrating our ranks are followers of Neem Karoli Baba. I’m sure no one in India has ever heard about him and he passed away very long time ago – in 1973, but his legacy still lives on.

Neem Karoli Baba was an exemplary post-Ramakrishna mayavadi, he never read and scriptures, he never propagated any philosophy, he never talked about his connection to any parampara, he never accepted sannyasa or any rules and regulations and he lived his life as he pleased. No serious follower of Shankaracharya would give him any credit and neither should any serious follower of Gaudiya vaishnavism.

The fact that he talked a lot about devotion means nothing – that’s what all mayavadis do nowadays. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur was pretty clear on this in his Jaiva Dharma:

Vijaya: Can Mayavadis also be called vaisnava-abhasa if they accept the symbols of a Vaisnava and chant sri-nama?

Babaji: No, they cannot even be called vaisnava-abhasa. They are simply offenders, so they are called vaisnava-aparadhi. In one sense, they might be called vaisnava-abhasa, because they have taken shelter of pratibimba-namabhasa and pratibimba-bhava-abhasa, but they are such great offenders that they are to be separated even from the name Vaisnava.

There’s also a story about Neem Karoli Baba sexual encounters with his female disciple that went on for two years. After his death his disciples organized a tantric sex club back in the US with hundreds of people attending their “functions” that were graphically described in their own books.

We should not judge them for what they did so many years ago but I think this needs to mentioned to dispel any notions that Neem Karoli Baba was a genuine guru teaching genuine devotional service.

Krishna Das, the famous kirtaniya getting traction in ISKCON circles, still does not believe in God and thinks that Holy Names are the names of his own true self, his own inner heart. That’s the apogee of impersonalism, can’t get any more offensive towards the Lord than that.

Once he said he was dismayed that “Hare Krishna” mantra was associated with ISKCON devotees, he probably doesn’t say such things now but he still says that he chants for his own pleasure, definitely not for Krishna’s enjoyment.

He’s been singing “kirtans” for decades now and there doesn’t seem to be any progress and, by all available evidence, he is not going to give up his impersonalist attitudes and become a devotee any time soon – preaching to him is useless.

Rather one should remember this verse from Padma Purana:

avaisnavo mukhod girnam putam hari-kathamitam
sravanam naiva kartavyam sapocchrista yatha payah

“If the nectarlike narration of the Supreme Lord is heard from the mouth of a nondevotee, the listener’s spiritual death becomes as sure as a person who dies after drinking milk contaminated by a poisonous snake.”

I don’t think this is an empty warning – if we listen to glorifications of Krishna by such people like Krishna Das or Jai Uttal our spiritual death is guaranteed.

Their spiritual mentor who introduced them to Neem Karoli Baba, Ram Dass, runs a number of charitable institutions and programs. Every time ISKCON devotees take part in them they are earning money for Ram Dass’ purposes. Mind boggles why our ISKCON gurus should help raise funds for cleaning the Gulf of Mexico, for example?

Ram Dass is not all about charity, however. There’s one curious anecdote where he was caught by a passersby while standing in line for a homosexual porn movie. The way Ram Dass tells it the joke was on a hippie who recognized him and no second thought is given to the first American “guru” watching porn.

The point is – we can’t seriously accept any of these guys as devotees of the Lord, they are offenders. One could say that we all are offenders of the Holy Name in one way or another but the difference between devotees and mayavadi “bhaktas” is that devotees sincerely repent and try to avoid committing any offenses whereas mayavadi commit themselves to committing more and more offenses every day and seek to derive pleasure from it.

I have a feeling that the killer argument against associating with mayavadis is still escaping me, I vaguely remember the spirit of the quote but don’t remember any actual words. If it comes to me I will sure continue in the same vein.

Vanity thought #432. A little backtraction

I’m not going to retract any of my statements about mayavada during the past week, I just want to clarify them a bit and because “backtracking” is not a noun I need a new word, again.

Association with mayavadi is undoubtedly dangerous, there are plenty of explicit warnings about this starting from Sanatana Goswami’s Hari Bhakti Vilasa:

avaiṣṇava-mukhodgīrṇaṁ
pūtaṁ hari-kathāmṛtam
śravaṇaṁ naiva kartavyam

“Don’t hear anything from, about Kṛṣṇa, from the Māyāvādīs or the avaiṣṇavas.”

However, we should also remember that simply being in this world is dangerous, too, it’s all about proper management. Srila Prabhupada accepted help from mayavadis when it was needed, like during the first few months in America when he lived with Dr Misra. Yes, it was dangerous, and, on the face of it, he should have rejected asat sanga, as per Mahaprabhu’s instruction in Chaitanya Charitamrita (CC Madhya 22.87), but that association was necessary for the preaching mission. No one in his right mind would bring it up to question Srila Prabhupada’s behavior.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur invited professional kirtaniyas and reciters of Bhagavatam to attract general population. That was actually cited in a case against his son, Srila Bhaktsiddhanta Saraswati, who outlawed such practices. The reason, however, was that it was done to attract people to the Holy Dham where they would have not come otherwise.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur never recommended hearing Krishna-katha from those professionals, he only used them as a bait for non-devotees.

This tells us that we should always carefully judge pros and cons of every situation and every application of otherwise ironclad principles. Some danger has to be undertaken for the sake of the preaching mission, it’s inevitable, the only question is how much.

Another fact of life is that we will never be able to estimate that danger correctly, it’s simply impossible due to the nature of this world. If we overestimate the danger of taking mayavadis on board we might miss preaching opportunities, if we underestimate that danger we might harm ourselves.

Making a mistake like that is natural, it’s much better than not being aware of the danger at all. The worst case scenario is if we are aware of the danger but decide to partake in mayavadi association for our own pleasure.

Bottom line – without knowing the specifics and the context we can only demand explanations, we should not pass judgments in haste. If explanations are not forthcoming than we should leave it to Krishna to sort it out, that’s the proper etiquette.

In the past week I always have been on the verge of breaking it but that is also the risk I should calculate when talking about such a sensitive topic.

On another subject, the one I raised yesterday – it appears that the split between religion and science in the Western world is largely imaginary. Catholic church, as it turns out, has been the biggest catalyst for scientific development for almost two thousand years. The first split came up to the surface only in the late 19th century and it found significant audience but its historical analysis has always been questioned and by the 1970s it was totally discredited.

The changes simply hasn’t reached the public education yet, and then came the battles over evolution vs creation and fundamental Christianity was born. Don’t expect any rational discussion about role of church in scientific development any time soon.

I’m bringing this up to further support my point that materialism is not a “natural” state of modern civilization as I, and I’m sure many others, have learned at school. It’s just a side effect of corruption of religion.

Vanity thought #430. Evolution of impersonalism

Two days ago I wrote about “evolution” of our knowledge of bhakti, a superficial process that makes our appearances incommensurable with our actual progress, because everyone can talk about very exalted topics and easily convince others of their advancement.

The danger of it is that once we consider someone to be in a superior position we tend to accept and follow whatever they do, as Krishna wisely observed in Bhagavad Gita -“Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow.” (3.21).

We tend to give any exalted devotee a position of an acharya, meaning letting them modify our devotional practices or introduce new ones, like offering clam sauce to the deities, for example.

Well, we are not alone in advancing bhakti further than we can actually comprehend, the same kind of evolution happened in mayavadi camp, too.

Buddhism has some very complicated philosophy and so when Shankaracharya blew them away with his Shariraka Bhashya commentary on Vedanta Sutra he became the king of logic. He introduced a very sophisticated school based on deep knowledge of shastra and requiring years and years of dedicated study to master.

In order to become proficient in their practice one needed to spend so much time and effort that sannyasis of their school were immediately given all respect as the most learned, most austere and dedicated men. That was probably one of the reasons Lord Chaitanya took sannyasa in that order Himself – it impressed the public much much more.

So it stayed like that for over a thousand years but in the time of instant gratification, in order to keep up with British Joneses, impersonalism needed to be adjusted to easily attract large swathes of population. Ramananda Roy started his Brahma Samaj movement, serving impersonalism in easily digested, modern form, and in the Indian west there was their own, Arya Samaj movement, too. Then came Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and finally the recipe for success was found.

According to Bhagavad Gita one needed to practice jnana yoga in order to achieve perfection in realizing Brahman and it is very very difficult. So the reformers threw away studying Vedanta and philosophy in general and went straight for the distributing the results.

Impersonalism leads one to understanding their spiritual quality as part of Brahman. It’s an ascending process and once you get to the top you a) feel yourself way ahead of all others and b) experience relief from daily tribulations which feels as some sort of bliss.

So, an accomplished impersonalist feels eternal, all-pervading love, and feels generous towards the lesser men, so he speaks a lot about mercy and compassion and spreading that love around.

With eyes set on that goal they only needed an easier process, and that’s where they chose bhakti over jnana. It made a perfect fit – no studying, practice love to achieve love, and you can start right away.

This is not what they practice in the monasteries established by Shankaracharya and it has nothing to do with his original ideas, but then Shankarites don’t get to fly all over the world and screw blond women, so who wants to follow them?

Another prominent feature of impersonalism is also very convenient – becoming one with God, or Absolute Truth, or Divinity, or Brahman, or Universal Love, whatever they call it – means you don’t need a guru anymore and you can start teaching everyone else yourself.

Notice how all prominent new age mayavadis do not talk about following their gurus much but guru worship in general is a very big part of their “bhakti”. If they ever mention their own gurus is when they talk about the source of their enlightenment, not as their eternal masters, life after life and in the spiritual world, too.

“I met my guru, I learned about mercy and compassion from him, I got enlightened, and now I’m traveling the world spreading that love around” – that’s their typical presentation. There’s no such thing as parampara or knowledge passing down or orders or mission to carry your whole life. Just “I got this, and now I’m giving it to you.”

This is how they turned austere book-worms of Shankara extraction into globe-trotting super compassionate mayavadis of the modern day. But does it work? How?

Well, they DO practice some form of a bhakti, they DO worship Krishna, among others, and if they take their practice seriously the Universe is bound to thrown them some bones. The Lord fulfills desires of all living entities, if they want some bliss thrown their way and they work hard for it they can surely get it. Nothing wonderful about it.

Can they obtain real devotional service? No way, not unless they drop their manufactured ideas and take full shelter at the feet of a real vaishnava.

What about the mayvada part of it? Impersonalists don’t call themselves that, they consider it a derogatory term, it’s used mostly by vaishnavas. Devotees call them that because that’s what they do to the Lord, who is most dear to vaishnavas. Devotees don’t care about their realization of the Brahman or about their faulty logic, we pick on them because they think that when the Lord appears in the material world He comes under the influence of maya, that He transforms His body, that He is not in His real form.

That’s part of their saguna-brahman understanding – they think that form and name of the Lord in this world is not truly spiritual, that it only represents some higher reality. That leads impersonalists to pancopasana worship of five Gods and the concept of ishta-devata.

The idea is that since all gods are just representations of the higher truth it doesn’t matter which one you worship, you select your ishta-devata yourself, no matter who, and you get exactly the same results.

You want to practice bhakti and become a devotee of Krishna – fine, they will cheer you on. You want to become a devotee of Hanuman – all the best to you, learn bhakti from his devotion to Lord Rama. You want to worship Durga – great, the Universal Mother will surely grant you all your wishes. Yata mata tata patha in action.

This has become their trademark feature – they approve of everything, everything is equally good to them, there’s no difference – nirvishesa. This is also one of the reasons they will never make any progress as equating Vishnu with other gods is an offense.

Another feature of the modern day mayavada is that they don’t talk about their ishta-devata himself, only about what they get from their worship. As their selected god doesn’t really exist and it’s only a means, not the goal of their practice, they concentrate on practice itself.

“I don’t know about the reality of Krishna and his names, but singing them surely feels good, so that’s what we are going to do” – that’s they typical attitude. Discussing Krishna’s own interests is out of the question. That is another reason why they will never become devotees – they do not accept that Krishna is the enjoyer and we are only objects of His enjoyment, they do not offer any service, they just leach off of His power and opulences.

Yet another distinguishing feature of easy-to-use mayavada is that all the love happens in the heart. You look into your heart, you cleanse your heart, you feel love in your heart, and your compassion flows from your heart, too. They cannot fathom the existence of the Absolute Truth in this world, anything not in their hearts is considered an illusion, therefore Deities or the Holy Name can’t be the source of love. Forget about seeing the Lord in the mission of the guru, serving that mission would never feel better than nurturing love “in your heart”.

It is true that our hearts are the seats of both the soul and Paramatma and it is true that real spiritual feelings happen in the heart, not in the minds or senses, but, in our present condition, our service that hopefully pleases the guru and the Lord happens in the material world, by applying our consciousness to the objects of this world, not by withdrawing it and hiding it inside.

Perhaps at this point mayvadis would say that we are not advanced enough yet but eventually we will find the peace in our hearts, not in our external service. Maybe so, but we also know that once we reach that level of advancement we will also see Govinda in each and every object, filling the entire universe. Mayavadis don’t see that and so their “perfection” is bogus.

And that is another reason why we should not give any consideration to their ideas of love in the heart and all that fluffy crap. They will never get to see Govinda everywhere, and neither will we if we give any credence to their ideas.

This article is turning way longer than I originally thought it would be but I think I got it covered pretty well. The point was in showing how the original, tough process of impersonal realization according to Shankaracharya evolved into easy-to-use new age mayavada of the present day. How it preserved the necessary components and accepted some new ones, how it preserved its essense, and how, despite practicing “bhakti”, it still has absolutely nothing to do with devotional service.