Vanity thought #334. A thousand words

Eddie Murphy, of all people, made a movie with a serious message. It’s called “A Thousand Words”, and even if he spoiled it with his acting and mannerisms it still “makes you think”.

His character – ostentatious, self-absorbed businessman accidentally meets a popular New Age guru and triggers a kind of a curse – he gets his life intertwined with that of a “bodhi” tree. Now for every word he says a leaf falls off the tree and the guru helps him figure out that as soon as all the leaves fall off both the tree and Eddie Murphy himself would die.

They estimate that there are about a thousand words left for him to say, hence the name of the movie.

From the Krishna consciousness point of view it’s a perfect setup to realize the importance of chanting the Holy Name but the movie doesn’t go that far despite the guru being an Indian teaching people mantras and meditation. Actually he was a native American Indian, from Bolivia.

Eddie Murphy then goes through various stages of realization of his situation and the tree doesn’t fool around. He tried using his words for good, he tried giving charity, he tried praying – nothing works, leaves continue to fall. Unable to explain himself he loses his wife and his son, he loses his job, and at one point he decides to give up, get drunk and run his mouth off until he dies but luckily someone stepped in and stopped him.

Finally, with the help of his guru, he realizes the gravity of the situation and the value of speaking absolutely honestly, from the bottom of his heart and not wasting any words on frivolous subjects. Again, a perfect setup for taking up chanting and a perfect reminder to us that Holy Name is really, really important.

We might not have a limit on the number of words we say but we do have a limit on our bodies shelf-life, whether measured in years or in the number of breaths. Every word spoken without seeing its connection to Krishna is a waste, but the movie actually gives another, perhaps even more important lesson – even when Eddie Murphy took to the right path with full dedication, leaves still continued to fall.

I’ve caught myself a number of times where I realize that I hope chanting will give me a long and wholesome life filled with all kinds of happiness. The script writers, however, cut down this illusion at its root – even if we do everything that we need to do perfectly our lives are still going to be as miserable as usual and, perhaps, even worse.

Chanting is not supposed to make us happy, in fact it should be quite the opposite, just like Queen Kunti prayed for more calamities. I was very surprised that some comedy producers realized that, too, and ahead of me.

Eddie Murphy’s last three words were “I forgive you”, which was the ceiling of his spiritual realization in that movie’s context, and after saying that the remaining leaves and his body fell to the ground and expired.

The movie should have just ended there but, of course, it’s impossible in entertainment, so both the tree and Eddie Murphy were reborn and lived happily ever after. In a way this is what is supposed to happen to us, too, except being reborn here in the same body and in the same situation would be a bit of a disappointment.

Anyway, two lessons from this movie stood out for me – the importance of chanting and the futility of high expectations. Sometimes I feel ready to make sacrifices to achieve progress in developing my Krishna consciousness but I still don’t have the guts to give up the desire for rewards and as long as this desire is there I will not become a devotee, just a generic enjoyer who thinks he struck gold by getting the Supreme Lord to attend to his needs and wishes.

That attitude needs to go away.

Oh, and it’s also interesting to note that even in a movie a meeting with a saintly person, even if it hastens you demise, is ultimately beneficial.

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Vanity thought #268. Varnashrama and homosex.

I’m taking a break form Bhaktivinoda Thakur, I just finished Svalikhita Jivani and only started The Seventh Goswami and need some time to put those two together in my head.

In the meantime, there as an article on Dandavats two days ago that was called Homosexuality and the New Age that made me stop and think about the third sex. When I was talking about asura varnashrama a week ago I totally forgot about the homosexuals and this is a nice reminder.

In general, I totally agree with almost each and every argument presented in that article but I can’t stop my head shaking in disagreement with the overall thrust and the conclusions.

Two things bother me in regard with homosexuality – blind insistence on following four regulative principles that outlaw homosexual relations outright, and the insistence of the homosexuals on ignoring the four regulative principles when it comes to their sex lives.

I believe I understand both positions fairly well and I think they are both wrong. This is a rather bold declaration on my part but the fact that they haven’t been able to find a workable solution yet implies that something is indeed wrong.

Before going into any details, lets look at what Srila Prabhupada had to say about homosexuals, I’m taking this straight from Dandavats article:

That is not enjoyment. Just like sex indulgence. If you indulge in more than necessary, then you will be impotent. Nature will stop. You know impotency? That will be there. Impotency. This homosex is also another sign of impotency. They do not feel sex impulse to woman. They feel sex impulse in man. That means he is impotent. It is impotency.

Arrival – Chicago, July 3, 1975

So it’s a form of impotency, okay, next.

Now this progeny is bother. It is sense enjoyment, homosex. Progeny, they don’t want. They’re not interested. Only sense gratification. This is another sign of impotency. When after enjoying so many women, they become impotent, then they artificially create another sex impulse in homosex. This is the psychology.

Arrival – Chicago, July 3, 1975

Impotency again.

There is no limit of sense gratification. The sense gratification, homosex, they are supporting. Just see. Just see. At least, in animal society there is no homosex. They have created homosex, and that is being passed by the priest, the religious heads.

Room Conversation – August 25, 1971, London

So it doesn’t exist between animals and it’s a recent invention, okay.

Watchtower, it has criticized…one priest has allowed the marriage between man to man, homosex. So these things are going on. They take it purely for prostitution. That’s all. So therefore people are thinking, ‘What is the use of keeping a regular prostitution at a cost of heavy expenditure? Better not to have this.’

Talk with Bob Cohen – February 27-29, 1972, Mayapur

Homosexual marriage is compared to legalized prostitution, okay.

The animals also do not support homosex. They never have sex life between male to male. They are less than animal. People are becoming less than animal. This is all due to godlessness.

Conversation with the GBC – May 25, 1972, Los Angeles

Not natural, is not present between animals, and the cause of it is godlessness.

Nowadays, of course, they are thinking like that, that man should remain independent, and they’ll have homosex, and the woman also independent and they will make some… This is most immoral…

Morning Walk – December 10, 1975, Vrndavana

Immoral.

I am very sorry that you have taken to homosex. It will not help you advance in your attempt for spiritual life. In fact, it will only hamper your advancement. I do not know why you have taken to such abominable activities. What can I say? Anyway, try to render whatever service you can to Krishna. Even though you are in a very degraded condition Krishna, being pleased with your service attitude, can pick you up from your fallen state. You should stop this homosex immediately. It is illicit sex, otherwise, your chances of advancing in spiritual life are nil.

Letter to: Lalitananda – Hawaii 26 May, 1975

Chances of advancement are nil, but also note “I don’t know why you have taken to…”

While on the surface of it the verdict is pretty clear, and it’s the one the author of Dandavat’s article was hoping for, but on a closer inspection there’s more to the problem than meets the eye.

Take the nature of homosexual attraction, for example. In the first couple of quotes Prabhupada explains it as a kind of impotency, normally it happens when men lose interest in women due to old age, except in this case Prabhupada thought that they tried to transfer their sexual impulses on to other objects, like men, or it could be animals, I guess.

I understand it as if men have had too much enjoyment that their senses have become dull and worn out and so they need higher degree of stimulation to get them going again. I agree that it might be the reason in some cases but I don’t think it applies to the devotees, with all our abstinence. If some of our devotees experience homosexual attraction it’s not because they had way too much sex, that’s for sure.

Actually there could be a case made that confining young men to the company of each other for prolonged periods of time might make them look at each other as objects of sexual attraction. Body needs to express it even if there are no females around. I believe there have been studies that observed this effect in places like jails and army. If that happens it obviously needs a different approach than calling them old impotents looking for a sex fix.

Then there is a couple of references to the animals and how homosex is unnatural. It’s funny how my spellchecker red flags the word “homosex”, it’s not used in the modern English but I think Prabhupada’s choice was rather telling – something unnatural and strange and not deserving a proper term, would be giving it tacit acceptance if it was expressed in normal people language.

Some people might say that Prabhupada was too old fashioned, that his attitude and choice of words do not belong in the twenty first century, but that’s precisely the point – homosexuality does not belong in Prabhupada’s world. In the asura dominated society people might use all kinds of perverted ways of sense gratification, it doesn’t have a place where we, as devotees, are hoping to go.

Okay, I don’t think anyone of us can say with absolute confidence that homosexual relationships do not exist in the spiritual world but each one of us can also say with absolute confidence that none of our ways of satisfying our sex urges exists there either, homo or not. Sex as a means of procreation is a form of Krishna Himself but not sex as a means of satisfying our own senses. We can possibly put an elephant of our sex desires through the needle eye of Krishna’s definitions but homosex simply doesn’t stand a chance. It’s a way of self-gratification that has nothing to do with Krishna.

Having said that – it is also out there, up in our faces, there are people “suffering” from this condition and we have to do something about it. I put quotation marks around suffering because the word has a different meaning in the context of homosexuality as a disease that needs to be cured and in the context of sense enjoyment in general that prevents us from approaching Krishna. In the context of modern discourse on homosexuality suffering would be a bad choice of a word, in the discourse on Krishna Consciousness it’s perfectly normal and to the point.

What else was there in the quotes? Prostitution – okay, if people are engaged in illicit relationships they want to call it normal and acceptable, they don’t want to be ashamed of it anymore. From that point of view Prabhupada’s observation is correct – calling it a marriage doesn’t make it any more legal or spiritual.

Then there’s immoral. Okay, but norms of morality depend on the society, what is immoral here is perfectly acceptable in some other countries or places. Granted, in practically all human societies the basic norms of morality are the same, but I want to remind people here that all the societies we’ve observed and studied so far have been religion based, they were not influenced by the asuric desires for godless sense gratification. Hedonism is certainly nothing new but it has never been practiced in any religious societies and never on the scale of the modern western civilization.

The modern way of trying to satisfy our senses in the best possible ways and relying only on our own efforts has never been practiced before, at least in the modern history, and the ancient Vedic texts do not describe the life under Hiranyakashipu in great detail, for example. Perhaps homosexuality was as morally acceptable then as it is now.

So my point is that we are dealing with something we’ve never dealt before, it is unnatural from our point of view but it is VERY natural for people affected by it. Some hope to cure homosexuality but it’s only a symptom, it’s the prevailing modes of material nature that bring forward perversions like this. For some people the change might happen during their lives, for others it had already been inserted in their genes. Without reversing the gunas dealing with symptoms is futile so we must do something else.

First, we should recognize the change, not deny its existence, second, we should identify best practices under the current circumstances, as I said earlier, Krishna wouldn’t leave us without our duties, however perverted, so we must look at what specific set of behaviors could qualify as following this asuric varnashrama. Not surprisingly, monogamy would probably be at the top of the list. Raising adopted children in Krishna Conscious atmosphere would easily qualify, too.

Would it be enough to go Back to Godhead? That I cannot say, and that’s where I think some of the advocates of vaishnava homosexuality need to scale down their expectations. There’s no particular rule that would disqualify a spirit soul from receiving Krishna’s mercy simply due to its position in the material world, our chanting and other kinds of service will never go in vain, but there’s also our agreement with Srila Prabhupada – no illicit sex. He didn’t live long enough to “understand” our predicament, and I say “our” because it’s not only homosexuals who have illicit sex problem, straight devotees in this age find it just as hard to follow this regulative principle as any other third gender. We all have occasional thought in our heads – “he didn’t know what’s it like.”

Maybe he didn’t, but that’s the price of getting on his coattails. Maybe we are too sinful to receive his mercy but I think it’s a false proposition. We are too sinful to remodel our lives to qualify for the entrance to the spiritual world on his ticket. He met hallucinating hippies who had practiced as unrestricted sex as possible and they had to change their lives to qualify. He never said they could go back to Krishna while still living their sinful lives and they understood, they turned their lives around, as much as they could, and they have a clear shot at Krishnaloka.

What’s stopping us? Maybe we are too sinful to change in one lifetime, maybe our material affliction is far worse than that of those hippies. Maybe we need a new acharya who would inspire us to change our perverted ways, or maybe we should just keep our head down and pray for a better birth next time. What’s wrong with a little humility?

One thing we shouldn’t expect is a new acharya who would lower the bar and declare that homosex or any other perversion is perfectly acceptable in Krishna’s service and we don’t need to follow four regs as prescribed by Prabhupada. Once we go down that way there will be no end to it, you’d be surprised how many thing are considered “normal” these days in certain circles demanding recognition.

And what makes us think that we are so special that we deserve promotion to Krishnaloka within a single lifetime? Why do we expect our gurus and acharyas to guarantee that? Why do we feel qualified to judge this or that guru against this arbitrary and selfish criteria – “Can he give you love of God in a matter of minutes?” What nonsense is this? What incredibly self centered, customer always right, attitude is this?

Krishna is not our servant and if we think that getting us out of here is the sole point of His existence we are simply delusional. Krishna is not in love with our polluted, perverted hearts, we can’t blackmail Him with “but You love me as I am” arguments. We are not who we think we are, if we keep these selfish desires in our hearts we are still not ourselves and we are not the kind of material that attracts Krishna, it’s a delusion.

Wow, a rather long post, possibly my longest ever, I should stop ranting now.

Devotees fighting against homosexuality in our ranks should realize that simply outlawing it doesn’t do anyone any good and does little to encourage those afflicted by this particular material disease. They should also realize that it can’t be corrected at will, with some magic pills and maybe an extra round of japa, quite often it’s firmly embedded in those people’s nature and it’s not going to go away by issuing orders.

Devotees who argue for equal spiritual rights for all should realize that they have been put in less favorable position and they should realize that compared to straights they might have a bit more baggage they need to get rid of. How they manage their sexual lives now is one thing but in the end it has to be given up altogether and though one might argue it’s easier for straights.

I don’t necessarily agree. Straight people have an opportunity to fool themselves into thinking that their sex enjoyment is legitimate and they are making devotional progress. Gay people will never be under such illusion. Straight people might have their lives easier because they tell themselves they are great and totally legit while gay people will have to suffer the guilt of succumbing to their sex desires each and every time but who knows which approach is better for advancing in Krishna Consciousness? Krishna is always in full control of both the pleasures and the sufferings of His devotees, remember? He won’t make any devotee suffer any more than it is absolutely necessary, it would break His heart. Besides, in practice straight devotees also have plenty of reasons to suffer from guilt, there’s no innate advantage or disadvantage here.

Then there’s a sticky question of initiations – married straight people can get them, married homosexuals can’t. Formal initiation and recognition is a whole other topic that in itself has little to do with homosexuality, it needs to be sorted out independently and it’s too late for it today.

Vanity thought #253. Shudra seeking protection.

I wish I was but I am not. The other day, when I was reading Varnashrama piece on Dandavats, I got distracted by all the little things I thought were not up to my high standards and I missed the big picture – is varnashrama really necessary?

Not in this age, it’s impossible in Kali yuga, there are no brahmanas or kshatriyas or even vaishyas, everybody is born shudra and that’s already giving modern people too much credit. At some point Srila Prabhupada was pretty clear about this – it’s impossible to reinstitute varnashrama in the present ugra-karmic society. The reason is obvious, if you look at how our society is organized now, it simply doesn’t have space for cow protection or agriculture based life, or any kind of sustainable development.

Long time ago one little factoid got stuck in my memory – the US, with the 4% of world population, consumes 25% of the world’s resources. The numbers have probably changed in the past decade due to the rise of China and the growth in the developing world but this was the starting point for the current dynamics. Everybody wants to have a good life like in America but the numbers will never balance – they live well by taking stuff from others, the others do not have anybody to take stuff from, it’s a Ponzy pyramid in a closed system, it will never work.

Convincing Chinese not to live like Americans is impossible, too. If they had some sort of religion to reason with them it would have been easier but they don’t, they put all their faith in greed and vanity, it is only a matter of time before the whole thing crashes like a house of cards.

So, there’s no place for varnashrama in the modern world, it is filled with factories and stock exchanges instead and it’s not going to give up its pursuits voluntarily.

At other times, however, Srila Prabhupada wanted varnashrama badly enough for some people to argue that he said his work only fifty percent done, that the other fifty percent was meant to be building a perfect society. That maybe so, turns out that there was discussion on Dandavats back in August when only a part of the varnashrama conversation was posted and some have raised doubts whether Prabhupada actually meant that, but one thing is certain – he wanted varnashrama at least in a limited form. Some say it was supposed to be example communities to show the world that there are alternative ways of living, some think he had much grander plans.

Here we run into a little problem – did Prabhupada actually have any concrete plans? If he did it means our job is only to understand and implement them properly, if he didn’t then our jobs are much less clearly defined. Is it correct for us to assume that Prabhupada had absolute vision of the material world, absolute knowledge of the past, present and future or was he poking in the dark and throwing things at the wall, hoping some would stick?

Personally, I don’t think he knew it all, I think Krishna revealed him only what was necessary, sort of on the “need to know” basis. I believe we don’t need to know everything in order to serve Krishna with love and devotion, if we assume that love and devotion means having full knowledge of the workings of the material world than our motives are clearly wrong.

Or look at it this way – when Prabhupada was composing his famous poems on the board of Jaladuta he openly admitted that he had no idea what was going to happen yet now we assume that a few years later he suddenly became an all knowing oracle with perfect knowledge and complete plans. Look at his attitude to marriages, too. At first he tried to match people up the “vedic” way but two years later he was buried under the mountain of complaints and marital problems that everybody dumped on him, thinking that “His Divine Grace” was meant to magically fix this kind of things. it wasn’t and he washed his hands off the whole idea.

Therefore I’m not convinced that Prabhupada’s last thoughts on varnashrama development are our final blueprints, he would have no problem changing them if he had more time and more feedback. He was just trying to find out Lord Chaitanya’s plans for spreading His mission and he wasn’t attached to any discoveries he made on the way. Some of them worked, like book distribution, others were not so successful, like trying to convince the academia to abandon their materialism.

We sometimes assume that Prabhupada had magical ability to succeed in absolutely every endeavor but that is just not true. He succeeded in endearing himself to Krishna, that was his goal, but when we think of success we assume it’s numbers of published books or opened temples.

I once heard that an average millionaire has to live through eighteen failures before he strikes big and Prabhupada’s life was not an exception to this principle. He tried to establish a League of Devotees, he tried publishing Back to Godhead, he worked very hard and for no rewards for a very long time before he finally succeeded with ISKCON.

Anyway, my point is that we shouldn’t be dogmatically fixated on what he said or didn’t say about varnashrama some fifty years ago, we should rather concentrate on how to make varnashrama helpful in raising our Krishna consciousness. We shouldn’t be attached to stubbornly pushing for farming communities, goshalas and gurukulas. Those things are nice but they are not for everyone, they might not work out very well in the long term even for those who live there.

There are also all kinds of Amish and other cult communities trying to do exactly the same thing – build isolated bubbles to protect themselves from the influence of Kali yuga, even if they don’t use the same terms. The fact is, they are not taking the world by storm, this is not how the majority of people want to live at this point. Maybe a hundred years later it will be all the rage and so we shouldn’t give it up but the rest of the world clearly needs something else now.

I don’t know what exactly the world needs, apart from more Krishna consciousness, there are people who dig up some old books and present different models of varshnashrama in hope of finding the correct recipe. I don’t think it will work either. Neither vedic sages nor Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote their models for application in our 21-st century. The principles are the same, the goals are the same but the application must be totally different. We should find how varnashrama principles could fit with nine to five jobs, for example.

Traditionally, seeking employment like that would have been the domain of the shudras, no brahmana, kshatriya or vaishya would have accepted it but I wonder if the same criteria could still be applied today. And who should we call brahmanas? We have plenty of definitions but translating them into 21-st century language is a bit problematic. Traditionally brahmanas lived only on donations and it wasn’t difficult but soliciting donations now is a big business that is kind of hard to break into. It’s all done on corporate levels where you have to sell your charitable causes and I have no idea what any of that has to do with brahmanism as implied by varnashrama. Teachers are supposed to be brahmanas and there are great many of them who would generally qualify but they all live on salaries nowadays.

Anyway, I don’t know what the world needs exactly, I know what I need – I need protection from maya. I need to be given some tasks that would absorb by time and energy and bring some sort of spiritual benefit to the world. I don’t think I can take responsibility for my own life in this regard, so I am a shudra seeking protection.

Actually I am not, I’m too proud to follow orders, even if I were put in a perfect position for a shudra I would not be happy, I have an inclination to think that I know everything better than anybody else. I would not be happy in a brahmana position either as I don’t trust the donations rule.

Actually I am a mleccha seeking position in a system that I don’t belong. Well, maybe I’m seeking a system that would suit me and I think I am not alone here. Perhaps I want all those people trying to implement varnashrama to pause and think whether they should build high walled farming communities or find solutions that would work for the majority of the population.

Bottom line – I want to have means of livelihood that would make it easier for me to think of Krishna. I suspect I find myself in my current unemployed state precisely because my last job sucked in that regard. Well, at least Krishna is doing something about it, I will just try not to undermine his efforts.

Vanity thought #240. Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji Part 7.

Did I ever mention how uncompromising Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji was? He was very uncompromising, to the absolute degree. There was absolutely no way anyone could sneak any hidden desires past him, only pure, unalloyed devotion to Krishna would deserve his recognition. And herein lies the problem.

The other side of this strict avoidance of materialistic people is that no one could ever qualify to receive his grace, everybody failed at one point or another. His official biography has numerous anecdotes of this or that swami, baba, or an aspiring devotee falling from the path of service to the Lord, it seems no one stood a chance. And what’s more, not a single story had a happy ending or any chance of eventual redemption. Once doomed one was doomed for the rest of his life.

Maharaja once invited him to his house, if he was really sincere about vaishnava association, Srila Gaurakishora replied, he should have come to live with him in his hut instead. The other day I mentioned this story and there was a lesson there I liked at the moment but look at it form maharaja’s POV – you either renounce the world and become a babaji or you can forget about Srila Gaurakishora’s blessings and rot in your material life forever.

And if you think that moving to live as a renunciate would solve all your problems you are mistaken, too. Your problems would only start there and it would probably fasten your doom. I say this because there are way too many stories of devotees falling in their vows to have any reasonable chance of surviving.

There was once a dude who was doing very well, living in a hut, chanting his rounds and doing sankirtana with Srila Gaurkishora and others and still he had fallen, miserably. It started with him picking up karatals himself and singing in a new tune. That was it, that was enough.

Of course that was only an external manifestation of the materialistic desires that were hiding in his heart. He picked up the tune while secretly visiting his home where he couldn’t give up association of pretenders. Then he was caught singing songs glorifying real vaishnavas in their company and that’s when the verdict was cast – he was not fit for Srila Gaurakishora’s association anymore, he had to go. That devotee soon left on his own accord without even telling Srila Gaurakishora about his plans. He went to Puri, became a babaji, and came back telling the stories of his service to Haridasa Thakura. He became a babaji resident in Navadvipa and lots of people came to worship him.

Srila Gaurakishora lamented about his departure and blamed it on maya, he was sad that he couldn’t be saved, that his heart wasn’t pure. That devotee couldn’t give up the association of the pretenders and he became a pretender himself, nothing could stop him, Srila Gaurakishora signed that off as independent will of the living entity.

There was another devotee who took shelter of Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji but still couldn’t give up association of pseudo-vaishnavas. Eventually he fell sick and had a woman to come and take care of him. After that he just left for Vrindavana where he admitted to another devotee that he had illicit sex. To atone for this sin he had taken a mortal dose of opium and thus killed himself. The devotee he confessed to came to Navadvipa and he too became sick and had female association. Srila Gaurakishora explained that previously he had given shelter to yet another devotee who had illicit sex and that devotee was brutally tortured and killed by some dacoits for his sins so Srila Gaurakishora didn’t want to have anything to do with these people. It sounds like a royal mess, the only thing clear from this is that there’s no atonement for illicit sexual relationships, only death. That’s a bummer.

Then there was a devotee who once came to Srila Gaurakishora (and he is introduced as “dear associate” in the biography), so that devotee came to complain about Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, there’s no name given but from the story it appears that it was Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura himself. The accusation was that “Prabhu” was exhibiting symptoms of a sense enjoyer, and that was enough. Srila Gaurakishora gave a big lecture on the status of the exalted devotees and ended it with “I shall never again look upon the face of that atheistic person who has commited this great offense.” I bet that devotee thought to himself that he should have never opened his mouth or shouldn’t have tried to judge vaishnavas’ behavior in the first place.

Another unfortunate soul ran his mouth about Vaikuntha like opulence of newly established worship in Sri Mayapura, in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s math. That was a fatal error of judgment and he was banished from Navadvipa forever. He ended up scoring chicks by dressing as a babaji.

As you can see, there are too many pitfalls to navigate safely, one little error here or there and you are finished. There’s not a single story of redemption, though it’s probably the result of slightly biased selection of anecdotes.

I often think to myself what I would say if I met this or that person in real life. What would I report to Srila Prabhupada about my service, or what would I tell my guru if he caught me in the middle of my day, so there’s no wonder I once thought of a possibility of having a conversation with Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji. I still think about it, occasionally, though in much more depressing manner.

I’ve never been too successful in my silent conversations with anybody but I somehow managed to pacify my counterparts in my mind, not so with Srila Gaurakishora, I see absolutely no way of earning his mercy, I would fail on each and every test and would be banished for life for each and every secret thought, sometimes not so secret.

Just today I wanted to catch up on things with devotees who have left ISKCON for Radha Kunda, I can offer some justifications for their abandonment of the shelter of Srila Prabhupada but I bet Srila Gaurakishora would have none of it and would curse me to my spiritual death for not giving up my attachment to them completely.

Or what about seeing faults in senior devotees? What about associating with people who love to seek faults in other vaishnavas? What about my own desire to chomp on each and every ISKCON related gossip? Why do I need to know how each and every famous guru fell in their service? Why?

Why do I feel I can keep my cleanliness by reading books translated by those who have left their spiritual masters? In some cases books explicitly prohibited by Srila Prabhupada.

None of this would pass by Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji, at the very least he wouldn’t accept anyone living in the wider, materialistic society as a devotee. I simply have no chance. As things stand now I’m not even supposed to desire to renounce the world and move to Vrindavana or Navadvipa. I know I’m not ready but it would be wrong even if I was. What am I to do?

It also appears that as long as materialistic desires live in my heart I have a very real danger of falling very, very deep into the darkest regions of materialistic hell, for not giving them up completely. How is it possible for me to survive?

That’s why I never had any success in my mental conversations with Srila Gaurakishora and that’s why I will never have a chance of a real one with devotees of his caliber – too close to the fire. Icarus once tried to fly to the Sun with his artificial wings and got badly burned. That’s what’s going to happen to me if I somehow imagine that I deserve better association in my life.

Hmm, this kinda nullifies the merciful effort of Lord Chaitanya to save all fallen souls. The mercy is there but I can’t take it, too hot to handle. The more I try the more offences I commit, the deeper I fall.

Also that part about independent will of the living entity scares the hell out of me. In the official biography there’s also the mention of the previous karma being somehow responsible. I know my independent desires and I know my previous karma – I stand a snowball’s chance in hell to succeed.

Perhaps the train of Lord Chaitanya’s mercy has sailed for good and I have totally missed it. What was that about “I preserve what they have and give them what they need”? This is my only hope, and I suspect it’s not going to happen until the next life. Does it mean that I’m essentially free to sin since nothing good is going to happen until I die anyway? Tempting, tempting…

Vanity thought #230. Weak reflections.

Actually I was going to reflect on the passed week but the misspelling probably makes more sense, considering how the week went.

At first I thought I needed a break from writing up Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji stories but I might HAVE TO take a break, given that I spent an entire Saturday in pursuit of meaningless sense gratification. My consciousness is way too contaminated even by my low standards to start talking about an exalted vaishnava like him, so I better keep my trap shut and talk about anything else.

The week has continued on some new and uncharted course that distracts me from chanting as many japa rounds as possible and keeps me occupied with something else. The paperwork trail I started a while ago suddenly came alive and demanded even more paper sacrifices so half the time I was thinking about making that happen. Somehow or other I also veered to looking up a lot of old stuff that’s been floating around the Internet, vaishnava related stuff, I mean.

Devotees live fascinating lives, that’s what I learned. Every place, every temple has its own flavor, its own memories and its own attractions. That’s on the plus side. On the minus side I couldn’t escape the feeling that the differences I see are all on the material platform, especially comparing to what I’ve been reading about Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji this week.

That stuff really knocked me off my feet for a while, I haven’t been hit with such a source of inspiration for a long time. How would Srila Gaurakishora see this and how would he comment on that, would he appreciate those things and what would he think of others? What would be his position be regarding traditional families/babajis/Gaudiya Math/ISKCON split? And that’s just the non-important stuff. I mean non-important because for me, personally, the biggest effect was on my everyday interactions.

I went to the mall today, for example. Usually I was kind of indifferent towards this kind of engagements but today I tried to see it through the eyes of Srila Gaurakishora. It doesn’t work, period.

Normally in these cases we employ “yukta-vairagya” excuse for some shopping, and also Krishna’s instructions to perform our duties without attachment. I have grown to take is as granted – it is possible to live a life in the material world and not be affected by it, just as it’s said in the Gita. Normally I assumed that I was transcendental to shopping and looking around. I was wrong, absolutely wrong, I was fooling myself, I was lying to myself, I had no idea how deep I was in this cesspit until I remembered Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji’s level of renunciation and pathological fear of any bad association.

It is impossible to contemplate the objects of the sense gratification and not develop any interest in them. Senses and the mind are naturally attracted, but, on the other hand, if we are engaged in Krishna’s service we can remain free from contamination. I was wondering about that, too.

This is what I think – we are small, insignificant souls tossed around in the ocean of material existence, by the grace of Srila Prabhupada and our spiritual masters we are fortunate enough to become engaged in the preaching mission of Lord Chaitanya, and that’s how far our realizations can go, for the vast majority of us.

What it means is that we are “spreading the mission” not because of our personal qualifications but because we were born in suitable bodies at the right time and the right place. When our ISKCON devotees take sannyasa they do it for the preaching, not because they are really on the level of complete detachment from the material world, quite the opposite, in fact.

Things have changed a lot in the past couple of decades but during Prabhupada’s time sannyasa was practically a God given right to claim for any advanced devotee. Advanced in a sense of the position on our internal ISKCON hierarchy. This point hasn’t been missed by Prabhupada himself, as I noticed from Hari Shauri’s “Transcendental Diaries” I’ve been reading lately.

I especially liked the point when Hari Shauri, Srila Prabhupada’s personal servant at that time, was given various errands by every sannyasi in Mayapur on Gaura Purnima. He asked Prabhupada if he should have run those for them, too. Prabhupada replied that if you serve everyone you serve no one in particular, and then, on the next page, Hari Shauri conveyed to him the feeling that brahmacharies don’t like to be bossed around and that’s why they all want sannyasa. “Oh yeah, and when that doesn’t work out they all want to become God”, Prabhupada replied.

This is very revealing – if we want to advance in Krishna Consciousness to avoid being servants it’s not going to work out. Not often do I admit such feelings to myself but subconsciously they are always there, and maybe that’s why Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji stories have been such an eye-opener for me.

The question is then, if Prabhupada knew that many of his disciples weren’t really on the platform of complete renunciation, why did he gave them sannyasa at all? Two answers come to mind, first is that they were inspired to preach, and preaching justifies and purifies everything. A person engaged in the preaching mission is, indeed, worthy of sannyasa. Another answer is that we must give people something to look forward to, we must engage them one way or another or they would simply drift away. It wouldn’t be such a problem if we all were on the transcendental platform already but until we are we need material motivations to keep us engaged.

Those material motivations just have to be in connection with Krishna – all our desires for the fame and glory and power must be placed within confines of Krishna Consciousness and ISKCON. People would seek them out anyway, and actually they will be supplied by our karma, so we should give people a chance to become famous devotees, to achieve glory through book distribution, and to enjoy power by organizing massive festivals and maintaining the rest of the society.

And that’s why my devious mind saw the differences between various ISKCON centers and temples as being on the material platform – they are the places for devotees to apply their material aspirations. They are, of course, a lot more than that, but that’s what I noticed this week, so I report on this.

I saw temples and communities as places where devotees joke with each other, engage in gossip, fight political wars, fall in love – do all kinds of things we do in the material world when we are not chanting Krishna’s names. This is not a particularly pleasing aspect but, just as every house needs to have a toilet, every temple needs to allow people to express their base aspirations in a safe and controlled environment. Not the best thing to do, clearly, but still unavoidable for the conditioned souls.

I don’t know what made me sadder – realization that “sh*t happens” or realization that I have a very polluted mind that is dragging me to hell.

And that’s how my week has passed. Japa report tomorrow.

Vanity thought #224. Guru and development.

Things used to be very simple. There was knowledge, you approached a guru, learned from him, and that was the end of it, basically. Maybe it still is but in my mind I see a structural problem in modern guru-disciple relationship. I don’t have the answers for it yet, this post is just an attempt to formulate the question. You know, once you know the correct question the answer becomes obvious. So far I don’t know what to ask.

But let’s start at the beginning again. In the traditional Indian culture there was Vedic knowledge and it was pretty much static. Once you learned something as a brahmachari you didn’t have to worry about it ever. You would always show respect for your guru, no matter how old you get, but you really never had the need to approach him again.

Things have changed dramatically in the past hundred of years and especially since Prabhupada introduced this guru-disciple principle for acquiting knowledge into our community.

The fundamental problem is that knowledge never stays the same anymore, no one stops his learning after graduation, be it high school or university. A lot of things that we have to learn now did not even exist when Prabhupada was with us or when we went through our brahmachari stage. There was no Internet, there was social networking, no e-mails, there weren’t even mobile phones. There weren’t even fax machines back in the seventies, and these are just be big ones.

I bet any modern man, if he analyzes his days carefully, can admit that everyday he learns something new. If it’s not about some piece of technology we always have news, 24/7, overwhelming amount of data to flood our minds and memories.

The principle of learning something from a guru once and then applying it for the rest of your life does not work anymore. That puts a lot of pressure both on gurus and disciples and creates a lot of strain on their relationships.

Traditionally we are taught that the guru is disciple’s life and soul, his personal manifestation of Krishna sent to specifically teach and guide. Your guru learned from his guru and his guru learned from his guru before that, going back all the way to Lord Chaitanya and, ultimately, Krishna Himself.

Nowadays the guru has to go and learn from disciples how to use twitter and facebook and how to text, parampara has become of no use. Disciples might be eager to help but when they have any problems they don’t address gurus anymore, they seek advice in professional circles and maybe even have to go back and re-teach their gurus and correct their mistakes.

How’s that supposed to work?

Twenty-thirty years ago gurus in our movement were still physically young and healthy and were pretty much on the edge. COM system developed in Europe was not the first e-mailing service in the world but for the vast majority of ISKCON members it was cutting edge. We could log on COM and ask questions and then gurus and experts would give answers that were immediately shared in local communities. Digital revolution was only beginning and the gurus were still leading it. Not anymore.

In fact, it would be silly to expect spiritual masters to be proficient users of all modern day technology, it would be even sillier to search for a spiritual master on Google+, at least for ISKCON devotees.

One might argue, of course, that this is just material knowledge and thus it doesn’t count, the spiritual message stays the same and so submissively inquiring about it from a spiritual master is essential to the progress even if you can get it from reading the books yourself. It’s the process of submission and serving that is required and it has nothing to do with technology at all.

There’s a small problem with this, though – quite often when we are approaching gurus we are not seeking material knowledge at all. We want to know how to use Internet for preaching more effectively, how to attract people online, how to convey them our message and keep them in touch. There’s nothing materialistic about that.

Prabhupada taught us how to preach. He taught us to conduct harinamas, how to talk to the public, how to argue with philosophers, both Western and Indian, how to reply to the scientists, and, most importantly, he taught us how to distribute books. He wrote the books for us, of course, and he also made those books as attractive as possible to the modern reader while preserving their distinct Vedic flavor and authenticity.

I mean when people hold Bhagavat Gita in their hands it’s clearly not just another book, everything about it screams that it’s from entirely another world, fascinating yet not alien, unfamiliar yet safe, and altogether irresistible. Prabhupada even taught us how to present our books properly and how to distribute them. He wrote academic tomes like Gita and Bhagavatam and he wrote small books with catchy and simple titles, too.

Now the reality is that we can’t expect repeat of anything like this from our current crop of gurus. It’s not a snub at their abilities, we just have to be realistic in our expectations.

What Prabhupada did with the books was exceptional, and it took him seventy years of training to produce his magic, and books were around for seven hundred years already. Nowadays the life span of a new, fascinating product is only a couple of years. Where are such big names like Yahoo and MySpace? Dustbin of Internet history. Where is the netbook revolution? Where is Blackberry? Blackberry was all the rage of the corporate world only two years ago but is totally eclipsed by iPhones and Androids now. Many new, exciting things and platforms that were about to revolutionize the field are gone even before they made it to the market, like WebOS and Meego. What was considered a cutting edge smartphone two years ago is a piece of junk that is nearly useless today. Yes, they still make phone calls but they won’t attract anyone anymore.

In this conditions of perpetual change and development it is unreasonable to expect our gurus or anyone else to come up with new preaching ideas that would capture public attention the way our books did thirty years ago.

I don’t know how our preachers are going to deal with this situation – stay with tried and tested methods and miss entire generations of people or try to keep up with the progress and risk failing time and time again like millions of other Internet hopefuls. I hope they find the proper strategy but that is not the subject of my blog today.

How should we relate to our gurus in these conditions? Just like ordinary people relate to their parents? Nice folk and all but hopelessly outdated?

There’s another area where our gurus and disciples are developing alongside, as if in a race, and I can’t honestly say that the gurus have any chance of winning. I”m talking about books and vedic knowledge in general.

In the first couple of years the gap in knowledge between the gurus and their disciples is enormous, we come from a totally different culture and we need re-teaching in each and every aspect of our lives, starting from going to the toilet. As time goes by, however, that gap narrows and as we keep pressing and pressing, learning new things every day of our devotional lives, we outgrow our gurus in one aspect after another.

In specialized fields like deity worship it is natural but it also happens in the fields of common interest, too, like in learning new pastimes of Krishna, Lord Chaitanya, or their devotees.

Some people prefer to stick to Prabhupada books only, firmly believing that they contain everything we need. Others happily devour one new translation after another or at least orally pass the stories heard from all kinds of sources. I’m sure some of our new generation devotees can give some of our gurus a proper guided tour of either Vrindavana or Navadvipa and fill them in on all the pastimes and all the history of each and every place.

Who can say anything against this?

In the beginning days of ISKCON our gurus were at the forefront of all such things but not anymore, they just don’t have time to keep up with these things, they are better left to the young people with better memories and plenty of enthusiasm. As people grow older they naturally lose interest in achievements like that even if the taste and interest for Krishna conscious topics keeps growing and growing.

How to deal with the situation when a guru takes a group of followers to a particular place in Vrindavan to engage in a bit of Krishna katha and then has to confer with his disciples on each and every point of his narration?

Most of us are pretty understanding in situations like that but this understanding implies a subtle shift in mutual relationships and expectations, and I’m afraid some of the adjustments might be mortally dangerous to our spiritual lives. What to do about realization that our gurus actually have their limits? Guru is a representative of Krishna and thus is absolute and unrivaled in each and every aspect, yet he is clearly lacking knowledge and interest or energy to pursue it.

We might talk about ways to overcome it and how to develop a proper attitude but this problem didn’t exist in the Vedic tradition, it’s the sign of our times, the bane of Kali Yuga.

Maybe our initial presentation of who the guru is need to be adjusted to prepare people for this inevitable transition later on. Maybe it’s just that the bar has been raised and very few of us can make it without committing guru-aparadha. That would go against the principle of unlimited mercy of Lord Chaitanya, though.

As I said, I’m not looking for the answers yet, only for questions, and I don’t think I’m even a half way through. Regardless, it’s time to wrap it up. Nothing comes to mind but the trusty “there’s no other way, there’s no other way, there’s no other way”. In this particular case it means fully relying on Krishna to guide us through the treacherous and muddy waters of Kali Yuga, our own intelligence and managerial skills are simply inadequate to guard us from all potential pitfalls this age brings to the human population.

Vanity thought #207. Conversations with Srila Prabhupada.

This is too bold a title. I don’t mean people having conversations with Srila Prabhupada and gems of his wisdom, I’m talking about me running my own monologues in my head and imagining Prabhupada’s responses.

Why do I do that?

Well, I can’t help but notice that times have completely changed since Prabhupada’s appearance on the planet. Everything has been upgraded, replaced and improved, every facet of society, every bit of understanding. We don’t notice it much when we associate with each other but if you had a chance to talk to a person from a different era it would make an interesting conversation.

Why don’t I take it all the way back to, say, Gaura Kishora Dasa Babaji, or even Lord Chaitanya Himself? There’s a reason – they were all products of a completely different culture. Some of the previous acharyas tried to extend their mercy to mlecchas like us but it was only Srila Prabhupada who had a real, direct experience.

It was only Srila Prabhupada who actually made westeners into devotees and so he has a special place in our hearts and in history, so reporting back to him first is only natural.

I suppose meeting Bhaktivinoda Thakura would be interesting, too, and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, on the account of them realizing importance of preaching in English to reach to the fallen souls of the western world. In their days English were the lords, the golden standard of human achievement. Some say our GBC is actually modeled after management of the British Railway company in India, whatever it was called.

Well, look at the English now – four days of total rioting and anarchy, some society they have build there. Personally, I can’t remember this scale of looting just for the fun of it, without any particular cause.

So, if I were to report to Prabhupada the state of humanity thirty years after his passing, it would make some unexpected turns, in light of these recent events. We also have Greece that had its share of riots over economic mismanagement, we had Norwegian gunman killing almost a hundred people in cold blood just to teach them the lesson about about protecting the purity of their nation, we had American lawmakers driving their country to the brink of collapse simply because they could, we had Arab spring, we had the effective end of American manned space exploration, we had Japanese tsunami with subsequent nuclear disasters – we had a whole lot of things to tell Prabhupada about the world.

His response? I guess we can easily imagine him driving the unpalatable truth about godless civilizations being doomed to all kinds of calamities. Thus we can also imagine ourselves walking beside Prabhupada, hurrying to keep step with him and nodding to his every expositions of the faults of the world around us.

Well, I’m sorry to admit, but that leaves be somewhat unsatisfied and unfulfilled in my purpose.

There are several reasons for this. First, I, the product of ADD generation, want to hear something new and original. Second, the world has changed, the way we address the world should change, too. Third, no matter what happens with the world, our message should stay the same and our talking points, the soft spots we are looking for in people’s hearts, will never change.

Each reason has its own merits and its own doubts. If my dissatisfaction (see how I subtly moved myself from doubtful to opposing camp!) is the product of my own restlessness and lack of spiritual maturity, should it be addressed or ignored? On one hand I know that if I were a bit more dedicated, a bit more surrendered, I would never had these doubts in my head. Everything Prabhupada said forty years ago is absolute and so has direct and practical application to our lives now.

That is true, but forty years ago Prabhupada had no problems addressing what was considered important then – science, technology, unprecedented rate of material progress etc. He addressed people’s current needs and doubts then instead of sticking strictly to examples from Lord Chaitanya’s times and Mahabharata. He knew that those stories have little relevance to the westerners who had their questions about their own surroundings and couldn’t easily relate to flower airplanes and some magic bow shooting thousands of arrows at the same time. People of that age had memories of World War II and Hiroshima, it’s not quite the same as hearing about Kurukshetra and brahmastra.

My point is that if Prabhupada accommodated them then why not expect him to accommodate our modern concerns now? I must say first, though, that his mission on this planet is over, it is purely a mental exercise. If I want real answers I should expect Krishna to send someone new to dissipate my doubts and fears. If Krishna doesn’t do it, it’s probably because we still have the capacity to manage ourselves, we don’t need extra help yet, it’s our chance at doing something useful for the humanity.

So, while I could make it easier for myself and join in the chorus of well-deserved condemnation, I want to present a different view of the world. I would even dare to say that all those man made disasters is a straw argument. We, the people of the twenty first century, do not see our society as on the verge of collapse. Yes, defaults and slow growth and riots do worry us but they should be put in perspective. In pure money terms, British Royal wedding cost more to that country than four days of looting.

I would rather talk about that – do we need to support or condemn the present day monarchies? We know they are nowhere near the desired standard but what would be better for the future – keeping them or dismantling them altogether? It doesn’t directly affect any of us but it affects the atmosphere in the society as a whole, it affects our value structure. Will people become more sinful and thus more difficult to save?

In Prabhupada’s days we, the ISKCON, had a very very limited reach and were very very isolated from the rest of the world. We were just learning to walk and not wet our pants. Some ill-intentioned individuals might say that not much changed since but we will ignore their sarcastic remarks for the moment.

Isn’t it the time that we, as a society, came out of our temples and engage the rest of the world in running it? We might not be ready yet, but what should we start from if not forming reasonable and mature opinions on the society around us? “All them demons will go straight to hell” is not an example of a reasonable and mature opinion.

So, what should our views be on the developments of democracy, on the fate of monarchies, on global warming, on the globalization itself? On Arab-Palestinian conflict?

Yes, we could say that no one but God owns the land and if everyone accepts it they would live in peace, but they don’t accept it, that has been tried, so they remain at war and that war has influenced the rest of the world on the scale no other present conflict had.

When there were massive protests against Iranian election results two years ago everybody had to take a stand, the whole world was watching. Where were we? Were we on the side of the regime trying to protect the religion or on the side of the protesters fighting for democracy and freedom? Were we on the side of Muslim clerics forcing their dogmas on everyone or on the side of the progressive Iranians with their drug parties at their underground discos?

Yeah, well, we were transcendental, as always. That is fine, but I don’t think we can hope to change the world by being transcendental to its problems. We say Krishna will take care but we refuse to take any personal responsibility. How is Krishna supposed to take care if not through our agency?

Is the crux of the problem that we are not good enough to execute His will? Do we really have the right to blame the rest of the society for their lack of spirituality if we do not possess it ourselves, not in the amount necessary to demonstrate to the world that Krishna Consciousness really works at solving problems?

These are the kind of questions I would pose to Prabhupada if I had the chance.

Or maybe not. It would be a waste of time. I know the answers, more or less. Answers are obvious once you figure out the right questions.

What I really need from my imaginary talks is to develop even a small bit of unflinching faith and devotion, everything else would just follow.

Everything starts with devotion, it’s the only blessing we ever need, and if I can get infected with it by listening to Prabhupada blasting the materialistic civilization for the hundredth time over, it’s worth sacrificing interests of my mind.

Vanity thought #206. Don’t know what to think.

It has become a serious problem for me – I don’t know what to think.

Originally I thought no thinking would be necessary when I learn to chant for twelve hours a day. I was wrong.

Thinking is, of course, unnecessary but it is also unavoidable and so I must think of something no matter how unwelcome this admission is.

Sometimes, on rare occasions, I’m perfectly content with just chanting the rounds but it has not become the norm and I’m rather regressing in this regard. I wasn’t expecting this, I was hoping that no thinking would be easier as I chant more.

Turns out it doesn’t really matter how much I chant, same problems crop up regardless. I think if I wasn’t chanting but worshiping deities instead I would still have the same problems with controlling my mind regardless of whether I was offering one or five pujas per day.

Of course deity worship or distributing books keep one’s mind occupied, not so much with japa. In fact, there’s absolutely nothing to occupy one’s mind during japa. During kirtana one might focus on singing and maybe even playing some musical instrument but with japa there’s nothing. Counting beads in the bag does not demand that much attention and everything else is a distraction, so I have to think.

I have to think just as I have to breath and eat. In fact, one of the western geniuses wisely observed once – I think, therefore I am. Thinking is a function of life, though he didn’t mean it quite that way, he was trying to prove that the world exists and deduced that he could only prove that he exists himself, everything else could be just an elaborate illusion, but since I think, personally, it proves that I am an object separate from the suspected illusion, therefore I am.

Interesting method. It doesn’t prove that the way I perceive myself is real, I might not be who I think I am at all, I might be dreaming, for example, but if I’m thinking about my own existence it means I am real. Don’t know what “I” is but it’s real.

There are many ways of arsing around with this logic, like – What if the thing that thinks exists but it’s not you? This question is actually very close to the truth but in Descartes time and even now people are trying to find logical escapes from this kind of dilemmas rather that trying to explain them from non-traditional angles, like our teaching about the soul.

We know that the thing that does the thinking is not me, we know that thinking is an activity performed by subtle material elements under the influence of time and the modes of material nature, it doesn’t prove the existence of the soul on its own.

We know that these realizations are nothing particularly new, and we know that if western thinkers really push it very hard they would come to accepting the existence of the spirit, Brahman, non-differentiated Absolute.

This is entirely plausible, the ability to realize Brahman is not particularly restricted by the material nature. We ARE the Brahman ourselves, the material energy does not have any control over our nature, she controls us only in response to our own desire to surrender to it. If we realize its illusory nature and renounce it we will eventually see ourselves as non-matter, as eternal Brahman.

I wonder if it is really a necessary step on our path to devotion. We might not look like much in our present lives but maybe we have thousands and thousands of years of meditation and tapasya behind us. Maybe we’ve been given this unprecedented access to the treasures of devotion as a reward for our previous progress.

Or maybe we should face the trial of impersonalism one more time before real devotion will awaken in our hearts, and until that moment we are just using our sadhana to advance our own interests, not Krishna’s.

I honestly don’t know, but whatever may be, it still doesn’t answer my pressing need to think about something now.

I think, therefore I am as conditioned as ever. Fine, but I still think and I can’t stop it. Should I? How? If yes, sometimes in the future, then what to do in the meantime?

Simple answer – think of Krishna and everything related to Him. I still can’t fully agree to that, though. I still try to purge all the thoughts out of my mind and do not encourage it in any way. What happens, though, is that it gets hooked on politics and technology all by itself.

I might have successfully stopped my mind from thinking about this blog, for example, but it finds plenty of other, far more destructive things to think.

I gave my mind twenty minutes after lunch to catch up on local news and now it eagerly scans the newspaper on the short way back to the house, anticipating the pleasures of the distant lunch. It refuses to hand the newspaper back when the time is up, too. It’s even worse with technology.

It all starts very small, then there’s just this little thing to clear up before resuming dedicated chanting. Then something else comes to mind, then there are suddenly new solutions to try that bring their own side-effects that need to be fixed. It just snowballs.

So now I’m thinking that I would be better off reading Krishna related discussion boards. I used to do that and it worked magic as far as occupying my mind is concerned but there are drawbacks, too.

There are way too many occasions when I walk straight into a vaishnava aparadha trap. I lend people my ear and they poor poison into it. That was the main reason I stopped participating Krishna conscious discussions. There were also times when I couldn’t restrain myself and, if not offending people, I probably encouraged them to step over the line.

There are plenty of non-offensive sites out there, too, but, pardon me for saying so, they are dead boring, as far as challenging my mind is concerned.

They are perfect in avoiding agitating the mind, they speak straight to the heart, and this is the most beneficial approach, but it doesn’t stop my mind from reading technology blogs on the side.

Actually, it does, but the effect is very short lived and I need long breaks before the refills.

I could again, theoretically, pick up a hot topic elsewhere and blast away all kinds of impersonal and materialistic tendencies displayed by other people, that would keep me busy for hours, but I don’t want to do that either – I don’t want to occupy my mind with anything when I am chanting.

Rock and the hard place. Think and be damned, don’t think and be caught with all kinds of nonsense eating my heart out anyway.

I used to read some short stories or a couple of paragraphs every two or three hours of chanting, for inspiration, I told myself. Now I don’t feel like I need this inspiration anymore, so far I’m still eager to chant, but now I see that those breaks were more for giving my mind some food for thought, distracting me from chanting with some Krishna conscious topics. Paradox.

Well, it looks like I have convinced myself – hot Krishna topics are a go.

There’s just this one thing I have to finish with the tablet tomorrow, complaints about it have been becoming louder and louder, it needs fixing. And then on Friday I’m going to town, and the Saturday and Sunday are family days.

I haven’t done three lakhs this week at all. Today I came thirty two rounds short, that was the closest so far, and the number will be going down until next Monday.

I’m not happy about it, not happy at all. This is not what I should be doing and I can’t do anything about it. I need Krishna’s intervention.

Please…

Vanity thought #201. Louie wisdom again.

It’s that day of the week again when Louie unleashes his vignettes on unsuspecting public. Last time he was dying to know what love is, and failed. Today his misery continued.

He picked up a subject that touches everyone in this world – sex and ways to express it.

First there was a very nice, bright young Christian woman who was preaching virginity, no sex before marriage, and no masturbation, specifically no masturbation. Louie, self professed prolific masturbator, was chosen as her antagonist.

It is really a zero sum argument. The woman was annoying in her righteousness, telling everybody how to live a happy live by engaging in sexual relationships only for the purpose of procreation. Sounds familiar? Louie made her sound annoying, and there are two reasons for that, I believe.

First, the woman clearly hasn’t lived her life yet. When she was eulogizing on the glory of marriage Louie cut her short – she hasn’t been married yet while he had nine years, two children and a divorce. She wasn’t the one to talk to him about marital happiness.

I also notice it quite often – this lifestyle is advocated by people who have never experienced it themselves. When you try it yourself it’s not nearly as easy as they sound.

There’s undeniably a certain amount of bliss but it comes with so many strings attached that three our of four marriages break apart, and not for the lack of trying. I don’t believe for a second that people divorce because they take marriage easily, not at all. It’s just an incredibly difficult job keeping it together in this day and age.

Problems don’t begin on the wedding day, mind you, people are being set up for failure from the very young age. They are being taught wrong values, they know nothing about God, they are taught to put personal career and success ahead of everything else, and they are taught to ignore differences between the sexes.

No wonder that when they get together later in life they can’t lead a happy life. They come with wrong attitudes and low expectations and they are forced to behave unnaturally. Women want to work, not raise children, men can’t object to that because only one source income can’t support a family nowadays.

Anyway, one reason that woman was annoying is because she was blind to grim realities of the modern age. Another reason she was annoying is because she was right.

God indeed gave us our bodies for a reason, and it’s not masturbation. Men and women are really meant to join in communion of souls and bodies in an act of purification before God. Just like Krishna in Bhagavat Gita said that sex according to religious principles is one of His manifestations in this world. Even Christians feel it, that’s how it supposed to be.

Louie, at this point, asked if God really enjoys watching married couples have sex with each other. And then God jerks off…

It’s the self evident truth and beauty of “holy matrimony” is that very annoying to people who can’t live up to these lofty standards. They try, they want to, but they can’t find the strength and inspiration.

Louie went to Campaign Against Masturbation meeting once but it didn’t stick. Calls of nature were too hard to resist.

Haven’t we all been there – feeling totally inadequate for the standards of spiritual life we are aspiring to? Standards we avowed to maintain? Like it or not, but there’s no way out of it. Masturbation or sex for pleasure might be a lot easier on the senses and have many beneficial side effects on the society at large, but it doesn’t absolve any of us of responsibility for our promises.

Sexually suppressed people do not make a happy society, and sexually loose people do not make for spiritualists, and there’s really nothing in between. The only chance at successful family life is being well prepared for it.

If a couple consciously decides to limit the number of their children to two at most, they won’t have a chance to engage in sex for procreation in amounts needed to pacify their hormones. It’s simply not enough.

Unfortunately, the decision to limit the number of children is never about sex, it’s about abilities and resources and balancing lives. Unless they live in a more or less self contained community they won’t be able to procreate as much as they want.

If they live among the general population they are pressured to take two jobs and they have to work at least eight hours a day both, and the more children they have the more responsibilities they should take and there’s no escape.

That’s why poor Louie couldn’t do anything about his masturbation addiction, too In his form of life it was the only available option.

The woman was telling him to become a better man, free and eager to embrace God’s will in his heart but it was just too much to take seriously.

I’m also in a similar situation myself, caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand I know that my only salvation lies in continuous and devoted chanting of the Holy Names, on the other hand I’m a slave to my circumstances. I don’t have neither the power nor the will to change them. I don’t have enough devotion to appeal to the Lord for help either.

All I can do is keep on mumbling the mantra in vain hope that one day I will finally pay more attention to the Names. It might never come in this life, though.

Surely there are days when I feel I’m making progress but it’s on the days like today that I see my real lack of interest in chanting. So what if I spent fifteen hours on japa today? How may of them could have been considered adequate? None, I’m afraid.

I’m also afraid that I still have to press on regardless. I might not have a taste for chanting but I have fear of not doing it, too.

It hasn’t become my second nature but I’m developing a habit. A habit can sometimes save me from forgetfulness but for the rest of the day it develops familiarity and contempt.

Just like Louie, I’m truly doomed.

Vanity thought #200. Doze of reality.

While looking around for something else I came across an old story on the internet about some local temple. People complained on a community board that temple “president”, an Indian gentleman, is not even related to ISKCON and so Indians in that area should be aware.

That sparked my attention, ISKCON and its internal problems is not often becomes a subject of a discussion in a large society.

Turns out some devotee from India opened a new temple in the area and since he’s got blessings from his guru he thought he could promote it as as “ISKCON” temple. It went on for almost ten years before shit hit the fan, and hit the fan it did.

There were letters to GBC, there were GBC replies posted on the Internet, there were e-mails from his guru to counterbalance GBC advice and it was all played out on the Indian community board. Nice way to do you dirty laundry in public. In the end no one came out any cleaner, sadly.

This is just Kali yuga, the age of quarrel, taking its toll but no one seemed to be aware of it at that time. Everyone was convinced they were doing a great service to the humanity.

I don’t even know where to start.

Okay, the el-presidente was clearly wrong in labeling his temple as ISKCON, he didn’t have any official, legal association with our society, yet he was an ISKCON devotee and it’s ridiculous to deny him the right to worship deities and invite people to join in.

He was just a typical Indian guy, he embellished his origins a but, claiming to be Prabhupada’s disciple. Maybe he was, he says he was four at that time and was attending gurukula but all his family members were Prabhupada disciples. Somehow I find it hard to believe but he wouldn’t be the first devotee to pad his resume.

We are all unfortunate in this regard – we want recognition and respect, and because we want more and more of it we tend to exaggerate our achievements to elicit a few more oohs and ahhs. Yeah, we shouldn’t be doing this but the reality is that it will never stop no matter what we say, this is just how things are in the material world.

That gentleman wasn’t the first devotee who tried to profit off the temple either. Temples provide a lot of personal comfort and everybody gets attached to it. This is another doze of reality, it shouldn’t be a reason to get our panties in a twist.

There were days when grihasthas and brahmacharis+sannyasis couldn’t coexist in our temples and accusations were flying everywhere, appealing to Prabhupada for the final verdict. When someone finally got his ear and started talking about inappropriate relationships bla bla bla Prabhupada just cut it off with “This you will find everywhere.”

So the dude set up Deities in his house and he ran a couple of businesses on the side to support the worship. Should he be shot and excommunicated for that?

Of course, when he presented his “temple” as ISKCON the Indians in the area thought it carried a lot more weight than home deities and probably donated a bit more money than they would have otherwise. Okay, what’s the big loss? Let me say it again – people donated more money that they would have otherwise. Mmm, where’s the catch?

Yes, the donations probably weren’t used as effectively as they hoped, ISKCON does a lot of preaching that really benefits the society while that little temple just needed an upkeep but people donated in good faith, there’s no evidence the funds were misused and their trust broken.

Of course the pretending to be ISKCON business should have been stopped but the righteous outrage on the Internet went a bit too far. Someone requested local GBC opinion but the gentleman in question was a disciple of a different guru so he took the reply as an attack on his devotional integrity.

Again, as Kali yuga would have it, he started his own offensive and the whole hell broke loose. There are many ways to settle the difference but in our community the least productive one, or actually the most destructive one, is proving your own worth by trying to denigrate devotional qualities of others.

In response the online community dug up all the dirt they could on him, including an alleged inappropriate advances towards a female devotee. The actual allegation was a lot heavier, impossible to dismiss or deny if I state it here. Something happened, that’s all I can say.

So he was proven to be a fraud, in front of the entire Indian community and it passed its judgement – we all, Hare Krishnas, are a bit crazy and immature. No one wanted to read who did what to whom and when. Everybody whose name was mentioned came out with some kind of accusations leveled at him or her and people in general didn’t like that at all.

Devotees who tried to straighten the matter demanded justice in the court of public opinion and it backfired, especially when some of them went overboard with calls for police to get involved.

Yes, the dude was wrong on several accounts but everything good he has ever done in his life, like worshiping the deities, got trashed, too, by devotees, of all people. As far as I know that temple doesn’t exist anymore. Is that a victory?

Some of the people who used to donate their money probably stopped doing so, too. Is that a victory? Victory for who?

Victory for Kali yuga.

On the other hand, the spat was quickly forgotten and ISKCON is pressing on, getting more support than ever. Krishna consciousness progress can’t be stopped that easily, it was only a lesson for us, I hope we learned from it.

The story is actually pretty straight forward while I said I didn’t know where to start because I omitted one important thing – the dirt on a local GBC that got published in the Indian community forum. Where did that come from? Who is really responsible for that?

Long long time ago it was published on VNN and copied on other sites with big chips on their shoulders. I don’t know what kind of service they carry by propagating that but they weren’t the source either.

The source was a seemingly sincere devotee who was just trying to help. He thought that by going public he could draw enough attention to the problem that would warrant intervention and the person in question would be forced to change his ways. I don’t know if it ever worked as far as this noble goal was concerned.

The downside that his complaints were used to ridicule and criticize a devotee and they are still poisoning people’s minds even if the initial problems have been rectified a decade ago. These stories can still induce vaishnava aparadhas in anyone reading them and these aparadhas are still as potent now as they were then.

But that devotee wasn’t the source either – he was just unfortunate enough to go public. Don’t shoot the messenger, as they say. Well, I truly hope he wasn’t affected by any offenses but it would be a miracle if he wasn’t.

It appears the actual source was inattention to sadhana and bad management practices. Yes, the senior devotee in question was named a culprit but really? Very very few souls can follow all the rules and regulations perfectly and there are more than enough bad managers. Why should one judge a devotee by these entirely materialistic attributes? Shouldn’t his forty years in service of Prabhupada’s mission put things in perspective a little bit?

Kali yuga again – it makes any little faults in others seem like mountains and oceans, it takes away our perspective.

The sad part is that all through this episode that took many years to develop everybody thought they were acting in best interests while I can’t help but think they were actually harming themselves and the society in general. Even dudes on anti-ISKCON sites think they are serving the mission by pouting as much dirt on devotees as they can find. I don’t understand it at all, except to blame it on Kali yuga and maya.

I’ve been far far away from this politics for months now and I’m surprised how complicated and treacherous the world outside the walls of my house is.

That’s my doze of reality and I don’t like it.