Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Nama-Aparadha

It appears Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur (shortened form only for the sake of post title being concise) had a lot to say on nama-aparadha. I’m typing this down before I forget as I just listened to these stories in a class where no references were given and I can’t find confirmation in available sources. The speaker gave a lot of details and he has access to Bengali originals so there is no reason to doubt these accounts whatsoever, so here goes.

First thing, and this is where more clarity is probably needed, is that before Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati the concept of nama-aparadha was absent in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. This might not have been true of ALL Gaudiya vaishnavas but there were cases of notable opposition and this can’t be ignored. The fact that this opposition didn’t feel challenged until Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati started speaking up on this shows that there was this tacit understanding – there are no nama-aparadhas in chanting the holy name. This was their argument – the Name is all forgiving and all powerful so there cannot be a way to offend it as a matter of principle.

We could say – “Wait a minute! What about that famous verse from Padma Purana?” Every ISKCON temple has its translation on the wall somewhere – the list of ten offences. Temple devotees often recite this list before morning japa, too, so how it can be denied? The speaker didn’t clarify this but he said that Padma Purana is… not a fixed text, shall we say. Damodarastaka we sing every day during Karttik is also from Padma Purana but can’t be found in any contemporary editions. The ten offences verse is still there but it’s already in a different Canto from the time of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, so it’s possible that this verse was not widely known. Off the top of my head I can’t think of an exact place where this Padma Purana verse on nama-aparadhas is discussed in Goswami literature, though I believe everything can be found in Srila Jiva Goswami’s sandarbhas or in Hari-bhakti-vilasa. By itself it won’t mean much anyway because most of the Gaudiya vaishnavas were illiterate and caste goswamis who preached to them avoided nama-aparadhas for their own reasons.

I said “avoided nama-aparadhas” not in a sense they avoided committing offences, no, they avoided talking about offences because then it would mean they’d had to give them up and they didn’t want that. They didn’t want to reform themselves and they didn’t want to discourage their followers either. If people wanted to have a kirtan – let them, don’t interrupt them, gradually the Holy Name would purify them automatically. If you start stopping their kirtans they’ll lose the taste completely and so what would you achieve?

It’s all very reasonable and this is exactly what we often hear today – let them sing, it won’t hurt, they are singing Hare Krishna, what more do you want? Don’t be fanatical, show a little appreciation, don’t turn people away from chanting, encourage them, nurture them, give them facilities, give them praise. Gradually gradually they will come to the stage of pure chanting by the power of the Holy Name. Moreover, if you start enforcing your rules everybody will leave and you won’t have anyone to have a kirtan with.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati had none of that. His central point on nama-aparadha was that it never goes away automatically by itself. Never. People who believe it will happen are only fooling themselves. Even Krishnadas Kaviraja says so in Caitanya Caritamrita – offensive chanting will go on for many many lifetimes (CC Adi 8.16). It’s a waste of everybody’s time, and in Kali yuga time is valuable – it flies away much faster than before.

Two stories were given to demonstrate this in the life of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. First story involved a devotee from Nityananda Vamsa who helped him establish Gaudiya Math in Calcutta. He was once present during a class and when he heard Srila Bhaktisiddhanta preaching extensively on avoiding offenses he loudly protested, saying that he never heard anything like that form his guru, who was a famous acharya who translated many Goswami books (into Bengali, I suppose). To this Srila Bhaktisiddhanta calmly, without naming any names, replied that anyone who doesn’t teach his disciples how to avoid offences in chanting is not a real guru and it was not a real initiation. The devotee left, unable to tolerate such disrespect, but it is actually true – it is an essential part of initiation procedure. One must not only give a mantra but also give instructions on how to chant it. There are no rules in chanting the Holy Name but offenses must be avoided, this is essential, otherwise mantra will not bring its expected results.

There was another anecdote given, this time from Srila Prabhupada. He once let his senior disciples to give initiation lecture and he was sitting there and listening. Then at one point he interrupted it and said that one absolutely must mention avoiding the ten offenses during initiation, and then Srila Prabhupada took over and completed the talk himself. Again, no reference were given and I wouldn’t even know how to search archives for a class like that. There are 67 hits in Folio on “initiation lecture” and there is no facility to search within the results so I’d have to read them one by one, which is impractical. I have no reason to doubt it happened.

The point is this – offenses absolutely must be avoided, which we all already know, but do not take very seriously, and the guru absolutely must teach his disciples how to do that. I don’t want to play part of initiation lecture police but recent FDG initiation class was very short on anything to do with chanting and with the Holy Name and I don’t think they mentioned offences at all. They all talked about this glorious achievement of having female gurus instead. I don’t want this to be a dig at FDGs either – just a neutral point that a guru should absolutely teach about avoiding offenses, otherwise he is not a real guru and initiation is not a real initiation either. For all I know, that female devotee could have taught about offenses on other occasions, which would be sufficient, so, once again, it’s not a dig at FDG, just a reminder what we should be on a lookout for when someone claims to be a guru. Doesn’t matter male or female – it applies to everybody equally.

Second story from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s life was connected to his preaching in Jajpur in Orissa. That one I could find and so here is an account of what happened as told in Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava:

After a public program in Jajpur District, whereat Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura had spoken about the ten offenses against the holy name, the maharaja of that area objected that since the Lord’s name is pure it can be chanted in any manner without question of aparādha; and the many sadhus present there abetted his claim. Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura told the doubting monarch, “I will show you how this is true.” He asked the sadhus to remain throughout the entire second session of that function, scheduled for the next evening. “We will be having saṅkīrtana and Hari-kathā, so you should not leave,” he said. Those sadhus came, but the majority left early, being habituated to smoking ganja and tobacco or taking tea at that time. Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura then pointed out, “Because of their addictions they cannot stay for saṅkīrtana. Is this not due to their offenses?” The maharaja understood. Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura then told him that Kali resides where there is meat-eating, gambling, illicit sex, intoxication, and the search for money, so these vices should be given up by serious reciters of the holy name.

SBV 3.12.Namaparadha (located in Volume 2)

This is self-explanatory. Btw, the first story could be the one described in the previous paragraph in the book but the names mentioned and circumstances are different, so it’s either a different story or it comes from a different source, or the speaker misremembered it, which is not very likely given his scholarly nature and proficiency in both Bengali and Sanskrit. Otherwise the content of that chapter in SBV confirms everything else I heard in that class and said in this article.

One must absolutely avoid nama-aparadhas as otherwise one would not be able to make any progress. A guru who tolerates nama-aparadha committed by his disciples only deludes his followers. I’ll conclude with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s own words on this subject:

Without taking shelter at the lotus feet of śrī-guru there is no harināma. Not knowing the difference between nāma and nāmāparādha, many persons accept mud instead of milk. Thus it is absolutely essential to know the right object of worship. Why we should perform bhajana, which bhajana we should do—understanding this is called initiation from śrī-gurudeva. Dīkṣā is the pastime of imparting sambandha-jñāna.

Srila Prabhupadera Goloka-vani 3.155


Vanity thought #1429. Swing vote 2

Yesterday I got to the point where we can exercise our free will and either improve or diminish our chances of reacquiring our eternal devotional service. Let’s talk more about that.

Being servants of the Lord is our constitutional position, we don’t have any other spiritual identity, we can only cover it with our false ego, and so we assume that pure devotional service is our birthright. We just need to shake off our illusions and take it.

I bet it’s not that simple. Service means interaction and so we can’t serve without Kṛṣṇa. In fact, service starts only after Kṛṣṇa reveals Himself and mercifully decides to accept it. He is Supreme Independent, however, and we can’t demand or even expect His mercy, we can only hope in anticipation. Since He is not under the material conception of time even a little delay on His part might easily translate into several lifetimes in our calculations.

The answer to this is patience. We measure patience by how long one could maintain his attitude or his practice under unfavorable conditions. Then one inevitably loses it. Spiritual patience is different in that it, like all spiritual things, is immeasurable. Once we attain it it will never go away and we’ll never lose it. Kṛṣṇa might delay His mercy indefinitely but so would last our hope of receiving it – it would be indefinite, too, and without any discomfort, for there’s no such thing as discomfort on the spiritual platform.

Patiently waiting for the mercy would become a kind of relationship with the Lord – He is hiding and we are waiting, and even more, according to Lord Caitanya, this love in separation feels indefinitely stronger than pleasure of being in personal presence of the Lord.

In our situation where we don’t have any prior experience of meeting Kṛṣṇa we can only have a glimpse of this transcendental emotion, the kind devotees of Vṛndāvana feel when they know Kṛṣṇa is coming and can’t wait, but it is nevertheless spiritual – if we get it. As such it could last for eternity and we wouldn’t even notice passage of material time. The fact that we feel under pressure and afraid to lose it is a sign that we aren’t on the liberated platform yet. If we were we wouldn’t be constantly checking our progress or progress of other devotees, these things would become meaningless and unwelcome distractions to us in comparison with sweetness of eternally waiting for Kṛṣṇa’s mercy.

Another aspect of it is that Kṛṣṇa does not and probably will not appear to us while we are still in this world. It doesn’t mean that we have to wait for the next life, hopefully in His presence, to achieve perfection. We should never forget out guru instead because guru IS manifestation of the Lord specifically for us. Lacking the ability to see Kṛṣṇa we can express our love and devotion to our guru just the same, and it WILL be reciprocated.

If we do not see Kṛṣṇa in our guru and lament His absence we are absolute fools only pretending to be spiritually realized. If we can’t establish ourselves in service to our guru but wait for service to Kṛṣṇa Himself we are simply mad. We kill all our chances of spiritual progress there and then, for we commit a gravest offense by considering our guru to be an ordinary man.

We might not say so out loud and we might not even think so to ourselves but if we do not see guru as a direct manifestation of God infused with all necessary energies and powers we see him as an ordinary man, there are no other options.

Why does it happen? Because of vestiges of materialistic thinking and our immaturity, of course, and as such we are all bound to make this mistake. The question then becomes how to spot it and correct it so we can move forward in our spiritual progress.

Living in the materialistic society we naturally absorb their values and one of them is the idea that we can learn things through ascending process, that by reading books on spirituality we can become spiritual, for example. Essential aspect of ascending process is collaboration with others, we need to constantly check that everyone is on the same page, do a peer review of sorts, and form a community of like minded persons. This is not unique to materialists, of course, but when we end up in association with similarly deluded people we ask if they see our guru as manifestation of God, they tell that they don’t, we accept their answer, and that’s how we commit a spiritual suicide.

They tell us to look at a bigger picture, to place our guru in certain age and time, to see how his behavior is/was conditioned by his surroundings and the culture he grew up in, and imply that if our guru was placed in our circumstances he would surely behave differently, issue different orders, adopt different values. We might even conclude that he would have read less books then us and so be less spiritually educated. With the internet at our fingertips we can easily conclude that our guru was an ignorant rube and his knowledge is lacking in comparison to ourselves. Whatever he says, we are ready to second guess, double check, and correct him, or maybe mercifully think “I know why he would say things like that, he probably read only this and this but never seen that and that and so couldn’t place his quote in proper context, but I know better. Yes, I agree, he is probably right here, but, god, he speaks with so much ignorance I can’t take it anymore”.

This is how people start questioning their seniors, this is how they question their guru, this is how they question Śrīla Prabhupāda, this is how they question Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, this is how they question Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, if necessary. If they still consider themselves followers of Gauḍīya Vaiṣnavism it becomes a question of which particular deviation they decided to take shelter in. These days it’s still possible to find deviant vaiṣṇavas of pre-Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura lineage so denigration of previous ācāryas stops with him. If they had someone who disagreed with Six Gosvāmīs they would diss Rūpa and Sanātana, too, no doubt.

Obviously, we shouldn’t fall into this trap and avoid discussing our guru with non-disciples and don’t ask for their opinions, and the same goes for our more immediate authorities, too. Spiritual progress is a personal thing, we can share it only with those who will appreciate it equally, we should be able to see who they are and separate them from less mature and so still envious devotees. In other words, we should pick our association very carefully. If we don’t, they might be right in calling us kaniṣṇthas, though they do it for a different reason. We stop being kaniṣṭhas when we stop listening to them.

Whew, that was a lot or words but none of them on the topic. I don’t know what happened, I guess I got sidetracked. Well, it doesn’t look like it was a total waste, so I’ll continue next time.

Vanity thought #741. Respect of others

I was listening to a lecture today and the speaker quoted two Bhagavatam verses that caught my attention. Unfortunately he didn’t tell where exactly he was quoting from and so I spent the best part of my day searching for them.

One was particularly elusive and I gave up several times but in the end I thought that, as usual, after putting enough effort I would eventually stumble upon what I am looking for. It took longer than expected. Let’s just say I also scanned the entire Uddhava Gita looking for the verse. It’s twenty-three chapters. I’ve also looked at all instances of “bhuta” in the entire Bhagavatam, unfortunately I heard “bhuta-brahma” instead of “bhuta-grama” and so I missed the reference.

I’ve found a couple more verses relevant to the topic and decided to drop the search and go with what I have. Then I looked at word for word translations and one appeared close to Sanskrit that I have heard in the missing verse. I clicked to look of its occurrences and my missing sloka was the first one on the list.

Curious, huh?

Anyway, here are the verses:

SB 3.29.24

My dear Mother, even if he worships with proper rituals and paraphernalia, a person who is ignorant of My presence in all living entities never pleases Me by the worship of My Deities in the temple.

SB 11.2.47

A devotee who faithfully engages in the worship of the Deity in the temple but does not behave properly toward other devotees or people in general is called a prakrita-bhakta, a materialistic devotee, and is considered to be in the lowest position.

SB 11.28.1

One should neither praise nor criticize the conditioned nature and activities of other persons. Rather, one should see this world as simply the combination of material nature and the enjoying souls, all based on the one Absolute Truth.

which follows by

SB 11.28.2

Whoever indulges in praising or criticizing the qualities and behavior of others will quickly become deviated from his own best interest by his entanglement in illusory dualities.

I wonder what we should do with all the criticism constantly directed at ISKCON, GBC, and our struggling devotees that comes from apparently well-wishing and concerned outsiders.

This is the thing that is most glaringly missing in all our critics – respect for the Supreme Lord who resides in the hearts of those they criticize. Why don’t they resign to the fact that without Krishna’s permission no transgressions would have been possible? Why don’t they accept that Krishna guides us in each and every second of our lives and in each and every endeavor? Why do they criticize what the Lord is doing to His devotees, even if its done through material nature.

Why don’t they follow the third verse on this list – one should neither praise nor criticize activities of other persons and one should see the world as the combination of material nature and enjoying souls. In our case souls trying to serve the Lord as best as they can.

What’s the answer to my “whys”? Umm, it’s right there – it’s just the material nature and people who enjoy this kind of thing. Why do they do it? Because they don’t know any better, just like the rest of us. We all have our particular attachments which come with the material body and so some like blasting other people with heavy language while others enjoy sarcasm.

It’s just the material nature, or rather Krishna satisfying the desires of His devotees. They can’t say a word against us without Krishna’s permission and, conversely, everything they say gets Krishna’s stamp of approval. It doesn’t necessarily becomes true but it becomes the best course of action for them. We don’t have to follow their “revelations”, if we don’t like to hear them we should just ignore them. What’s good for their purification might be disastrous for us.

By saying even the nastiest things they make their steps towards perfection because that’s where the Lord is leading them. It might get a lot worse before it gets better, though, hop on their train at your own risk.

Whatever they do, we should take a clue form the fourth verse – indulging in this kind of katha is against our interest. We might not be saying anything but if we provide an attentive ear it’s already indulgence, just like with sankirtana – you don’t have to be a lead singer to benefit, or, as they say, you can’t clap with one hand.

Vanity thought #615. Chanting for Lord Chaitanya’s pleasure?

These are my latest thoughts assessing my japa, I believe we all have to keep observing ourselves, especially if we do not live in the temples where other devotees would happily point any deficiencies in our chanting.

Unless we achieved the pure bhakti platform all our chanting is actually for Lord Chaitanya’s pleasure. First, we invoke His mercy so that He disregards our offences, this is very kind of Him, some of the thoughts that go into our heads could send us to hell but somehow we keep on living as if nothing have happened.

On another level it was Lord Chaitanya who introduced harinama sankirtana and so, in the spirit of dasadasanudasa, we chant because He told us so. If He told us to dig trenches or swim across the ocean we would have done that, too, because Lord Chaitanya is our ultimate authority in all matters related to Absolute Truth.

So, when we mumble our “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna…” and we don’t feel any love rising in our hearts our only hope is that somehow Lord Chaitanya appreciates our efforts. Or does He?

I have this weird thought – what if our chanting actually discomforts Him and causes Him to break His meditation on Krishna?

Just think of it – every time Lord Chaitanya was lost in ecstasy some devotee had to come close and chant Hare Krishna into His ear, that was the only sure way to break His samadhi. Do you think coming back to external consciousness was better than being absorbed in transcendental matters? Our acharyas didn’t record the Lord showing any displeasure but it’s not hard to imagine that sometimes He thought “Oh, Jesus, why did you have to do this to me? Why didn’t you leave me alone?” It’s not hard to imagine that sometimes our chanting sounded like scratching nails on the blackboard for the Lord.

The sound of an ordinary kirtan going on was what caused His ecstasy in the first place and it didn’t bring Him back but when someone chanted directly into His ear His samadhi was just gone. Why? What other reason could be there if not unbearable clash with the mellows of actual devotional service to the Holy Name that the Lord was absorbed in?

People tried to wake Him up not to multiply His devotional ecstasy, they had other motives, usually to prevent the Lord from injuring Himself. So, when the Lord woke up, it’s not hard to imagine that he thought “Oh God, you again? Begging me to mind my own body? It’s scratch proof and self healing, you know. I was just with Krishna and you woke me up for this? Fool!”

Perhaps He was waking up to His duty as yuga-avatara and He was rather apologetic for leaving the company of His devotees and getting lost in Krishna’s pastimes. I was being ironic anyway, but, seriously – why would chanting of the Holy Name into Lord’s ear break His devotional feelings? The easiest and the most obvious explanation is that because it’s not pure, not pleasing enough for the Lord.

And so is our everyday sixteen rounds of torture. We think we are struggling with our chanting, imagine how much pain it gives to Mahaprabhu!

That ought to expand our understanding of what “ocean of mercy” means. I just hope He has enough to see us through to the other side.

Vanity thought #446. “Mistakes”

Did Mother Yashoda really make a mistake when she left Krishna to attend to boiling milk? Did Nalakuvera and Manigriva make a mistake? I think there are two very different cases here.

First Mother Yashoda – we can’t say she has made a mistake, never ever, because she is Krishna’s mother and so is as infallible as He is. On the other hand we have to qualms about discussing Damodara lila as if it was happening to ordinary people. We talk about Krishna being naughty like an ordinary boy, we talk about Mother Yashoda getting angry, we talk about her chasing Krishna, we talk about Krishna being afraid, very afraid, and so on. If we treat this pastime in our human terms there’s no reason we can’t say Mother Yashoda made a mistake, too.

If we were in her position such a mistake would be fatal for us – leaving Krishna to do something we think is more important. God knows when He would give us another chance, literally. Mother Yashoda is not us, however, her mistake didn’t cost her anything, only Krishna’s temporary anger, and from her point of view it’s just a child’s tantrum, nothing to be upset about.

Krishna, on His part, had nothing else to do but to accept her patronizing attitude and play along.

This is where there’s a connection to the case of Nalakuvera and Manigriva – He accepted the wish of His pure devotee, Narada Muni, and played along, even though their mistake was made on a material platform, not like Mother Yashoda’s, and it was very very common for conditioned souls that they were. We all done that. Not their mistake in a literal sense, I hope none of us is ever caught with our pants down like they were, but they had shown disrespect to a vaishnava. We’ve all done that to some degree and probably many times over.

As for Narada Muni, he certainly didn’t take the offense himself, he doesn’t have the same identification with his body as we do, whatever insults are directed at him, if that ever happens, he does not take them personally, and neither does he take praise. He is beyond perceiving such duality in relation to himself.

What offended him was two demigods forgetting their responsibility and their sense of propriety. By taking birth as sons of Kuvera they should have known better. They earned the right to enjoy but they should have never ever forgotten their position as servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu, maintainer of the universe. They, unfortunately, did, and they didn’t even try to rectify their lapse of judgment.

This is what a devotee finds unacceptable – neglecting jiva’s service to the Lord. We should all take heed from this example – we can’t remain silent when we see living entities acting against interests of Krishna. They have the right to do so due to their independence but we have an obligation to try and set them straight.

To outsiders it might appear as a punishment but that is only because they see the world in terms of good and bad, not in terms of serving Krishna or not. That’s why Narada’s interest in spiritual lives of Nalakuvera and Manigriva externally appeared as a curse. To a devotee, however, being born as a tree in Vrindavana is the highest blessing. Uddhava, Krishna’s eternal associate, prayed for a birth as a blade of grass so that he could get some dust from the lotus feet of the gopis.

Being born as trees in the court of Nanda Maharaja is not quite the same but pretty close. This is where it gets weird, though – they were standing there, watching Krishna’s pastimes, then they got “liberated” and sent off back to heavenly planets. At this point a devotee would be absolutely devastated – they had apparently attained Krishna but were sent back home to practice more, but this is one of the most important lessons for us to learn – pure, unalloyed devotion to Krishna is more valuable than gaining His audience, it is the most expensive thing even in the spiritual world.

Liberation, seeing the Lord face to face, getting His association – none of that guarantees grow of prema within our hearts. The only guarantee is faithful following the footsteps of our acharyas. There might be shortcuts available here and there but we should never ever trade them for the hard and sometimes arduous task of serving our guru and Srila Prabhupada, least we end up like Nalakuvera and Manigriva, and not like Uddhava.

Actually, we get the same advice as them million times per day – do not rush, chant attentively, read books, preach at every opportunity, and humbly wait for the mercy of guru and Krishna. Do not get discouraged by making slow progress, it’s the only way to achieve perfection, which is pure, unalloyed devotional service to the Lord.

Let’s not throw our toys out of the pram each time our “service” goes unappreciated, we are not doing it for rewards, the opportunity to chant or read about Krishna is the highest reward of all. It might not feel like that at all times but it really is.

So, talking about mistakes is not really applicable here – there are no mistakes in contact with the Lord or His devotees, there are only blessings meant to set us on the right way – back home, back to Krishna.

it doesn’t mean, of course, that we should drop our pants every time we see a devotee, but even if we did his anger or disgust would eventually help us to get noticed by the Lord.

We have an actual example of provoking Lord’s anger – when Advaita Acharya decided to preach mayavada specifically to attract Lord Chaitanya’s attention, even if it came in the form of severe beating. He could take it, I’m not sure we can, but between Lord’s indifference and a kick on the head we should always choose the kick.

Vanity thought #424. Off the chest

While talking about things that upset me I should mention the new installment of self-help motivational strategy that came out on Dandavats a couple of weeks ago.

Earlier it was about choosing your own goals, making out your own grand plans and achieving great success in the end. Now it’s about improving yourself. You find what your anarthas are, then, and this is important, you imagine how great you could be if you cleared them away and, based on the inspiration coming from the vision of your greatness, you tackle them head on.

The problem with this is that you don’t need Krishna to accomplish that at all, you only need firm faith in your own abilities and your future greatness as a devotee. They can wrap it up in whatever they want but this forms the very essence of this method.

This time there’s even less doubt in my mind that the source of this method is some generic book off the self-help shelf at a book store, where no one wants to be caught browsing, as it’s reserved strictly for pathetic losers. It exudes the same kind of pathos that attracts people deeply unhappy with their status in life. Unlike spiritual help section, however, self-help books are meant to convince people in the absolute value of hedonistic enjoyment and worldly “success”.

These books have even less connection to devotional service than fat burning yoga workout videos with finding Supersoul in your heart.

“But this technique is connected to Krishna!” – one might say. Well, there are two fundamentally different ways to bring Krishna into this picture. The first one would be of a humble devotee realizing his weakness and praying to the Lord to purify his heart from attachment to these kind of aspirations. The second one would be using Krishna’s name to justify one’s indulgence without a share of regret. Guess which approach I think is being used here?

At one point I thought that my objections have more to do with my own refusal to change myself rather than with any ideological reasons. On deeper inspection, however, I think I’m too busy with my occupational duties and if I find any free time I would rather spend it reading more books and listening to more lectures. I really have no time to work on self-improvement.

I also don’t think that there are any mechanical ways to purify one’s heart from anarthas, they will go away naturally with engagement in devotional service. I suppose I could make an artificial effort to appear more devoted than I really am, forcing myself to be humbler or pretending to be more interested in the content of books and lectures, but what would be the value of showing this pseudo-devotion? What does it do for Krishna?

Another question would be about our faith in worshiping Krishna as a guarantee of all success in life. Why should we not trust in Krishna’s plan for us and take matters into our own hands? Why do we need to search for extraneous methods of spiritual advancement?

If we are blessed to see anarthas in our hearths, why should we try to deal with them directly, relying on our own power rather than increase our service to Krishna?

Well, I think that’s it, I got it off my chest, I hope tomorrow I will formulate a way to deal with all these problems.

Vanity thought #423. Deeply disturbing divergence

Thanks to that god awful Sampradaya Sun website I got a story in my head that I needed to check out, one thing led to another and now I have it – I watched a deeply disturbing video that I just can’t “unsee”.

If it was simply shocking I could easily forget it but it’s not shocking per se, it just that the more I think about it the more disturbed I become. It shows a side of some of our leading devotees that I never knew was there and this side is, frankly, unacceptable. Unacceptable on so many fundamental levels that I will never see those devotees in the same way again – “Ah, he was in THAT video!..”

It’s a promotional video for one our famous projects I’ve heard so much praise about by outstanding devotees of unquestionable character and devotion to Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON, yet it undermines everything I really care about in our society. If it was a one off occasion it could have been explained, circumstances sometimes dictate us to do things we are not proud about, but this is a promo, a carefully staged performance that looks quite professional, too.

It carries the name “Bhaktivedanta” in the title but it is an affront to Srila Prabhupada and everything he stood for. It doesn’t even mention who “Bhaktivedanta” is or was, not showing even a single picture of a man it attaches itself to, and that’s just the beginning.

For a Vrindavana hospice that intends to help people transition into the next life it never shows a single picture of Krishna, never mentions the name of Krishna, not even once. Our leading sanyasi and guru who is leading this project doesn’t wear a tilaka and is unidentifiable as an ISKCON devotee, or a vaishnava at all, and to top it off – he lets a mayavadi singer perform kirtan at the bedside of a dying man!

It wasn’t a month ago when I read stories about Srila Prabhupada insisting on strict standards for our kirtans, listening to the singing in the temple room during arati from very far away, sometimes from his room several stories above. Prabhupada never hesitated to send a servant and stop the kirtan if someone inserted something tainted with apa sampradayas, like “bhaje” sang in front of Hare Krishna mantra or singing “Jaya gurudeva”. Never mind who was leading the kirtan or how engaged and ecstatic devotees were, he wanted to correct it right away.

Letting a mayavadi, a follower of Osho Rajnesh, in this case, to sing kirtan to dying people in the hospice carrying his name is like stabbing knife in Prabhupada’s heart. Is this what he established ISKCON for? To let mayavadis take over our kirtans? At the time of someone’s death?

I was always wondering why this famous sannyasi and ISKCON guru occasionally adds quotes by Dalai Lama that appear in my twitter feed, but that is peanuts comparing to what is happening in this video.

As I said, the more I think about the worse it becomes. It transcends transgressions by one man and questions the role of GBC in protecting the spirit of our movement, complacency of all the followers and disciples of that guru who, I think, are counted in thousands now. I know many of them personally but I’m afraid to raise this subject in their presence, maybe a little later when I somewhat calm down.

Overall, there’s this divergence between our mission that we take in our hearts and the actions of a very popular figure in our movement, and it’s deeply disturbing.

Why, why do they stick Prabhupada’s name on their spiritually sick and revolting enterprise? It’s one thing if mayavadis do whatever they do, but it’s a million times worse when Prabhupada’s followers engage in the same thing. Haven’t they/we learnt anything about how painful mayavada was to our acharyas and Lord Chaitanya Himself?

Why do they do this to Gaudiya vaishnavism?

You can watch the video here. I’m not going to embed this blasphemy of Prabhupada’s memory in this blog.

I’m late to the “party”, it was put up over a year ago and, apparently, no one in ISKCON have done anything about it. Makes me wonder even more what exactly is going on. There is one sannyasi and guru who has spoken against it but, as “rumor has it”, he is now prohibited from speaking at some our temples.

God, I should have never read that Sampradaya Sun, my life was relatively peaceful before that. Now I see conspiracies and failures everywhere.

Vanity thought #392. Uddhava Gita

Uddhava Gita is an amazing part of the 11th Canto of Srimad Bhagatam and I think it gets a lot less credit that it deserves. It’s definitely not as famous as Bhagavad Gita and even when we talk about Bhagavatam we’d rather discuss pastimes of Lord Nrisimha or story of Ajamila or Dhruva Maharaja but not Uddhava Gita.

It’s a bit longer than Bhagavad Gita, at over 1000 verses, and it doesn’t cover the entire Krishna Consciousness philosophy from A to Z in the concise way like Bhagavad Gita does but it has its own moments. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati wrote a commentary on it but I think in ISKCON it is still a little bit under appreciated. For one thing we don’t often quote from it and it’s a pity, there are some real gems in there, like this series of verses (SB 11.20.18-30), I’ll bold some of the key lines for easy skimming:

A transcendentalist, having become disgusted and hopeless in all endeavors for material happiness, completely controls the senses and develops detachment. By spiritual practice he should then fix the mind on the spiritual platform without deviation.

Whenever the mind, being concentrated on the spiritual platform, is suddenly deviated from its spiritual position, one should carefully bring it under the control of the self by following the prescribed means.

One should never lose sight of the actual goal of mental activities, but rather, conquering the life air and senses and utilizing intelligence strengthened by the mode of goodness, one should bring the mind under the control of the self.

An expert horseman, desiring to tame a headstrong horse, first lets the horse have his way for a moment and then, pulling the reins, gradually places the horse on the desired path. Similarly, the supreme yoga process is that by which one carefully observes the movements and desires of the mind and gradually brings them under full control.

Until one’s mind is fixed in spiritual satisfaction, one should analytically study the temporary nature of all material objects, whether cosmic, earthly or atomic. One should constantly observe the process of creation through the natural progressive function and the process of annihilation through the regressive function.

When a person is disgusted with the temporary, illusory nature of this world and is thus detached from it, his mind, guided by the instructions of his spiritual master, considers again and again the nature of this world and eventually gives up the false identification with matter.

Through the various disciplinary regulations and the purificatory procedures of the yoga system, through logic and spiritual education or through worship and adoration of Me, one should constantly engage his mind in remembering the Personality of Godhead, the goal of yoga. No other means should be employed for this purpose.

If, because of momentary inattention, a yogi accidentally commits an abominable activity, then by the very practice of yoga he should burn to ashes the sinful reaction, without at any time employing any other procedure.

It is firmly declared that the steady adherence of transcendentalists to their respective spiritual positions constitutes real piety and that sin occurs when a transcendentalist neglects his prescribed duty. One who adopts this standard of piety and sin, sincerely desiring to give up all past association with sense gratification, is able to subdue materialistic activities, which are by nature impure.

Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities.

When an intelligent person engages constantly in worshiping Me through loving devotional service as described by Me, his heart becomes firmly situated in Me. Thus all material desires within the heart are destroyed.

The knot in the heart is pierced, all misgivings are cut to pieces and the chain of fruitive actions is terminated when I am seen as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Where else one can find such a clear, practical guide for all of us, aspiring transcendentalists who are yet unable to transcend even the basic, gross bodily platform?

Whether one is a struggling grihastha or a dedicated brahmachari, we all continue to enjoy our material senses one way or another and thus we all fall victim to sense gratification, there’s no denying it, therefore we all can benefit from these Krishna’s instructions.

Sometimes we think “well, as long as I’m engaged in service of guru and Krishna I have nothing to worry about” and that is fine, but we shouldn’t mistake it for the state of actual liberation and we should not forget that actual devotional service begins only after actual liberation. Until then all our “service” is tainted with desires for sense gratification or false renunciation. We are on the right way, correct, but here Krishna gives us clues on how to navigate our path properly.

And while we might readily apply this advice to our own lives we should also remember that other devotees are facing the same problems, too, and rather than accuse them of “being in maya” we should see that they are also trying to rein in their own horses and more often then not Krishna Himself is helping them, meaning He Himself gives their senses some freedom to enjoy and He Himself will eventually bring them back under full control.

We’ve all heard this before – we shouldn’t criticize devotees for occasional “falldowns” but now we see the underlying methodology behind this – the “falldowns” are actually necessary and so should be praised, not criticized.

Another important point here is that there’s no special atonement procedures for lusting for ice cream or chocolate but we should just get on with our usual chanting and service, knowing that this is the best purificatory activity in the whole world already.

We should, of course, feel regret for our transgressions but, more importantly, we should remain happy and continue our service with great faith.

Golden words, truly golden.

There have been devotees who committed suicide when they were unable to follow the four regs – apparently these verses from Uddhava Gita weren’t sufficiently impressed on them. This is how proper knowledge can literally save lives.

Vanity thought #327. Ultimate chanting

I was listening to HG Gopiparanadhana Prabhu’s answer to a question why harinama was not recommended in the previous ages and I was hit by the gravity of the situation.

You see, chanting establishes direct and most intimate link between the soul itself and the Supreme Personally of Godhead and any interruption, any thought about things like eating or sleeping is the ultimate betrayal on the part of the jiva. You do it once, you do it twice, and the Lord will never speak to you again.

Kirtaniyah sada harih – literally. It’s the activity for those on liberated platform – asking conditioned entities to engage in chanting is like asking them to commit suicide.

The only reason we can start and stop chanting at will without any consequences is the incredible mercy of Lord Chaitanya and His unique concession to overlook our otherwise unforgivable offenses.

We should always keep this fact in the back of our minds.