Vanity thought #1299. Lord’s many mouths

I’m catching up on weekend posts, this one should count for Sunday. As I said in last article, we had a family gathering and I couldn’t find time to write this blog and I hate weekends for this. There was a time when I could squeeze a post virtually out of nothing, even type it up on a mobile phone screen, but not anymore. It feels below the standard, below the level of attention it deserves. Even if the standard is arbitrarily set by myself it doesn’t mean I can easily lower it because I imagine it as as service to the Lord and therefore I can’t change anything without a good excuse. Not being in the right mood is not an excuse in my understanding and so I’d rather wait for the right opportunity than get away with half-baked, shorter articles.

That’s the thing I mentioned yesterday – we tend to do things entirely on our own and assume that they are accepted by the Lord. When guru micromanages our lives he can give us instant feedback and correct us but, generally, in our tradition that is not the norm. Our ācāryas were usually left to their own devices, guided by their own understanding. Following in their footsteps we dedicate all our service to our guru but being informed that the service is accepted should be considered a luxury. In pre-GM and pre-ISKCON times there was no local management to act as guru’s proxies, everything was done in one’s heart.

I’m not going to pick up the phone and ask someone in charge to read my posts to make sure my “service” was accepted. It would have been the norm if I worked for an official ISKCON blog but such arrangements are impractical anyway. It’s okay for temple devotees to be always overseen but not for the large congregation. We can’t build ISKCON’s bureaucracy to act as a clearing house for all service done by all devotees everywhere, Kali yuga would corrupt it in no time. Either those put in the position to check everybody’s service would start acting selfishly or those who would feel their efforts were under-appreciated would revolt.

In Vedic times brāhmaṇas were perceived as receptacles of service on Lord’s behalf, whatever one wanted to give to Viṣṇu he was supposed to give to brāhmaṇas. Maybe one day ISKCON would evolve to this level, too, but I don’t see it happening in my lifetime. We don’t even entertain the idea that some of our devotees could live outside of the temples and be totally dependent on donations from the congregation. There are devotees who serve the congregation in usual brahmanical occupations, like astrology, but they get renumeration for specific service, casting horoscopes in this case, not simply for being brāhmaṇas. No horoscope, no donation. That’s being brāhmaṇas by trade, not the same thing.

Our society is not ready to see every devotee with brahmanical initiation as Lord’s mouth. Just visit any of the Hare Kṛṣṇa websites to see that we eagerly exclude a great number of devotees for slightest transgressions. On ISKCON side there’s at least the authority of the institution to justify our actions but among those who are “independently thoughtful” there are no authorities at all and no one deserves to be fed simply for being a brāhmaṇa, except maybe a couple of people who publicly agree with your views on the internet.

Seeing that level of vitriol directed even at sannyāsīs makes it implausible for our devotees to rely on the congregation for support. No one is going to give donations to your family simply because you got brahmanical thread from ISKCON’s “rubber-stamp gurus”.

Even if people understand your situation and are willing to help they would do it as a help to YOU. They don’t see it as THEIR duty to the Lord, they just don’t. They think the Lord accepts their service directly and they don’t have to pass it through brāhmaṇas at all. They also happen to be wise enough to teach the rest of our society the right philosophy and act as moral guardians in post-Prabhupāda time, not that anyone’s listening, but that’s how they see themselves.

In Vedic times it would have been unthinkable. I would go even as far as to say that if we consider the Lord as the proprietor and the sole enjoyer of everything in this world it means that He does so through the brāhmaṇas, not personally. You can’t feed the deity and then feed yourself without making sure that every brāhmaṇa in your reach is fed, too. You can’t have the deity satisfied but the brāhmaṇas hungry, that’s not how you should serve the Lord at all.

I will not break any news if I say that we, that our ISKCON and near-ISKCON householders, are not calling for everyone outside our door three times to come and take prāsadam we offer in our homes before we consider it’s our turn to finally sit down and eat. That rule says everyone, not only brāhmaṇas, and not only twice initiated devotees in good standing with ISKCON authorities, though that would be a good start.

I can easily demand this standard because I don’t know of any such devotees for many many kilometers in any direction from my house, I’m safe here. If I lived in one of the devotee communities that sprang around our temples, and especially in Vrndāvana and Māyāpura, I wouldn’t be so determined about it, that’s for sure. It’s easy to be a hero in my position.

It’s not that we don’t know these things, we just can’t wrap our heads around actually doing them. We don’t know where to even start, which means that there’s a legitimate reason for the absence of such practice. In fact, I’d say that the absence of this practice means that it’s not how the Lord wants us to conduct our affairs. When we are ready it would seem natural just as any other things we do in our service. I don’t think it’s a matter of minor tweaking of our attitudes or even a matter of “brāhmaṇa feeding revolution”. Kali yuga should substantially release its grip over our society before we reach the required enlightened level.

There should be no questions about brāhmaṇas qualifications in our minds, for example. We can’t force people to feed the Lord through receptacles they cannot see as trustworthy, that won’t work, they’ll rebel. We also have to become clear what “brāhmaṇa” means for us. Right now every devotees is expected to receive a second initiation regardless of his actual varṇa qualities, and we have a good reason for that, but that would also mean we should feed ALL devotees regardless before we can sit down to eat ourselves, even those without second initiation – because they are all dear to the Lord already and only time separates them from eventually reaching the formal status. You can’t give prasādam to one devotee and overlook the other anyway.

Sadly, we would rather see devotees being personally cared for by the Lord Himself, because He is the Rich and Mighty One, we would rather not see it as OUR duty and service. We’d rather them have their own sources of food and income, we don’t them to be our eternal dependents, especially householders among them. All brāhmaṇas were expected to be householders in Vedic times and having a wife and a house was not an excuse to tell them to go feed themselves but times have changed. We’d rather offer food to the small form of the Lord deep inside our homes, in our well-guarded dens, where no one but the Lord can have it without taking even a bite out. Then we would consume it ourselves, quietly, preferably without Lord’s external receptacles ever hearing about our feeding time.

Oh, we are such hypocrites, but what can we do? It’s in our nature, and it’s one of the reasons why we would never be allowed to come anywhere near the Lord while still in our material forms. We can imagine serving Him in any variety of ways but that would always remain only our imagination. Hopefully, it’s the intent that counts, otherwise we are doomed.

This should make one appreciate chanting of the Holy Names even more because it is ALWAYS accepted by our guru and the Lord, our sixteen rounds are sacred in this way. It’s the only service we can have absolutely no doubts about and it’s the only service we took a vow to perform until death, all other vows were NOT to do something.

While we chant the Holy Name all the problems that should worry us otherwise simply disappear. Great, isn’t it?

Vanity thought #1141. And let’s not forget food

All this talk about groundhog day for a brāhmaṇa from Lord Caitanya’s pastimes should not overshadow straightforward messages from that pastime. Śrīla Prabhupāda never missed them but I have a tendency to concentrate on speculative stuff everywhere I go. Perhaps it’s my way of avoiding the important lessons. This story is actually about food and offering it to the Lord.

Yesterday I talked about possible imperfections in that brāhmaṇa’s behavior, which is a very dangerous topic – we should not see imperfections in devotees, especially in those who the Lord personally revealed Himself to. I only did it as a guide to what not to do with our material bodies, I didn’t mean to denigrate that brāhmaṇa’s devotion.

He might remain nameless and less celebrated that other associates of Lord Caitanya but he also was the first one to see Lord’s true nature, years before the Lord showed it to anyone else. That ought to count for something. Even if he didn’t stick around long enough to see the Lord start saṅkīrtana mission in earnest we should probably look at it as a testament to the weakness of the material nature rather than as a lack of bhakti.

Material mind has its own things to do according to the nature of the senses, karma, influences of the stars etc. Even pure devotees must give it some space to express itself and satisfy its senses. For them this satisfaction usually comes from the contact with the Lord but that is mercry, not a rule. As a rule, material senses seek contact with material sense objects, spiritual component does not register with them at all.

I’ve just read a newsletter from my local ISKCON temple and I couldn’t help but notice how our devotees engage their minds and energy in.. Well, they just want to do things, luckily for them they get to do things for Kṛṣṇa, which is fine, but they also do them as a tribute to their minds.

Or, to put it another way, they can’t stop doing them and relish pure spiritual life instead. That’s why Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted us to be active – we are not ready to simply chant and probably never will be, not in this life not in this age.

We naturally want to do things, control things, achieve results, enjoy our power, appreciate our intellect, have our egos stroked by others. In that we are no different from any one else, what makes us special is that we do these things in connection with Kṛṣṇa and that means we gradually purify ourselves from our propensity to enjoy and control.

A big part of our lives is connected to food. Or rather should be connected to food because in pursuit of wealth and careers we have our priorities screwed. Maintaining a family is a legitimate dharma, too, but its only purpose is to engage our sexual organs, otherwise there’s nothing particularly spiritual about it.

I mean if one gives up sex, what is then left for him to worry about? Only food.

Of course we also need shelter and clothes but those things tend to last. You arrange it once and they’ll last for years. We can’t do that with food, we can’t eat like camels or pythons once in every blue moon, we need to eat everyday. We also need to breath and go to the toilet but those things do not demand much effort. Food is where everything is at.

If we have a job or a big service as a part of a society food tends to be taken care of itself but once we give up sex we give up the society and its support, too. We just quietly fall out. Society means massive sense gratification, people form themselves into groups to make sense gratification easier, plus there’s pride of belonging to the group, too.

Society members feel entitled to certain things, like relaxation, wealth, love, food, of course, etc etc. In some groups everyone must have a house and a car, in some groups also a business, in some groups access to easy credit is a given, in some groups everyone should be married, in some groups everyone should have sex free from commitment and so on.

I have a friend who spent a few months in Singapore and all he talks about now is early retirement and plans to rent a house in Italy for a two week vacation. These things never come up in our usual circle but for Singaporeans those are trade mark dreams.

A devotee should naturally lose interest in those kind of desires and that means slipping off the social radar. What is left then? Not much, only food.

We do our jobs or our service, we get some payment in return, but we have no interest in spending it on ourselves. If we are set with shelter and have clothes to wear we have absolutely nothing to live for. The only problem, as I said, is food.

In the company of devotees we get prasādam, there’s always something to eat there, but in the company of karmīs situation is different. At best we can count on finding vegetarian food but cooking and offering is out of the question. If we have a family then we can have someone else to cook for us so we can take lunch from home but if you give up sex life (and family, too), you are on your own.

Cooking for yourself is tough. I’ve never mastered it. I was taught to cook for about half a dozen people, I don’t know how to cook for more and I don’t know how to cook for less. It’s half a cup of rice, half potato, half tomato, a pinch of spices – I just don’t feel comfortable with this. Too much work for little outcome, and then you have to do it twice a day? Forget it. And messing with chapatis? Who needs this aggravation?

I’d rather cook a lot, put food in a fridge, and microwave it as necessary, which is against the rules but I have no power to change this habit. At least I know it’s a problem so maybe in the future I’ll work on solving it.

That brāhmaṇa, however, cooked every day and only ate what was offered to Kṛṣṇa. If he couldn’t offer food he wouldn’t eat it. That was a very easy way for him to find out what was allotted to him by the Lord. If it’s not prasādam then it’s not meant to be eaten, it’s not “food”. Try to do it when you have a fridge full of stuff including leftover prasādam from three days ago.

If you have to eat unoffered food outside then it’s even more difficult to determine what is your allotted share. Nothing at all? That seems too radical. Every living being has its allotted share regardless of whether he offers it to the Lord or not. Taking that share is our duty, taking more is sin, refusing it is false renunciation. Offering it to the Lord is best but it’s not always possible.

Eventually, as this pastime with the brāhmaṇa shows, a devotee must reduce his food intake only to what he cooks and offers to the Lord, plus occasional prasādam prepared by others. If we do that, however, it would take most of our time. That brāhmaṇa was a mendicant, he probably begged for food most of his days, as did the Six Gosvāmīs, then cooked and offered it. Sometimes he was invited in people’s houses and cooked there. If one depends on others in this way without being part of the society is must be really tough.

People do not feel obliged to give charity to outsiders, that’s just a fact of life. I don’t have any personal experience but I believe beggars always appeal to some common ground (war veteran, lost house to a bank, lost job in recession etc), and I’ve never seen foreign beggars anywhere.

I don’t know how relying solely on Kṛṣṇa in that sense can even work – I think one must expect Kṛṣṇa to act through his own social group members, either by getting a job or by begging. Hmm, interesting point – does it prove once again that we cannot be Kṛṣṇa’s devotees but must serve His representatives? In the material world it makes total sense but I think I need to consider it closely, hopefully tomorrow.

Vanity thought #798. Healthy eating habits

Some devotees are very conscious about their diet. Some have a million tips on proper combination of the doshas in their food (ayurvedic bodily humors), some are more into western nutrition and even supplement their diet with vitamins as pills. I, somehow, do not care about any of that, except in the most basic form, ie following the menu that is usually served in our temples.

While I agree with the need for the proper body maintenance my line where it becomes necessary to mess with food intake is rather far away. I figure that Raghunatha Dasa Goswami ate rice that was passed on even by the cows and he was never chastised for not having balanced meals. The traditional practice of madhukari, collecting little bits and pieces of this and that, whatever people give, and eating it right away, doesn’t lend itself to obsessing with diet either. Sanatana Goswami maintained himself on unsalted chapaties, got rebuked for that by his Deity, but the complaint was about the taste, not about the lack of vitamins or vegetables.

Consequently, I got blamed a lot for eating what is deemed to be unhealthy. It wasn’t a big deal until very recently, I just followed people’s advice because one benefit of not being strict with a diet is that you can eat whatever people tell you just to get them off your back. Did it improve my health? I don’t know, there’s no one to watch ALL of my meals so any impact would have been limited anyway.

A short while ago, however, I noticed some strange emotions connected with my food intake. I consider them to be signs of purification – they were always there but I didn’t notice them, and now, by Krishna’s grace, I’m more aware of my situation.

First is unhealthy anticipation I feel when putting food into a microwave for reheating. I know that as devotees we should not store prasadam for later consumption but it happens, I can’t cook every day for every meal, leftovers go into the fridge and get reheated. Is it unhealthy? Probably, but what I didn’t like about it is the anticipation of consuming comfort food, which is what reheating feels like – you don’t cook, you don’t offer it to Krishna, you just take a box from a fridge and in two minutes you can stuff yourself to your satisfaction.

This is sense enjoyment pure and simple, muttering sharira abidya jal under your breath doesn’t make it any more spiritual. I could, in theory, consume this prasadam with proper consciousness but the reality is that I don’t, I just devour it and I like that this enjoyment is so easily available.

I caught this feeling very clearly only once but now I remember it every time I open microwave’s door. It didn’t change my habits yet but it reminds me of keeping my gluttony in check, and this is what I consider a real healthy eating habit.

Then I started noticing increased sensitivity towards other people’s suggestions. Sometimes, just as I reach for a refill, someone would say “enough” and it would immediately kill my mood. Sometimes I ask for several preparations at once and someone would say: “You already have that, why do you want this other thing, too?” There’s never a shortage of health-minded Nazis in my household and these things happen way more often than I expect them to.

Usually I just complied, as I said earlier, but lately I’ve been noticing how resentment rises in my heart as soon as my cravings are checked this way. I haven’t done anything about it yet and no one has noticed anything but now I’m very aware of the possibility of being shutdown on any request for food. Freely stuffing myself was never a problem but now I’m very conscious about it, and this is what I consider a real healthy eating habit, too.

Maybe it’s the mercy of the prasadam – it teaches us to be very mindful about what and how we eat and it teaches us to control urges of our tongues. I hope it is, and I want more of it. I want weaknesses like this exposed and dealt with, and not only in consuming food but in all other areas of my life, too.

This needs more observation and this awareness needs to mature and lead to some actual changes in the way I eat but that is what I’ve got so far. At least it’s a good start.

Vanity thought #633. Kitchen incident

There was a curious incident in my kitchen that made me think twice about dealing with prasadam, and then think some more.

So, the other day I made dahl and, upon honoring prasadam, realized that it wasn’t salty enough. Devil got the better of my mind and I decided to add salt to the pot of already offered food. I reached for the jar but the lid that was supposed to be tightly screwed on came off and the glass jar fell on the floor and shattered into pieces.

Now I had two problems on my hands – spilled salt is never a good omen, and messing with prasadam didn’t get the sanction of the Paramatma. Also the floor was covered in pieces of broken grass but that didn’t appear nearly as important.

What had happened? Was it really an omen? Was the Supersoul sending me a message? On one hand I shouldn’t be taking it lightly, on the other hand it would be presumptuous of me to expect the Lord interfering into my trivial chores. Surely the loose lid was placed there long before I decided to go for salt so it was no accident. If made a mistake of deciding to “improve” the taste of the prasadam, everything was already in place to deal with it.

But what if it really was a message, the type that made Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur forswore from eating mangoes ever again in his life? Scary, huh? Not so much.

If that is the case then it’s the best thing that has happened to me in a long time – the Lord actually cares!

I don’t think much of my cooking skills. I wouldn’t go as far as to deny Krishna accepting my offerings but I think He does it with a sense of obligation rather than interest. Proper food was cooked and proper mantras were chanted so there’s no reason to reject it, and that’s all He thinks about it.

If, however, He objects to me eating better than Him (He got the unsalted dahl) then it opens a whole new chapter in our relationships. He actually DOES care what I cook and what I offer. How nice. Maybe He wouldn’t mind tasting the salted dahl, too, never mind me eating a bowl of it already.

He is such a fuss about sharing food!

Of course this path would lead me straight into the trap of sahajiism. There’s no excuse for us to deviate from the strict rules laid down by our acharyas. When Krishna personally shows up in my kitchen then I might want to rethink it but until then it’s just speculations.

There could be no possible reason for Krishna to actually taste my preparations, I’m not a resident of Vrindavana where He can walk into anybody’s kitchen and chomp on anything He lays His eyes on. Krishna dwells in my heart as the Supersoul, ie Vishnu, and only on condition that He doesn’t touch anything in my environment. There’s no question of Him eating anything here.

That’s when I thought about it some more and decided that I’m overthinking it. Prasadam shouldn’t be tampered with and I shouldn’t raise any hopes of my gross material body coming in contact with Krishna in any way. I should thankfully consume unsalted prasadam and feel grateful for that, and that is all.

Vanity thought #625. Interfaith

It’s a large movement and a large phenomenon for ISKCON, too. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about it but I’m very curious about the basics.

“Interfaith dialogue” is different things to different people. There are many stakeholders in it and each has his own angle. First there’s the idea of interfaith dialogue itself which sounds attractive to non-religious people brought up in a secular society. They’ve been taught that religions are responsible for most of the wars so they see interfaith as a path towards world peace. Such naivety.

Governments who sometimes sponsor or support interfaith movement, like Obama recently spoke at interfaith event after Boston bombings, have their own reasons. We can only guess – because we are dealing with politicians here, but we also have the license to assume the worst – because we are dealing with politicians here.

One obvious reason for them to get involved is reducing extremism and getting control of religious discourse. If people are dangled a carrot of interfaith success they would adapt their ideologies in line with it – become more open, more tolerant, more inclusive, less confrontational and so on. They’d have a choice to become condemned fundamentalists or respected members of interfaith society. Muslims want to integrate, for example, they don’t want to be branded terrorists all the time, so interfaith is an attractive option for them to prove their “normalcy” to the world.

More sinister idea is that as governments want to grow consumers, religions want to grow renunciates. Governments don’t want to have a population of ascetics on their hands, they need people to push their greed and lust because that’s what guarantees modern society’s success, that’s where its drive is, without it they can’t stand the chance against competition.

Interfaith helps here with nurturing perfect citizens who devote only a little part of their lives to their religion and put prosperity above all. It promotes common, consumerist values and when after the round of kumbalaya everyone drives a car to have a sumptuous turkey dinner washed down with bottles of wine – that’s when interfaith really succeeds.

Then there are religious groups themselves – some Christians probably need recognition, it’s an important factor in a competitive market of Protestantism. Some want to prove that Christ is the only way. Some genuinely believe that God can be reached by building consensus, I mentioned that kind of foolishness earlier.

Muslims traditionally don’t do any interfaith and would rather convert than converse with infidels but reality sometimes pushes them, as I also said earlier.

Jews simply stay out of it, no one has been able to bring them to the interfaith table. They just don’t play these silly games.

Buddhists are all for interfaith – they don’t believe in God, they don’t think Buddhism is a religion, and they just want to promote their atheistic impersonalism.

People of smaller faiths do it for publicity – that’s where ISKCON comes in. Interfaith dialogue gives us a big stage from which we can reach a lot of people. The movement is not fully developed yet so there are opportunities in providing catering, for example.

This, however, is where we can easily get our priorities wrong.

First of all, common religious principles of austerity or truthfulness exist everywhere and that’s probably the only thing we have in common. We have nothing to discuss with Christians or Muslims beyond that. They don’t accept eternal existence of the soul or eternal existence of personal God so we definitely can’t talk to them about Krishna’s nature and our relationships with Him. We can introduce the Holy Name and the mahamantra but we can’t really ask them to chant because that would be inappropriate – like Christians shouldn’t ask interfaith participants recite Hail Mary or Muslims can’t ask them to bow to Mecca and recite Salah.

Anyway, the whole point of interfaith is finding the compromise and our Bhagavata dharma does not allow compromises.

To illustrate – at the Boston interfaith event Obama gave a speech where he assumed, and everybody agreed, that religious prayers are meant for overcoming obstacles. Not to become servants of God, not to find connection to God, not even to ask God for miracles – it’s to help us achieve our goals, help us to persevere in our quest for material happiness.

Why would any devotee agree with any of that?

So, our main priority when participating in these interfaith activities is to reach as many people as possible and give them a chance at agyata sukriti. They hear the Name and hopefully they don’t get too offensive about it, they take prasadam without knowing and hopefully don’t throw it away – little by little, step by step, their lives get purified to the point where they can open their minds to the real preaching.

If we don’t lose sight of this goal and if we don’t accidentally buy into the whole premise of interfaith we should be okay. Haters gonna hate, as they say, but it’s better to give a person a plate of prasadam than to write an article about how bad it is.

Vanity thought #312. Bhogair atmanam atmani

This is a line from a verse in Bhagavatam (11.11.45) where Krishna tells Uddhava about various ways one can worship the Supreme Lord.

Check out the translation – “One may worship Me within the individual living entity by offering food and other enjoyable substances.” Cool, huh?

I guess this explains why people since time immemorial loved serving each other with delicious foodstuffs – it pleases not only the body and senses of the fellow materialistic enjoyer but the Supreme Lord Himself, too!

Devotees, of course, have taken this activity a lot further – by lovingly offering delicious prasadam to vaishnavas. There are very few types of service that are as satisfactory as feeding the devotees of the Lord. Even feeding other people on our Food For Life programs makes one easily feel that Krishna likes us doing this stuff.

There’s also book distribution but it often makes one feel competitive and proud of one’s achievements and thus deprive us of the usual bliss associated with preaching, I can’t imagine how that could happen when distributing food. With book distribution there’s also the pressure to get something out of people in return and that spoils the effort, too. Food distribution is totally selfless by comparison.

Having paid tribute to serving people with prasadam I have a rather twisted thought – what stops one from serving the Lord by feeding oneself? The Supersoul is equally present within my body just as well as within the bodies of everyone else so does it make any difference which body I should offer food to in order to please the Lord?

The only danger I see is that when I’m feeding myself I’m having the wrong attitude but that should be corrected regardless, as per Krishna’s advice to Arjuna – “perform every activity as a sacrifice to Me”. I guess once the right attitude is there one can legitimately serve the Lord by consuming all kinds of delicious stuff.

Let me go and try this now, and if I fail in the beginning it shouldn’t discourage me. Also practice makes it perfect, right?

Key point – it’s not the living entity who is the enjoyer here, foodstuffs should be offered to the Supersoul, via the body, I guess just like stuff is offered to the Lord via sacrificial fire.

Vanity thought #280. Just WOW!

Almost a month ago NY Times published an eulogy on Steve Jobs by his sister, who he first met in 1985 because he/they were adopted and grew up with different families. The most remarkable part of it was Jobs last words, as he looked over and past the shoulders of his wife and children and he said these now famous words “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”

I don’t know what these words meant to his sister and to the millions of his fans and I don’t really care, devotees quickly assumed that it was a “payback” for his prasadam munching services he rendered back in the seventies.

So, with flood and everything, I took my sweet time and finally decided to have a closer look at those crazy years as they are documented in Jobs official biography.

It’s not a short book and it’s filled with all kinds of irrelevant and confusing biographical information – who went where and who talked to whom and in what order and so I went straight for the meat – the Reed College years when Jobs was attending Sunday feasts at ISKCON temple in Portland. I once mentioned it here.

The biography puts it in the larger context of Jobs spiritual development, or it was mostly search for enlightenment, development implies progress while his life was bobbing up and down the river of spiritualism.

Anyway, this is what I gathered so far. It was 1972, hippie movement was pretty much the background of all social life in California and young Steve wasn’t missing anything. He got himself a girlfriend, taught her to smoke marijuana, played a guitar, experimented with LSD – the whole nine yards. His foster parents worked their whole lives to get him to college while he had no idea what to do with his life. Among all the available options that included Berkeley and Stanford he decided to enroll in a small but very expensive Reed, it was three times smaller than his high school (don’t quote me on that, I haven’t read about his high school years yet).

After a year or so he got bored of all the required courses that he had to attend so he dropped out. In practice it meant he could still attend courses that he liked and he could still live with his friends in the dorm. I mention this as an example of what “search” meant for him – he had plenty of hunger but he was very whimsical with his choices and wasn’t going to commit to anything or do anything against his will.

In his private life this search meant consuming large amounts of alternative culture and trying all kinds of lifestyles without committing to anything in particular. Hare Krishnas were part of the Portland scene already but from the biography it appears they were just that – part of the scene. I don’t know where he heard about vegetarianism first but he was convinced by a couple of “hippie” books, not by Hare Krishnas.

Jobs took vegetarianism very very seriously but because his sources were rather dubious his practices turned outright weird. Generally he would call himself a vegan but it was a lot more than that – he was obsessed with cleanses, diets, and fasts. Sometimes he would eat only apples for two weeks, at other times he would live only on carrots, sometimes he would drink only juices, sometimes he would fast, sometimes he would avoid all carbs and so on. People were joking that during his carrot eating stage his complexion would turn orange.

Speaking of his appearance – he hardy wore any shoes, only sandals, if it was snowing. This is worth repeating – he never wore shoes, not to college, not to work, not even when he was raising money to manufacture his first Apple computers a few years later. In fact he was kicked out of one of the important meetings for putting his bare feet on a table.

There was also a question of his personal hygiene – he honestly believed that eating vegan food would not make him sweat at all. Everybody around him disagreed but that didn’t stop Jobs, or rather he couldn’t start taking showers just because other people complained about his BO. In his first job, at Atari, they had to assign him to the night shift because not only he was obnoxious to his colleagues but they couldn’t stand his stench, too.

So this was the young man who came to Hare Krishna “Love feasts”, as they were called then. At that time Jobs met a guy, Robert Friedland, who introduced him to eastern spirituality. That dude even had a local guru, a converted American Ram Dass who also had influence on now famous American kirtan singers Krishna Das and Jai Uttal. They have nothing to do with ISKCON, except that our Sri Prahlad lists them on his site, though that doesn’t mean he gives them any special endorsement. I’ll investigate this matter separately, if the need arises.

Anyway, this Friedman was four years older than Jobs and he taught him how to use the famous reality distortion field and lots of other valuable life lessons. They were a group of four friends and together they went to dance their socks off (if they were wearing any) at the Hare Krishnas. Robert would work himself into a frenzy while Jobs was a bit subdued as if he was “embarrassed to let loose”. After the kirtans they would stuff themselves with prasadam.

That wasn’t all, Friedland had stewardship of a large apple farm and he turned it into a spiritual community where they would practice meditation and such. It wasn’t japa meditation, btw, they were heavy into Zen Buddhism and enlightenment, not devotion. I mean he once credited LSD for his biggest breakthroughs on the path to higher consciousness. Still, on Sundays they would welcome Hare Krishna devotees from the temple and have a big program that ended with big plates of prasadam. Curiously, biography mentions that after stuffing himself to his neck Jobs would go and “purge”. I should also note that when it came to prasadam Jobs apparently didn’t mind milk, butter and other diary products that he wouldn’t have touched otherwise.

I’ve searched the book, there are no more references to Hare Krishnas in Jobs life, except that famous Stanford speech, of course. At no point he is described as a devotee in the book, and, as I said, Buddhists have far better, solid rights to claim him as their own. This is what I meant when I said his search for enlightenment was bobbing up and down – sometimes he was very close to Krishna, sometimes he drifted away. To him it looked like steady progress, though.

After a short stint at Atari Jobs decided to go to India and search for a guru. He found dysentery first, then went to Kumbha Mela (that was lucky!) He traveled a lot, practicing simple living and fasting. In that sense he was really trying to find enlightenment in renunciation. Perhaps he even went to Vrindavan, no one would know now, except, perhaps, Daniel Kottke, a close friend from ISKCON dancing days, who accompanied Jobs on some of his travels in India. I’m not going to try and reach Kottke though it would be interesting to know if Jobs been to Vrindavan or not. He most certainly didn’t go as far as Mayapur and Bengal but Vrindavan was close to his general travelling area.

Jobs returned to the US without finding a guru but the experience still had a profound effect on his perception of the society and things like intuition and analytical western minds. It’s important mostly to to his fans who search for clues to his ingenuity but if some of us are struggling with overthinking things then we might take notice that Jobs’ conclusion was that mind and intelligence don’t matter much, listening to your intuition (read Supersoul) is far more important.

That was the end of his “gurukula” period and what happened next – invention of a personal computer, animation etc shouldn’t be of big interest to us. Jobs held to his vegetarian diet to the end of his days, though he relaxed his rules a bit from time to time. Once he enjoyed sushi, for example, fish tasting so good he was willing to overlook his principles. It was also a major bonding moment with his daughter, so that counted, too.

He still had weird fixation on dieting, with each new choice of restrictions being endlessly discussed at family dinners but that was one of his more controversial sides. His insistence on non-traditional diet, healing and medicines is now called responsible for delaying the much needed operation on his cancer back in 2003, but that also should be beside our interest in him.

Our main interest should be these three “Wows” – I can’t think of anything else but Krishna’s messengers coming to take him to his next destination. If he was so lucky then maybe even I have a chance now, this example of Krishna caring for anyone who chanted His names, even if long long time ago, is truly encouraging.

It shows not only that Krishna remembers, but also that he waits for us to end our prison terms in these bodies, he never forgets even for a second, patiently guiding us through our lives to our eventual meeting point. It also puts things in perspective – what really matters in our lives and what doesn’t. Building a biggest company in the world (at times) and having millions of fans is not nearly as important as honoring Krishna’s prasadam, chanting His Names and dancing with His devotees.

It also shows the meaning of the word “devotee”. Anyone who has ever chanted Krishna’s Name in an ISKCON temple is a devotee and is very dear to Krishna, we should always remember that, no matter where life takes us afterwards.

Maybe I will read more of the book of Jobs but I think I’ve seen all I ever need there, maybe it’s time for me to return to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, or maybe Jobs darker sides need some illumination, they can be off putting and dealing with them might have some practical value for us, too.

Vanity thought #276. Bhaktivinoda Thakur. Puri Bliss.

Testing Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s faith and devotion by pitching him against impostors with yogic powers was probably the only uncomfortable moment during his stay there. Everything else was pure bliss.

Remember how the only thing he brought with him when he was assigned to Puri were sets of Srimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita? He put them to good use.

He had learned Sanskrit earlier but wasn’t very good at it. In Puri he got himself a tutor to help him study Bhagavatam. There were also two friends who studied with him but soon they were left behind. Yesterday I wasn’t sure if he originally brought Sridhara Swami’s commentary with him but this was the edition he read in Puri. After Bhagavatam he devoured lots of other Gaudiya vaishnava literature like Sat Sandarbha and Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu and lots of other works by Six Goswamis and their followers. He even read Govinda Bhashya – Gaudiya commentary on Vedanta written by Baladeva Vidyabhushana.

Not only did he study those books, he learned Sanskrit well enough to start writing books of his own. His first Sanskrit book was Datta-kaustubha and while in Puri he also started work on his famous Krishna Samhita.

Simply studying and writing wasn’t enough, he had to go and practice his understanding by preaching.

Everyday he would go to Jagannath Temple and hold discussion about vaishnavism. He avoided groups of mayavadis that also gathered there, he said that their blasphemy towards the Lord was unbearable for him to hear. He started his own community, by the place where Lord Chaitanya left imprints of His feet (how appropriate!) Eventually more and more people joined in and he had become a famous preacher of the Bhagavatam. His worldly scholarship paid off again as he was able to quickly pick up on philosophy he was only vaguely familiar with only few years ago.

He also held regular discussions in the place of Ramananda Raya’s bhajan. Many vaishnava pundits came to hear him talk there.

His success was noted and some people were not very happy, initially. There was one renounced devotee, a babaji, by the name Raghunatha Dasa, who thought that Kedarnath didn’t look like a real vaishnava – he wore neither tilaka nor kanthi-mala – tulasi beads worn around the neck.

It was like a replay of the episode between Gadadhara Pundit and Pundarika Vidyanidhi from Lord Chaitanya’s lila. When Gadadhara Pundit, a member of the Panca Tattva, saw Pundarika Vidyanidhi for the first time he thought he met an ordinary self absorbed sense enjoyer but then he observed transcendental transformations in Pundarika Vidyanidhi as soon as he heard verses about Krishna from the Bhagavatam. Gadadhara Pundit realized his mistake and begged not only forgiveness from Pundarika Vidyanidhi but also asked to be accepted as his disciple.

Well, this case was very similar – Raghunatha Das was a great devotee himself but at first he didn’t recognize Kedarnath’s greatness. We commit similar mistakes all the time, in Raghunatha Das case, however, Lord Jagannath Himself appeared in his dream and told him to beg forgiveness from Bhaktivinoda Thakur. We don’t get this kind of mercy, if we criticize vaishnavas even in our minds we get doomed. Actually Raghunath Das was first afflicted with a severe illness, too, but later the Lord came through and revealed him the cause of his misfortune and told him how to rectify it.

Raghunath Das immediately went to see Bhaktivinoda Thakur and begged his forgiveness. Unlike the case with Gadadhara Pundit, though, it was Kedarnath who asked to be accepted as a disciple.

It went down like this – Bhaktivinoda Thakur accepted that he wasn’t wearing the signs of vaishnavas but he said that it was because he didn’t have a guru, Krishna hadn’t sent him one yet, and without guru’s blessings he would look like a fraud wearing tilaka and kanthi mala. He already had japa mala and that was enough for him ATM, he said. It’s in this context that he asked for Raghunath Das shelter. It wan’t formal, though, the proper initiation was still a few years away. Still, Bhaktivinoda Thakur had probably learned a lot from association with Raghunath Das.

Raghunath Babaji wasn’t the only exalted vaishnava who Bhaktivinoda Thakur respected very much. At that time in Puri lived another great devotee, Swarupa Babaji, who, btw, later became an associate of Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji. Swarupa Babaji lived near bhajan kutir of Sanatana Goswami and many devotees came there for the kirtans, bhajans, and readings from vaishnava books.

Swarupa Babaji spent whole day doing his solitary bhajan and came out only after sunset to engage in congregational chanting of the Holy Name. Devotees would bring him Jagannatha prasadam and he took very little, only what was necessary for his body maintenance. After that he would ask someone to read books about Lord Chaitanya, and then, around 10 PM, he would retire to his kutir for further bhajan. In the middle of the night he would go to the ocean for a bath. Bhaktivinoda Thakur says he went for a bath so late because he didn’t want to give people a chance to serve him, but he needed the service indeed – he was blind in both eyes! As Bhaktivinoda Thakur says: “Only Lord Chaitanya knows how he found his way to the ocean all by himself.”

This is the kind of association that anyone could only dream of and Bhaktivinoda Thakur took full advantage of the opportunity.

As I said, he became a very respectable member of the vaishnava community. His service to the government also didn’t go unnoticed and he became a magistrate. He was actually in charge of maintaining the temple itself and organizing all the festivals, as far as the government was involved.

He was very dear to the Englishmen in charge but his relations with the locals were not very smooth. Once he even put down the king of Orissa in his place when the raja unceremoniously broke into a devotee’s assembly in the temple compounds. Bhaktivinoda Thakur rightly told the king that he rules only on the outside, inside the temple there’s only one Lord – Jagannath, and raja was in no position to show any disrespect towards Jagannath’s devotees.

His relationship with the king was a complicated one. First of all, it was the king’s library that supplied many of the books Bhaktivinoda Thakur was reading. Then there was that incident in the temple. At first the raja offered his apologies and the matter would have been forgotten but next time he got caught embezzling temple’s money and was sentenced by Kedarnath to pay for Lord Jagannath services from his own pocket, Lord Jagannath eats fifty two times a day and the expenditures were very taxing even on the king himself. Eventually the raja became very upset with Kedarnath, so envious that he decided to kill him.

Kedarnath was too prominent a man in Puri society that simply hiring hitmen wasn’t a very wise idea, the king decided to turn to brahmanas instead, he hired a team of fifty and ordered a series of massive fire sacrifices lasting for thirty days with the sole intent of killing Bhaktivinoda Thakur. On the last day, when the curse was supposed to finally unleash its power, the King’s only son died instead. Talk about backfiring.

It wasn’t a big deal for Bhaktivinoda Thakur, though, he was too absorbed in the bliss of his daily sadhana to notice. King’s episode deserved only a bare mention in Svalikhita Jivani but in those days other devotees started memorizing his pastimes and so now we have far more detailed accounts.

It was also in Puri that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was born and all his samskaras – first grains, first solid food etc were performed with Jagannath’s prasadam. In fact that was the time that Bhaktivinoda Thakur and his family ate nothing but Lord Jagannatha’s prasadam. When he entered the temple for his daily service someone would always give him a bowl of dahl there, without tasting that dahl Bhaktivinoda Thakur could not be satisfied.

All in all, it was a period of pure bliss, but as with all periods it had to come to an end. Kedarnath was transferred back to the vicinity of Calcutta and that’s a story for another day.

Oh, one more thing – while dealing with Besikisen and other impostors Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur had to learn a lot about their philosophy and, by extension, he also learned about all kinds of deviations practiced by many different groups there. The fight for the purity of Lord Chaitanya’s movement was practically born there and then. But that is also a story for another day.

Vanity thought #249. Vamshidas Babaji Part 5.

All of the stories I mentioned so far are pretty innocent, even if some of them, or even most of them didn’t make it into HH Bhaktivikasa Swami’s “official” biography it doesn’t matter at all. There are stories that are tad more disturbing, though, and I want to try and deal with them today.

First, the deities. We know that Vamshidas had very intimate relationships with them and his whole life as an embodied soul revolved around feeding them and making garlands and talking to them. Normally I would capitalize pronouns referring to any form of God but when talking about Vamshidas it seems a bit out of place. From our position they should be capitalized without exceptions but from Vamshidas’ POV it would go against his own mood of communicating with them – sometimes he chastised and even punished them, for him they were his little children he had to take care of, capitalization was not on the books. More on that later.

There’s one apocryphal story that really tests the boundaries here. No one knows how it really went down and the only part that people could see for themselves was the end, no one knows how it started and what were the actual reasons. I still think there’s no big harm in telling it as long as we understand that it might all be just a concoction. I want to make a point that no one should try to judge a devotee like Vamshidas by looking at his external actions alone.

Anyway, Vamshidas was born in a fishing family and one time when he was residing in Navadvipa a woman selling fish passed by him and Vamshidas got attracted by the smell and he wanted to taste it too. When he realized what has happening to him he got really really pissed off. He didn’t give in to his weakness but he was very angry that he still had to experience the material attraction to eating corpses of dead animals. He thought it was the fault of his deities and he directed all his anger towards them and nobody else. His reasoning was that he surrendered his life and soul to them and they were supposed to protect him from all kinds of temptations but they failed, they left him all alone to face maya and her illusory attractions. It wasn’t a fair fight, no living entity should ever think of taking on maya all by himself, we can avoid her clutches only by Krishna’s mercy and in Vamshidasa’s view Krishna failed to keep his end of the bargain.

He grabbed his deities, tied a rope around them and threw them into the Ganges. He put his foot down on the end of the rope and didn’t let anyone come near. People gathered around him, everybody was agitated and they tried to pacify Vamshidas but he threw rocks at anyone who dared to come into his view with any questions.

After this episode Srila Bhaktisiddhanta forbade any of the brahmacharies in his ashram to go and visit Vamshidas again. He said that they couldn’t understand his bhava and so it would be better for them not see this kind of things.

That wasn’t the only time when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta gave such an order. Once a brahmachari who thought that Vamshidas was mistreating his deities secretly took Gaura Nitai to Gaudiya Math temple at yoga-pith. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta saw it he immediately told the devotee to take the deities back before Vamshidas discovered that they were missing, before he unscrewed that brahmachari’s head or something.

This is an interesting point. On one hand I think anybody would agree that brahmachari was clearly wrong, that he didn’t understand special relationships Vamshidasa had with his deities. That is fine, but I also think that our own understanding might be far from perfect here and we might not be in the position to judge that brahmachari at all. Generally speaking, our ISKCON Deities are worshiped in the mood of Vaikuntha, with a lot of awe and reverence, not to mention opulence. That’s in the temples, what goes on in our own lives is a bit different. We have no problems with offering food in our minds or in less than perfect conditions, we don’t give much attention to the rules and regulations, thinking that simply chanting Hare Krishna is enough. If we are engaged in any kind of preaching than rules just go out of the window, Deities’ interests become subservient to the needs of the preaching mission, these are our priorities.

Eventually we develop a sense of familiarity, we think we understand Vamshidasa’s relationships with his deities pretty well, we get it. Well, to this I would say that what we get is how to play dolls with Krishna, nothing more. Anyone can play dolls, it’s not difficult to imagine having running conversations with little Gopal or with naughty Gauranga. I think that if we saw the deities for what or who they really are we would be struck speechless, no games, just dandavats and opulent offerings without raising our eyes above Lord’s lotus feet.

Our problem is that we don’t really understand the position of God and our own insignificance before Him and thus we don’t think it unacceptable to offer uncooked and unripe eggplants, for example, we think Krishna can’t tell the difference, it makes no difference to us anyway, as long as we claim the food is offered with devotion.

That unfortunate brahmachari, on the other hand, could have sensed God’s greatness and so he couldn’t bear anything disrespectful towards God’s manifestations as Deities. “What devotion! We are talking about serving GOD here, don’t you get it?” No, we don’t get it, it’s just a doll, we think, if you say you offer with devotion “it” will accept it, there’s nothing special here. Perhaps that brahmachari was miles ahead of us in God’s realization.

While I am on this rant, perhaps we read Krishna book and enjoy how Mother Yashoda was chasing baby Krishna for stealing butter and yogurt and we think – that’s exactly what I want, I want to be like her, I want to be greater that God. Well, here is the way – read more of these stories and chant the mantra and tell this to everybody you meet. I don’t know where it will lead us, however.

When people look at the history of our movement they immediately notice that many of our members come from disenfranchised classes, hippies and such. I myself wasn’t a top dog when I bought my first book. I can’t speak for everybody but would it be blasphemous to suggest that people who had nothing got attracted to Krishna because they saw the way to get everything? We might not have had any interest in what the society had to offer us at that time and we searched for better ways to express our greed. Working the socks off to become a boss of some dull, stuck up company wasn’t for us, but becoming the boss of God Himself – that was much more interesting, that got our attention.

Of course our hearts get cleansed during the process but if we still have this hidden desire to boss Krishna around we won’t get anywhere near Him. I, for one, sometimes have serious misgivings about my true motives. Maybe I don’t want to be the boss, maybe I can settle on being an equal, I’ll take it, as long as I don’t have to worship in reverence or anything like that. I can offer obeisances for a while, fine, but as soon as I get what I want Krishna can forget about it. I can’t deny I prefer offering Krishna food on my own plate to serving on a special set. I also prefer someone else doing cooking and offering, I’m fine with “respecting” only.

There, I said it. Now what? When will I ever get rid of this nonsense in my heart? I don’t know.

Tomorrow is another day.

Vanity thought #245. Good Tidings.

Last night, after typing up this blog, I saw some really inspiring news in my tweeter feed and it I think they deserve some thinking about, and some other news stories from the past couple of weeks, too.

First was a Facebook article about an annual festival in Ukraine. Yesterday I was reminiscing about huge kirtans in Mayapur but that festival must not be very far behind, in fact its title is simply “The Biggest Festival”.

The author, HH Devamrita Swami, doesn’t compare it to Mayapur yet but someone in the comments hopes to elevate Ukraine to a dham status ASAP. In terms of the size it’s the biggest ISKCON event already, with 6,000 registered guests. Actually that doesn’t sound like much if you think that sporting events draw ten times more spectators every weekend and some large political rallies reach a million but we are talking about a six thousand strong kirtan here. Surely Man U fans can easily whip up a six thousand strong chorus and will be just as ecstatic singing their silly songs but we are talking about six thousand strong KIRTAN here. That is just mindblowing and it’s only going to grow, it already adds over a thousand more people each year.

Another aspect of that festival is that there was no compulsory fee. Registering devotees are informed of the organizing cost per head but they are not forced to pay, just donate as much as they want and it worked. This policy even worked in gift shops where people could pick up anything they wanted and just leave donations. What can I say, long live Soviet Communism!

Humor aside, this is what our spiritual communism should be like, we should give people our service and leave returns to Krishna. He WILL provide, after all that’s our fundamental philosophical premise. No wonder I had never been offered any managerial positions…

When things are growing it’s relatively easy to implement but what would happen when people get greedier? Would the festival go broke? Every country had experienced tough spells, some have never quite shaken them off, and deterioration is actually the natural quality of the material world, what would happen if people lose interest and devotees start leaving?

I don’t think it should be worrying. Let’s things run their natural course, somebody is going to lose some money, true, but it’s trying that counts, not the success per se, right? There will be devotees who will learn from the failures, too. What’s the actual loss?

There was another encouraging article I saw on Dandavats recently and it was about a Polish devotee, Mahasringa, who has been cooking for Food For Life and other prasadam distribution programs for decades now. He has fed three and a half million people and he is not thinking about retirement yet. This is just amazing dedication, wherever he lives or visits he just finds pots and pans and cooks. I’m sure he doesn’t always have funds, he provides his loving, selfless service and Krishna takes care of the rest.

I think Ukrainian festival organizers have the same attitude, too – we’ll do our part to our best and we’ll take whatever support Krishna thinks we really deserve. This is a massive shift in consciousness and it’s becoming institutionalized, not just dreamed about or eulogized. I hope this is only the pilot project and this model will be spread all over the world. God know the world needs it.

What it really offers to the world is the proof that we are not just some weirdos with funny handbags but we can actually make something work according to OUR laws, not the market economics. I think Srila Prabhupada was very clear that prasadam should be served in our temples for free to anyone who comes but somehow or other we had become focused on the “free” part as in “no such thing as free lunch” and at some point our free prasadam started coming with our mental conditions attached but things have been changing for the better for years now.

I’m sure no one was counting the proceeds amidst a roar of a six thousand strong kirtan, I’m sure lots of people were on the seventh heaven and weren’t even touching the ground in that euphoria, which, I think, is essential if they want to turn that place into a new dham – it needs the dust of their lotus feet.

Another good ISKCON news also came from former USSR, this time from Siberia. They have finally installed the first ever deities of Radha Krishna in Russia, and not in Moscow but in some godforsaken Siberian Gulag. Okay, that city, Omsk, looks quite respectable on the Internet, with over a million population, but I doubt it has ever been anything more than an unknown blip on ISKCON maps.

Apparently they have built quite a community there, got their own land, built their own temple, trained their own pujaris and so on. All of it without waiting for Moscow to lead the way. As far as I know HH Bhakti Bringa Govinda Maharaj has been the main preaching motor in that zone, and he is another devotee whose energy and dedication is unmatched. He is like a touchstone turning Siberian forest into gold, or maybe into groves of kalpa-vriksha trees.

In another, not so good news from Siberia, Christians in Tomsk have taken Bhagavat Gita to courts and they want to prove that it’s the extremist literature that should be banned and burned. Apparently devotees won’t be even allowed to keep Bhagavat Gitas, much less distribute them to the public. The demons have lost this case once already but now they want to bring new university “experts” who had previously banned Jehovah’s Witnesses. Legally the verdict might not have much affect on the book distribution as only one specific edition would be affected but it would be like adding a nuclear weapon to the arsenal of church propaganda there.

On that subject, there was a curious development in Paris recently where they have altogether outlawed praying in the streets. Granted it was aimed at a specific Muslim community that inconvenienced both traffic and pedestrians in one city block but they are looking to extend the ban to the rest of the country in a few months. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any news on how this ruling affected our harinama parties, I imagine they could be stopped and asked to disperse at any time. France, the nation that practically invented the western concept of liberty has gone a full circle and is promoting fascism instead.

Finally, the biggest story of the past couple of weeks had been the departure of HG Gopiparanadhana Prabhu. I have never seen him in person but it seems he was a living example of a learned and devoted brahmana, the kind that is most dear to Krishna, the kind that we mention several times every day when offering prasadam, and that’s just the first among his exceptional qualities. Personally, I’m going to re-read his translation of Brihad Bhagavatamrita at the earliest chance and find his Q&A group that, reportedly, was a trove of useful information.

I still don’t know what should be the reaction to the departure of vaishnavas. It’s sad for us but it’s good for them. Should we be selfish and miserable of happy for his return to Krishna? I don’t know, it should be a mix, I suppose.

To conclude this review I would happily report that no Dalai Lama quotes have found their way into my twitter for the past month of so. I hope it was only a one off occasion. He might be a cool dude but whose quotes are going to appear there next? Deepak Chopra?