Vanity thought #1202. Deadly sins – pride

This is the fifth episode in the series, there are only two left, sloth and greed, so the end is near. Not that it would eradicate all traces of sin from watchers’ hearts but it should help even non-believers to lead more pious lives which, in turn, would lead to greater appreciation for messages from the Lord.

Even the Holy Name needs a certain amount of good karma to be heard of and noticed. We take it for granted but there are people who one way or another manage to avoid meeting with the Holy Name throughout their whole lives. Save for Lord Caitanya’s devotees no one takes preaching the glory of the Holy Name seriously, that is a fact, but there are other aspects here to consider, too.

It’s not just hearing the Holy Name that is important, everyone has heard the syllable “Ram”, which should be enough to liberate one from material existence but that is obviously not happening. Our worldview is very simple – there are devotees and there are non-devotees. Devotees easily cross the ocean of material existence, in a space of just a few lifetimes, non-devotees do not stand a chance at all. In reality, however, practically everyone is a devotee, everyone has heard the Holy Name, everyone knows the word Kṛṣṇa, but that alone is not enough. All that really matters is how long it would take from casually hearing the Name to becoming a devotee.

In places like India everyone knows enough names of God to be liberated on the spot and yet it doesn’t happen. They need to build proper relationships with the Lord first, until that happens they’ll keep traveling through heaven and hell, knowing all about Kṛṣṇa in each and every incarnation. We are here not just because we have been punished with imprisonment, we are here because we WANT it, because we made a conscious arrangement with the Lord. Demigods aren’t unique in their inability to develop pure devotion despite having intimate knowledge of Viṣṇu and His involvement in affairs of the universe. They know Him, and at the same time they prefer to hang on to their own positions, consciously. We are all in the same kind of boat.

We need to hear the Name from the lips of a pure devotee, any other source will NOT bring the desired result even if the Name is there, all its powers are there, and all potential benefits are there, too. Only a pure devotee can unlock it, however, the rest are bound to continue with their existing perverted relationships with the Lord.

My point is that having godless people is not the problem, having people not sufficiently appreciating the Lord is. It’s not just the Name that we should give to people, it’s proper attitude towards the Name, and in that sense our work will never be done because in the material world everyone’s attitude needs adjustment, even the best of devotees have obstacles to overcome and progress to make.

It’s a big topic for another day, though, today I was onto pride.

As usual, the introduction from the presenter made most sense there while segments chosen to illustrate his point are interesting on their own but hardly fit. The best part I’ve taken away from this episode is the observation that pride is so easy to see in others and yet so difficult to notice in oneself. Very profound, and it all goes down from there.

Somehow it turned into sex. First up was a fifty year old freak with boobs the size of Guiness Book watermelons. She is really really sick, there’s nothing sexual in her appearance anymore. She had over sixty operations on her breasts and countless more botox injections in her face. Rubber dolls look more realistic by comparison. Yet she takes a great pride in her body. She says that her boobs define her. They are revolting.

Next was a bodybuilder who started with openly declaring that vanity is good. It took me a couple of minutes to realize that it was actually a woman. Even when she was shown totally naked she didn’t look like a female at all. Her body, face, hair, voice, everything covered whatever femininity she might have left. When she walks on the street dressed in women clothing she looks like a transvestite who went a step too far. She is also almost fifty, never had a partner, and it doesn’t look like she will pair with anyone anytime soon. She simply has no time for this kind of thing, it’s all about focus, concentration, and dedication to perfecting her body. She already achieved great results in this regard but the side effect is that she can’t find anyone to appreciate it. She truly lives in a world of her own.

Third segment, otoh, was thought provoking. It was about people who freeze their bodies after death in cryogenic conditions, hoping to be revived sometime in the future when medicine would be able to restore them to their full health. Interesting proposition but a few things were not mentioned – as of now there’s no solution not only to curing whatever diseases that caused their death, there’s no procedure to unfreeze them at all. The process is irreversible. What they hope is not only that medicine will advance enough to heal them but that science will learn how to thaw their bodies first.

They gave up these experiments on animals half a century ago, it just doesn’t work. Ice crystals that form within and between the cells is one insurmountable problem. So far they pump the bodies with special liquid to avoid it but that makes it look like preservation in formaldehyde, just at lower temperatures. In the future they need to be drained of this liquid and pumped with water again, refilling each tiny cell. It’s a stuff of science fiction.

Some, therefore, choose to freeze only their brains. They argue that it’s the brain that preserves all the memory and personality traits so everything else is not really worth preserving. They, therefore, nurture even a more outrageous hope that one day in the future scientists will be able to download all the necessary information from these brains and upload them into working robots or individuals, as if inserting memory cards, and thus re-create long dead people.

But why?

Pride. People are too attached to their false egos, there’s no other reason. And they also figure that since they can’t take their money with them they might just as well spend it on cryonics procedure. What have they got to lose?

Okay, but what makes pride a “deadly” sin? Why is it considered “mortal” by the church? Because it causes irreparable damage to one’s spiritual health, which again brings me to the degree of contamination or purity, just as with the Holy Name. In absolute terms there’s no sin, no pride, that can’t be cleansed by the Holy Name, and everyone has already heard it, but we do not live in the absolute world. We constantly negotiate our relationships with the Lord. In this case we ask for permission to enjoy a bit of pride in exchange for losing a bit of devotion. At some point we go too far, the limited means of purification available to us in this world become insufficient, and so a sin becomes “mortal”. By limited means I mean time and energy we can allot to chanting, limited access to pure devotees’ association and so on.

Kṛṣṇa is always ready to extend His help but at some point, if we insist on going along, He gives up until we turn to Him again. That’s when sin becomes mortal – when Kṛṣṇa gives up on the project to bring us back home within this lifetime. We do not die of it immediately, it probably has nothing to do with our deaths at all, but it kills our souls, kills our chances of progress.

I’m sure Christians describe it differently but who cares, I’m just trying to fit their concepts into worldview according to Kṛṣṇa.

As for the pride itself, well, this post is getting too long, perhaps I’ll continue tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1009. Resentment

Resentment is one of those emotions that are obstructive to development of bhakti, much like lust or envy. Every time we feel overwhelmed by indignation and sense of injustice we should know we are not making any progress, at least not at the moment.

Last night I had another lucid dream where I experienced a whole gamut of such negative emotions. When I woke up it took me a while to reboot and shake them off, it seems appropriate to record and reflect on this, hence this post.

The dream had two distinct parts but emotionally it felt like one as if I saw the evolution of my emotional state illustrated by disconnected scenes. First scene was me being kicked out of a university dorm because I was expelled. The expulsion itself was not in the dream, I don’t know why or how it happened, it’s just that back in the dorm the management told me to pack my stuff and leave. That made me very very upset. I felt like my whole world crumbled down. Prior to being evicted I was hanging out with my friends as if nothing happened, and, in fact, my expulsion didn’t affect my dorm life in the slightest. It was still me with my friends, still the same dinners, talks, and probably booze, but that wasn’t in the dream. I wasn’t even occupying anyone’s legitimate place, I was sleeping on empty beds, I didn’t keep a room of my own.

When the management showed up, however, they said that the party is over and I need to move out. This is when it downed on me that my life as I knew it was over. I slowly collected my belongings and walked out in the streets, it was cold and there was snow, and the management somehow grabbed one of my bags and only laughed in my face when I demanded it back. It felt so unfair but I also knew that this was the reality I was trying to avoid, and it only increased my resentment.

Eventually, I embraced my new situation and settled into life on the streets – my new home. I was free from any obligations and this independence made up for the lack of comfort. I wasn’t part of the rat race anymore and I grew to be content with my new, austere conditions. Then came the second part.

Suddenly I was back in the dorm again, not the same room, though, and not with the same people, and I don’t even know why I was there. I was given a place and introduced to new friends and I tried to act like I was one of them but I still wasn’t a student and I had no job either, I was still the same bum from the streets but forced to pretend that I had a normal life.

People were quite friendly and accepted me in their group, but what I noticed that while I had time for endless conversations they actually had to go somewhere and so my conversation partners were always rotating. By the time I finally wanted to sleep it was already morning and a new bunch of people walked in.

Some brought their other friends and they all were excited about their plans and projects. I tried to talk to them but quickly realized that I was out of my depth and had absolutely nothing to contribute. In all this commotion I couldn’t sleep either so I tried to make myself busy, just like them.

I still had nowhere to go, though, so I just procrastinated with brushing teeth, taking a shower, collecting some papers and so on. Just as I was about to leave I realized that my shoestrings got lost somewhere so I spent maybe another hour looking for them, and people started to wonder what was wrong with me.

That’s when the new wave of resentment overwhelmed me again – why can’t I be normal like them? Why can’t I have a job like them? Why can’t I be a student like them? They seem to be so happy and their lives full of meaning while I’m all by myself and have no purpose.

I knew I was dreaming, btw, and I knew what my problem was, and when I woke up I continued thinking in the same vein – why do I feel so much pain looking at “normal” people? Does the key to my unhappiness lie in my independence?

Thing is, I knew even in my dream that those were materialistic people and I knew that to succeed in their society I had to submit myself to some boss somewhere, a person who I have no respect for simply because he is not a devotee. I knew that applying for a job means accepting values that are foreign to me and pursuing goals I’m not interested in, all for a bit of money and a chance to be “normal”. Do I really need this in my life?

Thing is, I always had problems with authority. Not that I’m rebellious or anything, but I don’t do orders, and authorities never loved me back. Once I met a company boss, we had a short talk, and later he told my managers to get rid of me. They, however, needed me at the moment and kept me, and several years later that same boss was thanking me for my services which were so important to his company and which helped him to steer it through difficult times. I didn’t remind him of our first meeting.

Another time I had a boss I was chemically incompatible with. We just couldn’t discuss anything without starting a big argument. For many years we simply avoided each other, knowing that it was the best practice for everyone.

Just recently I saw a local political leader, he was on “meet the people” tour, shaking hands, kissing babies, and letting women take selfies with him. When he finally got to where I was standing he didn’t even smile at me even though I was in a very good mood and wanted to congratulate him on doing a good job. Nope, just one little glance in my direction and he hurried away. “Not again”, I thought, “what is it with me and the authorities – why don’t they like me?”

It is more or less the same in ISKCON, too, I guess it’s my karma or my horoscope – I don’t look like anybody’s servant and authorities simply don’t like having me around.

What should I do about it? In my dream I felt resentful because I thought I was unfairly excluded from materialistic society but when I woke up I thought more about my position in relation to Kṛṣṇa – is it really enough for me to surrender to Him or should I swallow my pride and beg some materialistic pig to engage me in his service, too? It can seriously improve my career if I decide to go down that road, but should I?

On one hand it sounds completely wrong – taking shelter of Kṛṣṇa should always be enough, we can never allow ourselves to think that Kṛṣṇa is good only for one kind of thing but is useless for anything else – job, money, sex, etc, so we cannot rely on Him alone and should serve many masters. This is so undevotional I don’t even want to entertain such thoughts.

On the other hand my problem might be in not seeing material bosses as Kṛṣṇa’s representatives. I’m okay with following instructions of our spiritual and managerial authorities but I refuse to see outside leaders as having any legitimacy. A mature devotee should see their legitimacy as derived from Kṛṣṇa no matter what their appearances and motives and so he should accept service to them as service to Kṛṣṇa’s agents. I don’t see it that way – is it what my real problem is?

Or is my inherent desire for independence that is the root of all my troubles? One one hand it’s certainly true, on the other hand there are classes of people who should not take orders by their nature – brāhmaṇas, for example. Maybe kṣatriyas, too – kṣatriyas pay tributes to the emperors, of course, but no one is allowed to micromanage their own domains.

It is pretentious of me to claim brāhmaṇa status in defense of my independent nature but somehow being ordered around feels so wrong. Another argument in favor of independence is that my time of being in anyone’s employ is quickly running out and I should prepare myself for purely spiritual pursuits where complete dependence on Kṛṣṇa and satisfaction with whatever gets supplied by my karma is a must. Why should I force myself to learn something I will have to unlearn fairly soon anyway?

Shouldn’t I learn to be content with whatever I have now, too? As it is, I don’t really need to brown nose anyone in exchange for anything, so why should I start?

The only reason I see is to defy my false ego, to humiliate myself, to detach myself from perceived loss of dignity. Do I really need to do this? Or is it what is in store for me anyway and Kṛṣṇa is gently preparing me for this eventuality through dreams such as this one?

Though I recognize emotions awakened in my by this dream I don’t usually feel them or think about my life in these terms, it was something out of the blue, based on imaginary events of many many years ago in places I’ve never been before.

What is the meaning of all this? I do not know, but I do know that resentment needs to go, I have to purge my heart from attitudes that are causing it. In that sense understanding and embracing some set of values that I should stick to no matter how material energy makes me feel is important. Unfortunately, I still haven’t decided what those values are – should I consciously punish my pride and surrender to some uncouth, meat eating barbarian in exchange for a few pieces of silver, or should I stick to the principle of relying only on Kṛṣṇa?

I need to go and chant on that

Vanity thought #985. dlroW nwoD edispU

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a series of posts about latest criticism of HH Hṛdayānanda Dāsa Gosvāmī. Checking back on it I found a curious twist that escaped me before – the leader of this attack is actually Hṛdayānananda Mahārāja’s former disciple and he stands by his decision to abandon his guru. That was weird, I thought, but it turns out such ideas are fairly common in our society and are not immediately sanctioned by our leaders, which is a good thing, I suppose, in that it allows for a healthy debate and keeps all our devotees together. It also turns our world upside down, or right to left, and that is dangerous to our spiritual lives.

I don’t want to mention any names here and make it personal, nor do I want to condemn any particular devotee for doing any particular thing. Everybody has his own reasons and everybody has to act according to the superior nature, as long as I’m not given responsibility for other people’s actions I shouldn’t meddle. Yet there are ideas and patterns of behavior that are harmful to spiritual progress and we should take note of those at least for ourselves and, if possible, for purification of others, too.

I don’t want to be a nazi and force devotees to behave in a certain way but I also don’t want to abnegate all responsibility for other people’s spiritual progress. We are all in this together and helping other devotees to avoid pitfalls is a great service opportunity we should never miss. Most likely I will not say anything important people haven’t heard before, it’s just a customary disclaimer.

So, what is happening here is that some people get attracted to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, join ISKCON and fully take to spiritual practice. Eventually they get initiated, get some recognition in our society, learn quite a lot about our philosophy and Gauḍiyā history, and settle into this new role of being learned, respected, exemplary vaiṣṇavas.

What happens next is that they start judging others. Knowing all about spiritual standards it becomes fairly easy to spot other people’s mistakes and God knows we always have plenty of material to practice on.

At this point it needs to be said that there’s only one undisputed authority for us – Śrila Prabhupāda, so whenever there is any debate, quotes from Prabhupāda must be there, and those are available to everyone. Our institutional response to numerous guru falldowns doesn’t help either – everyone must take shelter of Śrila Prabhupāda. On one hand it’s a legitimate universal solution to all our problems but the downside of it is that everyone becomes equal.

This is where it all goes awry. It doesn’t matter whose disciple one is, what generation he is from, everyone becomes equal, which is NOT how vaiṣṇavas should relate to each other.

Instead of totally depending on the mercy of guru and vaiṣṇavas one relies strictly on his own understanding of Śrila Prabhupāda. What one reads and understands from the books is given absolute value, over and above whatever anyone else is saying.

Devotees thus take full charge of their own spiritual lives. They make all the decision themselves and at best run them by the authorities for customary blessings and if there are any disagreements then one simply rejects the authority for “not following Prabhupāda”.

This is how we come to a situation where a disciple feels free to judge his own guru’s behavior, qualifications, and advancement, and make his own decisions on whether to follow guru’s orders or not. This is how we come to a situation where a disciple can claim to know Prabhupāda and philosophy better than his guru and start correcting him.

Guru thus becomes not a master but a servant of disciple’s whims. A disciple feels free to dictate how his guru should react to this or to that and what position to take on any issue. Of course it has not gotten as bad as actually giving direct orders but the attitude is there and it manifests itself one way or another.

Even if one does not dare to treat his own guru this way he grants such a right to disciples of other gurus and sees nothing wrong with it. Another manifestation is absolute confidence with which one argues with his guru’s godbrothers, one is not afraid to confront and correct them anymore. Yet another manifestation is public allegiance to Śrila Prabhupāda in the presence of one’s immediate authorities who get the message they can be easily stepped over.

The reality of life is that we always have to make some decisions and most of the time we do not have any direct orders to do this or that. Śāstric injunction in this regard is to seek confirmation from guru, sādhu, and śāstra but drunk with one’s own intelligence one can easily manipulate them against each other. Śāstra by nature is often inconclusive, one can always find support there for whatever argument one wants, and so all one needs is to find enough “sādhus” to outvote his guru two to one.

Effectively, one relies strictly on his own interpretation of what Prabupāda wanted and becomes his own authority while guru-sādhu-śāstra are being relegated to simple tools.

In this particular instance – is there a case for rejecting Hṛdayānanda Dāsa Gosvami as a spiritual master? If one studies maharaja’s character and behavior, his following of sannyāsa rules, his following Śrila Prabhupāda in mood and externally, one might very well build a case for rejecting him. This, however, is NOT how one should go about it.

As long as Hṛdayānanda mahārāja authorization to perform the duties of a guru is not revoked by GBC whatever one personally thinks about him is irrelevant. Guru’s authority does NOT come from the disciple and disciples cannot revoke it no matter what they think.

But but but.., these devotees might say – there are examples from our history and guidelines from our ācāryas regarding reinitiation and rejecting one’s guru. There’s an excellent collection of quotes in this series by HH Dānavīr Svāmī who appears largely supportive of guru-tyāga but it all boils down to one thing – guru becoming avaiṣṇava. This is not what happened to Hṛdayānanda Mahārāja in any shape or form so even if one disagrees with him and doesn’t want to follow his orders one still has no permission to reject him.

Guru is a representative of Kṛṣṇa, if one rejects this mercy and decides to follow his own ideas then he puts his devotional life in serious jeopardy. Whatever we think, whatever we say, whatever we argue for or against – under no circumstances we can violate our surrender to the lotus feet of our guru. That’s all we have in our spiritual life as conditioned souls, if we reject that it means we reject devotion to Kṛṣṇa and instead desire something else.

We might get it, Kṛṣṇa fulfills everybody’s desires, but we can forget devotion. It never ever comes to those who disrespect their guru in any way. It’s simply not possible, there are no two ways about it.

Between being right and being loyal to one’s guru the choice is obvious – those who want to achieve devotion override their pride and surrender, those who want local greatness continue worshiping their own powers.

Once again – it’s not a message to devotees who rejected their gurus, it’s a ple to everyone to seek this contamination in our own hearts and purge it with force and determination. We are all affected in one degree or another, it’s a natural thing in this material world and we all have to face it sooner or later just as eventually we have to face a million of other anarthas like lust or envy.

Vanity thought #921. Fighting temptations – pride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanity thought #649. The sense of belonging

Thanks to the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and his representatives we have been recruited into Lord Chaitanya’s army. If not His followers we are at least His hangers-on. This is where we belong and this is not going to change, not unless Lord Chaitanya suddenly changes His mind and tell us to seek shelter elsewhere. We are not going to be abandoned but that doesn’t mean our sense of belonging cannot fail us.

What happens to every neophyte is that we get a lot of enthusiasm and we think that we’ve done with this world, that we don’t belong here anymore. This is true of our souls but not true of our bodies.

Imagine you went out on this fine Sunday for some people watching. You got yourself a nice little place where you can see everyone, you can see every facet of human behavior, you see people’s aspirations, people’s joy, people’s sadness, their hopes, their dreams, and their reality of not living up to it. You can sit there and think to yourself: “This isn’t for me, I’m done with it. I don’t want to be the part of this rat race anymore and, luckily, I’m out anyway. I’ve got a guru, I’ve got wisdom from our books, I’ve got mercy, I don’t belong here anymore.”

Reality, however, is that we are not invisible. We might think that we don’t belong but we are still very much a piece of a jigsaw that is this great illusion and there’s nothing we can do about it. We belong here.

We think that we’ve become transcendental but we still occupy some space, we chose our spot in relation to other people and other people do not walk through us, they notice our presence and take their positions correspondingly. We might appear alone for the moment but we are still breathing air which we share with all the other living organisms. We eat food that has been grown through other people’s hard labor, we use toilets, we throw our garbage and it gets picked by someone else. Our footprint on this Earth might be small but it’s still there and it will be there at least until our death.

What is transcendental to this world is our service to guru and Krishna, everything else is still pretty much down here. We have our physical bodies and they belong to our father and mother or to the state and community. We have to go to work and our energy thus belongs to our employer. We might say that we do this voluntarily, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement but we can’t opt out of it – someone owns our labor and pays us for it. No one can live in this world without work, it says so in Bhagavad Gita.

We are owned the moment we are born – by our parents, by demigods and by sages – that’s from Vedas.

What we should realize is that these debts are not ours, however, they are debts of our bodies. We as spirit souls do not belong here but our bodies are, and so we shouldn’t make a mistake of confusing our roles here.

We cannot say “my body does not belong here and it doesn’t owe anyone anything.” We can say “As a spirit soul I don’t belong here but as an embodied being I have to live out the rest of my karma,” because that’s what our debts are – it’s our karma.

We can hope that Krishna releases us from our karmic reactions but that is true only regarding our service and only when it’s pure and uncontaminated by any material desires. Even then He’d release us as spirit souls, not that He’d break the laws of karma to accommodate our illusions.

If we still see ourselves as our bodies we won’t get liberated and we’ll still suffer consequences (or enjoy consequences, same thing). I suppose it goes without saying that no one is feeling himself liberated already and if he does he most likely isn’t, for it doesn’t work that way – the sign of advancement is realization of inadequacy, not feeling of great spiritual achievements.

You can’t think “I’m liberated” and then trot off to the toilet because your bladder is getting weaker every year. You can’t seek a shelter of a clean, private stall and think “I don’t belong in this world.” It’s ridiculous. Our bodies will always live according to the laws of nature, they will always belong here.

Anyway, my point today is that we can’t afford to feel superior to people around us, we can’t think that we are above them and their mundane world. They can always come back at you and claim their ownership, in the form of taxes, for example.

Service to the Lord is not our own, it was given to us by our guru and it can be taken away at any moment, so we can’t boast about it either. We should purge ALL thoughts of superiority from our consciousness, it’s the devil talking, to borrow from Christian terminology.

Greatness is all around us – externally as this wonderful creation and spiritually as our guru, Krishna, and all His devotees. Greatness is everywhere we look but we can’t seek it inside ourselves, that would spell our doom.

Well, I guess I’m rambling but that is an important point to remember – purge all desires to feel superior to anybody else. We are not above anybody, either in this world or in Krishna’s service.

Krishna is great, that position is already taken, we shouldn’t usurp it.

Vanity thought #359. Humility

Let me just post this quote form “Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava”:

During April 1935 at Mādhva Gauḍīya Maṭha, a group of respectable ladies of Dacca came close to Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, offered obeisance, and were about to offer flowers at his lotus feet when he checked them:

“O mothers, I am wholly unworthy of the respect you propose to show me. The body that I presently inhabit should be incessantly whipped, then plastered with dust and mud, thrown in a gutter, and left there. He to whom you have offered obeisance considers himself lower than a maggot of hell. He is particularly shy about this act of yours, seeing which he wonders why he is sitting on a raised seat. Considering you to be servants of Kṛṣṇa, he offers ten thousand obeisances at your feet. You are serving Kṛṣṇa—which he is incapable of doing. And for those inclined to freely touch anyone’s feet, I recall the words of my gurudeva: ‘Why do they so boldly stretch out their hands to take dust from the feet of a sadhu? Do they really consider themselves sufficiently qualified?’

There’s really nothing left to add.

Can we feel the same way about our own bodies? I think it’s impossible as long as we identify ourselves with them, this realistic estimate can come only from an impartial observer, a liberated soul. The moment we take body’s interests as our own we accept that body’s illusory value as real – worthy of respect and deserving of love according to its position in the society.

For the liberated souls the body is a curse, a potential trap they always have to be aware of. Its actual value is non-different from that of maggots of hell or corpses dragged through gutters. Considering the pride the bodies tend to inspire in their inhabitants this treatment seems to be well-deserved.

The quote form Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji is eye-opening, too. How often do we feel inadequate to take dust of holy places or holy persons on our head or to taste drops of charanamrita? Feeling inadequate is the symptom – being unqualified is the cause. I never thought of it this way but actually it makes total sense.

We’ve grown accustomed to chanting Hare Krishna very loudly and not worrying about its real value being cheapened by giving it to offensive people. It used to be a great offense but we consider ourselves spared by the mercy of Lord Chaitanya. Personally I think we should re-examine our behavior in this regard but I’m not the one to make that call for our society.

If we are very liberal with Krishna’s name we are somewhat more protective of Srimati Radharani. As Gaudiya vaishnavas we shouldn’t be saying Her Name in public at all, it should be too dear to us to disclose to non-believers. I still cringe what some devotees great each other with “Radhe Radhe”. We can’t use Her name in vain, he Name is our most dear, most treasured possession.

Even more potent than that, at least practically speaking, is the dust from the feet of Her devotees. I always assumed that this dust was “free”, as in “Lord Chaitanya unlocked the treasure chest of love of God and distributed it to everyone”. Turns out it isn’t, one has to be qualified to appreciate it and to get true spiritual benefits from putting it on his head.

Perhaps all we really qualified for is offering obeisances from a distance, incidentally that’s exactly what our etiquette prescribes us to do but we think we are clever cookies and can steal dust anytime we have a chance. Not gonna work, according to Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji’s transcendental vision.

Vanity thought #343. The importance of staying in debt

Normally Srila Prabhupada taught us that being indebted is a really bad thing but that was meant for the monetary dealings in the material world. When we are in service of Krishna, however, being indebted is a good thing, at least the way Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati explained it. He actually recommended it, for our won benefit.

His reasoning was like this – take all the money you can get and spend even more for Krishna’s service. If you don’t have enough you have to go out and collect. You have to go out, tell people about Krishna and beg them to donate something for His pleasure. This will make them feel superior to you (even though it’s you who are giving them the greatest opportunity of their lives) and you will be forced to feel lower than the blade of grass. You will also be forced to offer them respect, manada, that way you will fulfill all the requirements for kirtaniya sada harih, AND you will be talking about Krishna all the time.

There’s no other way to clear your heart from anarthas. If you feel inconvenienced by behaving like an insignificant beggar while talking about Krishna, if you don’t like when people tell you to get lost or even kick you out, if your pride hurts too much from all of that – you are not qualified for doing nirjana bhajana anyway and so shouldn’t be wasting you time, pretending to progress in the comfort of you own ashram (that was meant of matha vasis).

This is a powerful message. I wish it got permanently etched at the back of my mind.

Vanity thought #221. Paradigm shifts.

Ever since encountering Krishna consciousness we undergo several paradigm shifts. The first one is the most impressive one – we suddenly realize that there’s God watching over us and expecting our return. The sweetest moments of everyone’s life, no doubt about it.

Then we read the books, absorb the philosophy, and always wear very pink glasses. When we go to the temples everyone is a saint there, everyone is a pure devotee. We beg everyone’s mercy and we bask in it to our full satisfaction. We make a lot of progress in a very short time. Prema bhakti is just around the corner, maybe next morning when I wake up it will be there. Chanting, kirtans, prasadam – we’ve never seen so much bliss in our lives.

Then we move into the temple. Maybe it’s not a custom anymore but in the earlier days it was the natural next step. New sadhana seems like living on Goloka Vrindavana already, just need one more push to really feel it. Everything is easy – waking up in the morning, distributing books, preaching, sacrificing our lives for the mission of the spiritual master. You will never find a more determined bhaktas than those a few months short of their first initiation.

Then we start to settle in and that’s where we notice, for the first time in our lives, who the devotees around us really are. At first we tell ourselves that it’s okay, we came to a hospital and so we should expect to meet sick people but in a short while it starts resembling a mental asylum instead.

This is where we hit the second paradigm shift – we convince ourselves that we are a part of the select club of real devotees. We join our peers and we get the privilege of having some juniors around us, too. We got all the formalities right – initiation, second initiation, probably a respectable position in the temple hierarchy – we are truly in.

That realization of our own progress and importance and the maddening reality of a temple life lead us to become judgmental and critical of all others who can’t do a single thing right. It might not be so bad when we boss around new bhaktas but we start dispersing advice to our seniors, too – after all they are just like us, just a few years up the ladder, they are still human, not pure devotees for sure. In fact at this stage we are extremely skeptical about any pure devotees getting to live in this temple ever.

What naturally happens is that we commit enough aparadhas to seriously damage our enthusiasm for service. Material desires creep back – we get new dhotis, nice chaddars, an iPod, maybe a new computer, all for the service and for thinking of Krishna, of course. Then we get wives.

That is a third paradigm shift – we realize that we are nowhere near pure devotee level. Nowhere, never, not in this lifetime (well, maybe towards the end, when genitals stop working…)

If we overcome that big hit we emerge much stronger and humbler, much more appreciative of others, much more considerate, in some cases even the enthusiasm comes back. That’s when we really get noticed in the community, we might even become pillars, our lectures are sought out, maybe we’ll start giving seminars and travelling all over the place. We dispense wisdom and advice, we know shastras through realization, we made it. Another paradigm shift has been completed.

This is where we start teaching everyone. Not sannyasis and gurus yet, but we are watching them. They would often need our advice anyway, they can’t be expert in everything themselves. Sometimes they miss our advice and fumble things being left on their own. We are there to pick it up and put it back together. Marital advice, administrative matters – you name it, we know it inside out.

This is where we realize that gurus, sannyasis, and even Prabhupada himself were human. They have limitations, they are prone to making mistakes. We mean no disrespect, we just want to be helpful and make everything absolutely perfect.

If we step to that plate we complete yet another paradigm shift, so far the most dangerous of all, simply because the stakes are so high and we might become offensive towards really untouchable people.

Let me illustrate how it worked in Lord Chaitanya’s times. Jiva goswami was Rupa goswami’s nephew and he stayed with him in Vrindavana, serving his uncle and initiating spiritual master (it must have been sannyasa initiation). One day Sri Vallabhacharya of Shiva sampradaya visited Rupa goswami and pointed out a few mistakes in the new verses of Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu. Jiva goswami found a private opportunity to discuss them with Vallabhacharya and defend his uncle. Vallabhacharya was very impressed with his scholarship, Rupa goswami wasn’t.

In fact, Rupa goswami was incensed at Jiva goswami’s breach of etiquette – he was absolutely in no position to correct his seniors, devotees on the same level as his spiritual master. Right or wrong, knowledgeable or not – this is just not done. Sri Rupa goswami simply told Jiva to get lost, leave Vrindavan and don’t come back until he clears himself of his pride and bad attitude.

We must never ever “think objectively” when meeting senior vaishnavas. Objectively they might make mistakes here and there, it’s human nature, after all. Objectivity, however, is not devotion, it won’t give us love of God. As far as devotee is concerned – senior vaishnavas are guided by Krishna Himself and thus they cannot make mistakes by definition.

Objectively minded people might see things in terms of right and wrong, short, medium and long term. We are not objective people, however, we want devotion and we want unconditional surrender – everything Krishna does is right, every doubt that Krishna or His devotees committed a mistake is wrong.

Objectively, all other devotees we meet in our lives are on the same level as us – jivas, Lord’s marginal potency, prone to falling into an illusion. For our spiritual advancement, however, we assume a different position. We must treat our guru and his equals as representatives of Krishna, not as our equals in any sense, not as other humans, we must treat them as external manifestation of God, and also we must be trinad api sunichena.

For an objective observer this is plain silly – we can’t treat a mortal guru and his pals as God, this is delusion. We might respect them for what they have done in their lives but they are not God. If we want to live in a wider society we should drop this nonsense – no one can be God in this world, isn’t it our own philosophy, too?

Our current paradigm, if you followed me a few paragraphs earlier, assumes that we can see ourselves as part of the wider world and be vaishnavas, too. We practically set out to prove that we are not just some crazies wrapped in bedsheets, that we indeed are perfect gentlemen, just like Prabhupada wanted us to be.

Thus we understand that Prabhupada was not God, he was human, and he made a few mistakes here and there. Everybody can see that, he himself had a whole BBT department to correct errors in his books.

Objectively this is correct, devotionally it’s a massive fail.

For the sake of our spiritual health we cannot, under any circumstances, think that Prabhupada made any mistakes. Not with the Moon landing, not with astronomy, not with regulative principles – nothing, never, not possible by definition. Prabhupada was an external manifestation of Krishna, or Balarama, or Lord Nityananda specifically.

Maybe the problem is that we are still short of the last paradigm shift – seeing the whole world as working under the direction of Krishna and all devotees enjoying His special attention. Objectively speaking, I mean knowing that there’s nothing here but the play of Krishna’s energies, there are no such things as mistakes at all. Everything Krishna and His energies do is absolutely perfect and free from all illusion. We are not free from our illusion but that’s our problem. We see people making mistakes when it’s actually they are not doers of anything and every mistake is sanctioned by the Supersoul with utmost love and care and for that living soul’s ultimate well-being.

Before we get to that level we might try to see “mistakes” as Krishna’s special messages for us, too, as He knows exactly what He is doing and He personally oversees the process of committing those mistakes from start to finish and he knows how it might affect us.

If we see the “mistakes” then it’s probably a sign that we have the capacity to deal with them appropriately, too, and continue building our respect for the devotees that commit them. All to often, however, we decide that the mistakes are there so that we could come to the rescue and save the day. Sometimes it works, Vallabhacharya didn’t take any offense either, remember? That doesn’t heal the damage we made to our own spiritual advancement, however. If Rupa goswami didn’t point it our Jiva goswami wouldn’t have probably noticed it and continued living in Vrindavana and writing scholarly books, he had a perfect mind for that.

Rupa goswami, however, put him straight – this is not the attitude of an aspiring devotee amd it does not bring one closer to selfless loving service to Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. Jiva goswami probably didn’t really need this lesson himself, it was all arranged for our benefit, just like Arjuna’s apparent confusion before the battle.

Jiva goswami didn’t leave Vrindavan, btw, he was on his way and then he just couldn’t go any farther, he stopped and started fasting. It attracted attention of some other devotees and then they asked Sanatana goswami for help who eventually settled the matter between Rupa and Jiva goswamis, so it all ended well.

I’m not sure there will be help just around the corner every time we decide to correct Srila Prabhupada, or any senior devotee for that matter.

We just have to hold on until that very last shift to the real Krishna consciousness. I hope we are not too far away and Krishna will take care of us so that we get there safely.

Vanity thought #219. Born again.

This subject gave me considerable grief in the past couple of days – what happens when one dies and gets born again. What does the soul carry from one life to the next.

Actually, I don’t care that much, it’s not something we, as devotees, should be overly concerned about – we should be preparing ourselves NOT to be born again, ever, and we shouldn’t be making plan B in case that doesn’t work out. All these things are better left to Krishna, man proposes, God disposes, there’s no practical application in knowing the exact procedure of reincarnation.

There’s a matter of pride, however, I staked mine on saying that the soul goes alone, it turns out I’m most probably wrong and I want to make it right. Not by accepting the correct version, proving that I didn’t make a mistake. Such a fool.

I’ve learned quite a few things along the way, however, so there was some benefit from my stubbornness in the end.

My understanding always has been that the soul leaves one body and goes to the next. All that we accumulated in our lives becomes lost, all our possessions, all our family ties, all our expertise, experience – everything. Surely our present situation affects our next appearance but, basically, when you die you leave everything behind.

Turns out there’s an alternative version – that we take our subtle body with us, too. Outrageous, was my first reaction.

It all started with competition for the best answers to a common question – if there’s reincarnation then how come I don’t remember anything from my previous lives? A common answer is that these memories stay hidden so as not to overwhelm our gentle psyche. Basically the same reason we don’t know our future that is predetermined by the laws of karma – too much to bear.

I always thought it was a lame argument. Some people can deal perfectly well with predictions of their future, some people should be able to deal well with memories of the past lives, too. Maybe not at each and every moment of their lives but occasionally, when they’ve been told they have only a few months left to live or when they go through some allegedly traumatic experiences and need a real eye-opener to put their trivial problems in perspective.

Instead, the memories of our past lives are shut out for us forever regardless of the state of our minds. There are people who remember something from their previous incarnations and they don’t go crazy, too.

There must be another reason, I always thought. Recently I found one – when we die and get born again we do not carry any physical connections from one life to another, no receptacles for the memories. Even if there was no restriction on remembering our past lives we still have no means to carry the data from one life to the next. Sounds plausible to me but, as I said, some people say that we indeed carry something – our subtle bodies.

I didn’t remember ever reading anything like that so I set out to scout all relevant pages in Bhagavat Gita and finally found some – verse 15.8:

The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas. Thus he takes one kind of body and again quits it to take another…

In the purport Prabhupada says “It is stated here that the subtle body, which carries the conception of the next body, develops another body in the next life.”

The commentaries by acharyas in other vaishnava sampradayas are unequivocal, Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara sampradaya being a but more direct than others:

The purport is that wherever the jiva departs from a body and whenever it is compeled to accept another body the atma or immortal soul migrating from one body to another, arrives with the subtle forms of the mind and senses in tact to perform their functions through the physical body which has been allotted due to karma or reactions to previous actions.

This looks like a total defeat for my little theory, or does it?

I’ll leave the acharyas out of it for the moment and concentrate on Prabhupada. He said that the soul carries “different conceptions of life”, nothing about mind and senses at all. Different conceptions of life could be impressions the mind leaves on the soul’s consciousness at the time of death.

That’s how I always thought it worked – the mind affect the consciousness, consciousness can’t be separated from the soul, however polluted it is, it’s inseparable part of the soul itself. In the next life a new body develops according to this particularly polluted consciousness, and it develops from the scratch, no need to carry anything physical, gross or subtle. In fact, the new mind develops according to the present material conditions – DNA, parenting, education, at least the mind as we know it. The living entity has been put into these conditions according to his consciousness and karma but I don’t see why the old mind should be present, too.

The reference to mind and senses come from the previous verse, Krishna doesn’t mention them here at all, he just says etani – all these, referring to the content of the previous sloka, 15.7:

The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.

Krishna talks about several things here – living entities are His fragmentary parts, living entities are conditioned, living entities are eternal, living entities struggle with six senses including mind.

When He says “all these” – what exactly does He mean? It’s not very clear. Prabhupada didn’t translate it as “six senses including mind” at all. He just said “different conceptions of life” as that follows logical progression of the thought. Logical in the sense that Krishna wasn’t concentrating on a particular composition of the material bodies, it was just one little aspect of what He was saying – my fragmentary parts, eternal, conditioned, and suffering. Six senses including mind was only one example of what our sufferings here are.

If Krishna was really enumerating all the reasons we suffer here He could have mentioned suffering caused by our bodies, other beings and the nature, or sufferings due to birth, death, old age and disease, sufferings due to the modes of passion and ignorance – there are so many reasons to be unhappy here.

If Krishna was preparing to describe what a living entity carries over to the next life he would have described our bodies in greater details – what senses, jnanendriyas or karmendriyas, and what of intelligence and false ego? It just doesn’t sound like it was His intention at all, not the subject of His concern at that particular point.

Following that logic I agree with Prabhupada not mentioning any details specifically, just “different conceptions of life”. Or maybe Krishna referred to eternal struggles in conditional life – in English they could also be covered by saying “all those”. Prabhupada didn’t want to commit one way or another – the point Krishna was making was about the way to reach His abode, not about specifics of reincarnation.

Other acharyas chose to focus on mind and senses, good for them.

This calls for some kind of reconciliation. Reconciliation between commentaries and reconciliation between current interpretations, too, but, most importantly, reconciliation between my pride and the truth…

Maybe the soul does take something with him when he travels from one body to another, however I don’t think we should take OUR literal meaning of what the senses and the mind are in this context. Literally speaking, taking senses with you does not make any sense at all.

Does taking the mind mean taking all the memories, all the skills, all the experience? No one is born with a mind of a grown man, no one is born with the memories of an old man either, and it’s not just because the new body is too small for all these things – when it grows up it doesn’t display them either, it collects new memories and skills.

Material science has largely proved that memories are stored in the brain – they might not be able to manipulate them yet but they can do crude things like enabling and disabling access to the memory areas via surgical or chemical interventions. Brain is not carried over, that much is clear.

Personally, I think that having consciousness is enough – all new body elements, gross and subtle, are supplied by the material nature according to the laws of karma and these new elements enable the consciousness to develop the new body.

Gosh, but then Prabhupada said that it’s the subtle body that develops the next body! Something must be carried over.

What about ghosts and going to hell? Ghosts, as far as we know, exist outside their bodies and they have memories of their lives. People having near death out of body experiences also don’t need brains to know what’s going on. Subtle bodies must have some kind of storage, too.

When people go to hell they, I presume, remember what they are being punished for. I’ve been told that Yamadutas torture people in their subtle bodies there and they get gross bodies only upon new birth.

Fine, but isn’t it also the common theme about the “point of no return” in all ghost stories? Wouldn’t it mean the point after which people lose their identities? The point where they are stripped of their subtle bodies and eventually get reborn?

At this point I’m leaning towards the theory that memories do not get carried over. I don’t see the need, I don’t see the evidence, and I see only a weak reference in the Gita that could mean a lot of things, the whole bank of memories from thousands and millions of lives is the last possibility, in my opinion.

The living entity itself who lived through all these lives must have the memories in its own, spiritual form anyway. Normally we don’t have access to this “spiritual” storage but that is not surprising – in the conditioned state we don’t know who we are, after all, and all remembrance and forgetfulness is controlled by the Supersoul. Sometimes these memories might come to the surface and manifest through our material bodies, like when people remember their past lives or start speaking in ancient languages.

On a related topic – when Krishna talked about being the cause of forgetting things He probably didn’t mean the functions of our material minds. Our minds can be trained to remember and they can be trained to forget. They can be trained to recollect things faster and they can be distracted to slow them down. That kind of manipulation doesn’t have any direct connection to Krishna, remembering something stored in our spiritual memory is another thing altogether – no one but Krishna has a control over that facility.

I guess He can easily remind us where we dropped our keys even if our minds resign in desperation, who can claim that such little miracles never happened to them? There are other cases that could be explained by the Supersoul unlocking some of our memories and forcing us to make some surprising connections and discoveries. To scientists it happens all the time – the solutions just appear our of the blue, or they dream them up.

Anyway, the definite resolution of this matter requires more references from the scriptures. Either answer to the question of not remembering our past lives is fine, I guess. I’m not comfortable with “You don’t remember because your weak mind wouldn’t be able to deal with it” explanation but it’s me, I don’t use it very often, if ever, maybe people who give this answer themselves find that it works just fine, I don’t know, I’m not in the position to tell them how to preach anyway.

If only I could subdue my pride and admit I had no clue what is really going on with reincarnation, the spiritual ABC. That’s my real problem, not the correct answer per se.

Vanity thought #191. Life of begging.

Today I reached a compromise, in a good sense. I’ve decided that my gadget interests will be given some time on alternative days and today I will only be chanting. It was a sigh of relief for me, finally I saw mutually acceptable solution. The blazing fire of needing to spend time with computers has been extinguished, if only for one day, and I happily took to chanting my rounds.

It wasn’t all so easy, however. Several times an hour I was catching myself thinking about what I was going to do tomorrow, in my allotted gadget time.

That’s when I realized that I’m damned to a life of begging. This is the most I can expect from it.

But first things first. All my life I’ve been happily living with my designations. If my real situation wasn’t quite satisfying I could easily dream up a better life. Actually there’s a very popular project on the Internet called “Second life”. You go there and you build yourself an alternative identity, a new set of skills, new place to live, new friends etc. Then you hang out together, go to each other’s concerts (I think everyone is a rock star there) and so on.

Usually, we discard these attempts as just another illusion to substitute our missing love for Krishna. Today I want to look at it differently – it gives us a sense of security, acceptance, and belonging.

It’s just one of the millions of ways to settle with ourselves, accept ourselves as we are or as we want ourselves to be. This is in our human nature – we adapt, we always settle. It’s like second law of thermodynamics applied to humanity instead of physics.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s little value in it, it’s just modifying our false ego to live in harmony with the illusory surroundings.

My point is – I can’t do it anymore. I will never settle, I will never live in harmony, I will never adapt.

In the spiritual world there’s no such thing as seeing oneself as something else, no disharmony in the first place. If I ever get there I will be eternally happy in my spiritual form but until then I’m screwed.

I can still adapt to anything, of course, I’m a survivor, but all these are my false identities, my goal is get rid of them all. Every time I settle I betray my true spiritual nature.

That is only half the problem. The other half is that I can’t settle on being a devotee either. This is the most unsettling half.

From my very first days I dutifully agreed that all my sufferings are due to misidentification so all I should do is to find my true nature as a servant of the servant of the servant of Krishna, then I’ll be happy. When I was initiated I thought that was it, my proper place had been found.

Sufferings didn’t go away, though, and I didn’t really expect them to – I was told I was going through anartha nivritti stage and everything would be okay if I become a perfect servant, when I completely clean my heart of all impurities and have only the service to the lotus feet of my maharaja as my life and soul.

I suspect lots of people live with this hope, too. Well, today I realized it is wrong.

I will never settle myself on being a devotee. I can settle on being a husband, a father, a buddy and then I can finally kick back and relax, but I can never settle on being a devotee.

You see, anyone thinking of himself as a devotee actually isn’t. A real devotee sees himself as the most fallen, unworthy soul, never as a devotee. If someone is convinced that he is a devotee it’s a sign of ignorance and so his settled position is only temporary and it will be bring back suffering like any other misidentification.

In other words, the more a person progresses on devotional path the less satisfied with himself he becomes.

Any kind of identification allows a person to relax and enjoy. Even hobos sleeping under the bridge have a concept of “home”, even prisoners feel like they live in “their” cell. That’s what Maya, the illusion, gives us – the false sense of security and belonging in exchange for accepting your false identity.

When a devotee gives in to the same proposition he ends up under the same illusion, he just positions himself differently.

Come to think of it – people want to improve themselves, become someone else, someone better. They think that if they become a company boss, for example, their lives would be so much better, they get to live in much better houses and enjoy much better food. Then they come across Hare Krishnas and they hear that being Krishna’s servant opens the doors to the ultimate happiness and bliss, and who wouldn’t want to enjoy that?

The problem is that it doesn’t work the usual way – no one gets to be Krishna’s servant, you’ll never be able to sit back and announce it with a sense of deep accomplishment – I am Krishna’s servant.

That’s what sense enjoyers expect from their lives, real Krishna’s servants never see themselves as having accomplished or achieved anything and so no chance to relax, ever.

So, what is left then? Begging. Eternally.

If I’m serious in progressing spiritually I should understand and accept that I will never ever be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of my hard service. There will never be a moment when I can say that I deserved my rest.

The reality is that every time these thoughts come into my head I should banish them and beg Krishna for mercy, for a chance to serve Him and never forget about it. Every time my body or mind gives out and I feel the need to take a break I should beg Krishna not to leave me on this break forever. Every time I sense that I’m not moving anymore I should beg Krishna to get me going.

Normal beggars actually have it pretty good – they have all the rights to enjoy their collected booty. No matter how far and how hard they travel during the day they still get a place they feel at home, maya provides.

A devotee, on the other hand, should never stop begging and there’s no such place as home for him either. Yes, Krishna’s lotus feet IS home but we can’t really expect to see them and even if we did – no one is able to keep them forever, not Lord Chaitanya’s eternal associates, not even gopis.

The only thing we get is a chance to beg, eternally, without rest.

What’s worse, we can’t settle even on that.

Earlier I proudly thought that I would try and serve Krishna no matter what, because it’s the only function of my spirit soul and no one can stop it. Well, guess what – I can’t settle even for that. I’m in the hands of Maya and she can make me stop or go as she pleases and if I really knew my capabilities as a spirit soul I would have never made such statements at all.

I have to beg for the chance to be a beggar, too.