On Sahajiya

What does sahajiya mean today? I was just listening to a class and the speaker said that there are some traditional sahajiyas still present, meaning those who believe proper sex leads to attaining real rasa. Okay, but in another part of the same class they talked about attaining this same real rasa through immersing into emotions evoked by discussing rasa pastimes. The speaker posed questions like “How would it make YOU feel?” when describing gopis first meeting with Krishna, for example, and he elicited audience responses. It’s a typical tactic, btw, not just a one off occurrence in this type of classes.

It’s at this point that I fail to see principal difference between engaging in touching and kissing, which is a big part of the same lila, and imagining how it would feel in one’s mind. One is gross sex and the other is subtle, so what’s the difference? It’s not like people can see Krishna in their minds during these re-enactments, they imagine a person imbued with their ordinary perceptions of how men should behave and they just call him “Krishna”. How’s that not ascribing spiritual qualities to mundane objects and emotions, which is also a definition of sahajiya?

The argument could be that these devotees are not encouraged to imagine how kissing and touching feels but I don’t think this breaking up of the pastime is valid. How the gopis feel when the see Krishna is intrinsically connected to how they touch Him. The feeling, moreover, is contained within the touch and the touch is contained within the look they cast upon Him. Both are parts of the same rasa, just expressed differently. It’s like, pardon me for the gross example, avowing to abstain from sex but going step by step through foreplay, except in one’s mind.

Traditional sahajiyas get this unity of looks and touches and they come to actual sex by starting from the discussion of feelings first – just like the devotees are encouraged to do here, except they are expected to stop their imagination when it reaches a certain point, which is not yet defined. I can see how they could allow imagining how touching Krishna’s feet feels, and maybe even touching His hand, but probably not the kiss. The exact red line is to be determined, and then possibly moved as practitioners reach a new level of maturity. I also believe traditional sahajiyas took several hundred years to get to actual sex as embodiment of rasa-lila. I also don’t see how it could end up any differently either – as long as “rasa” expressed through material mind is nourishing the practitioner. At some point they would put this direct experience above any sastric injunctions, too. And we should remember that traditional sahajiyas do not see their rasa-lila sex as mundane either, they see, feel, and are absolutely convinced that it’s the epitome of spiritual reality. They do not see their bodies, they look beyond them, they see Krishna and the gopis instead. I’m sure it also makes them very happy and there is nothing in this world that can convince them otherwise. I said “in this world” because, as our acharyas explained, they have no access to actual spiritual rasa which is also the only object that can defeat their misconception.

This is where this sahajiya discussion makes a full circle, inexplicably – by indulging in material things and feelings people go all the way away from spiritual reality but in the end they try to look beyond matter and see the same spirit they have been running away from. Does it make it into an actual circle? It’s not supposed to, but there is an arch bending towards this meeting point from the spiritual world, too – Radha and Krishna come to this world to be human, not to be spiritual. For some reasons I’m not going to discuss here, They feel that expressing themselves through what looks like ordinary matter gives Them a better thrill than hanging out in Goloka only. The point is that rasa IS best expressed through material bodies for Them. The counterpoint is that we are not Them and even if we might be gopis in the spiritual world, none of us is Krishna. In this way the circle can never be complete, it just comes to someone getting closer and closer to imitating Krishna, but it will never be the same thing. This deserves a separate article, really, so let’s get back to the topic at hand.

There is an argument that by discussing Krishna’s amorous pastimes our own lust will be extinguished but I first would love to see an explanation, preferably backed by experience, of how it works. Otherwise lust can be extinguished by chanting Hare Krishna, too, and Srila Prabhupada was absolutely convinced of that. Somehow we manage to screw it – because we are not chanting it right, obviously. I think the same should apply to rasa-katha as well – first we need to learn how to do it right, not just dive headfirst without having a clue how it works and what we are actually doing.

Another, closely related subject, is that the same speakers often collate restrictive village life that tied gopis to their husbands with conservative devotees in ISCKON and compare gopis breaking away from those social norms with ISKCON progressives who want no restrictions on women leading kirtans, giving classes, accepting disciples, getting education, having careers etc etc.

To this my objection is that no matter what gopis felt inside and discussed among each other they never failed to follow these rules in public. Starting a campaign to change these rules was unthinkable, too. I mean is this what these devotees would do as soon as they get to Goloka? Start changing everything to fit with their ideas of what is correct behavior? Do they see imperfections in Vrindavan? Are they also going to tell Brahma to redesign people’s eyes just because gopis complained about it?

Connection to the earlier discussion on sahajiya is this – why do they assume that their upheaval against conservative views is purely spiritual in nature and not just some mundane emotion caused by following mundane news and mundane examples of mundane activism? Aren’t they assigning spiritual rasa to objects of this world again?

Vanity thought #818. Case for sahajiya

Sahajiya is bad, sahajiya needs to be avoided, it needs to be purged from our hearts, too. Yet there’s a case to be made that it might be useful and, perhaps, even the only way to reach certain stages of progress.

I’m not talking about imitating Krishna’s pastimes, though why not? Gopis did it all the time the real thing, Krishna Himself, wasn’t around. They role-played their favorite pastimes using their “material” bodies and they didn’t go to to hell for it. Our drama troupes do it all the time, too, it’s a perfectly legitimate service engaging our material bodies in pseudo-spiritual activities.

The only difference is in the understanding that play is a play while sahajiyas think it’s all real.

I’m more concerned with other, less conspicuous uses of our material bodies in transcendental activities. Take dancing, for example. Lord Chaitanya danced and all His close associates danced, too. Is the pleasure derived from dancing in a sankirtana party material or spiritual?

Lately we’ve been talking about Prabhupada’s standards for our dancing and chanting. Some dancing steps are okay while others are considered over the top. What’s the principal difference? When does dancing becomes sahajiya like? I’m afraid there are no absolute rules here, just do what your guru says. But then sahajiya do what their gurus say, too.

Their dancing is unacceptable and perverted, ours is glorious. Why?

Because there’s a legitimate way to engage our material senses in serving the Lord and experience a real, spiritual pleasure from doing it. We just don’t call it sahajiya when we do it but it’s essentially the same thing.

Perhaps even more important is discussing Krishna’s pastimes. We shouldn’t indulge ourselves in anything beyond what is given to us in Prabhupada’s books, certainly not in discussing intimate relationships between Krishna and gopis. Yet these pastimes are recorded in legitimate literature left FOR US by the Six Goswamis.

One could say that Goswamis recorded these pastimes as they had seen them in their meditation and therefore they are not mundane words describing spiritual topics that are beyond perception of the author, which is what sahajiya discussions are. Maybe that was the case with some of Goswami’s works but Krishnadas Kaviraj gives as a glimpse into writing of Lalita- and Vidagdha-mādhavas, the first books written by Srila Rupa Goswami.

There’s not even a hint of Rupa Goswami writing down things he had seen in meditation. Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara, two of the three and a half men who knew the subject, were invited to
check Rupa Gowami’s work and it wasn’t like “Have you seen this, when Krishna does that and…”

Rather they checked Rupa Goswami’s verses against proper siddhanta as they learned it from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. They praised Rupa Goswami’s abilities but they attributed them not to seeing things that others can’t, they attributed them to Lord Chaitanya’s special empowerment.

It went like “this verse looks okay from siddhanta point of view and there’s no rasabhasa here, it sounds like what Srimati Radharani would really feel, so it’s okay by us”.

In those days no one but those three and a half men knew details of Krishna’s pastimes with gopis and vast majority of Lord Chaitanya’s followers didn’t even know there were such pastimes and that they had to be valued so high, and yet all these followers were Krishna’s associates from Vraja lila who descended along with Lord Chaitanya. No one was expected to be “seeing things”, just following what Mahaprabhu taught. In that sense they were not very different from us, except we have a lot more theoretical knowledge now.

Can we express this theoretical knowledge like Rupa Goswami did? He didn’t have to “see things”, just know what they should be. Some of our “rasika” devotees know a lot more stories than anyone did at that time, if they don’t go against siddhanta and don’t engage in rasabhasa – why can’t they discuss these pastimes?

It seems the only difference lies in that Rupa Goswami did this on the orders of Lord Chaitanya, not in the activity itself. If we do it without permission, it’s sahajiya, if we are ordered to recite such pastimes, it’s perfectly legit.

I also think that one day, maybe not in this life, though, we will have to learn to discuss these pastimes and it will become our daily sadhana. It won’t matter whether we will be able to perceive the spiritual reality behind it, our minds will be accepted as clean enough to talk and think even if not clean enough to actually see. It’s quite possible some devotees would look at us and cringe: “Sahajiya!”

I’m not saying that this is what happens now when we accuse sahajiyas of being sahajiya but it’s a plausible scenario nevertheless.

All of this makes me think that bringing our material senses directly in touch with spiritual subjects is not such a no-no but rather it has to be done properly and under strict guidance of authorized persons.

Can’t be rushed but can’t be avoided either.

Vanity thought #817. Rock, paper, scissors

In a hypothetical contest between impersonalism and sahajiya, which one would win? Actually, it’s not entirely hypothetical because as long as we remain under the influence of illusion we will be firmly in the grasp of one or the other.

A conditioned living entity either enjoys the material world or suffers here. Consequently, it embraces either a materially pleasing philosophy or a negative one. Usually it’s the contest between karma khanda and jnana kanda – karma kandis believe that the world can be successfully enjoyed and work towards extracting that enjoyment, jnana kandis believe that as all pleasure is accompanied by an equal or even bigger amount of suffering, seeking happiness in material sense gratification is a dumb idea and renouncing the world altogether is a better way.

I’m not talking about some actual karma and jnana kandis here, we all assume these roles every moment of our lives. When we are full of optimism we are karmis, when we are deeply pessimistic about material happiness, we are jnanis. In the dualistic material world these are our only two, binary options, we either like our experience here or we don’t, there’s no third choice to steal our attention, that is until we meet devotees and learn about Krishna, of course.

Still, our conditioned nature plays out its role and even while ostensibly being devotees we continue our love-hate relationship with the world, with minor modifications – gross sense gratification becomes replaced by sahajiya, and renunciation, well, it’s still as impersonalistic as ever. We renounce the world but we don’t know what or who for, we just renounce it because it sucks, that’s all.

So, now that I established that sahajiya and impersonalism are unavoidable ingredients of our lives here – which one is better?

Here is where it turns into to a rock-paper-scissors game. In some areas sahajiya is better, so paper beats rock, for example, but if impersonalism answers with scissors instead, sahajiya goes home. If next time impersonalism offers the same scissors but sahajiya offers rock instead of paper, impersonalism loses.

Sahajiyas, even ones pretending to be Krishna, are still vaishnavas. Most of them are not so obvious, I understand, they just believe that there’s a way to spiritual progress that lies through manipulation of our senses. Sex is big spiritual experience in their circles at all times but pretending to be in a rasa dance is rare. Still, they are vaishnavas and they should be shown respect accordingly.

Our own sahajiya tendencies are not as bad as that but are also far more common. It’s saying that Sunday feast halava is pure spiritual nectar and enjoying it until it comes out of our ears. Krishna hears it, of course, but maybe what He wants to tell us is that if you want pure spiritual nectar you should go and serve this halava to that devotee at the end of the line, not stuff yourself with it like a pig. We don’t listen, we believe in our own direct experience of gustatory pleasure and we call it spiritual, so if we want to fool ourselves like that, Krishna let’s us.

It’s nothing, this fascination with food or good music or beautiful Deities will eventually go away, it doesn’t ruin our devotional progress, so sahajiya must be better than impersonalism, right?

Wrong.

What we call impersonalism is an offensive kind of denial of Krishna’s spiritual identity, mayavada, but it’s not all that there’s to impersonalism. Strictly speaking, it’s realization of the Brahman aspect of the Absolute and it’s miles ahead of being a conditioned living being as we all still are at the moment.

Four Kumaras, the founders of Kumara sampradaya, were impersonalists. Sukadeva Goswami was an impersonalist until he recited Srimad Bhagavatam, we would be lucky to reach their level of realization while everybody can sit down for Sunday feast and call it a spiritual experience.

Impersonalists are not vaishnavas, per se, but neither are we. Devotee means serving Krishna, we haven’t even started, we are still serving our senses and we need Krishna to help us in this endeavor. Devotion starts only after liberation, which means after we achieve impersonal realization of the Supreme, so impersonalism is better.

But if impersonalism plays mayavada card, sahajiya would obviously beat it because there’s no cure from mayavada. Reaching liberation leaves us with only one step towards realization of Krishna and our relationships with Him, taking to mayavada removes us from His good list forever. Same thing, impersonalism, but completely different destinations.

So, with all this in mind, I think it becomes clearer how we should navigate the treacherous waters of the ocean of illusion. It’s not perfect to try and renounce the world but it’s better than pretending to be spiritualists while enjoying gross sense gratification. And it’s better to let our senses be satisfied by Krishna’s prasadam than rejecting it because we are against sense gratification in principle.

It’s unacceptable to listen to mayavada but it’s okay to dismiss whatever imperfections we see in other devotees because material world and their actions inside of it are illusory. It’s just an interaction of the modes of nature and material elements that serve as devotees’ bodies. Yet at the same time we cannot dismiss their service as illusory, for that would be mayavada.

It might seem a bit confusing but that’s because clear vision of these relationships between Krishna, living entities, and material nature is available only to paramahamsas. We cannot imitate it.

We should take our acharyas word for it, though, that would be the wise thing to do.

Vanity thought #816. Between rock and a hard place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanity thought #725. Taking it easy

One of the main accusations against Mahanidhi Swami is sahajiism. What does it mean, however, and how serious is it? Is it the main reason for his resignation from the “glorious preaching mission of Lord Chaitanya”?

In our society sahajiya is totally unacceptable and it’s often used as a label similar to “nazi” in the rest of the world. However, just as not everyone who disagrees with you is a nazi so not every accused must be a sahajia, especially when we use it excommunicate devotees.

Technically, sahajiya means “natural” and refers to material nature of the practitioners. From early pre-Chaitanya and Buddhist cults sahajiyas used their five senses to allegedly communicate with God or Absolute Truth as they understood it. Tantric sex was an essential part of the original sahajiya teachings, introduction of Radha-Krishna and vaishnavism brought about role plays of Their Lordships intimate pastimes, and it’s this sahajiya that we usually refer to.

Among apasampradayas listed by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur many are essentially sahajia. Sakhi-bheki, for example, dress themselves as gopis and seek pleasure in playing with Chudadharis who are dressed as Krishna. Gauranga nagaris imagine Lord Chaitanya not in His role as a devotee but as the Supreme Enjoyer and take pleasure in Lord’s wedding pastimes. Kartabhojas equate their guru with the Lord Himself, which also brings spiritual relationship to the material level.

This is the common thing for all sahajiyas – taking their material bodies as proper vehicles for communicating with the Lord and deriving pleasure from these material exchanges. That’s why Prabhupada described them as taking things very easy – they don’t feel the need for proper spiritual awakening of our original form and assume that we can substitute it with whatever we’ve got now and it would work just as well.

The reality is that matter can’t touch Krishna and the proper way to engage our bodies is through following instructions of the spiritual master, who himself is an external manifestation of the Supersoul. It’s also very difficult because once you do that you quickly realize that material bodies are by nature averse to service, they are suitable only for sense enjoyment. Sahajiyas circumvent this by manipulating this enjoyment and labeling it as spiritual.

Waste of time, in the opinion of our acharyas who didn’t even consider sahajiyas as vaishnavas but as materialists. Yes, they do chant the Holy Name but they do it for the satisfaction of their own bodies, not as service to the Lord.

How widespread is it? Well, initially, when Srila Prabhupada preached very strongly against mayavada we also didn’t know who exactly he was referring to and why it was necessary to do so until we realized that impersonalist tendencies are present in our own service, too. Same thing with sahajiya – we all tend to enjoy our service through our bodies and think it’s perfectly okay, at least to some degree.

We enjoy taste of the prasadam and assume that it’s a genuine spiritual emotion. It isn’t. Our sense of taste is material. If we had a real spiritual taste we’ve be totally overwhelmed just by a few breadcrumbs but we aren’t. Still, we don’t call ourselves sahajiyas yet.

We enjoy melodious kirtans but this taste is also material, if we had a real spiritual taste we’d equally appreciate completely off key performances, too. Still, we don’t call ourselves sahajiyas.

We enjoy good story-telling as much as anyone else, we love plot twists and dramatic voices, and this love is equally material, yet we don’t call ourselves sahajiya.

Clearly, there must be discretion applied when we decide that someone has to be censored. Sex is clearly off limits, for example, but talk about Krishna’s intimate pastimes needs to be assessed first. We know in itself it’s legitimate but we have to judge the reaction of the audience. If it evokes inappropriate emotions then it’s branded as sahajiya and needs to be stopped. What are inappropriate emotions, however? There’s no precise point where we can say enjoying Krishna’s pastimes turns bad. Many of these pastimes are not sexual in nature but we still consider ourselves unprepared.

Right now people are scanning Mahanidhi Swami’s lectures and videos for the signs of sahajiya. I’m sure if they are determined enough they will find something, I’ve already seen examples of doing just that and I’ve already seen examples of people who tell them their conclusions are biased and cannot be taken seriously.

What I think makes real difference is sahajiya’s dedication to doing the wrong thing. It’s the same with ordinary sense enjoyment – we all experience it but devotees know that it’s a temporary and undesirable whereas materialists accept it as totally legitimate. Similarly, we know that enjoying our spiritual practices is temporary and irrelevant but sahajiyas take it very seriously and try to cultivate it as their goal.

So, if some say that Mahanidhi Swami’s behavior was theatrical, over the top, and smacked of sahajiya, I tend to disagree. He was just a bit more theatrical than others, it would have been problematic if he was attached to it and accepted is as genuinely spiritual, which I don’t think was the case.

In the end something went wrong and GBC calls whatever happened as inappropriate on both personal and philosophical level but that shouldn’t give us an excuse to advance our own agenda and put our own labels on everything he’s ever done. We don’t know how much his previous behavior that is being scrutinized now has contributed to his falldown.

A week ago it would have been offensive to judge him like this and there’s no reason to claim that it has become less offensive now. What if he had passed away before his falldown? The same lectures people criticize now would have stayed unimpeachable.

What I am saying is that a devotee who has been practicing Krishna consciousness for forty years should be off limits for all kinds of criticism, and that we should be careful applying sahajiya labels to anything we don’t approve of. We all share the same faults and tendencies and it’s what we do about it that separates sahajiyas from everyone else.

Vanity thought #720. Another loss…, or was it a gain?

There was another jolt of electricity given to our movement a couple of days ago – the GBC announcement on HH Mahanidhi Swami’s status, who is no longer a swami and, subsequently, no longer HH either.

Disciples are obviously devastated, some have invested quite heavily to live in their guru’s neighborhood and are now left with no purpose in being there any longer. Another sannyasi falldown is also an obvious blow to our guru doctrine and a gift to our critics.

Having said that, I think it was actually a blessing in disguise.

Why? Because this is what Krishna thinks necessary for Mahanidhi’s own spiritual progress. If his body didn’t have enough strength to withstand material temptations then giving up the robes is better than pretending. No one can act against his own nature and if maharaj took upon himself a dharma of a sannyasi while still being attached to female association then, as Krishna teaches us in Bhagavad Gita, it’s better for him to be a failed grihastha than a perfect renunciate. This unnatural dharma can’t last very long anyway, and I think it’s better that maharaj was corrected at a relatively young age. Well, I think he’s got at least a couple of decades to properly deal with his attachments.

His spiritual health is not the only reason, though. Perhaps even more important is the effect his resignation will make on the particular type of practice that he’s been advocating.

My personal impression has always been that he was a Narayana Maharaj counterpart in ISKCON. I mean that while “rasika” devotees flocked to hear rasa katha outside, Mahanidhi Swami provided the same service “in-house”. I thought he showed that it can be done right, without leaving the shelter of Srila Prabhupada and within Srila Prabhupada established boundaries.

Apparently it wasn’t all that peachy, though, and now the chickens came to roost. I don’t know if there’s anyone who would continue with this experiment in ISKCON, I sincerely hope that Mahanidhi Swami’s falldown would be a lesson for all of us to stay away from rasa katha for good.

Apparently maharaj was taking instructions and more on the outside and had a big fallout with Aindra Prabhu. There is a talk about Mahaniddhi Swami receiving siddha pranali or some other “special” initiation from one of the babajis in Vrindavan. There’s no definitive proof of that but apparently that was the reason for Aindra Prabhu’s outburst.

If that really was the case, as everyone is led to believe anyway, then maharaja’s good standing in ISKCON kind of justified it. His falldown, however, proves that all this esoteric staff is nonsense.

When you start feeling your spiritual arms and legs then some sort of instructions on how to use them is definitely in order, and that’s what siddha pranali process is for, but for that you have to be way past the liberated stage, completely detached from the workings of your material body, and in awareness of your actual spiritual form. Trying to superimpose siddha pranali on our material mind and imagination won’t work, and I hope maharaja’s case has proven it once again.

This falldown also once again drew everybody’s attention to Vrindavana babajis. I can’t say they are all impostors but what is definitely clear is that nothing good comes out of our association with them. Ever.

Let them do their thing, Srila Prabhupada told as to stay away from them, and he gave us the process that works for us. What more do we want? Any attempt to outflank Prabhupada’s instructions would be ruinous, and any attempt to behave on a level higher than our actual spiritual advancement would be ruinous, too.

If we use our material bodies to participate in Krishna’s pastimes we’ll become sahajias. It’s perfectly okay to engage our bodies in Krishna’s service in any way He wants but the problem with material bodies is that until we are fully liberated we use them for our own enjoyment, not for Krishna’s. This will never change, no matter what we try. We can’t bring our lusty, needy, gluttonous bodies in contact with Krishna.

Look at the Six Goswamis – they were inside Krishna’s pastimes everyday but they never brought their external bodies into it. That’s the path shown by our acharyas – external bodies should be engaged in external service according to directions of guru and shastra while direct service to Krishna should be rendered internally.

“Rasika” devotees, on the other hand, having no access to this internal, spiritual platform, try to compensate for that with linking their material bodies and minds directly with the Lord. This will not work.

According to our acharyas these “rasikas” will never ever penetrate into spiritual Vrindavana even if they drink and bathe in Radhakunda all their lives. “You do not simply walk into Mordor”, as a popular meme goes. You do not enter into Radhakunda by sticking your hand into it.

As for disaffected devotees – I suspect they were attracted by these false promises and so their disappointed is not only natural but also well deserved. If they can look past it and re-examine the actually prescribed path then they should see that it’s a perfect opportunity for them to put their lives solely into Krishna’s hands.

They’ve been abandoned in Vrindavana, after all – do they really need saving? Maybe only from themselves.

So, all in all, this recent falldown looks like a good thing. GBC is accused of covering up earlier cases of indiscretion but I’m sure they’ve got used to it by now. They are the ones who are supposed to call an accidental slip up from an irreversible falldown, I don’t think any one of us would do this kind of job better, none of us has the same access to facts, and none of us has the experience of carrying this kind of responsibility. Internet trash talk is easy, we should not fall for it and we should not give any real credit.

PS. There is one Ramesh Baba of Varshana involved in this story. Some say he is a sahajiya but there aren’t any facts to back up this assessment, no reasons to believe so. For all we know he could be a genuine sadhu, we should be careful with branding him as this or that.

Vanity thought #99. It’s All His Fault.

I’ve seen a little Q&A recently, the question was about sahajiyas and why Krishna disclosed His intimate pastimes that started that deviation. I will not mention any names since I’m not competing with the provided answer.

The answer was along the lines that Krishna had to present His full personality, including His intimate pastimes, so we could know Him in full. Without it we would see Him as incomplete and ultimately impersonal.

That sounds nice but there’s a counterargument to that, too – nobody had any idea of those ultimate pastimes for millions of years and they survived, what’s the rush now? We, meaning the movement started by Lord Chaitanya merely five hundred years ago, are not the first devotees ever. There’s some scent of Christianity’s special privilege in this – no one before Christ, or Lord Chaitanya, could have been saved or rendered unalloyed devotional service. I hope we are not as proud as Christians, so I think there’s a need for a better explanation.

I don’t know the answer but thinking about Lord’s pastimes is not a bad thing to do anyway, so why not speculate a little?

The best answer I’ve ever heard so far was from HG Ravindra Swarupa Prabhu – every endeavor in the material world is covered by imperfections, even if initiated by the Lord Himself. It’s good that Lord Chaitanya gave us this secret knowledge but the downside is that after five hundred years of Kali Yuga it has been tinted with sahajiyism, if there is such a word.

We can take it even further – in Bhagavat Gita Krishna says that He establishes principles of religion but eventually they get lost and He has to come here again and explain them all over.

Look what we have done with sacrifices (we, the conditioned souls). Once it was the primary method of worshiping God but in the end it was just mass cow killing business and the whole Vedas needed to be rejected (by Lord Buddha) in order to stop it.

What is happening with sahajiyas is not even half as bad. Though their attitude of enjoyment can lead one off the proper devotional path it’s still incomparable to animal slaughter, is it?

This brings an obvious question – how bad sahajiyism really is? How does it balance against all the positive results of presenting Krishna’s intimate pastimes?

Let’s look at the downside itself – Krishna is presented as a lusty young man and so He is not taken seriously, His character questioned, and His authority to set a course of dharma for the rest of us is in doubt. Our service to the Lord goes way way back and even now it still doesn’t include any of Krishna established precedents in our daily practice.

Lord Ramachandra set an example – He came in a human form and He behaved like a human and He taught us how to be human – he taught responsibilities of the kings, wives, servants etc etc. What can we learn from Krishna’s example?

People are inspired to follow Lord Rama’s footsteps, people are prohibited from following Krishna’s. That’s an obvious problem.

Then came Lord Chaitanya and again He set a perfect example of executing devotional service in this world. He was married, He took sannyasa, He served devotees, He served prasadam, cleaned temples – we are inspired to follow Him in all regards, at least since He started chanting the Holy Names.

Krishna is definitely an exception here. To his credit He wasn’t responsible for broadcasting His intimate pastimes, they stayed well hidden for thousands of years, as I said. It was Lord Chaitanya’s decision, not Krishna’s.

So, did Lord Chaitanya do the right thing?

I don’t know. Very few of us gain any visible benefits from Krishna’s intimate relationships with the gopis. In fact we are discouraged from dabbling in them at all. But then again – there’s no principal difference between, say, rasa dance and enjoying being spanked by Mother Yashoda. They all are intimate exchanges between Krishna and His devotees who didn’t even know He is God – that’s a principal difference from pastimes of Lord Ramachandra or Lord Nrisimha, for example.

This is mighty confusing – we do not worship the Lord in any of those exalted rasas, we worship Him as the Lord, as our Supreme Master, so why do we need to know about them at all? As soon as we look at Krishna as our possible friend, son, or husband we are doomed – that’s a very dangerous knowledge to carry around, especially in our age when ALL our authorities have been brought down to ordinary man’s level and forced to be equal.

I cannot speak for other devotees but personally I’ve never been comfortable with surrendering to anyone. It’s not true that everybody is equally proud – there are plenty of people who don’t question the authorities an actually prefer to simply follow and depend. I’m one of those who doesn’t. Tell me that I can treat God as a friend, too, and I will not be able to stop my mind from indulging, God or no God. Luckily, as a male, I can’t quite imagine myself as a gopi lusting for Krishna so there are some benefits to my current  conditioning.

Or, perhaps, this kind of approach to Krishna is not as bad as it seems and it doesn’t necessarily lead to spiritual suicide. Perhaps it leads to purification instead, just like any other contact with the Lord. Even without knowledge of Krishna’s intimate pastimes we approach Him with other inferior motives. Due to our imperfection we ask him to provide us with mundane sense enjoyment in one way or another, all our efforts are imperfect in this way. What we hope for is that by keeping in contact with Krishna even in this inferior way our hearts will be purified.

Maybe the same principle works with Krishna’s intimate pastimes. Maybe it’s okay to look at Him as a young playful boy, or a cute little baby, or even as a possible romantic interest as long as it keeps us engaged in thinking about Him, one way or another.

If it’s not okay – it’s all His fault.

He shouldn’t have told us about Himself then. As soon as He is presented in some personal form we can’t stop ourselves from evaluating and classifying Him by our material standards, it’s impossible not to, and it’s impossible to always approve of His behavior on the basis of our standards only.

Perhaps the answer is simple – I, and I suspect a lot of other people, too, would have been bored out of our wits if all we had to go on was the image of and old bearded man on a cloud.

Perhaps Krishna was simply trying new marketing strategies when people lost the interest in the old methods and, well, not everybody likes it and considers it infantile and debasing.

At least for those who do like it, it works rather well.

A small group of deviants who take it too far does not outweigh the benefits and the problem with sahajyism is not as acute as it was a hundred years ago, thanks to Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati – the Lord corrected the problem via their hands.

Our job is to raise this new marketing to professional level so it appeals to everyone.