Vanity thought #1606. More of the same

It’s weekend and I habitually paid more attention to the news than usual. The election season in the US is approaching its first primaries. They’ve been at it for almost a year and it’s still almost a year to go. In the UK the entire election is done in six weeks but Americans love to drag theirs out. Perhaps it’s because elections are a big business and so they need almost two years to milk their donors dry and spend all their money. Six weeks is a joke from the financial POV, there’s no profit in such short elections.

Elsewhere sanctions on Iran have been lifted while Saudis are stirring a regional crisis there, as if they don’t have enough on their hands with ISIS, Syria, and Yemen. There is a World Economic Forum in Davos where rich cats make lofty promises to the public but god knows what they agree among themselves. If you read zerohedge there are lots of theories on what’s going on behind the scenes, maybe not at Davos itself but in general. Russians sell their oil for cheap, their ruble crashed, and yet they are also buying gold while it’s cheap in the same dollars they sell their oil for. Essentially, they are trading oil for gold, which sounds like a clever long game but who knows if they can outlast the market. No major news there.

Terrorists attacks are everywhere – Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, it’s becoming a new normal and fails to trigger worldwide outrage anymore. So far every reaction propagated in the media is to stand united against terrorism but this also means diving the world into us and them. The obvious result is that “we” talk to ourselves and “they” don’t listen anymore. Communications are broken and the only solution is violence.

In my local Saturday’s paper there was a nice juxtaposition of an editorial on the problem with greying population and a letter condemning Catholic opposition to condoms. I half thought of writing them a letter about it myself.

The editorial said all the right things backed up by global surveys and population projections. It wasn’t only about decline in birth rates but also about breaking down family traditions. Something like 60% of people think that supporting the elderly is a government’s job. 20% think that they should support themselves, and only less than 10% think that elderly should be supported but their children.

Just think about it for a second – only one in ten people thinks that it’s his duty to support his father and mother in their old age. Nine out of ten want to dump their parents. What is the world coming to? I don’t even want to look up the exact numbers, it could be even worse – these responsible 10% might be all from Africa or Asia with the West being closer to zero.

I also suppose they’ve asked mostly adults who are not retired themselves yet and who have their own children, those who are in between generations. Their attitude towards their parents is a payback and their attitude towards their children reflects modern values and their attitude to sex, which was the subject of the letter that caught my attention.

Widespread use of contraception is the main reason that changed sex from procreational activity into a recreational one. Raising responsible children who would carry on family legacy was people’s main goal in life and sex was only augmenting it. Now sex has taken the center stage and raising children has become almost like a hobby – if you have time and money go for it, by all means, but in this economy it’s just too expensive.

When sex itself is the goal children become bothersome and people can’t wait to offload them to college so that they can have time for themselves. No wonder those who were raised in such families are not going to support their parents in return, let the government do it or whoever.

The thing is, savings rates aren’t that high and while twenty-thirty years ago people could retire with their golden nest, these days they only have credit card debts. Obama is talking about unprecedented period of job creation but data shows that the only people who work more are the fifty year olds, and the jobs that are being created are part-time positions for those who need a second job, and they are mostly unskilled and low paid.

What will happen to these people when they can’t work anymore? The West hasn’t seen this kind of crisis yet, there’s no experience of dealing with it. Western economic miracle happened when birth rates were two three times higher than now, the societies were coasting on that success ever since but the party is clearly coming to an end. Good times are over and they are not going to return, there are no drivers for positive change while the challenges grow every day.

But back to contraception – the idea was to extract more pleasure from sex and people are convinced it worked but did it really? Are they sexually more satisfied then our ancestors? Do they have more sex than a hundred years ago? They surely have more sex with strangers but definitely less in marriages – mostly because they are not even married.

That’s the thing – when sex was a physical expression of a union between dedicated partners it only augmented their love. Now they stripped their relationships of deeper meaning and are left with simply tickling their bodily sensors. People who were in deep relationship feel that sex without love is empty and is not better, it’s of lower quality and it’s a poor substitute, it just doesn’t satisfy the soul.

And then they have porn that made even their sensors numb. Maybe it felt good in the beginning but after a while they can’t derive physical pleasure from it anymore and they compensate by quantity, and it reduces their chances of having deep, meaningful relationships with opposite sex even further.

So, I would argue that in the long run contraception has not improved sexual lives and it definitely destroyed the family institution. They didn’t think it through and went for the short term benefits and now it’s coming back for them big time. And that is strictly from the material point of view, there’s no question of any spiritual progress for these sex addicts at all.

Without spirituality they are becoming just like animals – slaves to their mind and senses with no clue that there’s a bigger world out there. Ironically, they call it “evolution”. Evolution towards what? They can’t even maintain their standards of sense gratification and both their food and their sex have become tasteless. Everything is “new and improved” but after several iterations it becomes worse than the original.

I just realized that I haven’t mentioned Kṛṣṇa today at all. Well, personally, He has nothing to do with this Kali Yuga world and these people are drifting further and further away from Him and His service. I wish I could preach to them but I’m stuck on convincing myself that we are right and they are wrong. There was another disturbing development in this regard but I’ll talk about it tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1506. “Decline”

“Good times with Lord Nityānanda” were almost as good as when Lord Caitanya started the saṅkīrtana movement in Navadvīpa. I say almost as good because not everyone accepted Lord Nityānanda’s pastimes as genuine, as evident from curses thrown their way by Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura in Caitanya Bhāgavata.

I don’t think it should be surprising. Lord Caitanya was very sensitive to people’s perceptions of Him. When He realized not everyone was accepting His authority He took sannyāsa. When He took sannyāsa He made sure His behavior was spotless and no one, absolutely no one could find blemishes in His character and behavior. Lord Nityānanda, otoh, couldn’t care less what people thought of Him, He’d simply melt their hearts with love of God. It worked, but there are always holdouts who might accept phenomena like saṅkīrtana as a new normal but they won’t stop grumbling about this “progress” and seek every reason to criticize it. Lord Nityānanda gave them plenty. All they had to do was to outlast the Lord and then start picking on less than absolutely perfect followers. I’m not saying this is what happened but it sounds plausible to me.

Another speculative reason for apparent decline in saṅkīrtana in Bengal was sex. It doesn’t affect Lord Nityānanda, of course, but it affects everyone of us. Unless absolutely pure we can’t think of somebody’s marriage without at least imagining if we could try it ourselves, and that’s how it gets in.

Generally, all Lord Nityānanda’s associates were married. They were cowherd boys descended from Goloka so it didn’t affect them, it was not a problem and no one thought about it twice, it wasn’t an impediment to their saṅkīrtana. Once they all departed, however, ordinary conditioned souls were left with an impossible standard to maintain and a natural desire to be married.

Lord Nityānanda Himself, ostensibly a sannyāsī, got married and He even got TWO wives, not just one. He wasn’t bound by His sannyāsa vows and was renouncing renunciation. Some devotees in our movement tried that, too, with disastrous results. We can’t imitate the Lord, and we are not even doing it right.

In case of Lord Nityānanda the order to marry came from Lord Caitanya Himself. I don’t remember it being mentioned in Caitanya Caritāmṛta but it stated explicitly in Nityānanda Caritāmṛta by Vṛndāvana Dāsā Ṭhākura. I don’t know why this book is not as popular as his Caitanya Bhāgavata but it exists and there Mahāprabhu gives the order to Lord Nityānanda not only to preach but also to start a household life. There are two chapters dedicated to Lord Nityānanda’s marriage there, and I think it’s covered in other books, too.

Elsewhere I heard that when Lord Caitanya was told of Lord Nityānanda’s marriage people were expected to see His surprise but instead He said that as far as He is concerned, Lord Nityānanda could marry a Muslim girl and it wouldn’t affect Mahāprabhu’s opinion of Him in the slightest. It’s in line with “if you see Nityānanda going into a liquor shop you have to assume He goes there to preach” dictum.

Anyway, Lord Nityānanda married two sisters, one was the famous Jāhnava Mātā who, by all accounts, wasn’t an ordinary woman and we have no evidence to suggest the Lord ever engaged in sexual relations with her, at least she didn’t have any children. Marriage to the second sister was “accidental”. Once she was serving prasādam to the Lord and the piece of sari covering her head fell off. She immediately manifested two extra hands and pulled her sari back up, and that’s how Lord Nityānanda recognized His other eternal consort.

It’s this second wife, Vasudhā, who gave Lord Nityānanda a son, the famous Vīracandra who everyone thought was just like Lord Caitanya Himself.

Whatever we think about marriage now (or rather thought about it in the early days of our movement), it was a necessary institution for preaching to Bengali villagers back then. Somehow it wasn’t so important in Vṛndāvana but we should remember that Vṛndāvana is a small place compared to Bengal, and it was very sparsely populated back then. Whoever went there afterwards went for pure devotion, there’s a kind of entrance price to pay there, but Bengal was open for everyone and it was probably the most populated part of India at the time. People there needed to be converted, not admitted after a thorough background check. Ordinary people won’t go for sannyāsa lifestyle, it wasn’t a thing in the times of Mahāprabhu and it was even less of a thing after His disappearance.

Somehow or other householder followers of Lord Nityānanda and Advaita Ācārya held the fort there for hundreds of years. I heard there was a blessing that Advaita Ācārya’s line would hold for thirteen generations, they are on the fourteenth now but we also offer people other outlets to connect to Lord Caitanya nowadays so everyone who wanted genuine devotion has always been covered.

We can say that general level of devotion deteriorated and Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism was overrun by apa-sampradāyas but we should still remember that this marriage business started on the order of Mahāprabhu and He must have had known how it would turn out later on.

Another case was that of Śrīnivāsa Ācārya who was one the most prominent devotees of his generation. His birth was blessed by Mahāprabhu Himself and He got association of most exalted devotees while growing up. He was initiated by Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī and then trained by Jīva Gosvāmī. He was supposed to be a renunciate even though Bhakti Ratnākara doesn’t mention sannyāsa per se.

When Śrīnivāsa Ācāyra eventually returned to Bengal he stopped in his birthplace and met with his seniors there. At the time Śrīnivāsa was devastated after disappearance of Lord Caitanya and all of His immediate associates. He cried profusely in separation and it was at this moment that Advaita Ācārya appeared to him a dream and ordered him to get married. Later on Narahari Ṭhākura. who was an undisputed authority for Śrīnivāsa since his very birth, suggested the same thing, too.

I doubt they would have done so if Śrīnivāsa still stayed in Vṛndāvana rather then visiting his birthplace with all associated memories. One more reason that one should never ever step a foot outside of Vṛndāvana, the world will somehow get you.

Anyway, first there were orders from the seniors and then the marriage was arranged. It’s not like Śrīnivāsa woke up one day and thought that renunciation wasn’t for him anymore, as it often happens to our devotees. Perhaps household life is a natural coping mechanism in physical separation from the source of our spiritual strength. It doesn’t mean a falldown per se, but physical presence of our guru means physical and emotional engagement for our bodies. In guru’s absence it must be filled by something else because physical attachment in Kali yuga is unavoidable. We can’t go on on the holy spirit alone, to borrow from our Christian friends, it’s not possible for our bodies just as it’s not possible to sustain them without food.

A sidenote here – in Satya yuga prāṇa was attached to bones so as long as bones were there it was possible to maintain life. In Kali yuga prāṇa is dependent on soft tissues and, therefore, proper nourishment and food. I speculate here that the emotional dependency is similarly necessary, so if there’s no guru then there must be a wife.

Of course this “rule” is not absolute but it explains why devotees in constant contact and constant service to their gurus do not generally even think of marriage but as soon as they are left alone they transfer their affection to their partners. It doesn’t mean that our relationships with the guru are sexual in nature but guru does provide companionship and emotional anchor without which we are lost.

When sex gets into the picture we all get affected. Lord Nityānanda wasn’t, Śrīnivāsa wasn’t, but when the rest of us follow their footsteps we are bound to get attached. Maybe it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things and doesn’t affect Lord Caitanya’s promise to take us back to Godhead at the end of our lives, but the external manifestation of our devotion is bound to suffer and go into “decline”.

So, the point is that it happens, and it’s still probably the best way to maintain the movement in the absence of super powerful ācāryas. It doesn’t mean any actual deficiency and it doesn’t mean Lord Caitanya’s plan is not working and we are ruining His mission. We can’t ruin His mission, we are too small and insignificant, so we better learn to see it as perfect as it is and learn to appreciate His mercy even when by some other standards it might appear as lacking.

Vanity thought #1250. Christian problems

Frankie the Pope has been a lot in the news recently, I think he deserves being mentioned. Partly because he is the leader of 1.2 billion religious people, partly because he spoke on things that look trivial to us.

First, he had the biggest mass ever in Manila, with six million people in attendance. That’s impressive by any standard. Six million is a huge number, it’s like one in ten able Filipinos was there. It’s more than come to Olympic Games or World Cup. However imperfect, these people came out to celebrate God and His message, and the attendance shows that people still know what their priorities are. It would have been better if they were chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa there but it’s probably as good as it gets in this day and age.

So, during this mass, one little girl came up to the Pope and asked a question about drugs and prostitution. Why does God allow these things happen to children? The Pope was visibly moved by her sincerity and went for a hug. Overwhelmed by emotion he couldn’t talk about anything but crying, he even ditched his prepared English speech and reverted to his native Spanish. He asked everyone to learn to weep for abused children.

That was obviously a non-answer but it had its own advantages, too.

On the plus side, it showed people not to burden themselves with questions about God but display humility and compassion. God’s divinity is not in question, he implied, and so we should worry about what we should do rather than worry about how God might not be doing His part. It’s a good advice, generally, but the execution was clearly below the par.

Lots of media outlets omitted Pope’s real answer:

    She is the only one who has put forward a question for which there is no answer and she was not even able to express it in words but rather in tears.

Understandably, it doesn’t look for the Pope to admit that he has no idea why God makes children suffer. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation why God allows such ignorance to be spread in the name of religion, but it all settles in one word – karma. Well, plus reincarnation, but it’s mostly karma. No one suffers undeservedly, that’s not how God’s creation works

How does it really work, though? Factually, no one suffers AT ALL – it’s all just interactions of material elements, spirit souls are made of different substance and cannot be touched by matter. All the suffering and all the pleasure is only an illusion. Having said that, why do WE have to be subjected to the law of karma? It’s one thing for material elements to move according to the laws of material nature, it’s quite another thing to force our polluted consciousness to do so.

OTOH, it gives us the opportunity to leave this world without worrying about who will occupy our next bodies, the ones we were supposed to acquire according to our mentality. I mean if the law of karma works then whatever we think or want must eventually manifest itself one way or another. We might occasionally think of Kṛṣṇa but we still have enough thoughts to earn us a new body, right? Devotees, however, will not live through that karma, which is great, but what happens to it? The law isn’t supposed to be broken, every action must have consequences.

One way to look at it is to say that our body itself does not produce the next one, only our mind does, therefore when this body dies it doesn’t mean another one must be born somewhere else, meaning there’s no physical, empirical connection between this life and next. If we go back to Godhead the material world isn’t losing anything.

This can be counteracted by reminding that mind is also a material element and therefore thoughts have consequences just like actions do. Our thoughts never go in complete vain, we remember them, they affect us, they influence our future decisions. If thoughts are spoken they affect other people, too, and even if they are not, our behavior might display what’s on our minds even better. There’s no disconnect between gross physical and subtle mental reality. What happens to that mental reality after we go back to Godhead? Who inherits our thoughts?

I don’t know the answer when the question is put this way and, perhaps, it’s time to use Pope’s trick and say that I shouldn’t confuse myself and resort to chanting.

The Pope recommended crying, as I said, but crying for what? For things that are not worth lamenting, as Kṛṣṇa said in Bhagavad Gītā. These unfortunate children are sort of unwanted progeny Arjuna was worrying about in the first chapter and Kṛṣṇa immediately cut him short, the first words He spoke were about “impurities” and “degrading impotence” not befitting his status (BG 2).

This compassion is totally misguided and is born of ignorance, not of knowledge and not of love, more like of unhealthy obsession with acquiring material happiness and satisfying material desires.

How can this leader of the biggest church in the world be so spiritually blind?

It’s one thing for a new bhakta to complain that Kṛṣṇa consciousness doesn’t make him happy, that he doesn’t get enough money or enough sex, but this is supposed to be a temporary stage that passes as one matures in his service and his understanding of his position. Pope should know better but he doesn’t.

He somehow recommends cultivating the very same thing that brought us into material hell in the first place. I know it’s not how they explain his words in Catholic church but the effect is the same – more attachment to material happiness. In Christianity they all suffer for the original sin, the poisoned apple, but what do they do now? Ask for more poison?

They are totally delusional.

Another thing the Pope said on the way back was something about contraception. Catholics are against it but the Pope asked them not to breed like rabbits anyway. He was talking about a woman who had seven children, multiple cesarean sections, and was pregnant again. Pope was seen as judgmental and some people pointed that this woman was simply following the doctrine – breed and multiply.

In a bigger picture, the Pope was talking about causes of poverty and he rightly said that it’s not the number of children that causes it but our crazy economic system. I wish he expounded more on it, and maybe he has, but the media picked up only “breed like rabbits” line.

Officially, Catholics recommend following natural ways to avoid getting pregnant – something about monitoring women’s menstrual cycles, regularly taking their basal temperature and so on. The idea is to avoid sex when women are very likely to conceive. How’s that different from contraception, though? They are still interfering with “God’s plan”, in their speak, just in a slightly different way.

Our answer to “do not breed like rabbits” is overall reduction of sexual activity as the goal of family life, or any human life, for that matter. I had an impression that Christians were aware that overindulgence in sex is harmful to one’s spiritual progress and I wouldn’t have thought of them as “breeding like rabbits” but that is my personal experience, I’ve never met a Catholic mother of seven, the Pope has.

The Pope also commented on freedom of speech issue but I think I’d better cover it separately because it’s a big topic in itself.

Vanity thought #1106. Su-medhasah part 3

So let’s say I proved that our medium to long term planning in the current conditions require us to surrender to Kṛṣṇa before the world catches us in its downward spiral. Let’s say it has become fairly clear that for our own safety we need to invest in Kṛṣṇa consciousness now, to get ourselves ready before it’s too late to pick up the beads.

That would be great but it’s only solving a part of our problem. We can compare it to choosing a university for our pre-school children and starting a fund to pay for it when the time comes in the next fifteen years, or to starting a saving plan for our retirement. It’s great, it’s a responsible thing to do, it puts us into the right mood vis-à-vis our spending urges, but it still can’t hold against daily distractions.

Splashing on less than necessary items like new phones or computers won’t kill our long term plans but it will make us regret our decisions every time the credit card bill comes. Translating back into chanting – daily temptations of the mind won’t probably affect our end of life destination but they would ruin our today’s experience.

First, we need to approach our chanting as an investment project. We need to be in the right frame of mind when we start – from now for the next two hours I will be taking care of my future. I will not be simply moving my mouth, I will be preparing my spiritual “retirement”. It’s an important thing to do, it’s like a job, it requires voluntary effort and concentration.

Yet even if we manage to prepare ourselves for chanting this way it doesn’t stop our minds from dwelling on short term distractions. We still need to learn how to deal with those, too, just as we need to learn to postpone personal stuff when we are busy at work. We’d still get paid but it just won’t feel right.

Let’s take another example.

A few days ago I met a woman that caught my attention. I could say that we “clicked” and there was a certain chemistry between us. The attraction is there but I can’t afford to do anything about it. It would ruin my own life and my family, too. Now, every time she comes into my mind I have to look at a bigger picture to mitigate the agitation, so far it works.

I think not only how I would feel in her presence but also how I would have to sneak away to meet her, how I would have to hide her texts and calls on my phone, how I would have to invent lies to my family, and how it would all ruin my experience.

When I add all those fears and inconveniences to the initial attraction it doesn’t sound very attractive anymore. Just not worth the trouble. I think this could be called a victory of intelligence over the senses, a smart thing to do. Then I can continue chanting in peace.

There’s another aspect to it, too – if the attraction is too strong than all the sacrifices to keep illicit association going will feel justified even to a strong intelligence. We need to learn to avoid that trap because there will be no way out of it, once we are caught we are done for.

The key here is to anticipate the attraction and avoid fanning it as early as possible. More time spent in the presence of the subject strengthens the argument presented by the senses. From hope of enjoyment it would gradually become a taste and then a habit. At that point it would become irreversible and too painful to fix.

We need to see the future before senses experience it for real. We need to learn how senses work before they get a trial run and get hooked. This is how brahmacarya works – by avoiding women altogether and keeping one’s nose clean.

Some devotees think that brahmacarya means staying strong in the face of attraction but they are wrong – it means avoiding attractions altogether.

I think there’s a point in criticism of our ISKCON leaders when they are accused of freely mingling with women. Sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs are, reportedly, often seen sitting next to women like people do at ordinary conferences and meetings. The argument goes that men must control their senses and if materialists don’t feel agitated in the presence of females than our devotees shouldn’t either.

I disagree. Ordinary men not getting horny every time they see a female is not a sign of control of their senses, it only shows that currently their sex drive is relatively low, most likely due to overindulgence.

If we want to draw parallel with devotees here then we should compare them to gṛhasthas who have their fill of female company at home, and even then their wives should monitor their behavior in presence of other females rather closely. Trust but verify, as they say. One thing is sure – it’s not a business of either sannyāsīs or brahmacārīs.

Brahmacārī is not someone who doesn’t feel agitated in presence of women, it’s someone who avoids women altogether to avoid unnecessary agitation.

Back to the topic – once you feel that your senses smell potential gratification, stay away from the source of the “fragrance” before they lock in onto their target. Senses are mechanical objects, they don’t have a mind of their own (they use ours instead), so they can be easily manipulated. They are like magnets this way – keep them away from iron and they won’t bother you. Bring them close to iron made objects and they will be impossible to resist. For that kind of engagement they should have a docking station at home, pardon the pun.

Anyway, talking about that woman – when she comes back into my mind I overwhelm my memories with images of all the troubles I will get, and I don’t allow my mind to dwell on good memories either, nipping the attraction in the bud. I’m not planning on meeting her again and it happens I will try to avoid talking to her.

So far this works. I decided to write about it now because I feel pretty confident I got this under control. Three four days ago it was still work in progress but by now I don’t even remember what her company felt like. It works.

It isn’t my first time with this either and, by God’s grace, I always had a presence of mind to extricate myself from potentially troubling relationships before inflicting any actual damage. I’ve met women a lot more attractive than this latest one and it worked on them, too. After a while I only remember the facts, not the feelings, and I don’t dig around my memories to remind myself how warm it felt at the time.

To sum it up – this was an example of dealing with a short term disturbance, complementing a long term commitment to chanting. The only thing I forget to mention is that the other, prescribed method of dealing with it is to chant the Holy Names very loudly, it helps to drown the memories that float up to the surface of our minds. This really works, too, confirming that chanting is the best answer to everything.

It’s not an alternative method, btw, it’s just a way to achieve all I discussed above, how to actually withdraw our minds from thinking about women. I described what we need to achieve and loud chanting, as prescribed in the śāstra, is how to do it in practice.

Vanity thought #974. Flooding the gates

Nārada Muni’s advice on conquering lust is too controversial to just let it go, there needs to be an attempt at reconciliation with our later ācāryas, so here it is.

Let’s start with quoting those verses again (SB 7.11.33-34) together with a short purport:

    My dear King, if an agricultural field is cultivated again and again, the power of its production decreases, and whatever seeds are sown there are lost. Just as drops of ghee on a fire never extinguish the fire but a flood of ghee will, similarly, overindulgence in lusty desires mitigates such desires entirely.

    PURPORT

    If one continuously sprinkles drops of ghee on a fire, the fire will not be extinguished, but if one suddenly puts a lump of ghee on a fire, the fire may possibly be extinguished entirely. Similarly, those who are too sinful and have thus been born in the lower classes are allowed to enjoy sinful activities fully, for thus there is a chance that these activities will become detestful to them, and they will get the opportunity to be purified.

The fact that the purport is so short and that in half of it Śrila Prabhupāda simply repeats Nārada Muni’s suggestion doesn’t make it easy. I certainly can’t think of any similar ideas expressed elsewhere in our books. There’s a verse in Bhagavad Gītā (2.59) but the purport there is similarly short and doesn’t directly prescribe Nārada Muni’s method, offering developing higher taste through bhakti instead:

    The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.

    PURPORT

    Unless one is transcendentally situated, it is not possible to cease from sense enjoyment. The process of restriction from sense enjoyment by rules and regulations is something like restricting a diseased person from certain types of eatables. The patient, however, neither likes such restrictions nor loses his taste for eatables. Similarly, sense restriction by some spiritual process like aṣṭāńga-yoga, in the matter of yama, niyama, āsana, prāṇāyāma, pratyāhāra, dhāraṇā, dhyāna, etc., is recommended for less intelligent persons who have no better knowledge. But one who has tasted the beauty of the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa, in the course of his advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, no longer has a taste for dead, material things. Therefore, restrictions are there for the less intelligent neophytes in the spiritual advancement of life, but such restrictions are only good until one actually has a taste for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. When one is actually Kṛṣṇa conscious, he automatically loses his taste for pale things.

In fact, here it appears that Nārada Muni’s method shouldn’t work at all – “Unless one is transcendentally situated, it is not possible to cease from sense enjoyment.”

So, does Nārada Muni contradict Kṛṣṇa? Or Śrila Prabhupāda contradicts Nārada? Neither of those, of course, it just gives us a bit of a headache to explain it away.

Both methods should work in the manner intended by the speaking authority, contradictions arise when we try to generalize too much and apply these methods outside of intended sphere. Context, therefore, is very important, as well as exact subject and exact expected results.

In Bhagavad Gītā Krṣṇa is speaking about all conditioned souls in general, dehinaḥ, and He is also the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself so His words should be taken in a more general, absolute sense. Taste for material life does not disappear unless one develops taste for serving the Lord in devotional service. Even liberated souls do not lose that taste forever and occasionally slip back down to conditioned state and let’s not forget that even liberated souls who do not for a moment experience attraction to material enjoyment are nevertheless attracted by the Lord – the famous ātmārāma verse (SB 1.7.10).

There are other conditions that attract an embodied soul to devotional service – “four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me — the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute” which were also described by Kṛṣṇa (BG 7.16). Notice that he doesn’t mention those who have completely exhausted their sense organs as suggested by Nārada Muni.

Let’s look closely at Nārada’s advice. It comes almost at the end of the chapter, previous verses dealt with duties of brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, wives etc. This turn to overindulgence in lusty desires came in rather unexpectedly, though a śloka dealing with mixed classes was inserted three verses earlier (SB 7.11.30). That verse simply mentioned that lower classes have their hereditary customs, nothing else. In the purport Śrila Prabhupāda said that for members of some of those castes intermarriage and drinking is allowed because they do not consider it sinful themselves.

In the next verse Nārada doesn’t say anything about sin but Śrila Prabhupāda continues on the same topic in the purport:

    In Bhagavad-gītā (3.35) it is said, śreyān sva-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt: “It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties.” The antyajas, the men of the lower classes, are accustomed to stealing, drinking and illicit sex, but that is not considered sinful. For example, if a tiger kills a man, this is not sinful but if a man kills another man, this is considered sinful, and the killer is hanged. What is a daily affair among the animals is a sinful act in human society. Thus according to the symptoms of higher and lower sections of society, there are different varieties of occupational duties. According to the experts in Vedic knowledge, these duties are prescribed in terms of the age concerned.

This is very interesting in itself because in our preaching we insist on absolute nature of sinful activities such as drinking and illicit sex. Śrila Prabhupāda doesn’t mention meat eating here but I think it would be fair to assume that killing cows is indeed absolutely sinful while smaller animals, like chicken or fish, can fall under customs of each particular caste. Come to think of it, ritual slaughter of the cows and bulls in corrida traditions of Spanish speaking world should also fall under particular customs of certain people living in a certain age. We don’t usually allows for such relativity, maybe we should.

So, for several ślokas in a row Nārada Muni was talking about duties of people of lower classes and while he doesn’t specify who exactly he had in mind in verses 33 and 34 he must have meant those who fall outside general varṇāśrama. He was also talking about gradual elevation through the ranks, especially in immediately preceding verse 32:

    If one acts in his profession according to his position in the modes of nature and gradually gives up these activities, he attains the niṣkāma stage.

Notice that in this verse he specifically says “gradually gives up these activities”, overindulgence of the verse 34 comes later and should be considered in that context.

Now we can piece it altogether – lower classes of people have their own customs and they should follow those, which is not considered sinful. By doing so they will gradually lose their interests in these activities. How? By indulging in what is allowed in full.

As long as they do not step outside their natural boundaries they can engage their senses as much as they want, it’s beneficial for them, and flooding their senses will satisfy their most base desires, prompting interest in a more subtle and sophisticated enjoyment that will be available in next lives in higher castes.

This is how Vedic way of gradual elevation is supposed to work anyway, the only thing unusual here is that restrictions must be in the form of boundaries, not quantities of sense enjoyment.

Can we apply this method in our own lives? Yes, of course, but we should determine our positions first. As devotees we have our own boundaries and our own rules, part of which is making voluntary sacrifices for the Lord. If we cannot qualify as that kind of devotees we should not pretend to be on that level, and if we are on that level we should not do certain things that are allowed for everybody else.

In practical terms it means no illicit sex, for example, and even if we approach our partners for procreation we should not do so more often than once a month. There’s no restriction on a number of children and no restrictions on how long we can try – this month, next month, month after that and so on.

If we can’t follow – we are not there yet and so we should live by our own prescribed standards, not demanding any initiation rights or recognition as devotees in good standing.

As far as gays are concerned – if they feel like “gay marriage” is a right step for them there’s no reason to deny them this right but if they feel like they can’t live without casual sex with multiple partners – let them do it with whatever rules apply for this kind of “dating”.

Can we “bless” their relationships? Yes, why not, but claiming a right to be initiated is probably beyond their level yet.

At the end of the day – we are saved through chanting of the Holy Name and the Holy Name doesn’t ask us for vows, it’s there free for everybody who has ever met a devotee or read Prabhupāda’s book. Holy Name also works on the absolute level so if we don’t qualify for initiation in this life it doesn’t really matter, we’ll get there eventually. Perhaps our envy of those who appear as better devotees than us is a much bigger problem than our own lack of advancement – we should concentrate solely on our own relationship with the Lord and treat everybody else’s with utmost respect – amāninā mānadena. Then kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ.

We we get that we can’t ask for anything more.

Vanity thought #909. Fighting temptations

It’s so easy to lose our concentration on Kṛṣṇa it’s scary. In a split second our mind can get carried away thousands of miles away from where it’s supposed to be but that isn’t even our biggest problem. A bigger problem, I would argue, is that even when our mind is somewhat under control it is too corrupted to be of any use. It makes us chant with offenses and that never brings any results.

Lust, anger, greed, envy – we can chant with all those things on our minds and it would look okay externally but we will never ever make any progress this way, which is frustrating. As Śrila Prabhupāda used to say – if you want fire, wood needs to be dry. Wet wood would only produce smoke but not light and no heat. Moreover, this frustration eats away at our hearts, eats away at our faith. After some time we completely forget that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is meant to be blissful and even ordinary, material happiness seems to become out of reach.

We can whip ourselves up by giving in to the mode of passion, getting into arguments, convincing ourselves of our righteousness, or even seeing greater faults in others. It might overshadow frustration for a little while but even satisfaction of beating our “enemies” can’t hide lack of genuine Kṛṣṇa consciousness for long.

We need to give up our anarthas and purify our mind, there’s no other way, no amount of chanting will make us closer to Kṛṣṇa if what we really want is to keep our material attachments. Kṛṣṇa is absolutely attractive, one might say, but let’s not forget that we have our independence, too, and we know how to misuse it. Besides, even if chanting wins out at the end it might take a lot longer than we can comprehend in our present life timeframe. Victory in the next thousand lifetimes is no victory at all, we don’t have that much patience and suffering can get brutal.

The most troublesome and difficult to overcome temptation is sex. Maybe not, but it certainly feels so, mostly because sex makes us break our vows. I don’t know any devotees who struggle with alcohol, meat eating, or gambling, but sex affects everyone and its effect is ruinous. So, I’ve put up some ideas on how to keep it at bay.

Giving up sex in the present day society seems impossible, don’t even start. People can understand teetotalers but not brahmacāries. Looking at the state of the world it’s hard to disagree. If you talk about people who masturbate in front of their computers they are too far gone, it’s incurable. There’s a custom nowadays to include porn preferences in people’s profiles. Not publicly, of course, but when NSA wants to know about you they include your porn habits in your file, too, or so the wisdom goes.

As I said, there’s not much you an do about that. Temptation of sex must be fought a lot earlier. It’s like catching cancer in terminal stages – too late to do anything. I also thought of driving analogy – imagine you try to make a turn into a really tight drive-through space and you realize that you calculated your approach wrong. There’s nothing you can do but to back up and try again, pushing forward and hoping that you get clear is not going to work. Wheel can’t turn any sharper, you need to get out and do it again.

Same with temptation of sex – it’s too late to fight it when your whole body is on fire with lust. Well, it’s never too late to fight, but that would be the equivalent of backing up, going forward would be impossible. I don’t know what to do in these situations – take a shower, but that is dangerous, too. Think of your mother? Call someone and talk about other things to take your mind off sex? Chant very loudly and pray for lust to go away? All these things work, some better than others, but that is not what I’m proposing here.

I’m proposing to chant very very attentively when lust is nowhere near. That will establish the “baseline”. Catch that feeling, remember it, observe the stillness of your mind, get comfortable with it. This is very important, the sense of purity, we should never lose it even when things go wrong.

Next, watch very carefully how that purity disappears with even a slightest forethought of sexual enjoyment. Watch how the cloud of lust covers your consciousness. The earlier you catch this moment the better because this is when lust is at its weakest.

As soon as you notice that lust is approaching, identify the source and purge it from your mind. There aren’t any particular lusty thoughts at the moment yet, nothing concrete, but there’s this subconscious anticipation. You see a woman in the street and you want her to turn around to see her face – that’s lust creeping in. You remember your old romantic acquaintances, you don’t think of sex but lust is already there because that’s where warm memories come from. You see a guy on TV trying to woo a girl and you sympathize with him – that’s lust, his lust rubbing off on you. Purge it. Catch it early on and fight the temptation before it gains traction.

That’s why remembering the baseline is so important – it increases our sensitivity to the subtlest forms of sex enjoyment where everyone else would see nothing. That’s why Lord Caitanya was so strict about avoiding women – it helps to keep baseline extremely low. If we keep women’s company all the time we tend to become numb to lust until it becomes too late.

Think of college students who have no problems with girls flashing boobs, or western Europeans who have no problems with sunbathing nude in the middle of the city or changing swimwear in public. The are not agitated, correct, but that doesn’t mean they have conquered sex desire, they just made their senses too numb to notice. We don’t want to be like them, we can’t afford to be like them.

There was a photo on the internet of big Hare Kṛṣṇa kīrtanīyās posing in a swimming pool in a group hug with some girls, brāhmana threads hanging off their shoulders and beer bottles in their hands. They argued it was root beer or something but that is even not the point. The point is that women should be completely absent form our lives, apart from our wives, mothers, or daughters, of course.

There’s simply no other way, we can’t keep relating to people on sexual basis, however subtle, and hope to attain Kṛṣṇa’s mercy.

One might say – but they are not agitated! What’s the problem? Problem is their baseline – they don’t know how complete sexual abstinence feels and so they don’t know lust in their hearts until it physically affects their bodies, which is already too late, as I explained earlier.

Oh, and we should forget the idea that we can live “normal” lives and advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness at the same time. It’s nonsense. Kṛṣṇa requires complete surrender which means complete renunciation. And no, yukta-vairāgya is not a permission to mingle with opposite sex. We have plenty of great ācāryas who practiced yukta-vairāgya but not one of them kept company of women.

The desire to lead normal live is in itself preclusion to any spiritual progress, it’s an anartha and it should be given up.

I hope this idea is useful, personally, I found it as the only way to keep my nose clean and avoid getting myself into impossible situations.

Vanity thought #848. Sense of subtlety

A few days ago I read an article that touched on the nature of the senses but I can’t find it anymore. It didn’t look very authoritative but it did refer to Srila Prabhupada’s quotes on the key point – the subtlety of our senses.

We know our ABCs – there are five knowledge gathering senses and there are five “action” senses and it’s through these senses that we interact with the world. That’s how we enjoy perceiving it and how we enjoy controlling it.

These senses are right in front of our eyes, so to speak. Legs, genitals or stomach to act on the world and eyes and ears to receive world’s feedback. We see these senses as made of five gross elements, or made of skin, muscles, cells, membranes etc, depending which classification we use, Vedic or “scientific”.

What we miss, however, is the subtle nature of the senses that isn’t obvious to anyone looking at himself in a mirror.

First of all, senses are not made of five gross elements, they are complimentary to ether, air, fire, water, and earth, which is not the same thing. This isn’t important to my point today but it deserves to be corrected nevertheless. Ether, air etc are not like atoms and molecules at all. We can say that eyes have special cells that produce little amounts of electricity when light falls on them and that electricity is transferred to the brain where images are reproduced like gifs on computer screens but that would be a completely different description to how eyes work according to sankhya classification.

This brings me to the next point – Vedic eye is not the same thing we call eye we see in a mirror or can touch with our fingers. Vedic eye is a subtle organ, imperceptible to touch or any kind of measurement with material instruments. Gross eye (and yes, eyes are gross when taken out of eye sockets) is just a vehicle for the subtle sense organ to enable us to function in the “real” world. Same is true for all other senses, too.

Subtle senses are always with the conditioned living entity. You can cut a leg off but the subtle leg would still be there. Deaf people still have their subtle ears, too, and eunuchs still have genitals. Apparently, these subtle sense organs travel with the living entity from one body to the next, always present, always there, ready to interact with the material nature.

The ability to do that, however, depends on presiding deities of the senses. Without their facilitation senses just won’t work, there’d be limited input or limited output or none at all. When our hearing becomes weak with age it’s not just the material ears that go numb to the sounds, it’s demigods’ way of telling us our karma is near its expiration, that the amount of pleasure we are allowed to derive from hearing is near its limit.

One could say that we don’t need demigods to explain that – bad ears lead to bad hearing, but sometimes the opposite is true, like when Beethoven went deaf but still composed a lot of very beautiful music. He could hear it just fine even if his ears were junk. All sense activity is possible only by the grace of demigods, gross senses are not the cause, just one of the components of enjoyment. Think of ghosts who are hungry but can’t eat, or think of yogis and rishis who can travel all over the universe while their gross bodies stay in one place and appear to be in terrible conditions.

So, subtle senses, controlling deities, karma – that’s what determines whether we’ll enjoy or suffer our experience here.

When we see it that way, the subject of “sense control” should look in an entirely new light, too. Just as at first we think that we can touch our ears with our fingers we also assume that controlling our tongues or our genitals means controlling the activities of the gross sense organs. This is not entirely true. It’s true in the sense that gross and subtle senses are, under normal circumstances, intimately connected and by observing actions of one you can guess the state of the other but we need more subtlety than that.

What we need to control is our subtle, real senses. We can temporarily force our gross bodies into some sort of tapasya but that doesn’t do anything for developing devotional service. Tapasya and austerities are for impersonalists, not for devotees. Our goal is yukta vairagya, engaging our senses in the service, not stopping them from acting.

An easy example – you won’t become sannyasi by neutering yourself. If you undergo some sort of chemical castration you’ll lose your gross working genital but the subtle sense will still be there and it will be still as hungry for action as ever, it just won’t manifest in the gross body for the time being, that’s all. If it hasn’t been purified by engaging in devotional service, which is procreation and offering fruits of your loins to the guru, it will keep forcing you to take birth after birth after birth, for it’s our attraction to the subtle senses that keeps us bound to this world, not the temporary state of our gross bodies.

So, it’s important to see our senses for what they are and see our attraction to sensual experience where it actually lies. We need to separate our desires to control or to perceive things from the activities of our gross bodies, and when we want to take control of the senses we should learn to identify them properly, see them when they want to act, recognize their driving force where it really is – in our subtle bodies.

Another example – you go on the internet and you chat with someone, leave comments here and there, or go into a big fight on some hot discussion board. You can spend whole day doing this while being completely alone in your room, without saying a word to anyone. Does it equal to controlling your tongue, as in controlling your speech? Of course not.

Every time we want to impress our thoughts on the world we use our tongue, the subtle one, even if on a gross level all these expressions come through our fingers. That’s what we want to control – the desire to communicate, to tell things to others, make them know what our opinions are.

Same thing with hearing – it’s not just the sounds that come into our ears. Reading is a type of hearing even though it comes to us through our eyes. Sense of hearing is searching for other people’s thoughts and opinions, not hearing per se.

I don’t want to visualize what subtle sex might look like, I’ll just say that it’s not always of explicitly sexual nature. Flirting is sex, internet dating is sex, judging someone’s hotness is sex, observing other people’s sex is sex, seeing other people flirting is sex, any kind of male-female relationships is sex, as soon as we see it that way, as male-female interaction, we are engaging our subtle genitals. That’s what needs to be controlled, not just morning boners, pardon my French.

This, btw, makes it easy to understand the perverted nature of gay, bisexual etc relationships. External gender characteristics don’t matter at all, it’s the subtle sex that is being enjoyed, with men, women, or animals – doesn’t matter. It matters only when we want to use our subtle sex organ in the service of the Lord, which for us, as aspiring devotees, should be always.

When Christians puzzle themselves about gay rights it’s of no concern to us, it’s like arguing whether blonds or brunettes make better sexual partners, it’s irrelevant to self-realization and irrelevant to developing devotional service.

It’s a journey of discovery (not sex, the subtle nature of the senses) and I just found that there’s a journey to take, so I’ll stop preaching and learn something myself first.

Vanity thought #802. Asexuality

A few days ago I wrote about difficulties in maintaining celibacy in the modern world. Not so much celibacy per se but following “no illicit sex” rule which is practically the same thing.

This week articles about Japanese attitudes towards sex have made news around the world. Turns out it’s quite possible to have a modern society that is asexual and where people knowingly and willingly avoid sex altogether. Latest survey over there produced lots of interesting numbers but perhaps the most shocking is the fact that almost half of young Japanese women and a quarter of their men are “not interested or despise sexual contact”. That’s 16-24 year olds, prime age for fantasizing about it.

This is buttressed by the rising number of singles, and the rising number of singles who are not interested neither in marriage nor in having any kind of romantic relationships across all age groups, and that serves as a role model for teenagers.

There are many reasons for this, one is the workaholic culture that is geared towards single workers, with all their needs looked after by their companies practically on premises. They don’t need to go home to support themselves, they can get all their food and fresh underwear at the nearest 7-Eleven, and it all comes in single portions. And once at work they are not supposed to mingle with the opposite sex and so they don’t get opportunities to become romantically involved.

Another is the career pressure on the women. Once they get married they are expected and even pressured to drop out of the “rat race”, by the society, by their husbands, and by their employers. There’s a worldwide tendency to get married at a later age and so for Japanese women it comes to mean a complete overhaul of their lives. Just as they finish their education, settle in their work and get their lives together, they are asked to drop it all and start over. Doesn’t go down very well, I imagine.

On the male side the expectations of the traditional marriage are also quite high. They were formed in the age of life long employment and secure and profitable jobs which are becoming increasingly rare even in Japan. Young people there, just like everywhere else, do a lot of job hopping and soul-searching which does not mesh with committing yourselves to staying with one company and advancing towards the top. They aren’t automatically interested in that and maintaining families and complying with social norms is not enough of a reason for them to become “enslaved”.

They can maintain themselves very well without making such commitments and they see marriage as a threat to their care free lifestyles.

So when it comes to the choice of doing what they want and marriage they increasingly choose their own interests, and this means they have to protect their decisions and deal with their sexual urges.

While they still have outlets to satisfy their desires outside marriage they also realize that the best way is to structure their lives in such a way that sexual urges don’t even come. When the number of such people rises the society responds and it becomes a new social norm, and this is what their teenagers are graduating into.

For women it means refusing all kinds of dating as a principle. Nip it in the bud, once you fall in love it would become so much more difficult to say no to marriage proposals. Once the women are chaste, men have to adjust themselves, too. It becomes even more obvious that seeking sex leads only to frustration so they apply themselves in other areas, most notably in virtual reality and manga culture.

Is it an ideal situation by Vedic standards? Not really, but if you want to follow the fourth reg than Japan has the answer, and their lifestyles and cultural attitudes are slowly spreading around the world, too, beginning with Asia.

Too bad they speak Japanese and so it all has to be translated into English or it would have consumed the region like a wildfire already. Also their technology based ecosystem is quite difficult to replicate but Internet now is everywhere and Koreans, for example, are quite adept at selling their role-playing computer games worldwide. I mean the games that millions of people play at the same time and that create virtual societies through which people are conditioned to behave in a certain way.

Another example – the most popular messaging application worldwide is Whatsapp but in Asia it’s Japanese Line and it’s main allure is cute over-sized “stickers” to substitute people’s emotions in online conversations, and they are totally asexual, of course. Once you start communicating with other people through this asexual language it shapes your internal thinking, too, and this is how it spreads.

Anyway, what does it mean for us? As I said, it makes it easier to follow the forth reg but then the reg itself might need adjustments to fit with the times. If you substitute sexual gratification with watching robots doing it on your computer it’s still gratification and you are still being attached. The purpose of “no illicit sex” rule is not in having no illicit sex, it’s in engaging in legitimate sex for procreation and thus purifying our entire existence.

If people don’t get married and don’t procreate they don’t purify themselves, they express their sexual energy through different channels that are of no interest to Krishna. I suppose you could build a Second Life environment where you raise Krishna conscious children but that is just a poor substitute for the real thing.

So, on one hand Japanese set an example of a sex-free society which smashes our excuse that it’s impossible to avoid sexual temptations in this day and age, on the other hand they don’t offer any positive alternatives to regular, Vedic human dharma – procreating and maintaining Krishna conscious families.

I’m not sure that dropping out of family life altogether and following the fourth is better than trying to build a family and failing at it. Actually, when I put it this way it’s clear that having a family, however imperfect, is more in line with Krishna’s instructions, but if you decide to stay as a brahmachari then you might want to consider moving to Japan.

But then again, being a brahmachari is not only the question of celibacy, main purpose of brahmacharya is education, once that education is completed you must apply it, you can’t be a student all the way through to your fifties and sixties.

Once we have sex desire under control we have to deal with other kinds of attachments and aspirations in our lives and those are almost always better suited for grihastha life. If you have your sex desire under control then your duty is to procreate, unless you are one of those rare souls like Lord Chaitanya who can take sannyasa in their twenties.

Ultimately, our goal is to become Krishna conscious, which is not synonymous with asexual beings.

Vanity thought #792. Major missing point

I can’t believe I forgot the most pertinent reason for our inability to comprehend Vedic approach to sex – contraceptives. Invention of a pill has truly changed women’s lives and with it the sexual attitudes of the entire humanity.

It has completely divorced sex life from procreation and turned it into recreation. Prior to that every sexual congress could always produce children and both participants were fully aware of it. It was impossible to separate sex from reproduction and so if it was in marriage it was always “licit”, and just as enjoyable.

Every marriage was expected to bear fruit as soon as possible and marriage was practically synonymous with breeding – men and women getting together meant children first and foremost while any romantic involvement was simply icing on the cake. Success in marriage was determined by the number of children, the more the merrier.

Of course one reason for judging marriage by the amount and quality of progeny was economics of a farm life – more children, more farm hands, better security and bigger incomes, but this excuse doesn’t change the underlying principle – sex as procreation is godly, just as it’s said in Bhagavad Gita (7.11) – kamo ‘smi, “I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles”.

Of course some wannabe Sanskritologists might object that kamah in this verse is not “sex according to regulative principles” but just “kama”, but there’s dharma-aviruddhaḥ — “not against religious principles” in the verse and this translation with commentaries of other vaishnava acharyas carry the same meaning. In fact, over there kama is translated as energy for procreation, not just sex as in Kama Sutra, a book that has nothing to do with procreation at all.

Next objection would be the existence of the Kama Sutra itself – it was a book describing how to enjoy sex, not how to make it more effective in terms of procreation.

Fine, not everyone in Vedic ages was living to the same standards of purity as expected of vaishnavas, there were hunters and fishermen, too, doesn’t change the fact that brahmanas were supposed to be vegetarians, and vaishnavas always supposed to be the best of the best.

Even in Srimad Bhagavatam we have stories of kings who overindulged in sex life and clearly broke the fourth so it was always possible but it was still not recommended, those were kings who suffered for it, and attachment to sex life is universally condemned there, even to “licit” one.

I am not talking about such exceptions here, I’m talking about general attitude – sex meant procreation and it was all good and even prescribed as one’s duty.

Somehow I don’t think that introduction of contraceptives has made sex any more objectively pleasant or any more frequent just as invention of processed food hasn’t made it any tastier or healthier, there are too many variables that could influence the outcome if we judge success in sex life purely by the amount of pleasure.

It’s obvious that couples who are trying for a child are far more fulfilled in their lives than those who treat their unions more like one night stands, it just doesn’t compare, and, more importantly for us, it doesn’t make them break the principles but rather carries with it guru and Krishna’s blessings.

Another objection could be that child bearing takes too much time and leaves husbands hang out to dry, so to speak, but a man emotionally and spiritually involved in this endeavor naturally loses his sexual appetite, so it’s not a big problem at all. It becomes a problem if he lives in a sex obsessed society that puts him under undue expectations but if he stays with this family he should be pretty immune to such external pressures.

Funny thing, I can’t think of any cultural references that could vividly describe this kind of sex life even if it was traditional only fifty years ago. It’s gone, completely, purged from public consciousness, and even among devotees no one is surprised if a newly wed couple doesn’t produce a child in nine months.

In our defense – it’s not that we don’t want children or we want sex as recreation, in the modern society children are a big burden, a big financial commitment, and, as birth rates are plummeting, it becomes impossible to keep up with Joneses who pour all their considerable resources in this one little brat.

We can counter Joneses with six kids of our own but when we divide our meager income among them we would be lucky if they all got socks on at the same time, and we can forget about decent colleges. Education is another problem – gurukulas are nice but we haven’t got enough of them for all our devotees.

Perhaps what holds us back from engaging in “licit” sex is not our unstoppable lust but our external circumstances. We’d love to have sex for procreation every time we feel the physical need but modern life has made it impossible. Or maybe it’s our lack of faith that Krishna will provide. Or maybe it’s the sense of responsibility that if we can’t guarantee proper care we shouldn’t go near our wives.

Life in Kali yuga is very tough, there is no doubt about it, but it’s still not the reason to abandon our principles, we should just soldier on to the best of our abilities and always keep our eyes on the target – Krishna. Remembering Him at all times is the most important principle of all, this will never change.

Vanity thought #790. Mother of all delusions

When talking about inanity of our attempts to comprehend Vedic knowledge with our western minds the first thing that should be mentioned is our attitude towards sex.

When Prabhupada started ISKCON it was very simple – no sex except for procreation in marriage. As time went by, however, people have found that it’s a very difficult rule to follow and slowly, day by day, we got to the situation where new devotees are being told that the fourth reg is about sex outside of marriage and “only for begetting children” got thrown out of the window.

Some gurus do not insist on it and rather avoid the issue, and having fun with your wife is no longer a disqualification for being initiated. They just say “I don’t care what you do with your wife in private.” Problem solved.

Having heard and observed that in practice, some devotees honestly believe they follow the regulative principles when they are most definitely not.

The books are of course there, and they are the same books that first generation of devotees used to strengthen their determination to avoid illicit sex, but that doesn’t matter much because, like it or not, we don’t learn spiritual knowledge from books but from our guru. That is to say that without guru’s explanation we will extract all kinds of meanings except the right ones.

It has happened with Vedic literature in general, it’s happened with Bhagavad Gita and even Srimad Bhagavatam. When people read these books outside a genuine parampara they give rise to all sorts of mental concoctions, that’s why Srila Prabhupada called it Bhagavad Gita As It Is, to stress that it comes authorized and through the legitimate parampara.

Now, a couple of generations later, everyone is in the business of interpreting Prabhupada’s books according to their tastes, and that makes Prabhupada’s translation as ineffective as the ones made before him. I know this idea is unacceptable to many devotees but it is true. To properly understand our books we need to hear them from authorized representatives of the author, there’s no other way.

Anyway, once people have been told that anyone can read the books and everyone’s understanding is legitimate, they started taking advantage of the situation. That’s why we have all kinds of controversies that are all backed up by quotes from Srila Prabhupada, from ritviks to female gurus to illicit sex.

If your guru implies that any sex within marriage is okay then you are going to see what is said in our books through a certain lens, and it’s not a transparent one. Then, if you live a polluted life, it won’t matter if you are sincere follower of your guru or not. People sincerely believe in all kinds of nonsense, it doesn’t oblige neither Krishna nor the laws of karma.

Let me make this clear – if people engage in recreational sex they completely cut themselves off from any possibility of spiritual progress. It simply won’t happen, no matter how much they chant or how often they go to the temple. Sex enjoyment and devotional service are absolutely incompatible. Whatever progress they feel they are making is not enough to qualify for even kanishtha adhikari level, and they can be called vaishnavas only in name.

Their association MUST be avoided just as we avoid association of ordinary sense enjoyers. We can only preach to them and that can be done only when they are ready to accept it. Otherwise we can’t even discuss the glories of Krishna in front of them, that would be offensive towards the Holy Name.

This bad association rule is very important because that’s what got devotees to believe in “all sex within marriage is good” theory in the first place. It happened because we tried to comprehend Vedic rule with our western brains and by our western standards.

Where we grew up sex is the goal of life, even money is secondary because it’s used to secure stable supply of sex. From the very early age we’ve been conditioned that enjoying sex life is healthy and absolutely necessary for human fulfillment. We even think dolphins are so close to humans because they are known to enjoy sex for fun. A few months ago there was news about making dolphins legally recognized as non-human persons.

Old people might have heard of its value when they were young but now we have several generations who think that celibacy is a weird psychological condition that must be cured.

We are conditioned to believe that people are not supposed to abstain from sex and so when we look at shastra while holding onto these values we see what we want to see in it. We see kings and their wives, we see great personalities from Srimad Bhagavatam having sex, we see ordinary devotees being married, and we assume that their sexual life and their attitudes were exactly the same as ours.

We can’t find any direct prohibition of recreational sex, we can’t find any explicit description of what is considered illicit sex, and so we feel free to interpret it in any way we like.

We can’t imagine how it’s even possible – to have only licit sexual relations all your life. We believe it’s a hoax.

Well, it is impossible, for us, especially if we don’t even try it ourselves, but that doesn’t mean it was impossible in the Vedic culture or even for followers of Lord Chaitanya. A hundred years ago in Gaudiya Math following fourth reg wasn’t an official vow not because it was allowed but because it was considered a way of life for anyone interested in spiritual progress.

It’s like nowadays at the time of initiation we don’t give a vow not to murder people or not to steal money, it’s assumed that we are not going to do any of those things, so a hundred years ago “no illicit sex” wasn’t considered important enough to be declared when surrendering to the spiritual master.

Another example is sex before marriage. There are still pockets of resistance in some dark corners of the world but in “civilized” societies premarital sex is a must, and with more partners the better, but not so many as to be called a slut. People who grew in this atmosphere can’t imagine marrying anyone without trying the goods first, yet there are still lots of societies where the opposite is true – you can’t even think about touching your future spouse before wedding.

What I mean to say is that we should not substitute our modern attitudes towards sex for the attitudes we must imbibe from our acharyas. If we do so, we are doomed. We absolutely must follow Srila Prabhupada’s rules for it even it looks impossible in real life.

It would be easier if we stayed only in the association of devotees but if western attitudes pervade devotional community at large and even some initiating spiritual masters, we still should not allow ourselves to be polluted, too.

Sorry to say, but we can’t chant the Holy Name in the company of sex-enjoyers. It won’t work.