Vanity thought #719. Matter of taste

I’ve been alluding to this subject in the past so it deserves its own post. The gist of it is that all that we have in our lives is our relationship with Krishna, the Absolute Truth, and our apparent lack of devotion or spiritual progress is not an actual lack of anything, it’s just that Krishna reciprocates with us according to our tastes.

We could have been gopis of Vrindavana, or Krishna’s friends, or His uncles and aunts, but we don’t like to relate to Him that way, we don’t have a taste for it, we have a taste for associating with God through His external energy instead.

In that sense we are not very different from materialists, they also relate to the Absolute Truth through His external aspect. They like to lord over Lord’s property and they are given facilities to do just that. Some of them hate to be reminded that it’s all God’s property but we have no problem with that, that’s the only difference. Actually, when we know we enjoy Krishna’s mercy it kind of tastes better but it’s still our enjoyment.

Looking at interests and aspirations of various devotees one can easily see what they want in their lives. Some want to be respectable members of our community, some want to be seen as charitable, some want to be leaders, some want to be scholars whose advice is appreciated by everybody else. Some want to be mediators and try to reconcile every argument we have among ourselves. Some want to be known as strict followers, some want to be known as liberals who concentrate on the essence of Krishna consciousness rather than on external appearances and rules.

Some have an insatiable desire to correct everybody else, some want to search for errors and point them out for everybody to see, some want to blame others for betraying Prabhupada, some want to win every argument and always have a last word, some want to be seen as repositories of devotion, some revel in their powers, some prefer to sit all the battles out, betting that the little guy in the back will get Krishna’s mercy first.

Some want to be faithful husbands, some want to be perfect fathers, some want to be renunciates, some want to enjoy their senses for a little while longer. Some are concerned about their health and dietary supplements, some are into yoga, some are into books and others live their lives on the internet. Some fight for purity, some fight for broadmindedness, some want to preach, some want to live in Vrindavana and some can’t leave western creature comforts.

Some want to serve the Deities, some want to serve the Name, some like everything Indian, some hate Hinduism taking over ISKCON. Some are into kirtans, some are into bhajans, others prefer mantra weaved into a western music. Some want to give inspirational classes, some like to tell stories, some like to quote shastra, some like to quote movies….

The amazing thing is that Krishna reciprocates with everyone.

The big question is, however – is any of this stuff really tasty? We know that it is nothing compared to spiritual rasa, but we also don’t know any better. Why? Because we like our attachments to this stuff, and because we need time to lose interest in it. What happens next? Hopefully we’ll find some interests closer to Krishna.

I don’t know why but I can see so many devotees forgetting that real bhakti is sarva-upādhi-vinirmuktam – free from all material designations. This means we will not get even a drop of bhakti as long as we yearn for the above mentioned material positions.

It all has to be abandoned. Our “face”, our families, our careers, our means of livelihood, our health, our prestige, our experience, our wisdom, our intelligence, our estimates of our devotion – all has to go.

The good news is that even if we get a drop of real service to Krishna, a drop of real bhakti, our taste in the above mentioned things will disappear like a distant memory.

The fact is – there’s no perfect position for us in this world. Whatever we temporarily perceive as a safe haven, even if it’s hidden in the shade of the lotus feet of our guru, it’s an upadha, an external designation that will never satisfy the soul. Our guru comes to save us from this world, not to provide us a safe place here.

Our real business, our real interests, our real tastes lie in the spiritual realm and nothing of this world can replicate it. Give it up, there’s more to Krishna than this.

Our search for higher taste should never ever stop, not until we return to our original spiritual identity.

PS. Just because devotees do all those things it doesn’t mean they are really into it. We all have to live out our karma, but there are people who are really attached to it and those are the ones who are missing the higher taste.

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Vanity thought #507. Madhur madhur madhur bhaje

Gaura arati is my favorite service in our sadhana, edging out morning Deity greetings by the hair. It’s probably due to the fact that for the first couple of months Gaura arati was the only service available to me as a visitor to the temple while Govindam Adi Pususham entered my life much much later.

I feel that Gaura arati is the sweetest service, too, considering the song setting. On the bank of the Ganges all the people of the universe and all the demigods are attracted to the service of Lord Gauranga as bees to honey, and there’s the madhur madhur madhur bhaje line, too – their singing and their instruments sound very very sweet.

However, as I mentioned yesterday, at that stage of Lord Chaitanya’s mission no one knew what real sweetness means. Their sweet sweet singing for the Lord and their graceful dancing still could not compare to the sweetness of the actual madhurya rasa. That is a scientifically established fact, not a matter of opinion.

In those days no one knew of the supreme position and love of the gopis, not withstanding devotees who were gopis in Krishna lila themselves, of course. Even when the Lord moved to Jagannatha Puri and immersed Himself in the ocean of madhurya and parakiya rasas no one knew what He was on about. Only “three and a half” of His closest associates understood His feelings.

For us, however, supremacy of Srimati Radharani and her servants is the spiritual ABC, thanks to Srila Rupa Goswami and others who explained Lord Chaitanya’s latter pastimes for the benefit of the entire world.

Yet it is also a fact that we have no idea what madhurya rasa actually feels like, not even a clue. Our hearts might stop beating forever if we obtain the vision of Lord’s toenails, that’s probably the most we can expect to experience while living in our gross material bodies.

Actual madhurya rasa, however, stands head and shoulder above all other unlimited spiritual feelings, feelings that we can’t even begin to imagine. Yet comparing to madhurya rasa they all feel bland and insignificant.

Srimati Radharani and other gopis met the love of their lives, Krishna, at Kurukshetra, yet seeing the Lord of the Universe and hearing Him talk and express His love for them couldn’t compare to the sweetness of their pastimes in Vrindavana. It just didn’t work for those who have ever experienced the actual madhurya.

In my layman terms I think the difference could be compared to the overwhelming aroma of fresh incense from Vrindavana against the stale stuff I use everyday. The difference is night and day, prompting me to feel sorry for offering inferior product to the Lord. That’s how I imagine the advent of madhurya rasa would feel like in real life.

Realistically, however, I don’t expect it actually happen in this lifetime, if ever, but it’s an encouraging idea on the days when I feel like Krishna consciousness is not what it was promised to be.

It helps to know that the road ahead is going to get better, much much better, unquantifiable quantum leap better.

Until then we have no idea what sweetness is.

Vanity thought #450. Lila smaranam test

I was going to resume reflecting on Damodara lila but then I thought whether it would be as beneficial as I hope it to be. What is the measure of success when discussing Lord’s pastimes?

Is it measured by how excited the story sounds? Is it measured by new insights into familiar events? Is it measured by how long we keep replaying it in our minds afterwards?

All these things seem to matter but aren’t they just mental, not spiritual reactions? We get similar effects from reading ordinary books or watching movies. Of course there’s nothing wrong with having these effects after listening to Krishna’s pastimes but I don’t think they are the true measure of progress.

I think we can get easily fooled by observing our mind’s attraction to Krishna lila. It feels like we are developing the taste but it is probably just interest in our own, materialistic visions of it.

I think if we develop actual taste then it would manifest itself at all times. If we enjoy listening to a fascinating class but look like deflated balloons when we need to wash the dishes or mop the floors then it’s probably not the sign of developing a higher taste.

Fundamentally – Krishna reveals Himself via our guru and our guru’s instructions. We can’t have taste in lila smaranam without having an equal taste in serving our guru.

So, if we feel that discussing Krishna’s pastimes is a far more engaging activity than going out to preach and getting a lot of flak both from the general public and fellow devotees who think we are doing it all wrong – we are fooling ourselves, we haven’t got the taste yet, we still live with sahajiya mentality, taking Lord’s pastimes too easy.

The real test of interest in lila smaranam is when we are just as eager to suffer all kinds of inconveniences in serving the mission of our guru as to listen to the most exciting Krishna story ever.

Not that we should postpone discussing Krishna lila until we get the real taste but we should be aware of our position.

This is also one of the reasons we are not advised to discuss pastimes of Srimati Radharani – it’s easy to commit offenses by projecting our impressions of what amorous pastimes should look like on the transcendental realm. From this point of view Damodara lila is much much safer.

Still, there could be some danger in seeing Krishna as a little boy and not as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Seeing a little blue boy is easy, but it’s also a material vision, remembering that it is the Supreme Lord who is running for His life and trembling with fear when Mother Yashoda catches up with Him is much more difficult. However, if we succeed then I think it will also be much more satisfactory than seeing only Krishna’s naughtiness.

Well, enough talking about it, I’d better go and actually read something.

Vanity thought #353. Gopi bhava club

I’m not talking about that little deviation in ISKCON that happened some forty years ago. I mean the general understanding that to follow in gopis’ footsteps means developing attraction to Krishna in a sexual way, even if it’s purely spiritual sex. I don’t agree with that.

Perhaps in the spiritual realm of Goloka gopis’ devotion can’t be manifested in any other way, being the supreme rasa and all, but down here, in this world, we can’t talk about this supremacy in terms of rasa. We have absolutely no idea what spiritual rasas taste like let alone judge which ones are superior and which ones are inferior.

Here’s the crux of my argument – Uddhava realized the supremacy of gopis’ devotion without feeling the need to develop sexual attraction to Krishna. This means that there ARE earthly ways to appreciate their superiority. Uddhava SAW that their devotion exceeded that of anyone in Dvaraka. He had objective criteria to appreciate their greatness.

Our Six Goswamis of Vrindavana established gopis’ love for Krishna as superior but quite often we assume that it means only the rasa and we forget the objectivity of that judgment.

That the gopis are completely selfless in their devotion is given. Following in their footsteps would mean that we should consciously strive for selflessness, too. It’s not possible to achieve in the conditioned state but it’s possible to at least notice our selfishness. Personally I often can’t explain it but I know it’s there, I don’t think I’m special in that way, everyone must feel something when they are being selfish. Following gopis’ footsteps would mean that I should know that it’s wrong and strive to get rid of it when I see it.

That is the easiest part, though, and not only gopis are selfless anyway. What takes their devotion to the next level is their eagerness to serve anyone who pleases Krishna more. If they know that Krishna developed a particular liking for some devotee they would step back and let Krishna enjoys his/her service first.

That’s why our goswamis promoted mood of the manjaris – servants of the “real” gopis. That is also why we should consider ourselves as servants not of Krishna but of Srimati Radharani. She pleases Krishna the most so we should step back and let Him enjoy Her company ahead of ours.

We know that, of course, but not often we see it as a guiding principle in our lives, even though it’s probably the easiest to implement in our daily interactions – we should always step back and facilitate other devotees’ service. We should consider ourselves lower than anyone else, even our “enemies”. We should always strive to give all the credits to someone else, claiming none for ourselves.

The best place at the Sunday feast is serving prasadam to others. We should see how Krishna enjoys feeding His devotees and help Him there.

When people mentioned to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati that he shouldn’t take too many disciples he replied that he has none, he considers all those devotees his masters and he sees himself as their lowly servant, facilitating their way back home, back to Godhead.

Even when we see other devotees acting to the contrary to this principle we should take it not as an opportunity to spot someone’s mistakes but as a lesson to ourselves how not to do things.

We are not in Vrindavana, we have no idea what their relationships with Krishna are, following in gopis’ footsteps we should presume that Krishna likes their service far more than our awkward attempts.

We know that we are dasadasanudasa so we better act like it, too. And even more – considering that Krishna is in the heart of every living soul we should consider ourselves as servants of every living being, too.

That’s impossible to implement right away but it’s easy to spot when we are not behaving like that ourselves.

Uddhava saw all those things and he valued that mode of devotion above anything else, and it had nothing to do with sex. So real gopi bhava club is something quite different from trying to get rasa from stories of Krishna’s dealings with gopis.

The real taste of gopi bhava comes from selfless service to the Lord, our gurus, the devotees, and every other living being in the universe.

Oh, and we shouldn’t go around searching for this taste, we should consider ourselves unworthy, maybe then we’ll get some but most likely not.

Vanity thought #261. Yuga dharma.

I’m getting all confused here – chanting the Hare Krishna mantra is the yuga dharma of this age, on the other hand chanting the Holy Name is a completely transcendental activity that has absolutely nothing to do with the material world, gunas and yugas. Deity worship, offering sacrifices and meditation are inferior comparing to the Holy Name. Is our current yuga dharma really special or am I missing something here?

When Lord Chaitanya was composing Siksashtaka, was He talking about yuga dharma? Didn’t sound like it. Is there a difference between sankirtana as He meant it in the first verse and our yuga dharma? And what about sankirtana as we practice it – is it really that important? Or is it just a temporary yuga dharma that should be abandoned along with all other vedic rules and regulations when we get to the liberated stage?

Look at Vamshidasa Babaji, or Shukadeva Goswami – they couldn’t care less what the Vedas prescribed them to do according to their varnashrama situation, does it mean they thought of chanting or any of our common forms of sankirtana as inferior?

What about Lord Chaitanya Himself? In the beginning of Chaitanya Charitamrita Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami discussed the reasons for Lord Chaitanya’s appearance and propagating the chanting of the Holy Name was called external, as opposed to the principal reason of His coming, which was fulfilling His own desires as Srimati Radharani. In fact, in Adi 4.223 it is said that

He made His appearance to taste that conjugal mellow and incidentally to broadcast all the rasas

and specifically the word ānusańge is used which Prabhupada translated as a “secondary motive”.

I don’t know what it refers to exactly in that verse – to broadcasting the love of God in general or to the inclusion of non-conjugal rasas.

To me it sounds like sankirtana as we know it wasn’t particularly important for Him, yet we’ve been taught differently. There are implications.

On one hand I totally agree that tasting any mellows, let alone conjugal ones, is way above our pay grade, we are so insignificant and worthless that even the secondary, incidental nature of His mission is more than we have ever deserved. Speaking of mission – it implies having some external motives and goals. Lord Chaitanya’s mission was to spread chanting of the Holy Name to every town and village – fine, but now I see that He actually didn’t care much about that, He wanted to learn Radharani’s love for Krishna first and foremost, preaching was like an afterthought.

Imagine Krishna telling Radharani that He was going down to Earth to learn everything there’s there to learn about her, all her secrets and everything. Radharani then tells Him that if He’s going outside He might just as well do something useful and take out the trash, or bring in some trash, as in this particular case. “Okay,” Krishna grumbles, “but only if I really have to.”

So here we are, the trash, the dust and dirt that sticks to you shoes and sneaks into the house. Kinda sweet to be particles of dust on Lord’s lotus feet but what if he decides to wash them off before coming back and entering Goloka? What if he treats the dust on His feet as contamination? What if we are, at best, stowaways?

I don’t mind taking this route if it works but what to do with all the pride and appreciation for those participating in the sankirtana mission? From the very beginning we’ve been led to believe that book distributors are Lord Chaitanya’s dearest and we surely made everyone to know that. Now it turns out we are actually undesirables, and Srila Prabhupada was the chief of that smuggling ring. This is just not right, there must be a better explanation.

Perhaps yuga dharma and sankirtana are two different things, one is chanting the mantras for mainly material purposes – prosperity, comfort, that sort of thing, but sankirtana is for actually developing love of God. They are not completely separate, mind you, success in chanting should lead to developing devotion, but so was expected from sacrifices and temple worship and it didn’t turn out so well. I mean only a few exceptional souls achieved perfection that way while chanting the Holy Name is supposed to be a fool proof, one hundred percent working method. I hope there really is a difference between the two.

Perhaps there is a difference but only a few of us can actually see it, as externally these two activities manifest as exactly the same. Say there’s a guy selling books to bring money back to the temple, hoping that he can get a new iPod at the end of the marathon, the one where you can install all the apps, too. He might be actually very good at shaking people down, a natural salesman. There might be another guy nearby, honestly trying to tell people about Krishna, who can never ever match the first guy’s collections but who also can’t care less about iPods.

In this situation one is doing the yuga dharma, “sankirtana” with material motives, the other is actually trying to preach. Who knows what is going on in their hearts? Krishna knows, of course, but as far as everybody else is concerned – we heap all the praise on the best book distributors and we judge them by the book count. Getting books into people’s homes – that’s what’s important, the methods aren’t.

Well, we also know that Krisnna will sort it out in the end and the first guy might give up on his service faster than expected and so the proper order will be restored. What’s there to lose? We tried to tell him to distribute books in the proper mood, we did our best.

There’s another pressure on the second guy – we are not supposed to preach Krishna’s glories to non-believers. There are two famous Bhagavad Gita verses – 18.68 and 18.69:

For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.

We often cite them to encourage our book distributors and preachers but they talk about preaching to the devotees, not ordinary people who have no interest in hearing about Krishna.

This is a really great argument for the rasika vaishnavas, devotees, usually ex-ISKCON who think that preaching to karmis and book distribution are inferior activities not worth pursuing. Maybe they are right, maybe only very few liberated souls capable of tasting the rasa take on preaching because it’s important, too, while the rest of us are really inferior, but one thing against this argument is that we can’t bite the hand that feeds us – if not for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila Prabhupada we would never be here at all, and the other thing is that declaring someone as a rasika vaishnava who is above book distribution and preaching does not automatically put one on that actual level.

Also, despite the greatness of tasting the rasas, there’s something much more humble and sublime in going out and trying to bring more souls in. Yes, the rasas are great, but it’s the Lord who is the enjoyer, HE came here to taste them, and not in the exchange with us but in the exchange with Himself. He needed only very few devotees, like Swarupa Damodara, to help Him, the rest of us belong to His kirtana parties, just faces in the crowd, and we join them for His pleasure, not ours.

We can’t even actually join those parties, we missed them by five hundred years, so our humble position is to try and make our present kirtans worth Lord Chaitanya’s attention, and for that we need to bring more people in, it’s not our service to dabble in Lord Chaitanya’s inner feelings, we should mind our place. So yeah, maybe we are not as great as rasika devotees but we can’t become greater than we really are, and real rasika devotees would never ever make us feel inadequate, unlike our ex-ISKCON friends.

Perhaps in the rush to achieve greater position in devotional ranks we forget about six Goswamis who always looked for the ways to humble themselves instead.

Lowly yuga dharma or the most exalted service in the entire universe, we know it guarantees to give Krishna and Lord Chaitanya’s at least some satisfaction, whereas dabbling in rasas can be all imaginary. Unless one can see Krishna and see His reaction one would never know if his service is actually accepted. We also should only aim for dasa dasa anudasa position, we don’t aim at serving Krishna directly, only His servants. If Krishna decided to manifest Himself and accept our service in the form of Srila Prabhupada and our gurus, those are the forms we are going to serve, everything else is our own imagination.

Next time I hear talk about approaching a real guru who can give you real taste for Krishna I will eat my humble pie and admit my inferior position. My guru might not be the best in the whole world but it’s the one Krishna sent me and if I can’t serve him with full dedication and devotion, what rights do I have to demand anything better?

Vanity thought #244. Gleeful Frustration.

As usual, my weekend schedule is dictated by social obligations and while I’m reading up on Srila Vamhidasa Babaji I think I need to make some Krishna conscious points out of my dose of TV entertainment.

Today it comes courtesy of the returning TV series Glee. It’s a story of a high school show choir trying to win the national championship. The background is that being in a choir is the bottom of the high school barrel, socially speaking, you can’t fall any further, it’s absolutely uncool, so the guys and the girls are heavily ostracized by the rest of the community but they keep on going because they just love to sing. That’s going into the third year now and this first episode of the new season somehow made this angle most prominent for me.

They’ve lost badly in the finals last year and their spirits were down but they didn’t have any other place to go and they couldn’t do anything else but sing, singing had become the whole purpose of their existence. This time, despite being utterly frustrated by their failure, they also had to recruit some new members so their coach sent them out to preach. The deal was that anytime they see one of the purple pianos in the public place they had to perform a number in search for the like minded souls, hoping that their own dedication to singing would be contagious.

First time they saw a piano in the canteen they were not in the mood at all until one of their leaders convinced them to give it a try if only to cheer up themselves. When they started singing life returned to their bodies, their spirits went high, they really put all their hearts into music and they had the best time in months, they were jumping up to the ceiling. As soon as they finished, however, some hired hand came up and threw a slushie, a flavored frozen drink, in the lead singer’s face and in seconds the entire choir was pelted with all kinds of leftovers. When it was over they wanted to scream in frustration but some time later, when they saw another strategically placed piano, they couldn’t help it but break into a song again. This time the piano was set on fire but it didn’t stop them and so it continued.

While watching this I suddenly remembered a video of a massive kirtan in Mayapur that I happened to watch a few days ago. I don’t think I need to tell anybody how those kirtans go, they really turn you inside out and it seems like the entire universe is chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. The bliss is in the air, penetrating each and every atom, and even inanimate objects seem to be surcharged with ecstatic emotions. I bet people with better vision can see Lord Chaitanya Himself appearing among the dancing crowd, the roar just become tumultuous and no one, absolutely no one, can contain themselves. Then the kirtan ended and I was back home, back in the house.

What happens to those choir kids is exactly what is happening to us, or what should be happening to us. We only really live when we are chanting the Holy Names and as soon as we stop the mundane reality comes in and slaps us on the face and we can’t wait for the chance to forget about this world again, counting hours, minutes, and seconds until we hear the calling of the conch-shells and the tinkling of the karatals, That’s when we wake up from being under the spell and life comes back into our hearts again. We can’t help ourselves as we are naturally drawn to the most attractive sound in the entire universe.

Ideally it should be like this, this is what we should strive for but the long break between chanting sometimes makes us forget where real bliss is and we might start making other plans. Right now I can’t think what would happen to me if I suddenly got a job, it’s not the laziness and un-willingness to work that scares me, it’s the unavoidable fact of life that I WILL become attracted to it that makes me really afraid. If I were given some new responsibilities I would naturally dedicate my mind to getting my job right and before I know it I won’t have any time left for Krishna at all.

Right now, if I get some itch in my brain to do something, I can still keep on chanting and use my free, left hand to type or click or move things around. I can still get up every two minutes and chant until the itch pulls me down to the computer again. I know it’s not the best solution but if the alternative is to get a job where I can’t say “Krishna” for eight hours I’ll take left hand typing any day. I hope this desire to chant will never go away, I kinda got used to mumbling Hare Krishna to myself all day long, being in some office and hanging out with non-devotees is never going to be the same.

This is where I start worrying what’s going to happen to my life in the not so distant future, and that’s another danger – I don’t want to get slushied, I want a nice and pleasant life between my rounds, not constant slaps on the face. Essentially, I want to forget about Krishna in comfort. Either way, happiness or distress, it’s still an illusion, what I should really want is counting time until I get to resume my chanting.

I can’t claim to personally know HH Lokanatha Swami, the kirtan leader in that video, I had a chance to relish his association only briefly and a long time ago but I can’t imagine it’s possible to keep him and his mind away from Krishna for any period of time. He would be suffocating like fish out of water. I want to be a devotee like him, I want unquenchable thirst for chanting, too.

I guess I could settle for doing some service instead of taking a job but I still think it’s more or less the same thing – trying to make my life pleasant. Yes, doing an active service purifies the soul and keeps one thinking of Krishna and it is incomparable to any materialistic job, but it is still only filling the void between chanting.

I look at it this way – I can legitimately get attracted to chanting but any attachment to any service has a potential of becoming attached to material side of activities, too. On the absolute level it is all the same andif I get attached only to beautiful chanting it would still be a material attachment, but, in the words of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, sankirtana is sarvatma snapanam – it’s a purifying bath for the soul, it washes away all selfish desires including the desire to enjoy it.

I don’t want to dilute my original point with clumsy explanations anymore. For some people it’s chanting that is most encouraging, for others it’s preaching, and there’s always book distribution, whatever makes you heart jump, doesn’t matter, it’s the periods in between that we should worry about, we should try to get through them as fast as possible.

It works on a small scale of living through the day and it works in the larger scheme of our lives, too. Right now I’m consoling myself that according to all astrological predictions I’m a late bloomer and Krishna will find something useful for me to do in the future. Maybe I’m fooling myself but that is my fault, not the principle. Even Sanatana Goswami had periods when he thought he was completely useless, like that time he was traveling from Vrindavan to Puri and got skin disease on the way. When he arrived he thought there was nothing for him to do but to jump under Lord Jagannatha’s chariot and kill himself. Lord Chaitanya stopped him, His main argument was that since Sanatana Goswami had surrendered his life he had lost the rights to his body, too. To console Sanatana Goswami Lord Chaitanya told him that He had big plans for his future – all the books to write, all the Holy places to discover, all the devotees to train and so on.

So maybe Krishna is testing my determination, or maybe He is simply waiting until I become mature enough to trust me with anything important, I just worry that my waiting period might lead me off the track.

I just read the meaning of the name of the Goddess Durga. It’s made of two syllables, the first, duh, means difficult, and the second, ga, means go. Altogether it means something like a fortress that is difficult to escape from. In between chanting we are locked in the fortress of maya and it is extremely difficult to escape from it no matter what preparations we make, not matter what we try – it won’t work.

We might try to make our captivity more pleasant and that would be a mistake ‘cos it might grow on us. We’d better trust the Lord of the Universe, Hari, to make necessary arrangements so that the time in jail flies faster and with minimum damage. He knows very well whether our minds should be pacified with better blankets and pillows or whether those should be taken away so we don’t fall into an illusion of comfort.

Our job is to patiently wait until we are given the chance to glorify Lord’s Name, which is like being let out of cells for a bit of fresh air. We’ll be released when our sentence ends but there’s also the possibility of a parole – achieve liberation while still in our bodies. In the meantime we should stay away from the career criminals and keep our noses clean.

Vanity thought #205. When – Sanmodana Bhashyam 6.

It’s been a while since my last post on Sanmodana Bhashyam commentary on Siksashtaka, almost a month, so “when” is the appropriate question to ask in every respect.

To be honest, I was waiting for some sort of realization or maturity that would allow me to move on to this verse, sort of “ready to start the next lesson” feeling. It never came.

It is a good idea to progress from one verse to the next along with progress in one’s spiritual life. For this reason I’m not reading, much less commenting, on books describing confidential pastimes of Radha and Krishna. Siksashtaka, however, is meant for the benefit of every devotee, no matter how retarded. I was going to type “no matter how advanced” but who worries about advanced devotees here, it’s the retarded ones like me that need encouragement to study and speculate on Siksashtaka in depth.

My personal speculation is that the mula, the root word of this verse is kada, when. This is the word that sets the mood of the whole prayer.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur describes all the topics that have been already covered prior to this verse – shraddha, sadhu sanga, nine methods of executing devotional service, the science of self-realization etc. Now it’s time to talk about fruit of all these efforts – development of bhava. Pardon me for not making distinctions between rati, ruci, bhava and prema here, it’s all the same thing to me.

Whichever one of those develops first, the rest are sure to follow and none of them manifests to me at the moment so they are all equally alien and all equally obtainable at the same time. Get one, get three free.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura is deadly serious, though, all these stages are real and each one of them is elaborately described, if not in Sanmodana Bhashyam then elsewhere, so we have every right to study them and expect their appearance, too. This is what should happen, if we don’t believe it we are wasting our time and fooling ourselves.

I bet every devotee eagerly awaits for these symptoms to manifest, and sooner rather than later. I believe this is the kind of spiritual thirst that is entirely excusable.

The reality, however, is that despite all our efforts our sadhana-bhakti does not bring the desired results, and that can be off-putting for many.

Well, this is completely natural, too, as natural as developing the symptoms, and, unlike the tears or chocking voice this stage is easily obtainable. I mean lamenting the lack of progress.

I mean the entire verse is admitting failure to develop bhava, isn’t it? Lord Chaitanya knows what is supposed to happen, He knows what to expect, He, supposedly, have been practicing. He admitted His fallen condition, nanuragah, lack of taste for the Holy Name, He supposedly practiced kirtaniyah sada Harih in a proper mood of humility and tolerance, He renounced all material goals and attraction, He declared His eternal position as a fallen servant. He’s done everything right, yet the symptoms of bhava still do no manifest in His body. That’s exactly what He saying here.

I can relate to that. Everybody can relate to that. That is what devotee should be expecting from himself – sincerely lamenting the lack of progress. Many, including me, are expecting goozebumps and unrestrained flood of tears but this is just wrong – what happens next is that we experience acute realization that we are not getting anything.

So it’s all going according to the plan, just not THAT plan. I’m doing okay, I guess, except that the feeling of lamentation is not acute enough for me. Out of foolishness, pride or ignorance I was following a different plan all these years, it took me re-reading this verse for an umpteenth time to realize I was expecting the wrong things, wrong symptoms.

There are still two more verses to go in Siksashtaka and I will probably discover some new meanings or angles but I’m pretty sure there’s no verse there that says “Look, I got goosebumps! I got goosebumps!”

Yet Bhaktivinoda Thakura assures us that goosebumps are real, and so is prolonged yawning, hiccuping and drooling, among other things. Just think of it – who could possibly imagine these symptoms? Prolonged yawning? Tears, laughter, even body spasms and rolling on the ground – maybe, but yawning? Someone surely must have observed and documented it, and made sure this is the symptom of a real bhava before putting it on the list.

What about the devotee who actually experienced it and was the subject of the study? Did he ever say “Siksashtaka? Kiddy stuff for total neophites, I’ve been yawning and drooling whole morning while they can’t even shed a proper tear in those verses.”

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati in his comment sternly warns about any artificial displays, these symptoms are not for those who have not yet cleansed their hearts of all anarthas. They are not for those who have naturally moist eyes either.

These symptoms can’t be evoked at will. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati uses the words “obsequiously obedient” to describe a devotee who manifests these symptoms. “Obsequiously obedient to the eternal ecstasies that constantly ply within the heart.” These symptoms themselves command the mind and body, not the other way around.

I suppose one can’t objectively analyse and dissect them and record their appearance and disappearance. One might not even realize that they are happening at all.

If one is eager to achieve them then one should certainly heed Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s advice – artificial imitation is creating gigantic obstacles on the path to pure devotional service.

Personally, I follow Srila Prabhupada’s method when I feel something is up – chant more vigorously, it will go away.

Personally, I think I answered the “when” question for myself – never. The entrance of rati/ruci/prema/bhava is not caused by following sadhana bhakti alone but it surely is not happening for a slacker like me. I have way too many deficiencies in my personal practice that my just and generous reward would be only to practice better, not yawning or drooling.

I can’t possibly expect to progress further than my far more dedicated peers who execute their assigned service flawlessly and earn appreciation of their gurus and other vaishnavas and surely the mercy of Lord Chaitanya Himself for their tireless preaching efforts. Honestly, at most I should only expect to become somewhat resembling them in my life, and I haven’t even got time for that – my youth is gone, my energy, my enthusiasm are not what they used to be. I just don’t have time to catch up.

I’m yawning alright, btw, it’s time to sleep.

I will settle on this – it’s not the symptoms of bhava that I should be chasing, it’s sincere sorrow and remorse at my lack of progress.

Vanity thought #201. Louie wisdom again.

It’s that day of the week again when Louie unleashes his vignettes on unsuspecting public. Last time he was dying to know what love is, and failed. Today his misery continued.

He picked up a subject that touches everyone in this world – sex and ways to express it.

First there was a very nice, bright young Christian woman who was preaching virginity, no sex before marriage, and no masturbation, specifically no masturbation. Louie, self professed prolific masturbator, was chosen as her antagonist.

It is really a zero sum argument. The woman was annoying in her righteousness, telling everybody how to live a happy live by engaging in sexual relationships only for the purpose of procreation. Sounds familiar? Louie made her sound annoying, and there are two reasons for that, I believe.

First, the woman clearly hasn’t lived her life yet. When she was eulogizing on the glory of marriage Louie cut her short – she hasn’t been married yet while he had nine years, two children and a divorce. She wasn’t the one to talk to him about marital happiness.

I also notice it quite often – this lifestyle is advocated by people who have never experienced it themselves. When you try it yourself it’s not nearly as easy as they sound.

There’s undeniably a certain amount of bliss but it comes with so many strings attached that three our of four marriages break apart, and not for the lack of trying. I don’t believe for a second that people divorce because they take marriage easily, not at all. It’s just an incredibly difficult job keeping it together in this day and age.

Problems don’t begin on the wedding day, mind you, people are being set up for failure from the very young age. They are being taught wrong values, they know nothing about God, they are taught to put personal career and success ahead of everything else, and they are taught to ignore differences between the sexes.

No wonder that when they get together later in life they can’t lead a happy life. They come with wrong attitudes and low expectations and they are forced to behave unnaturally. Women want to work, not raise children, men can’t object to that because only one source income can’t support a family nowadays.

Anyway, one reason that woman was annoying is because she was blind to grim realities of the modern age. Another reason she was annoying is because she was right.

God indeed gave us our bodies for a reason, and it’s not masturbation. Men and women are really meant to join in communion of souls and bodies in an act of purification before God. Just like Krishna in Bhagavat Gita said that sex according to religious principles is one of His manifestations in this world. Even Christians feel it, that’s how it supposed to be.

Louie, at this point, asked if God really enjoys watching married couples have sex with each other. And then God jerks off…

It’s the self evident truth and beauty of “holy matrimony” is that very annoying to people who can’t live up to these lofty standards. They try, they want to, but they can’t find the strength and inspiration.

Louie went to Campaign Against Masturbation meeting once but it didn’t stick. Calls of nature were too hard to resist.

Haven’t we all been there – feeling totally inadequate for the standards of spiritual life we are aspiring to? Standards we avowed to maintain? Like it or not, but there’s no way out of it. Masturbation or sex for pleasure might be a lot easier on the senses and have many beneficial side effects on the society at large, but it doesn’t absolve any of us of responsibility for our promises.

Sexually suppressed people do not make a happy society, and sexually loose people do not make for spiritualists, and there’s really nothing in between. The only chance at successful family life is being well prepared for it.

If a couple consciously decides to limit the number of their children to two at most, they won’t have a chance to engage in sex for procreation in amounts needed to pacify their hormones. It’s simply not enough.

Unfortunately, the decision to limit the number of children is never about sex, it’s about abilities and resources and balancing lives. Unless they live in a more or less self contained community they won’t be able to procreate as much as they want.

If they live among the general population they are pressured to take two jobs and they have to work at least eight hours a day both, and the more children they have the more responsibilities they should take and there’s no escape.

That’s why poor Louie couldn’t do anything about his masturbation addiction, too In his form of life it was the only available option.

The woman was telling him to become a better man, free and eager to embrace God’s will in his heart but it was just too much to take seriously.

I’m also in a similar situation myself, caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand I know that my only salvation lies in continuous and devoted chanting of the Holy Names, on the other hand I’m a slave to my circumstances. I don’t have neither the power nor the will to change them. I don’t have enough devotion to appeal to the Lord for help either.

All I can do is keep on mumbling the mantra in vain hope that one day I will finally pay more attention to the Names. It might never come in this life, though.

Surely there are days when I feel I’m making progress but it’s on the days like today that I see my real lack of interest in chanting. So what if I spent fifteen hours on japa today? How may of them could have been considered adequate? None, I’m afraid.

I’m also afraid that I still have to press on regardless. I might not have a taste for chanting but I have fear of not doing it, too.

It hasn’t become my second nature but I’m developing a habit. A habit can sometimes save me from forgetfulness but for the rest of the day it develops familiarity and contempt.

Just like Louie, I’m truly doomed.

Vanity thought #188. Love.

Here are a few heartfelt words which, I think, are suitable for this time of the day when everybody’s asleep and I’m alone with my blog.

Krishna, I’m in love with you.

Yeah, it’s that bad, You’re so beautiful to me. Every time I look at Your face or even remember it, it wrecks me. The way You are manifesting to me, sometimes You’re just fun, and sometimes You make me feel worthless and You even make fun of me but You’re real.

I don’t have enough time in any day to think about You enough. I feel like I’m going to live a thousand years if that’s how long it’s going to take me to think all my thoughts about You, to have even one thought about You, which is that I’m crazy about You, Krishna.

I don’t want to be with anybody else. I don’t, I really don’t. I don’t think about women anymore, I think about You. I had a dream the other night that You and I were on a train. We were on this train and You were holding my hand. That’s the whole dream – You were holding my hand. And I really felt You holding my hand. I woke up and I couldn’t believe it wasn’t real.

I’m sick in love with You, Krishna. It’s like a condition, it’s like polio. I feel like I’m going to die if I can’t be with You. And I can’t be with You, so I’m going to die and I don’t care because I was brought into existence to know You, and that’s enough.

The idea that You would want me back – it’s greedy, but is there any planet, any part of the world that You’d feel any of the same, is there even a shard of a fraction of the feelings that You have for me too?

….

This is taken almost word for word from the latest episode of TV show “Louie”, and it was addressed to a woman, not to Krishna, but is there any difference, really?

Louie C.K., the comedian who writes, produces, and acts in his own show, put a lot of effort in expressing this declaration of love and it’s perfect in every respect, except it’s not addressed to Krishna.

Let’s take it apart and see how it works. I separated it in paragraphs myself and substituted or added a few words here and there to make it more realistic as if someone was really talking to Krishna, not a woman but it follows Louie’s line of thought very closely.

The first paragraph is the admission of failure, failure to contain yourself. A few posts ago I mentioned that being in love is not cool in modern society so Louie starts with a sorry for falling into such a state.

We are supposed to be proud, strong and unmoved by emotions, we want to display total indifference to silly stuff like that, we want to be above it – we want to keep our wits and intelligence with us at all times but love is the thing that takes it away from us and forces even the strongest man on his knees. It’s an admission of being weak and that’s why his first words were “It’s bad, but I have to tell you this.”

The paragraph ends with very interesting statement – “You are real.” Louie admits that he is weak, admits that he can’t fight for his dignity, admits that he doesn’t mind being humiliated – all because the other person feels real to him. True enough – we are surrounded by fake people all the time – fake smiles, fake compassion, fake emotions, fake sympathy. People express them because they want to appear polite but all too often they don’t really give a damn. When someone addresses you from the heart it sinks and hooks you right away, even if the words are hurtful.

Ages ago I was told by a senior devotee that all people want from us is being real, being sincerely concerned with their lives. Only devotees can feel that because they don’t have any self-interest, only love and compassion. That devotee was very grave when he told me that because he knew that it gave him an enormous power over people and he was very conscious about it, very aware of the temptation. I lost track of him over the years but in those days he was known for always getting what was needed for Krishna’s service, he spoke from experience.

Moving on – lack of time, when we are in love we never have enough time to think about the object of our infatuation, be it a woman, a new tablet, or Krishna Himself. I changed it a little bit but Louie was saying that the single thought about his woman would need thousands of years to get properly expressed. That’s how Balarama feels about Krishna – He’s got the time and He’s got thousands of mouths, as Ananta Shesha, and He never stops talking about Krishna. That’s love.

Third paragraph – can’t think of anybody else and the train dream. Anybody who has ever been in love knows how it changes the perspective on all other men or women – they kind of fade away, zoom out and become insignificant and unnoticeable. They don’t attract us anymore and they don’t distract us either, we truly are indifferent to their existence. That’s love, too.

Train dream is also a clever way to express love. An utterly unremarkable surroundings – train, an insignificant gesture – holding hand, but they mean a whole world to the person in love. Nothing else matters anymore, perfection of life, true satisfaction has been achieved. Devotees hope they can get a hold of Krishna’s lotus feet, just a sight of Lord’s lotus feet, even a dream of Krishna’s lotus feet would do, I suppose. They said to have this unique cooling effect on the soul, I honestly wouldn’t know.

Next paragraph is a climax. Louie proclaims total selflessness in his love. He only wants to be able to love, he realized that had been the goal of his whole existence and he doesn’t want anything else. He also compared being in love to having a medical condition. Devotees know this very well, too. Lord Chaitanya famously talked about being struck in the heart by the arrow of love of God. It’s incurable and once you’ve been hit you wouldn’t want anything else in the whole three worlds.

Last paragraph, unfortunately, is where Louie is preparing to screw it up. After declaring undying, selfless love he started talking about reciprocation. The answer was “Hell, no” and all the love just swooshed out him like an air from a balloon.

Why does that happen? All the time, too. Why do non-devotees are capable of expressing such strong, deep feelings, such encompassing knowledge about love but can’t maintain it and give up at the first hurdle? It’s easy to say it’s because they choose wrong objects and only Krishna is worth such love and if they loved Krishna then their love would never die.

It’s easy to say that but the fact is that we don’t know anyone who is capable of expressing such love for Krishna, last vaishnava who was not ashamed of going public with it was Bhaktivinoda Thakura in his songs and books. Nowadays it’s simply not done. How can we tell people to love Krishna then?

Just direct your love to Krishna and everything will be okay. Yes, it will be okay, from Krishna’s POV, in the long run, but that’s not exactly what people expect. How many of us have stopped trying to love Krishna with all our hearts and all our powers of mind and body? How many of us slipped in the familiar routine of material sense gratification instead?

Loving Krishna is not a straightforward, easy affair, it’s so darn hard and nearly impossible to achieve. Who in this world has achieved it? Who has Krishna prema blossoming in their hearts? If there are such souls, they hide it pretty well.

Records from Lord Chaitanya’s time show that people really fell in love with Krishna, with all the symptoms of being in love – can’t think of anything else, don’t mind public humiliation, can’t look at other people or things, can’t hold your feelings – love just flows like a river out of your heart and you scream at the top of your lungs to the whole world to know about it. Why doesn’t it happen to us? To me?

I also can’t help but draw another parallel – it’s like being in an arranged marriage. Krishna has been chosen for us without asking, now we are forced to live together but love is not there, we are just trying to learn to co-exist, learn each other’s habits and learn not to step on each other toes all the time, but love is just not there. It might be beneficial in the long run but love is still not there.

Can it grow out of co-existence? Maybe, in the material world people can develop tolerance, attachment, even dependence, maybe even deep commitment and, if they stick together long enough, they might even call it a real love, but love is still not there. Not the kind of love Louie was talking about in that episode, not the kind of love that takes away your soul and turns your world upside down.

I can’t help but compare this cohabitation to love gopis have for their nominal husbands – serving them all their lives with faith and devotion, not the love that made them run away from home in the middle of the night to see Krishna.

Maybe we are doing it wrong but more likely we don’t have any other choice. If we can’t fall in love with Krishna we can’t fake it either, we’ll just have to work for it, like Krishna’s wives worked for lifetimes to get the opportunity to become His maidservants, as they told their stories in Srimad Bhagavatam.

Why does everybody have to be a gopi anyway? We are not Krishna’s eternal associates, we are not Lord Chaitanya’s eternal associates either, we are just ordinary fallen souls whose only known association with God is sleeping alongside Maha Vishnu or something, when the material world is non-manifest. Maybe we are not born to love at all, maybe our true spiritual rasa is neutrality, just hanging out on the same Vaikuntha.

I know it’s not much, even a curse in devotees’ eyes but maybe that’s all that we are ever going to get.

Or maybe sincerely chanting the Holy Names will, in fact, eventually wound my heart with all-powerful love for the Lord.

I’ll believe it when I see it, until then I have enough reasons to be skeptical.

Maybe next life.

Vanity thought #181. End of hopes.

Continuing form yesterday’s topic of elusive happiness, I think it’s time to put this issue to rest altogether. There is no guarantee of happiness in this world even if we chant the Hare Krishna mantra.

Krishna might throw a few bones our way in the beginning but when we take to Krishna Consciousness seriously the bones will be very few far between. Ultimately there will no happiness for us whatsoever, only what is allotted by our previous karmic activities.

Today I want to look at the example of Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, one of the six goswamis of Vrindavana and the spiritual master of Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami, author of Chaitanya Charitamrita. I particularly want to examine his life from the point of view of being happy. From Krishna consciousness point of view he fully enjoyed the nectar of devotional service, of that there’s no doubt, but could he ever considered himself happy in a same way some of us do, especially when we complain that chanting does not bring the desired level of satisfaction.

Raghunatha Dasa Goswami was born in a wealthy family and had a very privileged childhood but was he happy? From what I know he had very little interest in enjoying his life. When he was still very young he met Haridasa Thakura and that brought a complete end to all his material aspirations and childhood (childish?) happiness.

Now he wanted to meet Lord Chaitanya, I guess he considered that to be some measure of success in his life and so until then he must have considered himself unsatisfied. It so happened that he indeed met Mahaprabhu and was able to serve Him for about a week while the Lord was visiting Advaita Acharya. Raghunatha must have been happy during those few days but it was a very short period and I bet he was very unhappy about it ending very soon.

Then there was the second time he met with Lord Chaitanya, the occasion of the famous chipped rice festival that he arranged and he surely was on the seventh cloud but his request to join Lord Chaitanya on the way to Puri was rejected. Instead he was ordered to stay home and enjoy life and take care of his family business. I bet it was torture, not happiness.

Then, but the grace of Nityananda Prabhu Raghunatha was able to escape the guard assigned by his uncle and run away to Puri on foot. He took the back roads to avoid being recaptured and reached Puri in about two weeks. I bet he was very happy on his journey but I doubt this is the kind of happiness we are looking for.

During those two weeks he had a chance to eat only three times and he never slept on a bed. Grueling two week trips through Indian jungles with no food or any provisions is generally not the time for contentment.

Okay, tribulations were over, he finally reached Lord Chaitanya in Puri and was put in personal care of Swarupa Damodara, wasn’t it the best time of his life? He surely must have felt some happiness finally flowing his way. Well, maybe yes, maybe no.

He was so humble that he never dared to approach Lord Chaitanya directly and ask for anything. After some time had passed he conveyed his concerns to Swarupa Damodara – it turns out he had no idea what to do with his new sannyasa order. Being at a loss about your position in life when you are supposed to be the happiest person on earth is not the sign of content. Who would have thought that meeting Lord Chaitanya would cause such bewilderment? Where’s the nectar?

Lord Chaitanya gave him the basic instructions and, among other things, Raghunatha Dasa Goswami understood the importance of renunciation. He joined the line of beggars outside the temple of Jagannatha and that was how he was getting his daily food. Was he finally happy? No.

After some time Lord Chaitanya had noticed that Raghunatha disappeared. Upon inquiries he learned that Raghunatha was unhappy about begging at the gates – he knew all the regulars there and he couldn’t stop calculating who would give him food, how much and how often. He realized he had always judged everyone by the probability of getting food from them.

Raghunatha solved this problem by begging food at the shops where he didn’t have to think at all, just stand in line and wait for his turn. If he was happy about this arrangement it didn’t last long either. Eventually he resorted to picking up discarded prasadam that was thrown away to the cows. After cows had their fill, Raghunatha would come at night, collect remaining rice, wash it and eat it.

Even that didn’t make him content – he was so ashamed of his extraordinary renunciation he preferred to hide it from everyone, including Lord Chaitanya Himself. This is the famous episode with Lord Chaitanya snatching this rice from the hiding place and chastising Raghunatha for trying to enjoy all the nectar himself.

So there, Rabhunatha Dasa Goswami went from life of luxury to life of complete renunciation and he still hadn’t found happiness and content as we often understand it. He had personal association of Lord Chaitanya and he received quite a few favors from Him but He still didn’t consider Himself advanced enough to address the Lord directly.

After disappearance of Lord Chaitanya Raghunatha had lost all the reasons to live, no question of happiness, he decided to commit suicide by jumping from Govardhan and so he set off for Vrindavana.

Reflect on this for a moment – we chant a few rounds here and there and we complain about the lack of progress. Here we have a very very exalted and fully blessed associate of Lord Chaitanya who lost all the reasons to live and no amount of chanting could pacify his heart. Luckily, Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis managed to change his mind and eventually he settled on the banks of Radha Kunda where he spent many more years completely absorbed in devotional service and became the epitome of renunciation.

He chanted three lakhs of names everyday, he wrote several dozens of books, he gave daily, three hour classes attended by Krishnadasa Kaviraja so that we could have Chaitanya Charitamrita now. But was he happy?

In one of his books, Sri Vilapa Kusumanjali, where he glorifies Srimati Radharani and describes her in ways that reveal his intimate knowledge of the subject, there are several verses about his own situation.

In verse 6 he admits he was unwilling to taste the nectar of renunciation – Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, of all renunciates! He said that it is only by the grace of Sanatana Goswami that he was forced to continue his practice. Doesn’t sound like a generic expression of humility, it was clearly a very real episode from his life. I wasn’t expecting one of the famous sannyasis to have this kind of doubt but it apparently happened.

Then he said that he MUST offer Sanatana Goswami proper respect. If anyone hoped that on this advanced stage of Krishna Consciousness a devotee never has to force himself to do anything, service comes out naturally, this is an example to the contrary. Raghunatha talked about duty, not a causeless flow of respect. I conclude that the material body will always present this kind of problems regardless of the level of advancement. I believe that expecting these problems to go away is wrong, they will always be there.

And to top it off, Raghunatha informs Srimati Radharani in his prayers that he is drowning in the ocean of pain. He addresses her as her maidservant, which, I guess, is a sign of his level of realization, but the pain he is referring to was not be the pain of separation from Krishna, it was the pain of separation from Srimati Radharani’s mercy, as if he felt unqualified.

I mean, here we have a devotee in full knowledge of his spiritual swarupa yet still he doesn’t feel like he had enough mercy and was still deeply unhappy. Will this ever end? I don’t think so, I honestly don’t think so.

It is clear to me from my own speculations that we shouldn’t even try to judge our progress by the amount of happiness we feel.

From the example of Rabhunatha Dasa Goswami it appears that even on the most advanced stages of devotion one would still be overwhelmed by various material desires – not in a sense of being overcome, but in a sense of not being able to cope on account of having no faith. Think of all the above stories again and imagine what the cause of Raghunatha’s unhappiness was each and every time.

I bet it was his “lack” of devotion. He didn’t get enough of Lord Chaitanya’s association because he was a “lousy” devotee. He didn’t know what to do as a sannyasi because he had very little faith, he was attached to calculating amounts of prasadam he was going to get because of lack of taste in devotional service. He had to hide his washed rice because he felt his achievement as a sannyasi made him proud. He wanted to kill himself because he didn’t feel Krishna’s presence in the Holy Names. He lost the taste for renounced life because he was too materialistic, he had to offer obeisances to Sanatana Goswami out of duty because they didn’t come from the heart. He had to beg Srimati Radharani for the shelter because he, already seeing himself as a gopi, wasn’t devoted enough.

Maybe things feel different in the spiritual world but down here I don’t see ANY chance of happiness coming from devotional service. We will always feel inadequate and unfulfilled.

I should probably re-evaluate my expectations and motives. I suspect I’m in for quite a few disappointments.