War Progress

I don’t mean how the war is progressing, I mean the progress we can make while contemplating wars. Some devotees can also make enormous progress during the war itself, as letters from places like Mariupol shows. Some devotees can also become overwhelmed by circumstances and descend into bodily consciousness. In this sense wars are like diseases, vyadhi – we can talk about symptoms, causes, and cures, but the bottom line is that one’s consciousness becomes degraded and one cannot worship the Lord normally anymore. King Kulashekhara’s prayer comes to mind here – at the time of death chanting will be impossible, and this can be extended to the time of war, too. I don’t want to discuss experiences of devotees in Ukraine – what do I know about that? I’d rather talk what use can arm chair generals like myself extract from contemplating wars.

First thing – wars prove that the world isn’t flat. Suddenly we see that some moral values matter more than the others and there is no equality between them, no flatness. When discussing wars people usually mention politics or economics, maybe history, but not morals. Morals are treated as one undifferentiated blob and at best one thing is taken out of it as a moral justification, something like “historical injustice”, but this doesn’t do actual justice to the place morals play in wars.

Modern wars have become somewhat sanitized – waged by governments which hire soldiers to fly to some distant places and all we get is pictures and videos in the media. The media can create an environment where public feels that their government decisions are justified and that the opposing side are definitely bad guys, but designating someone as a bad guy and celebrating victories shown on TV is not the same as going to war. Morals do not actually get involved here, it’s only a lot of huffing and puffing about nothing.

By contrast, conflict over Ukraine is a conflict of convictions deeply held by entire societies, not just by a few individuals in charge. What’s interesting, however, is that they all draw from the same pool of moral values, they have all the same ingredients, but they select different ones to put at the top of their hierarchies. I mean it’s not that no one understands Russian concerns about NATO missiles being potentially put in Ukraine, and it’s not that Russians don’t understand the value of independence, but when they create dominant-subordinate relationships between these two ideas they make opposite choices of what should come first.

This goes back to Putin’s redline – no missiles in Ukraine. Easy to understand but, as it turns out, impossible to take it seriously. Sure he didn’t mean that it would override Ukraine’s right to self-determination, but Putin made it clear – it’s a redline, nothing else matters when it comes to redlines. Ukrainian quest for independence was dismissed with one rhyme, in English it would be “like it or don’t like it, but have to tolerate it”. It also sounded a bit rapey when Putin said it and for a few hours western media puzzled over what he meant exactly, and then they moved on, but Putin didn’t. Redline was still a redline and Ukrainian independence had to be patient and take subordinate role.

I admit I don’t understand Ukrainian case for resistance here. Sure, they don’t want to be dictated who can and who cannot put whatever missiles in their country, but the very quest for independence is illusory. No one is independent in this world and Ukrainians themselves don’t want independence either. What they want is to be dependent on the West instead of Russia. They want to join NATO, they want to join EU – they want to belong somewhere. Where is quest for independence?

Maybe it’s just me, but their entire narrative nicely fits into this two minute cartoon:

You don’t need to understand Ukrainian here – there are two girls growing next to each other. One is a good one and the other is bad, then the good one gets new friends but the bad one cannot accept it and tries to spoil it. Such a nasty character. It’s simple. It’s also about as serious as their medium of choice – it’s cartoonish.

If they take this narrative seriously and Russians don’t then it illustrates my point – people put different relative values on otherwise commonly acknowledged things.

It’s not that Russians don’t want to be a member of European family, this is patently ridiculous, but after thirty years they came to a curious realization, also based on lists of moral values, btw. So someone compiled a list of Western values and a list of Russian values and observed that Russian list is longer and therefore Russia can’t fit into Europe in a same way a bigger thing cannot fit into a smaller hole. Well, actually they meant American values and even that representation was probably unfair, but I was surprised by their mode of thinking. Sample argument – Russians traditionally place high value on cooperation and collectivism so that welfare of the whole matters more than welfare of individual parts. Can this be accommodated in the western world? No, that smells like communism and will be misunderstood and rejected, generally speaking. Therefore Russians cannot express themselves through Western framework, and after many years of trying in frustration we come to the point where they say “dhik dhik”. This means “to hell with it” in Sanskrit, repeated twice).

This makes it a choice for keeping one’s own identity and big words like “self-actualization”. Russians here want to be themselves and nothing can stand in their way. I can’t say the same about Ukrainians, however. Their desire to become European does not go beyond having more money and better stuff to buy with it. Perhaps it’s Russian propaganda but I hear stories of Ukrainian refugees refusing to get a job when they arrive in Europe. They think that since they are suffering from evil Russians then Europeans will give them free place to live and monthly stipend to go with it. Someone called a friend in France and made their case “I want to show Paris to my children, can you recommend a free place to stay for refugees for two-three days?” The reply was “You are a refugee, not a tourist, and, in any case, France is not in the business of providing free hotels.”

What I mean to say is that Ukrainian idea of Europe is cartoonish and so for them it becomes a case of seeking a new identity instead of coming to terms with their existing one. I mean if Russians want to be themselves then Ukrainians want to be anyone else but Ukrainians. Just by comparing these two approaches to life makes me conclude that there is no real case for Ukraine in this war.

Another lesson is that “democracy” is an illusory concept, too. It’s not what gives countries their power. British empire got prosperous because it subjugated a lot of countries all around the world, not because of “democracy”. The US got a good chunk of Europe after WWII and made these countries into American vassals who aren’t allowed to make any serious decisions without American approval. Example – the fate of Nord Stream 2 is decided in Washington, not Berlin. Better example yet is that if you look at the map of countries that joined Russian sanctions you will see that it very nicely corresponds with the map of countries occupied by the US in WWII. They can’t disagree, they are not allowed to, they all have to toe the same line. To restate the same point – democracy is a distraction for the masses, real power lies in military and political dominance, just as it has always been, and it’s coming from Vedic times. Therefore there is no democracy in Bhagavatam – whoever has the real power gets to dictate the rules, that’s the law, and it works in “democracies”, too.

More interesting is a lesson on “independent media”. Traditional idea is that democratic societies need independent media so that people can make informed choices about direction of their countries. Russians don’t have that, they say. True, but Russians don’t see the role of the media in the same way. Since they reject democracy (not really, but to make it simple) then there is no need for the informed population. People who make choices have to be properly informed and others have to be either encouraged or assuaged or given something to keep busy with, and that’s what the rulers need media for. Did you get this – “rulers need media”? Because this understanding rules out any need for independence.

What’s interesting is that Russians are the last to arrive at this conclusion while in the West they nailed it thirty-forty years ago. In the 90s Chomsky was already writing articles on how western media doesn’t do what it’s supposed to and it doesn’t serve people [to inform them]. Today they say Russians don’t have access to alternative viewpoints. Not true – several popular outlets have been shut down only after the war started but had a free go for decades. People listened to them, they gathered their loyal following (pro-western, needless to say), but they failed to capture the collective mind, and when the war started the government decided that their nonsense it could afford during peace cannot be allowed during war.

Once again, if it was a “modern war” fought by distant people in distant places it would not have mattered much, like these pro-western media were allowed to present alternative views on Russian involvement in Syria, but this war is too close to home to allow for any fissure between the government and the people.

More on independence – it doesn’t exist, as I said, so it’s not a question of having independent media but rather a question of who these media depend upon. Legally, it means being designated as a “foreign agent”. Usually it comes with proof of foreign funding, going to organizations like US National Endowment for Democracy and the like. Having your stuff trained by these organizations is another sign of being a “foreign agent”.

Non-Russian audience is not expected to know but Russian cultural elites are very much like Hollywood – liberal to the core. Outside we are informed of relentless Russian propaganda but there is a large number of Russian movies which offer alternative narratives of events like Russian participation in WWII, which is traditionally close to Russian heart. They glorify or at least humanize traitors and Nazi collaborators, they present Soviet army officers as bloodthirsty monsters killing their own soldiers etc etc. These movies invariably bomb at the box office but, and here is a mind blowing fact – most of them are made on government subsidies! This is the extent of pro-western elites grasp on Russian cultural space – they own it.

A few years ago a famous director made a TV serial about a Russian security officer who discovered an American regime change plot involving Russian sleeper agents recruited back in the 90s. The elites would not tolerate it and the director had to publicly apologize for making such a pro-Russian serial and second season had to be directed by someone else. So no, it’s not true that Russians have no exposure to alternative views – they do, or they did before the war, and they rejected them. Why? Many reasons, but a prominent one is probably because they see that this agenda doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Propaganda is propaganda, and they prefer to be lied by their own government, which is another interesting point.

Western ideal is privately held, not government controlled media. Okay, but private companies work for the profit of their owners while governments work for the welfare of the citizens. Corporate media wants to make money off you and the government wants you to be happy. Government takes responsibility for its citizens and cannot fire them whatever they do. Businesses take no responsibility for their workers and if they don’t fit in corporate culture they are let go and they have to fend for themselves. Governments don’t do that – they are always with you, like the Paramatma.

Which media model is better? It’s a no brainer – government one, but in today’s world it’s the opposite. Governments are supposed to be our enemies intent on cheating us and abusing their power, and corporations are presented as our true friends so that we give them all our money, meaning all our labor. Isn’t it amazing what maya makes us believe?

This is getting too long and I better wrap up. All in all, this war gives us an opportunity to see how Vedic laws still work even as the reality is covered by illusion of independence and “democracy”. Here is one last argument to ponder.

There is a legitimate question – if nobody is independent, what is Russia and Putin are depended on? If Ukraine should depend on Russia then what about Russia itself? A hundred and fifty years ago one German observer commented – Russia is dependent directly on God. Why? Because if it were not so then there would be no rational reason for Russia still keeping itself together. One could make the same argument about ISKCON, too.

And an atmospheric picture as a farewell. Death flying on the back of western anti-tank missile.

PS. None of the above seems to be about spiritual matters, but I would argue that these realizations are necessary on the way to “brahma-bhuta” platform. We must learn to see things as they are, free from illusion and propaganda. Like what progress do you expect if you can’t come to terms with your own personality and refuse to accept and act according to your own nature? The process is called “self-realization” for a reason.

On Genocide in Donbass

Recently on FB I mentioned “Genocide in Donbass” as a self-evident fact. Googling for it, however, revealed nothing but pages after pages of results declaring that there was no genocide there and there is nothing to see. Searching in Russian is very different, but that also should be done not on Google but on Russian Yandex. There is simply too much material there and so I’ll try to summarize the whole thing.

2014 Maidan revolution in Kiev divided people into “svidomity” and “vatniki”. Svidomity means those who have become aware [of the truth]. In other words – woke. The truth was that life in USSR was not as good as in America and Europe, which everybody knew since the 80s, but everything in Ukraine is kinda slower. What was new is that smartphones put these dreams right into people’s hands and they started demanding to be in Europe right now – “Ukraina tse Evropa”, as their popular declaration stated.

“Vatniki”, or “vata” for short, refers to people who still hold on to their Soviet past. The word itself means a kind of cheap, mass produced winterwear for prisoners and construction workers, and for anyone who can’t afford anything better. “Vata” means “cotton wool” that went inside of it. All references to “vatnikis” were meant to be made with utter disdain at their absolute moral and intellectual inferiority. There was an art exhibition in Kiev right after Maidan where three people were hired to represent “vatniks”, they were put in a cage with bottles of vodka and all kinds of garbage on the floor, and the sign said “Do not feed”, mimicking similar signs in the zoos.

“Soviet past” includes victory in WWII, which in USSR was called “Great Patriotic War”, and it was the highest example of heroism and basis for common identity, but Svidomitys had no appreciation for it whatsoever. Their new heroes were those who corroborated with Nazis, which is disputed but trueto the extent that fighting communists was their common goal.

That was what became a dividing line in Ukraine – either you become svidomity or you are vata. It wasn’t on any ethnic or racial grounds. It wasn’t even against Russian speaking population – everyone in Kiev itself spoke Russian, too. People were defined by their relations to European dreams and Soviet past.

Needless to say, this kind of treatment from the svidomity’s side was not accepted gladly by vata and there were anti-Maidan protests all over the country. One pivot point after which there was no coming back was burning people alive in Odessa, which was two months after Maidan victory in Kiev. Anti-Maidan protesters were outnumbered by svidomitys and pushed into a Trade Union building, which was then set on fire while the svidomity crowd was chanting their favorite slogans and gleefully watched people burn. Those who tried to jump out of the windows were caught by the crowds and beaten with baseball bats. When Russians saw this on TV they were left speechless. I should add that all the news were coming from Ukrainians themselves, much of proudly posted on social media – there was no Russian media presence there. So both Russian and Ukrainian vatniks had no words but the censored ones to express their disbelief but Svidomitys around the country, for their part, joked about “fried colorados”. Fried because people were burned, of course, and “colorady” because of orange and black ribbons worn by anti-Maidan protesters which reminded them of “Colorado potato beetle”.

Without checking exact numbers, about fifty people died in that fire. Does it amount to genocide? Probably not yet, but what happened next was that Donbass “oblasts” had their referendums and declared independence from svidomity nonsense, and Maidan government in Kiev (still unelected at this point) decided to do something about. They sent the army to crash the separatists (“separs” for short), but it didn’t feel enough and it formed half a dozen volunteer battalions asking svidomitys who hated vata with passion to take up arms and go exterminate colorados. Some of these battalions were staffed with prisoners who were released from jails just for this hunt. Then these battalions unleashed hell on Donbass population.

I can’t possibly summarize their atroticites in on FB post. When they caught “separs” they would torture them in all possible ways. Branding prisoners with swastikas like farmers brand cattle, they branded people’s chests and buttocks this way, or carving swastikas on people’s bodies with knives, or inserting steel pipes in their anuses, then inserting a barbed wire, then pulling the pipes out, and then yanking out the wire with force. Raping women in front of their fathers, raping men, breaking fingers with hammers, electric shocks – these guys tried everything. Only one of the above is from a book published privately and so impossible for me to check, the rest is from official Russian or Ukrainian documents.

Since vatas and separs were not seen as human beings killing them for sport was perfectly normal. In one case they fired mortar rounds from across a river into a beach, just a few hundred meters away, were vata and their families were relaxing and people were running around totally terrified. What fun!

Firing arteillery and mortar rounds into cities and villages has become an everyday thing in the past eight years. Russian government number is 2,600 people killed this way – strictly civilians going about their lives and killed by artillery fire. Since Russian invasion less than a week ago twenty four people were killed in Donetsk alone, where there is no war otherwise, it’s still the same stalemate situation as it was in 2014. All the fighting goes on hundred kilometres to the north or to the south, but Ukrainians still shell Donetsk schools and public spaces, just because they can. At this point it makes no military sense whatsoever.

Western consensus is that there isn’t and there was no genocide in Donbass and they would point to the number of civilians killed on the Ukrainian side of the dividing line there. This can start a tit-for-tat debate on who fired first and who was only responding and only suppressing the incoming fire, and who was hiding their artillery in residential areas and so on. This has been argued for eight years already. I’ll just say this, kind of in support of “Ukraine had only military targets” narrative – yesterday at one of Ukrainian positions overrun by Donbass army (it has its own army, quite different from the Russian one) was discovered a cache of documents showing that location of military targets in Donetsk was provided to Ukraine by official European OSCE peace monitoring mission there. Yesterday was also the day when OSCE staff in Donetsk packed their stuff and quickly drove away (to Russia) without even settling their hotel bill, in a convoy of about a dozen SUVs. That should give you an idea what trust could be put in Western narrative there, which is primarily based on OSCE reports, I must add.

Coming back to those volunteer batallions – after 2014 hostilities in Donbass were over and separation line was settled, the svidomitys run out of vata targets to torture and they turned to terrorizing local population instead. This has made Ukraine uncomfortable and some investigations into their war crimes were started (but not admitting genocide, of course). As a result these batallions were reorganized. Some were disbanded, others integrated into Ukrainian army, some renamed and reclassified. One of these, the Azov batallion, still exists and is officially designated as a Nazi-terrorist organization by the US, I can’t be bothered to look up the exact definition now. My point is that we have an armed Ukrainian unit which is designated as professing Nazi ideology, but what they have done and what they want to do is not classified as genocide. Facebook even relaxed its rules and allows praising Azov but on the condition that only their fight against Russian is mentioned and not the other stuff they do or did. How convenient.

All these things have been circulating in Russian media for many many years and are accepted as self-evident. In a recent public poll “payback for genocide” was the most popular option why people support the war in Ukraine. Second most popular was de-Nazification which is almost the same thing. That’s what people in Russia feel most strongly about.

Are they victims of Russian propaganda? Most certainly so, but in this case I don’t see this propaganda as being too far from the truth. People in Donbass have first hand experience of it, they don’t rely on Amnesty International to tell them what’s going on there and how Ukrainian svidomity feel about them. Actually, they don’t use this word anymore, popular terms are “Nazis” and “ukropy”, which is a derivation from “Ukrainian” and means “dill” in Russian. These Donbass people are not into propaganda and appearances, just recently I watched a video of one of the commanders addressing the population. It’s impossible for me to find and upload it now, but in the West they don’t have even voice actors who can speak like this, with this degree of conviction, dedication, and assurance, and at the same time humility. He immediately projects the sense of shelter and stability, that he would do anything for what is right. He had a deep baritone voice, silver head, and a face of a man who had seen battle. These people don’t lie, and that’s why I can state that Russian propaganda is not far from truth on this subject – it happened.

I don’t want to argue if this can be legally classified as genocide but one thing is certain regardless – some wrongs were committed and they WILL be righted, and at this point it looks like karma will reach these people in this life rather than the next.

Last thing I also want to say – for eight years Donbass leaders and commanders had all the reasons to blame Russia for abandoning them and for using them to advance Russian political agenda while providing only the bare minimum, and even that through volunteers and donations rather than through state channels. They didn’t, however. They took it as a necessary austerity and they convinced their people that they had to wait, too, that justice WAS coming. They DO project that kind of assurance, their words do not diverge from reality, which is a quality that comes with practicing honesty. Ha! That’s a good explanation why the West doesn’t have even voice actors who can talk like that. It can’t be mimicked, which is a reminder that we can’t mimic the speech of an uttama bhagavata devotee either. Nobody here can talk like them, we have no idea what their speech sounds like as we have no comparable experiences. Same is true for the sound of Krishna’s flute, too.

We have records of Prabhupada’s audio but we listen to it with our own ears at our own convenience, therefore the effect is not the same as guru telling something directly and personally to a disciple.

Motherland

Yesterday’s post about Ukraine made me sound like being on the Russian side of the conflict. This makes sense if one looks at it through the prism of mass media but I don’t want to see it like that at all. I mean it’s a valid perspective and one can, indeed, take sides, but this perspective is unsatisfactory and is not in the spirit of “unity in diversity”.

First of all, Kiev is the mother of all Russian cities – proof. It’s the cradle of Russian civilization and I don’t see it as some history from a thousand years ago. People are children of their land and this land is still there, producing the same kind of people who form the core of Russian identity. Of course they have got many more layers around this core now but it still exists.

What’s notable is that it became the first capital of “Rus” when it was ruled by the kings from Novgorod, which is a thousand kilometers to the north, and the path there lies through Belarus as well. It’s one giant landmass with the same land producing the same people and the same culture, just it’s a bit colder in the north. In this way Kiev gives rise to the same identity that over time has gotten split into several instances, ie Russian, Belorussian, and Ukrainian.

What this means is that there is no natural animosity, no clash of values, no clash of cultures between them. They speak more or less the same language, wear more or less the same clothes, and sing more or less the same songs to the same melodies. They have the same conceptions of beauty, bravery, honestly, and other moral values, and yet they are all different – unity in diversity.

Therefore the current conflict shouldn’t be seen as a war between Russia and Ukraine – these people do not see each other as enemies, do not see each other as foreigners, and they eat the same food, too. Russians understand this, Belorussians understand this, Ukrainians know this, but sometimes people get other ideas in their heads and try to forge a new identity, which is what’s been happening in Ukraine since its independence in 1991. But even when they get angry they get angry in the same way and have the same conceptions of what a fair fight is, what should be its limits, and what an appropriate punishment should be.

In pseudo-scientific jargon – this identity is the same vibration propagating through the same kind of material, just in some places it’s thicker or thinner and that’s it. So, rather than talking about war I see it as harmonizing the frequencies so that all three nations sing in unison, which will be better for everyone involved.

The peak of Ukraine as a nation came during Soviet times when, together with Russians, they built biggest airplanes in the world, they built rocket engines, they built aircraft carriers and strategic bombers, and they grew the most food in the entire USSR, and they also had everything in between. There is a lot to be said in favor of unity here, and Ukrainians always had their distinct identity, too – they always produced their special vibe. Not quite rural but laid back, soft and melodious, and they were always full of life. Looking reserved and a bit understated but Ukraine, as a nation, is just full of juice of life. People there are meant to create, produce, move forward, and Live with a capital L. They never run out of energy – I guess long winters don’t sap it as it happens with Russians.

So another way to look at the current conflict is reuniting male and female, with Russia playing a male role at this point in history. Ukraine as a motherland is ready to produce but it has been unsuccessfully looking for a new husband for the past thirty years. Her flings with the US and Europe did not produce progeny. Her people have been used and abused, her women were exploited, her men forced to work menial jobs, like cleaning up after proverbial Polish plumbers, and in the end, when Russians came to bring her back to the family, she was left alone.

Independence Monument, Kiev

It won’t be a happy reunion at first but a few years down the road the two peoples will live in sync again and will enjoy peace and prosperity, and they have very strong foundations for it, being practically untouched by the moral decay of the West.

At the moment it surely looks like a rosy picture, what with several million Ukrainians gearing for a prolonged fight with Russian aggressors as urban guerrillas, if necessary – at this point the government there is giving out assault rifles to anyone who asks. So far these newly armed civilians have been mostly looting the shops and shooting at each other, suspecting everyone as Russian spies, but eventually they’ll figure out where actual Russians are, so I have no idea how Russia is going to keep peace in Ukraine, but in the big scheme of things it’s just a blip on the radar and it won’t affect the natural course of history – these two nations are meant to work together [with Belarus], and other Slav nations along with them.

Why? Simply because they still share the same moral base, which is quite distinct from the liberal West. They are destined to be together for the same reason people at Trump rallies wore pro-Russian t-shirts – even they find they have more in common with Russians then with liberal Americans.

At the end of the day family, hard work, loyalty, and humility always win – it’s the law of nature, and it’s agnostic to people’s political positions. It works the same for liberals, too – as long as they work hard and raise children they’ll be okay as well.

Coming back to Ukraine – it is indeed the motherland of Russian civilization, and mothers should always be protected from self-destructive habits and lifestyles. I’m sure there are thousands of devotees in ISKCON who disagree with such patriarchal views and consider it outdated, but this is what wins in the end – women should be protected. This is the key to their prosperity and to the prosperity of the entire society. I’m not going to waste time and re-argue this point. And I’m not going to argue why current Ukraine, with its European aspirations but Slavic homophobia is an example of varna-sankara. These are all details and nations, like people, can get quite mad sometimes, but I want to look beyond these bubbles on the surface of history.

Oh, and making a female image into an icon of independence, as in the picture above, is just nonsense. Sakti cannot exist on its own, it always needs a purusa. The monument doesn’t need to be re-imagined, if anyone asked me – it illuminates Ukraine’s identity very well already, but the name needs rethinking.

Here is another Kiev’s landmark, and much more impressive in my opinion, but because it was built after Soviet victory in WWII they don’t like it very much, thought of removing it, but settled on simply scrubbing USSR coat of arms from her shield.

Motherland Monument, Kiev

On Ukrainian Conflict

What is striking to me in the current Russian conflict over Ukraine is disparity in approaches, the asymmetric warfare. Russia talks about security and force and the west talks about economy and sanctions. It’s like ksatriyas againt vaisyas. In case it’s not obvious – vaisyas can’t win.

That is not to say that the West has no ksatriya element, rather that the West is able to talk sanctions BECAUSE their ksatriyas provided security for their vaisyas in the first place.

While political leaders bravely read the same script about sanctions ksatriyas in the back have accepted the reality – Ukraine is under Russian control and their influence and protection does not extend beyond NATO borders. These borders are backed by force, with actual troops and tanks and other hardware, and the West was able to move these borders closer to Russia in the past thirty years and turn the insides into a fortress.

But ksatriyas are not the ultimate force in the universe – brahmanas are more powerful. Not in a sense of forcing ksatriyas but in a sense of providing them the reason to fight for. Take away the reason and the army dissolves into ordinary civilian population. In the current conflict it’s visible in Ukrainian border patrol and many military units simply not turning up for work on the invasion day because they didn’t want to fight for their government agenda.

In a bigger picture the brahmanas in the West propose freedom and democracy as values to die for and it worked for a while but the internal rot has set in a long time ago, too. At first Russia jumped on the same train but realized that “freedoms” are for public consumption only when they watched NATO bomb Yugoslavia into submission, and then the war in Iraq sealed the perception that it’s all a lie and so Russia checked itself out of “world community”.

In the West itself Trump’s rise to presidency exposed fundamental rifts in the society about what “freedoms” and “democracy” actually mean. They are not going to die for the same thing and they’d rather turn on each other than go fight for some Ukrainian democracy.

Covid pandemic further divided the populations and right now it’s possible that Canadian sanctions on Russia are dwarfed by Canadian sanctions on their own population for participating in their Freedom Convoy.

Shifts on the brahminical level take a long time to propagate while shifts on vaisya level are the fastest, with ksatriya level coming in between. Sudra level shifts are, of course, the fastest, like they change the rules of what you can and cannot say almost every day, but it’s of no big concern here.

Does Russia offer some kind of new brahminical paradigm to the world to unite over in the wake of demise of “freedom and democracy”? Not at all. Their state is lacking ideology, they have been trying to find it but without success so far. Do they actually need one? That’s probably a better question.

The war in Ukraine is about Russian survival, not ideology – Russians have their place and they are trying to make a living in it, and they feel very insecure with the West potentially absorbing Ukraine into NATO and putting missiles there. What is there to be afraid of? Well, they look at the examples of France and Germany and they see that in the US sphere of influence countries do not have freedoms but have to abide by the will of their master. French have been strongarmed by Americans too many times to count, the latest one was when they took over Australian submarine contracts, and Germany’s example is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline the fate of which is decided in Washington, not in Berlin.

Russians historically don’t like to be dictated what to do against their will, they don’t want to be vassals, they want to be masters of their own land and people. So for them it’s about self-identification and security, not ideology.

This explains why no one in the West wants to take Russian side in this conflict – there is nothing in it for them, at best they can imagine themselves in Russian shoes and empathize a little. In this sense westerners are behind Russia by three decades – collapse of a unifying ideology with a feeling of emptiness and a desire to fill the gaping hole left by communism in the case of Russia and democratic freedoms in the case of the West. AND by collapsing of book distribution in ISKCON. We have been in the same exact place, too – when in the mid-nineties book scores started going down and sankirtana as the sole means of our sustenance was out, together with temple based communities, brahmacari pathos, asceticism etc.

Somehow there always comes a point where grand revolution hopes fade away and we have to find our own place in the world and our own mission in life. We thought we’d be always moving bigger and bigger mountains but suddenly we have to scale down and look inside ourselves. Russians still can’t find it after thirty years of searching. ISKCON still can’t find it and current sankirtana resurrection does not yet transform foundations of our movement. The West won’t find a replacement for freedom and democracy in the foreseeable future either.

It seems now is the time for self-realization, in the literal meaning of this word, not for grand projections of ourselves into the world, enjoying our marvelous power. I mean it’s easy to be a devotee when you always top the charts and always build huge temples. Try remaining a devotee when nothing is happening instead – it’s one of the necessary tests, I’d argue.

Russia has been talking about multi-polar world for a while, which means that there would be different types of brahminical cultures all around the world instead of one type dominating all the others. Maybe time for consolidation will come again (surely it will come) but it’s not the phase we are all in now and so we should stop pretending to be elsewhere, it won’t do us any good.

Once again I want to draw your attention that these developments are universal, echoing through different levels of society and vibrating in different countries. I’m saying this not to make Hare Krishna movement sound mundane but to demonstrate that Lord Caitanya’s mission is universal and it is guiding people through the necessary steps towards self-realization everywhere. It’s a process and there is no skipping – as long as we want the material universe to enter into Golden Age. Or we want our minds to become pure and peaceful so that we can chant the Holy Name 24/7 if we talk on the personal level. Material elements have to follow material laws, whether it’s countries or minds. If you have to transform matter to behave in a certain way then there are steps to follow. At the same time nothing stops you from going to Krishna after leaving your body. But if you want the body to become a “perfect devotee” then there are rules.

One last thing I want to mention – Ukrainians declared 130+ casualties on the first day of war. It’s comparable to numbers of dying from Covid. It seems Russian method of warfare is close to the Vedic one – they show up, you pledge allegiance, and they move on, and they don’t even plant their flags on the “occupied territories”. I suspect that’s what they want from the government in Kiev, too – just declare that it won’t make any troubles for Russia and they’d leave Ukraine alone to figure out what it wants for itself. This is a very different approach from “building democracy”, and it’s the same approach used by China, too – they don’t really care how countries run themselves, just don’t make troubles for China. I believe this ideology, which on the surface looks like no ideology at all, will win in the end, in the next few decades at least, and the current conflict is just one step towards this new equilibrium.

As a picture I add a photo from 2014. It’s Zaporozhye, Ukraine, just after Maidan revolution in Kiev. People in the middle are “Russian sympathizers” who were demanded to renounce their allegiance, take off their identifying ribbons, literally stand on their knees, and recite pro-Maidan slogans. The standoff lasted for six hours, there were also eggs thrown at them, there were beatings, stabbings, and blood in the process. But they didn’t give up. Then the police arrested them, and some of the police vans were put on fire by the crowd. For eight years they have been waiting for Russia to do something about this and now Russians came for them. That’s how people feel in the separatist republics, too – finally! Zaporozhye, however, was deep in the Ukrainian territory, at the time these people had no hope whatsoever but still they didn’t give up their identity.

“300” in Zaporozhye, April 12, 2014

Well, recent events show that Russia doesn’t completely abandon its dependents, unlike some other country I don’t need to mention. Even Ukrainian president yesterday spoke about facing Russian aggression alone, which was a big change from “building anti-Putin” coalition just a day before the sh*t got real. This is another reason why Russians are on the right side of history at the moment – ksatriyas offer real protection and always win against vaisyas, it’s nature’s law.

Vanity thought #1105. Su-medhasah part 2

Yesterday I set out to prove that in this day and age chanting of the Holy Names is the only rational activity for human beings. I don’t think I was successful, I spent too much time discussing Ukraine to say anything about chanting at all, so today the story continues.

First, the outline of the argument – the world is going to dogs and there’s no cure for it therefore intelligent people should try to find another way out – spiritual development, which in this age is achieved via chanting.

It seems easy and we hear this in our Bhāgavatam and Gīta classes everyday but I’m talking about a whole different level of understanding. I hope to achieve the stage where, after careful consideration, one starts spontaneously chanting the mahāmantra because it seems like the only reasonable thing to do.

I mean that even if we chant our sixteen rounds everyday we do it for various other reasons – we made a promise, we feel bad if we don’t complete our quota, it has become a habit, or we might even like the chanting itself. I know I do, but not in the way it was intended – chanting lets my mind go free and explore things I never think about otherwise.

This is exactly the opposite of what is supposed to happen – we are supposed to spontaneously think of Kṛṣṇa while doing something else but I spontaneously think of everything else when ostensibly being engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service.

I know it’s wrong but I would be lying to myself if I said my mind doesn’t find any pleasure in running away from listening to the Holy Names.

Why does this happen? Because I don’t think that chanting is really that important, that my interests can be better served by doing something else. Sometimes I assume that I need to think about cooking the next meal, sometimes about sex, sometimes about next work project, sometimes about cars, sometimes about news, sometimes about stuff that goes on in my family and so on.

My mind decides that at this particular moment I should be addressing all those concerns even though my mouth is engaged in chanting. I also know I can do both – chant the mantra and think of something else, so I see it as multitasking and even saving time.

That’s why I’m talking about the level of intelligence, level of understanding where one can clearly see that only chanting is important, at all times. Like Prabhupāda is quoted as saying “Chanting IS thinking”. I’m talking about the state of mind where thinking about anything else is seen as a clear waste of time and chanting itself is seen as the solution to all problems.

I’m talking about the stage where one looks at any particular problem appearing in his mind and decides that the best and natural solution to it is to chant. By natural I mean one shouldn’t even think twice about it or weigh any other methods – one should KNOW that chanting is the only answer.

On that level one should clearly know why chanting is the only solution to any particular problem. Why it’s better than any other alternatives, and one should have enough experience to confirm this view, too.

This level of knowledge should not require explanations either, like if you drop a coin on the floor you bend down and pick it up – it’s such an obvious reaction that you don’t need to explain it. You can, if asked, but you don’t even think about it anymore.

So, why Ukraine? How would that case help anyone to understand the necessity of chanting?

Because it’s a real intractable problem with no solution and because it seems to lead the rest of the world into a bottomless pit of war, too. The world as we know it will slowly but steadily deteriorate until it becomes unrecognizable and we all realize that we have no shelter in it. I suppose māyā will always offer us some temporary solutions but we should be intelligent enough to see through them.

At its heart it’s the same argument as with dying or solving our other fundamental problems like old age and disease but let’s be honest – we don’t see ourselves as dying, we don’t feel ourselves as old, and diseases can be fairly easily cured, at least enough of them to accept good health as normalcy.

War in Ukraine, otoh, is like getting news of cancer – it’s definite and very personal for each one of us. There are other doomsday scenarios as well – climate change or financial time bombs, I chose Ukraine because it unravels somewhat faster and it’s always in the news. It’s different from other insolvable hotspots like Palestine because it’s a vortex that drags everyone into its orbit while Palestine has been largely isolated and has no impact on the rest of the world.

There are ways to diffuse Ukrainian situation, too, and on Tuesday there will be a meeting between Russian and Ukrainian presidents so something might come out of it but preliminary news is that no deals will be made and some say that Ukrainian Poroshenko might even skip the talks.

To recapitulate – Ukraine suffers from the lack of national identity. Half the country cherish their Russian/Soviet roots, another half wants to live in Europe. They’ve managed to co-exist for a quarter of a century but events of the past year made any cohabitation of the same space impossible.

Germany, the self-appointed mediator, tries to seek a negotiated divorce but Ukrainian nationalists find it completely unacceptable so the war must go on. Poroshenko has no room to negotiate there, he’d be crucified back at home if he accepts anything less than total capitulation of the separatists. Separatists, however, are in no mood to surrender and see victory firmly within their grasp given how Ukraine has exhausted all their resources and left their military forces hanging dry, surrounded and cut off from their supplies in territories they enthusiastically reported as “liberated” only a week ago.

In a month or so autumn will settle in and with it come the rains, meaning that Ukrainians will lose the advantage of having lots of tanks and armored vehicles that they can drive anywhere in the countryside when it’s dry but become pita when the land turns mushy. Rebels can’t wait for the opening of that “hunting season”.

Then will come winter and Ukraine needs coal mined in the East and gas imported from Russia to heat the country. Coal is a no go and Russia can turn off the gas at any moment, Ukraine has not money to pay for it anyway.

The point is – Ukraine can’t afford to drag the war into the winter, it can’t finish it off, and it can’t negotiate. There’s no winning scenario there, it’s going to be a disaster no matter what.

Okay, but how does it affect the rest of the world? One word – sanctions, against Russia. Paraphrasing Henry Kissinger (WP): “the demonization of Russia is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.”

For some reasons, which don’t even matter anymore, the US managed to coax Europe into imposing painful sanctions on Russia, Russia retaliated in return, and everyone already feels the pain. They can’t back off sanctions either and, as sanctions go, they need to tightened up almost indefinitely to achieve any effect, so, without settlement in Ukraine, it will only get worse, and it will only be the beginning of the redrawing of the world order.

The US and its allies as well as IMF and World Bank will never be seen as trusted partners by Russians anymore, nor by Europeans bearing the grunt of sanctions, nor by Chinese and Asians. The US, in turn, will not give up its world leader status either and will inevitably force itself onto more and more “uncooperative” nations.

It can’t step back from their business of regime changes even after failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine. It can’t withdraw from the world because it needs to consume world’s resources five times above the average and no one is going to give away his own share voluntarily anymore.

Neither China nor Russia are ready to provide alternative leadership either. Without order there will be anarchy, free for all power grabs, ie Libya and Iraq on a much larger scale.

Maybe I’m being an alarmist here but I do not see any hope for prosperity for the rest of my life. It’s only a question of how long can we all hang on onto our carefully crafted comfortable lives but if, or rather when, unemployment hits 25% like in parts of Europe while billions of people retire from the workforce without any replacement, everyone will be affected. Everyone’s job security will be affected, everyone sense of security will be affected.

Carefree days of years past are not going to return anytime soon. When devotees came out of the temples and applied for credit cards in the 80s they discovered that there’s life outside ISKCON, too, and it can get pretty comfortable. This is going to change and it will be impossible to fix.

That’s why the only solution to this deteriorating situation is to chant like crazy and try to reach shelter of Lord’s lotus feet before proverbial shit hits the fan.

In ten years your job will be gone and your savings will be wiped out by the next financial crisis, don’t make any plans, don’t nurture any hopes. Instead, try to save your soul while you still have time, chant for your future, invest in Kṛṣṇa’s names instead.

That would be an intelligent thing to do.

Vanity thought #1104. Su-medhasah

Over and over again chanting of the Holy Name proves itself to be the supreme and only occupational duty of all human beings. There’s literally nothing else to say left for our tongues. Whichever way we can argue this, nothing comes even close to an alternative solution. No words are worth saying if they are not glorifying the Supreme Lord, and, if we examine it even further, nor glorification is worth uttering if it doesn’t consists of the Holy Names.

Let’s start at the beginning, though, and take some practical examples.

On Sunday, Ukraine celebrated its Independence day. For that country, it’s the day of life or death as its very existence comes under a serious threat from pro-Russian rebellion. After breakup of the Soviet Union it emerged as the second biggest and most prosperous republic (after Russia). It had huge nuclear arsenal, extremely fertile land, highly educated workforce and world class hi-tech manufacturing. They’ve made biggest transport airplanes, for example, designed from scratch there, among other top end weaponry and space components – the only truly high-tech things to come out of USSR.

And they blew it all.

Somehow or other they couldn’t make in on their own and, not counting alcoholics of Moldova, came out the poorest place out of all western parts of the former Soviet empire. That isn’t their biggest problem, however, they have enough resources to have it fixed, their real problem is that it has lost its national identity and broken apart pretty much like Yugoslavia in the the 90s.

It might not look so from their ever enthusiastic pronouncements but it’s the reality – Crimea is gone, it’s not coming back, Eastern rebellion has taken away it’s industrial heartland, and half the remaining population openly detests the ruling powers without any sign of reconciliation any time soon. Well, maybe less than half outside the East but enough to make any future co-existence unfeasible.

I’m not exaggerating – they have too many pro-Russians and the schism is too deep, and no one needs “independent” Ukrainians in Europe. They are twenty years late to that party, European project has run out of steam and faces uncertain future itself, it’s in no mood to fix Ukraine and integrate its economy into European industrial complex. They don’t need Ukrainian agriculture, they waste too much money supporting their own as it is, and they don’t need Ukrainian industry, the only viable market for which is Russia.

And the schism between its people? To “celebrate” Independence day rebels had drove their forces deep into Ukraine held territory and announced surrounding of thousands of troops, and they also held a parade of Ukrainian prisoners of war through the streets of Donetsk where they had to restrain the crowd chanting “Nazis, Nazis” from lynching them (Geneva conventions, anyone?). The reaction from Ukrainians was predictable – all those separatists needs to be killed, wiped out off the face of the Earth. These two parties are not going to live together ever again, the differences have become irreconcilable.

Originally, today was supposed to be the day rebellion was to be crushed and eastern lands liberated but when the day actually came it looked rather the opposite.

Ukraine was bankrupt even before the whole mess started a year ago and the program IMF put together has been stopped – without the East the country is simply insolvable, no one knows how much money it needs to be pumped in to make it work, and it probably won’t work anyway – it’s like trying to make a severed leg to walk on its own.

For the sense of scale – IMF pledged roughly the same rescue package that was offered to countries like Portugal, Ireland, or Greece, and all those, much smaller countries were not torn apart by war, just had ordinary economic hiccups, and they didn’t have to be reoriented to fit into completely foreign markets. This package (which is stopped anyway) wouldn’t let “Eastless” Ukraine last even through the winter, and then what?

Why have I wasted so much time talking about Ukraine? Because it’s unsolvable. There’s no magic formula to fix it, there’s no escape from the ever degrading civil war, and there are no parties one could take shelter of and hope to reach the bright future. Not independent Ukrainians, as I explained above, and certainly not Russian volunteers who lead the rebellion now but will leave the place the moment they achieve “victory”. You can’t hitch yourself to any wagon there.

It’s Kali Yuga at its worst, it’s undefeatable. There’s no dharma, no religion, no method, no theory that could save it. There’s no hope for anyone caught there.

That’s why intelligent people in this age chant the Holy Names – they don’t foolishly try to fix the unfixable. They don’t try to untangle their karma either – what’s done is done, let the results come, we can’t change them and we can’t hope to “do better” the second time around.

Even materialists notice that the sign of true intelligence is the realization of how little we actually know and control. Only ignorant fools think they know it all and can “improve” the world – as Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

One could say – but it’s just Ukraine, an unfortunate fluke of nature, our paradigms work just fine elsewhere. Except it’s not just Ukraine – demonizing Russia and Putin and increasing economic sanctions draw the rest of the world into this war, too. The US, for some reason, put its reputation at the stake here, and for Russia is has become a matter of survival. No one can back off without suffering serious consequences, not Russia and not America, and there are no forces in either camps that advocate peaceful solutions to this geopolitical conflict.

What’s worse, it all happened on Obama’s watch, Russians won’t blame it on crazy Bush like they did with Iraq. It’s American best side that waged economic war on them and there’s no one there left to trust. At the end of the Cold War they were willing to consider western democracy as an alternative but not anymore – for them, the US turned to be as evil empire as communists were saying all along.

This new cold war would take a long time to unravel but we can be sure nothing good will come out of it. Good old times will not return and anyone looking into the future with hope is fooling himself, even the Chinese who might want to swoop in when two other major powers have exhausted themselves.

The world is unfixable. It’s Kali Yuga, we can’t go against its tide, it would be foolish, and that’s why sane people in this age chant the Holy Names.

It’s time to bail out.

Vanity thought #1057. A Piece of PIE

Ukrainian conflict got back into the news over the weekend, apparently Ukrainian army scored a major victory and captured some key cities while Russians say that all their fighters got out safely and were freed from being tied to defending the indefensible.

This is a mysterious conflict that can only be explained by Kali Yuga – these people share the same history, they worship the same gods, speak the same language, and yet now they are at each other’s throats. Official line of thought is that it’s murderous, Hitler-like Putin who wants to restore Soviet Union to its old borders but I don’t think general public buy into this anymore.

To understand what’s going on there one must look into region’s history, and the first look at history reveals that there’s no consensus there whatsoever. Western sources just quote local textbooks and Russian and Ukrainian versions are simply incompatible to make any conclusions with any degree of confidence.

The whole story lasted several hundred years with Austrians, Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, Tatars, Turks, and Russians ruling the area at one time or another. Ukrainians, naturally, view it as their struggle for independence. There are lots of dates, names, and places that one must forget even before understanding who or what they were, unless you live there and have a personal stake that somehow influences your devotional life it’s all garbage.

There is one interesting topic there, however – the ancient history of Ukraine. It doesn’t have any bearing on the current events but listen to this – Ukrainians claim that they are the original Aryans who then spread all over the world, including India.

To fully appreciate the impact of that statement – they are convinced that Noah, Jesus, and even Buddha were originally Ukrainians. Obviously they weren’t born in Ukraine but they were born in the families of Ukrainian descent, the true Aryans.

With Buddha they argue that while the word itself means “enlightened” he wasn’t the only one called “Buddha” in the family and that tells us that the name indicates their family origins rather than achievements. There are several possible locations where Buddha’s family might have emigrated from: Seredyna-Buda or Budy, or Budi, take your pick.

With Jesus they argue that Galilee was a place inhabited by emigrants from Galicia, the heartland of the modern Ukrainian nationalistic movement. They also say that he was blue eyed, tall, blond, and muscular, like Ukrainians are, and that before dying he spoke a strange language that was actually Ukrainian.

Ancient Ukrainians are also the ones who invented the wheel, fire, and taught Egyptians to build pyramids.

What is truly amazing is that it might actually be true.

Current theory is that Sanskrit and Aryans were people of PIE – Proto-Indo-Europeans, they had their language, culture and religion that then spread all over the world. Most popular location for these PIE people is not far from Ukraine, in the vicinity of Volga River in Russia, and Ukraine was probably the first place they migrated to.

Ukraine has the remnants of the same Kurgan culture, huge burial mounds left by PIE people, it’s just a matter of whose kurgans were built earlier.

Language wise it should be noted that Jesus in all languages but English begins with sounds “i” or “y”, not “j”, and so “Yesus” sounds close to Ukrainian/Russian “Yasny”, which means bright and clear, or Sanksrit “Yaśa”, which means fame and reputation, which is supposed to be spotless, I guess.

Ukrainian Budy or Budi means “wake up”, “awaken”, which is so close to “enlightenment” it’s uncanny.

For arm chair etymologist like me it’s pretty clear that all those languages came from the same source, and aryans riding chariots is not an unfamiliar image either (hint – cover of Bhagavad Gīta).

Doesn’t it contradict our view that Sanskrit was the original language and India was the birthplace of Aryans? Not at all, there is plenty of leeway for compromise here.

First of all, I saw Śrila Prabhupāda himself talking about Iran as the land of Aryans, that’s what everyone else accepts now, too, but it doesn’t mean origin of Aryans for us and it doesn’t mean origin of Aryans for historians either. We say the culture was spread all over the world since time immemorial, which means for millions and millions of years.

When Ukrainians talk about Aryans living there in ancient times they are absolutely right, it simply doesn’t mean that Aryans originated there. It could also be possible for those proto-Ukrainians, or Proto-Russians, whoever claims to be the first, to spread from there to Iran, Europe, Turkey etc. Should not bother us.

I think it’s reasonable to accept that Aryan culture deteriorated unevenly across the world and that it’s possible that there were movements from one dying Aryan country to another and that there were local religions and languages sprouting in different places that grew isolated from each other.

What about relationships between this PIE and Vedas? I think that we should remember that “Vedas” is a relatively recent invention – Kali Yuga started five thousand years ago, it took time for Śrīla Vyāsadeva to notice deterioration of people’s memory, get down to work of dividing Vedas, pass them on to his disciples for development, and get everything eventually written down. Considering that Vyāsadeva is immortal and sages working on Vedas do not die easily either, a thousand or two thousand years is no big deal, which is when historians think Vedas first made their entrance.

That was an important point, of course, because it cast Vedas in stone, so to speak, but it doesn’t mean that language used by Aryans for thousand years prior to that was exactly the same. Sanskrit wasn’t the same before Panini’s grammar, no one denies that. Written form requires written rules, and we also know that Sanskrit wasn’t the language used by general population then, for general purposes there was Prakrit, and so who is to say that PIE people didn’t speak Prakrit, too, so that modern languages’ roots come from Prakrit and not from Sanskrit proper. We don’t even know what Sanskrit was like before written Vedas, don’t forget that.

Come to think of it, if Sanskrit was used for transmitting transcendental knowledge then it didn’t have to be fixed – English works just fine for us, for example. If it was used for conducting ceremonies and sacrifices we can’t be sure that in previous eras same mantras could have been far more sophisticated and sounded differently then those written down by Vyāsadeva for usage in Kali Yuga. It’s not the form that is important, after all, it’s whether language serves its purpose or not. Possibility of minor differences that do not affect the outcome should not freak us out.

Yes, there are examples of one little change in pronunciation completely changing results of a yajña but that doesn’t mean that brāhmaṇas who knew their craft inside out didn’t have multiple ways to achieve same results. Uniformity is very useful for us, people of Kali Yuga, because we have no clue what we are actually saying and just hope that our sounds carry real power, but those who called demigods to appear before them on a daily basis could have easily done that in different ways and make no mistakes at all.

The most important point, however, is that our spiritual progress depends on our performance NOW and not on authenticity of our roots. We know our method works regardless of where Aryans lived ten thousand years ago. We don’t need to trace our roots back to them or to anyone else. Lord Caitanya is as far back in history as we ever need to look.

Many of us, and especially Indians, are very eager to prove supremacy of Vedic culture but ask yourself – why should it change anything in the way we practice devotional service now? It would make us feel safer and more confident but those are not really spiritual arguments. Our progress does not depend on what we do or do not know, it depends on our sincerity and simplicity. And we already know more than enough, so searching through history does not help us at all. It’s still a fascinating subject, though, can’t stop myself.

I’ll leave with the painting of Russian version of their Vedic times, there’s a whole series of those here: