Where from here?

writing-cycleThis blog had it’s birth in 2012. I’ve written 84 posts and have 167 comments so far. This blog has been instrumental in my spiritual life and it’s dedicated to the process of spiritual progress, the work that goes into it. It motivates me to keep on working on my spiritual life, it challenges me, it makes me ponder questions sometimes for months. I’ve been angry, sad, exhausted, happy, scared – I have lived my material life through a spiritual lense. I usually ponder something for days and suddenly there’s a blog post there that writes itself. I usually spend 30 minutes and less on a blog post. I never know what I will write about next, but somehow something always comes up. It’s a way for me to keep myself accountable.

This blog is important for me.

apana bhajana-katha na kahiba jatha tatha
One should not reveal one’s bhajana to others

Narottama Thakura

Writing this blog has been easy, because I have been on such a low level spiritually. There’s no danger involved.

It’s not like I’m on a high level now, but it’s beginning to feel scary. My last blog post was about greed. Revealing such things is very, very scary because this is personal.

Writing is easy, but pushing that “Publish” button is getting harder and harder. Revealing my inner chambers is so scary, and everywhere I read it’s not recommended to do so. I’m sheltered from this because I have no association, I live in no ashram and whenever I talk about spirituality with the people around me, I see the blankness in their eyes. They have no interest and no understanding. It would have been a different ballgame to write this had I been part of any sangha.

I’m on a  low spiritual level and still it’s beginning to feel scary. I don’t know how to move forward with this blog. I’m afraid to reveal myself. I’m afraid to become too vulnerable, though it’s not like anybody know who I am or care.

This blog is so important for me in my spiritual progress, but at the same time this blog scares me now. I don’t know how to move from here and still let this blog be dedicated to the process itself. I don’t know how I cannot write here as well. I’m addicted.

Falling in love

7024081929695_0When I first saw that lamp, I was sold. I fell in love with the lamp and knew that was the lamp I will have above my dining table. I don’t purchase things unless I fall in love with them and I revel in it. It’s important to me to surround myself with beauty and I treasure it every time I lay my eyes on it. I don’t care about the price, I’m in love.

So I set my goal on the prize, get determined, figure out the way to get it and wait… I perform the necessary steps until I get what I want.

I know all about settings goals, figure out the necessary steps and having the determination to achieve it. I have whatever grit and tolerance to do whatever that’s needed. When I first set my eyes on something and make that decision – then I don’t let anything get in my way. There may be many obstacles, but somehow I manage to deal with them.

I have decided that Krishna is a prize. I have figured out that he is a worthy goal to pursue. He is a thing of beauty, and I will purchase him. I don’t care about the price, but I know what the price is. I have to purchase Him with the maha-mantra. I have to bind Him to the mantra. The maha-mantra is mine, and I will bind Him to it. I don’t care what he wants, this is what I want.

I don’t know why I fall on love, why exactly that one thing makes me decide that this is a goal to strive for. I don’t know why I perceive something as a thing of beauty, just that I do. What I do know is that I will have to figure out a way to maintain this determination. I will forget my determination, and I will have to summon it back again and again. I don’t think I understand how high the price actually are – and that is a good thing. I will give in many times – but I will never give up.

 

Part 3: The unresolved end of what rasa Srila Prabhupada is in

10957596_956715527695049_1708153342469911194_oAfter Gurudeva’s disappearance many in his sangha sought the association of Srila Bhakti Vijnana Barathi Maharaja. He came out with a small statement that’s available on soundcloud (with transcription) in regards to this issue. It has been taken as proof by the party who believe Srila Gurudevas statements about SP being a manjari that Gurudeva is correct and the statements of Krishna-Balarama mandir is wrong.

It seems that he is regarded as a pure devotee, and therefore I believe that if he had spoken of this issue, I would have accepted it. What I got from the message was… something else.

First off, it’s Srila Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Maharaja’s prerogative to not go into this debate any more than what he wants. I certainly respect that.

Srila Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Maharaja: Dhrsta means ‘talking [about that] which is beyond my capacity.’

Madhava-priya dasa: Not in adhikara (qualification).

Srila Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Maharaja: Adhikara.

Madhava-priya dasa: Speaking something which is beyond one’s adhikara. So Maharaja said, “I never ever do that. That is my principle.”

The biggest gem he disclosed was that we shouldn’t speak beyond one’s adhikara. This discussion is certainly above 99,9 % of us, so it’s fitting. So may be that’s the reason why he didn’t talk about SP’s rasa at all. No disclosure at all. No explanation, only that he wish to neglect the whole issue.

The reason why his statements are viewed upon as a confirmation is because of his rather harsh refutation of Krishna-Balarama mandirs statements.

Srila Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Maharaja: Yes. Svami Maharaja is our guru-varga. I never dared [to make] any statement about them [meaning all guru-varga.] That is my principle.

Madhava-priya dasa: Maharaja is saying, “According to my principle, I never ever speak anything about any of my guru-varga regarding these svarupa things at all. What to speak of Svami Maharaja, I have never spoken about my Guru Maharaja or any other guru-varga at all regarding this.”

Srila Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Maharaja: Yes. So, if anybody speaks like that [that I have said something about his svarupa], it is his own mental concoction.

……

Srila Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Maharaja [speaks in Bengali]: Yes, I said, regarding the view of these kinds of people, I am not willing to waste my time.

Madhava-priya dasa: He is saying that “According to my understanding, whatever they are speaking in my name, I don’t want to waste even a single moment to give the answer as to why they are using my name. That’s their own thing. I don’t want to discuss it.”

Srila Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Maharaja: [speaks in Bengali] I can say one more thing. I don’t consider them worthy of being my opponents, so I will just neglect them.
Madhava-priya dasa (translating): “They are not even such people whom I can even consider an opponent, or feel even bound to give an answer to whatever they speak. Why? Because giving them that position even will be making them too much superior; why would I do that?”

…….

So Maharaja is saying that “The words which are going on, and that I am hearing about these things, I don’t even consider they are fit to be my opponent, and that I have to answer them.”

Srila Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Maharaja: Neglect.

Madhava-priya dasa: Maharaja is saying, “Just neglect whatever they say, or what I have to do with that.” This is what Maharaja wanted to speak.

 

I must say I was surprised to hear these words. They are rather harsh towards Krishna-Balarama mandira. It seems like he’s not happy about being dragged into this debate and therefore he has such harsh statements. Though he makes it very clear that he has never uttered anything about SPs svarupa.

So no resolution on this debate. Only that he wishes to neglect the issue.


 

(I must state that I may be a bit partial in this debate, because my last stay in Vrindavin in 2005 was in Krishna-Balarama mandira.)

 

Part 2: The Confusion of what rasa is Srila Prabhupada in?

The discussion of transcendental subjects is not merely brain exercise. By logic and argument you cannot prove anything; whatever you establish will later be destroyed by a bigger argument. To understand transcendental things requires balanced heart and mind. Sometimes we use only our mind but not heart, and sometimes only our heart but no mind, but to discuss properly we should be neutral, like a judge considering all evidence. Then a proper conclusion can come.

Note from Krishna-Balarama mandira

The last blog post about what rasa Srila Prabhupada is in has the most comments of any post so far, and it has been such an interesting and enlightening discussion that I can only follow and try to understand.

It seems to me that those who argue that Srila Prabhupada is in sakhya-rasa has the best evidence, but the problem is then why Narayana Maharaja has insisted over many years, without changing the message even once, that Srila Prabhupada is a gopi. It would imply that he has been lying.

And a lie is a betrayal. That’s too hefty for a diksa disciple to overcome.

Here is a note from Krishna-Balarama mandir about why Narayana Maharaja said Srila Prabhupada is a gopi.

Here is a very nice refutation of the note from Krishna-Balarama mandir:

Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja pointed out that that there are two points of view on the Guru: the absolute and the relative. Disciples must have an absolute, rather than a relative view, of their Guru Maharaja. They will not second-guess their Guru Maharaja, but will accept his instructions as they are, without improving or interpreting them, unless their Guru Maharaja has a given a specific instruction to do so.

 

I don’t do well with following blindly, not even my Gurudeva, since I have found that one has to both use the intelligence one has in dealing with spiritual and material life, and one receives intelligence as one progresses in spiritual life. One can simply state that I’m too novice to follow my Gurudeva absolutely, but I’m not so sure about that as well.

The problem I’m having with this all-or-nothing approach to believing my Gurudevas words, is that I don’t think my spiritual life is ruined because I have some doubts. There is ample room for making mistakes in material life, and I would believe there is even more room for it in spiritual life. I don’t even see how this in any way affects my Guru nistha, because I can deal with being wrong. I can deal with living with a contradiction. If I’m proven wrong, I will have no trouble accepting it because I haven’t invested any pride, righteousness or whatever weed that comes of it. What I will invest in is remorse and apologies for whatever I have done wrong if I’m proven wrong.

“Mercy is higher than justice. We are not doing bhajan to get justice. We are doing bhajan to get mercy. Justice is dependent upon the truth. Justice can not even manifest until the truth is known and accepted. But mercy is so much higher. Mercy is independent from what ever the truth might be. And for this mercy to flow there needs to be harmony. It is that greatest harmony that we seek for there we shall find the greatest mercy.”

Narayana Maharaja

I’m having a problem with the argument from Krishna-Balarama mandir that it was a preaching tactic to say SP was a gopi. It is a good argument in that it’s understandable from the objective point as Gurudeva received a lot of criticism and resistance from isckon. But I still don’t buy it, because then Gurudeva would have said something at least once to somebody. I don’t think it was a preaching tactic.

So the argument falls short in that regard. So for me it’s still a mystery to be solved. I can live with that. I can live with a contradiction.

I have learned that I will read Srila Prabhupadas books with an outlook to his mood. I have tried to regard everything neutrally and judge by the evidence. I’m still baffled, and I have learned to appreciate all the moods that reveals itself in this discussion and my spiritual life.

I said in a comment that when this contradiction is explained, I will revel in the explanation.

Well, I’m reveling in a contradiction, and I find it’s a blessedly precious place to be.


 

Update 25. march 2015: Srimati Syamarani didi has published a paper on the Jaladutta prayers. The paper refers also to a part two with Srila Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Maharaja’s response to Krsna-Balarama Mandira’s claim that he supports their idea. His response was spoken on March 23rd, at Sri Caitanya Gaudiya Matha in Pahar Ganj, Delhi. I’m looking forward to part two.

What rasa is Srila Prabhupada in?

1836609_878944348784821_4211563703001340949_oA new controversy has blown up in regards to what rasa Srila Prabhupada has. The battle lines are drawn between those thinking he is in madhurya-rasa or sakhya rasa. Most people (myself included) have presumed that he was in madhurya-rasa, since Srila Gurudeva (Narayana Maharaja) has made no doubts about what stayi bhava he’s in.

Those that believe he’s in sakhya-rasa states several sources for claiming he’s in sakhya-rasa. The first is the Jaladutta Prayers where he uses the word “Brother” about Sri Krishna. A gopi in madhurya-rasa would never use that title about Sri Krishna.

kṛṣṇa taba puya habe bhāi e-puya koribe jabe rādhārāṇī khusī habe dhruva ati boli tomā tāi

I emphatically say to you, O My brother Krishna, you will obtain your good fortune only when Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī becomes pleased with you.

The first verse in the Jaladutta prayer

The second argument 2015-03-18_1759 is statements from Srila Sridhar Maharaja that confirms that Srila Prabhupada is in sakhya rasa.

The main arguments that opposes that Srila Prabhupada is in sakhya-rasa is the books that Srila Prabhupada has written and that Srila Gurudeva have many times stated that Srila Prabhupada is in madhurya-rasa. Mukunda dasa has a lot of arguments as well and it simply becomes to much if I’m to give a refereee of the whole debate.

One of the Swami’s (I have forgotten his name, and he left Srila Gurudevas sangha many years ago) that was there during Srila Prabhupadas disappearance told me a story of when he was in the room with Gurudeva. Gurudeva leaned over to him and indicated the posture of Srila Prabhupada (the way he was lying on the bed) and whispered: “rasa lila”, thereby implying that Srila Prabhupada was immersed in the rasa lila pastime. Now this doesn’t necessarily  mean Srila Prabhupada is in madhurya-mood since it can be an external observation.

I’m not so concerned about what rasa Srila Prabhupada is in, since he’s a pure devotee either way. I’m more interested in the implications of Srila Prabhupada being in sakhya-rasa:

The most important inner reason for Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s advent in this world was to experience the moods of Srimati Radhika, the moods the manjaris of Srimati Radhika experiences and it’s been preached as the highest mood. How can Srila Prabhupada write a commentary on Sri Caitanya Caritamrita if he’s not a rupanuga? Since it’s the highest mood, how can he understand that mood?

2015-03-19_0929

 

If he’s in sakhya-rasa then he can’t award madhurya rasa to his disciples, can he?

I can only fathom that Srila Prabhupada may have different manifestations (which requires different moods), just like Narada. But, at the same time I respect Srimati Krishna-priya didi and Madhusudana Maharaja and believe them as well.

So I’m confused.

What I do know is that this whole controversy is very enlightening as it makes me learn more siddhanta and question presumptions I have. I’m beginning to love these controversies that keep rearing their heads up. I hope we get more of those 😀

The Goal of Japa

11022515_10152610131701433_1736104955035057550_oI recently watched the documentary The Dhamma Brothers. It’s about a high security prison in the US where they had a 10 day meditation program called Vipassana. The point is to meditate for 10 days in silence. No books, phones etc. to disturb the meditation. It sounds great and scary at the same time. I think such a program would be really hard and really rewarding at the same time. During the film one of the brothers told that once when the bell sounded for a break, he just wanted to continue meditating. He didn’t want a break.

We hear that Japa is Krishna. That means that Japa itself is the goal. So by chanting japa, we are associating with that goal, however badly we chant. So what should the goal of Japa be? We are already associating with the goal when we chant. We have not realized our goal yet, but achieving our siddha deha seems like a fairy tale and is simply a too lofty goal to pursue.

64 rounds of japa is encouraged everywhere. It’s in recent times with Srila Prabhupada that 16 rounds have become the minimum requirement. 64 rounds equals to 8 hours of meditation. 16 rounds equals getting chanting done so you can get around to doing everything else. With 64 rounds your primary duty is to chant, while everything else has to be done besides that.

I’m beginning to recognize that 64 rounds is necessary to get a transformation, a change in us. 16 rounds doesn’t even make a dent in me.

I first encountered this idea here:

Good Chanting Produces More Good Chanting
How do I know I have chanted good rounds? One of the best indicators for me is that when I finish my rounds I want to keep chanting because I am getting such a nice taste. If I am relieved to put my bead bag down after my last round, that’s an indicator that my chanting is not being done properly. Good chanting always produces a taste to chant more. Prabhupada said sixteen rounds is the minimum; that constant chanting is the goal.

 

Despite my different efforts at techniques, I think my real aim should just be to chant so much that in the end I don’t want to put the japa beads down. Just chant, chant, chant. Just the thought of that is uncomfortable and I see how quickly I reach for something else. How do I develop the adhikara to just chant?

Still, I think in the low position that I am that quantity is more important than quality. That quantity begets quality. They aren’t really in opposition either, quantity and quality goes hand in hand. If you are restless and doing all other things while doing japa, you will not get the inspiration to do more japa, but less. To be able to do more, there has to be some quality to it.

So the goal of each japa session should be to come to the place where you don’t want to stop chanting.

The lack of women in Krishna Consciousness

11017125_10152606580856433_3603299318713914365_nHow many female preachers do you know compared to male preachers? How many lectures are delivered by females compared to males? How many women in leadership positions versus males?

Do you think this is accidental? All the Gaudiya Vaishnava instituations are heavily male dominated, with very few revered female devotees.

I’ve always thought of me being outside of devotee association to be a lack in me, but I now believe it has been a mercy. I would not have survived in Krishna Consciousness if I had been a part of a temple etc.

btgBack to Godhead india just released a link to a blog post about a rape statement made by Srila Prabhupada where Jayadvaita Swami uses Hollywood and romance novels as an understanding of the female psyche. Then Jayadvaita Swami comes with this statement:

Of course, “rape” carries with it images of guns, bruises, and brutal thugs–hardly what any woman hopes for. But the essential feature–a man who is strong and aggressive–is sexually attractive.

I don’t even know where to begin with these ignorant statements.

a man is attractive to a woman when he is bold, strong, valorous, assertive, aggressive, “manly,” and so on.

 

So how many romance novels has this Swami read since he know they sell so well? What is meant by aggressive? What is the meaning of “manly”?

Jayadvaita Swami has misunderstood how romance novels function on the female psyche. It usually comes in the form of pining after some man you can’t have, and he wants to protect his female. Not aggressively and “manly” rape her, which kind of opposes the whole idea of protecting females. So can we please just lay to rest this idea of the female psyche.

I know no women who wants the advances of an aggressive and “manly” man.

On the contrary the statements of Jayadvaita Swami and Srila Prabhupada shows a huge lack of understanding of the female psyche. Stating that women thinks strong and aggressive men are sexually desirable can *drive* rape offenders towards their abominable acts. If you want males to sexually harass and rape women, those are the kinds of statements that supports it !

I find this whole article to be offensive towards women, and dangerously so.

We all accept Srila Prabhupada as a pure devotee, so how do we reconcile that he makes such statements? The trouble is that devotees take whatever comes out of the mouth of pure devotees so literal and to be absolute truths no matter what is said. The whole guru-disciple relationship encourages blind following and accepting without asking too many critical questions. Criticism is discouraged hugely within our movement, because it can destroy your spiritual life and is a huge offense.

We need to understand that pure devotees can be both omniscience and bewildered at the same time. This is how child abuse happened during the presence of Srila Prabhupada without him doing anything about it. Srila Prabhupada didn’t know because Krishna withheld these abominable acts from him.

Secondly, we have to differentiate between material matters and spiritual matters. I accept Srila Prabhupada wholeheartedly when it comes to spiritual matters. When it comes to statements concerning this material world (including women), I reserve the right to reject those statements without them in any way breach my faith in krishna consciousness or Srila Prabhupada.

We take a pure devotees word so literal when it comes to his statement about material nature that we try to explain away things that are not morally okey in any way. We lack the ability to separate between statements on spiritual and material matter. I will question statements on this material world, but accept everything in regard to the spiritual world. I wish more could make this crucial difference.

I just keep on coming back to Bhaktivinode Thakur who reserved the right to question everything in regards to material nature:

… the confidence to follow their ancestral religious traditions by showing how those traditions could plausibly be redefined and re-appropriated according to the culture of the modern world.

Hindu Encounter with Modernity page 136 – 137

 

The understanding that women seeks a strong, aggressive and “manly” male may have had some understanding decades ago. Fortunately, the world has evolved since then, and I wish the males understanding would have evolved as well.

Mahadyuti Prabhu defaming women

2015-03-04_2225Apparantly Mahadyuti Prabhu in his orange robe of honor in a lecture in Norway use the first two minutes (which was all I was able to hear) begins his lecture by talking about how females should dress appropriately according to what he believe Srila Prabhupada likes. He talks about how Gopi Skirts is a new innovation where somebody thought they could make a lot of money of lazy women. What in the world makes it okey to defame women like that?

First off, let’s begin with the innovation of Gopi skirts. Srila Prabhupada broughts saris from india which is the traditional cloth for women and gopi skirts is a new innovation, which is true. But there’s a world of changes in between when Srila Prabhupada walked this earth and now. We have to make changes according to the times. A good point in this is Bhaktivinode Thakura which brought critical thinking into our Gaudiya Vaishnava line. His thought was that everything about the spiritual world is something to accept. Everything connected to this material world was available for scrutiny. This was the basis of adhunika-vada:

… the confidence to follow their ancestral religious traditions by showing how those traditions could plausibly be redefined and re-appropriated according to the culture of the modern world.

Hindu Encounter with Modernity page 136 – 137

Traditions are there to be redefined according to the culture of the modern world – which changes all the time.

I mean, did Srila Prabhupada make vegetarian italian food, Balinese food or did he only eat traditional indian food? Should we all just eat traditional indian food because that’s tradition? If we eat something besides traditional indian food – are we lazy to splurge on something that we deem are “not part of our spiritual tradition”?

How about music and the so many different styles of bhajana sung using rock, pop etc. Let’s defame that as well, because they certainly can’t have any spiritual potency when you use a non-traditional tune? This is just ridiculous. But for some reason  it’s okey to call women lazy for wearing something that isn’t deemed traditional.

It’s not okey to begin a lecture by talking down on how women dress.
It’s not okey to begin a lecture by calling women lazy.
It’s not okey to talk down women that way – period.

This should be common sense.

Approaching japa as a system

11021342_10152597623386433_5285402223995859019_oSince wondering what the difference between meditation and japa is (if you look past the whole potency of Gods names), I’ve come to understand that what I’m really searching for is techniques. In meditation there usually is some techniques involved – sitting posture, breathing and of course, dealing with the mind.

If you look at meyer-briggs personality types, I’m an INTJ which translates to analytical problem solvers (if you read to the end of the intj link you will see the statement that intj’s are least likely of all the types to believe in a higher spiritual power). So it only comes natural to me to approach spiritual life as a system I need to crack. Sadhana is about service, but also about developing feelings of attachment, taste and love through service. In these different levels of feelings, there is symptoms that categorize on what level you are, so there is a system to spiritual life that sings to me. Feelings doesn’t really translate itself to me – but systems on the other hand is something I can work on.

So if I approach Japa meditation as techniques (aka a system), I have found these techniques so far on my japa journey:

1. Reject any thoughts that are unfavorable for japa. For example, if you think chanting is hard, it will become hard.
2. Put any thoughts not related to Krishna on the side for the japa session. When chanting the mind start roving about, but leave those thoughts to the side and instead treat the japa session as a conversation with Krishna.
3. Record activities in a weekly diary

In a comment by Syamanada Prabhu, he mentions that we’re to hear each syllable of each mantra for the whole japa session. This can be labeled as a consequence of Japa. When I leave the thought that chanting is hard, I’ve experienced that chanting flows on its own accord and is actually dragging me along as long as I don’t interfere with it. Is that a consequence of Japa, or is it part of the labor? Or may be, it is a symptom?

So we have the job itself (japa), a few techniques, symptoms and consequences attached to Japa meditation. So I now can  try to categorize japa and how it works within these categories. Also, to record activities in a weekly diary doesn’t qualify as a technique, but more as a measuring stick.

Then we have the whole namabhasa and aparadhas, which I haven’t even touched upon. I’ve only begun the work on deciphering this japa system, but I think I have understood the right way for me to approach the understanding of it.