Checked by Vaishnava aparadha

We commit a Himalayan blunder when we become hostile to anybody in this world by seeing his bad practices and bad actions. We have got no grudge over any person but we do not support the evil practices. We should condemn those practices.

Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharajji

One of the things that have worried me in my writing is vaishnava aparadha. I try to be very careful with how I phrase things, but things will fall through the cracks or someone will take offense of what I write anyway. I make sure that I have no animosity and if there is, that is a fault within me that I need to work at. My motto is “Condemn the action, not the person” and taking the road of non-judgmental distinction. That is what I try to achieve.

Such offenses are called vaishnava-aparadha. Aparadha means “offense.” If one commits vaishnava-aparadhas, all of his progress in devotional service will be checked.

Purport of SB 4.21.37

But how do one know if one has committed vaishnava aparadha, however unintentionally?

If one commits vaishnava aparadha, one’s devotional progress will be checked. But how do you discover if you are being “checked”? How do I know I’m not cheating myself?

In the debates that have been about the rasa of Srila Prabhupada and Premananda Prabhu, both parties easily claims that the other party are committing Vaishnava aparadha. My stance is that it’s not up to me to decide whether someone is committing Vaishnava aparadha, because I don’t know what’s in their heart. Instead I look at all parties and think that they are filling the role Krishna wants them to have, even when I don’t agree.

I can look at what somebody have written and think “this is not appropriate”, but I will not use the word vaishnava aparadha easily and certainly not publically. What I also see is that all parties, especially in the rasa of Srila Prabhupada seem to be connected to high class association and therefore is protected in my mind. If one keeps high class association, doesn’t that mean that they will progress anyway?

But then we have the cheating aspect of Guru. Which tails back to the original question, how do we understand that we are being checked? And will we understand it even when we are being cheated by a Guru? I know how clouded my intelligence is, and probably already are. I wouldn’t recognize if I were checked, I wouldn’t understand it.

I may think I’m progressing while in reality I’m not? I know I may be overthinking things here and that in reality we can easily recognize progress when we look backwards. But at the same time, if we are being cheated we may not have it in us to look backwards and that may be a part of the cheating aspect.

Do we ever stop being devotees?

devotees-dancingI was introduced to Krishna Consciousness at 17 when I met devotees that were a part of Caitanya Mission (Science of Identity). I ran away from Caitanya Mission when I was 19 and they began hinting that may be I should marry one other devotee which was NOT a match made in heaven or on earth. It was the best thing they could have done to turn me away.

From 19 until I was 24, I didn’t practice or anything. Just lived my life, discovered IT as an obsession and got a masters degree in the end. During that whole interlude, I never questioned whether Krishna consciousness was my path or not. I knew it was my path, I was just on some kind of break I didn’t know would end or not. I was on the IT path and Krishna lived in my prayers and belief, but that was it.

I’ve always thought that when one leave the practice (and any organization that may have been there), one never really leave krishna consciousness. Isckon even made a term for it: blooping. So do we ever really completely leave krishna consciousness?

Bhagavat Maharaja posted a video where Srila Prabhupada states that a falldown means a gap of millions of years before attaining a human body. His take is that this only applies to people who leave for material enjoyment and become inimical. I never hear that Srila Prabhupada specifically say what constitues a falldown (and if that fall down only applies to inimical persons).

I still don’t get it because such devotees have chanted so much, theoretically removed so much karma that it should make a big dent in one’s sukriti. Not all who leaves becomes inimical. What of them? Do people ever really leave the faith behind completely? My (may be naive) perception has been that it will always stay with them and it’s not possible to leave the faith behind, only the people and organization. If one first have begun to believe in reincarnation and karma – you’re done. You can’t ever give up that perception. Any material enjoyment becomes a bit hollow, because you know better. You can’t give it up, but it doesn’t provide the pleasure you wanted either. You just know better. It’s ingrained in you. You are sold, you know it, you’re just resisting for a time.

This is my thinking. Can I possibly be wrong in this?

So what about those who becomes inimical. Well, there I get it. You can quickly rack up offenses there. But still – am I lacking experience to know how bad it can go?

There is really only one thing in this life that is certain; Spiritual life is our birth right no matter what direction we start in. It’s the only thing that we are guaranteed to have to do at one point or another.

I just can’t wrap my head around that it’s possible to stop being devotees.

 

Enthusiasm

I’ve moved to a place where I have no friends, and I have no connection to – except the family of my son (which was one of the reasons for moving there). This leaves me pretty lonely, except I’m not really lonely. I’m not sure what to make of it – in one part it’s really good to be alone. In another way I wish I had a best friend which I could share my heart with.

asat sanga tyaga – ei vaisnava acara
‘stri-sangi’ – eka asadhu krsnabhakta’ara

It is the policy of a Vaishnava to reject mundane association such as those who are overly attached to women and people averse to Krishna bhakti. (Cc. Madhya 22.87)

This right there is the problem (well, I wish the word women would have been replaced with person of desire or something). I don’t have much mundane or any, association besides lectures and books. I find most of my mundane friendships to be shallow. There is no sharing of hearts, there is no display of vulnerability, people who care how I’m *actually* doing and dare to ask the corresponding questions. There isn’t even room for start asking those questions. I don’t know if I have lost taste for friendships or it’s the “wrong” type of friendships.

For me – going deep into relationships is what makes me happy. I thrive for those difficult questions and things to resolve. I have only one way to get this desire resolved now – and that is to go within myself and do it. My main source of association is myself, my son, books and TV.

I wanted this – I wanted things to quiet down and to get a stable life. Well, I’ve gotten more than I have bargained for. Is God testing me – to see how much I will try to work on our relationship? I’m failing. I have no enthusiasm. I want to study and read, but reading is easy. Learning enough to be able to talk about it requires that I take it up a notch.

I remember some precious few days where I was filled with enthusiasm. Where I couldn’t wait to get home from work, put my son to bed so I could spend more time studying the Vedas. Now I have the time – but no enthusiasm like I once experienced.

I want that enthusiasm back. How did I get it in the first place?

Enough thinking, start doing

krishnamoon

Today I got up after four am, not of my own free will. My son decided to wake up then. I had already decided to get up early to get an hour for myself before he woke up, but it’s like he has this sixth sense every time I want to get up early to enjoy some me-time.

Watch how parents feel they are losing themselves and not being fully human when they have no time for themselves.

Penelope Trunk

Now I’m going to stick to it, and I think my spiritual practices will flourish because of it. I think the message I’m getting is that I have to start doing, and keep the thinking straight. Doing in my case means studying. The moment I start studying I usually get so inspired I have to chant and do everything else. So that will be part of my morning me-time. I think the time of emotional turbulence in my spiritual life will slowly fade away now. It’s not what I need and it will not serve any purpose anymore. Now I need stableness, to settle down, to grow my roots.

I know I have one major upheaval left in my life that will happen during the next year. Then I will have many years of moving in the direction I want. That direction involves going inwards. I’m ready now.

What lesson to be learned?

I was once in a festival where I for some reason I don’t remember I was asked by Syamarani didi (a very advanced devotee) to find one person. So I asked a sannyasi and his friend at the dinner table if they knew where this person was. The friend responded irritated that it was very impolite to barge in on the conversation like that. I responded “Oh, I’m sorry but I’m not asking for me. I’m asking for Syamarani didi.” They looked at each other, and I saw in their expression that they had just received a lesson. Later on the friend apologised.

Spiritual people have the tendency to try to find meaning in everything. I certainly do, but this crisis I have gone through – I really see no lesson there. If it’s about grit, to just continue and not give up – well, that is a lesson I have learned from before. If it’s a test to me – well, that makes me chuckle because why test for something that’s barely there?

It’s not like I have stopped believing, I just stopped seeing the point in practising.

“There are two kinds of sraddha: one is worldly sraddha, worldly faith, and the second is transcendental faith. Worldly sraddha is always shaky and very weak. On the other hand, if one has transcendental sraddha, like Haridasa Thakura, he will think, ‘Even if you cut me into thousands of pieces, I will not give up my chanting and my worship.'” (Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, July 6 2002, France)]

(Worldly faith may also apply to faith in material relations, and in that case transcendental faith will apply to faith in transcendental personalities, like Guru, sadhu, and sastra.)

I still belive in Gurudeva and the things he preaches. I have problems with the siddhanta that states that you can have no progress without sadhu-sanga. I have trouble believing in it. Then I got the assignment to look into greed. I’m wondering if that may be part of my answer;

“No one ever develops greed on the basis sastra, nor is there any consideration of qualification or lack thereof for obtaining the coveted goal. Rather, greed arises spontaneously simply on hearing about or seeing the object of one’s greed”. (raga varma candrika Text 5)

That’s it – the key point here is greed. Greed is the qualification for entering spiritual life and to get greed you have to hear or see the object of one’s greed. So how does sadhu-sanga (or sadhu-seva as syamananda prabhu points out) apply to this and that there can be no progress without it?

I really find spiritual life to be like a carpet with intricate patterns. There are so many threads to keep track of, and they make such a beautiful pattern but you can’t see it before you have attained mastery of all the threads and know how to put it together. And you need to have a master to teach you how to make the carpet.

So yes, I get that without sadhu-sanga there can be no progress. But at the same time, greed is spontaneous and requires no qualification. I’m not really sure where I’m getting at with this line of thought.

But I have moved forward now. If I make no progress, it doesn’t matter. I just have to continue and may be I will have sadhu-sanga again. By continuing I may get enough sukriti to have sadhu-sanga again. Right now I don’t really see the reason to continue on, I just do anyway.

But reading about spiritual greed is really lovely. It’s such a beautiful feeling that’s being conveyed. If you think about material greed a feeling of disgust comes up. When reading about spiritual greed it’s so lovely – it’s like I can taste the feeling. I guess that’s one of the reasons I keep on going even when there are setbacks. I really love the feelings that scripture conveys.

Come to think about it- I really want to understand and learn about those feelings. Forget about practice, I want to learn about the feelings.

Lost faith, lost everything

Some weeks ago I had a discussion about transcendental sound. Somehow the discussion culminated (for me) into whether one can make any spiritual progress without sadhu-sanga even when one is diksa initiated, The answer I got was: there is no progress without sadhu-sanga. Period. In other words: I can forget about making any progress in my life. I thought I was at the stage of bhajana-kriya, but forget it. I’m still on sraddha, and moving backwards from there. I have been sad ever since. I have no sadhu-sanga or even association with more advanced devotees. So in reality it means I will never make progress in spiritual life (or at least for many years to come).

So why bother? Whenever I think of doing something spiritual, the thought “Why bother?” comes up in my mind. I have stopped reading books. I have stopped. It runs even deeper than that, because why get up in the morning when there is no hope for me? I have lost the meaning of my life. Before I always thought that whatever defect there were, was in me. I could fix me. But now when there is no hope without sadhu-sanga, then why bother? There is no reason for me to keep drudging on, there’s nothing there to give me hope anymore. I used to think that at least when I kept reading books etc. there was something there that helped me move on. Kept the seed of bhakti watered – whatever poorly.

I have never been so low before. I have never had such a huge crisis in my spiritual life before when I have lost the point of even trying.

Spiritually lost

In spiritual life there is a goal – a clear defined goal. To develop love for God. Though you don’t achieve a goal easily. You don’t even get a goal easily. A goal is something you develop over time – a desire you work for.

I don’t have a goal in my spiritual life. On the contrary, I want my life to become more materially successfull, and let my spiritual life be a hobby that I do in-between.

How am I supposed to even have a goal when I have no understanding of what spirituality is? Let me give you a story to illustrate. Someone who I’ve known for a long time see me as someone I’m not. She understands me based upon herself and her little world. So she tries to cast me into this role in her world that she understands. She knows depression, so if I’m going through some hard ordeals she thinks I’m depressed. I’m not, but she don’t know what my life is like so she uses only what she knows. She is unable to perceive my life, how I think and who I am because she have no experience with my life. She has no capacity to see beyond her own life.

I’m like her when it comes to spiritual life. I have no experience of what spiritual life is – so how am I supposed to get a spiritual goal? To change my perceptions into something spiritual? I consider myself to be a very intelligent person, I read a lot of spiritual books but I know that even though my intelligence makes me understand a whole lot, that intelligence is of little value in spiritual life. Spiritual life is about developing feelings. Even worse, it’s about developing feelings I have no experience of and is not of the world I’m in.

So then there’s mercy. There’s a lot about how you have to receive your Gurudeva’s mercy to be able to progress in spiritual life. Well, I don’t understand mercy. I especially don’t understand spiritual mercy. That is *really* above my understanding.

So I’m in this material box. I know there’s a spiritual box – I’m trying to look into that box. But my tools for entering this spiritual box is all wrong. I know on the theoretical platform I’m supposed to chant, do my gayatri and do all these things. Then my ability to get into the spiritual box will reveal itself. Except – I’m unable to. What motivation do I really have to work towards this spiritual box when all I know is this material box and how that one works?

I’m so lost. I need help. I’m so unqualified to receive help – even if I got help served on a golden platter I wouldn’t be able to take it. That’s how lost I am.

Taking ones knowledge to the next level

Srila Vishvanata Chakravarti Thakura

I love reading and have read so many devotional books. But for all my reading, I’m unskilled in talking about my faith. Whenever somebody asks me to describe my belief I’m at a loss for what to say:

“Uuhm, it’s about loving God – which by the way is a person with opinions and can talk.”

Yes, I really suck that badly.

I need to take my reading to a higher level – I need to start studying. Learning verses, learning sanskrit. I need to find a way to talk about my beliefs in a way that meets people. But whenever I try to learn verses, it’s like whatever I try just slides away. My brain doesn’t want to enter this knowledge.

In one book it was mentioned that my Gurudeva used to train his disciples by making them learn one verse each day. That’s effective! I know none. So I have been wondering how I can start studying and learning. Since I’m a gadget lover – of course I turn to technology for help.

First off – evernote is the place I make notes. For sanskrit learning I have found Evernote peek – a nice way to memorize words and verses.

So I’ve found some technology that I think will work well with me. But now I need to start studying. Which in itself seems like an obstacle I have. Reading is easy, because it requires nothing of me. Studying on the other hand – and memorizing. Bah…

 

Keeping our prioritizes straight in troubling times

I was on my way to my regular cafe when I met an acquaintance of mine. During our quick talk she asked me if I was Christian, and I said that I had a little known religion – the Hare Krishna’s.

“Oh, I was on the way to become a Hare Krishna when I was younger”, she told me.
“I went to a temple there and they were very strict about controlling peoples sexuality. They didn’t even have doors on the toilet. And further down in the stair there were mirrors , so anybody could look into the toilet when somebody was there.”

I cringed. Then I cringed again.

People oftentimes leave this belief, or at least stay away, but may keep some shadow of the philosophy in them. The story above isn’t even extreme when it comes to the things that have taken place. But nowhere is it stated that this is okey. Usually people leave because this life style becomes too austere, too intense, and they aren’t mature enough spiritually to deal with it properly. They get an adverse reaction.

It isn’t the philosophy which advocates a very idealized version of how to live. It’s the errors humans make that ruins things. It’s the lack of maturity and tolerance in dealing with conflicts, disagreements, quarrels and all the things that follows with people. It’s a lack of keeping what’s important in the forefront of our priorities.

And what is that?

tasmad gurum prapadye

tajijnasuh shreya uttamam

shabde pare cha nishna

tambrahmany upashamashrayam

SB 11.3.21/SBG p. 314/BRSB p. 38, 44/Arcana-dipika/Guru-Devatatma p. 11

 

Therefore (because one cannot attain real peace or happiness in this material world), a person who seriously desires the ultimate spiritual perfection must seek a bona fide Guru and take shelter of him. The qualifications of Sri Guru is that (1) he has fully realised the Vedic scriptures (sabda-brahma) and (2) the Supreme Absolute Truth (para-brahma), and (3) for whom the mundane world holds no charm whatsoever.

Make sure that one is in the association of a pure devotee. But how many of us are able to stay in association of a pure devotee? I’m not.

So how do I deal with disappointment in a so-called guru and a sanga’s way of dealing with bad behavior and even crimes?

I first realized that the issue didn’t make any difference to my faith in Gurudeva and this philosophy. Their truth still stood strong and correct.

My second realization is that I have to keep a healthy distance between my beliefs and human errors. Now this is easy when I live with no association what so ever, but living a life in this material world is teaching me one thing. Keep a healthy distance. Disappointments are fine, it’s part of life. Learn from them, but not let it affect you.

Thirdly, just keep on chanting, reading, doing your bhajana. In the end, all the badness (and goodness) is just a mental exercise. I have to make sure that the only thing that gets between the bond between me and my Guru is me. I can do something about me. What I can’t do is focus on everybody else.

This advice is only for people that aren’t in the position to do something about it. If one is in the middle of it and are affecting the situation, these advice helps, but there are much more to it than that.

People makes mistakes. That’s okey, it’s not the end of the world. But if you lack the sense of discrimination in a bad situation, it will affect you negatively. That’s when you have to search the scriptures to find what the correct behavior in the situation are. Seek advice and make sure they are in accordance with the scriptures. And never give up, be disappointed and disparaged, but never give up. Use your intelligence to make sure you take care of yourself appropriately and that it will not affect your faith badly.

And that’s one of the areas where I have found a test – if something affects my faith badly, I know I’m doing something wrong in that situation. Then I ask myself why.

So recognize when something resonates badly in you, and then make a change with yourself that changes the situation to a good one for you. Just make sure that it increases your faith, not diminish it.

Chant and be happy

What is happiness anyway?

It’s a byproduct – something that happens when you are doing something else. Nobody can decide “Now I’m happy” and lo and behold “suddenly you are happy”. That’s the problem with happiness – it’s just too big, too loaded.

smile

Then I realized I had something even more important. I’m attracted. I’m attracted to chanting, to reading my Gurudeva’s books, reading about the pastimes, the kirtans, everything. Sure, I’ve had moments where it becomes to intense, too tiresome, too … “give me a breather!”, but the attraction is there.

And isn’t attraction a sort of happiness? When there is attraction we naturally gravitate towards it, we find it pleasurable and continue doing it. Which is probably why I continue chanting and reading. There is something there, in those activities that is just…. right. There are moments where I just want to give it all up, and I do – for that moment. The next day I’m right back at it, may be a bit grumpy about it, but still. I’m there. Continuing even when there doesn’t seem to be any progress. The progress is that I’m still there. Continuing.

But then, if there is no progress, what’s the point anyway? The progress is there, but it’s just too slow for me to really notice. But when I have these moments of clarity, I do see it. There is progress, however slow.

When I’m not that satisfied, I can always rely on another wisdom. We are striving for service to Gurudeva. So even if I haven’t realized my spiritual identity, I can still do the important part. To keep aspiring to do service to Gurudeva. That will not change no matter what I have realized or not. As long as I keep aspiring to do better for my Gurudeva, then I’m alright.

So thank you Gurudeva, for making this spiritual process available to me. I hope you will continue guiding me through all my faults.