Monday, December 04, 2006

Three good things and wallowing

A few days ago, the following story was making the rounds in the newspapers and the internet: Researchers seek routes to a happier life. The theory is that happiness or distress are all in the mind, a concept that will be familiar to Hindus. The tactic these psychologists have "discovered" is that by consciously meditating on three good things that happened to one at the end of each day, one accentuates the positive and becomes genuinely happier over the course of time.

This is, of course, the idea of self-satisfaction. One should be happy with one's lot--after all, was it not God or Destiny that put us here, and should we not cultivate santosh, or contentedness? And is it not a sign of spiritual poverty to be discontent? A hungry man experiences satisfaction, pleasure and the elimination of hunger as he eats, so does the devotee experience the corresponding bhakti (devotion), paresanubhava (direct experience of God) and viraktir anyatra (indifference elsewhere). And is it not said that devotion is ahaituki and apratihata--above material causes and unimpeded by material obstacles? So why not cultivate satisfaction? Is that not what "faith" is all about--the confidence that Krishna is our protector and provider?

The Lord is my shepherd;
I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me to water in places of repose;
He guides me in right paths
as befits His name.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,
I fear no harm, for You are with me;
Your rod and your staff-they comfort me.
You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my drink is abundant.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for many long years.


As for me, I am living in this Western world, where hunger is virtually non-existent. It is a cold country, but my home is cozy. It is a land where there are no wars or upheavals. My health is good. My wife loves me in spite of my miserable nature and the lack of reward, and my son is growing up tall, strong and intelligent. Let me count my blessings!

So what is this that thrusts me into a paroxysm of dissatisfaction? Is there something about this damned path I have taken that drives me to perpetual lamentation? zUnyAyitaM jagat sarvam ! It seems appropriate, now that I think of it: "Jagat has turned into a Complete Nothing."

One of my coworkers, a committed Catholic practitioner, came into my office today and gave me a spiritual pep-talk, just out of the blue. Perhaps my expression and body language are more revealing than I think. "God is standing just on the other side of the door. Open the door and you will see he has always been there with you, ready to embrace you in His arms."

I don't want to hear that everything is as God wants it. I know that already. I know that my own profound Catholic samskar tells me, along with Kant, that this is a cross I have to bear. But right now, it feels like pain without any gain.

I know there is more than one hard-hearted Hindu out there who will look at me and say that I deserve to suffer. Why should I not? I have abandoned Srila Prabhupada. I have defended Sahajiyaism and I refuse to recant. And even though I say it is because I must follow my ashram dharma, I do so begrudgingly, without the joy and love that are essential elements of success in dharma. Why mention anything more than this? For my sins and offenses, surely I should have expected all this--to be further from Vrindavan, further from the association of devotees, further from bhakti than I ever have been. Further from the exemplary life, further from the ability to exercise charity, due to an extreme poverty of the spirit.

When I first came back from India, I stayed in Manhattan for a few months, living with my sister. Once we went to eat in a vegetarian restaurant. At the next table was a beautiful woman whom I recognized as the model whose face was on a billboard just near my sister's apartment. Somehow we started talking and I told her about the life I had been living. I was, like many blooped devotees, very self-conscious about the life I had lived in the Krishna-conscious movement, and so I came across rather negatively. This woman, in true New Yorker fashion, berated me, "Either accept it and make something of it, or move on." She had no tolerance for my moping, and indeed, it does not behoove me any more than it did Arjuna.

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Actually, I did have a very encouraging blessing this last week. Ashok Aklujkar sent a very generous donation to the Gaudiya Grantha Mandir. This means that we will be able to start making improvements in the site very soon. Madhavananda will be taking care of the work in his customarily expert way. But I have no time to work on it. Can you not see why I rage?

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Reminds me all of this beautiful verse by Sanatan Prabhu--

na premA zravaNAdi-bhaktir api vA
yogo’thavA vaiSNavo
jnAnaM vA zubha-karma vA kiyad aho
saj-jAtir apy asti vA |
hInArthAdhika-sAdhake tvayi tathApy
acchedya-mUlA satI
he gopI-jana-vallabha ! vyathayate
hA hA mad-Azaiva mAm ||

I have no prema.
Nor do I engage in hearing and chanting,
the practices that lead to prema.
I have not the self-discipline befitting a Vaishnava.
Nor do I have wisdom, nor, alas, pious works.
I am not even of good birth.

O Gopijanavallabha!
You are said to bring fulfilment
to those who are most unworthy,
yet the hope for your mercy,
which is pure and holy,
and so deeply rooted within me that I cannot cut it out,
brings me nothing but pain.


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So I read that over. "Wallowing" is the only word for it. Sorry for inflicting that on the Vaishnava world! Are there any Vaishnavas out there being inflicted? It seems unlikely...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everyone is being inflicted. According to Srila Rupa Goswami, the only rasa in this world is disgust. Even when people love one another, like a wife loves a husband, that very love may be a source of torment if its disconnected from Krsna - useless love. The difference between the vaishnava world and the world of the "karmis" is that vaishnavas aspire to make a connection with the world of Krsna, willing to surrender whatever it takes, whatever the pain. The non-vaishnavas, the "karmis" on the other hand, try to connect to each other by trading, even banning the presence of God if they find it convenient and effective to their plan. Therefore, whatever beauty non-vaishnavas find in their trivial casts, from candles to cathedrals, crumbles to a pile of rubish and ruble in the eyes of the vaishnava. We must be brave to call a spade a spade. We must try to see these things from the point of view of the devotee in us. A devotee is very well acquainted with the beautiful sights of the world, heard all the uplifting voices of so many choirs, but still pines for fulfillment. Krsna alone can satisfy that heart.

As far as difficulties faced by vaishvanas of today, especifically our family, the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, there is the samadhi of Rupa Goswami reportedly desintegrating rapidly due to the destructive effect of the paint used on it over the years. It appears the samadhi is going to be taken down by none other than Bhakti Gaura Narasingha Maharaja, commissioned as he is to rebuild the structure. A change like this in the place of repose of Srila Rupa Gosvamipada, where we go for inspiration and mercy, is rather disturbing. We see all around us that, in this world, in general, changes tend to mean that onother door, another window to the spiritual reality is closing. Kaliyuga advances, things deteriorate. There are other disturbing things in the minds of the Vaishnavas of today, such as the way the current economic boom of India is affecting Vrindavana, Govardhan and such sacred places. Vrindavana is growing incontrolably, not only in structure but also its people are growing insensitivity to the devotional feelings of its residents of the past. Such events are disturbing to Vaishnavas of all groups, and despite the unified feeling of resistance and hope, the different groups cannot cease to disagree with one another in so many fronts. Kaliyuga advances. So, when you speak of sankirtan,if you can, please bring us sankirtan as per the feelings of Srila Rupa Goswami. At this point, I don't think Christmas carols and such vocal imperatives will resound as beautiful in the tattered, suffered small chambers of our hearts.

Jagat said...

Sorry, my dear Anonymous, for not answering you with more alacrity. I know that it is most annoying when people start lamenting publicly about their existential condition. We would much rather see them heroically achieve their stated goals.

Prema prayojan. Don't worry. I am heading there. It is just that my personality is such that I tend to need finding a solution to problems of this sort.

When I can prove to my own satisfaction, without simple recourse to authority, that the principle of serving God can override other responsibilities, then I think it will make a big difference in my actions. A different type of person would find me to be extremely hesitant, but I am simply being myself, as it were.

On the whole, though, I agree with you and I appreciate your encouragement.

Jai Radhe!

Jagat