Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reflections on impulsiveness.

Reflecting on the Sampradaya Sun comments. There were a few letters back and forth between myself and Rocana. Finally, I apologized for my unpleasant telegrams.

So Krishna says, "kama esa", it is "lust" that drives us impulsively to act, even against our will, in sinful activities.

At the same time, we hope to be able to act naturally, in harmony with our best nature, the will of God, etc. Spontaneous action in some circles is often called the highest state--the "zone," zen, or whatever. In other words, it seems that there is a place where we are free from the need to use our intelligence, or at least to agonize over difficult decisions. Where we can believe that our actions are at one with the purpose of the universe. Is that liberation?

Buddhi has an internal and an external aspect. Externally it is called reason, internally, it is called intuition.

Impulsive action is often followed by reflection--sometimes lengthy. Because we frequently act impulsively and without knowing our true motivations. As if we ever really know the purpose behind our actions--that is why we postulate that there is a higher will that is the ultimate cause.

But certainly intuitions or impulses in the modes of ignorance, passion or even goodness, have generally undesired consequences. This leads to reflection.

Other problems come later, when we either analyze or refuse to analyze our actions. Sometimes the impulses can come from the lower modes and we mistake them for the higher. The rationalists say that too often religion is the lower modes masquerading as the will of God. Why? Because someone has taken half the hen of buddhi and disregarded the other half.

Sometimes it is the will of God that we act on impulses born of the lower modes, but then by reflecting on it, by analyzing the consequences of those acts, we can learn more clearly what our true motivations were, and this leads to self-purification.

Of course, as Siva so persistently preaches--there is nothing but the will of God. And it would be good to bear this in mind and reflect on it. What we reflect on, then, is not so much our strategies, but the purity of our motives. Everything is seen in the optic of our devotion and the depth of our love for Krishna. Joy and suffering are all waves in the ocean of bhakti; our wisdom and foolishness simply subplots in the great adventure of diving deeper into that ocean.

Look before you leap. Think before you act. These are common expressions, and yet to be able to act without thinking, to make decisions instinctively, these are qualities we would like to possess. Too much thoughtfulness is suicidal in a leader. And so, leaders are often the ones who are least reflective.

Often the case is, I believe, that a leader's reflective period is behind him when he takes the position of leadership. For him or her, the danger is that the complementary aspects of buddhi will go out of balance. He may at first be admired for the depth of erudition or wisdom, by which he attracts followers. This results in a primary period of leadership, when the charisma of utter conviction descends upon him.

At some point, though, hubris sets in. He starts believing in the infallibility of his instincts and his impulses. He no longer has the time to reflect on his decisions because of the increased responsibilities, especially those towards the people who have faith in him. He starts having to preserve and protect his image. Doubt is now a defect, an enemy of progress. Imbalance sets in, sometimes with disastrous consequences. But ultimately, corrections are required and the required reflection must be performed. (See this article: Lifehacking for candidates)

In this particular case, I responded to Hrishikesh's article rapidly, not to it as a whole, but only to the Hoffer name, because I had read Hoffer before. I thought to myself, "This is a good article because it quotes Hoffer, and I approve of Hoffer." Even though it has been years since the last time I read The True Believer, or Eric Fromm and others who wrote in reflection on the Nazi period, and whose thoughts were furthered by analysts of cult phenomena in the 60's and 70's. I remembered Kundali's Our Mission series, which despite its defects, should be required reading for anyone participating in the Krishna Consciousness Movement.

But to be honest, I had not read Hrishikesh's article throughly, and therefore any comment I made was not done reflectively at all. So looking on this particular case in self-analysis, I would say that my impulsive letter to Rocana was an act of ahankar, based on my own pride in having read Hoffer before it was the custom to do so. In other words, I was approving myself rather than any other person. Rocana sensed this and he responded. So I stand admonished.

This belongs to a wider reflection on impulse where it concerns archetypal behavior or archetypal possession. It is, of course, just a different way of framing the same question of impulse and intuition. Nevertheless, it is useful, because it is about analysing our Gods, purifying our Gods, as it were.

When Krishna says that faith is in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance, he is saying more than "Krishna worship is transcendental. Therefore you are the good guys and everyone else is bad." Kapila talks about the modes of nature and bhakti. The fact is that our very concept of God is contaminated by the modes of nature and that reflects in our every action, even when it is draped in the nimbus of spirituality.

On the other hand, God fulfills countless objectives with each action: who knows how many insects or subtle creatures are affected? If the will of God is that we should act impulsively, He knows the results, good or bad, that will accrue. And even if we engage in the purest act of selfless love, the consequences in the world may be mixed and lead to apparent suffering, even for the person performing the act.

The other side of selfless action is detachment from the results. In Yoga-sutra 2.1, ishwara-pranidhana is defined by Vyasa as "offering all actions to God and detachment from their results." This is a basic element in bhakti that we often forget about, even though Prabhupada in the second and third chapters of his Gita draws an (admittedly somewhat confusing) equals sign between karma-yoga and bhakti-yoga; if bhakti-yoga is understood as Vyasa understands ishwara-pranidhana here, then that element of intersection becomes clearer.

Whatever the case, even if "offering all actions to God," may be nothing more than aropa-siddha bhakti, and giving up the results also bahya, age koho ara, they are integral to the performance of bhakti and its purification.

Every act of devotion must be ahaituki and apratihata. Ahaituki means that it is done for the pleasure of Krishna, and apratihata means that any apparently untoward consequence of bhakti must not impede the impulse to devotion.

Anyway, I am of the opinion, and I have said this before, that I do not really believe in mukti at all. All this talk of shunya, is good as far as it takes us to desirelessness and to renunciation, to attentiveness and care, but insofar as it is a means to bypassing intelligence, of renouncing effort, etc., I think it misses the point.

There is a joy in struggling, too. Remorse is also a vibhava in bhakti-rasa. And that is why viraha plays such a big role in the entire scheme of bhakti, because there is always a struggle to go further, to discover the next manjil of joy in infinity.

The gopis were dancing with Krishna when they felt pride. But later we find out that their pride was not really the issue, the game of hide-and-seek was.

One last thing, I have to say, is that I am at a state of pretty much not-caring. When I left Iskcon, it was because I decided that building Krishna Disneyland was not the same as seeking prema bhakti. Wrong or right, that was the decision I made then, and I am going to stick with it.

I prefer wisdom to scholarship, but I have neither. I prefer prema to yoga, but I have neither. na dhanam na janam. I don't care. This lifetime or the next, I don't care. I am just a chatak, Prabhu. Let me do what little I can. Engage me as you like. That's all.

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