Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Vaishnava

I got a letter from a devotee who called himself an “accidental hermit.” He said he was gloomy because he has outgrown the Hare Krishnas and religious people in general reject new ideas. He finds that many of them are locked into “scripture-repeat” and “look-for-heretic” mode. Nevertheless, he is attached to his friends, who are all devotees. But if says something that doesn’t conform to their ideas, he loses his friends, so he remains mum. The long and short is that he feels lonely, but can find no solace in New Age, or anything else. At the same time, he cannot blindly follow scripture.


This is my quite short answer:

Yes, you have put your finger on a problem--that of the loneliness of the individual. Since individuals evolve, human groupings, like religions, must evolve. IGM have the big problem of a very dominant charismatic founder. That magnifies small heresies.

A truly big tent has to account for and permit a certain amount of heresy, i.e., allow for the maximum of individuality, debate and democracy within its confines.

Since that seems impossible within most of the IGM, we have to look for ways to create sanghas in which evolving Vaishnavas can find companionship and encouragement.

The main problem here is that most developments tend to be "vertical" rather than "horizontal." In other words, splinter groups formed around individual leaders (gurus) and their disciples, rather than groups of like-minded friends with common aspirations.

Another problem is that Vaishnavism is so widely dispersed. Facebook is no substitute for personal contact, but at least it makes worldwide communication possible. And that can encourage us to look for more advanced association, in the faith that it is possible.

I feel for you, especially since you must be feeling the loneliness very strongly to state it right out. I mean, that requires a bit of self-examination, honesty and courage also, since most people on the internet and Facebook are all about making a show; after all, Facebook means showing a face, a mask.

But those people who get caught up in an "anti-Iskcon-Gaudiya Math" mood are not accounting for their positive experiences. They tend to blow them away as some kind of mass hallucination. You, at least, recognize that you still have enough in common with the devotees you knew that you still consider them friends and want to keep them as your friends.

My personal approach has been based on an investigation of the essences. What exactly was it that attracted us to this particular spiritual path (thus making New Age and other processes unsatisfactory), and what can we reject without losing that core.

Jai Radhe and good luck. My prayers are with you.


Almost Anon said...

Dear Jagat,

Thank you for this beautiful and emotional post. I completely understand that person. I can call him/her my brother or sister.

We feel same. For that same reason I try to connect with devotees like like you, Jagat, who are full of inspiration and who walk the same path of public disapproval and ridicule.

But that's what we are; we oppose common wisdom and norm. We consciously take that risk and there's no return. It's what we are. It takes courage, and it asks for sacrifice.

Yes, you'll see finally who your friends really are and where their loyalty lies -- in following the doctrine and rules, or dwelling in bliss, sharing it joyously with all people, no matter what, no matter where.

And, ah, no, we're not alone. We're homeless, yet the whole world is our home.

Anonymous said...

I have purchased a property that will soon be ready for a small ashram atmosphere for bhajan sadhana and Vaishnav Sanga - so maybe some sincere people can gather together...???

Anonymous said...

I was going to comment, "Ah look at all the lonely people, ta ra ta ra ta ra ta ra..."

Then I read the comment by Almost Anon, went to his link and thought, "Ah, look at all the looneys out there, ta ra ta ra ta ra ta ra ta...."

Anonymous said...

Sorry Jagat, this is totally inane.

All people know they can get killed on the roads but still they travel each day. Same with Facebook. To say Facebook's privacy policy and the ads displayed there are weird is an understatement. But many opt for FB. Despite all dangers it's still a way to get to know people.

Why do you blog? Is that because no one can get in touch with you and you have nothing to say? And you won't tell them through numerous posts anything about how deeply you're disappointed with IGM, reasons why, and that there's, maybe, a better and less frustrating thing to waste your life into?

You know exactly what's wrong, and how to help, but it is easier to indecisively dance around with inconclusive statements pointing faintly that everybody is, in the end, same as IGM to some extent, no matter where and behind what mask they hide.

Such attitude discourages people to join together, to discuss, share ideas freely. You give them no reason to try, to create something. Your 'Good luck, Jay Radhe' at the end of message sounds like a 'Goodbye, there's no hope anyway'.

Come on Jagat!

Jagat said...

Thanks for the comments. Community is unfortunately more than a property. There are loads of empty ashrams. Nevertheless, do bhajan and kirtan and deity worship. Invite your friends and preach according to your realization without ego or expectation of results.

Well. With regards to the other comment, I started to give a long answer, but I would have to go into all the dynamics of what happened on Gaudiya Discussions.

Creating community, as I said, is not easy. And that is all I am going to say right now. I have been thinking about this for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3,
perhaps you know it yourself really well, anyone online can point a finger into another one, make fun of him and stay anonimous.
Being looney is a norm for everyone involved in GV, this way or another. If you were not a looney yourself, you'd clearly write who you really are.
But you're afraid, same as myself, knowing already GV world is a world full of looneys.

Anonymous said...

Pranams ~

Jagat, I liked your post. One of the benefits of "being lonely" is one is forced to go within.

The solitary life also gives one more time to read, if one is fortunate enough to have access to continuing spiritual educational materials.

Then, one can become:

1) more serious.

EXAMPLE: Recently I ran into a friend who I knew in my years as part of an institution. S/he "could not believe" how much I had matured in the years since we had both left the institution.

So, there can be benefits to "loneliness".

2) Also, I spent some time learning about other traditions in Hinduism that emphasize the solitary meditator.

It's called an "anchorite": i.e. you do independent study/ solitary meditation, in the privacy of your own bhajan kutir.

The benefits of that course of study is:

a) you learn how to go within

b) "within" is what all of this stuff is supposedly about anyway

c) you develop an unshakeable confidence in the realizations that you achieve from hours of contemplation and meditation aka going within

d) looking back from that vantage point of deep within, you can then see how many people in the various sanghas might have been out to exploit you in one way or another.

It becomes more transparent how some in the sangha just used the sangha time as one big party at the neophyte's expense.

So it can become a HUGE blessing to go it alone when the "training wheels" or "crutches" of over dependence on external things is removed.

And who knows? At the time of death you may very well be alone. So it may even be benefic to develop a type of spiritual backbone.

Jaya Radhe!

Anonymous said...

Jagat:" bhajan and kirtan and deity worship. Invite your friends and preach according to your realization without ego or expectation of results."

Good advice Jagat- This is the second house I have purchased and fixed up for this purpose, but no-one seems to respond. I guess most people do not really want live-in community. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

I conccur with the roadkill comment: the only option is to keep trying. Communities are not only possible but they are in fact inevitable. Nowadays they spring up on the internet, but only to live shorter lives and absolutely not measuring up to the virtual communities of yore. So why not revert back to face to face life, but with improvements?

Internet communities are a sad spectacle. In these places people are cheated out of their wholeness, of much precious time. What is apparently gained is not of return value, that is, there is more loss than gain. All things considered it is not a deal worth keeping. Everyone knows this, but the wheels keep grinding.

Nirjana Zindabad! said...

This sums up just about every vaishnava that I'm friends with. We all feel the same way. Except we rather prefer NOT living in a "community".

The community thing might be nice for a retreat every once in a while though..... well, depending on the attendees.

Anonymous said...

I rather "fight" with vaisnavas than be friendly and materialists. But being alone is not an option.

Anonymous said...

Well Nirjana, the moment you share something, there you have it: community!

Jagat said...

Not so big on fighting with Vaishnavas myself.

Anonymous said...

"I rather 'fight' with vaisnavas than be friendly with materialists but empty."

There. Its fixed.

Jagat said...

I understand. I hate the emptiness of materialism too. And I would rather argue with Vaishnavas about sambandha, abhidheya and prayojana than almost any kind of modality of materialistic discourse.

But I really hate that conflict zone when the kanishtha adhikari starts hurling the words "envy" and "aparadha." It is almost preferable to just skirt the issue rather than speak the truth openly.

Anonymous said...

I understand too. Its the downside of community, the umplesantness of bumping yet again into yet another slow catcher. But skirting the issue always is not possible. Eventually the truth has to be said (or heard), face to face, as it is, fall where it may. But the result can only be beauty. That is the beauty of it. Avoiding community is for cowards.

Nirjana Zindabad! said...

"I rather 'fight' with vaisnavas than be friendly with materialists but empty."

I'd rather be a friend to all sentient beings and full of the relish of rasik katha heard in the sanga of raganuga bhaktas.

Anonymous said...

"I'd rather be a friend to all sentient beings and full of the relish of rasik katha heard in the sanga of raganuga bhaktas."

Yes Nirjana thats the ideal, no doubt.

And I have no compuction in fighting tooth and nail with any sentient being who gets in the way of my sanga with raganuga bhaktas. Rasik katha: a cause to die for, no doubt.

Nirjana Zindabad! said...

"And I have no compuction in fighting tooth and nail with any sentient being who gets in the way of my sanga with raganuga bhaktas. Rasik katha: a cause to die for, no doubt."

Seek professional help.

Anonymous said...

"Seek professional help."

According to whom?

dr.jaya said...

- It's called an "anchorite": i.e. you do independent study/ solitary meditation, in the privacy of your own bhajan kutir.---
well said. actually we are 'never' alone according to the Upanishadic statement.....
dvA suparNA sayujA sakhAyA samAnaM
vrikshaM parisha svajAte tayor anyaH
pippalaM svAdvattyan aznanna nyo

(Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1)

Two birds that are EVER associated and have SIMILAR forms, cling to the SAME tree.
Of these, the one EATS the fruit of divergent tastes, and the other LOOKS ON without eating.

So the so called 'loneliness' is just a misnomer!

jaya sri radhe!

Anonymous said...

Loneliness and Spirituality

Once two students went to a worthy teacher to learn about Brahman.
The teacher said he will first have to take a test to see if they were fit to learn of Brahman.

He gave them both a pigeon and told them, "Go into the deep forest and making sure that no one else is LOOKING - then kill the pigeon and bring it back."

Both the students went off into the forest. After a while the first student came back with a dead pigeon. The teacher asked, "Did you make sure
that no one else was looking, when you killed the pigeon?"

"Yes, I made sure, apart from me there was no one else when I killed the pigeon," replied the young student.

Soon the second student arrived. He had not killed the pigeon. The
teacher asked why? The student replied, "I wanted to carry out your instructions so I went into the deep forest, I looked around and made sure that no one else
was looking. Then I tried to kill the pigeon, but I could not. You
see, the pigeon was LOOKING at me! How can I carry out your instruction?"

The teacher was very pleased with the second student. He was a fit candidate to learn of Brahman.

In fact he was already an
advanced student. When one sees all creation with respect
and offers special reverence to all living things - pigeons included - one is a fit student of spirituality.