Monday, May 05, 2014

Nostalgia for the magic moments of genuine community, and how to find them again

I need to be doing more Harinam sankirtan and publicly talking about bhakti. For twenty years I have been mucking about on the internet. To what avail? When I started my blog, it was really to avoid public forums like Facebook.


Of course, at that time I had just gone through the whole Gaudiya Discussions fiasco, when the private correspondence I was having on that site was hacked and a romantic relationship with another member was revealed. It was also made clear and public at that time that my thoughts on Krishna consciousness tended to the Sahajiya side.

Many people on Gaudiya Discussions felt personally deceived by me and the entire site crashed and everyone went their own way. For a short time -- but it only takes a few moments for epiphanies to take place -- GD was something of a "magic place" where discussions were hot but polite, where information was shared and everyone was curious and eager to know, where much poetry was written, some original, some translation. It almost seemed for a minute there that a different kind of Krishna consciousness world was possible.

Like all good things, our fantasy world's inherent weaknesses came to light, and all of us who were there moved on. But of course most of us found it hard to move back to the old ISKCON-Gaudiya Math mode of bhakti practice. It is one of those unfortunate milk to dahi equations, once milk has become yogurt, it is impossible for it to go back. We continue to try to find that old naiveté from time to time, but we cannot do so in the company of the truly naif. Or worse, the willfully blind.

As soon as one says openly that one is a Sahajiya, and I make a general rule and speak for all of us idiots who have done so in the past, is that we immediately become the object of jokes, rumor, scorn, innuendo and often genuinely nasty behavior. In my case there were many kind people and friends, as well as wise people who are not so caught up in idealizing others, who did not stop loving me. In fact, it is more I who abandoned them. I went inward, as I tend to do. I wrote my blog, but even there I interacted less and less.

In a sense, I welcomed the freedom of responsibility. It is my tendency to recoil, to gaze long into the fire. My best friend tells me that love means taking responsibility for people, getting involved with them, finding out HOW to help them spiritually by actually knowing and caring for them. Even words of sympathy and caring are often a greater balm than wisdom. People don't care all that much for well-meaning advice, at least the psychological moment when there is sufficient synchronicity that a meaningful message that is truly helpful on the path to love can be transmitted. After all, what does anyone know of another's suffering? so asks Radha.

There is a difference between liberation and prema, and I never quite seem to get it. And yet, the formula is easy: Just care about others, and let the chips fall where they may. Stop thinking about yourself. You are not the be-all and end-all of the universe. The entertainments of myth, philosophy and ritual are not the same thing as love, though in our beautiful religion, they are mutually, explosively nourishing.

So is the internet a place to love in community? This is actually what we felt in Gaudiya Discussions -- community. But how can you build stable Krishna conscious community that is not militarily hierarchical? Of natural and democratized leadership? Can it be done on the internet? Can anyone actually be vulnerable, i.e. him or herself, without masks, on the internet? Or are we all worried about being spied upon, of having our fears and self-doubts and stupidities and perverted proclivities revealed for all to know and snear at? And if not everyone, some evil person in some position of bureaucratic nastiness who could make our lives a hell?

It seems quite unlikely that such a magic moment could ever return as we, or at least I, knew on GD. But it always helps us to clarify our objectives when we analyze what was it that went right along with what went wrong, and when we get beyond the stage where we are talking personalities and specific wrongdoings instead of loving. I don't mean the kind of letting things slide when charismatic or powerful individuals have their "falldowns", but out of charity for the frailties of human nature and the awareness that we are ALL subject to those frailties. If not in one, then in another. And when we squeak the loudest about someone else's shortcomings, it is usually because we can feel the presence of our own shadow lurking.

When community is democratic and egalitarian, then leadership is exercised in common. That is not artificial and manipulable as in the impersonal model of democratic nation states. It cannot happen in a legalistic or authoritarian mode. It cannot happen when standards have to be met in order to fit in, thereby causing one to promote a persona rather than to be one's true and naked self to others.

It may be impossible to stay in community at all times, but community is certainly the greatest shelter known to humankind. If religion serves any purpose it is this. But it cannot serve this purpose unless there is individual spiritual maturity, where labor is divided naturally, and where the roles of guider and guided are embraced as naturally as parenthood and childhood.

Jai Sri Radhe


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