Friday, June 27, 2014

What is this religion good for?

"So, you are 65 and you wasted your whole life being a Krishna devotee, and now here you are stuck with this stupid religion and you got nowhere to go. So now what to do?"

Well, you came this far, you might as well just keep moving in the direction of Love.



I see a lot of other people in this boat; maybe they are drawn to me because of what they perceive as a similar attitude of cynicism, but in fact I am not one to regret the past. We are finally puppets in the hands of Time, after all, and our lives are so conditioned that self-knowledge is something of a fool's errand. So I take responsibility for the pain I have caused others and the mistakes I have made, with regret and sadness for as long as I contemplate their suffering. And I do contemplate it, for it is only in understanding the suffering that one causes that one can eliminate the causes of suffering.

I have tried to look at religion and Vaishnavism from both inside and out, just to try to make sense of the decisions I made in life. I can see both sides.

It is all a matter of applying the correct lenses to the correct task. You don't look at the moon through a microscope alone. Nor, as the saying goes, can you taste sweetness with anything but your tongue.



I heard through the grapevine of a devotee who asked, "What is this religion good for?" He is a man in his 60's, a businessman, a good man and intelligent. He had lived an ordinary life but stayed with devotees. He never found the association of non-devotees that appealing, especially for the meat eating, but even so he found that as time went by, even the devotee friends he had were slowly becoming more and more indifferent to the active spiritual core of the religion.

No one seemed worthy of veneration, least of all himself. What irritated him most was the way that it was all about personality cults, creating a spirit of hypocrisy and competitiveness amongst those who were supposed to be showing spiritual leadership. They became managers, or entertainers, but somehow, the crux of the matter, "love of God" seemed something that everyone had given up on for lesser goals.

He thought of his own basic values, American values, which had made him a small business success. It seemed that those values had stood him in better stead than those of the Krishna consciousness community. When he wanted to hire devotees, he always found them to be nearly useless as employees -- no work ethic -- and often self-righteous and smug beyond that.

He continued to do japa and live in a home environment that was sattvik and decorated in Krishna décor, but the alienation was slow and steady.

Finally, one day, the sky crashed in. His wife had been having an affair with another devotee. He had seen this played out a million times. Wherever there were devotee communities, he had seen it happen. And now his wife, whom he loved intensely, for whom he had provided for so many years, who was the mother of his children, whom they had raised into adulthood, had gone mad and fallen in love with another man, not because he was a better man, but because he was a "better devotee."

And the worst thing was that the guy was just another Hare Krishna bum. Spouting high-sounding words while living a parasitic life, just like all the other lazy bastards with their sense of entitlement because they are "brahmins" or somehow a class apart from lower mortals.

And so, after having spent the night nursing a tall Scotch in a bar, his head hanging deep in thought, he found himself wandering aimlessly through the dimly lit streets of a midwestern city in the early hours of the morning. Suddenly he threw his arms into the air and in a burst of emotion, cried out to the gods, "What is this religion good for?"

"Why have I obsessed with ephemera? Why have I made it important to be a devotee rather than something else? With every passing day, all the things that once seemed important about being a devotee -- from the grossest forms to their ever more subtle manifestations -- seem to be more and more trivial and unnecessary. What purpose did it really serve?

"And why oh why did I wish to look at the world through the lens of irrational myth rather than rational science?" With these last words, he shook an angry fist at the sky and said, "I will now fight against these falsehoods, these life-sucking myths that promote archaic medieval values that have no place in today's scientific world! I shall not rest until the last saffron-clad, tilak faced, so-called monk has been excised from the body of the earth and we all can live free of their deceitfulness!"

So saying, he picked himself up out of the gutter, for that is where he now found himself, having tripped and fallen in his transports, and brushing off the rotting leaves from his pantaloon, a new light in his eye, he walked towards the rising sun, a fresh gait in his step.



Well, not that last part, that was just for the dramatic effect, for Haridas as he is to be named, would never corrupt his body with alcohol, though he was somewhat devoted to the herb. And so he quietened his distress with yoga and fresh air activities, and patiently waited for his wife to come back to her senses.

Let us call her Anasuya, the non-envious one. One day, Anasuya found out that her lover was indeed a bum. In fact, almost everything Haridas had said about him was true. And her world also shattered.

So she too, with the loss of that last desperate grasp at romance and spirituality, that tremendous hope given her by the epiphanies of love that had shaken her existence so totally and so emphatically, was suddenly as empty as a punctured tire.

Her lover had sucked her in with talk of God and love, and it had all been nothing more than wisps of scented smoke, the deceptions of the charmer. Who needs these useless dhira-lalitas?

It was that very thing, that sexual charisma that she had detested all her life, the ephemeral and fragile male ego that always needed confirmation, which had fooled even her. It had entered as the Reality even here in the sacred space of her newly discovered world of True Love. Those very things she had run from all her life in disgust had crept in through her defenses and made a fool of her. She would not play Radha to this kind of unpleasant Krishna.

And she too looked at the sky and said halfheartedly, "Let's go with Buddhism or something."

But that is a story for another time.


1 comment:

Reptilian Alien said...

This religion is good for getting it's followers to prepare for the landing of the Mother Ship. Soon our invasion forces will be ready and we will re-take the earth.