Friday, June 15, 2018

3. Confession: Staking out the high ground: the swans and the crows

My first response to the debacle that was starting to reveal itself at the Paundraka Vrindavan Today was to say, This is all a distraction. Let the dogs bark, we thought. Let us keep pursuing our work at Vrindavan Today and not lose sight of what it is we are trying to achieve. And indeed, we have been getting clearer about what we are trying to achieve and how we are going to achieve it. It is an irony, intended or unintended, that Alex has achieved. He will make us stronger, while he himself is consumed by the various malevolent forces that led him to take the course of actions that he chose.

So though what follows in the other posts in this series, especially as stated in the prologue, appear to contradict this principle, I adhere to the principles stated in this article and these are indeed what motivates me in my own attempt to build my own character in the pursuit of prema-bhakti, which as you may recall, is the fundamental purpose of this website and my own life. Prema-bhakti in every respect -- psychological, sociological, anthropological, and all the rest.

Indeed, it is the principle of the last leg of this life's journey, which is to cultivate the sadhana of Braja-vasa.

This article was published on Vrindavan Today on May 25, 2018 as "Distinguishing between swans and crows."  I think that the original title was better as "Distinguishing between the holy places of the swans and the crows."

The philosophy that I have been trying to follow at Vrindavan Today is to be positive. We follow the dictum

satyaṁ brūyāt priyaṁ brūyat na brūyāt satyam apriyam |
priyaṁ ca nānṛtaṁ brūyāt eṣa dharmaḥ sanātanaḥ ||
Speak the truth and speak what is pleasing. Do not speak unpleasant truths. Speak only what is pleasing and not false [but don't lie to be pleasing!] this is the eternal principal of dharma. (Cānakya-śloka)
In practical terms, this means to me that when one seeks to create a coalition of people towards a particular goal, one has to spread one's net wide and not unnecessarily create barriers to good will by highlighting people's defects, real or - especially not - imagined. It means to highlight and accentuate the positive

In transcendent terms, it means cultivating a vision where everyone is engaged in serving God's will, directly or indirectly. The correct culture of that vision means that we should not waste our time in finding faults with others, but to highlight the positive as far as possible.

This is also central to the ethic of living in Vrindavan and the Vraja-vasa sadhana that I am trying to practice and, through Vrindavan Today, to propose to others. This is why we post here, for the devotees' pleasure, translations from Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, Vṛndāvana-sata-līlā, Vraja-vilāsa-stava , etc.

vṛndāvana iha vidhi basai taji kaiṁ saba abhimāna |
tṛna taiṁ nīcau āpakauṁ jānai soī jāna ||
komala cita saba sauṁ milai kabahuɱ kaṭhora na hoi |
nisprehī nirvairatā tākau satru na koi ||
To live in Vrindavan, give up all your mundane pride.
Think of yourself as lower than grass, for that is true knowledge.
Deal with everyone gently, don't ever be hard-hearted,
Give up material expectations and hostility, so that you make no enemies. (Vṛndāvana-sata-līlā, 87-88)
We believe, with Rupa Goswami, that the highest stage of bhajan, to which we aspire, includes the total reluctance to engage in nindā (anya-nindādi-śünya-hṛdayam), which is the flip side of total dedication to pure bhakti or ananyatā.

Now we have been faced with a rather unpleasant situation at Vrindavan Today and I feel that I have to make a public statement. A certain young man who helped design the web page for VT and was voluntarily hosting it, ostensibly as a service to Vrindavan Dham, decided that he was the real owner of the site and that he could do with it as he liked.

Now we see that what he likes is Vaishnava ninda and Vaishnava aparadha. We don't want to debase ourselves by engaging in a mud-slinging match with this young gentleman, because the nature of people like this is, sad to say, that they take pleasure in creating trouble while we strive for higher things. Now we see that he is attracting others of his own character and they are gleefully taking part in a festival of bathing in donkey urine, as Raghunath Das Goswami called it:

are cetaḥ prodyat-kapaṭa-kuṭināṭī-bhara-khara-
kṣaran-mūtre snātvā dahasi katham ātmānam api mām |
sadā tvaṁ gāndharvā-giridhara-pada-prema-vilasat-
sudhāmbhodhau snātvā svam api nitarāṁ māṁ ca sukhaya ||
My dear mind! Why do you burn me, your true self, by bathing in the urine of a donkey, which is the hypocritical politicking spirit of faultfinding and backbiting? Instead, you should bathe constantly in the nectar ocean of Gandharva and Giridhari's loving pastimes. In that way you will make both yourself and me truly happy. (Manaḥ-śikṣā 6)
This young man is taking advantage of the audience that we built up over eight years through our hard work and desire to serve Vrindavan and the lovers of Vrindavan. Now, he dresses himself in the sheep's clothing that we have given him, pretending to follow the same calling, while showing his true colors by trying to destroy everything we have worked for.

Naturally it is very distressing to us to see what he is doing. I have written to him several times, but he is intransigent. He has no recognition of doing anything wrong. So be it. We will let him do his worst, for we trust in the truth and not in falsehood. But we must say our piece, without rancor, for if he has come under the influence of the tamo-guṇa in order to test our resolve, that too is Krishna's wish.

Kapila in the Bhāgavata shows what motivates the devotee under the influence of tamas. The Bhāgavata recognizes that all religious people are not equal, because one's motivation counts. It is the motivation with which one engages in an action that determines its characteristic quality. And so the Bhāgavata says that bhakti can also be performed with evil intentions.

abhisandhāya yo hiṁsāṁ dambhaṁ mātsaryam eva vā
saṁrambhī bhinna-dṛg bhāvaṁ mayi kuryāt sa tāmasaḥ
A person who worships Me with the aim of harming others, out of deceit or envy, who is wrathful, and who sees distinctions, is influenced by darkness. (SB 3.29.8)
This is an accurate descriptions of the sociopathic mentality. Just because modern psychology gives new labels to old phenomena does not mean that no one noticed it before. In the past, evil was just called evil. Tamo-guṇa is basically "evil."

So even if our young friend is doing some bhakti, or thinks he is, since his goal is to do harm, he is said to be on the lowest rungs of tāmasī bhakti:

yaś cānyasya vināśārthaṁ bhajate śraddhayā harim |
phalavat pṛthivī-pāla sā bhaktis tāmasādhamā ||
yo'rcayet kaiöava-dhiyā svairiṇī sva-patiṁ yathā |
nārāyaṇaṁ jagannāthaṁ sā tu tāmasī madhyamā ||
deva-pūjā-parān dṛṣövā spardhayā yo'rcayed dharim |
śṛṇuṣva pṛthivī-pāla sā bhaktis tāmasottamā ||
(1) One who worships Lord Hari with faith with the intention of destroying another person, engages in the lowest kind of tāmasī bhakti.
(2) One who worships Nārāyaṇa, the Lord of the Universe, hypocritically, like an unfaithful wife who serves her husband, that person is the middle range of tāmasī bhakti.
(3) One who sees others worshiping Lord Hari and out of envy enters into competition with them is on the upper level of tāmasī bhakti. (Nārada-purāṇa 1.15.140-2)
In psychological terms, this attitude is nothing other than nihilism. Nihilism is the belief, put forward by those who are faithless, that everyone is riddled with evil and the desire to dominate, and that this human nature cannot be eliminated, and certainly not by religion. Everyone hiding behind the mask of religion is a fake and a pretender, and if examined closely can be found out and should be exposed. In the name of truth and so-called "radical transparency" this is what the atheists have been spreading for the last several hundred years to undermine people's faith in God.

But God is the Truth that lies beyond the truths of this world. God is where all the contradictions are synthesized and supreme justice reigns. The nihilist cannot believe it. Thinking that selfishness and power are the only values that govern everyone, their favorite activity is to expose the hypocrites, namely anyone who professes a belief in God and in transcendent good. Anyone who has faith and hope in a world where selfless love is the highest value is the enemy of the nihilist.

Those who are weak think they can find strength by toppling those who are great. They try to find their flaws, like a fly, because they have nothing positive to contribute themselves. It is too much work to become a real servant of the Lord. It is easier to pretend that everyone in the world is as lazy, miserable and full of evil as they are.

So the same Bhāgavatam, the sun that shines on those blinded by the darkness of untruth in the Kali yuga (kalau naṣṭa-dṛśām eṣa purāṇārko'dhunoditaḥ), says that the progress of Kali can be recognized by the destruction of the four pillars of dharma, the four legs on which the bull of dharma is standing.

tapaḥ śaucaṁ dayā satyam iti pādāḥ kṛte kṛtāḥ
adharmāṁśais trayo bhagnāḥ smaya-saṅga-madais tava
idānīṁ dharma pādas te satyaṁ nirvartayed yataḥ
taṁ jighṛkṣaty adharmo’yam anṛtenaidhitaḥ kaliḥ
Austerity, cleanliness, compassion and truth were the four legs that you had in the Satya Yuga, but the forces of irreligion have broken the first three of these through pride, bad company, and intoxication. Now Kali, this form of irreligion, desires to take your last leg, for Kali grows and expands through the spreading of untruth. (1.17.24-25)
The character of the current age is that the internet makes it possible to dress up lies in a convincing fashion in order to destroy people's reputations. People like our young usurper, who have no qualities of devotion, no attitude of honest service, have no alternative but to bring down those whose accomplishments they envy. And that is the cause of much of the suffering in the world today.

The people of the lie don't want to know the truth. It is much easier to swallow character assassinations. And now, in the modern world, in this age of Kali, the very concept of truth is under attack. It is so easy to create "fake news" that it has become the norm, and it looks like we at Vrindavan Today are also being forced to deal with the remorseless forces of Kali.

We Bhāgavatas begin our worship with the expression, satyaṁ paraṁ dhīmahi: "I meditate upon the Supreme Truth." When Krishna was in Devaki's womb, the prayer of the gods begins with the following "truth statement":

satya-vrataṁ satya-paraṁ tri-satyaṁ
satyasya yoniṁ nihitaṁ ca satye
satyasya satyam ṛta-satya-netraṁ
satyātmakaṁ tvāṁ śaraṇaṁ prapannāḥ
We take shelter of You, Krishna, whose very essence is truth: You, who are true to your vow, who value the truth above all, who are the unchanging truth that pervades past, present and future. You are the womb of truth; You are hidden in all truth; You are the very Truth that makes all truth true. You are the eye of truth in the cosmic law. (BhP 10.2.26)
For us Bhāgavatas who are also Brajavasis, Vrindavan is that same Truth. sākṣād brahma gopāla-purīti (GTU 2.26), non different from Him.

A person like our usurper could conceivably be reformed. It sometimes happens, if there is a complete change of attitude. You have to learn from a Vaishnava guru, for only by bathing in the dust of an advanced Vaishnava can this happen, not by bathing in the donkey urine of Vaishnava aparadh.

If one reads the Bhagavad Gita with a pure heart, it is possible to learn how to be noble and lead a glorious human life in the service of God rather than in the service of hiṁsā, dambha and mātsarya. The beginning of human life is self-analysis. And a big part of self-analysis is to recognize that we are all susceptible to evil. Tamo-guṇa is a part of the material world in which we live. As long as we deny the shadow in ourselves, we will project it outwards and cause unlimited suffering in the world.

Humility begins from the recognition that we all have the potential for evil. We could all be Gulag apparatchiks, SS concentration camp or Mao's Red Guards. That potential is in all of us, and if we don't recognize it, then we are susceptible. But the principal characteristic of the tamo-guṇa is ignorance, lack of self-awareness, or obliviousness to one's susceptibility to the laws of nature.

At any rate, we at Vrindavan Today are believers in the eternal principals of the Sruti. We bow down to the motto that the Indian nation chose for itself at the time of independence, that truth alone conquers.

satyam eva jayate nānṛtaṁ
satyena panthā vitato deva-yānaḥ
yenākramanty ṛṣayo hy āpta-kāmā
yatra tat satyasya paramaṁ nidhānam
Truth alone is victorious, and never falsehood. Through truth evolves the path leading to divinity. The seers transcended by following this path, attaining all desires, arriving there where Truth resides in all its fullness. (Muṇḍaka Upaniad 3.1.6)
Those who choose the path of Vaishnava nindā and aparādha will have their way to give those of weak resolve in devotion the opportunity to learn of their susceptibility to the sweet poison of enmity. Choose your poison. The swans will flock to the Mānasarovara where the waters are clear and pure, while the crows will choose the putrid heaps of garbage and the rotting flesh of dead animal carcasses. Nothing could be clearer than this choice.

na tad vacaś citra-padaṁ harer yaśo
jagat-pavitraṁ pragṛṇīta karhicit |
tad vāyasaṁ tīrtham uśanti mānasā
na yatra haṁsā niramanty uśikkṣayāḥ ||
That speech which however beautiful does not ever tell the glories of the Lord and His devotees, which purify the world, is the holy place of the crows, and swans, who delight in the Manasa lake, never gather there. (1.5.10)


Anonymous said...

I am sorry to see these developments in Vrindavan today. I am from a devotional standpoint quiet immature/ naive, but i would never be able to fully understand the motivation behind criticism of devotees.

I am sure that this time will pass and this uncalled madness will not prevail for long. in the end truth will prevail and it will be all fine.

Aṣṭāśri Yūpa said...

Iconography of Śiva with octagonal Rudra bhāga traced to aṣṭāśri yūpa of Vedic culture.

Prem Prakash said...

So, you are taking a lot of heat for being honest. Any chance of your doubling down ("I am the nerve of the gambler")?
You have made reference to a period of your life where you explored a lila with an Indian woman. I believe you mentioned this caused a lot of turmoil. I am personally curious, what took place? Maybe your friends and admirers can learn from your experiences.
If this is not something you'd care to exhibit in the public domain, I wonder if we can converse more privately?