This is, of course, the idea of self-satisfaction. One should be happy with one's lot--after all, was it not God or Destiny that put us here, and should we not cultivate santosh, or contentedness? And is it not a sign of spiritual poverty to be discontent? A hungry man experiences satisfaction, pleasure and the elimination of hunger as he eats, so does the devotee experience the corresponding bhakti (devotion), paresanubhava (direct experience of God) and viraktir anyatra (indifference elsewhere). And is it not said that devotion is ahaituki and apratihata--above material causes and unimpeded by material obstacles? So why not cultivate satisfaction? Is that not what "faith" is all about--the confidence that Krishna is our protector and provider?
The Lord is my shepherd;
I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me to water in places of repose;
He guides me in right paths
as befits His name.
Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,
I fear no harm, for You are with me;
Your rod and your staff-they comfort me.
You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my drink is abundant.
Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for many long years.
As for me, I am living in this Western world, where hunger is virtually non-existent. It is a cold country, but my home is cozy. It is a land where there are no wars or upheavals. My health is good. My wife loves me in spite of my miserable nature and the lack of reward, and my son is growing up tall, strong and intelligent. Let me count my blessings!
So what is this that thrusts me into a paroxysm of dissatisfaction? Is there something about this damned path I have taken that drives me to perpetual lamentation? zUnyAyitaM jagat sarvam ! It seems appropriate, now that I think of it: "Jagat has turned into a Complete Nothing."
One of my coworkers, a committed Catholic practitioner, came into my office today and gave me a spiritual pep-talk, just out of the blue. Perhaps my expression and body language are more revealing than I think. "God is standing just on the other side of the door. Open the door and you will see he has always been there with you, ready to embrace you in His arms."
I don't want to hear that everything is as God wants it. I know that already. I know that my own profound Catholic samskar tells me, along with Kant, that this is a cross I have to bear. But right now, it feels like pain without any gain.
I know there is more than one hard-hearted Hindu out there who will look at me and say that I deserve to suffer. Why should I not? I have abandoned Srila Prabhupada. I have defended Sahajiyaism and I refuse to recant. And even though I say it is because I must follow my ashram dharma, I do so begrudgingly, without the joy and love that are essential elements of success in dharma. Why mention anything more than this? For my sins and offenses, surely I should have expected all this--to be further from Vrindavan, further from the association of devotees, further from bhakti than I ever have been. Further from the exemplary life, further from the ability to exercise charity, due to an extreme poverty of the spirit.
When I first came back from India, I stayed in Manhattan for a few months, living with my sister. Once we went to eat in a vegetarian restaurant. At the next table was a beautiful woman whom I recognized as the model whose face was on a billboard just near my sister's apartment. Somehow we started talking and I told her about the life I had been living. I was, like many blooped devotees, very self-conscious about the life I had lived in the Krishna-conscious movement, and so I came across rather negatively. This woman, in true New Yorker fashion, berated me, "Either accept it and make something of it, or move on." She had no tolerance for my moping, and indeed, it does not behoove me any more than it did Arjuna.
Actually, I did have a very encouraging blessing this last week. Ashok Aklujkar sent a very generous donation to the Gaudiya Grantha Mandir. This means that we will be able to start making improvements in the site very soon. Madhavananda will be taking care of the work in his customarily expert way. But I have no time to work on it. Can you not see why I rage?
Reminds me all of this beautiful verse by Sanatan Prabhu--
jnAnaM vA zubha-karma vA kiyad aho
saj-jAtir apy asti vA |
hInArthAdhika-sAdhake tvayi tathApy
he gopI-jana-vallabha ! vyathayate
hA hA mad-Azaiva mAm ||
I have no prema.
Nor do I engage in hearing and chanting,
the practices that lead to prema.
I have not the self-discipline befitting a Vaishnava.
Nor do I have wisdom, nor, alas, pious works.
I am not even of good birth.
You are said to bring fulfilment
to those who are most unworthy,
yet the hope for your mercy,
which is pure and holy,
and so deeply rooted within me that I cannot cut it out,
brings me nothing but pain.
So I read that over. "Wallowing" is the only word for it. Sorry for inflicting that on the Vaishnava world! Are there any Vaishnavas out there being inflicted? It seems unlikely...