Sunday, July 12, 2009

Iskcon Rathayatra in Montreal

On Saturday there was a tremendous amount of rain, but on Sunday afternoon I managed to get down to Jeanne Mance Park and join the devotees in their annual Festival of India. This year, I had the specific intention of distributing some of those Madhurya Kadambinis that I worked on a couple of years ago.

The first thing I did was go to Bhakti Marg Swami and give him a copy. He is always nice to me, always recalling our sankirtan days in Toronto. I asked him if he minded me distributing Madhurya Kadambinis on the Rathayatra grounds and he graciously agreed. He was also very grateful for the gift.

What I really enjoyed about the book distribution was talking to devotees about the book--about Vishwanath Chakravarti, his writings, Rupa Goswami and the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, etc. About the different stages of devotion. It was a great chance to meet with old devotees and make new friends also.

Debnath Bhoumick said that he would like to get books in Bengali, so I think I will see about ordering stuff from Radha Kund for them. I ended up selling only 5, which was OK. I did not get entangled with any negative vibes, and just left alone those devotees who weren't interested. But of course, I was expecting trouble.

Sure enough, I started talking to a young Chinese girl devotee I had never seen before. She was intelligent and had done a bhakti-shastri course, so she asked me many questions and indeed started to open up to me on a personal level, telling me that she was quite involved in doing service at the temple and felt she had little time for study. Anyway, I did as I always do: encourage a person to pursue their inner direction and have faith that Krishna would guide her.

But our conversation was interrupted by a committee of three of the more conservative members of the local Iskcon establishment who expressed disquiet that I might be corrupting an innocent member of their congregation with my dissolute philosophy. I am afraid that I did not respond with perfect calm and started to feel the adrenaline pumping--even though it would have been easy to say that Bhakti Marg had given me permission. Instead, I foolishly tried to talk to these people--even though we generally keep out of each other's way. I know how narrow they are in their views.

I got the distinct impression that they were in uniform--like police. You know they are not allowed to talk to you.

Well Vishwambhar said, "We have heard you say you are a Sahajiya. Is that true?" I knew I had to say yes, but that made me want to defend my position, which of course was a no go. Prabhupada said no Sahajiyas.

Of course, one of their complaints was that the devotees had worked so hard to organize this festival and they did not want non-devotees to take advantage of the situation. Again, I tried to answer them by saying that the Madhurya Kadambini was not in conflict with Iskcon philosophy; I basically just said that an open policy would probably be more effective in the long run, but they were in unbreakable uniform mode.

They must have been observing me and tolerating my talking to people until they saw me talking to her. At least, they made it clear that was what was irritating them. But from my conversation with her, it had become clear to me that she was already feeling temple life constraining. After my talk with the three heavyweights, which I am a little ashamed to say, was not totally conducted in a calm and joyous manner, the girl came up to me and gave me 5$ donation (which I knew was all she had on her)! She actually looked pretty embarrassed for her leaders.

I may not have written anything here today had I not received a phone call this morning from a Bengali man, a lawyer, to whom I had sold a book yesterday. He wanted to return it! It was very clear that someone had been talking to him.

I ended up talking to him for two hours while he halfheartedly regurgitated the old accusations. As it was, it turned out OK. I had to reexplain to him who Vishwanath Chakravarti is, who Rupa Goswami is, etc. My main message to him in terms of my relation to Iskcon was that of course Iskcon is doing many good things; I am only against their narrowness. But there is a lot of undoing to do when talking to such people.

Afterwards, someone said something very negative to me about Iskcon devotees, but I have mixed feelings.

There is a kind of problem, since the obvious people who are interested in what I have to say, or who are interested in a book like Madhurya Kadambini, are devotees with a little experience. But I don't like to cause trouble. Really, I just wanted to sell a few books. I have NO money. But I will have to find my own audience.

Anyway, I enjoy talking about these things. And most people do enjoy listening to me. It was very enlivening and shook me out of my doldrums a bit.


Anonymous said...

Hum lets see, probably about 30 minutes to make the sale, then another 2 hours to convince the buyer to keep the book, cost of phone use at around 25 cents/hour, original cost of the book 7.50, that brings your wage to minus 3.10 per hour. I would say, that is literally beyond renunciation. Wow, what were those guys complaining about.

Jagat said...

The lawyer fellow actually did ask me where the money was going. I asked him how much money he charged as a lawyer. He said minimum 125$ an hour. I really got on his case. He was taking two hours of my time for free. Why should my time be so cheap?

Anyway, that is the way it works with spirituality. It is hard to justify making it a money-making activity. When or if I ever become inspired to actually build anything, then the money will come.

Jagat said...

I wrote that there was some tension in the exchange. This is the most problematic thing. It is not that we got into fisticuffs or anything. Looking back on it, I understand that they are afraid of me. I did not understand that at first, and so I responded in a dualistic way. This is why I felt disappointed in myself afterwards.

Anonymous said...

1) The pastime is just to show you that basically this world is not our home.

2) Also you are delivering Krishna to people. So why be surprised when this kind of stuff happens?

I remember one kathayar used to tell hari-katha about Krishna was coming home from tending the cows all day. And everyone was running to see Him.

But one newly married girl, her cruel in-laws would not allow her to go and even look at Krishna walking through the town with his cows and calves and cowherd boys.

They told her, "It is very dangerous to even look at Him." said one. "A black snake may bite you." said another. Still another said, "You may go mad if you hear the flute, therefore it is best you stay inside."

So they locked the newly married girl in the house. Meanwhile the mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, and all of the myriad and sundry aunts, grandmothers, and post-menopausal women, all ran outside to look at Him.

But the newly-married girl could only peep through the lattice in the doorway.

As K slowly walk through the town, everyone become immobilized. The rivers ran backwards, the rocks melted, and so on. And K knew the heart of the young girl.

So He sent first played the flute and called one of his calves Him. Then, he twisted it by the tail and sent it in her direction.

Therefore, the calf was "going astray" on K's cue. So he had to come over and retrieve the calf. And He was just outside of her doorway, inches from where she was standing.

Krishna glance at her through the lattice in the doorway. Their eyes met. And by that one glance, He captured her heart. Now she was ruined forever.

So, you are not distributing a book, per say. Is K himself, n'cest pas? you are distributing. A very heavy archetype.

Therefore, there is bound to be that reaction. Because the nature of the archetype of Krishna Himself invokes that type of reaction from the guardians of young and innocent girls.

Perhaps ~?

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget that the "young innocent girl" is also a very heavy archetype. While in Krishna lila "the young and innocent girl" holds the pole position, in this world she is actually an object of exploitation. In this world a girl does not want to be the " young and innocent girl" because this means she is seen as uncapable of self management. In short, she is disrespected in her integrity as an individual. It seems it makes more sense that, if one wants to honor a devotee girl, please don't characterize her as "young and innocent" as in "needing some idiots to come in her defense", but as a full individual whose attractiveness is her devotion. That is more befitting. By the way, why the snide remark about grandmothers and post-menopausal women running to go take a look at Krishna? Such behavior is actually called wisdom.

Satya devi dasi said...

This last comment about "grandmothers and post-menopausal women" really made me laugh. Thank you for coming to our defense. At this point, though, say what you will, we don't care. We are shameless. We want what we want.

Jagat, sorry you got such a poor reception. For me, it's weird how my karma is playing itself out as I get older. Sometimes it seems to come out of left field and Krsna smacks me in the head with it. Very disorienting. Rascal!

Gaura said...

Having been a former member of the Montrea temple board, I know that the members that approached you not to sell your book have been at odds with Bhaktimarga Swami not consulting with them regaridng various decisions he has made for the Montreal temple. One of Visvambara prabhu's points is that the ISKCON Constitution is long overdue its completion, thus, various devotee's job descriptions become muddled, and you have a GBC taking decisions that only a temple president should take in terms of his local management, and many similar discrepancies. I don'tthink you realized howyou were setting yourself up for difficulties by getting BMS's approval while the local authorities were not consulted with. BMS also invited me to live in the Toronto temple for a few months while everyone was in India, asking me to make sure the AM and PM programs went on, to make sure the kirtans were led and classes given, and to greet guests, and come and go as I pleased , using the Toronto temple as my base. When the TP returnted, she had not been informed and started bossing me around to wash the floors, cook offerings, etc....I understand that the temple was short staffed and have been there as an administrator, however when I mentioned I had made this arrangemnet with BMS, she quickly told me that he was respected as sanyassa, guru and GBC, but that he had NOTHING to do with the managmenet of the Montreal temple. So you got yourself caught in the crossifre there, just as I did, and dont expect anyone to come to your rescue either. Secondly, as in LA, there is an agreement inforced by Svavasa prabhu ,the TP that at Ratha Yatra, 100 % of all money earned from book sales goes to the Deities. It seems devotees have to find their own ways and means to do this, like selling to the book store for example...the point of the authorities, as they explained it to me was that you were not there to promote anything for ISKCON, but it was your own "scene" that you were promoting, and if anything , your intentions were to take others away form ISKCON's view on siddhnta and to influence them with your own conclusions. I am telling you what I heard.Even if you would have decided to remain a 100 % "ISKCON man" and not taken another initiation from LAlit Prasad Thakur, there is no guarantee for your financial maintenance. That is also part of the reason I am also travelling on the road in Gaspe right now. One time I tried to sell some posters of Lord Krishna at the temple and I got the same type of angry reaction from those that ran the boutique. It was their scene .I even took the posters outside, and still I recieved the wrath. They are the full time devotees, and an exception is made for them to sell whatever books etc...they wish to sell because of their dedication to dressing the Deities. This was another argument that was raised to me when I mentioned that the book table at the RY was full of rasika books by other acaryas,regarding the argument that only Prabhupada books should be sold, so I think it is best to take the path of least resistance, and find your own means, otherwise you are setting yourself up for conflict. One devotee had been told that she was welcome to come to the RY . She was from the US, but when it was found out that she wanted to display and sell the books of Bhakti Tirtha Swami, she was refused, so she never came.SOeven within ISKCON you are not welcome to promote your Guru maharajas books at sucvh a festival, what to speak of if you are the disciple of a Gaudiya acarya who is in conflict with Srila Prabhupada's spiritualo master. however transcendental that conflit may be. These are their policies. They call the shots. best to find out before hand and save yourself a lot of grief. Hope this sheds some light on the issue for you

Jagat said...

I went to the Montreal temple for Radhashtami. The old guard won't talk to me, but they don't throw me out. Basically, I don't get in the way. It seems that the Montreal temple has a nice core group of devotees who are satisfied with the product. They do the basics nicely. The deities are well taken care of, etc.

A woman acquaintance of Indian origin, who has a PhD in philosophy, has been going to the temple for years out of spontaneous attraction. She recently wrote me the following:

"Ideally I should avoid the temple. I am an educated woman I cannot afford to be lumped in with the rest of the cattle. I would not be mingling with uneducated males or females elsewhere. The whole refrence point is different. There is no meeting ground. I cannot cut my shoulder of assertibility in the name of a deity. These are excuses for bad behaviour. It seems the temple is older than India in its attitudes towards women. Also most women attracted to this organisation are uneducated and are practically housewives.

Chauvinism and illiteracy make good bedfellows. None of my relatives or sisters ever approach this organisation. They find it repugnant and an aberration.

Disenchantment in the west or east cannot be remedied by returning to illiterate chauvinism. People should be able to generate a loving atmosphere without resorting to illiteracy, chauvinism and insulting propadeutic towards women.

A revolution is needed.

There is no way one can have any control over lax behaviour and disrespect towards me at the temple since I am not controlling flowers or cooking or worshipping as pujaris or am a president.

There is inequality. There is no divinity whee there is inequality between genders or there is racism.

I like music but classical music not singing that is out of tune."


Asian Fetish said...

Jagat, it is very telling that these (assuming) white dudes did not jump on you until you were in the presence of the exotified commodity that is the YOUNG ASIAN WOMAN.

It is no secret that aging white Western men have some sort of fantasy fetish for Asian women. Asians are;

1. smart (highest IQs in the world)
2. industrious and hardworking (money, money, money)
3. respectful, demure, submissive (at least that is the stereotype)

Asian women are seen as the quintessential "feminine".

Yeah, ISKCON men would be all over her like white on rice, baby.

So basically it was a pack of wolves (testosterone) competing for their prey (estrogen).

Nothing new or surprising about that.

Regarding your Indian Lady PhD friend and her assertion about ISKCON members being overwhelmingly from the lower classes of American and Canadian societies, true dat!

But even in India, the larger Gaudiya Vaishnava world is comprised mainly of poorly educated Bengalis, or well-educated but socially backwards ones.

Jagat said...

Ditto all that. We point to the Goswamis as being intellectual and social leaders of their time, but no one thinks that they need to be both understood and emulated. But emulation requires the recognition that there have been 500 years of intervening history that have significantly changed the game, so to speak. Even the 100 years since Bhaktivinoda Thakur have been monumental.

In my article on Charismatic Renewal in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, one of the things I wanted to show was that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was most concerned about social change, that democratizing spiritual leadership and occupations was a priority.

Vaishnavism (bhakti) has always been subject to the criticism of being open to lower and less educated classes (including stri, shudra and dvijabandhu). This is its strength as well as its weakness.

But what is important to recognize is the BHAKTI is still the supreme path. JNANA is only there to confirm bhakti.

If God is both personal and impersonal, the Personal still always stands above the impersonal. If God has both form and no-form, then Form always stand above the Formless.

It is the same argument as the fact of Existence always trumps Non-existence, Consciousness always trumps Unconsciousness and Joy always trumps suffering, even though both exist simultaneously.

Bhakti is there first, in the child before it even knows language and is there on the deathbed, when the senses and memory otherwise fail. Bhakti is accsessible to all, but that does not mean that the intellectual does not need it. Better to be an idiot and have bhakti than a dry jnani with none.

The trouble is that if only the idiots are doing bhakti, then bhakti becomes a joke. They cannot defend what they are doing. Maybe they do not feel the need, but since we are rational beings, eventually our faith becomes undermined by our inability to defend our actions. This then leads to a stupid defensiveness of the kind that was mentioned in the post.

Asian Fetish said...


I don't know about bhakti needing any type of renewal at any time in history, because I don't find anything backwards or antiquited (is that a word?)in any of the Goswami granthas. The Goswami granthas are straight Gaudiya siddhanta, lila, and bhajan tips, there is nothing social in their books that would confine them to any cultural mileu or era (as far as human behaviour goes).

I can be in any time era, geographical location or culture and still sit down, go within, and do my lila-smaran.

Of course, being that the majority of Gaudiya Vaishnavas are from an Indian Hindu background, and they bring with them all of their cultural baggage and Desi Drama, some "renewal" may be needed for them, but for us, there is no need to take on all that, we are tabula rasas, clean slates, with regards to Gaudiya Vaishnavism at least. We can simply read the Goswami granthas, apply them in our personal lives as much as possible, and not get caught up in Hindu social/cultural baggage, though I do enjoy a good Bollywood blockbuster myself every once in a while.

Regarding JNANA. There is jnan and then there is bhakti-tattva-jnan. I am so sick of people who are intersted in the siddhant of their religion being referred to as "jnanis". If we do not have bhakti-tattva-gyan then how in Hades will we ever know what is bhakti and how will we ever perform bhakti-sadhan? Bhakti-tattva-gyan is neccessary. If one is illiterate, then one can still learn it by hearing from somebody who knows it. There is no excuse in this day and age NOT to know bhakti-tattva-gyan other than laziness.

"Bhakti is there first, in the child before it even knows language".....

My understanding is that bhakti is given to us from the outside, from the Vaishnava who has it. Of course if you are stating this in a general way, that the POTENTIAL for bhakti is there in the child, then I can agree.

Anonymous said...

"I can be in any time era, geographical location or culture and still sit down, go within, and do my lila-smaran."

Any time era? Any culture? Thats the thing: The lila is actually a mirror of Indian culture. Which can be a tremendous turn off, if not reason for irreversible doubt...

Anonymous said...

"Jagat, it is very telling that these (assuming) white dudes did not jump on you until you were in the presence of the exotified commodity that is the YOUNG ASIAN WOMAN."

Yeah its very telling but unfortunatelly it does not tell enough, does it? I mean, you would expect that the smartest people in the world would have the most liberated women. But what we see is the opposite. What does that tell us? Its puzziling at best. Of course the aging white males and all their counterparts around the world would like to cash in on a fact like this. But when relative interests are put aside, we are still left with a big question. Perhaps the biggest questions of all times: How can so smart be so stupid??

Asian Fetish said...

"The lila is actually a mirror of Indian culture. Which can be a tremendous turn off, if not reason for irreversible doubt..."

Well, if it turns you off, find another modality. There are so many modalities, religions, spiritual paths to choose from. Or you can create your own. The possibilities are limitless.

Anonymous said...

"There are so many modalities, religions, spiritual paths to choose from. Or you can create your own. The possibilities are limitless."

Is this (ohter paths, create your own) what the Gosvamis recommend [in response to the lila mirroring Indian culture]? And if yes, how so? If not, why make it light? A considerate answer here would be very helpful, its a very serious subject.

Asian Fetish said...

Anonymous, the Goswamis chose Krishna Lila Smaran as their meditation modality. But in your opinion that meditational modality is too "Indian".

Therefore why get stuck on the Goswamis if you are in disagreement with their personal choice of object of meditation?

There are so many different spiritual paths in the world to choose from so simply chose one that suits you.

It's no big deal.

Raganuga Bhakti is not for everyone. You have to have a certain mindset and samskar for it and more than anything you have to have lobh. This often comes from past life experiences of the same. Not every jiva has that.

Just move on to something that touches your heart. You will be happier.

Anonymous said...

AF, your claim is that the Gosvamis offered an universal mode of meditation. Look up the meaning of "universal", if its universal its for everyone. Advise is freely given but I am interested in an actual answer. Thanks

Asian Fetish said...

Anonymous, no, I do not think what the Goswamis presented is "universal" in the sense that it is for everyone.

Raganuga Bhakti is NOT for everyone. It is specifically for people who have samskaras for it.

Those people happen to come from various countries and cultural backgrounds around the globe, but nonetheless they have to have the samskaras for it.

Raganuga Bhakti, by the way, has never taken off in a big way amongst "western devotees" precisely because many of them do not have the samskaras for it. Though some of them do. Most of them have the samskaras simply for a very general sort of Krishna Bhakti that is rooted in vaidhi. Perhaps this will build their samskaras for their next life or the life thereafter and THEN they can take to Raganuga Bhakti, or maybe not.

It is not the rule that every single jiva in the Universe must become a nitya-parikara of Radha-Krishna.

There are so many other possibilites.

I don't find that my Braj Lila Meditation is confined to when I am in India wearing a sari. I sit down on the beach here in USA at sunset in my bikini and do smaranam. Hence, my claim that I can be anywhere at anytime and perform the angas of bhakti, in that sense it is not confined to a social mileu or cultural environment.

You can do lila smaranam at a clothing optional resort do, no harm.

Anonymous said...

AF, I am sure you are making a mistake: Raganuga bhakti IS indeed for everyone. Indiscriminately. Bhakti is independent, and certainly independent from samskars. The claim that raganuga bhakti depends on one's samskara is just another way of saying "casteism rules".

You say, "it is not the rule that every single jiva in the Universe must become a nitya-parikara of Radha-Krishna", and that, of course, is true. But the idea is that such a thing (to become an eternal companion of the Divine Couple) has, by Mahaprabhu's cheer whim, become a tangible possibility. Why wouldn't anyone not want to make it the rule of his/her life? If you say that for some people its going to be for another life, you are still talking about the same path. Truth is, there aren't "many paths". In the true Gaudiya conclusion, or sidhanta, 'other paths' are but dellusions. Should never be recommended to fellow jivas.

Asian Fetish said...

Anonymous, may I humbly suggest that you read 2 books;
1. Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu and 2. Raga Vartma Chandrika?

Having done so you will understand that raganuga bhakti is;

A. rare
B. NOT for everyone, and
C. indeed very dependent on samskaras

I'm not saying it, Rupa Goswami and Visvanath Chakravarti are.

Anonymous said...

AF, your suggestion is not humble but rather condescending. Trust me, after so many years in this environment some of us have learned who is really humble and who is, well, in need of attention of some sort. Humble would be to state the truth, which in your case and most of us cases would mean to simply say, "I don't know". This is a living tradition, and presently (as it has been always the case througout its history) it needs new, time and events related answers. Unless one is willing to resign himself/herself to keep following presmises one does not really believe in (and by doing so thus making this living tradtion just 'another path'), one has to find such answers. Again, the best place to start is admiting that you don't know much yet. At least not enough to keep the tradition alive for much longer. Objecting? Well, your reply that the complete answer [to the question] is in Rupa Gosvami's and Visvanatha Chakravarti's respective books is, as always (besides being condescending), a cop-out so to not admit that there's further work to be done from your side. If indeed your firm believe is that all one has to do is to follow what has been already said and written, then you would be following yourself. But you don't. You pick and choose, you don't follow without question and without inovation one hundred percent. The directive that Raganuga bhakti is rare does not necessarily mean that its absolutely reserved to some specific jivas and that it absolutely is dependent on samskaras. Those are relative conditions that will be interpreted as they manifest on a case by case basis. If it were otherwise, people like you would not be all over the planet putting themselves out for exposure expecting to find raganuga fellows at any turn of word, at every posting on the net. People would not claim to run "a website dedicated to prema prayojana, the goal of life". Rather, it would read "a website dedicated to prema prayojana, the goal of some os us lives." Have a nice day AF. I do NOT care to hear from you anymore. Unless its really humbly for a change. A real teaching.