I. Confession and the authentic self :: Prologue

It has been a while since I posted in this blog anything of real interest. I have been feeling a little unrest of late and this has prompted me to enter into a period of reflection, which has now backed up to the point that it needs to come out in public expression. So for the next few days I will first of all review the experiences of the past few weeks and then try to analyze what the effect of these experiences has been on me.

The core of the I realized that I do indeed have to confess. Now first of all, in order for you to understand that statement I do have to contextualize it, and I will begin to do so tomorrow.

Being honest publicly about personal matters has been, to a great extent, a defining element of my public career, or whatever you call it when you are known to more than one or two people. As a blogger, I have become some kind of self-styled public figure, and though I may be insignificant to most of the world; it is a part of who and what I am, a sva-dharma as it were, that also needs to be followed. even though the very exercise of exposing myself to the world through my blog might be suspect and inconceivable to the great majority of people in the world. But as a sva-dharma, it must be followed, for better or worse, as integral to my personal mission.

In one sense, when one starts speaking scripture and expressing things in ideal terms, as I have been doing for the past few months, there is a tendency to become alienated from real life inner events that are constantly going on beneath the surface. That is a ripe field for hypocrisy. And indeed that is a bit where I find myself and that needs to be remedied by the act of honest introspection.

What it comes down to is that I can only barely conceal my anger at and distaste for Demian. This is not a particularly good sign for any pretensions I may have at the ideal Vaishnava character to which I aspire. [If you don't know who Demian is, you will find out in upcoming installments of this blog.]

So really the point of that contention has to be pinpointed. Though I have been making an exercise out of playing up his positive side, his grand qualities, I cannot conceal the reality, which is that I find him as unpleasant as he finds me.

You would think that with our common ground -- love for India, for Sanskrit, for learning, for this tradition, and so on -- that we could be a little more snigdha, (affectionate, which is one of the three criteria for sadhaka association) but the exact opposite is true. He does not like me and I do not like him. We are entirely different species of Vaishnava. Just like the red monkeys and the white monkeys don't get along, we are like that.

Demian asked me to confess to twelve points, and I steered away from discussing them publicly for a number of reasons. Mainly I was thinking that they were inappropriate on the different fora that these issues were raised. But I have come to the conclusion that there is no reason why I should not publish those twelve points on my blog and talk about each one of them, in the confessional spirit with which I was challenged to do so,

I don't feel particularly apologetic about any of these "sins", but talking openly about them will be a bit of a catharsis and an opportunity for me to be a bit more authentic.

There is something here that I originally felt very much to be the problem with the whole guru facade. It is not actually incorrect for Alex and his companions [these people will be introduced in the upcoming review of the past few weeks] to call these matters into question, it is just not as conducive to bhajan as they might think it is. As a matter of fact, it tends to make you miss the point of bhajan. Neither being a social justice warrior nor a self-righteous school marm is of ultimate value on the path of prema, to put it mildly. And it is like a cancer, it tends to metastize and devour everything. The useless branches that end up starving the fruit, the weeds that strangle the plant.

I may be having trouble living up to what I see as the highest ideals of bhajan, but there is no reason to think that being authentic about one's self is not worth more than any false pretense about spiritual advancement. Nevertheless, I have observed that the two do converge if you are truthful to yourself and others, as well as being engaged in sincere sadhana, the authentic and the individual naturally converge with the ideal. But not in stereotypical ways. That is the point of saying "individual."

The environment here at Jiva has become a little bit oppressive for me and I need to associate with Vaishnava babas, so I am going to spend some time with Barsanewale Binode Bihari Baba. I like the environment there and he has invited me to come and stay, so I think that is an invitation I should not refuse.

But along with the other work I am doing, [which is really too much], I am going to try to write about the past few weeks and draw out of it the personal lessons that I have gotten from it all, and in particular directly answer, point by point, the twelve items that Demian pointed out about me that he did not like. He does not like them, he says, to the point that he called them such abominable sins that he could not look at my face for fear of blackening his soul. So horrible a sinner am I in his eyes that when I pay my obeisances to him, he walks on past like a king before an obsequious peasant. Strutting forth like a Pimpernel on the Pall Mall.

So self-assured in his piety and moral superiority. So disdainful of the sinner. When he passes, I feel the glutinous, oleaginous self-righteousness of his demeanor, permeated with the scummy black tar of ill-disguised envy, pour over me. That is how much we dislike each other.

Demian is almost archetypal. He brings forth in me images that have sprung forth from the collective unconscious. The first one that popped into my mind was that of Joe Bftsplk, a cartoon character from my childhood. A hapless jinx who walks through life spreading bad luck, a cloud over his head. The aura of bad weather fits, but Joe Bftsplk does not seem malevolent enough to be the exact archetypal figure.

Perhaps a more accurate image would be that of Tulius Detritus from Asterix, "la zizanie," a character who likes nothing more than to find ways of creating discord wherever he goes. An expert in finding the human flaws and failures in people and then highlighting them to others, taking pleasure in a detached kind of way from the disruption he creates.

On another real life archetypal level, we have Savonarola, the ascetic moralizing and crusading priest. This is a real archetype especially in the Mediterranean European countries. I could not find any links, but I recall seeing those black and white films from the 40's where such a personality seemed to be a staple in the cast of characters. One of the reasons that Christianity has been on the wane for centuries.

Of course, I exaggerate. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that in my devotional experience, or even in my life experience, no one has succeeded better in evoking in my mind the repulsive archetype of religious malevolence than the one that is conjured up by the presence of Demian.

Do I think it is right? Well of course not. That is a great part of this story. When I am in in a more charitable state of mind, I pity him. No doubt, he would be the last to think that he should be an object of pity, so pure and holy and elevated he is, but I remember the words of Mahaprabhu speaking to Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya's son-in-law Amogha ("the sinless one") and I mourn with him

sahaje nirmala ei brāhmaṇa hṛdaya
kṛṣṇera basite ei yogya sthāna haya
mātsarya caṇḍāla kene ihāṅ basāile
parama pabitra sthāna apabitra kaile

"A Brahmin’s heart is naturally holy and therefore a fitting throne upon which Krishna can sit. Why have you given brutish envy a place of honor there, allowing this most holy spot it to become desecrated?" (Chaitanya Charitamrita 2.15.274-5)

It hurts me to see a man so miserable and so ignorant of his own misery.

So to say we are counter poles of a personality continuum and mutually repel each other would be a rather obvious observation, an understatement. So it is indeed well worth self-analysis of as dispassionate a nature as is possible under the circumstances. In order to do so, I will have to reveal a little more of myself and to take ownership of who and what I am, and of my experience.

But first, the past few weeks. Most of this will be best organized around links, and I shall start tracking those down tomorrow. Jai Radhe Shyam!


As a complete outsider (and an inveterate "Impersonalist" who can't but grin wryly at people who use that word with a straight face as I prostrate to Lord Buddha) I'm constantly amazed at y'all Gaudiyas' habit of picking ugly fights with each other. I'm sure no one is actively on the lookout for troubke, but there sure seems to be some collective karmic propensity for the kind of dickishness that too easily mistakes small-mindedness for theological and moral clarity. For an otherwise truly inspiring tradition that's as far as I can tell rooted in the Lila of someone (or someOne, even) whose core message seems to have been "Love God and don't do, think, say or want anything else, for God's sake!", this sombre bellicosity that's constantly looking to turn other's words into the inquisitor's thumb screws seems sort of off brand. In any case, you seem to generally be cut of slightly different cloth, Jagadananda Babaji, and I enjoy your writing for both academic and spiritual reasons, and I wish you well. I hope you're soon blessed with the possibility to extricate yourself from all such nonsense and simply serve your Swamini and her Beau. Seems to be what you actually want. I suspect it would be a boon to this dusty world as well, even if a more intangible one than your other sevas.
Prem Prakash said…
Blinde Schilpad,
Over the years, I've noticed the same dynamic in the Gaudiya community. I guess it shouldn't really be surprising. I mean, people are people regardless of where they live and in what direction they prostrate. I think the problem stems from the human tendency to seek for security in a seeming absolute truth. We imagine some doctrinal purity, try to attach ourselves to it, then demonize those who seem contrary. After all, if we are the good and pure, those "others" must be tainted and potentially evil. I guess it's been forever thus.

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