Adventures in Humility

News, Views, and Chews on spiritual issues.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Where Am I?

Some people wonder where I'm at with my faith in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. 'Still a survivor' is something I'd say; I'm still keeping up with my practices and all but yes, I have significantly decreased my active participation in some of the prominent GV forums out there.

Why? Because of a mix of personal and external circumstances. Externally I am a very busy person and my time is taken up with a variety of personal and work projects, as well as things that I like to do in the precious free time that I get. Participating in an online Vaishnava forum requires commitment to the discussions, especially where there is group study of a scriptural text. If I cannot commit any time to participate in such discussions than I don't think anybody would find any value in my presence there, neither am I in the mood to hang out on the fringes.

The personal part comes from my own self-reflections and self-evaluation. I think that there is extremely little value in trying to garner knowledge with the purpose of "showing off" as I informally call it, whether or not this is done knowingly or unknowingly. There are some people out there who take a distinct pleasure in reading up on texts so that they may participate in debates and discussions and show off how smart they are. I have to admit that I have tried to do this in the past; sometimes basking in the joy of my own ego and at other times having egg on my face. There's no point in it all at the end of the day, you become burnt-out and exhausted and it becomes something of an addiction, just so you can be Mr. Smart Guy.

Well yes, of course there are people who know a lot of things because of their genuine thirst for knowledge and their own studies. Who is to say that they will not fall into the trap of punditry? Punditry has it's pros (does it really?) and it's cons, especially when the place turns into a back-patting mutual admiration society as Prabhupada used to call it, where everyone jumps on the bandwagon and praises the pundit's latest burp which is "full of timely insights for us to chew on", regardless if the opinion actually had any insight or not.

Punditry, like it or not, brings fame. Fame is something of a paradox for a Vaishnava; on one hand a real Vaishnava will automatically attain fame on account of his high level of devotion and other good qualities and yet it can also be a cause of horrendous falls from grace, not to mention the fact that it can cause quite a fascination with publicity. Fame is inextricably connected with the Smart Guy Principle - the know-it-all becomes famous for being a know-it-all, even though he can also become famous for being an annoying know-it-all. "We must go and ask this guy because he knows EVERYTHING!"

Gaudiya Vaishnavism has very important twin-principles: Humility and Tolerance. This is enshrined in the 3rd verse of Siksastaka. The aim of spiritual practice is to decrease our own transient desires and increase our own humility and tolerance, which is not going to happen if you're either chasing fame by gathering knowledge of if fame comes biting at your heels. Yes, take this verse and wear it around your neck! Punditry doesn't do anything except fulfil some vacuous need for attention.

So I am not interested in being a pundit these days, I am just a "neural surfer". If I have something interesting to say then I'll say it, without a need to try and act smarter than other people or that I know something that they don't. I consider meaningful spiritual practice to be more important than garnering knowledge. Whereas knowledge is itself important in the grand scheme of things (you have to know what you're doing), does it really matter that the square root of x combined with the square root of y is the sum total of z-cubed, and this is the scientific formula that proves God exists? How the hell is that going to matter when you're dying?

It is meaningful spiritual practice that is done with an attentive consciousness that will win through at the end of the day. People need to spend some serious time in deep thinking and serious self-reflection in order to sift the wheat from the chaff in their onw lifes, in a bid to sort out one's priorities so that self-growth can progress at a steady pace.

Look at this, I had some things I wanted to vent and I've started to preach from my pulpit. Let's just hope I don't become famous for it.


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