Adventures in Humility

News, Views, and Chews on spiritual issues.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Missing The Point

śabda-brahmaṇi niṣṇāto
na niṣṇāyāt pare yadi
śramas tasya śrama-phalo
hy adhenum iva rakṣataḥ

"For one who is expert in the scriptures
but does not fix his mind upon the Lord,
the fruit of his endeavour is like one who
cares for a cow that gives no milk."

(Srimad Bhagavata 11.11.18)

You'll have to forgive the raw translation but the basic elements are in place and the message should be clear enough. This is one of the verses that exemplify my own journey along the spiritual path. For years I used to admire those who were well-versed in scriptural literatures and the ease with which they presented their deep learnings of the shastras in spiritual discussions. As a matter of fact I still do admire such devotees because scriptural learning (especially those who have memorised entire scriptures) is no mean feat and not to be sneezed at. The wonder of it is how I desired to be one such "expert". Of course, I used to be one of those guys who always seemed to come up with an appropriate quote for any discussion that was going on, and as is naturally expected of such endeavours, a large amount of time was spent hunting for such quotes.

I now feel a mixture of disgust, revulsion and pity for myself when I was in that state of mind, though I can also laugh at myself as well. The reason for that is because, notwithstanding the fact that everyone is spiritually evolving according to their own pace and so will consequently arrive at their own realisations, attempting to use shastra as "weapons" in discussions/arguments is wrong, wrong, wrong! As per the above verse from the Holy Bhagavat, I believe that it is thoroughly inappropriate to be an "expert" in the scriptures only for the purposes of one-upmanship. This is a misdirection of the learning faculty and not at all in tune with Mahaprabhu's ideal of trinad api sunicena. It becomes an extension of one's ego when one acquires a queer satisfaction from presenting a "killer" quote that "wins" the discussion. "Ha ha ha! You can't find a quote to refute my quote, can you?? I've won, so take that!" This is a morbid and grotesque mentality.

Actually I am oversimplifying things. The ego and the desire to achieve fame and praise are actually very subtle and almost imperceptible things. It is very hard to detect them unless one is very good at introspection, humble, and always attempting to measure themselves against the 'trinad api sunicena' standard. In other words, one who excessively quotes shastra (unless their contribution is truly to aid a spiritual discussion) may or may not even realise that they are presenting themselves as an "expert" and would directly or indirectly receive praise for it thereof. The next challenge then relates to how to deal with such praise, but that is another story.

Anyway I think I'm raving on a bit so let me get to the point: People who are aware of my online activities may or may not know that, these days, I do not tend to talk so much on spiritual discussion forums unlike the way I used to do before. There are multiple reasons for this, but the main one is that I realised how much I was straying far from the path in my foolish attempts to imitate devotees and their learning in much the same way as is exemplifed in the above Bhagavatam quote. Of course, learning the shastras comes naturally from reading and meditation but it is an organic process that ought to evolve by itself. That is why, these days, I prefer to post inspirational verses from my readings with perhaps a few contextual comments. This is what I continue to do on a couple of the forums I hang out at. Occasionally I stray into some discussions but I would much prefer my contact with such discussions to be minimal. The nature of the Internet is such that people can get paranoid and lose their tempers over the slightest and innocent comments, so I would much prefer to restrit my participations in such events unless I am confident that I know the other respondents well enough and that they can exhibit a satisfactory level of Vaishnava ethics and behaviour.

Or, I might be vain enough to think that I actually know something and thus I have something to contribute to discussions. Here we go again, round and round in circles. At the end of the day it's not about what you know, it's about the extent to which you have practised your preachings in your daily life. So as per Bhagavata 11.11.18, what is the use of being an expert in the shastras when you haven't learnt how to fix your mind on the Lord? This is how I try to spend my time these days; I like to read shastras such as Caitanya-bhagavata, Caitanya-caritamrita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and all the rest of it, and if I feel that I've stumbled across something nice that I think other devotees would appreciaste, I post it on a forum so that others can experience the joy that I get out of it.

The general idea is that one must not lose one's focus on the goal. The goal must always be kept respectfully upon our heads so that we are always reminded. Krishna-katha is the life of the Vaishnavas, it is the common bond that unites all Vaishnavas irrespective of lineage and sectarian mindsets. Krishna-katha can bring peace to the world as long as there are people to speak it and people to hear it. Krishna-katha can save us from the jaws of death. Brindavan is everyone's and Govinda belongs to all; Navadvipa is everyone's and Mahaprabhu belongs to all.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mahaprabhu will deliver you

It is not just Vaishnavas who we have to be wary of offending because, as Mahaprabhu says, we should be wary of offending anyone!

ananta brahmANDa yata, saba mora dAsa
eteke ye para hiMse sei yAya nAza

All are My servants throughout
the innumerable universes, so
anyone who commits violence
against any of them is destroyed.

In the context of the dialogue, Mahaprabhu is speaking about the evils of Vaishnava-aparadha and in this verse speaks of aparadha in general, so while 'hiMsa' usually means violence, in this context it is 'aparadha' that is meant.

And then comes one of the most beautiful images I have ever seen in literature:

bAhu tuli' jagatere bale gaura-dhAma
"anindaka hai' sabe bala kRSNa-nAma

Raising His arms and addressing the world, Gaura
said: "All of you chant Krishna's names without offenses!

anindaka hai' ye sakRt kRSNa bale
satya satya muJi tAre uddhAriba hele"

If one says 'Krishna' even once without
offense, I will certainly deliver him."

(CB 3.19.210..213-214)

Dear me, such a beautiful image. Beautiful Mahaprabhu raising His arms aloft and imploring the world to chant 'Krishna' without offenses and promising to personally deliver them!

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Pancha-tattva pic

This is a photo of a picture of Sri Pancha-tattva which is present in the bhajan-kutir of Sri Pran Krishna das Babaji Maharaj. It shows Sriman Mahaprabhu in His sannyasa-lila dancing in ecstasy with His associates for the Jagannath-Baladeva-Subhadra deities of Puri. Surprisingly, Sri Srivas Thakur (playing mrdanga) is depicted with long hair.

I like this picture, if only I could go to India and get pictures as beautiful as this.

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Vaishnava relations

This is a photo of Pran Krishna das Babaji of Radhakunda (far right) with Govinda Gopal Gosvami on his lap. The little girl is Alankrita Gosvamini. They are the children of Prabhupada Prem Gopal Gosvami, a 14th-generation descendant of Sripada Nityananda Prabhu. I like this photo, it's nice to see the relation between the Vaishnavas of Radhakunda and Navadvipa. I have been told by a disciple of Pran Krishna das Baba that he has a special love for the members of this Gosvami family because he himself is diksita of Prabhupada Yadu Gopal Gosvami (grandfather of Prem Prabhu, 12-generation descendant of Nityananda Prabhu).

Govinda Gopal is now growing into a very handsome boy as this photo shows:

He is being garlanded by a female disciple of Sri Madan Gopal Gosvami (Govinda Gopal's grandfather, 13-generation descendant of Nityananda Prabhu) on some occasion. Alankrita is there on the right.