Four virtues and four methods
28th of January, 2008 - 18:58
The Buddha had some wise insights into the means for getting to know another thoroughly. While the text that inspired this blog entry is more of a chapter in general wisdom of life, the principles certainly apply in examining a prospective guru --- which has been the subject of many a discussion.
As for the misleading note
27th of January, 2008 - 9:34
My earlier note on misleading in the "Knocking on the Cocoon" entry led some to wonder what exactly I meant with that. Let's let that be clarified.
On the Siksa-guru Principle
26th of January, 2008 - 17:22
Some readers have wondered as to why one might accept a siksa-guru while the diksa-guru is still present. There are also a number of other considerations that are in place on the under-explored theme of the siksa-guru.
The Aparadha Issue
24th of January, 2008 - 15:37
With themes such as have been brought up in the last two blogs, the age-old issue of aparadha again raises its hoods. Let me clarify my position on this. First, I would like to acknowledge that I have read all the scriptural references on Vaisnava-aparadha as well as most, and have given due thought to them. When I write as I write, I write with knowledge of the said principles, making the choices that I believe are proper, truthful and righteous. I realize that not everyone may agree with my judgment calls.
TBI - Part 2 - Looking at the foundations
24th of January, 2008 - 11:40
I had initially thought of being much more reserved in over the depth in which I'd be writing of all this. However, as I realize there is nothing for me to lose in being more open, let's hear the full story. It'll certainly help people get an idea of where I'm at, and also learn of the route I've had to take. Writing is also a good form of processing the experience to ensure the removal of repressions from the subconscious. These entries seem to be becoming a bit elongated; I write as it comes. Read if you will, don't if you won't. Let's travel back in time to last spring...
The Babaji Incident - Part 1 - What blew it all
21st of January, 2008 - 14:42
Some were wondering about the details of my abruptly concluded stay with the babaji during Niyama-seva and a bit beyond. I was more than brief in my note after moving back to my own precious peace, after all. As I noted, the experience left me with many lessons in life. I have edited the earlier blog entry to remove references that would identify him by name to give me space to write more freely of the experiences, of which many may find something to learn. This is the first write-up in what I surmise will be an interesting series.
Application for 180 days of jail
18th of January, 2008 - 16:56
This is a translation of my letter of refusal from military and civil service sent to the Finnish civil service authority, should it be of interest.
Knocking on the Cocoon
17th of January, 2008 - 5:56
"Little late. You already misled many..." --- said the anonymous commentator on an earlier blog entry.
17th of January, 2008 - 5:31
Some of you have been missing philosophical writings. Here goes: Unity and difference of Atman and Brahman, doctrinal trouble with different strata of philosophy fused into a single doctrine, and God's creation of the chicken and the egg.
The Bodhisattva's Cocoon
16th of January, 2008 - 5:16
Some may have wanted to take a peek into my psyche for insight into the fundamental reasons of my present direction into solitude, the underlying impetus of my turn from the dim limelights of outreach. What has made the once almost all-permeating wish to help others subside? Is the bodhisattva now staring at the navel of his own fat belly?
About Sahajiyas, Ogres and Other Ominousities
2nd of January, 2008 - 15:46
This blog is here to clarify my views on sahajiyas, orthodoxies, ogres, blue flamingos and any number of other such subjects and entities people might be wondering about.
Difference between ISKCON and Gaudiya
2nd of January, 2008 - 11:03
Excerpt from correspondence.
Websites future - Input sought
1st of January, 2008 - 5:33
As a careful reader will have noticed, by sometime in the summer I will be dropping out of the GV internet scene altogether (occasional e-mails aside.) It is unlikely that I am to return, this transition off the world of internet has been a long time coming and is now nearing its definite final phase. Your input is sought.
TBI - Part 2 - Looking at the foundations
Posted: 24th of January, 2008 - 11:40
I had initially thought of being much more reserved in over the depth in which I'd be writing of all this. However, as I realize there is nothing for me to lose in being more open, let's hear the full story. It'll certainly help people get an idea of where I'm at, and also learn of the route I've had to take. Writing is also a good form of processing the experience to ensure the removal of repressions from the subconscious. These entries seem to be becoming a bit elongated; I write as it comes. Read if you will, don't if you won't.
Let's travel back in time to last spring and my falling out with Sanatana Das Babaji, my former mentor. Having spent most of the last three years with him, and as such having molded my practice and life almost entirely around his guidelines, the break obviously initiated a massive process of introspection and reflection. My disappointment with him was deep enough to merit questioning each and every bit of advice I had received. After a brief period of gloom I recolleted my inner assets and set myself to the path with renewed determination. Reviewing the entire period of the past three years and recompiling my routines and values anew was no mean task by any measure, but it was something that had to be done if things were to go on.
I would at times do my Giriraja parikrama with Balarama Dasji, a tyagi-mahatma with a capital T. He was the one who first inspired me to collect madhukari. At times we would do two parikramas daily; he was fierce in his determination, pain and agony of the flesh were no strangers to him. I am also not a timid person; yet our temperaments were different, with I being more of a studious fellow and he a hands-on tapasvi with little philosophical sophism or sympathy for silent meditations. It was all about active engagement in devotional austerity for him. My company with him overlapped with the falling out with Sanatana Dasji for two to three weeks, and was no doubt instrumental in developing the perspective that forced me to move on.
Our diverging temperaments aside, the eyes of the community also fell upon us. Ah, the ever-prying eyes of the so-called Vaisnava-samaja, filled with people who would rather live others' lives than their own, and who would project their every lust and greed unto others and gossip on the potentials of what such-and-such might be doing or thinking. We decided to walk our separate ways for the time being to let the minds of people settle once again. He gave me a sound advice I was to hear again on several occasions. "The times are bad. Do not mix with people. Keep to yourself and do your own bhajana." And indeed, we had also largely kept to ourselves during our years with Sanatana Baba.
With mastering Bengali language, I had grown more aware of the lives and natures of people, householders and renunciates alike. I would be lying if I'd say I wouldn't have grown cynical of human nature over my years here. While the phenomena I witnessed are universal beyond a doubt, malice, duplicity, lies, scheming, gossiping and hypocrisy seemed to be more vividly present here among the Bengalis than anywhere I'd ever seen before. I could speculate about the reasons for this, but this is neither the time nor the place for it. It is no exaggeration to say that nine out of ten who approached me with an aim of establishing a relationship were out to take advantage of me in one way or another. It was a bitter realization.
They say not to find fault with others, and I've certainly tried my level best to make it a point to not go out of my way to find fault with anyone or delve on anyone's evils. Yet sometimes the evils of the world enforce themselves into your horizon with such force and vigor that facing them is inevitable, if only as a matter of protecting oneself from exploitation. I knew only too well, having seen people go down under the weight of negative thought, the burden that'd befall if one were to let the mind loose and allow it to freely delve on and discuss the situation and condition of the contemporary samaja.
A word or two must be said, however, as a matter of giving a sense of direction to our readers. Most of the lay community, the Bengali householders that is, live their lives preoccupied with family and income. Far be it from me to criticize them for that, as no formal standard of expectation has been laid. Even if, as a matter of curiosity, one may observe that the spiritual standards of the average ISKCON householder are far above the average Bengali householder even at Radhakund, what to say of Bengal where fish often features as a part of meals so common it even hardly draws any attention. Of course, having people try to make friends with you with concealed (more often than not financial) motivations is a nuisance, but that's what life in the world seems to be all about.
It is the renunciates that are the cardialgia, the grating pain in a heart full of ideals. Of course there are good people, but the good are a handful while the essentially fallen are the masses. It was Pandit Baba who said the proverbial words almost a century back, warning of the bad times ahead. Times, when renunciates would be amassing money in their bank accounts, leading their lives in the way of householders. Pandit Baba's possessions were largely limited to his earthen pitcher and the kaupina he was wearing, he was a blameless man with the power to speak. In the seven decades that followed, the weeds that were in bud at his time have almost overgrown the garden.
Nowadays, it is not at all uncommon for a babaji to have a large sum of money, often several hundreds of thousands of rupees, sitting on a high interest bank account. Dealing in land and commodities is all too accepted in the community's eyes; for only a fool wouldn't seize a good opportunity. Wine is the only factor amiss from the famous trinity of wealth, women and wine. (Even if amply supplemented by ganja.) Even people in the highest ranks of the renunciate community are known to maintain illicit relationships with women. I will not narrate specific examples here, as I am not interested in having people refer to me as a source of gossip; they are common and undisputed knowledge, open secrets of the community if you will. Affairs with married women with the approval of the husband, aborted children of seva-dasis, swindling of funds to support illegitimate children. And none can do a thing about it. Even if someone had the will, he wouldn't have the means.
Among the handful of renunciates committed to their sadhana — and they have my greatest admiration for that! — few are well versed in the scripture. This lack of education leads to obvious problems as far as avenues of teaching are concerned. Just as a person devoid of grammatical understanding may fare well when it comes to speaking, and yet be unfit for the task of systematic and thorough teaching, so it is with the uneducated yet staunch mahatmas. Even with their best endeavors to formulate a conceptual framework to serve as a basis of teaching, drawing from their experiences and the occasional classes they've attended, the output can be incompatible in terms of the strict ideological setting of the acaryas' writings, and for someone even with a mediocre familiarity with our canon, it takes heaps of patience and essence-seeking to accommodate such teaching in a sustainable manner.
The good and the bad aside, there are of course the luke-warm. Renunciates who go about living their easy-going lives day in and day out, opening their mornings with tea and biscuits, doing a bit of kirtan or any other service to get pocket money, colleting their daily meals from the charity booth, prattling about village affairs and other trivialities by the road-sides, and gathering near the video stores to watch the latest kitchy Purana-movie or the ongoing cricket tournament. TVs and VCD players are becoming more popular now, a careful observer can even spot a dish antenna atop a kutir or two on the banks of Syama-kunda. Many, having failed in their material pursuits back in Bengal or Bangladesh, come and take bhekh for an easy lifestyle mixed with pious habits. It isn't about fervent pursuit for the other-worldly, it's about cultural conditioning and a way of life.
There, the building blocks of my misantrophy, a gloss on some factors that have contributed to my wish for solitude. In my withdrawn life, the meaning was to be found from within. Through a contemplative life of devotion. Yet peace is at times naught! Now, the famous saying is that wherever you go, your mind will follow. True enough, the mind will follow, but the stimuli that create disturbance may well stay behind, just as a man moving from hot to a temperate climate will find peace with the change of the circumstances.
Back in the days, Vraja was largely a jungle. There was no paved road around Giriraja with vehicles racing to and fro and video stores blasting out their latest movies; it was through jungle paths that Sanatana Goswami would roam, the chirping of the birds and the humming of the wind in the trees as his background music. There were no three-story buildings decorating the banks of the kundas, no masses of people with a flock of greedy pandas at their tail; it was in solitude that Raghunatha Das Goswami sat, trees and creepers his walls, honeybees and deer as his company. It was this ideal environment that nourished their inner life, giving them a uniquely conducive arena for practice.
The modern day environment of the dhama is very different. Radically different! One has to walk with eyes fixed looking down to keep the focus straight while walking cross the village. Masses of people flow, jeeps drive down the crammed parikrama path blowing their horns, and every ashram has big loudspeakers set up on their roofs, assuming their particular kirtan or class to be the cream of all spiritual sound worthy of being blasted out loud enough to reach the outskirts of the village. Nor can one find a solitary grove undefiled by agriculture or human habitation anywhere in the surroundings; one day, a certain Ekadasi a year and a half back, I roamed for some fifty odd kilometers in search of idyllic settings for bhajana, and found but a single spot some thirty kilometers away, in the areas somewhere behind Surya-kunda, that invoked a parcel of the spirit of the ages bygone. Let the nature be or not be; even if all that noise were to just shut up, it would be a small heaven already!
On this side of the kunda, in the Bhagavat Bhajanashram where the widows sing for food, loudspeakers are now in place; the good ladies start their monotonic chants at the early moments of dawn and go on until seven or eight in the evening with a few hours of siesta after the mid-day. On the other side of the pond, Sita-Ram Mandir has traditionally been very loud with their off-key chanting of Ramayana. Going further outward, the Nitai-Gaura-Radhe-Shyam headquarters keep up the spirit on the side of the tempo stand, and the Vishnupriya Sampradaya folks at the big Puri-styled Mahaprabhu Mandir keep playin' their ol' tape day in and day out. Then there are the dozen or so video stores with their crazy locally produced pop blasting out at random times, some more and some less devotional. God, how much one rejoices at times of a timely electric outage! It wasn't without a reason that kirtan — in other words, the production of sound — was declared the most powerful of methods; it penetrates into consciousness and drags your attention mercilessly to itself. It's good when it's invited, but alas if you're trying to do silent japa or any other such contemplational practice...
Enough of the descriptions now, the above ought to suffice. All of the above was gradually accumulating towards a critical mass. I really just wanted to have my peace and do my bhajan, and I had come here with hopes of an ideal environment for the task. The peaceful land of pastimes and the company of the saintly to carry me seamlessly onward in my quest for the devotional perfection. My idealistic expectations have since then largely vanished, as may go without saying; there are good sides to life here, yes, but the flipside of the coin can also be very imposing at times.
I'll conclude here for today. The next blog entry will touch on the conclusions to which all of the above led, a peek into my brain to shed light on why I was vulnerable to the kind of exploitation that took place. As someone noted in a comment, "it is surprising for me that you let yourself dupe in this way". (Thanks to everyone for the comments!) Coming up in the next episode: "TBI - Part 3 - How the Grand Dupe began".