Dhanurdhara Swami April 17th, 2001
New York City
My last entry ended on the ninth day of March. They were focused around Vrindaban and may even be put into one book. Jal Keli has already proposed a design and title: “Greetings from Vrindaban”. Today, then, is perhaps the beginning of a new set of journal entries that may also eventually be compiled together as a book. “Greetings from New York”?
Starting up again I am not sure if the entries will be daily. I have too much else to write, but the journal should be maintained.
John picked up a car for me yesterday. I was surprised when he called and told me that he purchased a 1998 Toyota Corolla with the few thousand dollars we managed to save. He actually threw in some of his own money to complete a down payment, and signed loan payments in his own name. I initially felt embarrassed, as a sannyasi, to have a newer car, but I suppose I can probably stand to renounce the six tows and practically monthly breakdowns I had over the last few years in the old one.
In Vrindaban, when the devotees who make Life Members get a new Tata Sumo?the top of the line Indian SUV?they drive it right in front of Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi. They then worship the car with an elaborate puja. When I saw it once, an eerie sacrilegious feeling came over me. ?This is not about service to God, but personal status. Is nothing sacred??
At five this morning I drove with my new car into New York to beat traffic on my way to stay at the ashram here. I took the Holland Tunnel to Canal East, but it forced me on the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn. I turned and turned trying to get back to Flatbush Avenue for the bridge to Manhattan, but mysteriously wound up on Schermerhorn Street driving right past the Sri Sri Radha Govinda Mandir. Slowing down, I folded my hands and bowed my head toward the wheel. Ironically, my new car is now also ceremonially offered in Krishna’s service.
A great danger for devotees in America is being co-opted by Madison Avenue as consumers. I’m amazed how even so-called alternate people and revolutionary types are taken on board the ship of commercialism and have to fashion themselves according to the dictates of the mass psychologists of advertising who tell them how to fill up their closets.
I remember being gifted a new Rolex watch in India and, shortly after, asking an old sadhu about his concept of yukta-vairagya, balanced detachment. He said, ?If you need a watch, then 100 rupees. That’s yukta-vairagya.? I snuck my right hand slowly behind my back in shame.
Of course, different types of people have different requirements of opulence for their service, social status, and general esteem, so there’s quite a wide range of lifestyle within the realm of balanced detachment. Consumerism is something different. It is the senseless collection of possessions, for collection and show itself, beyond any utility. What a waste!
A found a nice explanation of consumerism:
?Enjoyment of the material world? Isn’t that hedonism? ? A hedonist might consume the juice of five oranges as a prelude to a pancake breakfast. A frugal person, on the other hand, might relish eating a single orange, enjoying the color and texture of the whole fruit, the smell and light spray that comes as you begin to peel it, the translucence of each section, the flood of flavor that pours out as the section bursts over the tongue ? the thrift of saving the peels for baking.
?To be frugal means to have a higher joy-to-stuff ratio. If you get one unit of joy for each material possession, that’s frugal. But if you need 10 possessions to even begin registering on the joy meter, you’re missing the point of being alive.? ?from “Your Money or Your Life; Transforming Your Relationships With Money and Achieving Financial Independence? by Joe Dominquez and Vicki Robin
As I write this by my window overlooking East 4th Street, I can see my car. No! It is being ticketed for parking! Fifty-five dollars lost! I didn’t know that there were also times of the week that meter parking is also restricted, but ignorance is no excuse for the law, Prahlad Maharaja instructs us. Maya-sukhaya?for every step forward in material happiness, one takes two steps back.