Dhanurdhara Swami March 8th, 2003
Jack and Kirti pick me up and take me to New York. I settle in my room. The ashram is very well maintained?an oasis of spiritual life in the desert of Manhattan materialism. Manhattan is passion. One who is ambitious can almost walk down the streets, breathe, and feel the illusion of conquering and enjoying the world enter one’s blood. The passion is that thick.
I settle in, sit at my desk, and feel an inspiration. I spontaneously write a short essay, ?The History of New York City According to the Three Modes of Material Nature?:
?The material world facilitates the conditioned soul?s desire to enjoy separate from God through the three modes of material nature. The three modes of nature thus pervade everything in this world, and in fact, everything is composed of these modes, internally and externally.
Internally, the modes exist within us as three basic psychological dispositions to enjoy the world?goodness, passion, and ignorance. These dispositions and their unlimited combinations compose the full gamut of selfish desire. Goodness is the spirit to enjoy peacefulness and knowledge, passion is the spirit to enjoy fruitive activity and sex life, and ignorance is the impulse to enjoy inactivity and sleep. Due to our past karma and present association, the modes of nature are transforming within us in a competition for predominance over our consciousness.
Externally, the modes are manifest in the various forms of sense objects, which according to their various compositions within the modes, have potential to incite corresponding dispositions for enjoyment. For example, for a man, the form of a woman is in the mode of passion and internally nourishes one’s disposition of passion. Uncleanliness is a form of ignorance and stirs inactivity and sleep. When cleanliness is the object of vision, peacefulness and enlightenment are roused.
Similarly, the sense objects of sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell manifest in various modes, and according to their composition, induce various corresponding psychological temperaments of enjoyment. For example, music, which is a sense object of sound, manifests either in goodness, passion, or ignorance and accordingly nourishes an equivalent mode within us. One seeking to enjoy the sense object of sound, therefore, chooses music that suits his modes and similarly selects other sense objects?the shapes, sounds, and tastes of his immediate environment?to commensurate with that spirit.
Now to our main topic: ?The creation of New York City according to the three modes of nature.? New York City is uniquely situated as a rock solid island a very short distant from the mainland of North America. It is thus uniquely conducive to trade?especially hundreds of years ago when the main means of trade was shipping. Ambitious people, therefore, have traditionally thrived there, which naturally attracted others with a passion for success. As people construct their environment according to their disposition to enjoy, the sounds and sights of New York gradually became more and more conducive to those in passion. Because of this, New York has become a magnet for ambitious people from all over the world seeking to nourish their passion. The passionate were also born in New York as, by karma, one generally takes birth to one of similar modes. In the late twentieth century, as communication developed, it became easier and easier for people to hear about places that the media popularized?like New York. As transportation modernized, it also became easier to visit and move to such places. As a result, a continuous influx of industrious souls flocked to the city and the neighborhoods of New York became more and more gentrified with success-oriented people seeking to fulfill their ambitions and nourish their passion. The development of New York City, therefore, as a bastion of passion, was and is a cyclical development?a passionate place, which attracts passionate people, who create an environment of passion, which attracts passionate people and so on.?
Where does this leave me?sitting at my desk right in the heart of New York City in a somewhat weakened condition? The symptom of passion is viksepa, or distraction, which makes sadhana-bhakti, the focus of the mind on Krishna, difficult business. What to do? I’m not a paramhamsa. A paramhamsa has no internal psychological disposition to enjoy. He remains uninfluenced by the objects of the senses no matter the nature of their composition or his proximity to them.
To stay absorbed in Krishna consciousness here, without being distracted, I need to teach and preach. A preacher’s consciousness is actively focused on engaging the material energy in Krishna’s service. He sees matter as Krishna’s energy rather than an object of his enjoyment, a spiritual vision that weakens?even destroys?the potency of matter to stir one for material enjoyment.
Writing this essay brings a practical recollection. I left India to serve in New York after spending my whole devotional life?over twenty years in Vrindaban. I didn’t know what to expect, but I came to New York and tried to preach vigorously. At the time I remember viewing the city skyline as I was driving over the Manhattan Bridge on my way to speak at 26 Second Avenue and distinctly seeing it in a very enlivening way as Krishna’s energy. It gave me a sense of relief from my separation from Vrindaban by giving me the confidence that, by strict spiritual practices and the mood of Srila Prabhupada’s mission, I could stay here in New York in a vision of spirituality.
In a sense, I have more obstacles in my path as a preacher now than five years ago, but I if I stay for a prolonged time in New York, I am determined to adopt and maintain the mood of a teacher of Krishna consciousness.
I finish my essay and pray for the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, that while I am here, I may be of service to him.
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