Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #27 – Marilyn Monroe Died

July 8th, 2019

He vowed never to again hear anything of this world besides the pastimes and service of his worshipful Lords, Śrī Śrī Radha Krishna. That was 1962, over fifty years, when he arrived in Vṛndāvana, and he has kept true to his vow ever since. A few years ago, my friend visited this saint. I am not sure why — it seemed a bit inappropriate — but he asked him, “What was the last thing you heard in the news?” The kind baba searched his memory for a second. His matter of fact answer took my friend aback: “Marilyn Monroe died.” He soon related his conversation to me. I was impressed.

 

Last week I got a similar message. It reminded me of the saintly no-news baba in Vṛndāvana. Again, I was impressed.

 

I needed something researched in Vṛndāvana for a book Satyarāja Dāsa is writing, so I texted a friend of mine, who took the summer months off to stay there, for help. At the end of our conversation, I casually asked him a more personal question: “How is your bhajan?” His texts surprised me:

 

“Good.

Better.

New experiences

Of chanting 64 rounds

Everyday

And reading Bhāgavatam for 3 hrs a day

Also I keep vrata of kīrtana at the temple 3 hours a day.

Nothing Going on

Summer is best for me

It’s so amazing how Vṛndāvana is so different in summer

But one thing, I miss preaching

You are the only one I shared actually

I never knew its possible

I also left social media, I use none whatsoever”

 

The last line, “none whatsoever”, struck me. Knowing him, I could imagine how much this media fast contributed to his renewed depth of practice. It got me thinking. Although I am not personally on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, I do read about the world. But how much could my personal meditation improve if the input of the world, with its very consuming distractions, hates, and dualities, was completely shut off? I began to think of those special friends that seem to go much deeper than others in their chanting of the holy name. They all seem to have, to one degree or another, one thing in common. In terms of social media, they are all in the school of “Marilyn Monroe died”, so to speak. I thought, yes, media “none whatsoever.” What is the use of having the mind stimulated with so many thoughts that are of no use to the soul? Why not go even deeper into the holy name? Time is short. I’ve begun my fast today. I’ve been here before. I have my doubts. Can I do it? I wrote something on this many years ago.

 

I am convinced that, like television, the medium of the computer has insidious effects because it subtly injects one with the need for incessant distraction—an especially menacing prospect for those on the spiritual path where the mind needs to be calmed to touch one’s essence.

 

I lived in Vṛndāvana for 20 years without even a phone. I didn’t die of boredom; instead I remained absorbed in scripture, nama (meditation on God’s names), and seva (service). To be peaceful now I require the world at my doorstep with the click of a button, even while living in Vṛndāvanaa. Something is wrong. (MMG May 27, 2004)

 

If something was wrong then, then what to speak of now! Back then, I had to walk to the nearest market to even download my email! I recalled a talk that I listened to recently that seemed so relevant to the moment here.

 

Simon Sinek described how the constant use of social media has the same chemical effect on the brain as any form of addiction, from gambling to alcohol.[1] They all produce an inordinate amount of dopamine, the chemical in the brain that activates the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure or reward center.[2] In time, as the nucleus accumbens is over stimulated by dopamine, it naturally adapts, requiring one to take more and more of one’s desired substance to obtain the same dopamine “high”. Compulsion takes over, and one is addicted. And here’s the real point that struck me: “If you arise in the morning and the first thing you do is check your computer you are addicted!

 

OK, I am using “media” to research and write this. Certainly, it has many good uses. People who are isolated can be connected to spiritual events like never before. Compassionate souls may research the world to effectively comment on it with spiritual insight. Even Śrīla Prabhupada occasionally wrote or spoke on “that rascal Nixon” or “a prayer day in the US Senate” and other worldly events to illustrate his point. So yes, our renunciation of media should be balanced — we should only reject that which cannot be used in Krishna’s service.

 

But here’s the point. How much does one need in Krishna’s service? The cultured sādhu retired in Vṛndāvana didn’t need any. And how much do you actually require for the service of Krishna? If attentive chanting is our problem, or if we want to go much deeper into the holy name, perhaps this is the cause — too much absorption in what Śrīla Prabhupada called “the world of names”. One of the main obstacles to devotion is prajalpa, idle talk. Social media is idle talk on steroids. Add that to the dopamine induced impressions for endless social and frivolous distraction and is there any wonder why we don’t have sufficient taste for sitting in one place and focusing on the holy name without distraction?

 

Just imagine that you are sitting in Vṛndāvana at the end of your life chanting and hearing about Krishna. A new spiritual aspirant walks in and asks you what is the last thing you read in the news. After thinking for second you respond […] (fill in the blank of the last thing you heard on the news). Wouldn’t that be glorious!

 

“The great kings, leaders and soldiers fight with one another to perpetuate their names in history. They are forgotten in due course of time, and they make a place for another era of history. But the devotee realizes how much history and historical places are useless products of flickering time.” (Bhāg. 2.2.3, Purport)

 

 


[1] Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU

[2] This explanation of the effects of dopamine mentioned in Simon Sinek’s talk comes from article on addiction from Harvard Heath Publishing a division of Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/how-addiction-hijacks-the-brain

 

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