Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #29 – I Don’t Know Where I’m Going

July 22nd, 2019

I just threw out what I was working on for this week’s Monday Morning Greetings. I just couldn’t make the article work. It’s Friday. My deadline is tomorrow at noon. Can you imagine how frustrating that is? What to do? I can only do what I am doing now, baring my frustration and praying that something comes. I read about this type of desperation technique years ago in a book on public speaking. It recommended that when you are in front of an audience and somehow at a loss for words you should just run with your frailties by admitting them. Your audience will be sympathetic and embolden you, and the honesty itself will be empowering. I find it quite interesting that my thoughts here connect exactly with something I was reading just yesterday.


In his introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay, Philip Lopate writes that essentially a writer and reader enter into a contract. “The essayist,” he says, “must then make good on it by delivering, or discovering, as much honesty as possible [. . .] So often the ‘plot’ of a personal essay, its drama, its suspense, consists in watching how far the essayist can drop past his or her psychic defenses towards deeper levels of honesty .”


That is so in tune with my own experience in writing. I often get comments from my readership appreciating that I share my own struggles. And I do really feel “a contract between writer and reader”. It’s a personal relationship. I feel that sitting here trying to meet my end of the bargain.


Now let me share what I wanted to share this week, but have not yet been empowered to articulate in a satisfactory way.


I wanted to highlight how important it is to have a meaningful metaphysical goal that informs all aspects of one’s life. That idea was inspired by a paṇḍita from Vṛndāvana who was visiting the USA. He happened to be a presenter after I spoke in the same yoga teacher training program where we were both teaching. I thus stayed for his talk. He gave a brilliant analogy. Here’s my recollection:


He began with a puzzling statement: “The most important thing to have in life is a GPS.” He then watched the initial reaction of his audience, paused for a moment, and clarified his statement, “GPS: Guru Paramparā System. To learn any subject, one needs to study under a mentor representing a lineage of accomplished teachers. In Sanskrit that lineage is called the guru paramparā system. Just as one’s effort in driving only bears fruit when one has entered the correct address in one’s GPS, one’s endeavors in life will only be meaningful when one sets the right goal under the guidance of a bona-fide lineage, the Guru Paramparā System.”


I wanted to develop his point further with a strong reference. The first one that came to mind was a quote by Jesus questioning one’s accomplishments in life when devoid of a spiritual objective.


“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36-38)


A very pertinent analogy by Śrīla Prabhupāda also came to my mind. Rather than just condemn material accomplishments, he highlights their potential value when connected to that transcendent objective.


“So zero is zero always. Hundred million times zero adds, it is zero. But when there is one, immediately value increases. So without Krishna, all this material advancement, they are all zeros. But if you bring Krishna, then it…that increases—-ten, hundred, thousand, tens of thousands, like that millions, billions.” (July 31, 1975, New Orleans room conversation)


Dwelling on the subject I thought I could also touch on how much the definition and practice of bhakti is predicated on its goal: “Sādhana-bhakti is the use of the senses with the aim of achieving the goal of bhāva (mature devotion).” (Brs. 1.2.2) There is definitely a discussion to be had about the need to be consciously hankering for the goal in our devotional practices (bhāva) for them to be meaningful and dynamic.


There were other subjects I wanted to expound:


How bhakti often begins by the mercy of guru and Krishna with a small taste of the sublimity of devotion, for the inspiration to practice is dependent on one’s faith in one’s goal.


I wanted to discuss the honesty of the existentialists. As they see no goal or meaning in life, they honestly contemplate suicide.


It’s 2:00 AM. When I lost all hope of producing anything of value this week, I threw my hands up in helplessness. There is a large picture of Śrīla Prabhupāda directly facing me on the wall where my desks rests. I prayed for his help and this is what came — stress the utmost importance in having a legitimate spiritual goal.


When I grew up in New York there was a renowned yogi in the Bronx who was famous for his pithy and paradoxical sayings spoken in the language of the ordinary man. I leave you with one that says it all. Think about it deeply.


“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
― Yogi Berra


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