Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #43 – How to Feel Bad About Yourself and Other Kārttika Thoughts: Part 1

October 28th, 2019

Good month. Chanting and hearing all day. Lots of realizations. Jotted them down. I see a theme. How to feel bad about yourself. That’s strange. I’ve never felt better. Contradiction?  Not necessarily. More about that later. First a few of the simpler thoughts this week:

 

The Essence of Material Pleasure

An essential aspect of the ego and material pleasure is to feel superior to others. What is the meaning of being better than others if we are not enjoying more than others? And what is the use of enjoying more than others if people can’t see it? Therefore, for many people more important than actually wearing a popular brand name or owning a luxury item is the feeling of status or superiority that it gives one. This core material consciousness, “I am a superior enjoyer” is also one of the main engines driving social media. I wonder sometimes which some people enjoy more, their actual vacation or posting a dynamic picture of themselves enjoying their vacation and the feelings of superiority it gives them. Even the practices of bhakti, if it is not pure, can be co-opted by the desire to enjoy fame driven by a desire for superiority. Sādhu, beware!

 

Making Sense of Krishna’s Līlā

The highest reality is love. The highest love is love of God, because, by definition, only God is inclusive of everything. For any emotion to reach its height, that emotion must be stimulated, which requires some drama. Therefore the highest reality, which is love of God, is naturally set in a drama or līlā, which brings the emotion of devotion to its height.

 

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Vaiśeṣika dāsa tells a story:

“I often take a walk in a beautiful park near my house in San Jose. It gives me a chance to observe the world through the eyes of śāstra. On one such walk I saw a fox terrier madly chasing a squirrel. The squirrel ran the dog in circles and finally scurried up a tree. The dog quickly ran to the base of the tree and began to bark furiously. Unfortunately, it was the wrong tree. It suddenly hit me that that’s where the metaphor “barking up the wrong tree” came from, which describes feverishly pursuing the wrong course in life. It also perfectly describes one of the main impediments to bhakti, asat tṛṣṇā, thirsting after the temporary.”

Food for thought: I am looking for happiness, but how often am I barking up the wrong tree like the foolish dog?

 

 

Sādhus of Govardhana I

I pass a close friend while walking in Govardhana. We compare notes on chanting. In confidence, he shares a point that I take note of: “After years of chanting I think I am finally getting somewhere. I feel like the seen, that a presence is observing me while chanting.” He didn’t have time to say much more, but what little he spoke, he spoke with conviction. His realization was genuine. In material consciousness we put ourselves in the center and observe everything else as an object for our control and enjoyment. There is a radical shift in consciousness in advanced devotion.  Transcending our egocentric view, we now see God as the center and ourselves as objects or seen for His pleasure. I have little doubt that after years of dedicated service and spiritual practice, my friend is getting somewhere. We offer our respects and move quickly to our next destinations.

 

 

Sādhus of Govardhana II

I visit another god-brother. He also shares his heart. He recently saw a list that he wrote ten years ago on the obstacles he faced in devotion. He laments that he is still facing the same challenges and thus not advancing in spiritual life. He questions if he will ever develop his spiritual identity while being still immersed in so many material conceptions. He observes that services like manager or guru can fortify one’s material identity as the controller unless one is very advanced in bhakti. I listen carefully, but I only see advanced devotion as a result of years of deep Bhāgavatam study. It is the fortunate soul who can finally lament one’s separation from Krishna and strongly hanker for a spiritual identity. I am humbled by the advanced Vaiṣṇavas residing in Govardhana for Kārttika.

 

 

How to Feel Bad About Yourself Part I

A friend shared with me his realization about staying in Vṛndāvana: “Vṛndāvana is like holding up a mirror to your false ego.” How true! One can’t hide from oneself in Vṛndāvana. Immersion in spiritual life in the holy dhāma in association of advanced Vaiṣṇavas forces one to become aware of one’s impurities. One then can’t help but regret a life of pretense in separation from God. Such feelings, however, don’t crush one’s spirit, but instead awaken the soul and allow one to call to Krishna in sincerity. They form the basis of bhakti, which is our only joy and solace. Oh, the joy of feeling bad about yourself in Vṛndāvana!

 

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