On true and false renunciation

19 04 2021

After hearing the prayer of Dabira Khāsa and Sākara Mallika, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “My dear Dabira Khāsa, you two brothers are My old servants. “My dear Sākara Mallika, from this day your names will be changed to Śrīla Rūpa and Śrīla Sanātana. Now please abandon your humility, for My heart is breaking to see you so humble. “You have written several letters showing your humility. I can understand your behavior from those letters. “By your letters, I could understand your heart. Therefore, in order to teach you, I sent you one verse, which reads as follows. “ ‘If a woman is attached to a man other than her husband, she will appear very busy in carrying out her household affairs, but within her heart she is always relishing feelings of association with her paramour.’ (CC Madhya 1: 207-211)

“You should not make yourself a showbottle devotee and become a false renunciant. For the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way and do not become attached to it.” Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu continued, “Within your heart you should keep yourself very faithful, but externally you may behave like an ordinary man. Thus Kṛṣṇa will soon be very pleased and deliver you from the clutches of māyā. (CC Madhya 16: 238-239)

The word markaṭa-vairāgya, indicating false renunciation, is very important in this verse. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, in commenting on this word, points out that monkeys make an external show of renunciation by not accepting clothing and by living naked in the forest. In this way they consider themselves renunciants, but actually they are very busy enjoying sense gratification with dozens of female monkeys. Such renunciation is called markaṭa vairāgya — the renunciation of a monkey. One cannot be really renounced until one actually becomes disgusted with material activity and sees it as a stumbling block to spiritual advancement. Renunciation should not be phalgu, temporary, but should exist throughout one’s life. Temporary renunciation, or monkey renunciation, is like the renunciation one feels at a cremation ground. When a man takes a dead body to the crematorium, he sometimes thinks, “This is the final end of the body. Why am I working so hard day and night?” Such sentiments naturally arise in the mind of any man who goes to a crematorial ghāṭa. However, as soon as he returns from the cremation grounds, he again engages in material activity for sense enjoyment. This is called śmaśāna-vairāgya, or markaṭa-vairāgya. (CC Madhya 16: 238 purport)

As a young man, I renounced the world twice. The first time was quite grave and seemed definitive, the second was a continuation of the first, a quick “do-over”. When I went off to renounce the world to do religious stuff, I really didn’t think I would come back. There was precedent: I had grown up poor and I had wanted to be a priest when I was a young man. I thought I was following my desire the whole time of my renunciation. It’s taken me years to figure out that this was not the case.

Read the rest of this entry »




Water pastimes

17 04 2021
https://www.holydham.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/KONARK-5.jpg

When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu saw the exuberance of Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya and Rāmānanda Rāya, He smiled and spoke to Gopīnātha Ācārya. “Tell the Bhaṭṭācārya and Rāmānanda Rāya to stop their childish play because they are both learned scholars and very grave and great personalities.” Gopīnātha Ācārya replied, “I believe that one drop of the ocean of Your great mercy has swelled up upon them. “A drop from the ocean of Your mercy can drown great mountains like Sumeru and Mandara. Since these two gentlemen are little hills by comparison, it is no wonder that they are being drowned in the ocean of Your mercy. “

Logic is like a dry oil cake from which all the oil has been extracted. The Bhaṭṭācārya passed his life in eating such dry cakes, but now You have made him drink the nectar of transcendental pastimes. It is certainly Your great mercy upon him.” (CC Madya Ch. 14 83-87)

In this lifetime, I have been a bookworm, even if a reluctant one. Truth be told, none of my learning has been particularly disciplined or systematic. Maybe it’s because of boredom, or ADD, or some mental deficiency. I don’t care to memorize or master all of the jargon of any particular school of thought. That has probably doomed any serious study of, say, Kant or Aquinas. Honestly, when I delve into these systematic thinkers, I tend to break them down into the simplest terms I can fathom and run with it. In my defense, every time I get into conversations with specialists, all I encounter is needless complication of very simple premises. It’s akin to A.N. Whitehead stating that all philosophy is just footnotes to Plato. Typically systems of thought flow from a single pristine idea that its high priests try to chew over and over again. It is no wonder that I spent so many years as a Platonist.

Read the rest of this entry »




“I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

8 04 2021
https://arturovasquez.files.wordpress.com/2021/04/d2088-the-ecstatic-virgin-anna-katharina-emmerich-celestial-images.jpg

The body of the Lord was just like a field of sugarcane into which the mad elephants of ecstasy entered. There was a fight amongst the elephants, and in the process the entire field of sugarcane was destroyed. Thus transcendental madness was awakened in the body of the Lord, and He experienced despondency in mind and body. In this ecstatic condition, He began to speak as follows.

“ ‘O My Lord! O dearest one! O only friend of the universe! O Kṛṣṇa, O restless one, O only ocean of mercy! O My Lord, O My enjoyer, O beloved to My eyes! Alas, when will You again be visible to Me?’ ” (CC Madya lila 2.64-65)

Here I get to talk about something familiar to me – something that I have written about copiously – the grotesque. While Srimad Bhagavatam has its extremely odd and even risque moments, the Chaitanya Charitamrita has an earthiness to it due to its closeness to us in time and mood. In some ways, the Chaitanya movement parallels the devotio moderna and other popular religious movements developing in Europe during the same period. Indeed, all Gaudiya theology unfolds in a very baroque manner, with flourishes and complexities that seem to reveal another unexpected face of Vedantic religion.

Read the rest of this entry »




God’s tears

6 04 2021

The entire beautiful body of the Lord was covered with dust and dirt. In this way it became transcendentally beautiful. At times, when cleansing the temple, the Lord shed tears, and in some places He even cleansed with those tears.

CC, Madya 12.86

For the time being, I have resigned myself to practicing two religions, if purely out of social obligation. It can’t be helped, and I don’t mind it terribly. To this end, I was really busy with Holy Week services, especially learning the chants and order of services. However, on Maundy Thursday, I took a break for a few minutes to visit a church literally down the street. It seems like the local Roman Catholic traditionalists have taken up residence nearby, so dropping in on them is literally like running to the corner store to get a gallon of milk.

This time I decided to catch the last part of Maundy Thursday services, mainly the stripping of the altar. I always found this a deeply moving ceremony: God in the form of the Blessed Sacrament is removed from His home and put somewhere else. All of flowers and decorations to to indicates His presence are then stripped, leaving the sanctuary barren. The high altar is thus left looking like an abandoned cave.

Read the rest of this entry »




Unlettered

25 03 2021
https://krishna.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Krishna-and-Arjuna-on-the-Battlefield-of-Kuruksettra.jpg

 The brāhmaṇa replied, “I am illiterate and therefore do not know the meaning of the words. Sometimes I read the Bhagavad-gītā correctly and sometimes incorrectly, but in any case I am doing this in compliance with the orders of my spiritual master.”   

The brāhmaṇa continued, “Actually I only see Lord Kṛṣṇa sitting on a chariot as Arjuna’s charioteer. Taking the reins in His hands, He appears very beautiful and blackish.

“While seeing Lord Kṛṣṇa sitting in a chariot and instructing Arjuna, I am filled with ecstatic happiness.

“As long as I read the Bhagavad-gītā, I simply see the Lord’s beautiful features. It is for this reason that I am reading the Bhagavad-gītā, and my mind cannot be distracted from this.”

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu told the brāhmaṇa, “Indeed, you are an authority in the reading of the Bhagavad-gītā. Whatever you know constitutes the real purport of the Bhagavad-gītā.”

After saying this, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu embraced the brāhmaṇa, and the brāhmaṇa, catching the lotus feet of the Lord, began to cry. (Madhya lila Chapter 9 Verses 98-103)

Read the rest of this entry »




Love hurts

24 03 2021

A personal rough guide to the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta

In the Hare Krishna movement, the Founder Acharya A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has stated that, if the Bhagavad Gita is like a college education, and the Srimad Bhagavatam is like an advanced degree, the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta is post-graduate study of spiritual life. The Bhagavad Gita teaches basic ideas of the transmigration of the soul, the essence of karma and yoga, and the need to surrender to Krishna as the end of spiritual endeavor. The Bhagavata Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam goes in depth into who Krishna is and His manifestation as the unfolding of the Absolute Truth (vadanti tat tattva-vidas / tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam / brahmeti paramātmeti / bhagavān iti śabdyate SB 1.2.11). The final stop in the spiritual itinerary of the soul is to realize that the Absolute Truth is a Person, the First Person, Krishna in Vrindavan.

Read the rest of this entry »




Sancta sanctis

5 03 2021

In my Catholic brain, the sin of presumption loomed and looms ominously. This sin against the Holy Spirit is the dangerous one wherein one continues to commit sin with the intention of seeking forgiveness later. This sin was not always as tolerated as it is now, and among practicing Catholics of the modern Church, it barely exists. The indirect enabler of this sin is the Sacrament of Penance or Confession and easy (if not to say, automatic) absolution. The idea now is that one can commit any sin but if one goes to Confession, forgiveness is all but assured. To doubt this is to doubt the efficacy of the Sacraments; in Catholic theology, their working ex opere operato (by virtue of the work as worked). You don’t have to do anything but make a “good” confession to a priest (that is, not holding anything back and being accurate in your telling) and having a modicum of sorrow for your sin, as well as a “resolve” to not sin again. What the nature of the “sorrow” is, and the “resolve” for that matter, remains a disputed question. The modern “pastoral” solution, even amongst the strictest conservative, is to lean heavily toward being liberal and permissive. Otherwise, one has to exclude people somewhat interested in the Christian way of life but with little resolve to tackle their vices.

Read the rest of this entry »




On the reform of the reform

25 02 2021

I was listening to a podcast about Catholic liturgy, namely the idea of the “reform of the reform”. The podcast interested me because it recapitulated a phase of my life as a young Catholic man in the late 20th century. I grew up with very liberal, very free-wheeling liturgy as a Catholic in California. When I began to take my faith more seriously, I saw the problems with the ritual (or lack of it) at my local parish. I was not alone in this at the time. The podcast mentioned a book by Msgr. Klaus Gamber called Reform of the Roman Liturgy which I read in college. This podcast speaker claims that this book is among the first to call out the lack of continuity in the reform of Roman Catholic ritual in the late 20th century and thus advocate a reform of that reform towards a more traditional direction. This book was praised by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who later became Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict took many measures to make the reformed liturgy more traditional, at least when he celebrated it. He also allowed again the celebration of the old unreformed liturgy.

Read the rest of this entry »




On God having toenails

19 02 2021

Even if I have dismissed something in my own head, I like to return to it on occasion to see if I still dismiss it. Above is a video from lay Catholic theologian Christopher West about the foundational premise of John Paul II’s theology of the body. I went over ad nauseam about a dozen years ago why I find the theology of the body erroneous, and in spite of my effective change in religious faith, more or less I stand by my objections. In fact, I now adhere to a faith that has the premise, “we are not this body,” at its very foundation: it is effectively a key idea of the Bhagavad Gita.

Read the rest of this entry »




Chota Haridas and Judas Iscariot

16 02 2021
https://back2krishna.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/chotaharidas.jpg

Studying Krishna consciousness for me is all about contrasts. Writing about it is an exercise in explaining these contrasts in as few words as possible. With the story of Chota Haridas, there is an immediate comparison to Judas Iscariot in the New Testament, except that God Incarnate (in this case, Lord Chaitanya) doesn’t get betrayed nor is He handed over to His enemies to be killed, and so on. The real comparison lies in the question: What happens when one of your followers, someone very intimate to your mission, “falls down”? Is there redemption after that and, if so, what does it mean?

Read the rest of this entry »