Friday, March 21, 2008

Moving Within

All glories to the eternal Golden Moon, Sri Gaurachandra! All glories to the Golden Beauty, Sr Gaurasundara!

Today i went again to the Iskcon temple on Commonwealth Avenue for the festival of Lord Caitanya's Appearance Day. For some reason, i had an expectation. Whenever i expect something, i'm disappointed. Without expectation, there is no disappointment, and sometimes there is a surprised delight. But with expectation, disappointment is almost certain.

My expectation today was that somehow i would experience something transcendental. I would be carried into a transcendental state on this holiest of days (which happens to coincide with Good Friday). As it turned out today, the devotees are all pious people, but are conditioned by the same laws i am. And since i've witnessed both my own conditioning and the conditioning of devotees for almost the last 40 years, it all seemed way too predictable. It was a script i had already read too many times.

It's not necessary to go into the details. All intentions were nice, but suffice it to say, that after one hour in the temple, i was unwilling to sit thru another 2-3 hours. While i'm very familiar with all the temple activities, and their connection to Krishna, for me it was too difficult not to judge and not to be disappointed by the lack of spontaneity and lack of spiritual emotion generated by these rituals. I could have been sitting in a church or a synagogue or a mosque just as i was in the temple. I would have been respectful and i would have been bored in a similar way. Perhaps this is simply my own failing, my own atheism, coming to the surface. That's quite possible.

But rather than fight it, or go to sleep by it, i decided to get up and walk out. No matter how nice, religion falls short for me. It was a transcendental movement-- not a religion-- that attracted my heart 40 years ago, and it still attracts me. But it's not there anymore. When Prabhupada was here, despite all the flaws within me and around me, it still felt like a movement. Now, short a miracle of meeting another pure devotee in this life, nothing outside moves me. No group, no school, no society, no politics and no entertainment. There is no movement, or illusion of movement, after 40 years of searching.

I don't see myself as a victim. I think of myself as a thief who has finally been caught. Now i need to give back the stolen goods and to atone. Only this will bring me peace and movement within, movement towards transcendence. I need to move on, to move within.

All glories to the eternal Golden Limbed Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.


Atmavidya said...

Jauvana, thanks for revealing and sharing your innermost thoughts after the Gaura Purnima temple visit. You are not alone. My experience at the Hamburg/Germany center was very very similar. Without and within. It is the shallownes of it all which makes me sick. Your conclusive words "I need to move on, to move within." do apply to me as well. Only, against all odds and all soberness of mind, somehow I almost expect something to happen in our lifetime. Maybe even that elusive present-day pure devotee may reveal himself.

Billy said...

How can it be wrong to want to experience a living God?

A writer once noted that Americans tend to define religion as spirituality and personal experience, as opposed to Europeans who define religion almost exclusively as Ritual and Doctrine. Most Americans can't even tell you what the Doctrine of their Denomination even is! The American character seems to be always trying to build a better mousetrap.

I think God is compelled to grace whomever loves him with faith.


Babhru das said...

I have often had a very similar experience. The lack of spontaneity and spiritual emotion you mention reduce a festival marking the most significant single event in history to a part of a liturgy.

However, I’ve also had some exceptions. Several years ago, when I lived in San Diego, I heard that devotees in Tijuana, Mexico, who had just suffered a spiritual crisis, desired that a “senior” disciple of Srila Prabhupada might go to their little center for Gaura-purnima. I jumped at the chance. I could have easily gone to yet another big festival at the ISKCON center just a block away, had some tasty prasadam, gotten crowded in a kirtan much like the previous years’ kirtan, sat through a lecture and readings nearly (if not precisely) identical to those of previous years, come home, and gone to teach the next day.

I chose instead to extend myself, to preach “abroad,” to give whatever I had to devotees who felt themselves in need, and to take nourishment from those devotees’ faith. It was one of the best Gaura-purnimas since my first, in 1970, and it left a deep impression on my heart. I will always be grateful for the opportunity those devotees gave me.

I got lucky again this year. I came to Tripurari Maharaja’s ashram in N. California, where the devotees opened a new temple. Devotees came from Europe and Asia, as well as around the US, and the atmosphere was so thoroughly charged that, even though he had been hit by a case of the flu (or at least a really bad cold), Maharaja ignored it, chanted like a crazed person, and gave talks so energetically that some devotees thought he had gotten over the illness. (He hadn’t, as I had correctly guessed.) And his energy and enthusiasm were infectious.

I hope I—and everyone else—will get lucky again and again. More to the point, though, I pray that such luck may spread and overwhelm all the places where festivals, large and small, have gone stale. May every place where Mahaprabhu’s devotees observe festivals such as Gaura-purnima and Janmastami find fresh energy and inspiration to transform their festivals (and their daily activities) from skim-boarding parties to deep-ocean diving expeditions.