Saturday, April 5, 2008

Iskcon Antics or Krishna Lila?

Tonite i was browsing thru the Sampradaya Sun, as part of my news habit. I read a short piece on the dangers ahead for the well educated and well behaved devotees of the Chowpatty temple in Mumbai. I spent seven weeks as a guest in that temple in 2002. The devotees treated me very nicely. I had long hair at the time (even a moustache i think) and i had not been a big devotee from the past. But because i was Radhanath Swami's guest and godbrother, i was offered a decent place to sleep and a lot of respect. I was also expected to be pro-Radhanath and pro-Iskcon, and any deviation from the party line would have probably revoked my privileges immediately. But as a good guest, i behaved according to expectations. And i sincerely appreciated the good association i received. It softened my heart for Iskcon (a second time). But after going from there to Juhu, where i stayed when i recorded my album Jivatma Express in a studio in nearby Andheri, and then back to Vrindavan, and finally, spending almost one year in Mayapur in the householder section of Iskcon, it soured me on Iskcon a second time. This time was without the anger and disillusionment of the first experience. My eyes were wide open, and i was not surprised when i realized that at least in its present incarnation, Iskcon is a damned institution. Yes, damned! Cursed by inept leadership, non-transparency, narrow-mindedness, misconceptions, and a multitude of prejudices and offenses towards other vaisnavas and people in general. So, for all of my nice memories of Chowpatty-- and the really beautiful hearts of some of the brahmacaries i met there-- i could never go back, except for a brief visit.

Actually i cannot understand how the devotees got it so wrong. How could they not get the inner mood of Srila Prabhupada? Why would they be satisfied only to imitate the externals? But this is the material world. Everyone in this world is damned to be an imitator of the Lord, and the institutions that are created thru great sacrifice by world teachers to revive the original spirit in jiva souls, are also damned by their followers who imitate the externals of religion and service to God. I'm not judging individuals. Everyone has their own path back to Godhead, and it is not for me or anyone to judge another. But it is up to each of us to open our eyes and walk our own walk on that path.

Another article in today's Sun described the famous vaisnava poet and composer, Jayadeva. He is most famous as author of Das Avatar, the classic Sanskrit poem depicting the incarnations of Krishna. Jayadeva was also a favorite poet of Lord Caitanya's, who spent much time hearing Jayadeva's verses. Reading about Jayadeva's life and his offerings of poetry, music and choreography to Lord Jagannath is inspiring. Here was a great genius in literature and music, but without any self-infatuation. All of his art was an offering to the Lord. He was indifferent to the political antics of his time and fully absorbed in describing the spotless pastimes of the Lord. That's a great lesson, a difficult lesson for us, who are conditioned to the desire for acceptance and averse to rejection by our peers. But in the end, whom do we want to remember? The transcendental and infinitely beautiful Lord of all creation, or the three stooges?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Please, Please Krishna

Tonite i'm settling in to an apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This place is a small studio loft, about one mile from Harvard University. I don't have any particular business here, nor do i know a soul in this part of the world. But in order to stay in the US for the time being, i chose this area.

I haven't lived in one place in the US since i left Honolulu in 2000. Since then i've lived with friends in Europe and i've rented about 9 or 10 apartments all over India. I even bought, renovated and sold a place in Sridham Mayapur, West Bengal. I've lived out of suitcases for the last 8 years. So settling down and actually emptying my suitcase feels a bit strange. It feels awkward to be out of the transit lounge for awhile.

Existentially, we all are in the transit lounge known as "the material body." Otherwise known in Sanskrit as "samsara." We are here to enjoy and suffer the effects from our most recent stopovers in this mad universe. And we are here to learn the necessity of no more stopovers. Non-stop to freedom, please. Non-stop to non-reactions, please. Non-stop to taste for Nam prabhu, please. Non-stop to inner peace, please. All this is possible if our please is loud enough and persistent enough. If our please becomes a sincere cry for help. It's all in the please.