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.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Boston Hare Krishna

Tonite I'm in Boston. It feels cold here, after being in Florida and D.C. I visited the Hare Krishna temple this evening for their famous Sunday feast program. The temple is located in a beautiful century-old brownstone on one of the nicest streets in Back Bay, an elegant neighborhood. The building was probably purchased around 30 years ago, when it was cheap. Now it's worth millions, and surprisingly, the idiot GBCs didn't sell it off years ago, like they sold big properties in other major cities like New York City, Amsterdam, Paris, etc. So Iskcon has a beautiful building in Boston.

The temple is well maintained by what seems to be a combination of middle aged Indians and a few younger westerners. I don't know the details, but it appears to be functioning, like all Hare Krishna temples in the West, by the mercy of donations from the Indian community. About 80% or more of the guests tonite are from that community. It is really their temple. Being Indian, and pious, they are gentle, welcoming and tolerant towards all.

I missed the class but the kirtan was pretty nice, although led by an off-key singer. It felt at times a bit like forced exuburance, but did not go on interminably. And the prasadam was mild, tasty and very politely served by Indian devotees wearing plastic sanitary gloves. It was a very nice feast. Afterwards, i walked around, went upstairs to wash my hands, visited a store inside the temple and a few of the other public rooms. Again, it was mostly Indians, mostly male and mostly professionals. It could have been an IT conference. But it was KC.

I was a stranger there and only one devotee approached me to offer any assistance and to ask if it was my first visit. Actually it was my first time in that building. I was at the former location of the temple in 1971, when Srila Prabhupada installed the current deities, Sri Sri Radha Gopinath. It was nice to have Their darshan after so many years. It feels like another life.

My wanderings over the last 37 years, from country to country, house to house, ashram to ashram, looking for "my place," is what a good friend in Amsterdam wrote to me, a "reflection of our wandering from body to body, never satisfied, always defeated yet with renewed, but doomed hope every time. As Krsna advises in the 13th chapter (Bhagavad gita), 'see the evils of birth and death.'" Many people would say that is pessimistic. But Krishna says no, it's realistic. Evil is not about what others to do us, but what we do to ourselves.

We are not born free in this material world. We are bound by nature's laws, by our karma and by our misconceptions. Those misconceptions are the cause of our continued suffering. We can't change the laws of nature nor can we change our karma. But we can purify our existence by becoming aware of our misconceptions. Taking corrective medicine in the form of chanting the holy names of God and associating with the words and when possible, the presence, of saints is the path to freedom. All other paths lead us into deeper bondage. It may sound harsh, but this is our choice.