Our entire culture is in denial of these simple facts.
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© 2004 - Hansadutta das
[Posted March 31, 2006]

Ocean of Fiction

by Hansadutta das


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At night when we sleep, the reason the sleep is so precious is because the subtle body (the mind, intellect, ego) separates from the gross body. And so we feel rejuvenated. We need that relief from the drudgery of moving this body through the environment. That's why if a person sleeps just 10 or 15 minutes in the afternoon and that separation takes place where we drift off, we feel totally rejuvenated. It's a known fact—Prabhupada used to mention it again and again—that very energetic persons like Napoleon, Gandhi and others, they don't sleep much; they sleep very little, because they are more spiritually focused, so the frustrations of life don't bring them down. People sleep a lot because they are frustrated. Why are they frustrated? Because actually we're not a part of this world. We're not a product of this world. We are the living force, which moves this world—or more correctly, moves this body. This body moves because there is a living force.

When we are in the dark or in ignorance about this relationship, we tend to act on the basis of this body—"I am this body", "I am an American", "I am a black man"—whatever. And it's very frustrating, because it's a mistake. The premise is the problem. I'm thinking that "I am matter, I am this body", and I'm relating to everything and everyone in terms of my body, pursuing... all the goals we have in life are related to this body: to become famous, to become rich, to become beautiful, to be adored and loved and fondled and indulge in sense gratification, thinking thereby I will feel satisfaction. Because everyone wants satisfaction, we want to be happy. But I can never get it, even if I attain the highest office, or prize of material life, which is to become famous, to become wealthy, and to enjoy beautiful men or women. Whatever the case may be, even if I capture these things, I feel no satisfaction. Therefore we see in the lives of very famous people, especially in America—movie stars, or athletes, or politicians—they become self-destructive. They become alcoholics, drug addicts, or sex addicts. They actually destroy themselves. Why? Because they are so intent and determined to squeeze out some satisfaction from the material body that they wind up taking the most extreme and drastic measures, which are found in drugs and overindulgence in sex, and of course to become very famous, always to be in the eye of the public, always smiling and being adored by many followers. So they self-destruct, because actually there is no pleasure there.

The pleasure is inherent in the soul. It's just as sugar inherently is sweet; we don't add something. It's sweet by nature. So our very nature is to be joyful and to be satisfied. The very word satisfied indicates sat. Sat is a Sanskrit word, meaning eternal, eternity. We want to experience the eternity, the eternality of my actual self. And so satisfied is a Sanskrit word. Like electrified, putrefied, terrified, satisfied means to be saturated with eternity, or just like electrified means to permeated with electricity. If I stick my finger in the socket, I get electrified. So, to be satisfied, which is the aim of every undertaking—it doesn't matter what we do in life—the aim is to find satisfaction, to find that taste, that juice that will completely put me at peace, self-contained, self-satisfied.

As long as we pursue goals which are bodily related, we must be dissatisfied, simply because we are not this body. Just like you were just discussing about your sister and the medical treatment. Actually, Prabhupada said, "What is the use of keeping someone alive if they are suffering? You are simply prolonging their suffering. You can't avoid dying. You can reasonably make adjustments, but there is a point when we have to accept that my life is over, I have to prepare to go. But we don't get this education. We don't get this teaching, and we don't get this perspective in school, where we should, right? Or at home to begin with, then at school, then in the workplace, then in the recreation place. We never get any information about our actual condition, our actual situation, and what our purpose, what our goal should be. We are always being encouraged to pursue false goals: to look nice, to eat nice, to have good sex, and on and on. There's no end.

That's what America has created and is continuing to create through technology and media like TV, movies, computers, magazines and books: an ocean of fiction. An ocean of fiction. Whoever can create the greatest illusion becomes very prominent, like Walt Disney, or Spielberg, or Lucas. Whoever can perpetuate and keep us completely bedazzled and charmed with the external features of the world, he becomes a great person. And that goes in every field, not just in entertainment, but also in the field of politics. Like Napoleon: "We will conquer". Or Hitler, or Kennedy, and now its Bush. All these leaders are actually misguiding the people—all of them, in every field, whether it's in politics, or business or education, or art or music. Everything ultimately rests upon one premise: "I am this body or mind, and therefore bodily and mental goals are my aim, and I will find my success there".

And Vedic culture... or to be more specific, Krishna says (Bhagavad-gita 8.15), "No, Duhkhalayam asasvatam, This world is temporary and miserable." Duhkhalayam means miserable, and asasvatam means asat, you see. Sat and asat. Asat means it's just the opposite of permanent; it's impermanent. Even though you may agree—"Oh I don't mind, I can bear with it. I'll tough it through..." Life is tough, life is hard. [My son] Hansa Kumar says, "Hard as a rock." Then he says, "Harder." So even if we agree that "Oh yeah, life is hard, yeah, we gotta take it, we're gonna tough it through," no. Krishna says it's temporary. Even if you tough it through, you can't survive. No one can survive. [Laughter] [Connie says, "Tough it to the end."] [Jackie Rose says, "And then tough it some more."] [Laughter] That is a material conception, and therefore materialistic people who are in this bodily concept, in the Bhagavatam they are compared to hogs, dogs, camels and asses. Why? Because they are working day and night for what? Basically for maintaining this body—eating, sleeping, mating and defending. So if human beings, with advanced intelligence and consciousness also pursue the same animal goals, then they're animals. They are sophisticated, polished animals.

The whole Vedic Culture, Bhagavad-gita and Bhagavatam aim at bringing us to our senses. First we have to understand that life is suffering. But people will say, "Why are you so negative? Life is joyous, joyful. Right? A woman is giving birth, and it's like a watermelon coming out of her stomach through a small opening, and they're thinking, "Oh, it's so joyful." No. It's a miserable thing. It's very painful, both for the child and the mother. And then there are years and years of labor looking after that child. Anxiety. And then at some point the child goes off and says, "Hey, shove it."

Of course our entire culture is in denial of these simple facts. They will say, "Oh we have Christmas, New Year and holidays like Thanksgiving. But the point is unless we see that material life is suffering, we cannot be interested in Krishna consciousness. We have to see that, that there are threefold miseries: adhyatmika, adhibhaudika, adhidaivika. Adhyatmika... atma means self. The first suffering is my body is always giving me trouble. Even before birth. I was reading that book, A Child is Born, a famous book published back in 1965. A very nice book. But we can see that "Oh, that condition..." To be packed up in the womb like that, and then eventually after nine months, pushed out, evicted, propelled, like shot out of a cannon... From the beginning, from the day of conception: suffering. In fact there's a very famous book— I don't remember the name, but the doctor learned the art of regression quite by accident, and he regresses one patient to the moment of conception, to the moment when the sperm comes in touch with the ovum. And the lady who was under hypnosis or regression, she's saying, "No, no, no, no." And then afterwards she understands this was the phobia that she carried around her whole life. She was extremely averse to sexual relationships, and the reason was because she had a deep impression of the time when she again was put into a womb and her birth began. Unless a person understands that material life is a term of incarceration in a material body, which is the source of all my sufferings... unless people understand this, they are not going to be interested. Krishna consciousness is meaningless for them. It's like, "What are you talking about? We're gonna have drinks and dinner and enjoy." As long as a person is absorbed in the euphoria, the charm, the allurement of the world, he can't be Krishna Conscious.

And simply shouting slogans like "I believe in Jesus", "Jesus saves", "God Bless America"—this is useless. It has no value. Real spiritual life means real knowledge, practical knowledge. It is the king of knowledge. There are many fields of knowledge. There's engineering, chemistry, music, politics, etc. But the apex, the very king, the very purpose of knowing things is ultimately to know myself and to know my relationship with God. And it is not something to be believed. It's not something ritualistic, or mechanical, or joining something. We actually have to know it by practicing it. First we hear it, and then we have to apply it in our own life. Because spiritual life, unlike everything else, is simply for you. You can fool some of the people some of the time, and all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool yourself all the time. At some point, we are simply left by ourselves, and there is no one else to impress. At the time of leaving this body, nobody... really people don't care. They may make an obligatory show. They're there—"Oh, how are you feeling?" But they'd just as soon be out having a beer, or they're hoping that "Maybe she could go a little quicker so we can get our inheritance or the estate." I've seen it. They sit around like vultures. I saw it with a very famous man in India, Hanuman Prasad Padar, owner of the biggest publishing house in India. He was leaving his body, and the relatives were just sitting around, waiting for him to go.

And this knowledge ideally should be taught from childhood. When boys and girls are children, they should be taught the principles of spiritual life, just as they are taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and other subject matters, which helps them to keep their body in a comfortable situation. But they are not [being taught], so the result is that all of the bodily comforts are available, but there is absolutely no spiritual life. The boys and girls are frustrated, they become mischievous, they become drug addicts, they become sex addicts, they become perverse in different ways, and this goes on throughout life until it's all over. They are born in darkness, and they die in darkness. That is a composite or a small picture of the environment in which Prahupada came and taught and which pervades the whole world. It's not just New York or America or Europe—it's everywhere. Even in India—although they have a vestige of Vedic culture. But factually, thanks to the British and Mogul influences and now the modern influence, everything there has become hodge-podge and confused.

Anyway, the simple process (Prabhupada sometimes called it a shortcut process because people are so disturbed and confused)... the simple shortcut process to reviving that spiritual life is to chant the holy names of Krishna. The process is so simple that of course people think that it's kind of silly—"What could you possibly gain by simply chanting Hare Krishna?" And we always respond with "Well, what do you gain by breathing? It's a simple thing. Why don't you just not do it?" The fact is that without breathing, we cannot live. Similarly, without being in touch with Krishna by sound, transcendental sound vibration, we can't have a spiritual life. All the other things in spiritual life—there are many practices, and prayers and philosophy—they are all auxiliary. They all support the chanting. Just like the breathing... you do so many things: you wear clothes, you wear shoes and a hat, you're eating, so many things, but without breathing, it's all hey, nobody cares. A dead body. No one is going to dress it up real nice. It's finished. So similarly, all the practices which we see people engaged in, if they do not actually chant the Holy Name of Krishna, they're all useless. It won't amount to anything. It's just external. Everything culminates in the Name. When we meet someone, we say, "What's your name?" then we give our name, and we have a relationship. And we know even from Dale Carnegie, the most important thing about a person is his name. There is nothing more important. We see that it's a fact. If we're in a big crowd and someone yells out "Connie Seymour," you'll be looking—"Who was that? Who is calling my name?" We find it in business—BMW, Mercedes, Ford, IBM, Apple, etc. We just say "Apple", and all of a sudden, a whole world opens up. We say "Elvis"... You see? The name is everything. When we have financial transactions, the cheque without the name is useless. You can write 5 million dollars; it has no value, but as soon as I sign my name, then it's valuable. Everything begins and ends with the name.

In the Chaitanya-charitamrita, the name has been described as the seed of spiritual life, just as in agriculture, the seed is everything. Now there is a big controversy. They have tampered genetically with the seeds, bioengineering, but still, the seed is the essential thing. That big tree? It came out of a tiny seed. All the information, all the power to produce the tree is compressed in the seed. So the seed of spiritual life is the holy name of Krishna. Of course, there are many names for God, and people can chant whatever name they like. Any authorized name of God is okay, but generally people don't have any name for God, so it has been suggested to chant the name Krishna. Krishna means all-attractive. In one sense, God has no name, but in another sense, He is addressed according to His qualities. Just like if someone is strong, or someone is quick, we nickname them in different ways. Krishna's name, the name Krishna means all-attractive. And Krishna is completely present in His Name. Exactly as a big man, when he signs his name, that's everything. In the old days a person would "give his name"—"in my name", "on my good name". He guarded and honored his name. So the ultimate name is the ultimate supreme person, Krishna. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says, "The whole world becomes joyful hearing My name. Thus do all become attached to Me." (Bhagavad-gita 11.36)

People may be attracted to Krishna or repelled by Krishna, but Krishna is the center. It doesn't matter whether you hate Him or you love Him, the result is the same, because Krishna is absolute. Even those who were inimical to Krishna, they also gained. Like if you become a great enemy of President Bush, then you also become prominent. Of course it's better to be his friend. [laughter]

Don't think of chanting as something mechanical or an obligatory ritual to be performed because we are believing in Krishna, no. It has the power of Krishna. And even in the Bible also, Jesus says, "Wherever there are three gathered in my name, there I am." "I have kept them in Your name." It requires practice. When we practice [chanting the holy name], then we will actually feel satisfied. We'll feel that we are getting a glimpse of eternity, knowledge and bliss. And the fact is that the perfection of chanting is to have all our energy—mental, intellectual— all energies when they are completely absorbed in that sound, that's perfect.

But the fact is that we are so polluted, contaminated. Our mind is wandering, our intellect is wandering, our senses are pushing us to eat something, smell something, and see something. This is our condition: we are always externalizing our focus. Our senses are always being drawn to different objects and smells and tastes and thoughts. The chanting is a form of meditation to cleanse our minds. In fact, mantra... man means mind, and tra means to deliver, to deliver the mind from all of this wandering, all of this ceaseless, perpetual drifting and wandering and hovering. It's not going to be done perfectly in one session. Nothing is. We don't teach children to read right off the bat. It takes years just to read and write. Similarly, to perfect our spiritual life is a lifetime endeavor. It's what life is for. The other things are actually just burdens that we have to bear, the karmic burdens that we have to tolerate—"Okay, I have to go to work, I have to do this or that."

Srila Prabhupada preceded everything and ended everything with chanting. Even when he had a heart attack, he said, "Chant Hare Krishna." And that was his deep-rooted conviction and faith, that the holy name of Krishna would transform and purify even the most degraded persons. And he proved it, in fact. It was so.

When Prabhupada came it was the 60's, and it was a great revolutionary time, at least in the eyes of the people of that time, which were ourselves. We thought that through drugs and unrestricted sex indulgence, and by acting contrary to all established norms and authorities, we would reach or find state of satisfaction and happiness that we are all searching for. We were all war children. I was, of course, a little bit between the generations. Most of the boys and girls that joined were younger than me. They were the children of the parents of the war, and it was a great, jubilant time. It was great successful era for America. Everything flourished—economy and industry. Rock and roll came onto the scene in the 50's, then movies and television. Everyone was very exuberant, except these kids. They were born into an era of plenty, so their first reaction was, "Why should we work so hard? Everything is there already. My parents worked, and they're miserable, so why should I follow that same path? Why should I repeat that?" Prabhupada called it "chewing the chewed", charvida charvinanam. It's called "chewing the chewed". In India, people like to chew on sugar cane when it's in season, so they buy a piece and chew on it until it's all gone. Then a poor man comes along, he sees it, he thinks that maybe there's some, but it's already gone. Whatever was there is gone. So our parents, they had already chewed on everything, and there was nothing. They couldn't get any satisfaction, they tossed it aside, and now we were expected to pick it up and chew on it again.

So Prabhupada came at a time when everything was permissive, when everything was Okay. "If it feels good, do it." And he was so controversial, because his message was completely contrary to the spirit of the time. He said, "No, I don't let my students take meat, fish, eggs. You can't take intoxicants, including tea, coffee or cigarettes." And he said that we are not meant for sense gratification; we are meant for penances and austerities, to give all these things up and go back to Godhead, shave the head, go out in a dhoti, etc. So, it was very revolutionary, and Prabhupada was completely uncompromising in this. Sometimes the reporters would ask, "Oh Swami, did you ever try LSD? You are saying that we shouldn't take LSD, but did you try it?" That was the big line, that "You haven't tried it, so how can you say?" He said, "No, I haven't tried it, but all my students—they have tried it and they've given it up, so why should I try it?" They must be getting something better. They've taken it, and they've chucked it away, and they've taken to the chanting, so it must be a better thing, otherwise, why would they give it up?" Prabhupada was unique, because there were also other swamis. There was Satcidananda, there was Mahesh, and there was Balyogi, and so many swamis had come from India, and they were flourishing. But Prabhupada wasn't like the other swamis, because he did not give his own ideas. He didn't allow people to speculate. He didn't allow them to have sinful life and at the same time practice yoga. He said, "I am simply presenting what I received: the standard, this is a standard science. This is not my opinion, this is not something new. This is a standard which has been handed down since time immemorial form one Acharya, from one spiritual master to another. And whatever I am giving, that is the standard. And there are no exceptions. There is no compromising. It is based on original Sanskrit texts, especially Bhagavad-gita and the Bhagavatam." He sometimes said, "Until I came, there must have been 300 editions of this book Bhagavad-gita in English, but no one ever became a devotee of Krishna. Because everyone uses Bhagavad-gita to present their own speculative and concocted philosophies. He said, "I am presenting Bhagavad-gita As It Is. And the whole message of Bhagavad-gita is you must surrender to Krishna. Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. "Give up all other responsibilities and just surrender to Me. I will protect you from all sinful reactions, do not fear." So that was his message, not his message, he would say, "I am not saying it; Krishna is saying it." I was married at the time to Himavati. My wife was a very nice looking Russian girl. Prabhupada sometimes quoted that verse, Krishna says, "Even the sudras and the businessmen and the women, who are less intelligent, even they can become perfect," and then she would react, and he would look at her, and he'd say, "I'm not saying. Krishna is saying [that women are less intelligent]." [laughter] So that also became a point of contention. And we can hear Prabhupada discuss this point many times with reporters. He was very straightforward about it. He said, "It's not my message. It's not something prejudiced. It's a fact, men and women are different. They have different functions, and if you don't recognize that, you're going to have... because one lady asked him "What will happen if the women don't accept this?" He said "It will cause a big problem in the society, and it is causing a problem." That was the beauty of Prabhupada—he was not self-motivated by his own opinion or his angle of vision or his success, that he wanted to achieve some success. He simply said, "This is the message. You can take it or leave it.

And of course, he practically single-handedly introduced a whole culture to those persons who embraced his leadership. Because he didn't simply talk, but he taught us to cook, how to clean, how to eat, how to sing, how to... Everything we learned from him, a complete culture from top to bottom, a complete lifestyle. And that is still going on to this day, more or less. Of course, the movement as it is today compared to what it was then has lost its dynamics. But still, basically, the ingredients are all there. Of course, I was also an early disciple of Prabhupada, and have seen how the movement has developed, and then when Prabhupada left, it has gone through difficult circumstances and changes.

And I also have gone through difficult personal changes and failures or mistakes, but spiritual life is eternal. It's not a one-time thing. It's not like attaining a high office in a corporation or government, and then if there's some discrepancy, that's it, it's over, his career is finished. No. Spiritual life is not like that; it's eternal, it's ongoing, it never stops and it never comes to a point of satiation. Like you go to university and you get a degree, and then okay, now I have everything, and I'm set. It's not like that. No, it is forever, because Krishna is forever expanding, and we are also forever expanding our affection and our relationship with Krishna. There's no point where we can settle in, and now everything I have it in my pocket, and I'm done, I can retire. Retiring is a material conception. In spiritual life, there is no retirement. There is always and forever expansion.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that personally, as an individual, as a disciple of Prabhupada, I have come to the conclusion that people need to come in touch with Krishna in a way that they can accept it. What was practical and effective when Prabhupada came is not practical and effective now. It's not working. People will not, cannot "join something." They don't want to join something. We wanted to join something! We were desperate. In fact when I came, they kept telling me, "No, you can stay at home and just chant and follow." And I kept saying, "I want to join, I want to be a part of this thing," and they kept putting me off. But times have changed, and also the approach we had in those days, because we had that inclination to throw everything to the wind. We had actually done it already before meeting Prabhupada. We were already in that mode. Prabhupada said, "The hippies are renunciates, they have already decided we're not going to participate in this (societal norms). But we didn't have the alternative, so when Prabhupada came along, we just jumped in lock, stock and barrel. And he engaged us in printing and distributing his books. But from a larger perspective, or a higher perspective, at least I see that people will not respond to Krishna consciousness that way, although we would like to think so, because everyone thinks of others in terms of themselves. And for years, the devotees were thinking that people are going to join, but they are not going to join. They want something they can take home, and it will apply to their life. And they want to take as much or as little as they're ready for, without being intimidated. Like, "How come you're not surrendering everything, how come you're not shaving up?" And that actually is spiritual life. Vedic culture is such that it accommodates everyone. It accommodates everyone. Everyone in Vedic culture can take as much or as little of the knowledge of Vedic shastras, and that is okay. It is not like Christianity—all or nothing—"Jesus saves", if you don't take Jesus into your heart, you're going to hell". Krishna Consciousness is not like that. In fact, the word Veda means knowledge. It simply means knowledge. You can take as much or as little as you want. Just like you can go to school, you can go to the university, you can do post-graduate, PhD, or hey, you can drop out from high school. Everything is there. Vedas say it's all here, the tree of wisdom, the tree knowledge, so you take as much, but the aim of all knowledge is... Krishna says, "I am seated in everyone's heart; from Me alone comes knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness. I am the compiler of Vedas, I am the knower of Vedas, and by all of the Vedas I am to be known." (Bhagavad-gitaVedas. But if someone refuses, they are simply interested in material enjoyment, Vedas also can accommodate—"Oh, you want to enjoy life? You want to have nice wife and children?" Vedas give directions on how to achieve that with the least amount of entanglement and problems, so when you are saturated, when you are finished, you can make spiritual progress and go back to Godhead.

Western countries have no knowledge actually. They have no standard knowledge. Everything is speculation and experiment, and what makes it even more unhappy is that it is all lopsided. It is just concerning this body. And even that knowledge is very imperfect. They are destroying their bodies with all kinds of undesirable things, undesirable sense gratification, which is not enjoyment at all. In one lecture, Prabhupada said, "Oh, you want to enjoy sex? There is kama-sutra. There is a sutra for how to have sex in the most pleasurable and enjoyable way. So the shastras are complete. One day he said, "There is even a shastra on how to make wine. You [nondevotees] want to make it, so make it like this. But the ultimate aim of Vedic wisdom is to know yourself and to know the relationship with the Supreme Self, Krishna. And all the other things—hey, you can have your cake and eat it too. It's all complete. But it is not whimsical. It is not subject to speculation. Prabhupada says there is no need to experiment. Everything is done. You simply take the knowledge. When the children come to school, they don't have to experiment with alphabet. The teacher says "This is A, this is B, this is C, you do it like this." It's concluded. Vedic knowledge means it is perfect. Why is it perfect? Because it comes from the perfect source. How will I know? You have to apply it. Hare Krishna.


Ocean of Fiction/ WORLD SANKIRTAN PARTY
©2004 - Hansadutta das
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