I like chanting Hare Krishna. It’s great & a good means to bring out the best in people. Yet within the society of ISKCON I wonder if there is a place for people like me?
Let me explain what I mean, by people like me. I really want to be a good person in the sense that I want to treat everyone with love, respect & kindness. We’re all birds of a same feather – we are all spiritual beings at different places in our journey. Even the most apparently horrible person say for instance a cannabalistic serial killer; is on their path back to Godhead. It’s not that I would seek such a person’s association but, I truly believe that we’re all going back to the spiritual world…eventually. It’s simply a question of how many lifetimes or other reformatory births that stand in our way from our arriving there, I may be a million away & you may be only a few. Keeping this thought in mind helps me to treat people better by understanding whatever bad behavior they may exhibit just means that they’re working through some funk to prepare themselves for the return to their true home.
I want to associate with persons who are asking important questions in life – existential ones (why am I here, what is my purpose, what is the purpose in life, etc.), difficult ones ( what is truth, of that what I’ve been taught – what is fact what is fiction, what is reality, etc), moral ones (what is right, what is wrong, etc) & lifestyle ones (how can I make the most out of this life, how can I make a difference in this world, how can I relate with people in the most meaningful, compassionate way possible, etc).
I’m not interested in simply regurgitating answers that come from a particular book or teacher. I want to find answers & teachings that deeply resonate with every aspect of my being. On the controversial subjects within ISKCON, I lean to the side of what feels right within my heart. For instance, gay marriage or monogamy – I believe people have the right to love & live as they choose to do so provided their lifestyle choices aren’t harming others. If that is with someone of the same gender – who am I to say that is right or wrong? They’re doing what it is they need to feel loved, happy, connected & authentic – which I think is absolutely essential to one’s growth & development.
To put it simply, I believe firmly in equality. From my understanding, no material designations (gay, straight, woman, man, black, white, yellow, sudra, brahmana, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, etc) have any bearing on one’s ability to make spiritual advancement. I don’t believe that a straight, white, Hindu brahmana has any better of a shot than an illiterate, gay, sudra woman when it comes to achieving pure love of God. I also like to think in terms of difference more so than superiority/inferiority. For instance, generally speaking people have various strengths & weaknesses in terms of material designations but, that doesn’t make one person better than the other – it simply makes them different. Also, since we are all unique individuals I like to think/act according to that. Just because someone is in a black, female body – it doesn’t mean that person fits the stereotypes assigned to that race or gender.
To deny one’s intelligence & feelings of the heart because of what some Holy books say or some supposedly self-realized master says or because of thoughts like what will the devotees think seems to be the opposite of what I’m seeking. I’m seeking to be authentic & happy. From years of experience indulging the senses in a wide spectrum of their objects, I find only fleeting happiness or relief from the harsh realities of this world. Which to some extent, I feel may be God-given as a vehicle to take a break from all the hard truths that are out there. Are they the way, in & of themselves to find the answers I’m seeking? Most certainly not – but a mere distraction. Am I advocating or condemning sense gratification? Not so much – I’m simply trying to see it for what it is – a distraction which perhaps may even be necessary or therapeutic at times or could be completely destructive. It all depends on time, place & circumstance.
I’ve attempted to fit myself into the cookie cutter mold of what an ISKCON devotee looks like…at best it was simply an external show. I’ve arisen the 1.5 hours before dawn, wrapped myself up in a sari, applied the finest tilak, chanted my 16 rounds and gayatri mantras, worshipped Deities, engaged in service until my body was physically exhausted yet, it still hasn’t given me the certainty in the answers to my deepest questions – I haven’t had that one-on-one association with God that many devotees seem to be privy to. I ask the Lord for answers to my questions yet I don’t have any bright lights or a booming voice from the sky that tells me for certain, what I am to do. It would be a hell of a lot easier if I did.
That said, where I’m at now is attempting to find what feels true to myself, what satisfies the heart. It’s a tough road to walk on as the Gita says what tastes like poison in the beginning is nectar in the end & vice versa. So it seems we have to be willing to put ourselves out there & engage in that which may not seem right at first to later realize that – that thing was indeed what we needed. I find that with chanting a lot – the mind gives so many excuses not to chant or read scripture or do service or whatever else, once I ignore it & engage my heart feels happy.
So I think it comes down to the concept of the key to rapid progress is to always push yourself just beyond your comfort zone. I don’t claim to have any certain level of purity or realization. I simply aim to do that which seems to be the best thing I can do to find that authentic, blissful, honest, compassionate, kind, open-minded, loving person that I’m seeking to be.
Am I a member of ISKCON ? I don’t know. I don’t even know what that really means. One may carry out all the formalities or externals that show I’m a good ISKCON devotee – yet, the inside could be completely rotten & vice versa. So when it comes down to it, the way I see it is that’s between the individual & God. It is not bound to one society, sect or path. If there are teachings, teachers or persons of different traditions both secular & spiritual that deeply resonate with my heart & seem to offer answers or association that are leading me towards my goal – why would I ever deny them? I simply want truth, love, peace & happiness. I really want to be a good person & even if I don’t reach that goal in this lifetime, if I can feel that I’ve made even one step closer to that goal then, I can confidently say that this lifetime was a success.