I offer my humble obeisances to Sri Guru, Sri Sri Guru Gauranga and all vaishnavas.
September 2, 2015
When I was growing up back in the mid to late 1970’s, I remember my father used to wear a mood ring on his right hand. This was a popular fashion at the time. These rings were oval shaped crystals set on a gold or silver band in various sizes. What was unique to this ring, was the crystal would change colors according to your mood. Happy, sad, angry etc. Many people wore them and some rings could get quite expensive. The fad eventually died out and I have no idea whatever happened to that ring.
Unfortunately, however, this is how modern society has been influenced to approach the scriptures and the spiritual life. That religion and scripture should be a reflection of their mood. Not the other way around. Some groups have even succeeded in certain religions to modify doctrine to a more politically correct view. I used to be one of those types with that belief, so I can speak from experience about how poisonous that mindset can be.
In a personal letter to me from Srila Giri Maharaja, He told me:
“Under the influence of false ego, everyone thinks his opinion is valuable and meaningful. But we do not accept everyone’s opinion as being substantial. We accept the opinion of Krishna and Krishna’s devotees.”
Many live under the illusion that the shastras should be modified or re-interpreted and adapt themselves to their false ideals and sinful practices, as it is with elected governments. Some treat religion as if it where a democracy, voting on which regulations to keep and which to discard. Others prefer the ‘cafeteria approach’ to the scriptures taking only what is delicious and appealing, and leaving behind the more nutritious, perhaps less tempting choices.
Recently I read an account of the Jewish people being held in concentration camps during World War II and how some would trade their food rations for cigarettes. I am in no way trying to downplay the horrors these souls were forced to endure this was a terrible time in human history, I am merely pointing out the strength of attachment to illusion.
Here these people were, malnourished to the point of death, yet they traded their one piece of bread a day to satisfy a craving for a sinful activity. One would think that insane, however isn’t that what we do when we choose to intoxicate ourselves, eat meat and engage in illicit sexual activities? We trade the nectar flowing from the Lord’s spiritual abode for sinful practices, thinking this will bring happiness. Meanwhile our soul becomes weak and malnourished and we wonder why we are unfulfilled, and our lives seem turbulent and unmanageable.
When these desires arise within us, we want the scriptures to adjust to our mundane activities. “I am the way God made me!” we shout. But what does the Bhagavad-gita have to say?
Srimad Bhagavad-gita chapter 2 verse 70:
samudram āpaḥ praviśhanti yadvat
tadvat kāmā yaṁ praviśhanti sarve
sa śhāntim āpnoti na kāma-kāmī
“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant ﬂow of desires – that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being ﬁlled but is always still – can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.”
The scriptures are not up for debate. At this point in Kali Yuga we have reached what is referred to as the twenty-first century. Science and technology have advanced to the farthest point in human history, yet hasn’t that always been the case in any time period? I cannot recall any time when technology went backwards. It is always in a middle position; ahead of the past, but waiting for promised future advances.
At any rate, more has become available to us in a more efficient manner. Scientific discoveries and advancements in medicine have proven to confuse and direct people away from a spiritual life. They offer a softer, easier existence. This is a sad state of affairs.
With these modern advancements, even more desires have erupted. Cell phones, computers, i-this and i-that etc. There are so many mundane distractions that people have convinced themselves they cannot live without, and yet the human race survived thousands of years relying on the scriptures alone for solace and direction.
The suppliers of animal flesh have also flourished with today’s advancements. Machines have made murder more efficient and cost effective so people can have meat on their tables every night, at very little expense to them. Cigarette and alcohol companies spend billions every year to get their products in our faces; to entice and lure us into their traps. Perversion, lust and immoral practices have become not only accepted, but protected by law in some countries as an individual’s right to express themselves.
Television, movies and music have become highly influential and accessible to society’s youth. Media has not only stretched the boundaries, but crossed the line of decency so far they aren’t even visible anymore. These outlets have perverted the ideas of discretion and artistic expression to the point that they have become venomous.
I work in an internet cafe patronized by many high school students and younger kids. I see first hand their music videos, with images and lyrics so vulgar and sexual in nature, I am embarrassed to even exist on the same planet as my mother when looking at them. I am amazed at the amount of available pornography on social media and through the internet. What is even more amazing is these images are protected by law to exist! Yet religious symbols have no place in society, we are told. The mere mention of God can stir too much debate and animosity. So for that reason, religion and scriptures have become more or less taboo.
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Chapter 1 Verse 42
doṣair etaiḥ kula-ghnānāṁ
kula-dharmāś ca śāśvatāḥ
“By the evil deeds of those who destroy the family tradition and thus give rise to unwanted children, all kinds of community projects and family welfare activities are devastated.”
But is any of this new? I highly doubt it. Only the delivery method is new. Illicit sex is certainly not new, nor is the desire for it. Intoxicants, flesh eating, gambling and so on are not advanced cravings unique to this time period. So if the basic desires have not changed, why should the scriptures?
Since there will always be distractions and desires in this illusory existence, if we wish for Self Realization we must turn to the guidance of our Guru. We may not like what he has to say at first, but remember that our Guru, as an elevated Vaishnava, learned from his Guru, who learned from his Guru, and has realized the path to self discovery; the path that leads to service to the Sweet Absolute. This path cannot be shaped into a more acceptable pill to swallow.
The false ego has an incredible ability to twist the perception of the mind in such a way that we begin to view words like discipline, denial and sacrifice with a negative aura, rather than looking on these practices as a regulated life, designed to return us to Godhead. As such, we must keep on guard and be mindful of our inner speech and focus so that we are not deviated from our goal.
For instance, if we find we are honoring prasadam (remnants of the Lord’s foods), yet still thinking about unholy foods in the mode of ignorance, where is the spiritual growth in that? But, by continuing the practices of honoring prasadam, chanting the Lord’s Holy Names and taking shelter of a bonafide Guru, we find those thoughts become purified and many habits fall away. They did for me.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna exemplifies the struggles with controlling the mind. He says to the Lord:
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Chapter 6 Verse 3
cañcalaḿ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa
pramāthi balavad dṛḍham
tasyāhaḿ nigrahaḿ manye
vāyor iva su-duṣkaram
“For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind.”
The Lord then responds:
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Chapter 6 Verses 35 and 36
śhrī bhagavān uvācha
mano durnigrahaṁ chalam
abhyāsena tu kaunteya
vairāgyeṇa cha gṛihyate
duṣprāpa iti me matiḥ
vaśyātmanā tu yatatā
śakyo ‘vāptum upāyataḥ
“Lord Krishna said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti, what you say is correct; the mind is indeed very difficult to restrain. But by practice and detachment, it can be controlled.”
“For one whose mind is unbridled, self-realization is difficult work. But he whose mind is controlled and who strives by right means is assured of success. That is My opinion.”
Here Arjuna is saying the mind is very difficult to control and Krishna agrees. But The Lord goes on to say it can be done through hard work and practice, abhyāsena. And, by practicing vairāgya (detachment from the objects of desire), we can be freed. If we change the scriptures to allow for such desires, how can we ever find peace?
The Lord understands the difficulties of spiritual life in this material, mundane world. Here again in the Bhagavad-gita he states:
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Chapter 6 Verse 40
śhrī bhagavān uvācha
pārtha naiveha nāmutra
vināśhas tasya vidyate
na hi kalyāṇa-kṛit kaśhchid
durgatiṁ tāta gachchhati
“The Blessed Lord said: Son of Pṛthā, a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil..”
Krishna is just and fair and, above all, very merciful to the conditioned souls. He is not expecting immediate perfection, but shows the way to achieve perfection. Once we begin with great sincerity the process of Krishna Consciousness, we may continue through birth after birth, until we attain the supreme goal. How will changing even one word of the shastras (scriptures), or any doctrine, make that progress attainable any quicker?
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Chapter 6 Verse 41
prāpya puṇya-kṛtāṁ lokān
uṣitvā śāśvatīḥ samāḥ
śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe
The unsuccessful yogī, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Chapter 6 Verse 42
atha vā yoginām eva
kule bhavati dhīmatām
etad dhi durlabha-taraṁ
loke janma yad īdṛśam
Or [if unsuccessful after long practice of yoga] he takes his birth in a family of transcendentalists who are surely great in wisdom. Certainly, such a birth is rare in this world.
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Chapter 6 Verse 43
tatra tam buddhi-samyogam
yatate ca tato bhuyah
“On taking such a birth , he revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success, O son of Kuru.”
A while back in preaching I encountered a lesbian couple.
When I met them, they became fascinated with the idea of Krishna Consciousness. One of the woman had heard of the Krishna Consciousness movement in college and, of course, through the popularity of The Beatles.
They were interested in practicing Bhakti, taking initiation and keeping Krishna as the center of their home and relationship. They asked me about their sexual preference, if that was going to be a problem. I told them their sexual preferences are an attachment to the body. And, engaging in illicit sex confirms such attachment, as would violating any of the other four regulations (prohibitions against gambling, intoxication, and eating meat, fish and eggs). I explained that when we mature in the practice of Krishna Consciousness, the mere thought of performing any act that will impede our spiritual progress will seem ridiculous and immature. We will come to understand the difference between making a sacrifice and practicing a joyful exercise which leads to strengthening our bond with Sri Guru and Sri Sri Guru Gauranga.
I once knew a man who was not only a flesh eater, but an accomplished chef. When he began the practice of Bhakti, he still struggled with the conditioned mind becoming full of desire, especially when he would smell certain meals being prepared that bore the aromas of those foods he previously enjoyed.
Saying to himself “No I cannot have that.” was not enough. He had to continue to remind himself that even those thoughts of desire can stand in the way of spiritual growth. He had to make changes internally, above the plane of mind and intellect. He had to change his consciousness. He was not born a meat eater, nor a smoker or heavy drinker. Those were choices he had previously made, rather than following the simple instructions explained in the scriptures. Through the continued practice Krishna Consciousness, those thoughts and desires simply melted away. Now he lives a different life.
People love to shout phrases such as: “Accept me how I am!” and, of course, the ever popular: “Jesus Loves me just the way I am.” For those who wish a true spiritual path these are precarious statements.
Recently my Guru, His Divine Grace Srila B.K. Giri Maharaja, wrote an article entitled:
Here are some excerpts I would like to share:
“The problem with Christianity is that it is not, as I mentioned in my first email, full fledged theism. That means it does not give a complete conception of God, nor a process by which one can be elevated to His Divine Abode. It is colored with mundanity to such an extent that it is impossible to sort through it and find pure spiritual life. In addition, it misleads its practitioners in many ways such as allowing them to think they have been “saved”, when they are, in actuality, continuing their mundane habits and existence with no means of actual salvation…”
Then further down he states:
“This [Christianity] is not a theistic system contrived for intelligent men but for sentimentalist who like to think they can go on sinning and, when their sinful life is finished, they will be saved by the lip service they paid to Jesus. I don’t think so.”
I chose these two quotes because they further (and more intelligently) illustrate what I am attempting to convey. If one continues to believe he is perfect, with no room for improvement; going so far as to desire the modification of scriptures to satisfy his base longings: that is an example of false ego gone wild!
It is evident then that the soul recognizes sinful activities as wrong. Knowing these practices are not acceptable to the Lord, and reinterpreting a holy book will only serve to satisfy the ego and calm the mundane mind. The next step is to try to justify one’s actions by surrounding himself with others who commit the same sins . A tribal mentality of majority rule thus becomes the accepted standard. Such people seem to be incapable of taking the scriptures seriously and believing these are the instruction of the Supreme, not the mere rambling of men. The religions who change their doctrines to appease the lobbying masses scream loudly their fallibility when it comes to such matters.
Here is one example I would like to share.
I live in a third world country that proclaims itself to be a “Roman Catholic Nation.” Last week I was invited to a Roman Catholic Baptismal party being held by my neighbor for his daughter. I declined respectfully, but wished her a long and healthy spiritual journey. The hosts tried to entice me by giving me a rundown of the menu. “I don’t eat meat or any food I haven’t prepared.”, I told them. Then I was informed there would be a plentiful supply of alcohol. “I don’t drink alcohol.”, I told them. “Just one shot!” they pleaded. Again I declined. “You have to enjoy life!” They told me. “Jesus ate fish and drank wine!”
I reminded them Jesus of Nazareth also fasted and prayed, and the Bible talks about temperance, discipline and sacrifice as the way to heaven. They did not care about that. What they wished to focus on is “Jesus drank wine!”
Nowhere in the Bible have I found where it says Jesus ate or drank anything. However, The Bible has several verses suggesting abstinence from alcohol and meat eating, starting with the first chapter of the first book:
Genesis 1:29 English Standard Version (ESV)
“And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.”
The Jewish prophet Isaiah is quite clear in this verse:
Isaiah 66:3 English Standard Version (ESV)
“He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations;”
Here in the Book of Daniel we find an interesting verse promoting vegetarianism:
Daniel 1:12-16 English Standard Version (ESV)
“Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.”
Romans 13:14 English Standard Version (ESV)
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
Galatians 5:19-25 English Standard Version (ESV)
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. …”
Ephesians 5:18 English Standard Version (ESV)
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,”
Proverbs 23:20-21 English Standard Version (ESV)
“Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”
I included this personal story and the Bible passages to show how some will band together and ignore the instructions of scripture. This type of thinking and confusion comes as a result of the contradictions found in some scriptures and the willingness of other religions to bend on certain matters to maintain followers. For instance, for every quote from the Bible I mention above, another can be found which not only sanctions the eating of animal flesh, but offers instructions on how to slaughter it! This is an obvious attempt by man to influence religious principles over the years.
I have also come across those interested in practicing Bhakti, who wish for an exception to be made for their employment and for the sake of having an income. Specifically, those who have chosen careers which deal with meat consumption. Krishna does not take orders from man. Man is His servant. I doubt the Lord would change His mind to allow murder, for material gain and enjoyment.
Our scriptures, the scriptures of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, are strict and unyielding in these circumstances. Anyone who has any dealings with the flesh of animals is just as guilty of the sin of murder as the one who killed the animal. Even if we are not the one consuming the meat itself, we still suffer the same consequences. We incur the same Karma.
“Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to the attainment of heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun the use of meat. Having well considered the disgusting origin of flesh and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let him entirely abstain from eating flesh.”
No one forces anyone to choose these careers.
“He who permits the slaughter of an animal, he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells meat, he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, must all be considered as the slayers of the animal.”
Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.14
ye tv anevaṁ-vido ‘santaḥ
paśūn druhyanti viśrabdhāḥ
pretya khādanti te ca tān
“Those sinful persons who are ignorant of actual religious principles, yet consider themselves to be completely pious, without compunction commit violence against innocent animals who are fully trusting in them. In their next lives, such sinful persons will be eaten by the same animals they have killed in this world.”
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Chapter 16 Verses 13-15
idam adya maya labdham
imam prapsye manoratham
idam astidam api me
bhavisyati punar dhanam
asau maya hatah satrur
hanisye caparan api
isvaro ‘ham aham bhogi
siddho ‘ham balavan sukhi
adhyo ‘bhijanavan asmi
ko ‘nyo ‘sti sadrso maya
yaksye dasyami modisya
Novelist Upton Sinclair once wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Yes it is difficult, but not impossible.
Many have changed careers upon entering the practice of Krishna Consciousness. I know one such practitioner, who works a mundane job earning a meager salary, at a job he is grateful for. He could easily earn triple his current wages by returning to his former career of cooking and serving meat. He will not do it. He wants to return to Godhead.
No matter how much the salary may be, nor how much more enjoyment we might get from material life; we should not accept any employment that deals with the flesh of animals (be it killinge, selling, cooking, serving, etc.), sexual immorality, gambling or promoting intoxication of any type.
Srimad Bhagavad-gita Chapter 12 Verses 13-14
maitraḥ karuṇa eva ca
santuṣṭaḥ satataṁ yogī
yo mad-bhaktaḥ sa me priyaḥ
“One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me-he is very dear to Me.”
The shastras are the word of God. They should not be altered to adapt them to any mundane activity. They exist outside of time and space. One who wants to know the proper practices, following the direction of the scriptures, should seek the shelter of a Guru and follow his instructions. The Guru is the link to the spiritual abode; our understanding of shastra must be guided by him.
If one wishes to know what to eat, read the pastimes of the Lord which tell what He ate. A spiritual life does not have to be difficult, the Lord gave very specific instructions on how to obtain it. However, the process of surrender can be excruciating for many with a strong false ego. I am one of those unfortunate souls.
I would like to close with a story I once heard. I cannot remember where I encountered it and I cannot be certain it is word for word, but it has stuck with me all this time.
One evening a group of vaishnavas were gathered, discussing the scriptures and instructions that had been given to them. A newly initiated devotee joined them and was welcomed into the discussion.
“Good morning!” The new devotee said.
“Morning? It is almost eleven P.M. It is night now.”, one of the vaishnavas said.
“No, it is morning.”, the new devotee opposed.
“How can you say it is morning?! See: the sun is not shining and everyone is preparing to go to bed.”
“I say it is morning because my Guru told me it is morning. So it is morning.”
The vaishnavas smiled and understood. “Is there anything else?”
“Yes!” the new devotee said. “It is also snowing.”
Your humble servant,
Gopal Govinda Das
*NOTE: I am in no way qualified to write such an article. I only speak from what I hope is the inspiration coming from the Lord. I urge everyone to please read the verses before and after the above quoted verses from the Bhagavad-gita so as to be certain that I have not erred in taking anything out of context. It is not my intention to do so.