ISKCON Tallinn, Estonia
18 September, 2003
Muniraja das and I took the ferry today (Thursday), crossing the Baltic Sea from Helsinki to Tallin in Estonia. The trip took an hour and a half. The boat was not crowded. We sat in the restaurant; from the ceiling on four corners of the room were suspended TV monitors that played music videos the whole way. From what I saw, the stuff was pretty banal and repetitive. Even though each video was "fresh" (not a replay of one shown earlier), still the same themes were shown over and over: a singer driving a car; or a band performing against a city skyline; closeups of girls' faces leering and sneering into the camera; flashy computer-generated special effects. The passengers did not seem to pay much attention to this garbage. Then who keeps showing it hour after hour, and why? The music seemed to celebrate only the enslavement of modern people to urban life and technology. It was brainwashing, pure and simple.
The trip was a bit rocky; waves caused the ferry to sway from side to side as it plowed through the water. There is a stage of conditional devotional service described by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura called taranga-rangani or "enjoying the waves. "
Finally, it is well-known that the very nature of bhakti is that all people become attracted to the person possessing it. And as the popular saying goes, "By the attraction of the populace one becomes wealthy. " Bhakti produces much opportunity for material gain, worship and position. These are weeds around the creeper of bhakti. Performing activities, or seeking ones pleasure (ranga) amidst these weed-like facilities, which are but small waves (taranga) in the ocean of bhakti, is called taranga rangini, delighting in material facilities.
That was a quotation from Madhurya-kadambini. Taranga-rangani is a type of anisthita-bhajana-kriya, or unsteady execution of devotional service. Other types of unsteady bhakti are:
False confidence (utsaha mayi)
Sporadic endeavour (ghana tarala)
Indecision (vyudha vikalpa)
Combat with maya (visaya sangara)
Inability to uphold vows (niyamaksama)
About utsahamayi, Srila Cakravartipada writes:
Just as a child, having just begun study of the scriptures, thinks he has immediately become a great scholar worthy of everyones praise, a person just beginning devotional service may develop the audacity to think that he has mastered everything. He is called usaha mayi, or filled (puffed-up) with enthusiasm.
About ghana tarala, he writes:
A child sometimes is diligently engaged in his studies and yet at other times, because of inability to understand the scriptures and because of lack of real taste, becomes totally negligent. In the same way, a new devotee sometimes practices the different activities of devotional service and sometimes neglects them. Being somtimes assiduous and at other times negligent, his sporadic endeavour is called ghana tarala (condensed-dilute, thick-thin).
See what Srila Visvanatha states about vyudha vikalpa:
"Shall I just spend my life happily in family life, making my wife and children Krsna conscious, and worshipping the Lord; or should I give them all up and go and sit in Vrndavana, place of meditation, and become a real success by engaging full time in hearing and chanting with no distractions? Shall I wait until the last stage, after enjoying all sorts of pleasures, when I have understood that the whole material world is simply a forest fire of affliction, or should I renounce right now? Should I regard this family life as death, a deep well concealed by grass, and give up unreliable family life while young? Or shall I wait until the death of my old parents before renouncing? If I give up family life in an unsurfeited state I will think of family life after renouncing. If I should die in that condition I will go to hell. From that type of renunciation I won't get any strength. Therefore for the time being, I will just work to keep my body alive, and later, after satisfying all my desires, I will enter Vrndavana and engage in worship of the Lord 24 hours a day. "
"Renunciation may be condemned as useless, if one depends on it to produce bhakti, but it is acceptable if one realizes it as being generated from bhakti, and dependent on bhakti. " Justifying renunciation in this way, and understanding that there will be no worry for food if he should become a renunciate, since it is well known that the asramas are full of food, he sometimes favors a life of renunciation. But at other times, using the dictum that household life is a prison only for those who are attached, he favors household life.
"Shall I engage in chanting or rather in hearing, or shall I engage in service? Let me rather engage in many angas of bhakti like Amarisa Maharaja. "
When one imagines in this way all types of options of devotional service without deciding anything, it is called vyudha vikalpa, or extensive indecision.
Concerning visaya sangara, Srila Cakravartipada writes:
Visayavista cittanam visnvavesah suduratah varuni dig gatam vastu vrajnnaindrim kim apnuyat--"One whose heart is lodged in materialism is far from obtaining devotion to Visnu. Can a man going east catch something which is going in the opposite direction?"
The devotee, with this understanding--that he cannot attain steadiness in serving Krsna without renunciation or detachment from material enjoyment--resolves to renounce his addictions. But though he attempts to renounce his enjoyment he ends by indulging in it, taking solace from the example of a devotee given in the Bhagavatam:
Jusamanas ca tan kaman parityago'py anisvara--"The inexperienced devotee, in spite of his attempts to give up his material desires, is unable to do so completely, and is allowed to indulge in satisfying his desires to some degree. "
This on-going battle with his previously acquired desires for sense pleasure, in which he sometimes meets with victory and sometimes with defeat, is called visaya sangara or war with sense pleasure.
About niyama aksama, the great acarya writes:
When the devotee will resolve: "From today I will chant such and such number of rounds of japa and will pay so many obeisances. And I will perform services for the devotees. I will not talk on any subject except the Lord and I will give up all association with people who talk on material matters. " Though he makes such resolutions every day, he is always unable to execute them. This is called niyama aksama or inability to follow rules. Visaya sangara is the inability to give up material activities whereas niyama aksama is the inability to improve his devotional activities.
Our arrival at the ISKCON Tallinn temple the after rough sea voyage was a representation of the arrival of the spirit soul into the exalted realm of pure devotional service after passing through the rough seas of taranga-rangani, utsaha-mayi, ghana-tarala and so on. We even got a nice welcoming cake and cookies for all our troubles! The devotees here are very sweet and endearing. Actually such devotees are the real wealth of ISKCON in the former Soviet states: they are innocent and unspoiled. It's not that they don't have their own version of politics, scandals, and disappointments. But somehow bhakti here stays ever-fresh.
It is now the next day, Friday September 19. Tattvavada Prabhu and Bhakta Jani will arrive here today by ferry from Helsinki. Early this afternoon we drive to a city called Tartu. I am to give a lecture at a university. We are to return rather late tonight to the Tallinn temple.
It has become cold, cloudy and dreary here since yesterday, which at least was half-sunny. Depressing. I am praying hard to Krsna to help me stay above the modes of nature.