Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Simply Surrendering

"We have to approach the domain of knowledge with self-surrender, honest inquiry, and a serving attitude. We have to approach that plane with the mentality of slavery. Higher knowledge will not serve a person of lower status.If we want perfect knowledge at all, we will have to serve the Supreme Lord. He will use us for His own purpose; not that we will use Him. We may be subjects in this mundane world, but we will have to become objects to be handled by the superknowledge of that plane. If we want to connect with that higher knowledge, we must approach with this attitude."~ The Search for Sri Krsna, p. 28-9

It hasn't even been a week and I am already having conflicting thoughts over my role as a devotee. The pursuit for the truth has always been my deepest aspiration and yet when the door is opened before me, light pouring in from a place I have yet to venture, promising to filter fresh revelations on my deepest questions, I pause hesitatingly.

I have a real desire to serve and honest inquiry comes natural to me...but...surrender. I thought I could...I think I can...And yet..and yet...Ever since I began really digging for revelation towards the mystery of God doubt has plagued my consciousness. A restlessness has settled upon me and a struggle has ensued. It is spiritually tangible, as if my ego has a life of its own. As soon as my soul expands ready to receive instruction and guidance my ego constricts that opening, like a serpent. It tightens its coils around the inner artery that brings life to my soul causing my inner vision to grow dim. I reach out, aching for a taste of God , just a taste of His love and knowledge of His nature.

 There seems to be no place for doubt for the devotee. And yet, for so long that is all I've ever really felt. In fact, one of the only things I've been certain of since discarding my prior false beliefs is my doubt. It has comforted me and provided me with a line of defense against delusion. And it was always a trait heralded in my circle of impersonalist friends. For so long the one thing I was sure about was my state of unknowing. 

The more I've searched the less certain I've become of anything as life seems to bring with it an illusory web of contradictions, dead ends and an infinite depth of complexity. Like a mirage it promises false truths in sparkling images that seem so real but when you get close enough to reach out to them they vanish. Yet there's a steady rhythm thundering in my soul, calling out to me, telling me this time there is something that is certain, there is something that is real and it should be pursued unto the very end. The mahamantra has transformed my perspective. It has etched a faint imprint on my intellect and stamped it with ownership: Property of Sri Kishna, refusing me the option of shaking it off. Nor would I want to; it has brought me such peace and bliss. It whispers me onward, assuring me that there are things that truly can be known. There is a path and I am standing on it. I just have to take more steps forward.

So, now I have a guru that can help guide me, and the words from the Search for Sri Kishna ring in my head:
"Real knowledge is stable; it has a firm foundation, and Vedic education deals with how to acquire that knowledge. The meaning of the word veda is "Know." No rhyme or reason is shown why you should know, and no explanation is given: simply "Know."" ~ SSK, p. 28
Is it really that easy?? Just "know"...The truth seems a lot more elusive to me than that. How does one know? The Gita, the Upanishads and the book search for Sri Krishna, as well as every other conceivable source that uses the Vedas, all say from a spiritual master. It is quite apparent that trust is required in this transcendental exchange for knowledge. A deeper trust than I have ever been willing to give anybody. I've only bestowed that honor on myself, giving the precious gift of trust to my ego, a poor investment.

It seems like it's so easy for others to hand over the keys to their intellect and soul when it is time. When the luster of the material world fades and the transient and mundane nature of this world becomes apparent. We know there's more to reality than what the world offers us. It's as if the world offers us platters heaping full of beautiful delectables in which our minds and souls can feast upon. But when we go to take a bite, the smell alone tells us it is rancid, not fit for the lowliest creature. What alone will nourish our soul comes from God and we seek that. I seek that. But when a dish that offers itself to be truly palatable comes into view I now feel it natural to ask for the specific ingredients-to examine it closely, to want to test things out for myself, rather than simply taking a bite!

The image that comes to mind right now is that my soul is like a horse that is wild. Who has felt neither bit nor bridle. A great drought has come to the land and there is only one place in which to get water. I search it out here and there but can find none. My master finally comes out in the field. He holds a bit and reins offering to guide me to the water I so desperately need and without will perish. But I must submit and allow him to guide me. To trust him completely and bid adieu to my days of haphazard wandering. As soon as I see the reins I back up, fearful at the thought of surrendering and yet thirst has nearly overcome me. I am not being rational and am allowing my fear of trusting to overcome me. But I want to trust and I have affection for my master and recognize his voice. I know in my soul that it is my destiny to follow. I know he has already seen the water, tasted it, been immersed in it and can truly guide me to it. But I know the path that leads to the water will take me through foreign terrain, past things that I have only heard about and half-believed. Some things that I have read and heard are so beyond my comprehension I'm not sure I'll ever grasp them. And there are the mirages in the distance that beckon and appeal to my senses and mind. Beautiful statues of intellectual mastery carved by some of the greatest philosophical artisans seduce me to come forward and take what they have to offer. Their beauty is artificial, I know this deep in my soul, and yet the site of them still taunts me.

I am realizing that I am still wrapped up in a tangled web of maya. I have not yet freed myself from the trappings of this world. I have recognized the truth, I can see it in the distance, have committed myself to a path and yet traps keep springing up and I'm not sure I'm strong or nearly spiritually perceptive enough to always avoid them. I guess at least knowing that is some kind of progress.

I brought any of this up to my guru? No. Should I? Most likely. Why haven't I? Because I fear failing and surely this is all a sign that I'm not doing very well spiritually. Perhaps he'll see me as a sinking ship, a wasted investment, and want to untether the anchor so as not to waste it.

If only, in complete surrender I'd allow my master to guide me. I know that is the only solution for my soul's salvation. I do trust him. I recognize him as my spiritual authority and of God Himself. And yet I feel tethered to attachments that hinder full surrender. To truly know is to get past this material mirage and see with clarity the true nature of things. I don't trust myself. Maybe that is also a positive sign of progress. Okay, maybe there's some hope for me yet. And yet, I fear of failing, of falling. I also fear of being a heretic-of along the way being so intimately caught up in maya that I am hopelessly mired in it and convinced by it. That I will recognize and accept truths but allow my distorted perception to disfigure them beyond recognition and allow myself to convince myself of false things.

Surrender...just simply surrender! This resounding command to the seeking soul reverberates loudly within the Vedas. God has given us the formula and now it is just up to us to release ourselves of our egos and follow it. And then we shall truly come to Know.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Beginning of a Journey

The Vedas say,
srnvantu visve amrtasya putrah: “O, you sons of nectar, sons of
the nectarine ocean sea: please listen to me. You were born in nectar; you were born to taste nectar, and you must not allow yourselves to be satisfied byanything but nectar. So, however misguided you may be for the time being, awake! Arise! Search for that nectar, that satisfaction.”
That excerpt comes from a book I just began reading, “The Search for Sri Krishna: Reality the Beautiful”, by Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Deva Goswami Maharaja.

When I read the above excerpt it seemed clear to me that searching out Sri Krishna is our soul’s quest to reconnect with the original taste of infinite bliss and love in which our souls were first conceived. Upon further reflection I am reminded, though, that we have no beginning and will see no end; that our jivas, our individual souls have always existed. So perhaps a better way of viewing the above is that we are searching out for the peace and bliss that can only be found when we find that which our souls originally associated with. The very source of Godhead, Sri Krishna. When we find Krishna we find the source that will satiate all the desires of our soul’s innermost longings. Our souls will find rest in their true home.

Thirst has overcome my soul bringing with it a sense of desperation as I have longed to satiate this seemingly endless desire to pursue truth unto the very end. To discover the great pearl of infinite value. For nearly fourteen years I had thought I found it within the borders of Christianity but I eventually found the borders to be more like prison walls. What lay within was no longer satisfying nor made much sense or appealed to my inner intuition of what was true. The gardens bore fruit that no longer quelled my spiritual hunger.I had no choice but to leap over the walls into what felt like an unknown and foreign land of wilderness with no path in site, only my own conscience to guide me towards the truth.
This verse from the Bible comes to mind:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44)
What could possibly be worth more than discovering God? Nothing to me is more dear. Therefore, I forsook a spiritual community and belief system that I once valued above anything else when I recognized it to be false.  It felt almost like shaking off heavy coats after a long winter only to feel the warm and promising winds of Spring brush up against the exposed linings of my soul. The idea of real spiritual advancement towards truth reinvigorated me and I eagerly set out in search of it.

It was then that I gravitated to the only sources that could provide any sense of direction for me. Throughout the thick forest dim lights offering theories and speculations spawned from minds of intelligent men whispered and beckoned me forth. I was lured away from any notion of a personal God and trekked through my mind’s interior assimilating notions of impersonalism, believing that I had been originally deceived that God’s nature was personal. I began meditating and experienced realizations of oneness with Brahman that were so intense that they confirmed in me the reality that we were all one. God was all and all was God. There was no need to go further. All that was needed now was to cultivate knowledge and experience of Brahman at this point and someday, when my impermanent body drew its last breath, I would merge into oneness with the infinite void that was God. What I didn’t realize at that time was, though Brahman is God, God is more than just Brahman. Brahman is one of three aspects of God and I had arrived at accepting a partial truth as the whole truth.

Through His divine grace and mercy Krishna did not give up on me and through fate I was lead rather  circuitously to knowledge of the maha-mantra. I had originally wanted to practice chanting with japa beads using my primary mantra at the time: om namah shivaya, but then was introduced to the maha-mantra and became intrigued by it when I first heard it spoken. After purchasing japa beads to practice with I began using the maha-mantra with them exclusively. I began this spiritual discipline with the mindset that it was merely a  spiritual tool to center myself in the present. I did not think too much about the words I was chanting but concentrated fully on each one  while I chanted, feeling and hearing the vibrations.

What I didn’t expect was to have instances of unexpected peace flood through me. A love that seemed to penetrate through any barriers of mental speculation plunged directly in the depths of my soul, like an arrow, shattering barriers of maya that had built themselves around the eyes of my soul. Instantly, during one chanting session I was struck with the realization that only the most profound and truest reality of love can be found in God and love is personal. How could God not be but a personal God if He encompasses the very qualities that we associate with sentience? A seed of faith had been planted in my heart and each time I took up my beads to chant the seed began to sprout roots until instinctively, while chanting, I began to lift my heart up to a God who I did not understand but knew was there, offering my heart to Him and appealing to Him that He bless me with knowledge of His nature and give me an opportunity to serve Him. Not only had the mahamantra led me to believe in a personal God but it directed me towards the path I knew I must now take in order to find true realization and spiritual fulfillment. The path of bhakti yoga.

I came into correspondence with Srila Giri Maharaja who, through his benevolence, initiated me and is now my guru. I feel so new and inadequate when it comes to my chosen path. There is so much I don’t understand in terms of formalities that correspond with being a devotee and there is an infinite amount of knowledge to learn.  The formalities, I must admit, intimidate me as they are all so foreign to  me. The knowledge that there is to learn excites me. As his Divine Grace Swami Sridhar mentions in his book Sri Guru and His Grace, we are all students and with joy I accept the position of being a student of Krishna consciousness for the rest of my days here on earth.

I am so spiritually  hungry I wish to devour as much knowledge of Krishna as is possible! I feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude to have Srila Giri Maharaja there to guide me. I no longer feel like I’m in the middle of an overgrown and dark forest with only dim lights to guide me, which only served in the past to lead me deeper into illusion. Instead, now, I feel like I am on an open path with gentle grasses bending on other side, reminding me of the truth in which Srila Prabhupada expressed-that we should all be humble as blades of grass. And with the spirit of humility and devotion I proceed with, as radiant and transcendent as the sun,  the light of my guru to guide me and make my path clear so that I might run unhindered into the full embrace of Sri Krishna.

I often write in my journal and will now use this blog to post my entries with the intention of sharing my journey with others while receiving their insights into some of my reflections and some of the topics which are introduced and thus enter into meaningful and edifying dialogue.