01. Werewolves and Wizards
Seeing the four Kumäras, Påthu Mahäräja was greatly anxious to receive them. Therefore the King, with all his officers, very hastily got up, as anxiously as a conditioned soul whose senses are immediately attracted by the modes of material nature.
We can heartily laugh on Maitreya’s assessment, though this will not necessarily change our position. In this Bhagavatam verse we are getting what is called an “honorary mention”. Our problem is that we are mentioned in the later part of the second sentence; the pure, liberated devotees of the Lord are mentioned in the former.
The senses of those pure devotees are immediately attracted to the opportunities for selfless service to the Lord. In order to serve Him they are ready to abandon all social conventions of mundane piety. (What to speak about mundane impiety.) This is because their love for the Lord is overwhelming, they just can’t help it.
On other hand, we are quickly enchanted by maya. We are ready to desert our attempts for devotional service whenever there is an opportunity for sense enjoyment, especially when it is according to our particular taste. “I will fast on ekadasi unless the temple cook prepares my favorite dish.” “I will remain brahmacari unless I meet my soul-mate (or somebody who is close enough).” The acharyas call this visaya sangara, inability to stay away from sense enjoyment. This inability is caused by asat trsna. Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes:
Asat-trsna (‘thirsting for the illusory’) indicates desires for things not related to Lord Krsna. These desires are: the craving for so-called material gains in this world or in heaven, the craving for mystic powers, and the craving for impersonal liberation.
Talking about mystic powers, do you know what the difference between a wizard and a werewolf is? The wizard can choose whether or when to change into wolf or something else. He transforms his outer appearance without internal change, that is to say, he is not overwhelmed by the animal’s mind and senses but instead keeps his identity and goal intact. The werewolf simply can’t do that. When the full moon rises he turns unto a dreadful creature and commits terrible atrocities without being fully conscious of them, or of himself.
The pure, ever-liberated devotees of the Lord can visit the material world dressed in a seemingly material body but their identity as God’s loving servants is never lost. Of course, since they are independent, they can come in their spiritual bodies as well, as they please. This is shown in Brihad Bhagavatamrita:
Just see these other Vaikuntha companions of the Lord, traveling in this small universe ruled by four-headed Brahma. And further away those others, moving swiftly in the universe of an eight-headed Brahma, a world twice as large. And those others in the world of a Brahma with sixteen heads, a world twice as large again. In this way Ganesa showed me many Vaikuntha companions of the Lord traveling with ease in the millions and billions of universes of multitudes of huge Brahmas, who had millions and billions of lotus faces…Sri Ganesa continued: These persons cherish only devotional service to the Lord. They travel as they please, spreading pure devotion everywhere. They save the Lord’s devotees from all fears, even at the time of death, if those devotees have but once had even a reflection of the Lord’s name on the tip of their tongues or the path to their ears.
Thus the Vaikuntha-vasis eternally rejoice in pure Krsna consciousness and share their taste with the conditioned souls. We, on other hand, may sometimes catch a glimpse of the spiritual world during kirtan, Bhagavatam class, or japa, but sooner or later the inauspicious Rahu of Maya moves across and eclipses the moon of spiritual benediction. This signifies our dark moments when we turn away from Krsna and in our independent hunt for happiness try to embrace the illusion once more. We do this despite our professed spiritual inclinations. As Suhotra Svami points out:
Millions of people today seek the truth about the self beyond the body–by meditation, by transpersonal psychology, by channeling. Yet all the while, their physical and moral cleanliness is lost to whimsical sexuality; their austerity and mercy are lost to meat-eating, intoxication and pride.
Thus even though modern man seeks truth about himself, his untamed nature makes the consequences of this truth–“I am not this body, but pure spirit soul”–a hard burden to bear. “There is a wolf in me,” wrote a famous poet of the twentieth century. “I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and this wilderness will not let it go.” Modern man, the cerebral wolf, ever on the hunt in the dark wilderness of ignorance about his origins, his destiny and his very self, may at times poke his nose into transcendence…but then, hearing the call of the wild, he is just as likely to lope off in pursuit of fresh meat or nervous, anonymous sex.
The call of the wild is the haunting dilemma of the neophyte devotee. It might be operating on a different level, from gross sensual indulgence to more subtle and seemingly innocent expressions. Both of them are detrimental for the spiritual advancement.
Why is it so hard to choose Krsna over Maya when the inauspicious Rahu arises? It is because we are conditioned by it. Just as the Pavlov’s dogs, we are charmed by the noise of the bell to think that it means happiness.
Significant part of the problem is that we think that Mr. Lust is our friend all the while he remains our sworn, eternal enemy:
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material mode of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world. Thus the wise living entity’s pure consciousness becomes covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust, which is never satisfied and which burns like fire. The senses, the mind and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust. Through them lust covers the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him.
In our contemporary world lust is almost never taken as something bad. In fact it is being constantly extolled. But how it is possible to make such a lethal mistake – to take your arch enemy for your best friend? How can you confuse between good and evil?
Well, it is not uncommon nowadays that the values of life are turned upside down. This is how Lord Krsna describes the mode of ignorance – the religion is taken to be irreligion and irreligion is taken to be religion. Believe it or not, but popular cartoon characters like, say, Mickey Mouse, have a significant role to play in cloaking the evil as something innocent. This is because, as Dr. Fernandez-Armesto remarks,
We live in a Mickey Mouse world in which images flicker with the speed of animation and confusion is treated as a good. The result is a crisis of values undermined, certainties discarded and fears excited. Trapped in ‘future shock’ by the fear of unprecedented, uncontrollable change, refugees scurry into muddle.
Suhotra Svami clarifies:
This muddle is the “magic” of confused images. Thus Disneyland is called “The Magic Kingdom.” Before Disneyland, we imaged a mouse as a kind of low, disease-carrying vermin…something nasty and even threatening. After Disneyland, we image a mouse as a kind of messiah, a divine being who brings joy to the whole world. The magic of Disneyland helps us tolerate—even to enjoy—the overthrow of our preconceptions of good and evil. It is the magic kingdom of the gospel of scientific liberalism.
If we can worship a lowly creature like a mouse why not adoring a lowly feeling like lust? Suhotra Svami remarks in this connection:
Nature is a textbook of moral instruction. Human beings are meant to gauge the worth of their culture against that textbook. It is evil for people to degrade into “dirty rats,” “greedy pigs,” “lazy dogs,” “lusty goats,” “naked jaybirds,” “silly ducks” “slippery eels,” “sly foxes,” “scaredy-cats.” Scientific liberalism discourages this moral view of nature. It seeks to equate “good” human behavior with that of laboratory mice. In the Rodent Eden, this confusion of human and animal natures is made complete by sentimentalization. Where once children were encouraged to follow the role models of saintly persons, now they have cartoon animals as role models. Kids wistfully dream, “Wouldn’t it be great to just live happily ever after with the mice and the ducks?”
A fake civilization fakes virtue with the magic of confused images. It douses vice with the perfume of sentimentality to give it the smell of virtue. The New Order of such a civilization is just a never-never land where we all pretend that the Beast Within is really just a huge but cuddly mouse.
These types of confusion are supported by a state of existence termed by some a “systematic suppression of silence”. In a nutshell that means that the mind is constantly distracted by nonsense noise (adds, facebook, internet) and as a result it becomes so disturbed that loses its capacity to concentrate on the important things in life (for example, how to deepen our affection for the Lord and His devotees). As Morris Berman points out:
Silence, after all, is the source of all self-knowledge and of much creativity as well. [Here the respected Dr. Berman takes self-knowledge to mean sambanda-jnana, and creativity refers to abideya]. But it is hardly valued by societies that confuse creativity with productivity and incessant voice with aliveness…As a result, we don’t notice that fundamental aspects of being human are disappearing.
The esteemed Mr. Berman is not alone in voicing this concern; according to many smart people out there, majority of whom are not in any way connected to the Hare Krishna movement, our civilization rapidly loses its human nature. Something that our Acharyas noticed many, many years ago.
It turns out that in order to be recognized as a human being, human facade is not enough. Character is the decisive factor. If the human traits are fast disappearing then what we are turning into? Animals? Werewolves? Srila Prabhupada writes:
A civilization that allows men to mix unrestrictedly with women is an animal civilization. In Kali-yuga, people are extremely liberal, but mixing with women and talking with them as equals actually constitutes an uncivilized way of life…Advancement of human civilization must be towards the goal of establishing our lost relationship with God, which is not possible in any form of life other than the human. One must realize the nullity of the material phenomenon, considering it a passing phantasmagoria, and must endeavor to make a solution to the miseries of life. Self-complacence with a polished type of animal civilization geared to sense gratification is delusion, and such a “civilization” is not worthy of the name. In pursuit of such false activities, a human being is in the clutches of mäyä, or illusion. (Srimad Bhagavatam 7.12.8 and 2.2.4)
How to get out of this illusion? How to defeat the Beast Within? The spiritual answer to this question is that deep within we are not actually beasts; we are Krsna’s loving servants. By practicing devotional service, and especially by constant hearing Srimad Bhagavatam from qualified devotees, this eternal and blissful identity can be revealed. Srila Prabhupada confirms this in his purport to Bhagavatam 1.1.3:
In this sloka, it is definitely stated that spiritual rasa, which is relished even in the liberated stage, can be experienced in the literature of the Srimad-Bhagavatam due to its being the ripened fruit of all Vedic knowledge. By submissively hearing this transcendental literature, one can attain the full pleasure of his heart’s desire.
Of course most modern men and women don’t believe in this simple Vedic truth. They simply lack the piety for this. Instead, in order to solve the “werewolf problem”, they engage science and technology in manufacturing a class of fake human beings. Suhotra Svami comments:
“Fake” means people who are social automatons, who cooperate as smoothly and precisely as do ants or bees. This sort of future is standard fare in science fiction… The social contract project intends to engage the laws of matter to rebuild humankind (the beastly child of nature red in tooth and claw) as robotkind (the soulless child of science). For people who are not happy with the prospect of being rebuilt as robots, there is a Mickey Mouse version of the social contract project that redraws people as characters in a grand cartoon of life.
A fake society means, of course, fake personal interactions. The authors of the book “Faking It—The Sentimentalization of Modern Society” argue that modern society is a colossal fraud rendered tolerable by an ethos of creepy niceness that, like perfume, masks the rot. People have become “empathy-junkies” who wallow in a great hot tub of self-indulgent emotions even as they listlessly hand their lives over to:
fake schools that spoil rather than teach children; fake religions in which a new commandment, “feel good,” has replaced traditional moral codes; a fake social policy based on the evasion of personal responsibility; a fake political system that takes taxes from the people and gives back gestures and poses; fake counselors and therapists who pretend all pain can be hugged away; a fake environmental program that adds to pollution; a fake news media that manipulates its audience through emotional blackmail by promoting feeling over thinking, fake love that is really just a form of politics; faked feelings, whereby virtues like compassion, friendship and kindliness are imitated at opportune moments and then spat out like mouthwash; fake justice that decides guilt and innocence not by deep feelings about the violation of moral principles, but by how people today feel about moral principles. In other words, there’s no justice—there’s just us.
“Just us” means that the majority of contemporary men don’t accept authority beyond their mind and senses. Therefore the prescribed method for rectifying our animalistic propensities is not welcomed in modern society. Instead of cultivating all good qualities by performing devotional service, they choose to take the easy way out by faking out everything, from social structure and education to human relationship. Of course, this plan does not work. Suhotra Svami explains:
The effort to get human beasts to live and work together within an artificial, hi-tech environment simply cooks up paranoia and aggression to the boiling point. Instead of remaking man as a gentle robot or cartoon character, the social contract project remakes him as a werewolf—an apparently civilized man or woman who may at any time abruptly change into a monster and commit the vilest crimes. The artifice of civility gives the werewolf a disguise to move about undetected. Since everybody is potentially a werewolf, who can be trusted?
This bleak picture of modern society is, of course, correct. But there are even more interesting times ahead of us with the advance of Kali Yuga. Devoid of the mercy of the Lord, the atheistic people of this age can’t accept the method which will purify their animalistic propensities, and thus they do not have the cure for the werewolf disease.
Of course this disease is (to a lesser degree) common for all of us, the neophyte devotees. The dilemma we are often facing, to be a devotee or demon, is described by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura as one of the stages of anisthita bhajana-kriya:
“One whose heart is lodged in materialism is far from obtaining devotion to Visnu. Can a man who moves east expect to claim something that has moved in the opposite direction?” The devotee, knowing he cannot attain steadiness in serving Krsna while attached to material enjoyment, resolves to renounce his addictions. But while attempting to renounce, he may end up indulging in it, taking solace from the example of a devotee given in the Bhagavatam:
“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 is sometimes victorious and sometimes defeated, is called visaya sangara or “war with sense pleasure.”
In contrast with the nondevotees, we have enough piety to at least nominally accept the process for rectification (the chanting of the holy name and hearing Krsna-katha in the company of bona fide devotees of the Lord). If followed properly this sublime method will undoubtedly purify our heart of all contamination. What is the difference between the pure and impure heart? Srila Prabhupada explains:
Ceto-darpaëa-märjanam: [Cc. Antya 20.12] by chanting the names of Kåñëa, the mirror of the heart is cleansed, and the devotee loses interest in everything external. When one is influenced by the external energy of the Lord, his heart is impure. When one’s heart is not pure, he cannot see how things are related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Idaà hi viçvaà bhagavän ivetaraù (SB 1.5.20). He whose heart is purified can see that the whole cosmic manifestation is but the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but he whose heart is contaminated sees things differently. Therefore by sat-saìga, or association with devotees, one becomes perfectly pure in heart. One who is pure in heart is never attracted by the external energy, which urges the individual soul to try to dominate material nature.
We should purify our heart by the process of devotional service. Then the wolf which we are stubbornly keeping inside our hearts will turn into a puppy dog in the lap of the Lord’s internal energy. Srila Prabhupada writes:
The waves of a river flow incessantly, and it is very difficult to stop them. Similarly, the waves of desire for material enjoyment are so strong that they cannot be stopped by any process other than bhakti-yoga. The bhaktas, by their transcendental devotional service unto the lotus feet of the Lord, become so overwhelmed with transcendental bliss that automatically their desires for material enjoyment stop.
So we have a choice, to remain the person who we think we are, or to become the person who Krsna knows we are. In both cases the Lord will help us out, though, He will be happier if we choose the second option.