Sunday, October 11, 2015

divide and conquer

One of the most effective ways of preventing a group of people from succeeding in whatever it is they are striving to accomplish is to split them up by getting them to disagree on something.

A group’s strength lies in what they have in common.  The concept of “strength in numbers” only works if said numbers are working together.  Their common unity binds them together and makes them powerful while their weakness is what they do not have in common.

Even the most dynamic group will fall to pieces as soon as the individuals are more focused on their differences than their common goal.

This concept of divide and conquer has been utilized since before anyone can remember and due to its efficiency, it is the standard strategy employed in this world to keep us week and subordinate.  It is the killer of all revolutions.

Fortunately for us spiritual revolutionaries, this technique has no effect on us…  or does it?

The funny thing about spirituality is that, being transcendental to all things material, it is difficult to define in material terms.  Spirituality is a state of consciousness that cannot be externally observed because the determining factor that deems something either spiritual or material is not what is done, but the motivation behind why it is done.

Thus, a thing or an action cannot be considered inherently spiritual without considering the state of consciousness of an individual interacting with it.

Watercolour by Edgar Bundy, 1911

Therefore, everyone in this world is a unique mixture of materialist and spiritualist.  Our consciousness fluctuates between self-centric and God-centric.  Anyone who is honest will admit that they are not one hundred percent God-centric.

So even if we are highly advanced spiritualists, there is still the tendency for us to be subjected to and (temporarily) destroyed by the concept of “divide and conquer” when we lose focus of our true mission.

The reason i bring this up is because currently our “spiritual revolution” is being hampered by this unfortunate phenomenon.  Instead of working together we have started campaigning against one another over trivial matters that have nothing to do with spiritual principles.  We are caught up on details and it is dividing us.

Whether our disagreements are over dietary choices, wardrobe preferences, the details of our origin, the importance of public opinion, the concept of authority, who sits where, or any other such matter, none of these issues will make or break our ultimate goal of love of God.  We simply look like fools.

The spiritual movement is not weak because we haven’t resolved these issues…  it is weak because we are giving these material issues more importance than they deserve and we are not putting enough focus on the process of spirituality itself.

Material things or activities cannot hinder true spirituality.  The only thing that hinders a spiritual movement is our own materialistic consciousness.

When we put our focus on redirecting our consciousness then nothing can stop us.  But if we remain focused on petty details then noting can help us.

Let’s get back in the game, shall we?

Monday, September 28, 2015

i'm much more eloquent when i'm annoyed.

i’ve been wanting to get much more regular with posting blogs…  there was a period of time two years ago where i would post one per week…  i did this because i was in a place (both physical and mental) that was very annoying…  i was spending my tenth and final season working in a tourist beach town on the jersey shore.  What made that year more annoying than others is that the only reason i had to be there was to keep a promise to a very dear friend of mine.

In previous years i kept myself motivated by “keeping my eye on the prize”…  i was collecting money for what i considered to be (and still consider to be ) a much needed project that i had been striving to start for over a decade prior…  that was my motivating factor…  “it’s all worth it because this project needs to happen.”  It was my vairagya…  my tapasya.

But that last year was a different story.

During my 5th Season i was able to secure enough funds to purchase a property to start the Bhagavat Commune project on…  the next few seasons allowed me to develop that property and then later to purchase a different property which was bigger and had fewer challenges as far as building restrictions and agricultural cultivation…  the funds collected during these seasons went toward building…  developing…  maintaining…  it funded three outstanding and memorable festivals.

But that last season was right after my world exploded…  it seems Krsna had different plans for me than to head that particular project at that particular time and place…  and despite what i considered to be clear and justified signs to put everything into that project,  (time, money, passion, blood, sweat, tears, life) it was all yanked out from under me in a matter of a moment.  It was quite dizzying actually.

So there i was…  sitting in a shop in a town that i loathed…  working a job that i didn’t like…  and there was no longer anything to motivate me to stay beyond a promise to a friend…  which was enough to get me to stay, but not enough for me to be happy about it.

So i figured that if i didn’t want my brain to melt and my spiritual life to spiral into the abyss know as wildwood, new jersey, i would have to increase my spiritual practice… 

so i wrote.

When i started the “forever endeavor” blog, i didn’t intend for it to be a weekly thing…  i just wanted to let people know where i was at…  that i didn’t give up on the project.  i was just in a strange state of transition.  i also wanted to write so that people would have a better understanding of my mission for the project…  the drive behind it…  the previous blog only touched on that aspect while presenting the stages of progress of the properties, festivals, construction, gardening, etc…  i didn’t have a property anymore, but i still had the dream for the commune.

So i continued to write.

Each week, on my only day off, i would go to the grocery store and the Laundromat…  and i would write…  that became my sadhana…  every thursday, like clockwork, i would churn out a short blog post on what i had been meditating about during that week…  and good, bad, or ugly, they helped me get through that last season…  i honestly do not know what i would have done without it.  it was my outlet.

Since then i have been traveling quite a bit…  a few weeks here, a few months there…  my biggest chunks of time are spent in india where life is much less annoying…  i still get ideas for things that i would like to write about…  in fact i have a long list on a sticky note so i don’t forget any of them, but now it’s different.  When i sit down to write about these ideas it no longer takes me thirty or forty minutes to clack away at a keyboard…  it takes hours…  and we’re talking broken up hours…  like ten minutes here…  then after a week another ten…  then after a month another twenty…  I went from 14 Consecutive weekly blog entries to 7 Random ones over the next two years…  and i realized that the reason i cannot efficiently churn out these thoughts is that i am not sufficiently annoyed.

i’m always a little annoyed…  its actually what drives me…  some people are driven by money, others by sex, fame or fear.  i am driven by annoyance…  and anger. 

In 1997 i coined the term “krodhamishrabhakti” to describe my personal devotional practice…  basically it means that i utilize anger to inspire spiritual growth.  i came up with the term while i was in a hardcore band called eighteen days (which is funny because five years prior to that, i couldn’t stand the sound of hardcore music)…  it wasn’t until i encountered devotees that i could begin to appreciate people yelling at me…  ha ha…  let me clarify.

i have been motivated by anger since i can remember…  but not in a destructive way…  i would see something that annoyed me and i would do something to counteract it…  i kept the anger inside and used it to fuel a positive change on the outside…   to me, prior to 1993, hardcore music seemed to be a bunch of people yelling and complaining about something instead of actually being proactive to improve their situations…  i perceived that as a weakness, and since i couldn’t understand a word they were saying (screaming) to me, it didn’t appeal to me in the slightest.

i actually met the Vaisnavas in spite of hardcore music.

One of the most important turning points in my life was in English class in high school…  the back of the t-shirt of one of my classmates (who became a life-long friend) said “quest for certainty”….   Hey, i confessed, i am also on a quest for certainty…  tell me about yours…   to which he replied, this is a hardcore band called shelter…  to which i replied…  oh, never mind.

Luckily, my friend further explained that these particular fellows followed a strict philosophical tradition…  one that i could hear all about on Wednesday nights on south street in philly…  and so i went, and i met my guru.

Once i encountered the devotees, i was subjected to a lot of hardcore music…  there were a lot of devotee bands back then, and their lyrics were surprisingly in line with where my head was at at the time…  my friend also gave me recordings of some other bands not affiliated with “the krishnas”, but had similar ideals.

And that is how my appreciation for people yelling at me developed.

i realized that their screaming wasn’t a weakness, as i had perceived earlier, and it wasn’t counterproductive…  it was actually inspiring others to see the world from a point of view outside of the one that society was force-feeding them…  and it was giving positive solutions to real problems…  and it was working.

Kids were abandoning destructive lifestyles of drug use and exploitative promiscuous behavior…  a lot of them…  all because of these people yelling on a stage…  and so i admired that.   and eventually i joined in with the yelling.

So, back to krodhamishrabhakti…  anger is valuable…  it can be destructive, but it can also be a powerful motivator.

Which is way i am much more eloquent when i am annoyed.

In that final season on the jersey shore i had plenty of fuel…  and so i was productive in this regard…  now the ideas still come, and occasionally i get annoyed enough to clack away at the keyboard and scratch another blog idea off the ever growing list, but its not the same.

i think i am going to try to become more regular with this again…  it was really helpful for me then, and i think it would still be really helpful to me now…  and while i’m not willing to subject myself to another season in wildwood to fuel this inspiration, i do hope that i can at least be more regular with it...  don't worry, the next one will be much better...  and shorter.

Forever endeavor!

Friday, July 3, 2015

...set it free.

Sometimes in life we have to make tough decisions and let go of something we hold dear in order to cultivate something that we will potentially relish even more.  This is the nature of relationships and of love.  Love without sacrifice is incomplete, for sacrifice illustrates that we hold another’s interests higher than our own.  Love is dynamic and it expands and stretches our limits, making us capable of accomplishing that which we previously considered impossible.  The process of bhakti is all about letting go of our selfish propensities so that we can cultivate and express our love to the Supreme Being.  It is about showing Sri Krsna that we love Him and would, if necessary, forgo our own comforts in order to contribute to His.

Three and a half years ago I let something go that was very dear to me because at the time it was beneficial to my service to the Vaisnava’s to modify my plans for the Bhagavat Commune.  Although we had around sixty beautiful acres with picturesque cliffs and waterfalls, the property we had then was not ready for full time residents due to periodic flash-flooding and difficulties (both financial and technical) with a proposed bridge construction.

Due to these circumstances and a few other considerations, we sold our first property in order to obtain a different piece of land with more acreage, more pasture/garden area, and most importantly a house for full time residents.

This second property served us quite well for a period of time, but as our situation changed and we no longer had full time residents, we realized that without the necessary manpower to maintain 180 acres, the new property no longer suited our needs and so we sold that one also.

As fate has it, this week I was able to purchase the original property back from a lovely couple who are also into natural building and who have another property nearby where they are constructing a timber frame workshop and an earth shelter.

Since the plans for the Bhagavat Commune have been modified, our needs have changed, and now this beautiful, satvic property perfectly suits our current and future needs.

It may be a few years before we begin holding events at the Bhagavat Commune again, but until then I will spend a few months of the year building natural structures to facilitate our workshops, retreats, festivals and sastric study courses.

In the mean time, I will continue to spend about half of the year in India doing my services for the Bhaktivedanta Academy and the Mayapur Institute, a couple months in Europe, and hopefully while I am in Kentucky during the summer months I will also be able to assist the devotees at Chintamani Dham with their workshops, seminars and other projects.

I look forward to updating everyone with pictures as I progress with the various phases of construction at the Bhagavat Commune when I get back to the states next spring.

Hari, Hari!