TITLE FIGHT: Indra vs. Pṛthu!!! (Referee: Brahmā)

05 Indra (king of gods) riding his 3-headed elephant Airavata (from Banteay Srei)

blessed and renowned Pṛthu became very angry at Indra, and took up his bow and arrows.

The priests say him rise in a terrible rage to swiftly destroy the Thunder-Wielder, “Oh king of broad intellect!” they protested, “it is declared that if you injure any creature now, your sacrifice will be ruined!”

Pṛthu glanced ferociously at the sky, towards Indra.

We will stop him” the priests said, “and we will do it in a sacrificial manner. We will invoke that lord of storms who wants to destroy your success.”

“How will you do that?” Pṛthu would want to know.

“With mantas of summoning!”

“They are powerful enough to summon the king of paradise?” Pṛthu would ask.

“Their powers are insurmountable! They will invoke him instantly and irresistibly. He is already powerless, because he opposes you, and we are all-powerful because we serve you.”

“What will you do with him once you invoke him?” Pṛthu would wonder.

“We will make him the final horse, and give him to the sacrificial fire.”

Before Pṛthu could even reply, the furious priests prepared to incant the mantras, taking butter-oil ladles into their hands. But self-born Brahmā interrupted, ordering them to stop.

“You must not try to kill Indra!” Brahmā declared. “You will fail – for he is an essential part of the sacrifices manifest by the All-Attractive. Should sacrifice be employed to destroy sacrifice? If you did kill him, what would happen to all the gods for whom he is the essential king?”

There was silence.

Brahmā continued, “O Priests! By disrupting the King’s religious ceremony in the disguise of a religious person, Indra has opened the door to terrible religious hypocrisy and exploitation. Now just see the first result: you want to kill him by a religious ceremony!”

The Priests put down the ladles in shock.

Brahmā turned to Pṛthu and said, “Broad minded king! Your fame is already spread everywhere. So what if you have performed one less that one hundred rituals? What is the difference? You know that religion is actually meant for spiritual liberation, so why should you be so intent on finishing your hundredth mundane religious sacrifice? What will you really gain if you succeed?”

Pṛthu’s anger disappeared.

“Indra is a king just like you,” Brahmā continued, “and both of you are parts of He Who Is Glorified in Topmost Poetry. So why should you be angry at him? What should anyone be angry at either of you? I wish good fortune to both of you!”

Pṛthu looked at the final sacrifice half-completed. Brahmā encouraged him, “Your soul is very soft and kind, O Emperor. Don’t worry yourself by dwelling on this last sacrifice. What is done is done. The mind of one who dwells on what destiny seems to steal is lost in the blinding darkness of anger.

“Give up this ceremony! Of all the gods, Indra is the most tenacious and impossible to thwart. He has already created such a mess by using religious symbols to accomplish irreligious aims. Seeing how Indra ruined your ceremony by stealing the horse, everyone is now tempted to exploit religious symbols for their own interests.

“You have come into this world to help bring the people into moral harmony. After Vena practically destroyed morality, you arose from a part of his body, as a manifestation of Viṣṇu’s expansion. Fulfill your mission, which is the mission shared by all of us who help create the world. Don’t think about destroying Indra, think about destroying the religious hypocrisy he has invited by so wantonly exploiting religious symbolism.”

The king accepted the guidance of the world’s guru, Brahmā. He compassionately forgave Indra and made peace with him.

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto
[4.19.27 – 39]
By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com]

How is Māyā-devī so Damn Clever???


QUESTION: How would Maya devi be knowing how to enslave us to her? Paramatma is in our heart, and therefore knows us perfectly. Does she have access to that, in some way, or does she monitor our behavior, and act to that, or is there some other way i haven’t conceived of? Perhaps you can shed some light on this. I would appreciate it very much.

6a00e39332b5c5883401761649c96a970cYou’re assuming that its particularly difficult to “enslave” us. In truth, however, it’s not. It doesn’t require any special genius.

Nor is it an act of “enslaving” – that is another mistake.

Please read a book I have written, translating the Third Canto of Bhāgavatam. The name of the book is Varāha, Vidura, and Kapila. You can get it from my website. In there, when you read Kapila’s conversation with his mother, you’ll find everything you need to know to answer these questions.

To summarize:

We are very simple creatures, we simply want happiness. We will fly towards anything that we think provides happiness. So it is not at all difficult to “capture” anyone – just give them what they think will make them happy, and they are yours.

Māyā provides us happiness, because she is so beautiful and has so much energy to create so many wondrous situations in which we can experience happiness. She does not “enslave” us, she serves us.

Attracted to her, we enter into her. In that copulation, we experience oneness with her. She generates names and forms for us, and we experience oneness with them. She generates a “subtle body” for us – a sense of consciousness, a sense of identity, a sense of emotions, and a power of comprehension – and a “gross body” – senses that experience, and senses that interact. We experience oneness with these, but in truth they are her. So everything in our senses, mind, thoughts, identity and sentience is all factually in her. Therefore she knows our every desire and morphs continually to fulfill it.

The only problem with all of this is that each individual consciousness has different objects of love. There is no unification of purpose and emotion among the individuals. What makes one happy causes another to suffer. Therefore existence in Māyā by nature cannot be flawless or perfect. When we realize this, we gradually find flaws in Māyā’s beauty – lose attraction to her, stop seeing her as the source of actual happiness. Then we become eligible to move towards mokṣa, liberation – and potentially begin an existence in a different sort of māyā, one where there is unification of purpose and emotion centered on love for the core root of all consciousness, Krishna.

– Vraja Kishor


Questions About Rādhārāṇī and the Origin of the Jīva


Q: As far as I understand, we’re all female by our original position. The only male is Krishna. Does this mean that when we back to Godhead, will we become gopis? 

A: Femininity is not a matter of biology or genitalia.  Femininity is a state of being, associated with but not identical to female physical gender.  
All things are feminine in relation to Krishna, because all things are dependent on him, like a wife depends on the stability of the husband, and all things receive his energy and develop it into something beautiful to expand his world, like a wife receives a seed from the husband and develops it into a wonderful child. 
The femininity of things in relation to krishna is why the most original and primal associates of krishna are female in form, the gopis. But each one of them manifests many forms to associate with krishna in many ways, and some of them are male forms. The female nature is not bound to a female form, it can also express itself in a male form. Thus the gopis are not the only companions of krishna. He is also surrounded by gopas sometimes, who are actually expansions of the gopis, and thus also essentially feminine, though expressing that nature in a male form.
Q: Some say Rādhārāṇī  is a part of Krishna, some say They’re equals, some say She is the “energy” of Krishna. This is not so clear to me.
A: She is the original, complete root of Krishna’s energies. Energies are an integral part of the energetic, and they are equal in importance, for neither one has any relevance or meaning without the other. So all three descriptions of Rādhārāṇī are correct: She is a part of Krishna – they are equal in all respects, and she is the energy of Krishna.
Q:  Krishna is the only male, His consort is Radharani, but at the same time we all belong to Him. This makes me confused. 
A: Rādhārāṇī is the complete root of all Krishna’s energy. This means that she is the ultimate root of everything. You and I are jīva atma- we are tathastha shakti, one of the energies Rādhārāṇī manifests for krishna. So our place in relation to Rādhā and Krishna is that we are a part of what Rādhārāṇī creates for krishna’s pleasure. Our role, therefore, is to assist her and her expansions.
We belong to Krishna because she belongs to Krishna and, in the ultimate analysis, we belong to her.
Q: Another issue which makes my mind busy is the creation. As far as I understand, there is no time when we were not. We always were, are and will be as parts and parcels of God. But at the beginning, we were in our original, spiritual position. Then we wanted to “have” or “dominate” something, and God created this material world for us. But shouldn’t be our original position perfect? If we were with Krishna, if our souls know what is like to be with Him, how could we want to dominate something or someone? Because if there is full satisfaction, then why want something else? Doesn’t that mean that being with Krishna was not so satisfying?

A: you are right. This understanding is very confusing, and doesn’t really work within the logical boundaries established by śāstra. Here is a short attempt to clarify:

We are “jīva.”

The jīva is an eternally manifest individual consciousness (ātmā), described by Sri Caitanya (cc m.20.117) as “anādi bahirmukha” – begininglessly extrinsically oriented.

The word anādi (“without anything previous”) literally communicates that there was no “prior” state “before” we became extrinsically oriented (a.k.a. “entered the material world”). Then why!? Why are we extroversive? Why are we in the material world?

It is not by chance or whimsy. It is a result of our intrinsic constitutional nature, our intrinsic individual personality. Our individual nature makes us, from the very “beginning,” interested in the extrinsic world (anādi bahirmukha). This interest in extrinsic things is possible only because we do not begin with any experience of anything at all, intrinsic or extrinsic. If we began with an experience of the intrinsic reality centered on All-Attractive Krishna, we would not be able to explore any interest in anything extrinsic, because the bliss of experiencing Krishna is “sandrānanda viśeṣa” – it completely obliterates awareness of any other massively inferior form of happiness or fascination. Therefore Sri Jīva Goswāmī describes the jīva as anadi-bhagavad-ajnāna (“beginninglessly unaware of the All-Attractive”).

This is fairly abstract philosophical stuff because it involves causality that is not time-based, but is consciusness-based, or personality-based (our involvement in the extrinsic world is the result of who we intrinsically are, not the result of some event we participated in.) Prabhupāda illustrated it and made it easier to grasp by often using a narrative that involves “leaving Krishna” and “returning to Krishna.” There is no problem here, and no fault in Srila Prabhupada. This narrative is useful, but we are at fault if we give the illustration more importance than the concept being illustrated.

– Vraja Kishor

What’s a Sikha?

hindu-priest sikha hair-shiju

Question: I’ve asked many devotees why they have sikhas and they all don’t seem to know exactly why… is there any scripture behind why? I couldn’t find any. All I found was a bunch of statements as to why without scriptural support.

The shikha is a symbol of Vedic culture, a.k.a “Varṇāśrama Dharma.” These days it is a custom mainly observed only by brahmaṇas (perhaps because they seem to have the most to gain by reminding people about what they consider Varṇāśrama Dharma?). [A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Klaus K. Klostermaier, ISBN 1-85168-175-2]

In most ancient cultures, children have a pre-pubescent hairstyle shaving most, but not all of the hair from the head. In Vedic culture this occurred at a special ceremony (cudakarma saṁskāra) at the age of three. Cutting hair at this age symbolizes encouraging the child to establish a firm identity distinct from its mother. The hair which was left since birth (and was therefore connected with being in the mother’s womb) is shaved off, and new hair grows, symbolizing the emergence of the new individual.

As an extrapolation, shaving the head at some other time in life also symbolizes making a break from a former situation and developing new roots in a new situation. Hare Krishna’s use it in this manner – shaving the head disconnects the disciple from the former sense of identity, and allows them to establish a new identity as a member of the Krishna society, or, better, as a spiritual entity.

Why not Shave the Whole Thing?

Not all the hair is shaved. The reason is that it was considered dangerous to shave the crown of the head, since an important nadi (energy channel) flowed there, and shaving the hair at this point would disturb that channel.

Different clans had different styles. Atri and Kasyap clans keep two tufts, for example. Vasishta clans keep one.

Why KEEP Shaving it?

If this hairstyle is kept throughout life it shows extreme dedication to religious principles. This may be another reason why brahmaṇas (priests) adopted it far more than any others.

Should it be Tied in a Knot?

Disheveled hair is rude because it symbolizes neglect and therefore misfortune and “inauspiciousness,” so the shikha is kept tied except in times of mourning (during which it is appropriate to neglect ones appearance).

Is it Only for Men?

The ritual is not reserved for males, but over time it has become more popular among males and today definitely carries the conventional connotation of being a “male thing.” In ISKCON, for example, it would be very, very unconventional to see a woman with a śikha.

What Does the Word Literally Mean?

The word śikha simply means “summit.” The crown of the head is the summit of the body, the highest point. That’s why it is called a śikha. Some claim that Bhāgavatam 6.8.8 refers to the necessity of having a śikha but this is a context-abusive interpretation. In context, the śikha mentioned in this verse is simply the top of the head.

Does it allow God to pull you to heaven?

No. When you die your body rots or is burned or eaten. Your body doesn’t go to “heaven” – so it doesn’t matter if it has a convenient “handle” or not. Nor does God really need to “reach down” to grab you. He is, after all, in your core as paramātmā, not over your head as Zeus on a mountaintop.

This is really a ridiculous idea.

Is it a Vaiṣṇava Symbol?

It’s a symbol of Vedic culture, which includes Vaiṣṇava culture among its many branches.

Among Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s followers, some had śikha, some did not. Mahāprabhu himself did not keep a śikha. While married, he kept long hair. When he accepted sanyassa he shaved his head entirely, because that was the tradition in the sect from which he received sannyasa (a monistic sect, with the complete shaving symbolizing rejection of everything including traditions).

Then why do Hare Krishna / ISKCON Devotees Make a Big Deal of It?

Much of ISKCON culture is rooted in practices established by Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, the guru of ISKCON’s founder. In his religious organization, the Gauḍīya Maṭh, He established several practices which loudly proclaimed Vaiṣṇava’s to be equivalent to brahmāṇas, regardless of their birth caste. One of these practices was giving the “sacred thread” (a thread worn over the left shoulder) to his disciples. Another was shaving their heads with śikha. Both of these, thread and śikha, had over time come to be considered symbols of only the brahmana caste (when in truth they are appropriate for any member of a Vedic Varṇāśrama culture). Indeed, in ISKCON the thread is usually referred to as a “brahmaṇa’s thread” – though the correct term for it is upavīta (meaning a pseudo-clothing, an abbreviated form of clothing), or  yajña-upavīta (something to wear to a religious ceremony so that you are not entirely barechested).

In any case, by giving thread and śikha to his disciples of various castes, Bhaktisiddhānta made a huge, controversial social and spiritual statement: “Vaiṣṇavas are automatically as good as brahmaṇas.”

Śrīla Prabhupāda carried over those practices into ISKCON.

As an aside: ISKCON’s use of saffron cloth and the prominence of varṇa and especially āśramas (particularly brahmacārī and sannyāsa) in the context of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Sādhana-Bhakti is also a result of Bhaktisiddhānta’s socio-spiritual statements.

Vraja Kishor


Origin of Religious Hypocrisy


As Vena’s son began the final horse-sacrifice for the Master of Sacrifice, envious Indra stole the sacrificial animal, unseen by anyone. Only powerful Atri could see Indra fleeing into the sky, armored in the disguise of being a spiritualist, thus marring a religious image with an immoral deed. Atri showed Pṛthu’s son what was going on, and said, “Kill him!” The heroic son became furious and chased Indra, commanding, “Halt! Stand and fight!”

But when he got close, he was baffled by Indra’s religious disguise: his hair was knotted in dreadlocks, and ash was all over his skin. Out of sentiment towards the appearance of religiosity, Pṛthu’s son could not loose his arrows.

Atri shouted, “Kill him, my dear! He may be the great king of heaven, but he is the most debased of all the wise gods for he has disrupted a sacrificial ceremony!”

Indra again fled, and Pṛthu’s son again furiously chased him – like Jatāyu chasing Rāvaṇa. To escape, the king of heaven had to disappear, giving up his disguised form and thus losing the horse.

Seeing Pṛthu’s heroic son return to his father with the animal, Atri and the foremost sages granted him the name Vijitāśva – “Horse-winner.”

With a powerful golden chain, the priests tied the horse to a post near the pile of firewood, but Indra cast the entire arena into pitch darkness and somehow stole the horse again. Again Atri alone could see what was happening, and showed Vijitāśva that Indra was fleeing into the sky with the horse. Again Vijitāśva chased Indra, and again, when he got close he was baffled by Indra’s disguise and could not kill the thief. This time Indra had assumed the form of a mystic carrying a skull and staff.

Again Atri encouraged Vijitāśva to kill the theif, and again, when Vijitāśva set his arrow upon the bowstring, Indra disappeared – forced to give up his disguise and abandon the horse. Once again the hero returned to his father with the recovered horse.

Humans thought Indra very clever and were impressed by the efficacy of his strategy to use religious symbols as a shield for selfish deeds. Since then, many fools also disguise themselves with spiritual trappings to trick the masses into forgiving or permitting their shameful deeds. The forms Indra adopted in his scheme to steal the horse are therefore considered symbols (khaṇḍa) of evil, and people who adopt these forms for shameful reasons are considered “exploiters of symbols” (pākhaṇḍa or pāṣaṇḍa).

This is the origin of religious hypocrisy, and the beginning of religion’s decline into pseudo-religion.

Indra assumed and cast off several forms in his attempt to spoil Pṛthu’s ceremony by stealing the final horse. Humans tend to exploit these same religious symbols: they pretend to be spiritualists just by walking around naked, or wearing saffron cloth, or carrying staves and skulls, or not caring about their appearance, or by using lots of fancy, philosophical words.

Realizing this, the blessed and renowned Pṛthu became very angry at Indra, and took up his bow and arrows.

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto
[4.19.11 – 26]
By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com]

Jealous Gods: Indra spies Pṛthu’s magnificence.


On the eastern course of River Sarasvatī is Manu’s sacred field, Brahmāvarta. There, King Pṛthu began performing one hundred horse-sacrifice rituals. Indra was the only other person who had successfully done this before. When he heard what Pṛthu was doing, he could not tolerate the possibility that someone else might excel his ritualistic accomplishments.

Indeed, he saw many signs that the king was already surpassing his glory. Most importantly, the ultimate aim of all rituals – Hari, the All-Attractive supreme master, soul of everyone, source of all power, and ultimate leader of all communities – literally and personally attended Pṛthu’s ceremonies. And he had not come alone! Brahmā and fearless Śiva accompanied him, as did the protectors of the world and all their followers. All of them created a grand kīrtan led by scholars, in which the singers and dancers of heaven performed. This company included all the celestial masters and scientists following Brahmā, the demons, anti-gods, and many other mysterious creatures following Śiva, and the most exalted associates of Hari, like Sunanda and Nanda. Among the scholars were Kapila, Nārada, and Dattātreya, powerful yogis like Sanaka, and many blessed beings enwrapped in the joy of Hari’s service.

Indra saw that Pṛthu would easily get all the opulence he needed to perform these hundred rituals more extravagantly than they had ever been performed before. The Earth Goddess, with her famous milk that grants all wishes, attended Pṛthu, producing everything the rituals required. Her abundant milk seeped into the ground, making the trees blossom with huge fruits, and drip with honey-sweet saps. It overflowed into the river, which seemed to flow with milks, creams, and yogurts. The milk-river brought extreme opulence to the lands it irrigated as it flowed to the ocean. The kings and citizens who lived along this flow came to the ceremonies bearing incredible gifts: heaps of jewels, and mountains of all sorts of food.

Jealous of the King’s unsurpassed wealth and devotion to Hari, which had caused He Who is Beyond Perception to personally appear before him, powerful and blessed Indra decided to interfere.

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto
[4.19.1 – 10]
By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com]

The Origin of Cities


Seeing her fulfilling everyone’s desires with her milk, Emperor Pṛthu fell in love with the Earth Goddess. But since he had taken her milk, she seemed like a mother to him, and it felt wrong to express his love in a romantic way. Even then, since he had threatened to punish her, it also felt wrong to love her like a mother. Finally, he realized that she was like his daughter, and he expressed this love to her with great affection.

Remembering that she had asked him to make her surface more level for the sake of agriculture, the Emperor stuck the mountaintops with arrows. They crumbled, and the earth became much more level.

The All-Attractive Son of Vena then turned his fatherly attention to the practical welfare of his people, who lived in a disorganized fashion, scattered here and there. He gave them places to live, organized into cooperative units: small villages, larger towns with markets, and large cities with bustling commercial centers. He also made fortresses with barracks to house the soldiers and protect farmers and animals in the pastures. And he built mining villages near the mountains, where miners dug for gold, silver, and other metals.

Previous to Pṛthu, planning of towns, villages and so on was unheard of. People simply lived wherever they liked, without fear. But after the calamities initiated by Vena, Pṛthu introduced these social structures to help people protect one another.

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto
[4.18.28- 32]
By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com]

I Am Not This Body (???)


It dawns on me now just how often I spoke and wrote about the concept that “I am not this body” [during the early 1990s] – following the lead of the vast, vast majority of Hare Krishna devotees I looked up to. Oddly, Vedic texts don’t exactly present this idea in so many words. They say ahaṁ brahmāsmi, but that means “I am brahman” / “I am consciousness” / “I am spirit.” This is a positive assertion, notably different from the negation, “I am not this body.” The Vedas certainly explain that consciousness is distinct from the body as its origin and foundation, as an eternal constant from which various bodies emerge as temporary projections. But I didn’t seem to get the part about how my body and soul were intrinsically related. All I seemed to grasp was that the body was not the essence of my true self, and I stretched that thin as taffy to mean “I’m not this body and that’s all there is to it.” It seems I wanted to believe that I had nothing to do with my body at all, as if it something I picked up by chance one day at a flea market.

But why? Why was I so eager to create a chasm between me and my body? There was nothing wrong with it. It wasn’t sick, or ugly, or handicapped.  I guess there was a psychological motive: If I had nothing to do with my body, it felt so much more reasonable to completely divorce myself from things related to it: like parents and family. It felt so much less scary to destroy everything that could protect its long term welfare: like my education, career, and so on.

– Excerpt from an early draft of
Train Wrecks and Transcendence:
A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com]

Magic Milk!


This continues from the previous section, where the Earth Goddess told King Pṛthu to end the famine and drought by mystically “milking” her.

The king, protector of the earth, was delighted by her helpful wisdom. For the calf, he brought forth the original lord of humanity– evoking the Goddess’ compassion for humans. For the pot, he used his own hands – hands which care for and protect humanity. When he milked her, all the vegetation began to grow again.

Out of love for Pṛthu, the Earth Goddess offered to grant blessings to everyone, not just to humanity. Thus many species wisely came forward with a unique milk-pot, and had their wishes fulfilled by inspiring the goddess to produce milk for their leader, who took the form of a “calf.” Each species had their hunger satiated when the earth’s milk produced the type of “food” they subsist on.

The milk of the goddess restored purity to the sacred Vedic hymns when the sages milked her using their leader, Bṛhaspati, as the calf and their own senses as the pot. The milk became soma – an elixir of heroism, virility, and strength – when the gods made Indra the calf and drew the milk into a golden pot. It became liquors for the anti-gods who made the leader of the underworld, Prahlāda, the calf, and drew the milk into an iron pot. The milk became sweetness and beauty when the celestial musicians and dancers made their leader, Viśvāvasu, the calf, and drew the milk into a pot made from a lotus flower. It became sacred ritual offerings when the Ancestors who protect the deceased made their leader, Aryamā, the calf, and drew the milk into a pot of raw dirt.

Two types of mystic technologists made their leader, Kapila, the calf and made the sky into a pot. For one type, the masterful siddhas, the milk became mystical masteries such as the ability to accomplish things by will alone. For the other type, the learned vidyādharas, the milk became scientific knowledge. Other magicians made their leader, Maya, the calf and made their inner selves the pot. For them, the milk became the amazing ability to disappear at will, and assume many shapes.

The milk became fermented blood when milked into a skull-pot by flesh-eating fiends, spirits, ghouls and witches who made the lord of monsters, Rudra, the calf. It became poison when poisonous creatures like serpents, scorpions, snakes, and dragons made their leader, Takṣaka, the calf, and drew the milk into their open mouths.

It became pasture-grass when the herbivorous animals used their leader, the cow, as a calf, and drew the milk into the fields. It became meat when the fanged carnivorous animals made their king, the lion, into a calf, and drew the milk into the forests. It became insects and fruits when the birds made their leader, Garuḍa, the calf, and drew the milk into their own bodies.

The milk became many saps and syrups when the trees made their leader, the Banyan, into a calf, and drew the milk in many different ways. It became many minerals when the hills made their leader, the Himalayan mountains, the calf, and drew the milk onto their own peaks.

– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto
[4.18.12 ~ 27]
By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com]

Safe Interviews w/ Zack and Porcell. No Need to Be Suspicious.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 13.47.25

I had a week or two before Ray would show up in San Diego, so I mostly holed-up in my room upstairs and put together the fourth issue of Enquirer. The main features were interviews with Zack and Porcell. I see these as the first noticeable examples of what would become a rather nasty habit for me as the zine’s editor: bending words to obscure points I didn’t like and favor points I did like.

For example, I report Zack as saying: “I think leading a spiritual life means casting away and putting aside the physical nature in life, and the intellectual nature in life. But actually it’s using all three of them… And spirituality… like…”

What kind of editing is that?

Knowing Zack, and having the benefit of hearing his voice directly, it was pretty obvious to me what he wanted to say: that spiritual life isn’t something you have to throw away your material life for; that the two can and should be integrated, complimentary, and mutually nourishing. If I was actually editing to make the point Zack wanted to make, I would have written it like this: “I don’t think ‘leading a spiritual life’ means you have to cast aside the physical and intellectual aspects life. I think it means combining all three aspects of life: physical, intellectual, and spiritual.”

But I didn’t like that point, so I intentionally made it very vague and confusing. I didn’t like it because it seemed to go against my agenda for “dedicating myself completely” to Krishna consciousness.

The really strange part, though, is that Zack’s message of integrating the spiritual and material aspects of life is exactly the same message Krishna himself delivers in the third and fifth chapters of Bhagavad Gītā. I didn’t know that at the time, though. At the time, my knowledge of Krishna consciousness did not mainly come from direct statements in Sanskrit scripture, it mainly came from the way that the (mostly) western young men of ISKCON comprehended and practiced those statements. They definitely did think we should throw away everything – physical, intellectual, and otherwise – to join the temple and “devote ourselves completely to Krishna,” and they certainly weren’t shy about letting me know that I should do the same, asap. Why would I suspect that the devotees of the Krishna consciousness movement might not perfectly understand Krishna’s advice? Why would I suspect that they might see me almost as much as a resource as a “spirit-soul,” and that their very practical personal and institutional ambitions might seriously color their comprehension of Krishna’s actual advice?

In any case, coming back to the zine, I didn’t always rely on unethical editing. More often I took a softer tact and simply steered the interviews clear of controversy and straight into subjects I knew we had no disagreements about. For Zack this involved the role of spirituality as a vehicle for non-violent social change, and the shitiness of the modern television-culture society that pressures the youth to conform to their hollow norms. It was basically the same topic for Porcell. Yes, we spoke briefly about how happy he was that Ray found something he can really get into (Krishna), but mostly we focused on how useless modern materialistic society is.

Editorially, this is a lot like being a Martian and interviewing an Earthling who agrees that white is lighter than black, to promote an underlying message that Earthlings believe the same things Martians do, and love Martians. “See,” was my unspoken message, “Super cool dudes like Zack de la Rocha and John Porcelly believe so many of the same things we Hare Krishna’s do. So, basically, they pretty much love us. So you should love us, too.”

– Excerpt from an early draft of
Train Wrecks and Transcendence:
A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com]