Letter To A Recently Toasted Academic Friend/Devotee




“However, whatever the field of work, the politics and social manipulation is often much more important than actual skill. I might as well try to learn (or renouce it all and live the worry free, easy life of a saint).”

I like that there is a distinction here between the manipulation and politics seemingly required to deal in the material sphere and the seeming carefree life of dependence on God within the society of Vaisnavas. While I don’t see them as completely mutually exclusive, I think its suicidal to try to purposefully learn these political skills. In my opinion, they are either in the heart or they aren’t – if they are then best to engage them in the secular sense and offer the fruit of one’s labour to Krishna. If they aren’t then HARIBOL! what a relief for yourself and everyone else.

One thing I think worth asserting is that if such manipulative tendencies are in the heart its best not to try to exercise them within the society of devotees as it creates such a disturbance when western ‘CAN DO’ ambitiousness clashes with enlightened and humble Vaisnava culture. Simple hearted folks get trampled on/ostracized which makes the life of saints much less ‘worry free and easy’. Most deep devotees just tolerate it as Krishna’s mercy and are patient for Krishna to rectify things in His own good time. I’m hoping to become like that but for now I am pretty impetuous to openly discriminate with hopes for prevention and preservation.

On a personal level – I think you are submerged into a deeply materialistic environment and are toughing it out pretty impressively. To be completely honest, I could care less about PhD’s and the like – to me it seems like niyamagraha – but your circumstances are different from mine. Mind you, I am saying this after recent completion of 6 years tertiary study myself so I’m no stranger to academia – yet never have I been in as intense a situation as yourself here.

I hated reading how they diced and sliced you last week – my heart really went out to you then. I guess it would help you to become clear on things though. Sounds like you’ve had some nice reflections here.

I would like to comment also based on my 4 year attempt at renouncing everything and living the so-called worry free, easy life of a saint. Again, if renunciation and self-satisfaction is well and truly established in the heart – then I highly recommend it. I thought it was in my heart but really I just wanted a break from post-military material life. Krishna gave me one but I ended up realising that I carry my distress around with me in the form of lust wherever I go. I can put tilak on it – dress it in a dhoti – wake it up at 4am – become the manager of something within the temple scene – which are all potentially good – but the only real cure for my lust is hearing and chanting in the association of devotees which doesn’t entail externally forced renunciation. If any good result comes from that its pretty hard to detect. This makes much more sense:

SB 1.2.12-1.2.22 (Śrīla Sūta Gosvāmī to the Sages at Naimiṣāraṇya):

The seriously inquisitive student or sage, well equipped with knowledge and detachment, realizes that Absolute Truth by rendering devotional service in terms of what he has heard from the Vedānta-śruti.

O best among the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one’s own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead.

Therefore, with one-pointed attention, one should constantly hear about, glorify, remember and worship the Personality of Godhead, who is the protector of the devotees.

With sword in hand, intelligent men cut through the binding knots of reactionary work [karma] by remembering the Personality of Godhead. Therefore, who will not pay attention to His message?

O twice-born sages, by serving those devotees who are completely freed from all vice, great service is done. By such service, one gains affinity for hearing the messages of Vāsudeva.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramātmā [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.

By regular attendance in classes on the Bhāgavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.

As soon as irrevocable loving service is established in the heart, the effects of nature’s modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire and hankering, disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness, and he becomes completely happy.

Thus established in the mode of unalloyed goodness, the man whose mind has been enlivened by contact with devotional service to the Lord gains positive scientific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead in the stage of liberation from all material association.

Thus the knot in the heart is pierced, and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions is terminated when one sees the self as master.

Certainly, therefore, since time immemorial, all transcendentalists have been rendering devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, with great delight, because such devotional service is enlivening to the self.


I can’t speak from much personal realization on the glories of the mode of goodness what to speak of unalloyed goodness but I think this passage is pretty clear for those like us who are forced by our situations to develop a deeper sense of renunication than simply adjusting our material circumstances (ie – moving into a temple). Like I mentioned, I tried that and ended up coming to the same conclusion that Srila Suta Goswami and many other devotees tried to enlighten me to all along:

Serving devotees -> increased attraction to hear about Krishna -> proper hearing and chanting in a clear/submissive/receptive/transformational/penetrating way -> gradual upward elevation through the modes -> unalloyed goodness -> happiness/enlivenment (ananda) -> real positive knowledge and realization of Krishna and self (sat) -> temporary conceptions displaced by identification within eternal sphere (cid) -> deeper and deeper absorption in this cycle as faith and knowledge increase -> deeper and deeper absorption in loving Krishna and His dear devotees.

I’m certain that this is the way to become jivan-mukta (liberated in this life) but I seem to need help along the path. I’ve noticed that there are many plain-clothes devotees who are eager to help me along and some who at least temporarily seem caught up in other things. There also seem to be some wonderful temple/loft devotees who are aware of this path and give me tremendous inspiration; conversely, there are some within the institutional structure who seem either oblivious or unsatisfied with this as the purpose of the mission and instead compete for prestige and perquisites. (Like I said I am openly discriminative.)

The thing I love most about these verses is that they clearly outline how to become free from material association by enlivened absorption in devotional service and true knowledge. There is never any mention of giving up one’s occupational duties, however in 1.2.6 (almost immediately before this passage) our supreme occupation is presented. Similarly, Chapter 3 of the Gita exists to make the same point about true renunciation after Arjuna refuses to fight. Chapter 4 lays the foundation for understanding action and inaction and how to achieve enlightenment. Chapter 5 explains how to do all of this and at the same time keep your job. Some may call this ‘Karma-yoga’ and consider it inferior to the path of devotional service but Srila Prabhupada explains it differently. The pivotal point here is based on identification. If you consider yourself a brahmana or intellectual who gives his energy voluntarily to Krishna then this is pretty much Karma-yoga. If you consider yourself a devotee of Krishna – who has nothing of his own to give – and are externally engaged in occupational duties then this is Bhakti-yoga. Chapter 3 is called ‘Karma-yoga’ because the Transcendental Knowledge in Chapter 4 hadn’t been spoken yet. After some enlightened discussion we learn how to act – in Krishna Consciousness. The difference obviously being the knowledge or lack thereof.

It’d be nice to hear your realizations a bit so this is a good a place as any to end.

keep good faith.
may the force be with you always.
hang tough.
your servant and friend, ekendra das (gopala.org)


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