Monday, August 27, 2007

Srimad-Bhagavatam Meditation 1:18:20

It is once again time for a guided meditation on the ripened fruit of the tree of Vedic knowledge, the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

I humbly ask you to read first the translation and Bhaktivedanta purport to today's verse, the 2oth verse from the First Canto, Eighteenth Chapter.

etāvatālam nanu sūcitena
gunair asāmyānatiśāyanasya
hitvetarān prārthayato vibhūtir
jusate 'nabhīpsoh

It is now ascertained that He [the Personality of Godhead] is unlimited and there is none equal to Him. Consequently no one can speak of Him adequately. Great demigods cannot obtain the favor of the goddess of fortune even by prayers, but this very goddess renders service unto the Lord, although He is unwilling to have such service.

This month's Time Magazine features a fascinating and heart-rending cover article about a new book about to be released on Mother Teresa, titled Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. In the article and book, we learn that underneath her saintly demeanor and fantastic efforts to provide simple material and spiritual relief for so many downtrodden people was an internal struggle so deep and acute as to make this most pious well-wisher even question the very existence of God.

I was quite taken aback when I came upon these revelations, and I began to try and understand how her expressions of pain and longing within her own personal faith fit into the paradigm of separation as we understand it in our Vaisnava tradition. We can understand that Srimati Radharani's feelings of separation from Krsna were sometimes so intense as to make her practically lifeless. We also understand from guru, sastra, and sadhu that these feelings of separation are actually the highest ecstacy that can be experienced in relation with Sri Krsna.

There is something about the plight of Mother Teresa in her mood of separation that strikes my heart in a very mournful way. Even in my very limited understanding of scripture, there is a sense and small taste of transcendence from studying the moods of Radharani, but seems to me to be nothing transcendent in the sheer misery Mother Teresa would express of her inner spiritual plight.

For example, in quoting from the article: "She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'"

What is so startling is that someone like Mother Teresa, whose determination to alleviate the sufferings of so many people by spreading the mission of the Lord is an inspiration to preachers of all faiths, could do so much and carry on so diligently while having to deal with this disconnection between her soul and the Supreme. I know that for myself, my motivation in Krsna consciousness depends completely on the strength of my convictions and faith. If I was feeling no connection with Krsna, I would not be sacrificing to participate in devotional service. I am nowhere near any kind of advanced level to continue as a devotee if Krsna were to handle me roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me.

The Bhagavatam verse above struck me with a feeling of connection to these revelations of Mother Teresa's inner struggle. It is mentioned that the goddess of fortune renders all kinds of service unto the Lord, although He is unwilling and not even in need of such services. The goddess of fortune cannot even enter into the intimate circle of the gopis' lila with Krsna despite all her service. Why, as in Mother Teresa's case, does she incessantly and eternally continue when her most inner desire of full reciprocation is being denied. In essence, where did Mother Teresa get her spiritual strength from, and how do we define her mood of separation from what we understand in our own tradition?

In any case, I am sure I am expressing so many misunderstandings, and I pray to you, the humble reader, to please read the article about the inner struggle of Mother Teresa, and I hope you may be able to add to a discussion of this mystery. I will follow up a soon with another piece with some nice points I gathered from a discussion of this article with some of my fellow inmates here at New Vrindaban. Please feel free to add your points here or even write me at Hare Krsna.

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