Santa Cruz, California — Thursday, October 6th

Keeping it real

Every Thursday evening at 7:30, Sarvabhavana Prabhu gives a class on Bhakti Yoga at the Veteran's Memorial Hall in downtown Santa Cruz. He has asked me to be the guest speaker this evening.

We are a little early, and as the guests drift in while we are setting up I notice a flyer on our book table advertising my talk at the hall tonight:

Lifetime Opportunity!
Akinchan Maharaj is back from Russia & India

Akinchan Maharaj will share his physical and spiritual travels to countries exploding with enthusiasm for the truth and the unlimited possibilities of this life. Feel the love and joy and most gentle power in his presence...

It's a bit much, isn't it? Who writes this stuff?

Apparently, this flyer was produced by Glen, the sincere though uninitiated devotee who traveled with Srila Gurudeva to Venezuela last year as part of the World Tour. Glen designs, prints, and distributes these flyers every week, and every week, according to Sarvabhavana Prabhu, the attendance increases. Thirty people show up tonight: the biggest crowd so far.

You know, on my recent lecture tour of Russia and the Ukraine I was advertised as a Master of Bhakti Yoga (Мастером Бхакти-Йоги)! How does anybody live up to such a billing?

The answer, of course, is that nobody can, so you can't let this kind of stuff mess with your mind. I have come here not for my own prestige, but to try to purify my consciousness by faithfully representing that beautiful conception of Krishna consciousness so charmingly presented by Srila Gurudeva and Srila Guru Maharaj.

So long as I am always conscious that everything I have is a gracious gift from Srila Gurudeva — that it is his wealth, his property, and that it may be withdrawn at any moment — I will not be affected by such publicity (pratishta)...

What do I know about Krishna consciousness? I am so odious (if you only saw The Picture of Akinchan Maharaj that I keep covered in my attic!) and so wanting myself... How dare I come to lecture others about Krishna consciousness?

"Feel the love and joy and most gentle power in his presence..." Ha ha. I'm wondering how to tell Glen to tone it down without discouraging or offending him, when I find myself in front of the bulletin board at the entrance.

In addition to many yogas I've never heard of — Integral Yoga, Forrest Yoga, and even an Adapted Yoga! — there are also advertisements for "Yoga, Sound Healing and Self-Discovery," a "Spiritual Healer and Medical Intuitive" who promises "soul retrieval, spiritual releasement, and belief repatterning" based on "spiritual healing practiced by the mystics of the ancient traditions," and perhaps most insidious of all, "Devotional Chanting" or "vocal meditation" using "sacred seed syllables, mantras, and traditional Indian and Brazilian chants to take you into a deeply meditative and relaxed state."

So many ism's, so many misconceptions vying for our attention! So many charlatans peddling their snake oil. And no shortage of buyers! (These "cures" cost from $6–$125.) The cheaters and the cheated (jivo jivasya jivanam).

I feel the anger rising in me. What do these people know about yoga? They have reduced it to a physical travesty... concocted it and adapted it to make a living, to exploit others. But what I have come to give is real: Bhakti Yoga, or The Yoga of Devotion.

So it is necessary to assert: "Yes! I do know something about this subject matter, by the grace of my Gurudeva." Otherwise why have I been sent to preach on his behalf, to try to revolutionize your consciousness?

I want to shout: "Don't be cheated! I know somebody who can help you. I don't want anything from you. Just give me your attention for an hour or so, and see what you think about this beautiful Krishna conception of Divinity that has been given by my Gurudeva..."

jnane prayasam udapasya namanta eva
jivanti san-mukharitam bhavadiya-vartam
sthane sthitah sruti-gatam tanu-van-manobhir
ye prayaso 'jita jito 'py asi tais tri-lokyam

What I have come to give tonight is not some speculation on my part (jnane prayasam udapasya). Although it is true that I have no good qualities (sthane sthitah) I am nevertheless convinced (ye prayaso) that the little that I have submissively (namanta eva) heard and understood (sruti-gatam) about Krishna consciousness from Sri Guru and Vaishnava (jivanti san-mukharitam bhavadiya-vartam) can revolutionize the consciousness of any sincere seeker and thus free them from the physical, mental, and intellectual confines (tri-lokyam) that bind them to this material world, because that purified state of consciousness (apy asi tais) will give them the key to penetrating (ajita) that normally impenetrable (jito) super-conscious plane of Reality the Beautiful...

I take my seat, and very precisely, logically, scientifically, and forcefully — with the authority of Srila Gurudeva — I begin to speak about the nature of the soul and the subjective evolution of consciousness...

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Layout by iMonk — October 6th, 2005.