honesty and the four regulative principles

here goes nothing.

in case you don't know, when you become an initiated disciple of a guru in hare krishna world you make five promises. for the most part they seem reasonable and don't sound so difficult to follow - but in reality, in the material world, they can be quite a challenge.

in the interest of coming clean and being real, I've decided to discuss my position with the promises I made to my guru and krishna over a decade ago.

getting my beads and the initiation fire, where promises are made for life

chanting 16-rounds: when you get initiated your guru hands you a set of japa beads - which are essentially prayer beads - like a rosary. in the ISKCON tradition, you promise to chant 16-rounds of the hare krishna mantra every day. one round is saying the mantra 108 times. so basically you say the prayer 1,728 times. it takes roughly two hours. the purpose of saying this prayer is to become closer to krishna - to focus on his name and his form and to become more "krishna conscious".
personally, I stopped chanting my vowed number of rounds after my first daughter was born 10 years ago. I've chanted on and off since then, but for the most part it's been a lost cause. chanting for me (at least on beads, which for me feels different then singing in kirtan/bhajans) is not enjoyable. it feels like burden. I'm not focused on krishna and I spend most of the time thinking of a million other things. so what's the point? I've been told that if I just keep doing it, I'll eventually get a "taste" for it. I just don't have the patience for that. at least not now.

chanting japa

other than chanting, when you get initiated you promise to abstain from four other things... this is called following the four regulative principles.

no meat-eating: this means being vegetarian - no eating of meat, fish, or eggs. I've never waived from this purposefully. yes, I've had my fair share of accidental situations (like eating something and not knowing it had something nasty in it until later). but this is something that no matter what I think I will always follow. the only thing I can confess to here is that I hardly ever (almost never!) offer my food to krishna - which devotees are supposed to always do. and also I have no problem eating somewhere that serves meaty stuff. I've known people who are adamently against 1. eating out and/or 2. eating at places that serve meat. personally, my opinion is that if you eat anything that is factory processed, it has the same chance of being contaminated as if you eat somewhere that cooks meat. and I guess I just don't care that much. whatevers.

no gambling: for the most part I follow this. I don't buy lottery tickets and I don't go to casinos on the regular. though a few years ago my husband and I saw norah jones and fiona apple (separate occasions) at the borgata in atlantic city and we certainly did play the slots. we figured what was the difference if we spent $50 playing slots and lost the money, or just went out and wasted it at the movies? it's all still maya. again, I don't quite see the big deal about it.

no illicit sex: I've heard so many definitions of what this means. but the most extreme was that this means no sex unless it's for procreation purposes. yea, I pretty much never followed this. but the best part about this principle is that I know so many people who never followed it! and then there were a few people who said they did follow it and told me they thought everyone else was following it! honestly, I really feel like if you're married and you're having sex with your spouse it's not a big deal. you're married! sex is important for connecting to your spouse. honestly, my opinion on that will never change.

no intoxication: this one includes smoking, drugs, alcohol, and caffeine. basically anything that will alter your natural state. can I give this one a big sigh? SIGH! ok, smoking and drugs, check - I agree, bad news. caffeine - ugh! can I just say that for years I took this to the extreme and didn't even eat chocolate (the love of my life!). but here it is: I know dozens - dozens of devotees who drink caffeine - coffee, soda, tea, whatever. and nowadays it's like no big deal. honestly, I don't think it's a big deal - but here it is - the next thing I'm about to say people would think is a big deal...
I started drinking alcohol about six months ago. I only drank a handful of times before I became a devotee, and then spent 15+ years clean and sober. and all of a sudden I just decided I wanted to experiment. and not that I'm drinking like every day or even weekly, but I feel like, ok, I'm 33 years old and wait, why can't I do this?! and shhh, here it is - there are other devotees out there that do it too! and while I respect people's privacy, I just feel like I don't want to pretend to be something that I'm not. or feel or think things that I don't. so why not just be honest?!

so here it is. this is where I'm at. I suppose that all of these things combied technically make me "blooped" - I freaking HATE that word, by the way. but here's the real deal: I love krishna. that will never ever ever change. I know that he is god. it's this process that I doubt - and mostly because I have seen so many people fanatically practice it and fall from it. and I have practiced it and not advanced - no matter how hard I try.

where does that leave me now? I don't feel blooped - I feel confused mostly. I had an intensely scary dream about my guru the other night and it made me want to worship and serve him so badly. but... but there's something in me that's not there right now. this is why I feel so confused and like I don't know who I am anymore. I spent 15 years of my life dedicated to wanting to be a true hare krishna devotee. I wanted to serve and love my guru, krishna, and the devotees. and all of a sudden I just lost it. ok, not all of a sudden - over time - but it feels very all of a sudden. sometimes I think I would give anything to roll the clock back two or three years and be the me of then. but I wonder who that girl was - is that who I really am? how do I figure this out? how do I reconcile my past with my present with my future and what is in my head and my heart? I don't know. really.

so yea, there it is. judge me if you want. hate me, disown me... whatever. but if nothing else, I am honest.

in vrindavan. this picture always makes me think of the cover of that 'vraja lila' book.


Leslie Howard said...

Love the honesty. After seeing how crazy things had gotten at New Vrindavana before I lived there I stopped chanting the required japa and never got back to it. I never got initiated, but that was one thing that always reminded me why I wasn't. We left the entire thing behind last summer. I respect who I was, but I feel like things are shifting in the world and the old frameworks of beliefs and such more and more don't work anymore. My husband was really dedicated and put so much into his KC practice (he never would have said, "KC" for example) but in the end he didn't feel like it worked. I held myself more apart (ever since New Vrindavana in 97) because I realized the "good devotee" mold wasn't for me.

We were vegetarian before we knew about Krishna and I don't think that will ever change for us, either. But the rest of it? It is just one day at a time trying to be real and connect with others in a meaningful way. XO Leslie

Vraja Kishor / Vic DiCara said...

I can't really put into words how much I LOVE this blog post!!! It gives me such a strong positive feeling to read it. I'd like to subscribe to this blog if your other posts are anything at all even remotely like this one! Where is the RSS feed.

All I can say is that I LOVE this post. Radheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey shyama!

PZ said...

An interesting reflection on dogma, and your honesty is laudable. But it all rests on certain assumptions that you don't support in your post, nor do I think these assumptions have been supported by anyone that I am aware of. The big one is that you claim to "know" that Krishna is god. How exactly do you know this to be true for certain? If you cite holy books--i.e. the Vedas--well, there are many holy books out there. Why do the Vedas have authority over all the others? If you cite faith--i.e. "I know it in my heart to be true."--this only complicates matters, as all religious people cite this for many different gods. How is your personal faith more true than people with different faith?

Anonymous said...

I find it quite interesting that one would choose to express onseself via a medium that is by its very nature impersonal. Blogs no matter how hard we try to argue are in no way any substitue for real relationships. So if we define relationship we then have to define the goal of any relationship which is to become more connected. So if we wish to be more connected we ask what is it that we need to be more connected to or more improtantly who. In this way you have adminitted your main connection with krsna yet you have not taken the personal aspect of His existence seriously in that your approach to the practicses is from the angle of dogma as opposed to relationship. So perhaps it should be more of an internal question of your value system in that who do you value the most if its your mind intelligence and senses then yes what you are doing is right as the material mind intelligence and senses can justify any activity as beneficial, however if its Krsna that we really want to please then why woudlnt we live a lifestyle that actually pleases Him and more improtantly surround ourselves with others who are interested in the same values. If find it a shame that so many practitioners of bhakti have a handle on the devotion but no idea about teh culture so when push comes to shove they revert back to the culture that they came from of the accepted culture of their environment without true understanding of what they are giving up.

BhaktiCulture - inspire by design said...

sweet, and totally recognize myself in it - you/we are not alone


Nilambari dasi said...

Thank you!

Karuna said...

You're adorable.
It is good to be honest, with the people around you and with yourself. I've always thought that my relationship with Guru and Krishna was too important pretend to be anything but myself. If it looks bad to others, that is ok since Krishna knows what is in your heart anyway. Keep up the good work and thank you for being sincere.

nix said...

Hi i just came to your post after googling the role of the 4 regs in spiritual life! I received books on Krsna when i was 16 yrs old im not initiated and now 37. Im really stoked that your openly saying where your at , its fantastically brilliant. The reality is that we can only start from where we're REALLY at and take things slowly and staedily from there.
Something strange seems to happen when associating with the organisation and that is we start to react to the group dynamics , social status, community around us etc.. in other words all the crap we were doing as a materialist, so whats changed?! is it your consciousness or a whole load externals. Im not critisising, but it can happen ,Krsna consciousness is the way but there are so many pitfalls, the razors edge and all that! i am in uk and a couple of years ago Vipramukya swami disappeared with a young lady and is currently riding around the USA on a motorbike, good luick to him i say, i just wish it was possible for him to stick around and be an example to all of us, to fess up, get real and be honest. Then we can all start making some advancement.Hare Krsna!

Anonymous said...

Okay, so you've been honest. But it seems like you have the attitude of: this is the way I am, and I'm not going to make any effort to change it.

Srila Prabhupad would not have given us these instructions if they were not extremely important. He gave us a lifeline.

I know, I also do not yet live up completely to the standard of the regulative principles at this time. But I am not going to lie to myself and tell myself it's okay to settle for where I'm at. Prabhupad has made it clear.

If you want to get out of this mess, then follow the principles as best as you can.

Only if you have actually been practicing the 4 regulative principles in full (and chanting 16 rounds daily) can you see what the benefit is.

An analogy is: When you've living in a filthy city environment since birth and have not ever seen anything different, how could you possibly know what it's like to be in the clean, unpolluted countryside? And once you've been in the countryside, you really don't want to go back to the city.

Please read Prabhupad's words and take them to heart.