Reflections on the first anniversary of Gita-daily
A publisher recently expressed interest in publishing the Gita-daily articles as a book “The Gita for daily enrichment.” Saying that the occasion of Gita Jayanti, which falls on 24th December this year, would be a good occasion to release the book, he asked me if I would have 365 articles ready by then. November 1, 2011 was the day when Gita-daily started, so 365 articles became ready by November 1, 2012.
The publisher asked me what similar spiritual features were already available on the net. I did some google searches and asked a devotee-friend who is a resourceful net searcher to help. Both of us came up with the same finding: there aren’t too many similar daily spiritual features on the net. Many people write a daily post, but few write on spiritual topics. Among those few spiritual writers, most draw from various sources and don’t focus on one book. Very few comment daily on the same book, mostly Christian teachers on the Bible. But almost all Biblical daily posts are extracted from sermon transcripts or from pre-written commentaries. A fresh daily article on the same book, hot off the keyboard, seems so rare as to elude most google searches.
I am happy to offer this uncommon, perhaps unique, honor to the Bhagavad-gita in the year in which it had to face the dishonor of a ban threat by Bible-touting fanatics. The attempt to dishonor the Gita failed; the attempt to honor it succeeded. Bhagavad-gita ki jaya!
As I look back at the last year of daily writing, I feel amazed at Krishna’s inconceivably wondrous ways; humbled by the task that lies ahead; sobered by memories of the sacrifices of past devotee-writers; and indebted to all of you, my readers. Kindly allow me to share the thoughts behind these four distinct emotions.
All of us try many things in life. Most of these have a high casualty rate in the journey from conceptualization to actualization. Even in devotional life, not many of our plans work out. So when I resolved one year ago to try writing a daily article on the Bhagavad-gita, I half-expected this resolution to be on the casualty list soon. After all, it was quite audacious for an author who had barely managed for the last ten years to write one article every week to resolve to write an article each day.
But, then, last November was a time that demanded audacity.
For ten years before that, my main service had been traveling to various places and speaking about Krishna. Although I had a polio-afflicted left leg, it had somehow not obstructed my traveling till then. But in May 2011 I had an accident that severely fractured the diseased leg. By Krishna’s grace and the devotee-doctor’s expertise, the leg was salvaged after a major surgery and a three-month recovery. But I was warned that the repaired leg could withstand only limited stress and so would allow only restricted mobility. Moreover, even that restricted mobility had to be cautious because any future fall and fracture would most likely be permanently immobilizing.
Certainly nothing could stop me completely from speaking about Krishna and traveling if that was necessary. But I had to accept that I couldn’t continue traveling like earlier. So I started looking for alternative ways to share Krishna’s message.
After consulting with my devotee-guides, I decided to focus on expanding the services that I was offering through my website. Till then, the only service there had been a weekly article. I decided to start answering questions on the site in audio format and was overwhelmed by the positive response – both in terms of the quantity and the quality of the questions received, and the kind appreciation for the answers. I am grateful to those of you who have either asked question or heard the answers, thereby giving me an opportunity to share Krishna’s wisdom without having to travel anywhere. I am acutely aware that this QA service needs to be improved: I have to answer the many pending questions, adjust my schedule so that I can answer new questions more promptly and coordinate the transcription of the answers, as many of you have asked. I am especially grateful to all the devotees who are participating in the transcription service.
Grateful as I was for the QA service, I still wanted to do something more. Most of the questions tended to be informational, logical or practical, so they didn’t offer much opportunity for sharing the inner dynamics of devotional service. My accident and recovery had made me more introspective, helping me realize that my past practice of Krishna consciousness had been quite superficial. I began understanding that jewels of insight and inspiration could be had by plunging deep into the ocean of our inner relationship with Krishna. I wanted to share some of those jewels with the hope that it would inspire others to discover similar jewels in their own Krishna relationships. Also, Srila Prabhupada had repeatedly taught: the more we share what Krishna has given us, the more he gives it to us.
With these thoughts in mind, I decided to take an audacious leap of faith and start Gita-daily, a short daily reflection on a verse from the Bhagavad-gita. This would be my improvised version of the daily Bhagavatam class which Srila Prabhupada had instituted in his centers and which I earlier used to give at various centers almost 3-4 days each week. The biggest improvisation in Gita-daily was that it was written krishna-katha instead of spoken krishna-katha, as was the daily Bhagavatam class. Writing is far more intellectually demanding than speaking because an author, unlike a speaker, can’t complement the message with gestures, facial expressions, voice modulations and devotional settings; the message has to be conveyed exclusively through the written word.
Now one year later I am genuinely surprised that I was able to write 365 articles during this period. I cannot honestly take the credit for this daily writing because the question begs itself: if I had been such a proficient writer, why had I been unable to write even one article per week earlier? What enabled me to write daily was not my proficiency but an amazing arrangement of Krishna.
It all began with the accident that I had to endure because of my own karma. But Krishna arranged the karmic reaction to come in a way that least affected my service to him. If that accident had damaged any bodily part other than my leg, my service would have been severely affected. Had my hands been damaged, typing would have become difficult. Had my eyes been damaged, reading would have become difficult. Had my power of speech been damaged, chanting or speaking about Krishna would have become difficult – it’s hard to think of a nightmare worse than that. But Krishna arranged for my karma to merely minimize my mobility. That reduced mobility was more a blessing than a punishment. It facilitated me in getting the time, the peace and the clarity of thought necessary for daily writing.
I have often heard, read, spoken and written how whatever Krishna does, no matter how bad it seems, is for our best. Now after comprehending his amazing arrangement in my life, I am able to talk about Krishna’s benevolence with much greater realization and deeper conviction.
Beginning anything is always easier than sustaining it. The responsibility to continue writing Gita-dailies day after day, month after month, year after year, is profoundly humbling. Why? Due to two reasons.
Firstly, writing rarely tolerates pride in writers. A writer may produce magic on one day and garbage the next day. When and why a writer may be overcome with a writers’ block is often unpredictable and largely incomprehensible. The best that a writer can do is write as much as possible whenever the inspiration appears, and keep struggling and persevering whenever the inspiration disappears.
Secondly, even greater that writing’s intolerance of pride in writers is Krishna’s intolerance of pride in his devotees. If he sees that abilities are making his devotee proud, he can take all those abilities away in one moment. Nothing illustrates Krishna’s absolute control over everyone’s abilities as much as his taking away the archery skills of the world-champion archer Arjuna, as described in the fifteenth chapter of the first canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. Arjuna was an intimate devotee of Krishna and was not overcome by pride, yet Krishna took away his abilities because, as Srila Prabhupada indicates, those abilities were not needed for him to go back to godhead. Contemplation on this pastime is for me one of the most potent antidotes to pride. Remembering that the loss of the writing abilities is a constant and real possibility is deeply humbling.
Equally, if not more, humbling is the grave task that lies ahead: acting as an intermediary between Krishna’s words and Krishna’s potential devotees. I hope that my writing can help:
- Bring for the Gita the dignity that it deserves in the eyes of as many people as possible.
- Provide as many people as possible the fulfillment that the Gita longs to bless them with.
One of the few songs that brought tears to my eyes in my pre-devotional days was a patriotic song, jo shaheed huye unki jaraa yaad karo kurbaani aakh me bhar lo paani jaraa yaad karo kurbaani. “Those who have become martyrs, remember their sacrifices. Fill your eyes with tears and remember their sacrifices.”
Contemplating the sacrifices that our previous acharyas undertook for the sake of writing is similarly moving and sobering.
To prepare his Bhaktivedanta purports Srila Prabhupada had to sacrifice his night sleep for over a dozen years. Except for a few occasions I never had to sacrifice my night sleep to write a Gita-daily.
Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura wrote in Vrindavan at a time when that sacred place had been devastated by religious fanatics. To write exalted philosophical insights amidst a backdrop of such depravity must have been a huge austerity.
But most inspiring is the example of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. He had all the excuses that anyone in the world could ever have had for not writing. Yet he wrote – and wrote so much, over a 100 books.
- As a judge, he had such complex and grave professional obligations – something that must have been so demanding and draining.
- As a householder, he had so many family members to care for – something that must have taken so much of his time.
- As a pioneer trying to recover our Gaudiya tradition, he had so few intellectual peers to share his thoughts with – something that must have made writing so much more difficult.
- As a vigorous preacher, he had multiple traveling and speaking engagements – something that must have taken so much of his time as well as his emotional and physical energy.
- As a liberated soul in a physical body, he had many sicknesses throughout his life – something that must have hugely diminished his writing ability and availability.
Comparatively speaking for me, such distractions are nearly zero. Therefore, how much more should I be writing?
I am indebted to all of you who are reading the Gita-dailies. Just as writing is more intellectually demanding than speaking, reading is more intellectually demanding than hearing. When we hear a striking point, we often applaud or cheer. But if we read a striking point, we almost never respond so explicitly. Why? Because during reading, the brain is too hard at work to be influenced so much by emotions.
Given the fact that reading – and especially reading philosophical analysis – is intellectual hard work, I am grateful to see Gita-daily getting a good many readers and also quite a few appreciative comments.
How do I feel about these comments? I would like to quote a senior devotee, who is a professionally published author of over a dozen books. When I wrote to him appreciating one of his books, in his reply he phrased the typical feelings of a devotee-writer movingly:
“At the material level, writing about pure devotion to a personal God has a very small market in today’s world. Both the money and the readership are limited. How many people want to hear about giving material pleasures and seeking happiness in service to God? Not many. At the spiritual level, we cannot experience authentic reciprocation from Krishna for our writing unless we are very advanced. Thus, for devotional writing neither material nor spiritual rewards are easily forthcoming. That’s why sincere words of intelligent appreciation by serious seekers like you are the greatest inspiration for a devotee-writer to continue his solitary struggles to write for Krishna.”
I would love to replicate these words as a reply to every appreciation that I receive. But I don’t want half the comments on the site to be just my thank-you notes, so I don’t usually respond to the appreciative comments. But I do read them gratefully, seeing them as indications that Krishna is accepting my service.
Also, I am especially grateful to the devotees who have helped in editing, proofreading and sorting the Gita-dailies.
I would like to conclude with a confession. I want to openly admit that I am a struggling seeker whose heart has many wretched desires. I am not saying this to parade my humility, but to dismantle any illusions that my writings may have unintentionally created. My spiritual realization is woefully lesser than my literary skill; my devotional attraction for Krishna is light years behind my intellectual ability to speak and write about him. If reading the Gita-dailies has made any of you think that I am a realized or advanced devotee, I would like to go on record stating that this is an illusion. What I write are not my realizations, but my aspirations. I am far from living at the level of my writing. I write on the Gita so that one day I can come to the advanced levels of consciousness that it teaches.
Devotees more realized and advanced than me could have glorified the Gita much better. But somehow they all had many other heavy responsibilities, leaving them no time to write anything like Gita-daily. So, as Srila Prabhupada said about his taking the initiative for going to the West, “Some fool had to do it.”
I seek the blessings of Krishna and my many spiritual teachers to be able to continue this service of writing on the Gita daily till the last day of my life. And if you have found anything of value in the Gita-dailies, I request you to pray for the same.