Vairagya and the Hardened Heart


In Bhakti rasamrita sindhu 1.2.24, Jiva Goswami describes “the hardness of the heart caused by vairagya” and recommends as a solution not cultivating vairagya separately from bhakti. This is something I had heard but had eluded because I had not really processed it- that vairagya makes the heart hard? I could not fathom WHY detachment makes the heart hard- as if passing up that sweet rice in favor of plain unsalted rice did something weird to the heart.

Vairagya should NOT be cultivated separately- it should be a by-product of bhakti, which softens the heart. In other words, if, in order to please Krsna, one focuses on being soft-hearted, friendly to all, helpful, compassionate, eager to assist etc,

then natural detachment will follow as one is in one’s constitutional position of friendly loving service. But if one focuses on detachment instead of loving sentiment, then one develops a hard-hearted attitude to especially the opposite sex, seeing them as sense objects to be detested, avoided or subjugated. And because we focus on the sex life of gay devotees, and not their bhakti, we develop a similar hatred of them as well.

The reason this will not work is that its not really possibly to cultivate detachment from sense objects- because we are composed of senses. Trying to do so artificially, one develops a hatred or resentment of them. This is hardly healthy, but not a big deal when the sense object is, for example, chocolate icecream! But when it is a jiva, embodied in a form attractive to one’s senses, or a jiva capable of being hurt and offended by hatred, resentment and being “thinged” then such an attitude encases one’s heart in steel.

The horrible characteristic of material existence is that when one feels naturally loving towards a person who is attractive, because this dynamic is there in the spiritual world, and we are incapable of entering it totally, our latent fever of replacing God and being the enjoyer is awakened. It is exactly like a diseased person trying to digest perfectly good food, which turns to poison and only gives pain to all. We have to separate the disease (the tendency to be the supreme enjoyer) from the good food (the jiva).

The process of becoming un-diseased is to become a loving servant of all, regardless of the form they have- even if by doing so, one becomes vulnerable- one risks all to remain as a soft-hearted servant. That is bhakti. As it develops, one’s desires eventually become all for Krsna’s enjoyment, and one loses the tendency to be God- even in a situation where loving exchanges are taking place, such as revealing one’s mind in confidence. Loving service means service with love-emotion and soft-heartedness. If sometimes, in this endeavor to be in touch with our deepest feelings- because nothing is repressed, one falls down, one is not condemned (not by Krsna and His pure devotees anyway)- what IS condemned is hard-heartedness!

It seems to me that there is greater possibility of sexual falldown for devotees, than for false renunciates (in saffron, white or sari) who reject completely the activities of the heart and senses. It seems to me also that when institutionalized devotees search for a guru or sadhu, they always want one who “has a good track record” in regard to avoiding fall down, and after accepting such a guru/guide, on this basis, the moment he falls down, they are in complete rejection of him. One sees this all over ISKCON and especially the ritvik movement- who base their rejection of all diksa gurus other than Srila Prabhupada on this base mentality, all against the direction of Srila Prabhupada and Krsna.

The misogynism and homophobia prevalent in our movement, and the character assassination and hard-heartedness we have in regard to falldown and other hard-hearted characteristics are the predicted outcomes stated in this verse- that cultivation of detachment separate from bhakti will make the heart hard. The proof is we ignore all the loving and sincere service the so-called fallen have performed, and condemn, reject etc. That is not bhakti as it is in direct disobedience to Krsna’s order in Bhagavada gita.

The amazing thing about our GALVA devotees is that although homophobia, judgment and condemnation is rife in our ranks, they do not go away, they continue to chant Krsna’s names with love! How exalted are they, setting a standard of offering respect to others and expecting none in return and being more humble than a blade of grass! We should offer our respects at their feet and beg for such qualities ourselves.

The indisputable fact is we are all, without exception, fallen souls. We don’t have prema for Krsna, we are not crying, perspiring and trembling with love at the sound of His name, nor fainting, going mad or laughing. Thus we are not in the second stage of bhakti, and being very attached to our rules and regulations and thus proud of our vairagya, our hearts are hard to those who we think (mistakenly) are more fallen than we are, or those whom we perceive as sense objects. We think that by not being soft-hearted towards women, we will not fall down, and by condemning others for what we imagine in our fantasy world of sexual preoccupation to be sinful activity, we are thus appeasing the god of vairagya who will help us to continue to assault our senses with rules and prohibitions, devoid of the butter-like quality of prema.

Meanwhile Srila Prabhupada, ever expert at separating sin from sinner, embraced gay devotees like Upendra and others into his fold and never treated them differently. He also knew that many of his heterosexual couples were falling down- but never condemned them. His solution? Varnasrama. Include everyone who wants to be a devotee, for bhakti that is performed by a devotee who offends no one, offering respect to all, is like a powerful sun driving away all shadows.

Having full faith in this verse, means that we are certain, at some point, detachment will arise from the path of bhakti- WITHOUT our separately endeavoring for it.

Eventually, we lose interest in detachment itself- because our interest is all for Krsna and His devotees. We become detached from detachment- which can bring with it, so much undesirable respectability, acknowledgement and attention. It then becomes unthinkable to try to replace Krsna in amorous affairs, being as we are enthralled in giving Him more pleasure, either through the way we act with His beloved sadhakas, or the way we act with His very dearly beloved nitya siddhas. As the lila sastra reveals, He is very attracted- not just by how the devotees act with Him, but how they act with each other. Witnessing the loving, selfless and very sweet dealings between two gopis, Krsna became very enchanted and attracted by both of them.

It is that kind of loving dynamic which keeps us completely protected by the internal energy of the Lord. On the other hand, cultivating detachment is more or less a belief in one’s own prowess and capability as a means of making advancement or conquering Krsna.

Krsna is not interested- but to protect the reputation of His dear devotee who cultivates loving dealings with everyone- He awards them detachment. This can be seen in Haridasa Thakura. When the beautiful woman came to seduce him, he asked her to stay- he was not harsh- and by his chanting he purified her. Therefore it is said that jnana and vairagya follow the devotee as maidservants. They are helpful, but not goals for us.