Sri Sri Guru-Gauranga Jayatah!
Dandavat pranam. Jay Srila Prabhupad!
I hope this letter finds you in good health and sound mind.
Lately I feel like I have fallen slack in my devotional service and spiritual practice. Truly, I normally ignore my exhaustion and try my best to re-commit myself each morning, each moment of every day. Over a decade ago, HH Rtadhvaja Swami advised me that the best strategy was to take Krishna Consciousness a day at a time. I realized immediately that if I thought about the long-term goal, at some point, the goal might seem unattainable. For my fickle and immature mind, it would be easier to endeavor only in baby steps. Everyday I followed those wise instructions and maintained my vows to the best of my ability. I endeavored patiently, slowly chiseling away at a lifelong vow of loyalty to Krishna, Guru, and Gauranga in hopes of attaining the highest goal-- prema-bhakti.
I loved my god-siblings, served them, followed their wisdom, asked their advice and so on. At times, I felt pressured to accept first initiation but I resisted the temptation to rush such an important commitment until I was certain. After years of contemplating, I accepted first initiation in the company of sweet vaishnavs and celebrated my spiritual birth. I remember that day clearly. I tearfully circumambulated the sacrificial fire in ecstasy knowing I had found spiritual shelter. That was seven years ago this Balaram Purnima. Over these past seven years, I have realized that I am a fraud. I have lost sight of my eternal self, service, name, identity, and mood. I followed the rules and regulations with unyielding zeal. I only cared about following protocol. I learned to sit properly, dress properly, behave properly, speak properly, and think properly but I did not learn to love properly. I did not love anyone or anything properly. I did not even love myself properly because I was too busy contorting myself to fit into a box properly. More recently, I found a sanga where I feel accepted, welcomed, and loved. I found a wonderful place where I do not have to contort myself to fit in. I found vaishnavs with kindness and acceptance at the core of their hearts, with warmth and affection I did not find at temple. One day, as I was reciting my pranams to the acharya sampraday and my ishtha-devatas, I realized I was never going to fit in. Indeed, it is impossible to push a square cog into a round hole. As I slowly uttered, “ananta koti vaishnava vrinda ki” I felt hollow inside and realized though I may offer my prostrate obeisance to hundreds, thousands, even millions of vaishnavs, I will never quite be up to par. I will never be counted among them. What's more, I do not want to fit in. I know I will never be good enough. No matter how hard I contort, distort, repress and suppress myself, I will never feel good enough. I want to be myself and be accepted. I want to feel loved. I do not want to be part of a society where I feel pressured to fake it and go through the motions. I do not want to be part of a community in which appearances means more than sincerity and intention. I do not want to be part of a society wherein one is reprimanded for speaking frankly and honestly and gloried for being delusional and duplicitous. I ask myself if there is something wrong with me for feeling this way but each time I do so, I hear a resounding and overwhelming, "No!"
I want a heart because I lost mine somewhere along the way.