Swimming in the Gray Ocean while seeing Black Krishna and Golden Radha
The bottom line in applying various details (prayers chanted, ceremonies attended, stresses given at different times and stages) are the results of our practical spiritual life. Though we want to be motivated to please Krishna and his representatives there should be some result. Are we more enthusiastic and joyful to chant, read and engage in devotional service, or do we feel something lacking? We want to live our life in such a way that we feel absorbed in thought about and service to Krishna and his dear devotees.
I guess this is my comment on Navasi's blog. In my application of the word "grey" to Krishna consciousness I apply it somewhat differently then she did, in relationship to understanding the philosophy. The deeper we go into it the more grey there is--not less. For instance, great acharyas (teachers) may differ in their views on aspects of Krishna lila, though they still agree on the ultimate "siddhanta" or conclusion of the scriptures. Devotees who reject one view and only accept another are missing the point. Thus we have to sort many things out and be ok with what appear on the surface to be contradictory recommendations or perspectives and harmonize the differences. Prabhupada wanted us to be independently thoughtful, broadminded devotees, so it is important to see Prabhupada in context of the tradition he represents. He mentioned that his credibility was that he was following the footsteps of the previous acharyas or advanced gurus.
Great teachers like our Prabhupada are expert in presenting things in a way that people can get a hold on--which means very black and white. Krishna consciousness is very deep and esoteric, and it takes an empowered person to communicate it in a way that can be grasped. Yet the deeper aspects of the philosophy are often not very black and white at all. After all, we are dealing with Infinity here, and Krishna and his world are "achintya" or inconceivable and don't fit well between our ears (our intelligence is limited). Certain things of course are black and white (though it takes devotees to understand them), like Krishna is God, by chanting we associate with him and develop prema, and they are a constant we can take shelter of.
Sometimes devotees lament that in Prabhupadas' physical presence everything was very black and white, but that is no longer true. In other words it was simpler and clearer---just do what Prabhupada told us. They felt that those were somehow the "good old days" while now they miss them. I have shared before that to me those were not the good old days---old days for sure, yet in my immaturity I wasn't able to take advantage of Prabhupada's presence.
In my understanding one of the ways the guru examines their disciple is when they physically leave. Then the disciple has to demonstrate what they have understood. In Prabhupada's presence we were in effect "ridding on his coattails", and he had us on the edge of our seats. We were waiting on his every word. If he said turn left or right, sit or stand we were willing to do it because he charmed us by his K.C. and love for us. In effect we turned off our thinking to be so busy doing "emergency" devotional service. He was with us only 12 years and had to very quickly write his books and establish the Movement. Then--in what we can now say was the blink of an eye--he disappeared from our midst. We had to start thinking about what K.C. really is, why he had us do what we did, what is truly essential, indispensable or could be adjusted according to time and place. Preaching means making such adjustments.
I have already spoken about principles and details, and I have to say it is essential to understand the difference. Not understanding this leads to fanaticism about externals. The details or externals are the ways we serve the principles of K.C. If we really know the principles or the spirit behind the philosophy we won't get hung up in the variety of details that there can be among different groups. Even if we are new to K.C we need to at least in theory understand this distinction, and ask those we respect what the differences are.
For some the Temple programs and devotee's visible attendance are everything, and anyone who doesn't participate is not appreciated. Having such an attitude can create a very harsh, critical, uninviting atmosphere at the Temple. My understanding is that we should create a welcoming atmosphere to make everyone want to come to the Temple---focus on seeing the best in other devotees. Guilt or criticism is not a very high level motivator. The external formalities are important and have there place, but they are not everything. Prabhupada set up guidelines based on young devotees living in the Temple communities. Everyone has to do what is favorable to our K.C based on our unique circumstances and the recommendations of mature, experienced devotees.
The bottom line in applying various details (prayers chanted, ceremonies attended, stresses given at different times and stages) are the results of our practical spiritual life. Though we want to be motivated to please Krishna and his representatives there should be some result. Are we more enthusiastic and joyful to chant, read and engage in devotional service, or do we feel something lacking? We want to live our life in such a way that we feel absorbed in thought about and service to Krishna and his dear devotees. If we can't go to a Temple, we can hold kirtana and worship in our home. In many ways K.C. is very common sense, and practical, though we can make it very complicated and hard. It is meant to be everlasting and joyfully preformed!
Here is one verse from the 8th verse of Nectar of Instruction giving our ideal:
"The essence of all advice is that one should utilize one's full time -- twenty-four hours a day -- in nicely chanting and remembering the Lord's divine name, transcendental form, qualities and eternal pastimes, thereby gradually engaging one's tongue and mind. In this way one should reside in Vraja [Goloka Vrndavana dhama] and serve Krsna under the guidance of devotees. One should follow in the footsteps of the Lord's beloved devotees, who are deeply attached to His devotional service."
Depending on our stage of life and level of interest in K.C we will apply this advice differently. Our necessity and taste direct us. These types of verses should be the lens through which we view that various practices of K.C like attendance of arotiks, worship of Deities, hearing Shrimad Bhagavatam etc.