To illustrate the condition, of this kind of Vaisnava, the following is what I wrote to Ponal, in a Word Document, sent via e-mail. I wrote:
Dear AP, please accept my Dandavats.
What is ‘so-called spiritual advancement’’?
You will not be able to answer that question because, “so-called spiritual advancement”, does not exist.
Either a person performing devotional service is advancing, or one is not advancing.
However, a devotee may be in a state of illusion, had been diluted, has a false impression, is fantasizing, is daydreaming, has a figment of their imagination, or they have been deceived. If this were to be the case, the devotee is thinking that they are making spiritual advancement, when in fact, the devotee is not. This could be “so called spiritual advancement”, but it is still “no advancement”. In other words, to think or believe so, does not make it so.
In the English language, it is a standard protocol, to precede the phrase “so- called” before a noun, when the speaker or writer, wants to convey that the “noun” being modified, by the phrase “so-called”, is not what the “noun” specifies. For example, if you say, “John is a so-called philosopher.” To speak or write this is conveying that John thinks he is a philosopher, even though other people think that he is NOT. The speaker or writer is conveying that John is not a philosopher. This phrase “so-called”, is mostly used to designate an imposter, or someone pretending. This term is used when the speaker or writer, has sufficient evidence to use it. If it is used, when in fact it is not true, then that would be irresponsible and offensive. Speaking the truth is never offensive, if it is a fact. Speaking something that is not true, is always offensive, if it is not a fact.
You Mr. AP, whoever you may be, I would like to give you a little bit of praise, which you deserve. It takes a person of integrity, to admit that after 5 years of practicing bhakti, the spiritual advancement, which many of your godbrothers and sisters, are assuming you have, is not there. You have recognized this, and thus you call it “so-called”.
Somehow or another you have been sold a bill of goods, that caused you believed that you would be dressed with the garments of bhakti by now. However, after 5 years, you are seeing that you are naked. This dear friend, takes a real man or woman, to admit. This means that you are truthful to yourself, and you have integrity, and this my friend, these are qualities of a brahmana, and for sure a vaisnava.
I can also say, that it is possible that you will be thinking, that it is your entire fault; that you still have material attachments and desires, along with a false ego. However, please believe me, it is not entirely your fault. Knowing my godbrothers, who are the authorities in ISKCON, I can further tell you, that if you confront them with these questions, and they know that you are a 5-year-old devotee, they will more than likely, place the blame on you, in one way or another. They may tell you that it is entirely your fault, with statements like,
- “You do not have faith in shastra or the guru”.
- “You are not following the instructions of your guru”.
- “You are not sincere”, and so on.
However, I can assure you that no matter what they say, they will put the blame on you.
In addition, you may feel that, the mercy you thought you would get, has not come. You are not entirely innocent; but the truth is that it is not all your fault, please believe me.
If you are sincerely asking these three questions, it means that you are able to perform self-analysis, and have determined that you still have material attachments, desires, and a false ego.
Asking question 3, means that you do not know, nor understand, the Gaudiya vaisnava Siddhanta regarding “mercy”. This ability of self-assessment, is a good quality, for any human being, it is rare and very desirable, in the practice of sadhana bhakti.
In fact, it is essential, and many times, it has to be taught and encouraged.
If we look at both the kanistha and Madhyama stages of Krishna consciousness, as having three levels each, i.e., beginner, intermediate, and advanced, then I would say that you are for sure a beginner kanistha.
The reason I say this, is because a neophyte devotee should know the answers to these questions, within the first 6 month to a year, after making contact with our parampara.
It is possible to know the answers, to all of these three questions, at the beginning level of kanistha, and for sure in the intermediate level. In fact, it is essential, otherwise, if one does not know the answers to these 3 questions, spiritual advancement will be nil.
It will be virtually impossible to make proper advancement, and at best, making advancement very difficult.
In order to advance, knowing the answers to these three questions, is essential knowledge, for a neophyte vaisnava. Just to know the answers, is not sufficient.
You must also get the instruction, of how you can apply the answers to your program of sadhana.
This implementation of this knowledge, is what will cause the advancement, and that part, is not so easy. Understanding the answer is easy, but applying it, will require hard work and sincerity. The more sincere a devotee is, the quicker the advancement will come. Taking a sluggish approach to applying the answers, will result in very little advancement.
Teaching you the answers to the questions, and giving you instruction, on how to implement the answers, is the responsibility of whom is responsible for giving you siksha. Applying the siksha is your responsibility. Therefore, that is why I said, “It is not entirely your fault”, that you find yourself in this predicament. I can make this evaluation because I know, for a fact, that you have not received, this kind of instruction. ISKCON has vested interest in not giving this kind of siksa, and that is even a sadder story.