9-11-10: I love the Butter Thief

By : 
Bhakta Mark; Iowa Park, Texas

Dear Bhakti-lata, Hare Krsna!

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
All praise to IPM!
Please accept my humble respects and obeisances.

You asked about the Krsna book, what is my favorite pastime up to now. I really like the “butter thief.” In fact, it is one of the pastimes that bring tears welling up in my eyes. I know that for those who do not “get it”, that the idea of a person relating to God as a friend, parent, or lover is appalling. Some would even see it as blasphemous! I actually feel badly for these blind folks. God can be so much more than a “father”, (a Santa Claus), though Father is accurate as well. No, I understood perfectly how a person could

relate to Him as a parent after reading of the Butter-thief pastime. Love it! It makes me want to grab Him up and hug Him. I can’t help it, it just does. I mean, anyone who has ever had kids can relate to this, can’t they? And it just goes to prove that what I have long believed to be the truth is true after all; that God is, or can be, mischievous. Not in a mean or hurtful way, but for His own reasons that we might not ever fathom, or just for the delight of it. I mean, if you doubt this, just look at some of His creations here on this planet. Like the duck-billed Platypus. What is up with that anyway? It’s like one could almost hear Krsna laughing, saying, “Hey, watch this, guys.” So I love the Butter thief. I want to be like mother Yasoda and chase Him myself. It makes my heartswell up, just like a parent would. And I know that some would shrink at that feeling being directed towards God, but too bad for them. I cannot help it and I make no apologies for it. It makes me want to cry. I am a man, not a sissy or a wimp. But I can admit to you, my friend that the Butter thief gets to me. If some cannot feel this way towards God, then the worse for them.

Another pastime I like is the one where Mother Yasoda looks in Krsna’s mouth and sees all of existence. Wow. Big wow! In fact, this one gives me chills. Really, can you even begin to imagine? It makes goose bumps pop up on me. Almost makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. If this one does not affect a person, then what would? I read of this and I want to fall on my face and close my eyes and pray that Krsna does not discard this insignificant speck that I am.

But the one that really does it is the one that, as a neophyte, I am told I should not try to delve on. That is, the rasa dance. Now, bear with me a moment. I know that it is strange (to Westerners anyway), that one could relate to God as a lover. I have begun to get a glimpse of the different ways a person can relate to Him. And I believe that this is a good thing for me. A bit of progress, perhaps. Still, the whole “conjugal love” thing throws me, as I am certain it has many others. I mean, some of the gopis were married, and here they are, cavorting in the woods all night, clothes falling off, feeling “lust” and such. And Krsna was only about 10 years old, correct? Now, I understand why they say that that mystery should not be looked at too deeply until one is a bit further along. Still, here is why the rasa dance is so special to me.
There is something about it –something ancient and dreamy and complete- that strikes a chord inside me. It’s like it is something that I have seen before, but have forgotten. Or something very, very old and necessary and it just IS. Honesty, I have thought about how to tell you this, but it is not very simple to do. It just seems that that moment in existence has always been, and will always be. That the rasa dance has always happened, that it is happening –right now, at this moment- and that it will always go on. We have all seen the nice paintings of Krsna in the midst of the gopis, the moonlight and the water. It just seems primeval and so familiar at the same time. It’s like it is something that is just out of reach, something right on the very edge of my mind. I can almost touch it, but when I try, it slips out of reach. Whatever it is, it touches something inside me. It’s special, and its beauty almost takes my breath. Now, I start looking at the whole conjugal/married/group/minor child thing and it destroys it. The rasa dance, with eternity welling up within it, is gone. The bubble burst. It turns ugly. And, as a result, I choose not to look at the rest. I do not expect you to waste your time in trying to explain such an advanced concept to this ignorant neophyte either. My only reason for mentioning this was to tell you of which pastimes I enjoyed most. The rasa dance is special. It’s like a beautiful piece of art that is so fragile. Like spun glass. I try to touch it, and it’s gone. There is something there. I don’t have a clue what it is or why it strikes me so, but it is a mystery and somehow I (us, we, the living entities) is at the heart of it. Or rather, Krsna is, and we are the dancers.

I appreciate every much your willingness to mail my beads to me. However, I do not think that you would be able to get through. The problem is the chaplain. He has some sort of personal problem with our faith. I have accepted it, for the most part. It is disappointing, and sad, and so unnecessary. But it’s his karma that will suffer I suppose, not mine. My job is to do the best I can, not allow his karma to seep into mine, and continue to chant, regardless. I am in the “Bible Belt” and this is just how it will be. That is OK. I see it as a lesson and a blessing from Krsna. After all, it only gives me a chance to demonstrate my determination. It is a good method in keeping me humble. And, I have Krsna; what need have I of anything else? I have read that Lord Caitanya used His fingers, and I am honored to be allowed to use the same method. Perhaps someday my japa will be blessed by Mother Tulasi, but till then, I am grateful to just have a voice to speak the names of God with. Hare Krsna!
The bigotry of little men only serves to make me stronger. Perhaps this is what Krsna intends? Anyway, enough about that. (“I am Krsna’s and Krsna is mine!” Period.)

About japa, my chanting is going well, but not consistent. This bothers me. In truth, often my voice gets tired. Then I start slurring the names. Or my mind wanders and I get frustrated. A common problem, I expect. I am not consistent with the amount, however, and that too is frustrating. Sometimes I get in as many as 12 rounds, and I promise myself to do the rest, but, regardless of the movies or popular ideas of what it’s like, our days [in prison] are often hectic, and despite my best intentions, I fail. I have a job now and I work in the laundry, and I have been going to rehabilitation classes, so I have been real busy. But that is only an excuse, and I know it.
Some days, honestly, I just don’t feel like doing anything. I work, I go to class, then all I want to do is just go to sleep and get away from this place for a while.
Then, at other times, my chanting seems to just soar! It’s like I am flying, or moving into some other place. I feel surrounded by the power of Krsna or love or something that is totally perfect and fine.
I just do not know why I have good japa and bad japa and I see it as a weakness and failure on my part, as if I am failing Krsna and Prabhupada at the same time. This is one reason I really like to read your reflections. I t gives me a chance to peek inside the mind of an experienced devotee. I see that, often, you too have your “moments” and struggles, and it makes me feel better to know that it is normal and I am not some sort of freak or washout or something. I do not want to be rejected by Prabhupada; that would be worse than anything I could ever think of. I just think that, if an experienced devotee such as yourself can have struggles, then what to speak of a neophyte like me?

The “good” days I have with japa are so awesome. The “bad” days are repugnant to me. But at least I recognize it, and I am getting a taste for the names. I just get so disgusted with my own failures and limitations. Often I get revved up and feel like I could chant like Haridas Thakura (not really, but you get the simile), and other days I allow Maya to get me.
Lots of times, however, I chant silently to myself, in my mind. Like at work, or going to work or chow. We are not allowed to speak in the hallways. I do not actually keep track of these, because I am not using my voice. I just sort of try to keep it going in my mind, I suppose, for comfort, and to protect my thoughts. The names also give me peace and make me feel safe in this most dangerous environment.

You related, in your letter, a few incidents of how Krsna has “came through” and helped other prison bhaktas. I was sort of uplifted by these events. Thank you. It makes me feel that, despite my shortcomings and failures, I am on the right track. I was especially pleased by the inmate who was in solitary and somehow, though the Lord’s mercy, received a BTG. I am familiar with solitary. Though I have never been housed there, I know what it’s about, and him getting any type of reading material is amazing. And, yes, I feel watched over. It’s really a fine feeling, to be plugged into the Truth and being cared for. I suppose that I am sort of like an unruly child, and Krsna is allowing me to touch the stove after being told repeatedly not to touch it. Though disobedient, and burned by my own actions, He still loves me and keeps me from getting really hurt. Though burned, I am not totally consumed, and He is the reason. What a fool I have been for so long. Thank you Lord, for allowing me to be a fool and come to prison so that I might settle down and listen long enough to hear the Truth.

Earlier in this letter, I brought up the subject of Krsna being a person. I will admit that this teaching was a bit difficult. At first, anyway.
I always just thought of Him as formless. That is, way too big and grand for a “form” of any kind. I have read theological papers and arguments of man and his concept of God as anthropomorphic. And I have read discussions on the various differences between Jnani, Bhakti, and Para Bhakti. This and the unfortunate fact that I have taken college courses in comparative religion have not helped me in my search for the truth. Quite the opposite, in fact. Man has made complicated what is so very simple. I was hindered, to say the least.
However, I have come to the point that God (Krsna), in human form, understanding my own emotions and feeling the same, choosing to relate to me in this form, to be one of the most comforting things that I could ever imagine. Once I began to try to accept it, the Absolute as a Person is so touching that the thought of it is making tears blur my vision, even as I write this.
Krsna is without a doubt the all in all. Is it not true that everything is God? I mean there is nothing outside of God- because there is no “outside?”

The truth, I have found- at least in my own pathetic, and limited understanding of it- is that it is quite impossible for me to practice real and lasting love and service to God, without relating to Him as a person. My mind can, on an intellectual level, contemplate some type of all powerful Being at the center of everything, but it is difficult, if not impossible, for me to feel real love for such a being. Not to be irreverent, but I would have a tough time falling head over heels in love and feel total devotion for a formless cloud of gas.
How sublime is this path to the Absolute that we have been given! The Being that is so great and beyond limits, who is everything that is- who is even the energy that holds the atomic particles in place- chooses to relate to us in human form!

I am a fool. All the studies I have done in my life, all the schooling, all the reading and searching and such, was so much hot air. It was right in front of my face the whole time.
You see, that is one reason that I have struggled with some of the things I have read in the sastras. I have done too much reading for my own good. I thought I was reasonably intelligent, but I am not. Honestly, I wish I could go live in a temple for a while, do some menial chore- clean toilets, scrubs pots and pans, or whatever- and not have to think. I have done a fair bit of reading on KC and still my own mind is my worst enemy.
But Krsna, as the Butter thief, as the child with all existence in His mouth, as the killer of Kamsa, as the jewel in the midst of the gopis in that timeless rasa dance, just blows my mind.
But most importantly, the thought that God- Krsna- wants and misses His relationship with me, really messes me up. I mean, that does it. You wrote that in your letter and it broke me down. It’s too much for me to absorb. Who am I? I am nothing. And yet, He is willing to meet me and misses me? That is too much.
Anyway, I suppose that my point is that I am making some sort of progress, though I cannot say how much, of if it’s in the right direction. I am glad I have your association to bounce this stuff off; otherwise I suppose I’d just founder. God as a Person. Wow!

You asked if I got the BTG about Lord Nrsimha? Oh, yes! Once again, what seems a coincidence occurred. I was reading in the SB about Hiranyakasipu and his foolish attempts at destroying Prahlada, when the BTG arrived. Boom! There He was! My Protector Himself! It even had a nice center pic of Him and I have it where I can see it every day. I cannot live through a single moment of the day in this cesspool without Him. You know how I feel? I feel like a child around a stranger. A child, when it meets a stranger, or is put in a new situation, will hide behind his parents. He will peek around his parents’ legs, feeling comfort hiding behind mommy and daddy, his guardians. Well, this is how I feel. In fact, the feeling is so close to it that I feel like a child at the sight of His image. I am finished and destroyed without Him.

The first thing I think about, each morning, is Krsna. I am a pathetic failure in my japa. An inconsistent lout. I disgust myself, actually. And I have “studied” so much mundane “science” and theology that it has made me a fool and an oaf. Yet, the first thought on my mind in the morning is Krsna. Funny, huh?
I confuse myself with useless arguments, question things that should be so simple, and I do not have a single clue about the first thing regarding devotion and service to God. But I actually shed tears and fall on my knees at the sight of Lord Nrsimhadeva. Something is happening to me. I am changing. Perhaps just a little, but I am not the same as I was. Oh, I am no great devotee. I am not initiated (though I hope to be); I am not even qualified to be in association with real, experienced devotees. I know my faults, and they are so many. But the original Person, Krsna, must be doing something with this rotten old convict, because it’s changing me from the inside.

Thank you for the small bundle of nice books. They will be perfect to use to preach with. It is such a struggle, in this place. So many do not want to hear anything, much less something that might be different or unfamiliar. In fact, let me relate this to you, as an example. They have a “faith-based” cell block here, called the “God-pod”. Well, I asked, and was granted permission to move there. But, I was told, in no uncertain terms by the other inmates, that I was in the “wrong religion” and that I was simply not wanted. Even the free-world volunteer who runs it told me that I would have to attend the Christian programs, but that I did not have to pay attention. My only reason for wanting to go there was to get into a more peaceful setting to, perhaps, enhance my own search for God. However, upon being given the above information, I had to respectfully opt out.
My conclusion, and I pray that it was the correct one, was that it would be better for me to speak to others about Krsna in General Population, despite all the awfulness and madness, then to try to preach KC to those who refuse to see anything other than their own limited beliefs.
Whatever, I believe it was the right decision. Not for myself, because it is much harder where I am now, but I think it was the right move as far as preaching KC goes. I will NOT stop telling anyone who will listen about Krsna. The books you sent will help a lot. I pray about my inability and poor knowledge of KC, and I know that Prabhupada can do a better job than I.

Well, I suppose that will be enough, for now. Please forgive me. I am aware that, often, what I write you may sound foolish. The searching steps of a child on an unfamiliar path. And I am grateful to you for all that you are doing to help me progress. The books, BTGs, and especially your letters and reflections. I am also grateful for your patience with this neophyte, this foolish man. I have such a long way to go before I finally get home. But changes are taking place, though they are small.

One final thing; after reading the verse you included in your letter (SB 2.3.21), I was shocked at how it applied to me. Personally. I too was “puffed up” and now I see the truth. I believe with all my heart that you are correct about the Vedas. Though I do not, and can never presume to hope that I will come to understand it all, it is and must be the vault that holds the key to all the ills that plague mankind today. The sastras may confound me, frighten or confuse me, bewilder, shock and amaze me, but the fact must be, that the ancients knew more about what Truth is than we do today. I must drop the old man, with his meaningless and useless beliefs, and surrender totally to His word and will.
A tall order, to change this man into a devotee. One that is worthy of initiation. One that is worthy to scrub the floor in the temple. The key, and foremost effort I must make, I believe, is one of the most basic. I must work on my japa (maybe do a little less thinking! LOL!)
Hare Krsna!
I am, and will remain,
your servant,
Bhakta Mark
Iowa Park, Texas