Modernizing devotion to Radha Krishna

I received the following questions in response to my blog of February 11th:

“How should it be modernized?”

By being open to critical thinking, by dressing in a modern way, by accepting pluralism, by accepting bhakti, service, love as the basis of all religion, by replacing outmoded ideas e.g. the sun revolves around the earth with more modern understandings of the universe, by understanding it as a myth and knowing that myth builds world and living a mythological life, by being present to the reality that exists now, …

“What parts of it are relevant, and what parts belong to cultures of the past?”

The whole myth of Radha and Krishna portraying the loving pastimes of God in a most attractive way which causes one to fall in love with them and aspire to serve them eternally is of course relevant. As is the Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Chaitanya Charitamrita, etc., but they should be understood from a modern perspective. Chanting of mantras, engaging in devotional practices, living simply, enjoying life without attachment, surrendering one’s life to Sri Radha, etc. are relevant.

Indian dress, accents, mannerisms, tilaka, diet, purity rules, emphasis on renunciation, authoritarianism, organized religion, self deprecation, poverty, superiority, exclusivity, etc. belong to the past.

“How can we extract or distill its essence and adapt it to our culture and lives?”

By accepting that we are Westerners and that’s OK. We need to be true to ourselves. We need to study and practice devotion as it’s been handed down to us and see what works and what doesn’t. We don’t have to do everything. We need to trust our intuition and intellect. This is a time of transition and adaptation that holds no clear final answers. We need to work it out ourselves trusting in grace more than our own endeavors to bring us to the final goal because on our own we are helpless. By Radha’s grace, all things are possible and can be revealed to the aspiring soul.

“I’d be curious to know more about how you have done so.”

When I gave up my life as a renunciate, I deconstructed and deprogramed myself breaking rules and regulations that were considered essential, engaging in sensual pleasures and exploring other spiritual paths. I stopped the constant mental japa of Hare Krishna and replaced it with Om which is the essence of Radha Krishna and the living entity. It’s a bit less obsessive and allowed me to be more present. I constructed a new identity for myself that gives me freedom to relate to many kinds of people. I gave up the cultural externals that were products of the tradition and figured the essentials would stick. They did. I am still a practicing vaishnava thirty years later. I also combined Christian, Taoist, Zen, Sufi and other practices into my life and spiritual gestalt.

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