NOT SO LONG AGO I wrote a column I don't know if you'll remember it about "Mr. Sex-Is-Great." I got some funny feedback about that. Just last night I gave a class in Baltimore on the same subject and I got the same response:
People say I'm messing up their self-esteem.
They say that when you stress how the body is a tourniquet of pain, a bowl of blood and bones … when you stress the stupidity of being attracted to the opposite sex … when you point out the insanity of seeking protection in material relationships … they say this makes people get all downcast and negative about themselves.
And when I sometimes hear even devotees say this, it freaks out my brain.
Why do people object to a plain statement of facts? The body is a vehicle of torture, and to get involved in material love affairs is stupid. This is basic reality. If that hurts us to hear, we're out of touch.
Yeah, you might find what I say more comfy if I put the whole thing in sofa-cushion words or pad it with New Age fluff. Then what's being said will be vague, and even if we're fuzzy about what it means, we can all pretend we agree.
I'd rather be blunt and make sure I make my point.
Anyway, why such a pained response? Neither my article nor my class stressed the "negative" aspects of the body. My main theme was positive: that loving Krsna is the way to solve all problems. But as soon as you mention something negative about the body, everything else you say is forgotten. Why is that?
Again and again I was told that "harping" on the yukky facts about this body and this world will make people get all twisted and sullen. But one simple thing is being overlooked, so simple it's totally basic as in the most basic:
You're not this body. You're not of this world.
If hearing the bad news about the body and world gets you down on yourself, it's because you still think the body is your self and that you're part of this world.
I'm not at all against self-esteem. But the point is: You can't get genuine self-esteem from something that ain't your self.
Being real "happy" with "who you are" (in other words, with your body and mind) … smiling all peachy and being "positive" about the material world … It's a hallucination, a drug. You can put fancy makeup over the ugly facts, but don't expect it to last through the hard cold shower of reality.
The body stinks, to be attached to it is dumb, and we're torturing ourselves if we're prolonging our petty material relationships. Finessing these facts won't make us feel good. It'll wind us up getting our faces slammed against the dark sidewalk of ignorance. Can we pretend it's not true?
I'm not chopping down self-esteem. What I'm down on is false esteem. Real self-esteem we want and need. Real self-esteem comes from the real self. Yes, this body is a cesspool. But I'm not this body.
Who am I in the smiling land of Vrndavana? What unique artistic talents will I engage in loving worship of the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha-Krsnacandra? Will my singing voice charm Them? Will I dance with grace and enthusiasm, delighting the unlimited spiritual minds of the divine couple?
I am the dear servant of the servant of the most wonderful loving persons in existence. That is self-esteem.
Anything else is self-deception.
Bhakta Vic of 108 joined the Hare Krsna movement about two years ago. He and his band (called 108) are based at ISKCON's temple in Washington, D.C.