My Journey West


During the week of May 6-13th, I had the privilege of visiting Srila Acharyadeva and driving up the California coast from Camarillo to Cazadero with many stops along the way. During the road trip, Acharyadeva gave lectures in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, San Jose, Cazadero and Berkeley. In Cazadero, Ali Krishna & Jaya Sita had organized a retreat for Srila Acharyadeva’s 40th Sannyasa Anniversary. Altogether, it was a magical week filled with wonderful people, philosophical discussions, and beautiful scenery of California coastal roads.

I could not possibly have imagined a more enjoyable experience. Coming from Clearwater, FL, it was like boot camp for me in the sense that my association has recently been limited and I needed some spiritual awakening. Boy did I get it! Although there were many great points and topics covered between the lectures and conversations during the drive, there are three that I wanted to share. The first is finding your “sattva” or state of true being. Second is the channeling of energy into the appropriate “weapons.” Lastly, the “branding” of our philosophical teachings. I am very thankful for the opportunity to have experienced this and hope that some of the association I received is transferred to the readers of this article.

The first point looks at removing the impurities in ourselves. The word for this in Sanskrit is “sattva” which means the state of true being. To examine how we may reach this state in our own life, Acharyadeva mentioned the analogy of water, gold and the self. If we have a liquid composed primarily of water but clouded with other substances, in order to return it to pure water, we simply remove everything that is not water. Similarly, knowing what pure gold is, we can apply the same principle to gold. If we have a material compound of gold and other substances, the act of removing everything that is not gold will leave us with pure gold when we are finished. Now taking that a step further we can apply that to the self, although the process may not be as clear-cut as purifying water or gold due to the fact that we are all unique individuals and may not know exactly what the pure self is. If we can start to remove everything we know not to be the self, we will make progress towards discovering what our pure self is and, therefore, eventually reaching our true state of being.

The second message that stuck with me came about during a discussion when we were driving from San Jose to the retreat center in Cazadero. At one point during the conversation, I mentioned my desire to learn Chinese, although I have no plans of moving to China. I just thought that learning a language of symbols from a different origin than the Latin languages may be of use. When I stated this, Srila Acharyadeva made a very interesting point. He said, “Warriors on the battlefield are not weapons collectors.” Wow, I thought! As interesting as it may be to learn Chinese, he was right. It would take me a long time and a lot of energy to learn Chinese, and unless I go to China, I may have little use for it in my spiritual life. To sharpen and master the weapons I will use in my spiritual life is where I should direct my energy. This statement seemed to put many of my ideas into perspective and filter out others I may have been considering.

The final message I wanted to share is one that connected very strongly with me. Our religious traditions are very influenced by Indian culture but the philosophy is not one that requires this to practice Krishna consciousness. When His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acharya of ISKCON, came to the West in the sixties, there was a great appeal to the Indian influences that came with him, and it remains to this day. What is considered traditional music, food, and clothing in ISKCON are all influenced by this origin. As much as I may enjoy many of these items, they can also be distracting to the people in America that we want to connect with. By keeping these Indian cultural influences, we are alienating a huge population of the people we preach our philosophy to. Thus, just as in the business world, we must find a way to keep our eye on the “customer” without losing or altering our philosophical teachings. If we are to have a serious influence and attract larger numbers to the movement we should find a way to manage this transition. A repackaging of how we present ourselves could be the single-most important influential change to gain momentum in our movement. To hear that I was not alone having these thoughts, I agreed 100% because from personal experience, I too have had trouble at times identifying myself with some of the customs associated to the Hare Krishna movement while living in the West. Many of my good friends who are spiritual and very “American” in culture, may not even seriously consider the movement for themselves because they feel they would have to change their entire culture and way of life. As experienced in my professional life, culture can be the single-most difficult hurdle to overcome when dealing with change in a group. If we are able to present the philosophical teaching of our founder, Srila Prabhupada, and look to his direct disciple, Srila Acharyadeva, for guidance so our message is unaltered, we may succeed in possibly the greatest contribution to serving Krishna, ever.

The week I spent traveling with Srila Acharyadeva was reassuring of my existing beliefs, a refreshing wakeup call, and he helped me uncover the path that has been there for me all along. Finding my sattva, channeling my energy into more useful weapons, and keeping an eye on the presentation has awakened me from the material world and the powers of Maya which are always present. Thank you to Srila Acharyadeva and everyone along the way for sharing your wisdom and your time. I look forward to serving Krishna together with you. Hare Krishna!

Special thanks to all those devotees who welcomed us into their homes and offered us prasadam and a place to stay. Varesha dd & Carlos, Divya dd & Sarvatma das, April and Pallaka das, Bhakta Tony, Kamesvari dd & Shailesh das.

I would like to end with a beautiful quote from the Bhagavad-gita quoted during the trip.

Bhagavad-gita 3.16:
evam pravartitamm cakram
nanuvartayatiha yah
aghayur indriyaramo
mogham partha sa jivati

Thus the wheel has been made to turn
And one who does not keep the wheel turning
Their entire duration of life is an offense
Living to please one’s own sense and physical pleasure
Such a person lives in vain

Your humble servant,
Sanjay “Jay” Roberts