Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for the Love of Our Life in The Wrong Place
[Originally published on September 1st ,2009] We are all unique yet also very similar to others of a certain background. I see the world as a Gaudiya Vaishnava which distinguishes me from many people by my habits, desires, spiritual and religious practices, and in general my lifestyle. However, by introspection I must admit to sharing much in common with human beings termed in America as "Boomers" or those born around 1950 or so. Sometimes people pride themselves for their particular group, ignoring how each human being shares the same basic needs to maintain their body, mind, and emotions in often only slightly different ways and varying personalities and tastes. The nature of our material ego is to try to convince us that we are very special in a positive or negative sense (specially gifted or flawed), and that the big world (or our small circle) should revolve around our needs, desires and mental constructs.
The more knowledgeable and humble we are the more we realize how similar we are to others, and how small and insignificant we are in relationship to our community, city, state, country, planet and the infinite Universe. We are a tiny soul, thinking we are very big and important. And we want to hear stories, read books, or watch movies that inflate our sense of self importance and greatness. This is why so many books are written and movies made.
After writing the above and wondering how I might illustrate some of my points, I came across, in my old journal, an analysis of a video I watched with my son called, "First Knight". I will leave it for another blog the relative merit or lack there of, in watching such things, and why a devotee might do so—in my case to share some time with my son who at that stage of his life was not that interested in watching Krishna conscious videos. In any case, “First Knight” illustrates many philosophical points, albeit unintentionally, but it is there if we have a background in Vedic knowledge.
This movie, like many such tales, says a lot about our conditioned nature and our futile search for lasting happiness, fulfillment and love in the material world. This is a story about King Arthur and the mythical land of Camelot. The film is really about the search for love, although there is adventure and morality, and the fight for righteousness, with some slight inference to God in the background (which is practically the best place God ever has in these tales). I must admit a fascination for this time period perhaps because it is the closest thing in the West to the Vedic times of kings and chivalry which existed in the Mahabharat and in cities like Hastinapura and Dvarka, etc (I used to prefer Krishna's Dvarka lila to Vrindavana).
In this particular retelling of this tale of King Arthur and his knights of the round table, the King, at an age when in Vedic times he should be retiring from the world, is unmarried and feeling unfulfilled having never experienced loving, and being loved by, a beautiful princess. Due to political intrigues of the times which unfold as a major part of the film, he finally meets the love of his life, Guinevere, who becomes his Queen. Unfortunately she is continually in need of being rescued, and a mysterious warrior keeps rising to the occasion of saving her from a former knight trying to conquer Camelot. The result of this is that she falls in love with this person, Lancelot, who becomes a knight for Arthur.
From the material perspective this is an exciting tale of love, chivalry, and archetypal personalities within the struggle of idealism and good against the barbarianism of greed for power and personal ambition. It is also a great tragedy that King Arthur finally fulfills his desire to love a woman, only to have his hopes smashed by discovering that his Queen loves another. Isn't this a typical material world scenario? On the positive side the King dies in pursuit of his ideal of justice and virtue, and finally believes that his Queen does love him. His next birth is not discussed! He entrusts the kingdom and Queen to Lancelot, who becomes the King of Camelot, and we are left to suppose that they live happily ever after---or until they die, which I guess one is not supposed to imagine.
Lancelot is a complex character with a sad past growing up which might resonate with people from dysfunctional or tragic families (like me!). In some ways we all have at least part of us who are like the King and Lancelot, searching after an idealized, lasting love. As we age, we may lament our loss of youth and we may dream of having been a chivalrous prince or beautiful princess and connecting with our ideal match, made in heaven.
In this story, both men were trying to become whole and complete through sharing their love and life with a lovely, upright noble women. But alas, nothing material lasts. Though the desire for love is real, the real object of love, Krishna, is unknown. The worldly desires we have, being a distorted version of spiritual desires, are eventually frustrated by the agents of Krishna’s time: disease, old age, death, and rebirth or the change of one thing into another. Materially these apparently sad points are the naked form of Truth which ideally is meant to bring us to the spiritual search where we aim to love and unite with our true object of eternal affection, God, or Krishna.
Only due to material attachment and the lust and greed of the flesh are we sad and angry over the course of our life, or at the seemly cruel laws of Nature. When we truly understand who we are as eternal souls having a human experience, and what is the real “holy grail” or quest for life (self or God realization) can we be peaceful, fulfilled, and in our rightful position. Only on the spiritual platform can we truly be the well-wisher of everyone, and work for lasting win/win solutions. Otherwise material consciousness is exploitive and causes violence to others. Our gain may be another’s loss. In “First Knight” both men wanted the love of the princess, and although she did love them both in different ways, only one could have her. Win/lose is the general rule in regard to material consciousness, attachments, endeavors and love.
Material love is possessive. "Material" means seeing something as separate from God and meant for “my” enjoyment. We identify our self with the object of our love—and those we don’t love are considered outside our self-interest. Although love itself in its pure form is beautiful (and the goal of Bhakti) material love creates an "us and them" mentality. This means I love and care for my family and friends, but hate, ignore, or think less of others. I love this group and neglect another group, religion, race, country, or planet etc.
Real spiritual love is meant for God and includes everything and everyone. Real love for God means seeing him everywhere and in all situations. In one sense there is only God, and in another, we are his, and he is ours. All things are meant for his purpose and glory—including ourselves. Real love is about total giving and is the only love that can actually fulfill the soul. This is why when we are spiritually advanced, giving to and serving others in relationship to Krishna is actually giving and serving our self—in other words it is our real self interest to serve God and to help others understand this.
If we put Krishna in the center of all our relationships, including our marriages, then they can be a helpful experience on the path of loving and serving Krishna. We can learn about the meaning of love by the natural sacrifices we make in our marriage and families. The more we love Krishna, the more we can love our spouse and children and indeed all souls.
Let us aspire to be part of Krishna’s eternal lila or story, and let us connect to him any other stories—including our own--that we may encounter. The true value of anything is whether it helps us spiritually, either directly or indirectly. Krishna consciousness brings us in touch with the true love of our life in eternity--our dear most friend, Shri Krishna. How could we ask for more than this?