Keeping sacred books next to the TV set

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We all should have received some basic training on how to respectfully treat sastra. Knowing that none of Srila Prabhupada’s books should touch the ground or other inconsiderate place will make us consign the books to a decent position; but next to the TV! This is a bad idea.

By Kesava Krsna Dasa

If one uses the prajalpa box for no other reason than to watch Krishna related material, then it will be a worthy companion for whichever spiritual books compete for space on the wall unit. The constant visuals and sounds of Krishna katha should transform the TV into a spiritual teaching device.

One may think that simply watching current affairs, documentaries and news programmes are acceptable reasons to keep the square-eyed information loader upon the throne of a centrally prominent place in the lounge. So if, let’s say, the fascinating subject of the mating habits of a reclusive, endangered Madagascan sloth gets aired, will such informative prajalpa be as dignified as the presence of the Srimad Bhagavatam? Yes, even the Grantha-raja literary incarnation of Krishna is sometimes up there in the TV wall unit.

Inevitably, a commercial break will show up between programming, and it is not uncommon to see a roasting, sizzling piece of rotting flesh being paraded to the accompaniment of catchy musical scores to lure the gullible into eating the remains of slaughtered loss of life. With sanitized horror such as this, is it fitting the blabber box share equal kingly status as the Srimad Bhagavatam?

Then we have the case, as in some homes, where the TV more or less stays on, spewing out all manner of entertaining prajalpa, while the books are given 2nd or 3rd rate citizenship, serving as minions to the false king, the TV. If one were to place a functioning TV onto an altar where our worshipable deities reside, it would certainly be unthinkable.

Such an observance as this appears to be extremely high pontificatory summoning from the pulpit of self-proclaimed spiritual righteousness, which may cause one to sit rather uneasily in the sitting place, but there are reasons why this misplaced kingship should be usurped; if not, transferred elsewhere in the home.

A simple analysis will inform us that these situations happen because of ordinary perception, and ordinary chanting of japa. What does chanting have to do with keeping a TV next to Srila Prabhupada’s books? In fact, we should ask, how is it this has been allowed in the first place?

Healthy chanting engenders an awareness and respect for all things connected to Krishna, including sastra. If for some unknown reason some nagging or recurring problem occurs while chanting, it is a reaction to our violation of one, or all of the ten offences against the holy name. In this case, the fourth offence of blaspheming sastra may seem too unsympathetic and over the top. If we look at the third offence ‘ guror avajna ‘ the correlation becomes clearer.

If we take the fourth offence ‘ sruti sastra-nindanam ‘ to be just a verbal form of profanity then we reduce the severity of the wider definition of disrespect towards sastra. For instance, any sensitive devotee would be aghast to discover a pair of unclean shoes in the same bag as, let us say, a Bhagavad-Gita As It Is. Yet the untrained spiritual practitioner carrying the bag would fail to see the harm, because his chanting has not elevated him to this appreciation.

The third offence not only means to disobey the spiritual master, but to consider him an ordinary person. Therefore, when Srila Prabhupada’s and other sacred books are positioned near the TV, we plummet our perception down to the ordinary plane. The consequence of this is that our siksa guru and his life’s ambition to publish books are no better than the riveting and glamorous world of television. Then other devotees come to be seen as ordinary, and so on. ‘He who discards scriptural injunctions and acts according to his own whims attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme destination.’ (BG 16.23)

We have to ask, ‘How can one make spiritual progress’? while keeping sacred books in bad places. We can continue to chant, but it will be like pouring water onto the flames of our japa utterances. If we are serious enough to recognise this as a problem, we should move the bogus monarch away from such high-minded association.

We do not have to be feng shui or vastu experts to realize that warranted removal will have an immediate impact on raising the consciousness, and should help contribute towards a healthy and fruitful household. Srila Prabhupada’s books should have pride of place, rather, sanctity of place in the home, which will earn appreciation that is more respectful, leading to increased knowledge. ‘’. and knowledge is the ornament of everything.’ (Chanakya Pandit)

Having established a room for study and learning, our clearer conscience will enthrone the Srimad Bhagavatam in its rightful place. With a merciful king as this in the home, we can chant a little easier while trying to stop committing the rest of the ten offences. We need all the mercy we can get.

Ys, Kesava Krsna dasa.

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