Country “Das” travels to the big City

Krishna RoadThere are certainly more “countrified” places than we live in……I mean there is a “convenience/gas station/general/pay too much store” only 5 minutes away. However, if we want to get any “serious” supplies, it is a minimum of 30 minutes. That will get us to the nearest branch of the “evil empire” or Wal-Mart (it is cheaper, but I know well all the cons).

To reach the health food store and others takes an hour. The point being that getting supplies is a major time investment, and we only go every week or two. Sometimes neighbors can pick up odds and ends, and we do order bulk grains for most of the devotee community.

On the drive I try to make the best of the trip with Krishna Conscious (KC) lectures and music, and sometimes I take a neighbor.

I have to admit loving to watch people, for instance, when I am waiting in line, in the park, or getting car repairs etc. Although I haven’t written any fiction yet, I do look with both a curious writer and compassionate devotee eye. I see many sad cases of misery, yet I think anyone without any religion or spirituality is the most unfortunate. Thus in all my interactions or witnessing I wonder how I can benefit these people. I do pray for their all around good, and spiritual advancement.

To my way of understanding this praying for others benefit is one of the devotees’ important functions in society, and especially those of us involved in healing work or ministering to others. And who is a healer?? Not all devotees are designated “healers”, yet the activities of devotional service are truly healing for the planet and people in general, since the ultimate disease is forgetfulness of Krishna.

Forgive my new age label here, but “light worker” could easily be applied for devotees. We are meant to carry the light of Krishna, remembering him always, and share him with others as appropriate. At the very least (it is not small thing either) we can be a well wisher and positive force—-even a smile and well wishing thought is good for others, and good for us. A devotee is “para upakara”: Prabhupada defines this term: “doing good to others, this is the Vaishnava special interest”.

We do have to save our self by our sincere and serious practice of devotional service (bhakti-yoga) yet along the way it is good to try to help others awaken spiritually. There is no impediment to this, and if we want to give KC to others, then Krishna will reciprocate with our desire. As with most things, our own self is the most limiting factor if we have a limiting attitude (I speak from experience). We can learn much from successful people by having a “can do” attitude.

“Where there is a will, there is a way”, is a useful saying for our own practice of KC, and in sharing our faith and understanding to    others. Truly, by the mercy of Shri Guru and Gauranga (Lord Chaitanya, who is the incarnation of God for this age—who is considered most merciful), all things are possible. So as we carry out even what appear to be mundane or ordinary activities we can make those activities Krishna conscious, and also help others.

Please read the 24h verse of the 4 th chapter of Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-Gita and his purport. The theme is one of my favorites. Here is some of it, which applies to our current topic:

“The more the activities of the material world are performed in Krishna consciousness, or for Vishnu [God] only, the more the atmosphere becomes spiritualized by complete absorption. The word brahma (Brahman) means “spiritual”. The Lord is spiritual, and the rays of His transcendental body are called the brahmajyoti [clear light or Gods’ aura], His spiritual effulgence. Everything that exists is situated in that brahmajyoti, but when the jyoti is covered by illusion (maya) or sense gratification, it is called material………[and my favorite part]…. The Absolute Truth covered by maya is called matter. Matter dovetailed for the cause of the Absolute Truth regains its spiritual quality. Krishna consciousness is the process of converting the illusory energy into Brahman, or the Supreme”.

Nrisimha-AnantaNrisimha-Ananta

Shrimati Radharani’s holy appearance day

In this tiny blog I can’t do justice to the topic of Shri Radha , and I feel a bit naked without having all my Vedabases to quotes, my library of pictures, and the fact that I am using a Mac since my cheap PC crashed. I will try to point the way to your taking notice of this auspicious day, and reading up in our Gaudiya literature about Krishna’s greatest devotee.

And on this day know that to get Krishna’s mercy we have to get the mercy of Radha. The guru is said to represent Nityananda or Balarama, and also Radharani. Radha is unbelievably high in terms of who she is, and her standard of love and devotion, so we pray to those more advanced than we that our prayers may be heard by Radha. That is Vaishnava humbleness.

Radharani 2Radharani 2

We all have an eternal relationship with Krishna, but we shouldn’t consider it direct. Lord Chaitanya (the incarnation for this age, who is the combined form of Radha and Krishna!!) said that we should be servant of the servant of the servant of Krishna. We are in the 5th position. Materially we may not like the sound of this, yet to be in this “servant of the servant” position is so coveted that Chaitanya came to taste being in Radha’s position of thinking herself, a servant of the servant of Krishna.

Lord Chaitanya in sees Radha and Krishna lilaLord Chaitanya in sees Radha and Krishna lila

She is to us both Deity of devotion for Krishna, and our ideal example of what being a devotee means. She has no other conception of self other than Krishna—-she is truly one with him in love and purpose, living for his pleasure. While there may be dysfuncational ways of imitating her nature, it is never-the-less our ideal which we stive for.

I point you to a lecture of Prabhupada from Sept. 5th, 1973 on this same day, Radhastami:

“The aim of life is to satisfy Lord Vishnu. Krishna is the origin of vishnu-tattva, and he is pleased through Radharani. Therefore we don’t keep Krishna alone. No. We keep Radha-Krishna. First we have to worship Radharani. So her appearance day, Radhastami, is today.

“In Vrindavana (place of Krishna appearance and pastimes [lila] in India) you will see that all devotees greet one another by saying, “Jaya Radhe!” because they know that Radharani is the original pleasure potency. She is always absorbed in thought of Krishna. Anyone who comes before Radharani to serve Krishna, she becomes so pleased, “Oh, here is a devotee of Krishna,” She immediately recommends that person, “Krishna, here is a devotee. He is better than me”. This is Radharani.

I may not be a devotee. I may be the most fallen rascal. But if I try to reach Krishna through Radharani, then my business is successful. Therefore we should worship Radharani first. That is our business. Instead of offering a flower to Krishna, put it in the hands of Radharani: “My mother Radharani, Jagan-mata, please kindly take this flower and offer it to Krishna.”Radharani says, “Oh, you have brought a flower?” Krishna said, “If one offers me with devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it”. [Gita 9.26] But don’t try to offer to Krishna directly. Offer through Radharani. It will be very much appreciated by her.

“This is our philosophy—to please Krishna through Radharani—and as today is the auspicious day of Radharani’s appearance, we should offer pushpanjali [flowers] and pray, “Radharani, kindly be merciful and tell about me to Krishna. Krishna is yours.” Krishna is not independent. Krishna is Radharani’s property. So you have to approach Krishna though Radharani. Today is an auspicious day. Worship Radharani very nicely and we happy”.

Radha steals Krishna's fluteRadha steals Krishna’s flute

Indeed let us do so!! May we all receive the blessings of Shri Guru and Radharani to be able to worship Krishna, the Lord of our hearts, eternally.

The Reader

I first began logging on MySpace then gravitated to Krishna.com which is may main  blogging home. Now I have come here for posting links to other sites. For me it is a real privilege for so many reasons. I truly love the process of writing, and to have an audience (especially one of spiritual seekers and devotees), is a real dream come true. I have many ideas of topics and also for format.

One of the readers of my bio expressed that she didn’t have such courage to share her personal story. I do understand that, yet I would like to say to all our registered users, that it is really a gift to others to get to know you in a personal way. That is also helpful for me to better speak to your needs. There is no pressure here, yet if you could share who you are in your bio, that would be inspiring for me and I think others as well.

I would like to say honestly to you that I really don’t think of myself as anything special. I am somewhat of an average or below average devotee. I have just been a practitioner (in this life) of bhakti-yoga for 37 years, which means I have seen much, and gone through many challenges that I think could be of value to those striving to take up the path or to continue on it. I have also gotten a Ph.D from the school of Hard Knocks, so I have made my share of mistakes and blunders.

At the same time you and your story are very important as well. Even though we are in a cyber world here, I think it useful to get to know each other.

So in my blogs besides trying to speak the philosophy in a relevant way, I also share myself and my struggles with you. Blogging is not so polished. I sit, and type on an inspiration, and what comes, comes. Sometimes I am “in the zone”, other times, not.

My ideal is to write from my heart to yours yours—to transfer an inspiration onto the page, and then have you read it, and be moved in some deep way. It is a way to share what I think and feel is meaningful, and to endeavor to translate that into what can be helpful to you on your journey of self exploration. I find this a fascinating idea!

If you have any topics you would like me to explore, please let me know. I am truly excited about our continual relationship here, about going deeper into our personal growth, and closer to Krishna!
a spot of tea
We are sitting down together
in a comfortable chair,
appreciating each others company
by the warmth and light of the fire,
with a warm cup of herbal tea,
relaxed without being in a rush,
to have a friendly chat
about what is truly important to us!

“Time I am”

hourglassThe meaning of love and time are topics often pondered by the world’s philosophers, religionists, and poets. Everyone is searching for love and trying to understand what it really is, and time is something people want more of, yet seem to be struggling against.

Time is a fascinating topic, and the Vedic scriptures give us their different perspectives of what it is. Shrila Prabhupada describes 5 subjects of Bhagavad gita in his introduction, one of which is time–so it has to be important for us to understand.

In the Gita’s 11 chapter after Arjuna beholds Krishna’s universal form, he asks him in astonishment, what his mission is in this cosmic form. Krishna answers in a verse that Oppenheimer (one of the creators of the atomic bomb) quotes in the sanskrit upon witnessing the first atomic explosion”.

It is a powerful verse, which explains what to materialists is a frightening conception of God—the destroyer of everything. Time takes everything and everyone away:

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds, and I have come here to destroy all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.”

So time, called Kala, is actually considered a form of God, which deteriorates everything, and takes away whatever possessions we may have. For a materialist, what could be worse? But what about for a devotee?

For a devotee on the progressive path of reviving his or her love for Krishna, the world takes on a different nature. The environment actually becomes friendly, helping us to make spiritual advancement. At first this means seeing the world through the eyes for scripture, and then acting on the realization that everything is favorable for becoming Krishna consciousness. In this way time is our friend!

Even those unrealized (like yours truly) can appreciate as they age, the many great lessons their bodies teach them. One of them we could call, the law of diminishing returns. This “law”, is the fact that our ability to enjoy Materially greatly diminishes as we age (the time factor). If we have cultivated our Krishna consciousness throughout our life time, then we will understand this fact, and with all our aches and pains, forgetfulness, etc., we will have more impetus for our spiritual practices. So with ever disadvantage comes an advantage.

In the motivational literature of American one of the earliest and classic authors, Napoleon Hill, put it in a very useful way, which devotees can also use. It is one of my favorite quotes in this success literature:

“Every adversity, every failure, and every heartache, carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater good.”

This is really an attitude of understanding that in all circumstances Krishna is there to help us. We have to come to really believe that and look for that seed of good in all circumstances, including old age.

“Swanning”

Swan drinkingNo it is not a new dance step, but a process. I first heard the term from my dear feathered friend Dr. Garuda (Ph.D Harvard) who used the term to indicate the process of taking the best from any situation–in his case his educational pursuits. Prabhupada gives the example of the swan that can draw out the milk from a mixture of milk and water. We have to look for the nectar or the essence which can be used for Krishna’s service.

A famous quote Prabhupada’s purport from the first Canto of the Bhagavatam [1.5.11] gives the same idea:

“It is a qualification of the great thinkers to pick up the best even from the worst. It is said that the intelligent man should pick up nectar from a stock of poison, should accept gold even from a filthy place, should accept a good and qualified wife even from an obscure family and should accept a good lesson even from a man or from a teacher who comes from the untouchables. These are some of the ethical instructions for everyone in every place without exception.”

In most cases we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but we can use what is already there. We have to use our intelligence to apply the Krishna consciousness philosophy to all our circumstances, looking for what can be used or not in our life of devotion.

There are six principles of surrender given by one of our great teachers, Rupa Gosvami. The first two we can apply for our current theme. To accept what is favorable, and to give up what is unfavorable for devotional service, or our spiritual life.

Most of us work in the world, and it is our challenge to connect our life, occupation, family and everything we do to Krishna. We do that by understanding what Krishna consciousness is by associating with advanced devotees, reading the books of Shrila Prabhupada and his disciples, chanting the holy name and so many other processes that we will learn.

There are so many rules which are favorable for the cultivation of Krishna consciousness. However, the first thing is to become attracted to Krishna and convinced that Krishna is a goal we feel is worthy to obtain. Otherwise why bother with so many activities?

Everything begins with faith, and the different stages of advancement all the way to love of Krishna (prema) are deepening of that faith. When we are really convinced that Krishna consciousness is our path, then we will naturally want to follow whatever can deepen our faith and help us make spiritual advancement.

Then we can strive to be in the world but know we are not of it (we are souls having a human experience), and we can employ “swanning” or finding a way to use everything to help us make advancement and facilitate our devotional service.

Life is what happens to us when we are busy making plans

So busy making plans I believe John Lennon said that, though I think Prabhupada would approve of that sentiment. He often spoke of the folly of the materialist plan makers. Of course I also subscribe that to the saying that “those who fail to plan, are planning to fail”. That means that we all have to chart a direction toward goals, otherwise we are adrift, like a ship without a rudder. (this could be a big topic for another time)

In Prabhupada’s life he was very focused on making plans, yet he always looked for Krishna’s direction, and that shaped the movement and his preaching.

Devotees make plans for service, work, family etc though they depend on Krishna for the results. Though obviously our intention in making plans to obtain the result we envision, we have to really be detached from the outcome, and try to see how Krishna is directing us by the results.

As devotees our responsibility is to try to act on behalf of Guru and Krishna even as we meet the necessities of our lives as a householder or renunciate.

Many devotees were fortunate to live in the Temple for many years. At that time everything we did was obviously connected to Krishna. In the beginning of the movement, living in the Temple was really the only option.

My wife, as a young unmarried lady, used to preach that you could be Krishna conscious living outside of the Temple, but she really didn’t believe it was possible. In those days our conceptions were very black and white as was our preaching.

Often we would present an “all or nothing” perspective—-kind of like “live a surrendered Temple life or die” (you can forget about making any spiritual advancement). I have to say, as immature as that was, it did work for many of us for a time, and we made a lot of advancement in our very focused devotional mood.

Then many of us married, and had to live and work in the world. We discovered that—surprise—Krishna wasn’t only in the Temple. We were no longer carried along by the Temple program, and had to choose to do our sadhana and japa etc. Some weakened with the pressures of living in the world, yet many others became stronger, more realized devotees. We had to step forward and become responsible for our lives.

Now after many years, experienced devotees can try to help others be “in the world, but not of it”, and teach from our experience how to be Krishna conscious despite family responsibilities, and to make plans for Krishna.

I don’t really feel like an “elder”—though the mirror says otherwise—but I do know that part of my service is to give to the next generation of devotees what I have learned.

Appreciating The Blessings of Nature

PhotobucketMy wife and I “own” four acres of land (the bank thinks they own it, though it really belongs to Krishna) in the foothills of North Carolina. It is near to Hanging Rock State Park (one hour north of Winston-Salem).

This country area is quite beautiful, the peaceful environment conducive for spiritual practice. After living in the suburbs of Baltimore for 14 years, an unbelievable opulence is having all spiritually minded devotee neighbors.

Sometimes I go down to the bottom of our land and chant, read or just commune with nature. Here is a poem I wrote during one such occasion:

______________________________________________

Idyllic spot at
the bottom of our land;
sitting by the creek hearing
the sounds of wind and birds.

The deep and light green
of the forest,
the rich smell of earth
after days of rain.

Coming here nourishes an
unused part of me,
my intuitive nature and
need to commune with the earth.

Even though this land
was cleared many years ago,
still many large trees remain
which give joy to my psyche.

These large old growth trees
are “real trees” to me,
which are priceless being
here hundreds of years.

I come here occasionally
if I have chanting on
my beads (japa) to do at midday
and I have the extra time.

I day dream of making
a secret discovery of treasure,
finding a clue to Vedic culture,
or talking to nature spirits.

I am always at the center
of my wandering mind,
very far from being absorbed
in Krishna’s pastimes (lila).

I, me, and mine
are still often my focus,
the enjoying propensity,
secondarily offering it to Krishna.

Something is better than nothing
yet the goal of chanting
is to love Krishna, free from false ego
and identify his purpose as my own.

At present I can only
read about or pray to obtain it,
while I honestly feel it will be lifetimes
to revive my eternal serving nature.

As I write flies
buzz around my head,
and the light frequently changes
as the sun goes behind clouds.

I am grateful that Krishna has
provided me such a beautiful place
to chant, write, pray, and think
how merciful God is to me!
Photobucket

Accepting a Guru—irrelevant old custom, or timeless necessity?

Photobucket

Once a year we observe the “birthday” celebration (or appearance day as we say, since there is no birth or death for the soul) of Shrila Prabhupada, the founder/acharya of ISKCON.

The appearance day of the Guru is called, Vyasa-puja, or the worship of the representative of Vyasadeva. Vyasa is considered an empowered incarnation of God, who compiled the Vedic literature for this current age of Kali.

Traditionally disciples write homages to their guru on the Vyasa-puja day to help them remember their debt of gratitude for their guru for giving them the gift of Krishna consciousness. I thought I would share my offering to Shrila Prabhupada, as I wrote it for another blog, with the idea of exploring some of the misconceptions about what having a guru means. In that sense it is not a traditional type offering.

I am just starting to practice writing in free verse, because it helps me to be briefer. The Chaitanya Charitamrita states:” Essential truth spoken concisely is true eloquence.” I am not claiming any eloquence here. It is an idea I am striving for.
_______________________________________
In a small rural area in North Carolina,
an American born Gaudiya Vaishnava
prepares to observe the “birthday” anniversary
or “appearance” day of his Guru.

The meaning of guru is difficult to understand
even for those who have one; what to speak of
in the West, the place of the rugged individualist,
where having a guru is foreign idea.

Though having a teacher or mentor is acceptable,
honoring or giving homage to a guru is suspect.
At the time of the American Revolution, the rebelling
colonists said that they would not bow down to any man.

Many people falsely think that having a religion is a crutch
for people who can’t face the naked truth of life,
or having a guru is for people who are weak
and can’t think for themselves.

Actually having a guru is for people
who want to think more deeply about
subjects which most ignore, like death,
disease, old age, suffering, evil, and God.

Outsiders conjecture, accepting a guru’s blind conformity,
yet actually it’s a challenge to the status quo
of being an exploiter of the world, by reviving a natural life
of giving, fostering peace, love, lasting happiness.

It is not an outdated tradition
but a system of apprenticeship where
one hears realizations beyond spiritual theory
and sees it practiced, inspiring one to follow.

In any arena we tend to become like
the people we are with; and when
we spend time with those who are more
spiritually advanced, our hearts are changed.

In history we see that even great gurus have
their guru, as do incarnations of God. They
teach by example the importance of having
good guidance, and the power of saintly association.

It takes real humility and honesty
to realize the insignificant
nature of our existence in
this vast universe and tiny planet.

Accepting a guru is meant to help one
develop real humility by assisting him
and accepting service to Krishna
according to his guidance.

Whereas the scripture is considered
the “passive” agent of Divinity,
the guru is the “active” agent because
he gives us feedback, while the scripture does not.

The ultimate evidence for the value of
anything is one’s direct experience, so
you will only appreciate the value of having
a guru if you have an urgency for guidance.

My life has been so blessed by
accepting my Guru, Shrila Prabhupada
giving me a spiritual foundation for living,
a way of deep, yet practical thinking.

So I have this great experience,
being satisfied in the world,
endeavoring to be a balanced person,
while dedicating my life for God.

Krishna’s birthday (Janmastami) is coming—-should you care?

Krishna's Janmastami celebration
For many Hindu’s and all Vaishnavas Janmastami is one of the most important holy days. The “birth” of the unborn Godhead, who also appears in multi-incarnations to serve his different purposes.

According the dictionary Krishna is a “Hindu” god, an incarnation of Vishnu. So should that be the end of it? Is it merely a Hindu concern? If I am Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic or atheistic, etc., does Krishna or his “birthday” anniversary have no importance to me?

You can easily guess that if I am asking these questions, I don’t agree with a “no” to any of them.

When I was first on my spiritual search, some 38 years ago, I certainly had no interest in a “Hindu God”. Actually, I was just looking for the Supreme Truth, and a way to live my life in a way that I could realize that Truth.

When I came across Krishna I felt that my search had now been crowned with success. All my questions were fully answered, and I assumed that all my friends and whomever I met would also come to the same conclusion if they just heard about Krishna.

Wrong!!

I was shocked! More shocks were to come, as I really discovered that most people were not that interested. Of those people who were highly interested in religion and/or spirituality, the “perfect logic” of Krishna consciousness mostly didn’t attract them. I couldn’t understand why.

Later I came to learn that logic, although a valuable tool to understand God, can only take one so far. There is something else going on more than logic. The heart has to be touched, the spiritual heart. Logic is a faculty of the mind, whereas spiritual faith (not just belief) is a faculty of the soul or heart.

Actually we require both philosophy and feeling for God. Our intellect needs to be able to explain our faith in a reasonable way. Yet only certain persons will be attracted to the reason of our path, whether religious or scientific. From the view of karma we are born with a particular psychology that attracts us to a unique path. This attraction is an effect of the spiritual progress we made in the previous life.

So, I had a certain nature which enabled my to accept the logic of why Krishna is the “Supreme personality”, of infinite manifestations of God. Others, due their psychology are attracted to their path. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, “Everyone follows my path. According to their faith, I proportionally reciprocate with them, and inspire them to follow a particular path.”

From this vantage point, every religion or spiritual path has value for the person on it.

Many Christians say that to understand the message of Christ you need to understand the culture at the time of his birth. The same idea is true with Krishna. Studying the Vedic culture that was prevalent when he came to earth can help us understand the teachings. At the same time his message is timeless, and can be adapted to any culture and circumstance.

There is the form of the teachings, and the spirit of the teachings. The form, i.e., rituals and practices, are meant to deliver the spirit or the essence of the teachings. Many religions today are more concerned with the form, and have lost the real inner purpose.

So, Krishna’s birthday anniversary (appearance day) could make you curious about Krishna, the philosophy that it is founded on, and the spiritual emotion that practitioners (Vaishnavas or Bhakti-yogis) have. It may be foreign, or not as foreign as you think, if you allow yourself to try to enter into it.