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

“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.