ISKCON Derire Tree's Posts (14740)

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8446673067?profile=RESIZE_584xIt is said that there are six whips in the material energy – birth, disease, death, hunger, thirst and lamentation. We are always beaten by these six whips here in the material world, yet a vaisnava is always happy. Maybe not free from struggle, but certainly happy within, because a vaisnava has received the ultimate gift of perfection in life. Everyone else is trapped and there is no way out of this cycle of birth and death. There is no way to escape karma. People work to relieve the problems of karma, but karma is interesting. If we are destined to suffer, we cannot by work resolve that suffering. That is not possible. Although the world works very hard to get rid of suffering one way or another and to turn this world into paradise, it does not work. It is simply not possible. So karma is like this. It is like an old-fashioned suitcase. A long time ago, suitcases had no wheels and people had to carry them on their heads. They had to carry these suitcases till they could not stretch their fingers any longer. They would then move it to the other hand until they could no longer stretch those fingers, then onto the shoulder and then onto the head. So, karma is like that, like a suitcase without wheels. We carry it in one place and it comes back from the other side.

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Appreciating America by Giriraj Swami

8446659260?profile=RESIZE_400xYesterday on inauguration day, I thought of Srila Prabhupada’s appreciation of America. Tamal Krishna Goswami came in with Prabhupada’s green card and said, “Prabhupada, America is waiting for you. Customs is ready; immigration is ready. Everything is cleared.” Prabhupada began to cry. “I am so indebted to America,” he said. “America has given me so much. It’s given me men, money. I am so indebted.”

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.


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Esa by Bhaktimarga Swami


It is 3:10 a.m. on the 16th and I’ve had my sleep and shower. I opened the window to welcome in the air with much prana, then sat down to compose another poem as a tribute to Esa Khalief, now departed, who, in many ways, was like a son to me. Before I wrap up a little about yesterday, I’m sharing my tribute in words to him. Bless you, Esa.


Esa, you’re gone, but you aren’t really

You’re simply moving on for a healing

It’s service you became acquainted with

The rewards as such are clearly no myth

You spent much time where prasadam was made

For that you’ll jump up to a higher grade

You trekked a holy trail at a very good pace

With conviction and purpose all over your face

Perhaps walking was your actual calling

As natural as found any baby’s crawling

While on that trek you held on to your beads

Knowing that chanting is the most noble of deeds

In your tasks you embraced a sense of duty

Just as in you’re rich, resonant voice that there was beauty

Like all of us you contended with a dark side

For you, Esa, the rays of the sun were so wide

            -Bhaktimarga Swami, The Walking Monk©

In reflection of this young man, I ambled along a row of sycamore trees acknowledging how great they are. Every person who comes to this world appears, stands by, contributes something and moves on. Each soul adds grace like the trees.


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From Back to Godhead

Why hearing is the first and most important of the nine kinds of devotional service to the Lord.

When I first read that hearing is the most important of the nine kinds of devotional service, I was confused. I was twenty-one at the time and had been hearing all day every day for my whole life. What was so special about hearing? Then I read that the “hearing” prescribed wasn’t meant for mundane topics but for the activities and qualities of Krishna and His devotees. This hearing is a righteous activity, and when done without ulterior motives-like the desire to be entertained or to become popular, influential, or opulent-it’s singularly transformative.

In the Bhagavad-gita I read some of the achievements devotees could look forward to when they heard properly about Krishna: they’d become fearless (1.19), free of lamentation (2.11), tolerant and undisturbed (2.13), resolute in purpose (2.41), transcendental to the three modes of nature (2.45), peaceful and happy (2.66). They would also attain love for Krishna (4.10), cross the ocean of miseries (4.36), see all beings equally (5.18), check the force of anger (5.23), renounce sense enjoyment (6.3), curb their restless minds (6.35), unite intimately with Krishna (6.47), become free from doubt (7.1), remember Krishna (8.14), find relief from miseries (9.1), and be joyful (9.2).

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor,” and when I understood the magic of hearing about Krishna, I began to understand how I could elevate my life by conscious endeavor. Hearing destroys the darkness of ignorance (10.11) and lets us understand Krishna’s glories (11.2). In this way we become Krishna’s instrument (11.33) and see Krishna face to face (11.54). We attain great faith (12.2), naturally follow bhakti’s rules and regulations (12.9), and become dear to Krishna (12.20). Pure hearing allows us to transcend birth and death (13.26) and surrender fully to Krishna (18.66).

From Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.18.10):

“Those who are desirous of achieving complete perfection in life must submissively hear all topics that are connected with the transcendental activities and qualities of the Personality of Godhead, who acts wonderfully.

“PURPORT: The systematic hearing of the transcendental activities, qualities, and names of Lord Sri Krishna pushes one towards eternal life. Systematic hearing means knowing Him gradually in truth and fact, and this knowing Him in truth and fact means attaining eternal life. . . .

“Hearing about Krishna is incredibly potent because it pleases Him, and when He’s pleased, our lives are successful.”

As Srila Prabhupada said, “What more could you want?”

What Aspects of Krishna Shall We Hear About?

While traveling around India in my early twenties, occasionally I came across huge crowds hearing Bhagavat Saptaha, a seven-day recital of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. They weren’t hearing all eighteen thousand verses of the Bhagavatam, however, but only selected chapters of the Tenth Canto. I didn’t know what to make of this until later when I heard Srila Prabhupada explain that if we’re hearing about Krishna for our own entertainment or titillation, we’ll skip the early Bhagavatam cantos where Shukadeva Goswami describes the creation and dissolution of the material world and instead hear from the Tenth Canto of Krishna’s intimate pastimes with His associates. Vaishnava teachers don’t approve of this. Srila Prabhupada writes:

“Those who are not completely free from the clutches of the Lord’s external energy should devoutly hear regularly about the activities of the Lord in relation with the external energy. They should not foolishly jump up to the activities of the internal energy, falsely attracted by the Lord’s internal potential activities like His rasa-lila. . . .

“A pure devotee knows that there is no difference between the pastimes of the Lord, either in rasa-lila or in creation, maintenance, or destruction of the material world. . . . The conditioned souls, therefore, must hear with appreciation and devotion the Lord’s pastimes in relationship with the external energy, and such acts are as good as the hearing of rasa-lila in the liberated stage.” (Bhagavatam 2.7.53, Purport)

Who Should Hear?

When I came in contact with Srila Prabhupada and his followers, I was an atheist and, as I was deeply skeptical, sometimes wondered if I was qualified to hear about Krishna. Prabhupada explained that the scriptures cast a broad net when they describe those who are qualified to hear about God and His devotees. Included are those people who are impious but curious about spiritual life; are pious, distressed, inquisitive, or wise; are receptive and have respect for the message and messenger; want to attain life’s goal; and are surrendered and render loving service to guru and Krishna. Even those who want wealth, reputation, enjoyment, liberation, greatness, influence, or prowess are eligible to hear, for ultimately it is Krishna who gives or withholds these things. And by hearing about Him, our desire for all temporary gains gradually decreases.

Whom Shall We Hear From?

I was qualified to hear about Krishna, but who was qualified to speak about Him? The scriptures offer a short but definitive description of the speakers’ qualifications. They must follow Krishna’s teachings and be part of a bona fide line of disciplic succession (parampara ). This means that they have taken shelter of Krishna, have dedicated their lives to working for Him, and feel themselves completely dependent on Him. It became clear to me that Srila Prabhupada and his sincere followers were qualified speakers.

How Should We Hear?

Once I understood the importance of hearing, what to hear about, and whom to hear from, the next question was how should I hear? What’s the correct attitude to hear with? I learned that to hear properly wasn’t easy. I needed to hear with:

Respect saturated with affection
Great and abiding faith
Unalloyed love for Krishna
A service attitude

The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.16) says that to gain affinity for hearing the messages of Krishna, we must serve devotees completely freed from vice.

And from Srila Prabhupada: “One should hear with rapt attention from the real person, and then he can at once realize the presence of Lord Krishna on every page [of the Bhagavatam]. . . . No one can give rapt attention who is not pure in mind. No one can be pure in mind who is not pure in action. No one can be pure in action who is not pure in eating, sleeping, fearing, and mating. But somehow or other if someone hears with rapt attention from the right person, at the very beginning one can assuredly see Lord Sri Krishna in person in the pages of Bhagavatam.” (1.3.44, Purport)

In other words, we hear about Krishna in the association of His devotees, and as we become absorbed in hearing about Him, we absorb His transcendental message, which is identical to Him. I was lacking the qualities needed to hear properly, but simply by trying to hear, I could acquire those qualities. My eagerness, a product of my budding knowledge and faith, was my qualification.

Why Is Hearing Effective?

All this made sense to me, and I felt the positive effects of hearing from Srila Prabhupada and following what he said. Then one day I read in the Bhagavatam (10.87.1) that Parikshit Maharaja asked Shukadeva Goswami how, since the mind is material and the vibration of words is material sound, can we approach Krishna, who transcends everything material, by hearing about Him? Hmm. That’s a great question, I thought. I had no idea what the answer was.

I read on and understood that by Krishna’s exceptional grace, His words in the scriptures are identical to Him. So sincere seekers approach Him by hearing from the bona fide scriptures.

nama chintamanih krishnash
purnah shuddho nitya-mukto
‘bhinnatvan nama-naminoh

“The holy name of Krishna bestows all spiritual benedictions for it is Krishna Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Krishna’s name is not material under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Krishna Himself. Krishna’s name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Krishna and Krishna Himself are identical.” (Padma Purana )

And from Lord Brahma in the Bhagavatam ( 3.9.11): “O my Lord, Your devotees can see You through the ears by the process of bona fide hearing, and thus their hearts become cleansed, and You take Your seat there. You are so merciful to Your devotees that You manifest Yourself in the particular eternal form of transcendence in which they always think of You.”

Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura writes in his commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.87.2 that Krishna inspired material nature to evolve ether and sound so that we can hear about Him; thus we have access to Krishna only by His mercy.

The Result of Hearing About Krishna

The desire to hear about Krishna is an inconceivable blessing. By hearing, we can realize Krishna’s beauty, see all things in relation to Him, and so see all things as beautiful and sacred. Our lives become more animated, vivid, joyous, and worthy of us. By hearing about Krishna we deliberate on Him and are so moved by His unprecedented personality that our mundane problems subside.

Krishna is so beautiful that when we hear about Him we are inspired to share what we’ve heard with others, to preserve that knowledge, to grow from it, to become renewed by it, and to relish its limitlessness.

We begin to long for Krishna. And in longing for Him we become more beautiful and ever closer to Him. Simply by hearing, we can conquer the unconquerable Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.


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Lord Caitanya then inquired: What is the most profitable thing in the world, the essence of all auspicious events? Ramananda Raya replied that there is nothing as profitable as the association of pure devotees.” (Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Page 341)

When did I meet Srila Prabhupada? The year Srila Prabhupada arrived in Butler, Pa. (Sept. 1965). Is it possible I was visiting my Grandparents in Butler? Did I happen to catch a glimpse of Srila Prabhupada? Or the following summer, at the age of 13, did I happen to walk downtown Butler where His Divine Grace had previously walked? There is no question that Srila Prabhupada’s very presence, his kirtan and bhajan, his transcendental preaching, purified the material atmosphere of the Butler area like nothing ever before… at least in THIS age!

“Some say that the devotee should remain in holy places like Vrindavana or some holy town where the Lord lived, but a pure devotee can live anywhere and create the atmosphere of Vrindavana by his devotional service. It was Sri Advaita who told Lord Caitanya, “Wherever You are, O Lord – there is Vrindavana.” (Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 8.14, Purport)

In 1971 while spending a weekend with a few new friends, our host was often speaking informally on topics of the nature of the soul. I had never heard these topics spoken about in such a deep way! When the weekend was ending, I asked if there were any books containing his contributions to these discussions. He kindly handed me Easy Journeys to Other Planets. I do not recall a picture of Srila Prabhupada on that publication and of course did not connect “His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada” as author until some months later, but I did begin chanting “Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare” as a result of hearing from His Divine Grace.

“The spiritual master is the mercy representative of the Lord. Therefore, a person burning in the flames of material existence may receive the rains of mercy of the Lord through the transparent medium of the self-realized spiritual master. The spiritual master, by his words, can penetrate into the heart of the suffering person and inject knowledge transcendental, which alone can extinguish the fire of material existence.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.7.22, Purport)

Some time later, once again visiting friends, someone arrived who had a box full of pictures he had taken of this man sitting on a special seat! These 8×10 photos in the box, all the same, showed a light-filled person, a smiling elderly man… and I wanted so badly to have one of those pictures, but could not bring myself to ask for one!

“Pure devotees are so absorbed in thought of Krsna that they have no other engagement; although they may seem to think or act otherwise, they are always thinking of Krsna. The smile of such a Krsna conscious person is so attractive that simply by smiling he wins so many admirers, disciples and followers.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.22.21, Purport)

Shortly after that while in a book store, there was Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, the abridged paperback copy, with the blue/purple cover. Previously I had been reading a small Penguin edition of Bhagavad-Gita written like poetry and had no idea there was a real Bhagavad-Gita! Early on in my reading, Srila Prabhupada said that there was no need to read anything else; so for the next several months, I gave up all other reading and concentrated on Bhagavad-Gita As It Is!

“Pure devotees of the Lord are more powerful than the waters of the sacred river Ganges. One can derive spiritual benefit out of prolonged use of the Ganges waters. But one can be sanctified at once by the mercy of a pure devotee of the Lord.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.1.15, Purport)

In October of 1972 I moved into a temple 1000 miles away from my first encounter with His Divine Grace via his previous presence, his words, his books! December 1973 I received initiation from His Divine Grace. Yet I had only seen Srila Prabhupada’s picture and read his books! Finally after taking second initiation, Srila Prabhupada was going to arrive at the temple I was then residing in. Because it was a large community of disciples and so many had come from far and wide to have Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, I still had only caught a fleeting glimpse! Finally I was to actually be in the temple room for the morning lecture as arrangements were made to allow me on the men’s side. I will never forget Srila Prabhupada’s first words spoken that morning… before even formally beginning class… and not even recorded anywhere (I have searched and searched): “The problem with you young American boys and girls is you are not afraid enough of Maya!”

Even in my fallen condition, there is one thing I have full confidence in: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada will continue to shower his causeless Vaishnava mercy on any soul anywhere who has the good fortune to read (or even touch!) Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, any bona fide original publication containing the translations, purports, words given to all us conditioned souls for the next 10,000 years!!!

“We think that we have met Your Goodness by the will of providence, just so that we may accept you as the captain of the ship for those who desire to cross the difficult ocean of Kali, which deteriorates all the good qualities of a human being.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.1.22)

All glories to Srila Prabhupada, whose forgiveness and mercy I pray for.


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From Back to Godhead

To ensure the health of our spiritual life, we must transform material hope into spiritual hope.

Hope—the recognition within the human heart that something better is attainable—can mean the difference between life and death. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl writes that the rate of deaths in the concentration camp increased after Hanukkah, even though there was no change in camp’s already horrible conditions. Why did more die? Because each year rumors spread that the prisoners would be freed in time for the holy festival, and when they were not, the prisoners lost hope, their immune system weakened, and they succumbed to a fatal disease. Hope had kept them alive, and when their hope left, they died.

Frankl writes, “Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost.”

Similarly, in her seminal study On Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross writes, “If a patient stops expressing hope, it is usually a sign of imminent death. They may say, ‘Doctor, I think I have had it,’ or ‘I guess this is it,’ or they may put it like the patient who always believed in a miracle, who one day greeted us with [the] words, ‘I think this is the miracle—I am ready now and not even afraid anymore.’ All these patients died within twenty-four hours.”

By our nature we are meant to be full of hope (hopeful), but hopeful for what? Hopes are of many types but can be broadly classified into two: spiritual and material.
Spiritual Hope

Rupa Goswami describes this type of hope as asha-bandha (“bound by hope”): One thinks, “Because I’m trying my best to follow the routine principles of devotional service, some way or other I will be able to approach the Lord and will certainly receive His favor. Surely I will go back to Godhead, back home.”

In the mood of asha-bandha a devotee feels, “I wasn’t born in a good family, I haven’t done good works, I have no knowledge of the Lord or love for Him, and no attraction for the processes of hearing about, chanting about, and remembering Him, which will develop that love. Yet still, I want to approach Him. And that very want upsets me because I am completely unfit to do so. In terms of justice, my case is hopeless; all I have are demerits. So, I seek my fortune in the Lord’s mercy.”

In other words, with spiritual hope the devotee says to the Lord, “I have come to You. If there is any possibility, save me.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.15) states: “If one is serious about going back home, back to Godhead, he must consider the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead the summum bonum and the chief aim of life.”
Material Hope

In the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krishna uses the word moghasha. Mogha means “baffled,” and moghasha refers to people baffled in their hope. Later on, in Chapter Sixteen, the Lord speaks of asha-pasha, or those entangled in a network (pasha means “trap”) of hundreds of thousands of hopes and absorbed in lust and anger. Hope for any sort of material gain, whether fame, fortune, power, success, or relationships, is like a noose that fetters the soul. We are meant for spiritual hope, but, bewildered by material life, our hopes are now material, and so we are subject to waves of dissatisfaction. One who hopes materially, Krishna says, will be anxious, troubled, and miserable —in a word, defeated.

To disentangle ourselves from the baffling snare of material hope requires transforming our hope from matter to spirit.
To Transform Hope: Accept the Lord’s Will

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam Maharaja Dhritarashtra, the elderly and infirm grandsire of the Kuru dynasty, exemplified the process of giving up material hope. After all his sons were killed in the Battle of Kurukshetra, Dhritarashtra was living at the expense of his five nephews, the Pandava brothers, whom he had treated dishonorably for many years. It was the wise Vidura, Dhritarashtra’s stepbrother, who redirected Dhritarashtra’s hope from bodily comforts to spiritual attainment.

Vidura said, “It is the Supreme Personality of Godhead as eternal time [kala] that has approached us all. Whoever is under the influence of supreme kala must surrender his most dear life, and what to speak of other things, such as wealth, honor, children, land, and home.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.19–20)

So, the first step in transforming hope is to see that Krishna, in His form as time, will take everything material away from us. Within this universe no one and nothing can check the onslaught of time. Materially our situation is hopeless: By the Lord’s design, old age and death are coming for each one of us. Through knowledge of our eternal identity—small servants of God—by God’s grace we can gradually stop hoping for things destined to perish.
Become Detached

With knowledge of our true identity firmly in place, material desires appeal less and less, and so material hopes, which spring from material desires, lessen. We can feel our intelligence become pacified and our priorities rearranged. Detachment releases us from slavery to trite things and from preoccupation with the past or the future. We accept Krishna’s mercy in whatever form it takes.

Vidura uses strong words to help Dhritarashtra become detached: “You have been blind from your very birth, and recently you have become hard of hearing. Your memory is shortened, and your intelligence is disturbed. Your teeth are loose, your liver is defective, and you are coughing up mucus. Alas, how powerful are the hopes of a living being to continue his life. . . . Despite your unwillingness to die and your desire to live even at the cost of honor and prestige, your miserly body will certainly dwindle like an old garment.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.22–25)

The soul is eternal, and therefore everyone has a natural urge to avoid death. Dhritarashtra was no exception. He wanted to continue his life in comfort, but the body, being material, will not continue indefinitely. Dhritarashtra’s responsibility, like ours, was to use the body, mind, and intelligence to advance spiritually. The human form of life is a chance for self-realization and for going back home, back to Godhead, not for staying interminably in the material world. Srila Prabhupada comments: “Five thousand years ago there was one Dhritarashtra, but at the present moment there are Dhritarashtras in every home.” Most people remain attached to flickering, meaningless pursuits and neglect the opportunity a human birth offers. They pass their lives without spiritual hope.
Develop Trust in the Lord

After accepting the Lord’s will and becoming detached from our material situation (while continuing to do our duty), the next step in transforming hope is to trust Krishna.

If we don’t trust Krishna but trust something material, turning that thing into a peg on which to hang our hope, sooner or later we will be deeply disappointed. Nothing material is worthy of our hope. Nothing material can carry us beyond the material, to where we long to go. Trusting something material (including our own intelligence and ability) means that the gift Krishna has given us to come to Him—spiritual hope—is unused.

If we trust Krishna we will gain confidence in His teachings. By His grace we will understand that we are tiny spiritual beings completely dependent on Him, and we will want to serve Him and His servants more than we want anything else.

By his powerful words Vidura evokes such trust in the heart of Dhritarashtra: “He is certainly a first-class man who awakens and understands, either by himself or from others, the falsity and misery of this material world and thus leaves home and depends fully on the Personality of Godhead residing within his heart.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.27)

Wherever we are, we are not alone. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is with us, and He can protect His sincere devotees regardless of their circumstances. Therefore in any place we can hear and chant the holy names of the Lord, speak about Him, and seek the company of His devotees. In proportion to our sincerity, spiritual hope awakens.
Use Free Will Properly

Next, Vidura appeals to Dhritarashtra’s free will. Like all of us, Dhritarashtra had a choice: to hope in what is not (in maya, the Lord’s illusory energy) or to hope in what is, spiritual life. Krishna has kindly given all of us free will, and by His grace we can freely do His will. We are free to hope as we choose, yet to hope spiritually is a gift from Krishna that allows us to come closer to Him. Vidura told Dhritarashtra, “Please, therefore, leave for the North immediately, without letting your relatives know, for soon that time will approach which will diminish the good qualities of men.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.28) Dhritarashtra could have chosen to stay, but out of his free will he didn’t.
Strengthen Faith in the Lord

Dhritarashtra left for the forest accompanied by his wife Gandhari and by Vidura, who strengthened Dhritarashtra’s faith in the Lord. Faith is, in the words of Krishnadasa Kaviraja, unflinching trust in something sublime.

The Shvetasvatara Upanishad (6.23) states: “Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.”

One who has faith knows that by serving the Lord everything is fulfilled. Every soul is meant to give some service to Krishna, and faith lets us stick to that service in spite of all impediments. Faith inspires spiritual hope in the heart. We live with the anticipation of what can be—that despite our shortcomings we may go back home, back to Godhead. Living with this hope, we accept the things we cannot change, knowing there is a reason for it all and that ultimately the person who controls it, Krishna, is our well-wisher and most dear friend.

With this hope we experience Krishna’s mercy in our lives. “Thus by his resolute determination, Maharaja Dhritarashtra, firmly convinced by introspective knowledge, immediately left home to set out on the path of liberation, as directed by his younger brother Vidura.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.29)

Hope is transformed from material to spiritual by the association of sadhus, pure devotees of the Lord. Srila Prabhupada comments: “We are not ashamed to admit that this fact was experienced in our practical life. Were we not favored by His Divine Grace Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja, by our first meeting for a few minutes only, it would have been impossible for us to accept this mighty task of describing Srimad-Bhagavatam in English. Without seeing him at that opportune moment, we could have become a very great business magnate, but never would we have been able to walk the path of liberation and be engaged in the factual service of the Lord under instructions of His Divine Grace.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.29, Purport)

In the song Sri Guru-vandana (“The Worship of Sri Guru”), Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura uses the word asha twice.

chittete koriya aikya,
ar na koriho mane asha
shri-guru-charane rati,
ei se uttama-gati,
je prasade pure sarva asha

“My only hope is to have my consciousness purified by the words emanating from his lotus mouth. Attachment to his lotus feet is the perfection that fulfills all my hopes for spiritual progress.” Commenting on this verse on various occasions, Srila Prabhupada said, “If you want to make real progress, then you must be firmly faithful at the lotus feet of guru. . . . This is the instruction in the whole Vaishnava philosophy. So unless we do that, we remain mudha [rascals].” (Philadelphia, 1975) “We have to simply take instruction from guru, and if we execute that to our heart and soul, that is success. That is practical.” (Los Angeles, 1975) “If one gets [a] just guide, then that is happiness. Otherwise there is no happiness.” (Vrindavan, 1977)

By hearing from the bona fide spiritual master, as Dhritarashtra heard from Vidura and as we hear from Srila Prabhupada, we learn of the dignified position of the soul—that is, of ourselves—and worldly charms become like phantoms. Misdirected hope misdirects and reduces us. “Why shall I let material hope cheat me?” we think. “That hope only plunders me and makes me miserable.” Lacking spiritual hope, we lead a sad, deprived, one-dimensional life full of personal problems and disarray. Bound hand and foot to compulsions, illusions, and idiosyncrasies, we never do what we really want to do but only what fear, envy, and anger dictate.

Dhritarashtra, caught in a snare of politics, luxury, and family attachment, tried to be materially successful but was thoroughly frustrated. But by the forceful instructions of Vidura, an exalted devotee of Krishna who evoked Dhritarashtra’s faith, Dhritarashtra achieved success in self-realization. Devotees like Vidura not only cut the shackles of mundane affection but also nurture the spiritual bonds that pull us to the Lord. Similarly, by our faith in Srila Prabhupada and his representatives and by their mercy, we become renegades from the hopes of a materialistic culture.
The Result

By accepting the Lord’s will, becoming materially detached, trusting what He does, using our free will to engage in His service, and increasing our faith in Him, we are cherishing and harvesting the experiences that nourish hope. Gradually we simply desire to improve our service to the Lord. And although we may be unqualified in so many ways, we are confident that somehow or other we will be spiritually successful. Spiritual hope lets us use things for their true purpose, namely as means to bring us to Krishna. To live with spiritual hope is to live in the present, ever inspired by the future. It is to live feeling that by surrendering to Krishna we will have everything we could ever want. When we hope in Krishna, we are freed from the confusion of hopes that spring from lust and greed and we are bound to that Supreme Person who can bring us to a realm beyond our imagination.

Dhritarashtra engaged in yoga, controlled his mind and senses, and freed himself from thoughts of familial affection. He “turned his senses toward the Absolute Personality of Godhead and thus became immune to the contaminations of the modes of material nature, namely mundane goodness, passion, and ignorance.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.54)

Although Dhritarashtra used ashtanga-yoga to become free of illusory hope, in this age the recommended process is bhakti-yoga. By following the rules and regulations of bhakti, fixing our minds on the Lord and serving Him in whatever way we can, our inane material hopes quiet down. As the spiritual master’s words personally and intimately touch and convince us, the distance between Krishna and us gradually closes. Spiritual hope prepares us to experience divine things. By its mystery we possess the promise of love of Krishna no matter what happens. This hope is the difference between spiritual life and spiritual death. Hope saves or enslaves us.

Srila Prabhupada writes, “A pure devotee of the Lord does not live on any planet of the material sky, nor does he feel any contact with material elements. His so-called material body does not exist, being surcharged with the spiritual current of the Lord’s identical interest, and thus he is permanently freed from all contaminations. He is always in the spiritual sky by the effect of his devotional service. The conditioned souls are within the coverings, whereas the liberated soul is far beyond the cover.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.13.55, Purport)

Spiritual hope gives us focus and purpose; it gives everything we do a powerful and expressive resonance. Our spirits lift, we walk on this planet with confidence, daily experiences become meaningful, and getting up in the morning becomes a joy. Spiritual hope gives life lightness and fullness. It fosters spiritual growth, makes us bold, lively, compassionate, and indifferent to mundane fighting and the accumulation of objects and money. It allows our life to grow in love, grace, and endless satisfaction, for it brings us to the truth and beauty of the Lord. And what is the purpose of existence but to discover His truth and beauty and to share it with others.


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8442909453?profile=RESIZE_584xWashington, DC -- Ever since the inauguration of President George Washington, the first American President, every four years the inauguration of the new, or re-elected, US President has been accompanied by an interfaith prayer service. This year’s service, recognizing the inauguration of the new US President, Joe Biden, will as always, include a variety of religious leaders. In addition, for the first time it will also include a representative of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). 

Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON’s Minister of Communications, will join with Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, Native Americans, and representatives of other faith traditions in a Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service that includes prayers, readings, hymns and blessings. 

“I am honored to be part of this Interfaith Inaugural Prayer Service on behalf of ISKCON and the broader Hindu community,” said Dasa. “As a Vaishnava Hindu, I have great faith in the need for all people to work cooperatively for the common good, and to remember that for any effort, or any nation, to be successful we require the blessings of God, Lord Sri Krishna.” 

In past years, the event has been held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. This year, due to the Covid pandemic, the event will be held virtually at 10 AM EST on January 21, and can be viewed via live streaming at or

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A spiritual gathering in ancient India yields sage advice for our age of skepticism.

“Once, in a holy place in the forest of Naimisharanya, great sages headed by the sage Saunaka assembled to perform a great thousand-year sacrifice for the satisfaction of the Lord and His devotees. One day, after finishing their morning duties by burning a sacrificial fire and offering a seat of esteem to Srila Suta Gosvami, the great sages made inquiries with great respect.”—Srimad- Bhagavatam 1.1.4

When I tell you that the Naimisharanya meeting of sages some fifty centuries ago is of great importance to us today, you may doubt. After all, the meeting was so long ago and in a forest in India, so you naturally wonder what relevance it could have today. And just who were these sages? A sage, we know, is supposed to be a wise man, one who can answer life’s deepest questions. But so often we see the so- called sage depicted as an impractical, even foolish, old man who receives some ritual respect, smiles benignly, and gives sentimental or cryptic answers to questions from his disciples and admirers. Sometimes such a sage or guru will write books or deliver speeches or attend conferences on the brotherhood of man, world peace, unified religion, and so on. But rarely do intelligent persons consider these quasi- spiritualists and their assemblies and literatures as competent to offer feasible solutions to the world’s problems.

Furthermore, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is the written account of the Naimisharanya meeting, is an ancient scripture that asks us to accept its authority—period. And this is also hard for us to do. We are skeptics. We’ve been trained to question authority. Outside my office window here in Philadelphia, I see every day a certain car with a bumper sticker that reads, “QUESTION AUTHORITY.”

And why shouldn’t we question authority? Our authorities exert control over our lives—they have power. And we know how power corrupts. We want to think for ourselves, to decide for ourselves. We believe that our caution and skepticism is a sign of intelligence.

I can sympathize with that. I also was trained as a skeptic, a questioner of authority. I suppose it began in college. My philosophy professor prided himself on being what he called a Christian humanist. And he trained and prodded us, his students, to critically analyze all our beliefs and “presuppositions.” I soon learned to put my personal values and goals above all else. Authorities, I concluded, should be followed only as long as they served the interests of the individual. This humanistic approach to life had a profound effect on me, and I became a questioner—cautious and skeptical.

This same spirit was there also when I opposed the war in Vietnam. In other words, I questioned all authority, whether religious, political, or whatever. In fact, now that I think about it, my entire generation grew up in this atmosphere: the interests of the individual pitted against the dictates of impersonal social and religious authorities.

Being from the Deep South, I saw first hand the struggle of blacks for dignity and civil rights. And when, after graduating from high school, I went “up north,” even in my conservative little Baptist University in conservative little Shawnee, Oklahoma, we students demanded our rights and refused to follow rules and regulations we felt interferred with our self-actualization—a spirit that certain liberal faculty members actively supported. We grew to question, reject, alter, and pick and choose from the religious and social principles of our parents. We were free- thinking individuals. I was a ministerial student, yet my activities on campus were as much against as for the status quo in my religion. I sported one of the few beards on campus; and when, as student evangelist for a weekend youth revival, I stood before a large congregation of Southern Baptists in Oklahoma City, I was considered an anathema. One young seminarian, however, on hearing that I was being turned away because of my beard, defended me by saying, “That’s his individuality.”

My sentiments exactly. I felt justified in my rebellion, my questioning of authority—justified in that I wanted complete fulfillment in life, in that I refused to follow any doctrines or rules that restricted my self-actualization, and in that I saw flaws in my authoritarian leaders. I refused, therefore, to surrender my individual integrity to suit such authorities.

Now the reason I so rigorously questioned authority—and you’re probably the same way—wasn’t that I was opposed to authority per se, but that I didn’t want to serve another’s interests at the cost of my own. Certainly consulting and following an authority is a convenience we all enjoy. It makes life simpler in many ways, and whenever we’re able to get accurate, authoritative knowledge, we feel we have saved much valuable time.

So the idea of authority we already voluntarily accept. It’s the thought of giving up our personal happiness to satisfy the dictates of some authority that goes against our grain. But even that we all accept under certain conditions. For example, when we understand that the restrictions a certain authority places on us are for our best interest, we accept. Such acceptance, we feel, isn’t blind or sentimental; it’s based on knowledge and a clear understanding that, although we may be foregoing some immediate temporary gratification, we are acting in our best interest.

For example, we submit to the sometimes painful treatment of a doctor or dentist because we know it’s necessary and in our best interest. Our medical authorities explain to us that although they try to make the surgery or innoculation or whatever as painless as possible, it will still hurt a little; so we have to be tolerant. And the most cautious free- thinkers among us submit to painful medical treatment when we’re convinced it’s for our own good.

Consciously or unconsciously, most of us probably apply this same criterion to spiritual authority. We’re willing to sacrifice, we’re willing to submit, we’re willing to undergo difficulties—but we expect first to be convinced logically and rationally that, by our sacrifices and austerities, we’re really serving our best interests. My problem, however, (and you may have experienced the same difficulty) was in finding a spiritual authority that could fully satisfy me intellectually, that could convince me that my best interests would be served if I surrendered.

To be sure, I encountered a myriad of religious dogmas and teachers, but I couldn’t accept any of them wholeheartedly. And this is quite common, too, because whenever scriptures or church doctrines are seen as dictating unfair restraints on the individual’s material life, a great humanistic cry goes up. While the conservatives may see contraception and abortion, for example, as immoral and may seek to prohibit them, the humanistic contingent considers the prohibitions themselves to be immoral, because they appear to limit the full expression and realization of the individual’s potential.

So who or what is our spiritual authority? Should we doubt our scriptures and church doctrines? And then do we appoint ourselves as the ultimate authority? Certainly that appears to be our tendency, since to alter, interpret, and speculate on authoritative teachings indicates that we hold our own ideas in higher regard than those of the scriptures.

But will we, by our own strength, be able to free ourselves from spiritual ignorance? After all, spiritual subject matter—the topics discussed by the Naimisharanya sages and recorded in the Bhagavatam—is beyond our limited field of sensory perception. The spirit soul is described in the Vedic literature as avyakta, invisible. And the supreme spiritual being, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is described as adhokshaja, beyond the material senses, and acintya, inconceivable by philosophical speculation. Says the Bhagavad-gita: “The Supreme Truth is beyond the power of the material senses to see or to know.” So what spiritual understanding can we expect to arrive at when, by its very nature, spirit is beyond our sensory purview? We may derive some satisfaction from our speculations about God and the soul, but we should know that we’re only guessing. There’s a very wise, commonsensical saying from the Vedic literature: acintyah khalu ye bhava na tams tarkena yojayet. “In matters inconceivable, speculative arguments are useless.” So we require a spiritual authority, just as we require authorities in medicine, law, and every field of education. In fact, the spiritual authority is even more essential than other authorities, due to the esoteric nature of spiritual subject matter. Without following genuine spiritual authority we cannot understand spiritual science.

The otherwise unattainable realm of spiritual knowledge comes into focus when we undertake a careful study of Srimad-Bhagavatam.Although I can’t expect to transfer onto you my faith in the authority of the Srimad- Bhagavatam and its pure representatives, I can show you the reasonableness of seeing things as the Naimisharanya sages saw them: in relation with the Absolute Truth. According to the Bhagavatam, the Naimisharanya sages, and all subsequent Vedic authorities in the disciplic line for the past five thousand years, everything is an emanation from the Absolute Truth. Just as light and heat emanate from the sun and spread throughout our solar system, so all existence—from the vast material universe to the innumerable, infinitesimal spiritual souls—has emanated from the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Everything, therefore, is to be understood in relation with the Absolute Truth, the origin of everything.

According to this vision, all problems come when things are seen as separate from the Absolute Truth. And, conversely, all problems can be solved when things are understood in their proper perspective in relation with the Absolute Truth. And what is our relation with the Absolute Truth? According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, we are the eternal servants of the Absolute Supreme Personality of Godhead. And how this is so is presented very clearly in the Bhagavatam.

The Bhagavatam seeks to teach us three things: 1. We have an eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. 2. We have to perform loving devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. 3. By so doing, we will solve all the problems of life and attain the highest perfection of pure love of God. The Bhagavatam compares devotional service to watering the root of a tree. When we water the root of a tree, we simultaneously water all the leaves, flowers, and fruits. Similarly, when we serve the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we are automatically fulfilling all other needs and obligations.’ Other attempts at happiness or at combating distress are, therefore, shortsighted.

The Bhagavatam explains that although we are eternal spirit souls, eternal servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we have come to this material world to forget our original identity and to engage in activities that have no tinge of loving service to God. This is the cause of all our problems, because to carry out our illusion, we have to take on one material body (and identity) after another, birth after birth. But when we revive our lost, loving relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we again become rightly situated in our eternal constitutional position. And the Bhagavatam thoroughly explains how this one adjustment is so sweeping as to solve all life’s problems (including the otherwise unsolvable problem of repeated birth and death).

And as for solving problems on a global basis—that’s also possible only by putting things in the proper perspective in relation with the Absolute Truth. Materially speaking we find so many nationalities, races, religions, social classes, and so on. But from the absolute perspective, everything has emanated from the Absolute Truth; therefore, everyone is the servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and everything is His property. Only when we realize this can we establish real unity and peace—because spiritually we are all equal and we all have the same fundamental need to revive our loving relationship with God.

Consider the analogy of the pebbles in the pool. If ten people each throw a pebble into a pool, there will be as many little “self-centered” circles. And the circles will clash and overlap. So, individually, nationally, socially, we all have our selfish, vested interests. And they overlap. But if we could all hit the center of the pool, so to speak, by properly aligning ourselves with the Absolute Truth, the origin of everything, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then our circles would all be concentric and harmonious.

Thus from so many points of view the prescription of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Naimisharanya sages is convincing and relevant. And things don’t have to be new to be relevant. Five thousand years ago, the sun that shone down on that Naimisharanya meeting gave off heat and light. And today, the sun is still giving heat and light. The same sun, the same energies, but still relevant. Certainly the Naimisharanya sages, the most elevated and educated persons of that day, considered the discussion of Srimad- Bhagavatam relevant for future generations. Through the eyes of Vedic literature, they were able to foresee that the people of our present age (which began five thousand years ago and will continue for the next 427,000 years) would live “but short lives.” They also foresaw that people would be “quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky, and, above all, always disturbed.” They took their meeting with utmost seriousness, as they requested Suta Gosvami to explain the essence of the Vedic literature for the benefit of the unfortunate people of this age.

So here we are in the 1980’s. The age of quarrel and hypocrisy is in full swing. We doubt and question authority—and for good reasons. But still we are in need of spiritual guidance. Incorrigible free-thinker that I was (and am), I’m very happy to say that I fully accept the authority of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and that, consequently, I accept the authority of the sages of Naimisharanya, as they discuss the ills of our present age and how to cure them. I also accept the authority of my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhakti-vedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the Krishna consciousness movement, who has carefully translated and reasonably explained the Srimad-Bhagavatam for the benefit of everyone. I’m as rigorously philosophical about life as I ever was—I still think for myself—but I know the great value of taking advantage of the best authoritative advice available.

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A Walker Gone by Bhaktimarga Swami

8442899078?profile=RESIZE_400xIt appears to be the month of death. Not Covid related, however, another case of someone I know passing, was a young man from Philly who gave up his life — suddenly. I got to know him on my walk across the U.S. He joined me at a few spots on the east coast. It rather choked me up to hear about his ending.

After some time of grievance (it hit hard for a few hours) I thought less about the loss and his challenged upbringing. Rather, I focused more on his positive contribution. A man with a big heart who gave much time in the preparation of prasadam, is to his credit. Then he became, at least for some time, a walker. He did so with incredible conviction. There was an outward solitude to him. He was a real trooper as we sauntered along busy roads through New Jersey. He was tireless in his execution of walking.

His name is Esa and he won my admiration. May Krishna have his merciful glance on him and take Esa with Him. I was happy to know him. After having him with me for some days I had anticipated that we would journey together again at some time in the future. My prayers go to him. Like so many of us, Esa was influenced positively by our guru, Prabhupada. I hope Esa will have the opportunity to walk with a pure soul in the spiritual world.

In reflecting on the various walking partners that accompanied me on marathons, I feel they are all special people; some ventured through life on both smooth and rough trails.


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Does anyone aspire to become a sannyasi? Simply having this ambition in the first place is not the desire of a truly renounced person. On the other hand, all those who relish genuine taste in Krishna consciousness, will know what proper renunciation is. For this reason, both men and women can live as sannyasis without having that title.

To emphasise renunciation before taste indicates a lack of understanding on the path of Bhakti. Devotees often preach about the importance of following the four regulative principles, before or without first getting a taste for chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. Without this taste, then Krishna consciousness just becomes a strict form of adherence, not much different from “dry” renunciation.

Yet this strict adherence is what sets vaisnavas apart from those with average religious effort. So highly respected is the avoidance of the four sturdy pillars of Kali’s rule in this age, that it is not hard to see why the renounced order is highly abused. Didn’t King Indra assume a sannyasa guise to prevent loss of his heavenly rule? Didn’t Ravana do likewise to abduct Mother Sita? And what of those who desire this position for reasons, other than for preaching?

Out from this “dryness” come the usual polemics that beset our male and female dynamics among us. Where there is a lack of taste, issues of power, influence, and inordinate focus on threats to one’s renunciation, can overtake the natural rhythm of life based on preaching. In other words, if there is an excess of such controversies, it is an attempt to compensate the same lack of taste.

But fortunately for us, the official status of sannyasa is held in high regard. For instance, if we observe the standing of a devotee before he takes sannyasa, compared to his standing after taking sannyasa, when he is suddenly invited to people’s homes and is deluged with preaching opportunities and great respect, we see how this renounced order has enabled quite a transition. He is the same devotee, before and after, but his sannyasa obligations have added something dramatically different to his life. It is equally dramatic for those observers who knew the sannyasa, before and after.

This “before and after” effect usually raises some questions for other devotees. After taking sannyasa it is sometimes observed that they become withdrawn or aloof, and perhaps quite different from their “before” approachability. Some devotees wonder, “Are these types of behaviour to be expected? Is being renounced, and being somewhat socially withdrawn, part of the self-protection of a sannyasa?

It is this “in demand” difference that can be a source of ambition. Certainly, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa because people would more readily listen to Him while preaching. This means that on one level it is essential to earn respect in order to preach. But in the Western countries, the audiences hardly know the asrama differences, except to notice various shades of white or saffron colours. It is more advantageous when preaching in India or to Indian communities where inbred cultural respect prevails.

It is also easier to be heard and respected among our community of devotees. Another question can arise here; “What is the distinction between earning respect as a sannyasa, as opposed to earning respect for preaching alone?” There is no doubt that the enthusiasm of our renounced devotees spurs even more enthusiasm and inspiration in others. But many married devotees and Matajis alike do the same, but do not earn the same level of respect, and their taste for Krishna consciousness may be greater. Who is to decide on this, when asrama differences officially define who is respected more than others?

We are all familiar with the “param drstva nivartate” order of things (BG 2.59). Srila Prabhupada goes further to say that a devotee with true taste, “…is fixed in consciousness.” What is this “fixed in consciousness” in relation to our deciding who is renounced and who is not? Obviously, choice has a role to play, and these choices are not always appreciated. This is why differences of opinion play out either between the sexes, or with married and unmarried role players. Are we all convinced that we have achieved total harmony in these areas?

If not, then we need to see “taste” as the defining factor. Taste equals renunciation. For instance, our doyen of renunciation, Srila Raghunatha Dasa Goswami was requested by Lord Chaitanya to live a normal family life, and then in time they would join up. Did Srila Raghunatha Dasa Goswami’s taste for Krishna consciousness lessen while he lived dutifully as a family member with a wife? Obviously not. For informed observers, there was no difference in terms of “before and after” for him.

When we read of all the many eternal associates of Sri Chaitanaya Mahaprabhu, say, in Chaitanya Charitamrta, we know most of them were married. Do we see Srila Krishna Dasa Kaviraja singling out the sannyasis for special mention above all the married devotees? Not really. All were unique and abounded with taste in love of Krishna. We do however read of distinctions based on age, experience and seniority. Was the renounced order of life in general, as highly optimised during those times as it is today?

Another question asked frequently in private, but is usually avoided for fear of impoliteness is, if the sannyasa order as we know it today were shorn of the privileges associated with it, and was less of a dramatic social “before and after,” and more of an integrated role within our devotee community, would the ambition to take sannyasa still be alluring? If “taste” means to be fixed in consciousness, is there any scope to lessen this for the renounced order, as sometimes happens in real life? Yet another argument put forth is that Srila Prabhupada had a great sense of urgency, which is why he had many sannyasa disciples going worldwide to preach. Is that same urgency with us today to justify the official renounced order?

With the equally dramatic transition of our devotee communities from temple orientated service to “outside” or congregational settings, does this still warrant a need for sannyasis? Or is the need greater than ever before? On a practical level, a new devotee chants a minimum of 16 rounds a day and follows the four regulative principles. A sannyasa also chants a minimum of 16 rounds a day and follows the four regulative principles. What is the difference in practice?

Acknowledging that the possession of vijnana, taste and raised consciousness should differentiate the new devotee and the renounced devotee, many devotees still wonder why we need such marked differences reflecting the asrama orders. More significantly, how and who is going to determine the Varna roles for vaisnavas who are supposed to be above social identification?

Within our present worldly times of equality for gender and related work opportunities, and the pressure for adopting and allowing them into vaisnava culture as we also know it today, it has generated ambivalence, for example, in whether women should give class in the holy dhama. The moment this topic arises and another host of issues flow, concerning tradition, protection of the sannyasa order, women’s rights, lustful agitation, liberalism and the rest.

Although all these issues are important and have to be dealt with for our social wellbeing, they still elude the question of “taste.” This taste and fixed consciousness does not belong to any asrama or Varna. And neither does any spiritual order claim sovereign right over it. How this taste is relished, and how it is expressed for others to hear, we have made an issue over it. And for something highly subjective as taste to fit into social and gender acceptances, is something that will continue. Better we all become sannyasis at heart.

Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.


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Real Shelter by Kadamba Kanana Swami

Real shelter means to be sheltered from the mind, which is always disturbed; from the senses, which push us mercilessly; and from the emptiness and the loneliness.

What does real shelter mean? Does it mean to take shelter from the material sufferings, shelter from the dangers of the material world? That is not real shelter. Real shelter means to be sheltered from our mind which is always disturbed. Real shelter also means to be sheltered from the senses which push us mercilessly. Whatever we bring them, they demand more and more. These senses are never satisfied. We need shelter from these senses. They leave us exhausted and tired and never fulfilled. We need shelter from emptiness. We need shelter from loneliness. What is it that will finally make us rest in peace?

kamadinam kati na katidha palita durnidesas
tesam jata mayi na karuna na trapa nopasantih
utsrjyaitan atha yadu‑pate sampratam labdha‑buddhis
tvam ayatah saranam abhayam mam niyunksvatma‑dasye

“O my Lord, there is no limit to the unwanted orders of lusty desires. Although I have rendered them so much service, they have not shown any mercy to me. I have not been ashamed to serve them, nor have I even desired to give them up. O my Lord, O head of the Yadu dynasty, recently, however, my intelligence has been awakened, and now I am giving them up. Due to transcendental intelligence, I now refuse to obey the unwanted orders of these desires, and I now come to You to surrender myself at Your fearless lotus feet. Kindly engage me in Your personal service and save me.“

(Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya Lila 22.16)

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By Vikramini devi dasi

Looking at the ruins of what we’ve been calling until recently Western civilization, I can say that the mankind is illogical and irrational. Led by misguided and selfish leaders, people themselves planned and led their existence to its end, such as we knew it. How come we got here? Couldn’t the ruination of our world be prevented? Couldn’t any of the world leaders  remember the bitter lessons of the millenary  bloody history of mankind? And why the progress of material science and modern technology, which reached unimaginable levels, didn’t help human beings to rise above the lower animal instincts, constrained to eating, sleeping, mating and self-defense and to bestow upon the world the so desirable peace and prosperity?
Ever since our birth we’ve been forced to accept the body as our true self. All around us (relatives, scientists, teachers, politicians) persistently lead us to believe that we are a product of matter. Life is a happy coincidence of a combination of material elements, which have caused our existence. And since it has appeared out of nothing, our life has no other meaning and is intended only to satisfy our senses and the senses of our close family members. Those striving for material happiness generally believe they can find the enjoyment they seek in sex and that they can purchase freedom with money. This conviction is constantly being fueled by all the propaganda machine of material culture – the cinema, the television, the Internet, which suggests that we are nothing more than evolved animals. And because no one in the material world actually obtains lasting happiness, everyone becomes frustrated and is forced by unfulfilled lust to compete for whatever enjoyable things are to be obtained. So western material civilization with its predatory policy and frenzied consumerist ideology has come to its logical end. Where do we turn now?
The answer to these and many other questions can be found in the ancient Vedic wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. There we find the verse defined by Srila Prabhupada as the peace formula:

“A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries” (5.29)

 In his purport Srila Prabhupada elaborates:
 “Under the spell of illusion, living entities are trying to be lords of all they survey, but actually they are dominated by the material energy of the Lord. The Lord is the master of material nature, and the conditioned souls are under the stringent rules of material nature. Unless one understands these bare facts, it is not possible to achieve peace in the world either individually or collectively.”

According to the Bhagavad Gita As it is we are neither bodies nor minds but pure spirit souls part and parcels of the Supreme Lord.. The body is constantly changing from a newly born to a child, adult and an old person. But what is the self throughout all these physical and mental stages of development? Obviously, it is something different from the body and the mind. That something is our real self – the soul. Anyone can understand this by the presence of consciousness. The living entity gets different bodies depending on the desires and activities, which are determined by the three material modes.
Essence of dharma
The cultivation of the goodness of the mind is the essence of the Vedic method of yoga. When the whole society follows the Vedic culture and develops the mode of goodness, it provides stability and morality for society. In Srimad Bhagavatam four principal sinful habits are mentioned: gambling, intoxication, illicit sex and killing animals and meat-eating (1.17.38). Indulging in the above four sinful activities strongly binds the soul to the temporary material body, undermines the four virtues – austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness, and weakens the spirit. Thus one becomes helpless and cannot  resist the impulses of the senses, plunging again in sinful activities. Today millions of people search for the truth of themselves beyond the body through different methods. However, they do not achieve success and again are swept by the maelstrom of suffering because their physical and moral purity is destroyed by illicit sex and their austerity and mercy is destroyed by eating animal flesh, by taking opiates and by pride. Therefore, the eradication of the aforementioned four sinful activities is essential to raising the awareness of people and to achieving peace and prosperity in society.

Real human civilization means  civilization based on the principles presented by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. The institution of Vedic culture is built on the principle of sacrifice. Srila Prabhupada explains what sacrifice is: 

“The Krishna conscious person, like Arjuna, however, sacrifices everything for the satisfaction of Krishna, and thus all his material possessions as well as his own self-everything-is sacrificed for Krishna. Thus, he is the first-class yogi; but he does not lose his individual existence” (purport to BG 4.25).

The science of sacrifice depends upon the cooperation of the demigods and mankind; and this requires civilization to be situated in the mood of goodness.
The Western civilization is demoniac because it is trying to forcibly wrench out or nature everything it needs. In contrast, the Vedic culture is a culture of service. According to it, Krishna gives us everything necessary for our existence and transcendental knowledge under the condition that we offer them back to Him as a sacrifice:

At the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Visnu, and blessed them by saying:
“Be thou happy by this yajna (sacrifice) because its performance will bestow upon you everything desirable for living happily and achieving liberation.” [Bhagavad-gita 3.10]

People happily sacrifice valuables because they know the good of life is not estimated in terms of material possessions. It is measured by morality and devotion to Krishna; these are blessings, which are most valued in Vedic society.

The Vedic term for religion is dharma. Dharma indicates that the living entity, being part and parcel of God, must serve Him. About 5000 years ago the Vedic religion called varna ashram dharma flourished worldwide. Varna ashrama dharma is a scientific way of spiritual elevation of the general mass of people. It is true, authoritative, as it is created by Krsna Himself:

 “According to the three modes of material nature and the work prescribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable” ( BG4.13)

This social system has nothing to do with the caste system and is very scientific. It builds up society with clear division of labor into classes, but without exploitation, enmity, and conflict. It enables every member of the society to be involved according to their qualities and work for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord. Everyone can serve the Lord, whatever his level of spiritual advancement is, by following the principles Krishna sets forth in the Bhagavad-gita. It is established that a dharma is the occupational duty of the four parts of the varnasrama social body – brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras. Everyone can cultivate his particular occupational duty with the aim of attaining ultimate liberation. Human life is meant for liberation from the bondage of birth and death. Accepting a dharma means work; that work must be for Vishnu, without personal interest in the material results that may accrue:

“By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done. By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all pervading, a man can attain perfection through performing his own work.”(11.45-46). 

In his way the ordinary work turns into bhakti yoga, the highest perfection in devotional service. Even the mundane activities such as fighting and sexual intercourse can be transformed into spiritual activities if done according to religious principles (7.11). The ultimate dharma of all living entities is surrender to Krishna:

 “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.”(18.66). 

All other dharmas are preliminary duties, meant to bring one to the highest spiritual understanding of Krishna consciousness. Those who have reached the top platform of pure devotional service, such as Arjuna, are in fact transcendental to varnashrama, even though they still appear to be carrying out their varnashrama duties like anyone else:

“Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Kṛṣṇa and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.” (8.7)

The point is that if we want successful life, peace of mind and full satisfaction, we should concern ourselves with how to advance in devotional service to the Lord. This striving is actually the life of dharma. However, if one executes his duties but does not become Krishna Conscious, then all his striving is in vain. Liberation is manifest in one’s service relationship to the Lord. That relationship must develop on two levels – the physical level of work as a sacrifice, and the subtle level of mind, intelligence and false ego. Hearing and chanting about Krishna spiritualizes the subtle body. Without hearing and chanting Krishna’s holy name dharma becomes a burden. In this age this is the only way to satisfy the Supreme Lord. But it is to be understood that we cannot become Krishna conscious on our own efforts alone. It is the prime duty of the world leaders to guide the citizens towards reviving Krishna Consciousness. As Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport: 

“This science is especially meant for the protection of the inhabitants and therefore the royal order should understand it in order to be able to rule the citizens and protect them from the material bondage to lust. Human life is meant for cultivation of spiritual knowledge, in eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the executive heads of all states and all planets are obliged to impart this lesson to the citizens by education, culture and devotion. In other words, the executive heads of all states are intended to spread the science of Krishṇa consciousness so that the people may take advantage of this great science and pursue a successful path, utilizing the opportunity of the human form of life.” (BG 4.1)


Vedic education is primarily concerned with inculcating good qualities in the human being. To apply varnaashram dharma practically we need education in two levels – first the people have to be educated in the qualities that Narada Muni prescribes for all human beings (SB 7.11.8-12), and then educate them further in the qualities and duties prescribed for specific varnas (including women). Prabhupada clearly states in the purport that these principles are for everyone, even Muslim, Christians and Buddhists. Тhese are the basic qualities attributed in the Bhagavad-gita to the brahmanas: truthfulness, mercy, austerity,  cleanliness, tolerance, control of the mind, control of the senses, nonviolence and so on  (18.42). Along with spiritual knowledge there should be introduced trainings for assimilating expert knowledge and practical skills for the respective varna. Naturally brahmanas have the tendency to study the Vedas as well as branches like Ayurveda and Astrology, to perform vedic yajnas and to worship the Deities. Typical duties for ksatrias are management, political science and military art. The vaishyas are engaged in agriculture and especially cow protection and trading. And shudras have assisting role to other varnas.

For peaceful spiritual practice, one must be well established in his ashram. While the four varnas are meant to situate citizens in proper occupational activities, the four asramas are meant to provide their spiritual advancement. Since the family is the basic unit of society, it is essential to train those who want to create a family. In Vedic society, this training was done in the family, but because modern society has long been away from their natural functions and values, this knowledge must be obtained from higher authorities. People have to be trained how to be real grihastas, keeping Krishna in the center of their lives; how to deal with one another; how to be successful parents, how women should deal with men and men with women, and so on. Еspecially the chastity of a woman is considered very important for the birth of good and religious progeny, which is the basis for a stable society:

“When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Kṛṣṇa, the women of the family become corrupt, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vṛṣṇi, comes unwanted progeny.” 1.40

Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport:

“This is very important point. For good population. Without good population in the society, gentlemen, cultured, educated, following the rules and regulations of religious principles, how you can expect peace and prosperity? That is not possible. So the whole Vedic system was meant for having very good population.”

In this way the true daivi varnashrama dharma can be established.

Proper training, refraining from the four sinful activities and congregational chanting the names of Krishna will provide a firm spiritual foundation of society. By these simple processes one can know the Lord in truth, achieve peace and happiness and finally go back home, back to Godhead. 

In the modern world there are many organizations with a view to unite people. Unfortunately, since they have no true knowledge, they call for unity on the basis of the material conception of life – I am this body. And since the body is the temporary cover of the soul and is mortal, there is no true relationship with the other living beings. But spreading of the glory of Krishna establishes true relationships between people and unites us as spiritual personalities based on love of God, regardless of religion, race, gender. Krishna Consciousness is the eternal religion of all living entities and goes beyond religious labels. 

The Vedic literature is a testimony to social efficacy of the system represented by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. At the time of Krishna the entire world followed these principles and as a result, humanity was blessed with wisdom, opulence, happiness and peace. There are many examples in the Vedic scriptures of saintly kings who ruled the whole world according to Krishna’s instructions – Maharaja Yudisthira, Maharja Parikshit, Prithu Maharaja. Their kingdoms are a perfect example of a prosperous society with high spiritual culture. These teachings of Lord Krishna’s peace formula, as explained by Srila Prabhupada in the Bhagavad Gita As It Is, are proposals for solving complex problems. Srila Prabhupada was convinced that it is not too late to alter the course of modern history and return to the shelter of Krishna from which we have wandered so far away. By spiritual inspiration through Krishna consciousness civilization can regain its real life and purpose.


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From Back to Godhead

Discover Krishna’s law of attraction, the real power behind the latest rage in the self-improvement marketplace.
The Secret, a book and DVD by Rhonda Byrne, is getting a lot of attention as sales soar. The author claims that if we apply the principles she lays out, we can achieve whatever we desire. People from all walks of life are excitedly latching on to her ideas.
In the beginning of the DVD, ancient-looking texts in a medieval ambiance invite us to discover secret knowledge. Flickering touchlights and pulsating music prelude the disclosure of the secret to getting that new BMW. Byrne then tells us about the universal law of attraction, or “like attracts like.” By understanding this law and using it to our advantage, we can obtain whatever we want. Although a host of predecessor authors have been saying the same thing for the past two centuries, Byrne’s savvy marketing strategies have put old wine in a new bottle. She’s cashing in on people’s yearning to find a process that will lead them to perfect happiness.
To illustrate the law of attraction, scenes from the DVD include a young woman longingly looking at an expensive necklace through a jewelry store window. In the next scene her efforts are rewarded as her boyfriend garlands her with the same necklace that captivated her senses. In another scene, a young man sits in his living-room chair vividly imagining himself driving the car of his dreams. Predictably, in the following scene a BMW sits parked in his driveway.
The next scene shows the flipside to the law of attraction. A young man chains his bicycle to a pole. Noticeably anxious about the safety of his bike, he walks away to his destination. When he returns, his bike is gone.
Following these opening fictitious scenes are real-life testimonials from successful people verifying the validity of the law of attraction in their own lives. Jack Canfield, the author of a number of best-selling books, relates how he attracted into his life an abundance of money and success when he started to focus on what he wanted. An entrepreneur shares his story of cutting out a picture of his dream house from a magazine and putting it on his “vision board.” Five years later when he is moving into his new house, his son asks what is inside a particular box. The entrepreneur opens it to reveal his vision board. Tears well up in his eyes as he looks at the board and sees that he is moving into the same house he had cut out of the magazine five years earlier.
When his young son asks why he is crying, he replies that he has finally understood the law the attraction: ask-believe-receive. These seductive scenes suggest that by our desires alone we can get everything we want. The universe is our perpetual order supplier, and all we have to do is focus on what we want and avoid thinking about what we don’t want. When asked why this law doesn’t work for everyone, one of the film’s pundits answers that people give up too early. They might be on the brink of obtaining their goal, but they stop.
Is Desire Enough?
In the ancient Vedic literature we find a much more comprehensive answer to why some people achieve their desires and others don’t. Everyone in the material field of activities is acting according to the reactions of their past deeds. As you sow, so you shall reap. What The Secret fails to acknowledge or understand is our accountability as souls for things we have done not only in this life but in our past lives as well. The universal law of karma dictates that everything we do has a reaction, which may be good or bad, depending on the quality of the act. Good deeds yield good results such as fame and fortune. Bad deeds produce unwanted material situations such as poverty, infamy, and disease.
Successful people, Oprah Winfrey, for example, endorse The Secret by saying that they have used the law of attraction most of their lives. But according to the Vedic view, they’re merely drawing from a bank account of previous good deeds. Without remembering their past lives, such people think that all they have to do is desire and their wish will be fulfilled. So naturally they conclude that others should be able to get the same result by changing how they think.
But can people choose to change the way they think? To some extent, yes. Our past actions influence our current thoughts, but our freely chosen responses to our present situation—including our present thoughts and attitudes—reformat our thoughts, and our thoughts influence our future. Although people may be inclined toward negative thoughts, hearing something like The Secret might inspire them to change the way they think. Our thoughts define our character and influence how we move in this world. Ultimately, at the time of death our thoughts carry us to our next destination—that’s how important and powerful they are.
Truly Positive Thinking
Since we can change the way we think, we should start thinking and desiring spiritually, for permanent results. The Secret emphasizes using the law of attraction for material acquisition, good health, and maybe some altruism. The more mature perspective is to see that the real purpose of the law attraction, like all of God’s laws, is to dispel our material consciousness and revive our original spiritual nature. This means using our thoughts and desires to become free of material thoughts and desires. That may sound unattractive to the entrepreneur who wants a $20 million house, or the musician looking for her latest CD to hit the top of the charts. But becoming free of material desire doesn’t mean giving up desire; it means desire things for our and others’ eternal benefit.
In the spiritual dimension, where all desires are for the Lord’s service and pleasure, desires are fulfilled instantaneously. The desire for things separate from the Lord’s service pollutes our consciousness and causes us to suffer and remain hostage to the material energy.
As aspiring devotees of the Lord, we can use the law of attraction to serve Krishna in this world by desiring to transform both our consciousness and that of others. Srila Prabhupada exemplified how Krishna’s law of attraction works in the material realm for spiritual attainment. Although he landed in New York City with no money or help, one acquaintance in New York recalled, “He seemed to know that he would have temples filled up with devotees. He would look out and say, ‘I am not a poor man. I am rich. There are temples and books. They are existing, they are there, but the time is separating us from them.’”
When walking in the city, he would look at the big buildings and imagine that some day they could be used in Krishna consciousness. Prabhupada was a pure devotee completely free of karma; he was under the direct protection of the Lord. Because his desires were one with Krishna’s desires, within a short time of starting his ISKCON society he had many temples filled with devotees and many books being distributed all over the world.
Why Doesn’t Krishna Fulfill All Desires?
Every desire is a kind of prayer, because Krishna is in our heart, listening. Out of love for us He has expanded Himself into the hearts of all living beings. He fulfills our desires throughout our stay in the material world.
But Krishna doesn’t give us whatever we want, because His goal is to guide us back to our eternal home. Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us that whether we are full of desires or have no desires, we should approach Krishna. And, for aspiring devotees at least, if our desires will help us to advance spiritually, then Krishna will gladly fulfill them. But He won’t fulfill our desires if the result will hinder our spiritual progress. Rather, He’ll help us give up harmful desires by giving us a taste of spiritual truth.
Aspiring transcendentalists receive direct help from the Lord, and whatever happens is for their highest good, as illustrated in the following story.
Sanatana Goswami, a prominent disciple of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, lived under a tree as a renunciant. Once, a poor brahmana heard that Sanatana possessed a stone that could turn anything it touched into gold. The brahmana eagerly went to ask Sanatana for the stone. Without the least hesitancy Sanatana told the brahmana he could have the stone; it was in a rubbish heap nearby. The elated brahmana found the stone but, being intelligent, began to consider the situation. Why would Sanatana discard something so valuable unless he had something better? When he asked Sanatana about it, Sanatana said that he would give him the most valuable thing but first the brahmana would have to throw the magical stone into the river. To discard the stone was a test for the brahmana, but after some deliberation he complied with Sanatana’s condition, and Sanatana gave him the Hare Krishna mantra.
The effects of chanting this mantra are unlimited; one achieves so much more than a necklace or BMW. Serious chanting of Hare Krishna brings freedom from all material suffering—no more birth, death, disease, or old age. And it gives realization of our eternal spiritual identity, full of unlimited joy and knowledge. People who understand their real spiritual nature and relationship with Lord become completely satisfied. Their only desire is service to the Lord.
Desires fulfilled in this material plane of existence are temporary—here today and gone tomorrow. Material acquisitions generally fuel our desire for more things rather than bringing a sense of happiness and fulfillment. The brahmana made an intelligent decision and became the benefactor of the complete secret.
The Best Secret of All
In the Ninth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna reveals to Arjuna—and ultimately to anyone fortunate enough to read His words—the most secret of all secrets. The essence of this chapter is in the final verse, where the Lord gives Arjuna four confidential instructions: always think of Him, become His devotee, worship Him, and bow down before Him. These four practices attract Krishna. He has designed all of nature’s laws to help us souls find our way back to our eternal home. When we use the law of attraction for material purposes, it keeps us in the material realm of repeated birth and death. When we use the law to be absorbed in thoughts of Krishna, then surely we will go to Him. The great devotee Queen Kunti applies the law of attraction in an ideal way when she offers this prayer to Krishna: “O Lord of Madhu, as the Ganges forever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly drawn unto You without being diverted to anyone else.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.18.42)
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From Back to Godhead

What is the effect of chanting Hare Krishna?

The names of the Lord in the maha-mantra Hare, Krishna, and rama are invested with His full potencies. Singing God’s names, therefore, is to contact Him through the medium of transcendental sound. Thus, the effect of chanting is the same as the effect of directly associating with the Lord. The following beautiful verse, written by Lord caitanya, describes the seven effects the Hare Krishna mantra has on chanters.

prati-padam purnamrtasvadanam
sarvatma-snapanam param
vijayate sri-Krishna-sankirtanam

“Let there be all victory for the chanting of the holy name of Lord Krishna, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the holy name of Krishna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step.” (Sri Siksastaka 1)

Although many books have been written explaining the theological implications of this verse, the following is a simple summary of the seven effects of chanting Hare Krishna:

(1) The chanting of Krishna’s name is a purifying agent that cleanses our hearts of envy the root cause of our descent to this world and other bad qualities we have since acquired, like lust, greed, and anger.
(2) As it purifies the heart, Krishna’s name also protects sincere chanters from any further contamination from the worldly energy and those affected by it.
(3) chanting awakens pure devotion to Krishna, the soul’s dormant propensity to serve the Lord with love; and further chanting revives the loving devotion that qualifies one for the greatest good fortune Krishna’s association.
(4) A result of acquiring devotion is that devotees become illuminated with spiritual knowledge. Further chanting matures that knowledge into realization, which in time reveals the devotee’s original position in one of the five relationships with Krishna.
(5) To the degree that the heart is relieved of unwanted habits, we become devoted to Krishna; to the degree that devotion is firmly fixed in our heart, we acquire realized knowledge; to the degree that the heart is illumined by both devotion and knowledge, we taste spiritual happiness. In this way the ocean of bliss swells.
(6) chanting frees conditioned souls of the illusion of identifying themselves with their body and mind and establishes them in the cooling reality that they are eternal spiritual entities.
(7) When devotees finally achieve the perfection of chanting, they taste the full nectar of loving devotion to Krishna a nectar that makes the bliss of liberation seem insignificant.

The Spiritual Sound Vibration

When we chant Hare Krishna, we are meant to be in contact with Lord Krishna and His associates. That is the nature of spiritual sound, which is different from the kind of sound that is only heard. Hare Krishna written on a piece of paper is as much a sound as when you speak it. It is sabda-brahma, spiritual sound, and it is not limited to something communicable only from the mouth to the ear. The spiritual energy or potency manifests itself in sabdabrahma. And because it is spiritual, it doesn’t have the restrictions we have here in the material world.

Generally when we speak of sound, it means something we must hear with the ear. And certainly that is also the characteristic of spiritual sound, but it is not limited to that. material sound is something we generally relate to as being a transmission of information. but Hare Krishna is a transcendental sound vibration. If I say some other words, these are material sounds. The difference with the spiritual sound is that it does more than just communicate a message. It contains within it and is empowered with a spiritual potency, and that means it represents the spiritual realm or energies, either in part or whole.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, namnam akari bahudha nija sarva saktin: Krishna’s holy name has all spiritual potency. When you ask, “How are youn” how much potency is in that sentencen but when you say, “Hare Krishna,” then everything that exists within the spiritual world is present, compressed within that sound vibration. And that presence is there whether you see it on paper or hear it in your ear.

The spiritual world also exists in the reality of Srila Prabhupada’s purports. Srila Prabhupada uses the same words we use. He also asked, “How are youn” but because he’s speaking from the spiritual platform, his words are saturated with spiritual potency and therefore have more impact than just a mere question. Aside from posing the question, his words also purify the heart, free one from material contamination, are liberating, and bring about spiritual realizations.

When Srila Prabhupada asked, “How are you?” it was a lot more than just a question. It was not a mere enquiry about well-being. behind it was the intent of someone coming from the spiritual world to liberate us, to bring us closer to Krishna, and that in itself comes across. This is a complex and detailed subject.

Connecting with the Sound

In the Vedanta-sutra it is said that sabda liberates us. When we say Hare Krishna, all the potency of Godhead is there. It is like being in the presence of the Lord, like reading all the Vedas, like seeing the spiritual world, like hearing all of Krishna’s pastimes, like understanding the philosophy if you know how to connect with the sound. That is the challenge: connecting with the sabda. because with any kind of relationship there has to be more than transmission; there has to be reception. If the other person isn’t receiving, then the relationship is not working. If the receiver is no good, you don’t get the message. All our modern media communication is based on information coming from one side and being received on the other. If the receiver is faulty, the whole thing fails. When someone sends a kirtana to your computer, the file appears as a bunch of squiggles if you don’t have the right program to receive it. Similarly, the effects of spiritual sound will be impeded if we’re not tuned in.

The challenge of Krishna consciousness is to be proper recipients of spiritual sound. We have ears, and those are the general instruments, but those are not enough. because sabda-brahma is not just sound. Sabda-brahma works on the level of consciousness. It is not just a sound vibration, though we use that terminology. You have to have the proper consciousness to connect with that sound vibration. Purification of consciousness needs to come about so that there is no obstruction. When we can hear Hare Krishna without offense or interference, then, Srila Prabhupada says, we come directly in contact with God.

Sometimes people say, “Show me God.” This is how to see God: by hearing Hare Krishna. but you have to hear it in a certain way, because your consciousness perceives, not your ear. my tongue is speaking, and the sound is going through the microphone. but the microphone isn’t hearing anything, because it is not conscious. It is transmitting sound, but it is not hearing. Similarly, my ear is an instrument, but I am hearing. The soul is hearing. but if the soul is contaminated, it cannot pick up the message of Hare Krishna. It is interfering.

Purification of consciousness is necessary. How is it donen by chanting Hare Krishna. chanting and hearing purify the consciousness more and more until it is completely pure. Then one can recognize that there’s no difference between Krishna and His name. And then when one says Hare Krishna, the whole spiritual world unfolds, because nija sarva saktin all the potencies of Godhead are present within the sound vibration. nothing is held back. It is a wonderful experience.

We are practicing. We are trying to purify our consciousness to perfectly hear and chant the holy name of the Lord. Then what happens when we can do thatn We continue to chant, because there is nothing more pleasurable. Srila rupa Gosvami expresses the mentality of the perfect chanter: “I do not know how much nectar the two syllables ‘Krishna’ have produced. When the holy name of Krishna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. And when the holy name dances in the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert.” (Vidagdhamadhava 1.15)

That is the experience of the transcendentalist. We are getting a taste in our conditioned state, and for transcendentalists the experience is millions of times greater. And the nature of the experience is that it makes you want to have more and more and more. We must keep these points in mind and appreciate the divine nature of the Hare Krishna mantra. despite the fact that we don’t have to pay for it, or that we can take it anywhere, or that it is not secret, none of these things diminish its sanctity. We should see what a wonderful thing Hare Krishna actually is.


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In Memory of Bhakta Esa Khalief

8438859656?profile=RESIZE_584xOn the Passing of Bhakta Esa Khalief
January 14, 2021
Dear ISKCON Family,
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
We are shocked and saddened by the sudden demise of our beloved friend and resident member, Esa Khalief, on January 14, 2021, at ISKCON Gita Nagari. Many of us are struggling to make sense of Esa’s passing.
Esa spent 14 months at ISKCON Gita Nagari and during his stay here he was always helpful, enthusiastic, and devoted to the process of Krishna Consciousness. He will be deeply missed by all those who knew him. The absence of his vibrant personality will forever leave a void in the hearts of Gita Nagari residents and community members.
Although we know the soul is eternal, death can still be a bitter experience. We are also reminded that many people in these times, including Vaishnavas, struggle with deeply personal issues that others may not realize. As a community, we must accelerate our shared efforts to provide support and understanding to those who are in need.
Please continue to pray for Esa and his family and friends. I thank you for your prayers, and your concern for the wellbeing of all the residents, community members, and friends of Gita Nagari Farm.
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
Dhruva Maharaj Das -Community President
ISKCON Gita Nagari


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8438849070?profile=RESIZE_584xBy Madhava Smullen 

Krishna CARES, which delivers hot vegetarian meals to the vulnerable, the elderly, and others in need in Gainesville, Florida, delivered sixty meals to the Ronald McDonald House this past Christmas Day.

Parents stay for free at the non-profit family and children’s charity, located near Shands Hospital in Gainesville, while their children go through long-term hospital care.

Krishna CARES is run by residents of Gainesville’s Krishna House. The organization has been delivering 30 meals every Thursday to the Ronald McDonald House, and double that on special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Krishna House residents including President Sruti Sagar Das delivered the special Christmas meals consisting of creamy Gauranga potatoes, quinoa, butternut squash soup, and salad with dressing.

The devotee volunteers, who isolate at Krishna House, wore gloves and masks while delivering the hot meals, which were sponsored by Krishna Lunch regulars.

Read more:,7661/

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When describing the length of the yugas or ages, and which yuga we are in and how far along we are in it, there is sometimes confusion about how to calculate them. Some people think we are already in the next Satya-yuga, known as the Golden Age. The problem is when the yugas are figured only according to the years in earth’s time, in which case any calculations will never be accurate. They are described in the Vedic literature according to the celestial years, or years of the devas, not according to the time we experience here on earth. This is where we have to make adjustments. Nonetheless, there are specific references in the Vedic texts which make it clear how to calculate them. For starters, the Mahabharata (Shanti Parva, 231.12-20) explains it in detail:

“The rishis, measuring time, have given particular names to particular portions [of time]. Five and ten winks of the eye make what is called a Kastha. Thirty Kasthas make what is called a Kala. Thirty Kalas, with the tenth part of a Kala, make a Muhurta. Thirty Muhurtas make one day and night. Thirty days and nights form a month, and twelve months form a year. Persons well-read in mathematical science say that a year is made up of two solar motions, meaning the northern and southern. The sun makes the day and night for men. The night is for the sleep of all living creatures, and the day is for work. A month of human beings is equal to a day and night of the departed manes [ancestors who have gone on to the subtle worlds]. That division consists in this: the light half of the month is their day which is for work; and the dark fortnight is their night for sleep. A year (of men) is equal to a day and night to the gods [devas or celestials]. This division consists in this: the half year for which the sun travels from the vernal to the autumnal equinox is the day of the gods, and the half year for which the sun moves from the latter to the former is their night. [Thus, an earth year is but a day for the devas.] Calculating by the days and nights of human beings about which I have told you, I shall speak of the day and night of Brahma and his years also. I shall, in their order, tell you the number of years, that are for different purposes calculated differently, in the Krita, the Treta, the Dvapara, and the Kali Yugas. Four thousand celestial years is the duration of the first or Krita age. The morning of that cycle consists of four hundred years and its evening is of four hundred years. [Note: This says celestial years, or years of the demigods on the higher planets. Such years are much longer than those of planet earth. So 4000 celestial years, with the morning or Sandhya of 400 celestial years and the evening or Sandhyansa, or intermediate period, of another 400 years, equals 4800 celestial years or 1,728,000 human years.]

“Regarding the other cycles, the duration of each gradually decreases by a quarter in respect of both the principal period with the minor portion and the conjoining portion itself. These periods always keep up the never-ending and eternal worlds. They who know Brahma, O child, regard this as Immutable Brahma.” (Mb, Shanti Parva, Chap.231, Text 21-22)

This means that as each age appears, from the Krita, Treta, Dvapara to Kali, each yuga decreases by a quarter of the previous yuga, in addition to the conjoining Sandhya and Sandhyansa periods with each yuga. In this way, it is roughly calculated that a whole cycle of the four yugas, namely Krita, Treta, Dvapara and Kali-yuga together, total about 12,000 celestial years in length.

The Mahabharata (Shanti Parva, 231.29-32) continues: “The learned say that these 12,000 celestial years form what is called a cycle. A thousand such cycles form a single day of Brahma. The same is the duration of Brahma’s night. With the beginning of Brahma’s day the universal entities come into being. During the period of universal dissolution the Creator sleeps in Yoga-meditation. When the period of sleep expires, He awakes. What is Brahma’s day covers a thousand such cycles. His night also covers a thousand similar cycles. They who know this are said to know the day and the night. On the expiry of His night, Brahma, waking up, modifies the indestructible intelligence by causing it to be overlaid with ignorance. He then causes Consciousness to spring up, whence it originates Mind which is at one with the Manifest.”

In calculating the duration of the different yugas, there are a few differences between the Puranas. The Brahmanda Purana ( specifically states that Krita or Satya-yuga is 1,440,000 human years in length, Treta-yuga is 1,080,000 years, Dvapara-yuga is 720,000 years, and Kali-yuga is 360,000 years in length. The Linga Purana (4.24-35) also agrees with this except for Treta-yuga, which it says is 1,800,000 years in length.

However, when explaining the various measurements of time, the Vishnu Purana (Book One, Chapter Three) and the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.11.19), along with the Bhagavad-gita (8.17) and the Vayu Purana (Chapter 57) and others, such as the Mahabharata as quoted above, all agree on the measurements of the durations of the yugas, as explained below.

In the explanations of the measurements of time found therein, one cycle of the four yugas together is 12,000 years of the demigods, called divine years. Each of these years is composed of 360 days, and each of their days is equal to one human year. So Krita-yuga is 4000 divine years in length, Treta-yuga is 3000 divine years in length, Dvapara-yuga is 2000 divine years in length, and Kali-yuga is 1000 divine years long, with the addition of the conjoining portions of the Sandhya and Sandhyansa.

In this way, each yuga is preceded by a period called a Sandhya, which is as many hundred years in length as there are thousands of years in that particular yuga. Each yuga is also followed by a period of time known as a Sandhyansa, which is also as many hundreds of years in length as there are thousands of years in the yuga. In between these periods of time is the actual yuga. Therefore, we have:

Krita-yuga = 4000 divine years, Sandhya = 400 divine years, Sandhyansa = 400 divine years. Total = 4800 divine years x 360 days = 1,728,000 human years.

Treta-yuga = 3000 divine years, Sandhya = 300 divine years, Sandhyansa = 300 divine years. Total = 3600 divine years x 360 days = 1,296,000 human years.

Dvapara-yuga = 2000 divine years, Sandhya = 200 divine years, Sandhyansa = 200 divine years. Total = 2400 divine years x 360 days = 864,000 human years.

Kali-yuga = 1000 divine years, Sandhya = 100 divine years, Sandhyansa = 100 divine years. Total = 1200 divine years x 360 days = 432,000 human years.

This equals 4,320,000 human years in one cycle of the four yugas together, and 1000 cycles of these yugas equals 12,000 divine years and 4,320,000,000 human years in a day of Brahma.

It is also explained that Kali-yuga began with the disappearance of Lord Krishna from the planet. This has been calculated to be 3102 B.C.. Since Kali-yuga is described as being 432,000 earth years in length, with 5,000 years and more already passed, then the age of Kali-yuga has approximately 426,000 more years to go. I hope this has clarified what is sometimes a confusing issue.


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8438833894?profile=RESIZE_584xMayapur Institute Bhakti Sastri Courses announces new Online Bhakti Sastri Courses for the year 2021 from 23rd January. Details are as follows:

Batch 1: *Jan 23, from 7 AM IST*

Batch 2: *Feb 27 , from 10 AM IST*

Batch 3: *Mar 20, from 12 Noon IST*

Batch 4: *Apr 24, from 2 PM IST*

Batch 5: *May 29, from 7 PM IST*

Visit** to register


Books: *Bhagawad Gita As It Is, Sri Isopanishad, Nectar of Instruction & Nectar of Devotion*

Language: *English*

Class Duration: *2 Hours per Session*

Class Schedule: *Every Saturday & Sundays (2 Classes per Week)* Total Number of Classes: *70 Sessions* Course Duration: *10 Months*

Location: *Zoom or any other video-conferencing application.*

*About the Course:*

This course comprises an in-depth study of Bhagavad-Gita, Sri Isopanisad, Nectar of Devotion, and Nectar of Instruction. It has been designed for devotees who have been seriously practicing Krsna Consciousness for at least a year and have basic sastric knowledge and understanding.

A Preliminary Self-study guide is available once you have registered to prepare ahead of each lesson.

*Course Requirements:*

– You must chant 16 rounds of Japa daily and follow the four regulative


– You must be recommended by an ISKCON authority who knows you well,

certifying that you have been engaged favorably in the preaching mission of

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu for at least the previous 12 months.

– The Bhakti Sastri course requires the students to read all the 5

books, such as Bhagavad Gita, Nectar of Devotion, Nectar of Instruction,

Ishopanishad, and Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita before commencing the course.

We can accept your registration on your assurance that you will read these

books at least once before coming for the course. This is required because

the course is interactive and conducted as discussions and other group

activities based on the books. So you must read these books to be able to

participate and fully benefit from the course.

– You must be 18 years or above in age.


Please contact us if you should have further questions.

*Phone: +91 94746 65658Email:*


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Jim Poem by Bhaktimarga Swami

I have been in touch with my sister, Rose Ann, who just lost her husband who was struggling with cancer. Jim Burgess was an amiable person. I don’t know where he stood on spirituality but he did live on a plant-based diet. Below is my poem about Jim:


Came a man who hailed from Erieau

Just across the lake from state Ohio

He was just a really nice guy

Not a bone in his body you’d call shy

He had this positive gift of gab

With a personality oh so fab

He was generous and into charity

That could make him somewhat a rarity

He perceived animals as real pets

As loving beings who pose no threats

Known to flaunt the colour green

And lacked the aptitude to be mean

An all-around Canadian chappy

Which can be defined as someone happy

He had this shop with a million books

Rare books on shelves and in nooks

He was good to a lady named Rose Ann

For sure he was truly her only man

He was just that people’s guy

Who found a place beyond the great sky

We’ll remember him, won’t forget him

A special soul goes by the name Jim

            -Bhaktimarga Swami, The Walking Monk ©

Please view our new film, Rolling the Dice:


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8435638684?profile=RESIZE_400xBy Acarya dasa, All-India Padayatra leader

January 6, 2021, marked the start of the All-India Padayatra’s seventh chapter of its grand march around India, including the char dham yatra. Leaving in 1984 from Dwarka padayatra has continued nonstop for thirty-six years, covering all of India and completing its sixth round in Dwarka on New Year’s Day. Having enlightened Dwarkawasis with sankirtan for five days the padayatris then departed on their current tour.

The seventh whole-of-India padayatra inaugural day was a very auspicious occasion and a most memorable day in the life of a padayatri. Early that morning our spiritual master, Lokanatha Maharaja, addressed us online: “I could not come to encourage you but my heart is there in Dwarka with all of you. Today so many ISKCON padayatras are going on, but this All-India Padayatra is the mother of all other padayatras. They are doing a glorious service. This service is extremely tiring yet they have been doing it with so much continuity, this All-India Padayatra. I had carried padayatra from Vrindavan to Mayapur and from there to Puri and at this time it was offered to me. It was an instruction to me: ‘Travel with a bullock cart.’ Now this service is being continued by your cooperation – by the cooperation of these padayatris. Other padayatras are going on but this is the main padayatra, as I call it ‘the mother of all padayatras.’ We had started in 1976 but somehow it did not continue. But it was again started in 1984 from Dwarka, after which it has not stopped yet and has completed six parikramas of India. After every four to five years, it completes one round of whole India. The first round was completed in four years in 1988. There was a grand welcoming of the All-India Padayatra by the Dwarka temple and city authorities. There was a huge welcome at the main gate of Dwarka from where everyone has to pass if they want to go to the Dwarka temple. Dwarkawasis, municipality leaders, presidents, saintly people and the chiefs of temples welcomed us. Like this after every four to five years, we reach Dwarka. So now it reached Dwarka a sixth time and they’re not going to stop. A huge Padayatra Gate was erected and everyone honoured and celebrated the completion of the first round. When we started from Dwarka in 1984 the plan was to stop in Navadwip, but the praise that we got, the people connect that we got, meeting so many people and preaching to them, we could not stop so we continued and haven’t stopped yet. The feelings of padayatris were the same as we read about Mahaprabhu’s yatra in scriptures. We met so many people, they used to gather for darshans of Their Lordships, used to participate in kirtans and accept prasadam. This was an overwhelming response that we received and couldn’t stop so we continued our yatra. And we came back to Dwarka. Since then, we are always coming back to Dwarka after every few years. They have been moving around India and returning to Dwarka and now they will be starting with the seventh parikrama. Thank you.”


With the blessings of Srila Gurudev, on this special day three brahmacaris were offered saffron by Rupa Raghunath Maharaja with the names Dhanya Chaitanya, Haripad Padma, and Mohan Gopal brahmacari. After encouraging words, the inaugural ribbon was then cut by Rupa Raghunath Maharaja in the presence of senior devotees, including Chaitanya Chandra dasa and Murlimohan dasa, as well as devotees from Mahuva and Rajakot. Everyone encouraged us by chanting haribol, haribol. Then we all had a group photo taken. The oxen Jaya and Kaliya, yoked to the cart, were nicely decorated and their feet were washed as these great souls, who are also padayatris, will be carrying Their Lordships on their shoulders. We gave darshan of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar online so that all could get Their Lordships’ mercy. With a rousing sankirtan we then walked towards our historical Padayatra Gate where the Dwarkawasis had arranged a wonderful program, with the city president and officials as chief guest. They inspired the padayatris and thanked them for doing a great service to humanity. All the padayatris were honoured by garlands and ISKCON Dwarkadhish temple president Vaishnava Seva dasa glorified the All-India Padayatra. Coconut was broken for auspiciousness and an arati of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar was performed by chief officer Chaitanya Dodiya, city officer Jyoti Ben, Mahuva Jnana manjari school owner Manish Bhai, Vitthal Bhai, Mahendra Bhai, Lord Dwarkadhish pujari Nandan Bhai, and Vaishnava Seva.

We then started a grand sankirtan as we headed towards the Dwarkadhish temple to be welcomed by Manish Bhai who had got the temple decorated with flowers. Normally no-one is allowed to stay in the temple for more than ten minutes for darshan, but we performed kirtan for one hour as more than fifty-six bhogas were offered to Lord Dwarkadhish. Finally, after the padayatris took blessings from Lord Dwarkadhish, as Srila Gurudev said we would, we turned attention to our journey and I was feeling I am in those days and history was repeating itself. Performing sankirtan we then began the seventh round of Padayatra India.

Sri Dwarkadhish Bhagavan, ki jai.

As we left Dwarka Vaishnava Seva led the kirtan with enthusiasm and padayatra headed in the direction of Khambalia, Jamanagar and Rajkot, taking up our services of book and prasadam distribution once again.

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