ISKCON Derire Tree's Posts (13060)

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Atheists think that a prayer to God is sheer imagination. But for centuries, thousands of sincere practitioners have accumulated definite evidence of the positive results of prayer. The serious doubt regarding prayer is not whether God can hear and respond, but whether the things people pray for are worthwhile. According to St. Teresa of Avila. “More tears are shed in this world from prayers that are answered than from those that go unanswered.” Those who pray, therefore, need more than the conviction that the Supreme can fulfill our desires. Before we approach God with our requests, we ought to become educated as to what to pray for. The pure devotees of the Lord can teach us this ultimate truth.

One form of popular prayer emphasizes the pragmatic results. These “prayers” are actually nontheistic. As advised by psychologists, a person who believes strongly in his prayer can awaken from within his own subconsciousness huge stores of confidence and power and thus achieve his desired goal. Dale Carnegie, in his books on positive thinking, likes to narrate stories of people like the unsuccessful salesman who in desperation resorted to prayer and the next day was able to convince many customers to buy his vacuum cleaners. In such “prayers” the Personality of Godhead is hardly even acknowledged.

Another shortsighted type of prayer comes from those who believe in God but who are interested not so much in Him as in getting a bit of His opulence. Most prayers fall into this category, as the supplicants request health, riches, family happiness, and so on from a God whom they ask to function as a supreme order supplier. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna declares that persons who come to Him asking for material (and therefore temporary) benefits are sukritina, or pious. They are certainly better than those who never approach the Supreme, for although prayers for material benefits are ultimately foolish requests, the sukritinas get into the habit of approaching the Supreme, and thus they may purify themselves for higher communion with God.

An example of a successful sukritina is Dhruva Maharaja, whose prayers are described in the Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam. Dhruva prayed to God in a spirit of revenge against his parents, and he requested the most opulent kingdom that had ever been awarded to a mortal being. After performing severe austerities. Dhruva gained the audience of Lord Vishnu (a form of Lord Krishna. the Supreme Personality of Godhead). But when the Lord asked Dhruva what he wanted, Dhruva said, “Now that I have seen You, my Lord, I am fully satisfied, and I do not want anything else.”

This should be the goal of all prayer to attain loving service of the Supreme Lord, with no other desire. Lord Caitanya prayed, “I do not want to enjoy beautiful women, nor do I want wealth or many followers. All I want is Your causeless devotional service in my life, birth after birth.”

On hearing a prayer of full surrender and devotion to God, we may think, “That is a beautiful sentiment, but it’s only for the rare pure devotee, the saint” Yet we are all eternal, pure souls, part of the Supreme Lord. Because of the influence of illusion, we have lost our original connection with God and are wandering in the material world, suffering repeated miseries and continuing in illusion. The sincere call to God to be reconciled with His will is not just the practice of a saint; it is indeed the need of all fallen living entities.

When we think that we are independent and don’t really need God, and don’t need to pray, then we are in the most dangerous illusion. Sometimes our illusion is smashed by bitter suffering, or the truth may be revealed to us by association with pure devotees. When this happens we may realize that we are actually tiny, helpless creatures striving to survive but doomed to bodily annihilation. When a conditioned soul realizes his dangerous and fallen position, he deeply wishes to reform. Since all of us, to different degrees, are in the category of “fallen,” we all need to pray to Lord Krishna. But we cannot become reconciled with the Lord unless we receive His special mercy. We may pray, therefore, “My dear Lord, although I am unworthy to receive your special mercy to be relieved of false ego, I beg You to please give me the qualities of love and surrender. Please give Your gift of mercy and relieve me of my impurities. Please reconcile my heart to Yours. If You do not give me Your mercy. I shall be lost.”

True prayer is not mechanical recitation but the sincere cry of the contrite heart. When through prayer one receives even the first inclination of his revived association with Krishna, one wants to call on Him constantly and remain in the soothing shelter of His protection. It is for this reason that Krishna conscious spiritual masters recommend that we chant the holy names of God, especially the Hare Krishna mantra, as often as possible. (Kirtaniya sada harih: “One should always chant the name of Lord Krishna.”) The Hare Krishna mantra is itself a prayer invoking good fortune and petitioning the Lord, “O energy of God, O Supreme Lord, please engage me in Your service.”

Prayers of spontaneous pure devotion may take different forms, such as prayers of petition, praise, adoration, and thanksgiving. Krishna is known as Uttamashloka. which means “one who is praised with beautiful prayers.” The Vedic scriptures contain many excellent prayers, which can be recited by devotees seeking union with the Supreme. At the end of one excellent prayer to Lord Krishna, which is offered in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.24.76) by Lord Siva, it is stated, “Although rendering devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and worshiping Him are very difficult, if one vibrates or simply reads this prayer, he will very easily be able to invoke the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” In his commentary to this verse, Srila Prabhupada states. “Any devotee of Lord Krishna can attain all perfection simply by offering prayers to Him.”

One should recite the excellent prayers given in the scriptures, and one should also call upon God with one’s own feelings, thoughts, and words. The child-devotee of Lord Krishna named Prahlada Maharaja realized that the Lord is actually interested only in our devotion. Therefore even if we are unqualified to compose uttamashloka prayers, we can please the Lord if we are sincere. Srila Prabhupada states, “Despite whatever limitations you have, if you express feelingly, ‘My God! My Lord!’ that will be accepted.”

The real purpose of prayer is not to gain material resources or even spiritual salvation for oneself. The power of prayer comes w hen we call to Krishna out of a desire to do His will. Such pure prayers are not means to the end but are themselves loving exchanges between the Lord and His pure devotees. Whether we call on Him from the darkness of our fallen state in the material world, or whether we praise Him in the midst of His liberated associates in the kingdom of God, the pure prayer is the same: “Please engage me in Your service”—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna , Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

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Lifestyle

By Madhava Smullen

A new paperback edition of “Hope This Meets You in Good Health,” a book by ISKCON guru and Prabhupada disciple Prahladananda Swami, is now available on Amazon.com and on Barnes & Noble’s website in English. The book has also been translated into Spanish, Polish and Russian.

The title “Hope This Meets You in Good Health” is derived both from Srila Prabhupada’s famous sign-off on his letters, and from a magazine of the same name which Prahladananda Swami published for two decades as the ISKCON Minister for Health and Welfare.

“Part of the magazine contained instructions Srila Prabhupada gave to devotees about taking care of their health,” says Prahladananda Swami now. “I thought that compiling and systematizing the teachings would give devotees further information about how taking care of one’s body and mind should be done in a movement aimed at spiritual realization.”

The book begins with an introduction by Dr. Vasant Lad, a world-renowned Ayurvedic physician who has been a friend of devotees for many years, and regularly teaches seminars at Bhaktivedanta Manor in England.

The first part features several chapters derived from Srila Prabhupada’s books, lectures and letters – as well as recollections from disciples – about health.

“Srila Prabhupada grew up in a culture where people had information about health handed down to them through generations of ancestors,” Prahladananda Swami says, explaining the ISKCON Founder-Acharya’s qualifications. “He also was a pharmacist and had many years of experience with different kinds of remedies.”

Chapter One, “General Principles for Health,” covers how a devotee in a material body should take care of his body while advancing in spiritual life.

Chapter Two, “Health and Sickness in Spiritual Life,” posits that advancement in spiritual life is the best medicine to cure material and spiritual diseases. 

Chapter Three, “Maintaining Health,” talks about maintaing health through proper diet, exercise, sleep, and cleanliness.

And Chapter Four, “Treating Disease,” includes how to deal with disease, as well as recommended remedies for some diseases, such as the following:

“I understand that Hayagriva had some backache,” Srila Prabhupada wrote to Shyama Dasi on February 21st, 1969. “So for him you take one part of a crushed to a powder red pepper and add to it five parts of rubbing alcohol. Keep this for 24 hours, then strain and add one part camphor. When it is mixed, just apply it on the painful part of the back 3 times daily.”

On December 8th, 1971, Prabhupada wrote to Upendra, “For asthma, no food should be taken at night, and in general avoid overloading the stomach. Chanting Hare Krishna and drinking only charanamrita water is the best remedy for any bodily disease. But if something else required, chew a little thyme after meals. Potassium iodine is a temporary medicine for asthma.” 

The book also quotes some of Prabhupada disciples, who recall his remedies. “In 1976 in Toronto, Pallika was cooking for Srila Prabhupada, who had a toothache and had lost his appetite,” writes B.B. Govinda Swami. “Srila Prabhupada instructed Pallika one evening to cook kachoris, a fried savory made with urad dal (which is high in protein) in the same way Bali Mardan had made for him one day in the late 1960s. This meant mashed urad dal balls rolled in salt, hing, chili powder, and powdered saunf (anise seed/fennel). This mixture is then fried in ghee. The ghee was to stimulate taste. All the ingredients used were to help his digestion.” 

The first part of “Hope This Meets You in Good Health” also includes several inspirational stories from the scriptures about health in ancient times. In one from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Indra, the King of heaven, cures his elephant Airavata’s injuries, sustained in a fight with the demon Vritrasura, with his nectar-producing hand. In another from the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu embraces Vasudeva, a devotee suffering from leprosy, and the disease vanishes. 

The second part of the book contains collected articles about Ayurveda by Prahladananda Swami himself, who studied the ancient science of health for decades, attending seminars by many prominent Ayurvedic doctors and sitting in with some while they attended to patients.

“The articles especially discuss how following the principles of Ayurveda and spiritual discipline can help assist us in achieving maximum health,” Prahladananda Swami says. 

The overall message of the book, he adds, is that “Regulated life and a good sadhana can help us have a peaceful mind which can easily think of Lord Krishna and gradually feel His presence at every step of our lives.  Such a disciplined and inspired life will gradually free us from material desires which often lead us into a lifestyle which is not conducive to good health.” 

Maharaja hopes the book will give devotees knowledge of both how physical and mental health can assist us in our spiritual journey, and how our spiritual journey can assist us in our physical and mental health. 

He gives the last word to Srila Prabhupada, who was always concerned that his disciples take care of their health and not neglect it.

“Be careful about your health first,” Prabhupada wrote in a letter to Rayarama dated December 21st, 1967. “This information is not only for you but for all my noble sons. I am an old man. I may live or die it does not matter. But you must live for a long time to push on this Krishna consciousness movement.”

Purchase “Hope This Meets You in Good Health” online here: https://www.amazon.com/Hope-This-Meets-Good-Health/dp/1723167584/

Or order the book in different languages from the following devotees:

In Europe, Bhakti Devi: bhaktidevi.pas@gmail.com (includes English, Polish, Spanish, Croatian/Serbian etc)

In America, Ananta devi dasi: <angelaroix@hotmail.com>

In South America, Mahamanjari devi dasi: <mahamanjaridd@yahoo.es>

And in Russia/Ukraine, Agnihotra dasa: <avpischita@gmail.com>

Source: https://iskconnews.org/new-book-shares-srila-prabhupadas-instructions-on-health,7184/

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Meeting Clare by Bhaktimarga Swami

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 The day was irresistible at ten degrees Celsius, with the sun beckoning.  Spontaneously, I decided to pick up the mrdunga drum, get a ride, and do some chanting in Kensington during that fabulous window of opportunity.  It may be the only day left for such freedom, before Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind, sets in. 

I began to chant, with the sun on my back and my two arms in sufficient motion to get the rest of me warm.  The chanting, I kept low key.  I believed it would do its own magic.  And there I was, when Clare, a millennial, came over.  She’s from a small town in southern Ontario, and is a beautiful young woman, drawn to what I was doing. 
 
"Please sit near by.  This is a mrdunga and it has roots in India." 
 
She was interested, but also started telling me her sad story.  She was dating a young woman who was a cocaine addict and that's how she, Clare, got involved.  Alcohol followed.  As we talked, she pulled out a bottle she was carrying.

"White wine.  Would you like some?"

"No, I'm a monk."

She laughed and said, "I wasn't sure if you were for real or not."
 
"I'm the real thing."  I expressed to her that she might reach a greater potential given her decent personality and fine looks etc.  She admitted taking the A.A. twelve step program and leaving cocaine behind for some weeks.  I gave her the maha-mantra when she asked if it was some sort of prayer. 
 
"Yes it is; please try." 

Then a junkie came along and distracted her.  She left.  I hope she uses the mantra and improves.
 
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Voluntary restraint and the acceptance of discipline form essential parts of Vaishnava initiation.

Did you hear the story of the man who rode up to the gates of our Mayapur, West Bengal, temple to sell ice cream? He had one of those tricycles you see a lot in India—the ones with a refrigerated box on the back. Nothing sells quite like ice cream on a hot day. Only he wasn’t selling ice cream at all.

He opened the lid of the icebox, pulled out a hand bell and a bunch of papers, then began ringing the bell and calling out, “Diksha! Diksha!” [“Initiation! Initiation!”] He was selling diksha and, as it happens, was selling it very cheaply: “Diksha doh rupya!” or: “ Diksha, two rupees!” Although those trained in the Hare Krishna movement would not be interested in such “initiation,” some visitors to the temple did gather around, examined the papers, and handed their money over.

Such dikshas are commonplace in parts of India. For a fee, a certificate of initiation is given, like a title deed bestowing a certain spiritual status and religious-community identity rights. A person receives a blessing and becomes an adhikari, “one who has been awarded the right.” For a relatively modest investment of cash, you too can be a more qualified person than you were yesterday. What’s slightly more important is that you can tell others about your improved social status too. Your Diksha Certificate, signed in ink by the guru, can also get you in to certain places and is very handy when you want to go to particular parties or festivals.
England’s Landless Aristocracy

Over here in England, we have a long history of mankind’s basic urge to own such deeds of entitlement. One of the formative episodes in the history of our nation was the Norman Conquest. Although it’s hard for us to talk about any time when we’ve been beaten by the French, every English schoolchild knows the date of A.D. 1066, when the northern French invaded Britain, defeated King Harold in the Battle of Hastings, and never really went home.

The victorious William the Conqueror commissioned the Domesday Book, a record of every village and field in the land. He then proceeded to apportion those villages and huge tracts of land to all his friends, bestowing upon them ranks and titles according to their respective landholdings. Thus the English aristocracy was born, with all its lords, earls, dukes, barons, and viscounts. Even today, nearly a millennium later, a mere two hundred English families still own half of the land in Britain.

Yet over the centuries, many of the smaller aristocrats sold off their lands, holding on to only their hereditary title. Still later, even the titles were sold, bestowing upon the purchaser the distinction of a powerful traditional name, but with no factual wealth or power.

Thus today, for a mere £2500, you can become known officially as Baron Such-and-Such, baron of three villages—but without owning the villages. You’ll receive an attractive, elaborately handwritten declaration scribed on vellum, sometimes dating back 300–400 years. You’ll have the legal right, under British law, to have others refer to you by your new name and to sign yourself as such on all official documents.

Yet as for the land ownership that the title originally conferred on its owner, you’ll see none of that. No serfs will doff their caps as you ride your white horse into “your” village. You won’t get any tithes of the harvest either. Indeed, you won’t have any power over anybody or anything, except the power to look up from your sofa and gaze at your nicely framed certificate proclaiming you a member of the English aristocracy.
Diksha for Sale

Why am I giving you this English history lesson? Because just as powerless peerages are being sold on the Internet, conferring nothing on their owner but a new name and smug satisfaction, so diksha is now being sold for a few pounds—or sometimes nothing at all—conferring only the notion of spiritual or religious attainment. The tricycles have come West.

Diksha is the process of being enlightened with transcendental knowledge and committing oneself to the spiritual path under the guidance of an authentic teacher. It is not something that can be purchased out of cold-box on the back of a tricycle. Its real price is commitment, demonstrated not only by an intellectual adjustment to one’s belief system, but by some form of voluntary restraint and the acceptance of discipline as essential parts of the effort required for inner growth. As in all areas of life: no pain, no gain. Such personal austerity, or tapa, is said to be the factual spending power of spiritually progressive people. Tapa is “the wealth of the brahmanas.”

When Brahma, the original created being within the universe, was perplexed as to his origin and true identity, he tried by his own efforts to discover the truth. It was only after he heard the divine syllables ta-pa echoing from beyond the universe that he was able to comprehend that he should engage in meditation.

In classical Vaishnavism, the guru does not award diksha unless the prospective disciple has demonstrated some personal tapa. Rising early, bathing, eating frugally from a diet regulated by vegetables, fruit, and grains, chanting the Lord’s holy names according to a numerical vow (in ISKCON that is sixteen times around 108 beads), engaging in menial service for the guru, abandoning sinful acts (such as intoxication, illicit sex, gambling, and eating of meat, fish, or eggs), and placing oneself at the beck and call of the spiritual master—all these are prerequisites for diksha.

Without tapa, actual diksha cannot take place. Even if the external formularies are conducted and titles awarded, no substantial inner transformation actually happens.

The book Pancha Samskara, written in 1885 by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, explains the five essential components of Vaishnava initiation and answers the question why, after such initiation, some Vaishnavas are seen not to make progress:

The answer is that Vaishnava samskara is the best, but at the present time it is practiced in name only. Both the spiritual teacher and the student block their own spiritual advancement by being content with only the external aspects of samskara. Today, the deeper significance of samskara is not understood. When the student submits himself to the teacher, the teacher gives pancha-samskara and then abandons him. What good can come from pancha-samskara of this type? Externally the student looks good, but internally there is nothing.

The tongue utters the name of Hari … but the student is addicted to endless sinful practices. At night, he takes intoxicants and practices debauchery! O good teacher, how have you benefited your student? What is the difference in him before and after diksha? In fact, he is worse. He is a hypocrite. There is no remorse: “I am sinful. It is my fault. How can my sin be given up?” These days no one thinks like this when taking shelter of a spiritual teacher. Sinful activities are performed without the slightest concern. What misfortune!

Why is this? Because the wrong kind of relationship exists between teacher and student. The shastras [scriptures] give rules to guide this relationship, but they are not followed. The student who is burning in the fire of material life, who analyses his predicament and concludes, “My relationship with material nature is not permanent; therefore I must take shelter of a spiritual teacher to obtain the feet of God,” has reached the stage of faith and is qualified to take shelter of a spiritual teacher. The teacher should study the student for one year and observe his atonement. This is called tapa—the faithful soul’s first samskara.

The word tapa is translated as “repentance, atonement, and the permanent impression of higher sentiment on the soul.” Tapa applies not only to the body, but also to the mind and the soul. If it is only physical, in the form of branding or stamping [the custom of marking the upper body with the symbols of Vishnu], then tapa has not actually taken place and religious practice becomes hypocritical. At the present time this kind of hypocrisy has weakened Vaishnava culture. Without tapa, or inner repentance, the soul cannot live as a Vaishnava. Without tapa the whole process becomes useless. Without tapa the heart remains impure. Therefore, good friends, seek atonement without delay!

Such a seemingly alarmist judgment on the bad practices of Vaishnava diksha of the 1880s was intended to be a strong criticism of the gurus of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s day. Yet it also stands as a permanent caution to any future would-be disciple collectors. Why such stern warnings from an otherwise compassionate and gentle Vaishnava? Because the tendency of many would-be prophets, philosophers, and messiahs—at least those directly desiring to be socially known as such—is to gather as many devoted followers as possible. And because the tendency of many of those would-be disciples is to achieve that status with as little pain and commitment as possible.

These tendencies create the strong possibility that insincere gurus and uncommitted followers will find each other, a situation that has repeated itself down through the centuries. And the result is always that true and authentic diksha becomes obscured by popular misconceptions.
Westward Migration

For many centuries both the genuine Vedic system of diksha and its pale shadow were restricted to India. Since the 1950s, however, swamis, yogis, and gurus have been coming to the Western countries and offering various kinds of diksha. Finding their Western followers somewhat averse to tapa, they have trimmed their requirements to appeal to their audience.

For many years the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, devotees of Krishna in the line of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, were free from this practice. Represented by ISKCON through the personal vigilance of its founder-acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Western Vaishnavas were held to the standard of tapa as prescribed in scripture. In recent years, however, there has been a marked increase in the level of diksha, with diminishing levels of requirements. As Gaudiya Vaishnava preachers attempt to emulate Srila Prabhupada and his successes, they have begun to give “initiations” while leaving aside the traditional requirements of personal tapa, mutual scrutiny of guru-disciple, and the normal levels of affectionate guardianship offered by the guru to the disciple after diksha.

The result is a large increase in the number of those now holding spiritual names with the suffix Dasa and Dasi. Unfortunately, like those barons and dukes with their framed certificates, those who have bought their tapa-less diksha may find that all that has changed is their name.

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=16593

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The Pizza Effect by Satyaraja Dasa

The Pizza Effect

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By Satyaraja Dasa (Steven J. Rosen)

It’s become a tradition at the Brooklyn Hare Krishna temple that my friends and I regularly engage in a particular game of words. It goes like this: Since Krishna consciousness is all encompassing, having relation to all material and spiritual phenomena, we choose a word at random and see how it connects to our philosophy. For example, at a recent Sunday feast, one of my friends said, “ice,” noticing that the lemonade in each of our cups contained large ice cubes. As quickly as the word emanated from his lips – we were off, thinking how “ice” might possibly relate to Krishna consciousness.

“Ice,” one devotee offered, “is an illusory state. Water is naturally liquid, and only when placed in certain below-temperature conditions will it turn to ice.” We all laughed, knowing where this was going. “What he means,” another devotee added, “is that water in the form of ice is temporary. As soon as conditions even out, it resumes its liquidity.” I brought it home: “Similarly, the living being in the material world is in an unnatural condition. And when placed in a Krishna conscious environment – seeing the Deity, chanting, studying scriptures, taking prasadam [vegetarian food offered to Krishna] – a person resumes awareness of his or her original nature as a pure spirit soul. Our spiritual amnesia is gone and we awaken to our true Krishna consciousness.”

The main course arrived: pizza. The devotees were thrilled, since this is a much loved treat in these parts – but only when offered to Krishna, natch! “Hey,” one devotee quipped, “What about pizza? How does this relate to Krishna consciousness?” Luckily, I had been writing about just such a subject in a recent project for a major academic press. I am writing a high school reference book on Hinduism, and in my research I came upon an interesting reference to pizza. “Surely, you’ve heard about ‘The Pizza Effect’” The devotees hadn’t, and I found myself explaining it to them.

Originally, pizza was looked down upon in Italy as the poor man’s food: it was just simple unleavened bread with a little tomato sauce for taste. Then, accompanying the early emigrants, it made its way to America, where it was garnished with cheese, olives, peppers, various meats, and so on, totally transforming the original into a kind of delicacy. Years later, when it made its triumphant return to the land of its origin, it became a highly respected dish on the menu of even the most eminent restaurants. The new product was eagerly accepted and even given pride of place in Italian cuisine.

Similarly, when Hinduism was first conceived in the West as a monolithic religious tradition, around the turn of the twentieth century, the tradition that returned to India caught everyone’s attention, and Hinduism as a single religion caught on. Originally, in India, of course, no separate religion called Hinduism ever existed. Rather, there are numerous religious traditions, from Vaishnavism, which is the eternal function of the soul – the religion of transcendental principles brought West by Srila Prabhupada – to Shaivism, Shaktism, and a host of other sectarian religions. When invading British Imperialists lumped all these religions together for convenience, many indigenous “Hindus” embraced the idea as if it were something that existed there all along.

Lack of confidence in one’s own culture, combined with the blind acceptance of all things new and foreign, often results in a phenomenon that social scientists call the “Pizza Effect,” a phrase that was coined in as late as 1970 by an anthropologist named Agehananda Bharati.

At this point, our ice melting and other food preps appearing one by one, a particularly witty friend claimed that the pizza effect analogy was a bit cheesy. We all got a good chuckle out of that one. “What does it really have to do with Srila Prabhupada and our mission of Krishna consciousness?” he asked. “After all, we are not Hindus in the usual sense of the word. As you said, we adhere to Sanatana Dharma, the innate function of the soul – this originated in the Vedic texts. Actually, it originated in the spiritual world, and by the Lord’s mercy, it comes to us through the Vedic literature and the great souls who form a lineage throughout the annals of recorded history. No Pizza Effect here.”

My friend was only partially correct. Actually, Srila Prabhupada was trying to cast a Pizza Effect of his own. He had hoped that by successfully establishing Krishna consciousness in the western countries – a region whose activities are emulated in India even to this day – he might reinvigorate the Vaishnava tradition in his own country. I ran to get a copy of Srila Prabhupada’s biography, written by his early disciple, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, to clarify my point:

Prabhupada’s idea was that when Indians saw young Western people adopting the principles of Krsna Consciousness, the faith of the Indians in their own culture would increase. Prabhupada explained to his disciples how formerly, during the time of Maharaja Yudhisthira*, India had been a Krishna conscious state. For the last thousand years, however, India had been under foreign subjugation, first under the Moguls and then under the British. As a result, the intelligentsia and, to a lesser degree, the masses of India had lost respect for their own culture. They were now pursuing the materialistic goals of the West, and they saw this as more productive and more practical than religion, which was only sentimental. . . . Westerners living as renounced Vaisnavas could, as Prabhupada was well aware, turn the heads and hearts of the Indians and help them regain faith in their own lost culture.

Prabhupada’s “Pizza effect” strategy has proven anything but half-baked. The initial success of Krishna consciousness in the West has now been surpassed by its ever-widening acceptance in India, the land of its birth. The Vrindavan and Mayapura temples – central to the Krishna conscious tradition — continue to flourish, and projects in places as diverse as Mumbai and Chennai are increasing day-by-day. The major temple complex in New Delhi is magnificent in numerous ways and efforts in as far north as the Himalayas and in as far south as Ramesvaram show that the entire subcontinent is engulfed in Prabhupada’s mercy.

As for those of us in the Brooklyn temple, our pizza was now getting cold, but our Krishna conscious word game is always a good way to break the ice.

* Yudhisthira was a great Vaisnava monarch in ancient times, renowned for his honesty and virtue.

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=260

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From Morality to Spirituality

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Until people gain the spiritual inspiration that underlies truly good behavior, attempts to legislate morality will inevitably fail.

Daily news reports of things like corruption, nepotism, favoritism, and infidelity have us fed up. Politicians say, “Education in ethics and values is the solution. ” But don’t most people already know right from wrong? I think so. They just feel they’ll fare better in life without following moral codes. And exhortation by moralists or legislation by politicians doesn’t inspire them to think differently.

Follow Rules for What?

Living by moral principles is like following traffic laws for smooth and safe travel. The purpose of travel, however, is not to follow the laws but to reach the destination. If a traveler feels that the traffic laws delay him or obstruct his reaching the destination, he may break them if he thinks he can get away with it.

Like traffic laws, moral principles promote order, specifically orderly social interactions. But modern education doesn’t teach us about the goal of social transactions or of life itself. Consequently people may stay moral out of deference to culture or tradition but give up morality when circumstances threaten or tempt them. Worse still, the incessantly glorified goals of modern consumer society—fame, wealth, luxuries, power, pleasure, prestige—encourage and even necessitate immoral behavior. The Bhagavad-gita (16.8–15) explains that a materialistic worldview leads to insatiable lust and greed, which impel corrupt actions. When people are surrounded and bombarded by materialistic allurements, they may feel that by being moral they stand to lose a lot and gain nothing tangible. Moreover, our godless education gives us no knowledge about any higher-order natural laws of cosmic accountability. And the fallibility of our penal systems is all too well known. The result? Morality appears entirely dispensable, especially for the shrewd or powerful. In such an environment, how can we expect mere platitudes to inspire people to be moral?

Love: The Basis of Morality

“Morality means lack of opportunity.” This saying catches the tottering utilitarian approach to morality. The Vedic texts of ancient India assert that morality without spirituality is baseless and therefore short-lived. If we seriously want morality in society, we need to introduce systematic spiritual education centered on a positive goal of life. The Vedic texts inform us of a nonsectarian universal spiritual goal of life: to develop pure love for God. We are all spiritual beings and are meant to rejoice in our eternal loving relationship with the supreme all-attractive spiritual being, God. Being intrinsically spiritual, we find real happiness not in material acquisition but in spiritual awakening our innate love for God. The more we love God, the happier we become.

Love for God results in love for all living beings as our brothers and sisters in the one universal family of God. When we love all living beings, we will no longer desire to exploit or manipulate others for our selfish interests. Instead, our love for God will inspire us to love and serve each other. This will create a culture of warmth and trust, which engenders moral behavior. This contrasts sharply with the modern culture of alienation and suspicion, which fosters immorality.

Genuine spiritual practices, even in their preliminary stages, trigger our innate value system. We intuitively realize that God is our greatest well-wisher. Subsequently we voluntarily and lovingly choose to lead a morally and spiritually principled life, as ordained by God, knowing it to be in our ultimate interest. And as we find inner happiness by loving God, we become freed from selfish, lusty, greedy, and egoistic drives. No longer do we feel we are missing anything because of our morality. Morality ceases to be the “difficult but right” choice. Rather it becomes the easy and natural course of action for our spiritual growth.

Not Utopia, But Reality

Some may feel, “All this sounds good, but it’s unscientific and utopian.” In other words, we live in an age where only the scientific, practical worldview is considered reasonable and acceptable. But is the Vedic worldview really unreasonable or impractical?

We need to remind ourselves that science has never proven the non-existence of God or the soul. Rather the reductionistic approach chosen by most scientists for studying the universe just presumes the non-existence of any spiritual reality. Strikingly enough, even within this reductionistic framework some scientists conclude that the evidence strongly suggests a super-intelligent designer of the cosmos (God) and a non-material source of consciousness within the body (soul).

Love of God will appear utopian only as long as we do not know the coherent philosophy and the clear-cut path to its attainment. Through genuine spiritual practices like prayer, meditation, and chanting the names of God, anyone can experience spiritual enrichment. Once we taste immortal love, we realize that it is the defining and unifying goal of life.

Higher Morality

Someone familiar with episodes in the lives of Krishna and his devotees might object: “But Krishna Himself sometimes acts immorally. And so do his devotees. How can worshiping an immoral God help us become moral?”

To understand this, we need to first consider the ultimate purpose of all morality. We are lost in the darkness of ignorance in the material world, not knowing what to do and what to avoid. Like a torch, moral codes light the way for us. They protect us from being waylaid by selfish desires and keep us on the way toward our ultimate objective—achieving love for Krishna and returning to him. But Krishna is the source of all morality, just as the sun is the source of all light. Because he is fully satisfied in himself, he acts only out of selfless love for us, either to reciprocate with our love or to help us rectify our errant ways. He does not need moral codes because he has not the slightest trace of selfish desires. It is we who need moral codes because we are filled with selfish desires. But if we become proud of our morality and try to examine Krishna with our moral standards, that’s like searching for the sun with a torch. It’s foolish and futile.

When the sun rises by its own accord, its effulgence reveals its full glory. Similarly when Krishna decides to reveal himself by his own sweet will, we can understand his pure morality and glory. Until then it is best for us to scrupulously follow moral codes to please him so that he may eventually reveal himself. And we should be careful not to become proud of our righteousness.

If we accept Krishna’s position as the Supreme Lord, we can gain some understanding about how all his acts are moral. For example, Krishna steals butter from the houses of the cowherd women of Vrindavana. But how can he be considered a thief when he creates and owns everything? He takes the role of a child to reciprocate the maternal affection of his devotees. His stealing, a naughty childhood prank, enhances the sweetness of their loving exchanges. How can that be compared to our stealing, which leads to pain and punishment?

Similarly Krishna takes the role of a handsome youth to reciprocate with the devotees who desire a conjugal relationship with him. His love for the gopis (cowherd maidens) is based not on the beauty of their bodies but on the devotion of their hearts. Some people allege that Krishna’s pastimes with the gopis are like the lusty dealings of ordinary boys and girls. But then why would highly renounced saints who give up the sexual love of this world, seeing it as disdainful and distasteful, worship the pastimes of Krishna with the gopis? Even today thousands of people all over the world are becoming free from the control of lusty desires by chanting Krishna’s names and worshiping him. If Krishna himself were controlled by lust, how could he free his devotees from lust?

In the battle with the Kauravas, Krishna urges the Pandavas to act immorally. But that is like an authority’s urging policemen to break the speed limit to catch thieves who are speeding away. The policemen are (apparently) breaking the law to serve the purpose of the law. Similarly the Pandavas break moral codes to serve a higher purpose that Krishna wants to see fulfilled: to establish the rule of morality by removing the immoral Kauravas from power.

In exceptional circumstances, Krishna’s devotees may act seemingly immorally to do his will, which is meant for the ultimate good of all living beings. But generally devotees follow moral codes as an expression of their devotion to Krishna. In fact, without devotion, we will not have the inner strength to sustain lifelong adherence to moral principles.

We need to exercise caution in understanding Krishna’s actions, which are above morality. Otherwise, we may misunderstand him and reject his love, condemning ourselves to staying below morality and suffering the karmic reactions for our misdeeds.

If we want lasting morality, empty exhortation and ineffectual legislation won’t do. As long as people are taught to pursue material goals, they will feel morality to be impractical or even undesirable. Only when they know and pursue love for God as the goal of life will morality become desirable and practical for them. Therefore at a social level we need to introduce genuine spiritual education and practices leading to love for God and inner fulfillment. And at an individual level, recognizing the spiritual basis of morality is highly empowering. It opens for us a course of action far superior to apathy, tacit approval, helpless lamentation, or indignant self-righteousness. In a cancerous tissue, one healthy cell can activate the healing process. Similarly when the cancer of immorality afflicts modern society, each one of us can, by leading a life of spiritual and moral integrity, activate the process of social recovery.

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=16679

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By Pancharatna das

It’s been just over a year since we launched the completed Chantnow.com on Radhastami, 17th September 2018 and the results have been very encouraging.

We began with an experimental Facebook advertising campaign that resulted in a surge of 275 people enrolling in our 7 day Chanting workshop at an advertising cost of just about $1 each. We knew we could generate student enrollments, but could we keep them progressing?

To focus on student services, we then turned to fine-tuning our systems of automated cultivation using emails based on our users participation. Users who start the workshop but don’t complete automatically get a series of encouraging emails, while those who complete get emails urging them to go forward with the full Mantra Meditation course.

We also launched Facebook groups for our students where we could interact more directly. And, we are keeping our Facebook and Instagram pages active with frequent content designed to nurture and grow our community of students.

Gradually we are getting results with more than 150 students completing the workshop and 40 going on to take the full Mantra Meditation course that goes deeper into the practice and principles of bhakti-yoga.

We’ve also been using printed bookmarks, supplied to devotees in the USA and elsewhere to hand out, and we are seeing direct traffic to our site from this effort. You can download the graphics for the bookmark from Chantnow.com/promotions and use it with your own outreach efforts. There is a graphic for a retractable display there too, like the one used in the photo here.

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And, people are coming from a number of devotee sites that have added links to Chantnow.com, like KrishnaWisdom.com in the UK and Krishnavillage-retreat.com in Australia.

Through these efforts and people just searching online we have seen a steady stream of new people enrolling in the chanting workshop.

Then, a few months ago, we obtained a grant from Google Adwords for advertising through their platform and the enrollments have more than doubled as you can see from this chart.

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We are now up to over 700 students

All of this has been achieved with a small team of part-time volunteers and staff and we see great potential for growth with more help. Volunteers are needed in many areas

First we’re looking for content creators who can help create more engaging content for our students. We especially need bloggers willing to create articles exclusively for our platform.

Next, we need more online guides for our students. If you have good internet access and English language skills and would like to help guide students, please consider becoming one of our online mentors.

Copy writers, graphic designers and web developers are needed to help create more effective landing pages and other content that will stimulate more students to sign up.

Maybe you’re interested in creating new courses. There’s lots of scope for adding more to our learning management platform.

Finally, please just adopt ChantNow.com as your own and send interested people to the site. If you write us we’ll be happy to help you personally follow-up with contacts in your area.

ChantNow.com is an outreach effort of ISKCON Online and has demonstrated the immense potential to cover the world with the maha-mantra through the power of the internet. Look at this map. We’ve reached 74 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe! And that, while we have focused only on major English speaking countries.

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We hope you will join us in realizing this potential. Not only does Chantnow.com reach people outside of our regular contacts, but it is a great way to complement outreach efforts like book distribution. So with the Srila Prabhupada Marathon coming up we hope you will make Chantnow.com bookmarks part of your strategy.

Please join our team at Chantnow.com/volunteer or write to me at Pancharatna@chantnow.com to learn more.

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=80658

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We Do Not Tell Lies Do We?

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By Kesava Krsna dasa

Have we ever embellished a telling of a lie with an assortment of trivial details to disguise the actual truth? Have we ever pretended to be someone we never were, by exuding a persona larger than ourselves? Are there any angels among us who can boldly claim to have never fibbed; ever – even to get out of an awkward situation?

The truth is out; there are no foolproof ways of telling if someone is lying or not. Shifty eyes, truth drugs and lie detectors can provide clues but not guarantee the truth, and so are not admissible in a court of law. The certainty is, according to those in the know – the human analyzers – everybody fibs. Mark Twain had this to say: “Everybody lies….every day, every hour, awake, asleep, in his dreams, in his joy, in his mourning. If he keeps his tongue still his hands, his feet, his attitude will convey deception.”

The reason why people are habitual liars is because it works for them. Within the increasingly deterministic society where selfishness reigns and falsities such as the big bang, evolution and atheism condition the human mind to live accordingly, and deepen their false identity with the body, untruths become truth. BG 16.7 says that no truth is found in the demoniac.

The ways which people deceive vary from disguising embarrassing bodily appearances and odors with wigs, make up, dyed hair, perfumery and so on, which are forms of pretense, to calculated bigotry, biased ideology and state propaganda. Steering their way through the concrete iron maze of Kali-yuga requires the occasional untruth to survive and progress.

Many people however are not impressed with misleading ways and opt for occupations more suited to their orientation becoming ‘detestable’ traffic wardens, police men/women, officials, and referees, do good religionists, moralists and the rest. These are generally the unpopular types people love to hate. Researchers have found that honest people progress less than their ‘lying braggart’ counterparts who tend to get the girls they want, the jobs, the positions, and climb up the ladder of success. Self-deception they say is what causes people to be dishonest.

Self-deception occurs when we face problems in life but wish them away or deny them, which results in extending the denial to others in the form of untruthfulness. The Vedic equivalent would be – ahankara – false ego and the artificial behavior attributed to it. Yet the whole world operates under the sway of falsehood and truth becomes a distorted casualty.

Such distortion would render truthful messages the opposite way intended. For instance, if I were to translate some Bhagavad-Gita verses in favor of the demoniac mentality, using the principle of opposites, a humorous but equally true picture would emerge. Here are some verses.

BG. 2.59: The all in all body may never be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the lust for sense objects abates. But, forcing such engagements by experiencing a lower taste, he is fixed in dullness.

BG 4.2: This deception was thus received through the chain of misguided no-hopers, and the fibbing politicians misunderstood it that way. But in time the governments were broken, and therefore whatever science there was, was lost.

BG 4.34: Just try to learn falsity by approaching a befooled miscreant. Inquire from him brazenly and force it out of him. The illusioned scholars can impart stupidity unto you because they haven’t a clue.

BG 4.35: Having obtained real stupidity from an ill-advised fool, you will always fall again into such illusion, for by this nonsense you will see that all living beings are but part of this morbid world, or, in other words that they are just here.

BG 4.38: In this world, there is nothing so ridiculous and dirty as irrational knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature brick of all useless labor. And one who has become accomplished in the practice of lying and cheating never enjoys this stupidity within himself for any length of time.

BG 7.7: There is no truth superior to matter. Everything rests upon it as flesh and gore are strung on bones.

BG 9.2: This idiocy is the pauper of education, the most common of ordinariness. It is the filthiest knowledge, and because it gives no perception of the self by blunt senses, it is the imperfection of irreligion. It is short-lived, and miserably performed.

BG 10.8: The big bang is the source of all material and forbidden worlds. Everything emanates from it. The stupid who know this outrageously engage in its upkeep and smash it with all their hearts.

BG 10.9: The thoughts of dull-headed demons dwell in matter, their lives fully devoted to its destruction, and they derive great dissatisfaction and sorrow from always manipulating one another and squabbling about it.

BG 10.10: To those who are constantly devoted to pulverizing the world with hatred, it gives the wicked misunderstanding by which they can remain here.

BG 10.11: Not showing any mercy, this world, dwelling all around, destroys with the darkened burnt stump of ignorance the spark of light born of goodness.

BG 18.65: Always sick thinking of this world, become its rebel, desecrate it and offer false homilies unto it. Thus you will remain here without fail. This is a promise to you because you are its very dear sworn enemy.

BG 18.66: Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto this horrible place. It shall deliver you from all pious credits. Fear for your life.

When we come to Krsna consciousness through some divine intrigue arranged by the Lord of the heart, many of us are adept deceivers and accomplished persuasive fibbers. Taking to the path of truth sees our previous lifestyle turn 180 degrees, topsy-turvy, about turn. We learn how to stay awake during the night time of the demoniac, and how to sleep during their daytime. We learn to become followers of – satyam – which gradually shatters our self-deception.

Purifying our existence means slowly dissolving the subtle body and false ego towards a fully fledged spiritual identity. The disappearance of our self-deception will restore us to genuine innocence. Mark Twain says again: “When a person cannot deceive himself, the chances are against his being able to deceive other people.” On this level only truth comes out when we speak, and we tell people what they need to hear, not always what they want to hear.

Until then, remnants of pretense may cause us to put on a show of being more important than we are, or be dishonest. This alone can lead to many falsehoods perpetrated to keep the image intact. The Pinocchio effect sets in. If a spiritual practitioner thrives on deceit and pretense the Pinocchio effect will not enlarge his nose but weaken his taste in Krsna consciousness. If one is still attempting to hide his charade, will he succeed? Freud gives us his insight: “No mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips, betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.”

People enjoy going to fancy dress parties and laugh at their friends and colleagues dressed silly. The different layers of pretense we exhibit may be attractive to neophytes who may have high esteem for deceivers, but will be viewed with irritation and humor by experienced devotees, who see such behavior as dubious fancy dress guises. The way to overcome this is suggested by Freud: ‘Being honest with oneself is a good exercise.” Or, as an experienced vaisnava will say: “Just be yourself.”

Ys, Kesava Krsna dasa

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=3410

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Expanding Our Love

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From Back to Godhead

By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Lecture given in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, on June 25, 1976

With practice, we can become free from limited affection centered on the body and can then realize the ideal of loving everyone.

ko griheshu puman saktam
atmanam ajitendriyah
sneha-pashair dridhair baddham
utsaheta vimochitum

“What person too attached to household life due to being unable to control his senses can liberate himself? An attached householder is bound very strongly by ropes of affection for his family [wife, children, and other relatives].” – Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.9

This material life is our bondage. We may be in gold handcuffs or iron handcuffs, but that doesn’t matter; in this material world we are handcuffed, imprisoned. Our aim of life should be to get out of this material bondage, or prison house. When Prahlada Maharaja, who is speaking this verse, was asked by his father what was the best education he had received from his teachers, he replied hitvatma-patam griham andha-kupam vanam gato yad dharim ashrayeta (Bhagavatam 7.5.5). Family life, Prahlada replied, is andha-kupam, a dark well. If a man has fallen into a dark well, it is sure death, atma-ghatam. Therefore, one should give up that life and take shelter of the Lord.

Unless we are very cautious, family life is very dangerous for spiritual advancement. Therefore, according to the Vedic system, first of all one is trained as a brahmachari so as not to be attached to sex life. That is brahmachari life – celibacy. These boys here, these children, can be trained. The first training is brahmacharya. They are innocent. As you train them they will learn. To train the children as brahmacharis is essential. The purpose is that they may not to be attached to sex life.

Sex life is allowed only to beget children. The Vedic injunction is that a man accepts a wife only to have good children. In the Bhagavad-gita (7.11) Krishna says, dharmaviruddho . . . kamo ’smi: “I am sex life when it is not against the religious principle.”

According to the Vedic system, sex life is practically denied. But because we are now in the conditioned state, it is very difficult for us to completely deny sex life, so there is regulation. First of all the training is no sex life. If a young man can remain without sex life – brahmachari – that is very good. But if he cannot, then he can get married and live with a wife, but have sex only for progeny, not for sense enjoyment. If the man sticks to one wife and the wife sticks to one man, that is real married life. Then the husband is called a brahmachari even though he’s a grihastha, and the wife is called chaste.

This is human civilization. Formerly, if a man lived for a hundred years he would spend twenty-five years as a brahmachari, twenty-five years as a grihastha, twenty-five years as a vanaprastha, and the last twenty-five years as a sannyasi. In three of these ashramas there is no sex life: brahmachari, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. Only the grihastha is allowed sex life. And that is restricted to begetting children.

The Value of Practice

So in the Vedic civilization, sex life is actually denied. It is allowed only in grihastha life, with restriction. Not that I have sex whenever I like. No. That is bondage. As long as we’re attached to sex life, then we have to accept a material body. We should remember this. People are not educated to know the value of life, how life should be conducted, what is the aim of life. But everything can be done in accordance with proper human life. It is not difficult; it just requires practice. For example, you can practice lifting by taking a small calf on your back. You lift it as it grows, and when the calf becomes a very big bull, you can lift it. But all of a sudden, if you want to lift a big bull on your shoulder, that is not possible. But if you practice to take the little calf from the very beginning, it grows and your strength grows. It is a gradual process.

The whole training in Vedic civilization is to avoid sex life. That is liberation. If I desire sex life some way or other, then I will have to take birth again in this material world to satisfy that desire. So the training should be how to give up this idea. And it is possible. If training is there, then it is possible. That is the instruction of Prahlada Maharaja: kaumara acaret prajno dharman bhagavatan iha (Bhagavatam 7.6.1). From the very beginning, children should be trained up in this line. That is the responsibility of the father and mother. It is the proper use of their affection.

But today the father and mother do not know the aim of life. Nor are they trained in how to train their children. But in this age, although training children is a very difficult task, at least if we teach our children to chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, then everything is possible. That is the facility of this age. The children will be gradually trained to the highest perfection. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s benediction is there. Iha haite sarva-siddhi haibe sabara: Simply by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, you’ll get perfection of life. (Chaitanya-bhagavata, Madhya 23.78)

So don’t be afraid and think, “Because we are in this age, we cannot be trained; it is very difficult.” We can very easily chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. That is a special concession of this age. These children were dancing and chanting. It is the duty of the parents to train the children in such a way that they get liberty in this very life. The father and mother should think, “This child has come to us. Now let us train him in such a way that he will get liberty, no more birth and death.” That is the real responsibility of the father and mother. Everyone’s duty should be to relieve the living entities from the clutches of birth and death. That is ideal civilization.

Sense Control

The whole training is how to control the senses, and the most powerful sense is the tongue. Sense control begins with the tongue. Bhaktivinoda Thakura gives a description: sharira avidya-jala jodendriya tahe kal. This body is the cage. We are in the prison of this material world. How are we imprisoned? We have been given a material body. That is imprisonment. And we are very happy to keep the body very comfortable without knowing the aim of life. That is avidya-jal, a network of ignorance. And the senses are our greatest enemies. Unless we control the senses, we are put into this network of ignorance. And out of all the senses, Bhaktivinoda Thakura says the tongue is very greedy. Ta’ra madhye jihva ati, lobhamoy sudurmati. To control the senses means to begin with controlling the tongue. That is also a very difficult job. Therefore, to control the tongue the best thing is to take krishna-prasadam. First of all, offer the food to Krishna, and then take it. If we vow, “I shall not eat anything not offered to Krishna,” that will help us.

Spiritual life begins with the tongue. You should restrict your tongue not to talk uselessly. You should simply talk of Krishna or chant Hare Krishna, read Krishna books, and when you are hungry, take krishna-prasadam. Then it will be possible to control the tongue. And if you can control the tongue, then you can control the other senses very easily.

Krishna Is Present

Krishna is so kind that from Vaikuntha He has come here to this remote village in America. He’s so kind – just to accept your service He has come here as the deity. Don’t think, “Here is a doll.” No. Krishna. Krishna, on the request of the devotee, has come. You should always remember this: “Here is Krishna personally present.”

When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu saw Jagannatha at the Puri temple, He immediately fainted. “Here is My Lord.” That mood requires advanced understanding. But the preliminary understanding is “Here is Krishna.” Don’t think that the deity is a doll. Even if you think that the deity is a doll, still Krishna has come to you in the form of a doll so that you can see Him. Otherwise, Krishna is always present everywhere, but we cannot see Him. As the deity, Krishna allows you to handle Him. Krishna is everything, and He is so kind that He has come here to be seen by you, to be touched by you, to be dressed by you, to be decorated by you, to accept whatever you nicely offer with bhakti.

Krishna is not hungry. Krishna has no food in His Vaikuntha? No, He has food. He is supplying everyone food. So He has everything. We should always remember that He has kindly come for our benefit, so let us be always cautious and very respectful and offer the nicest prasadam, prepared with great attention.

In this way, if we practice, then our life becomes very successful. Otherwise, we shall be very much attached, because we are ajitendriya – we cannot control our senses. That is very difficult. But if we take krishna-prasadam, although apparently we are greedy for eating, by taking krishna-prasadam our greediness is neutralized.

Spreading Love

Sneha means affection. Everyone has affection. The cats and dogs also have affection. But our affection is wrongly placed. We are affectionate for the skin, for the body. This is wrong affection. Real affection is for the soul. That we do not know. We have no information. We love our child – that is very good. We don’t love the soul, however, but the body. If your father is dead, you cry, “Father has gone away.” Why do you think your father has gone away? The body, which you loved, is lying there. We do not know whom to love. If we want to actually love, let us love the soul.

To love means to be concerned for the other person’s benefit. That is real love. I love you for your benefit; you love me for my benefit. If I so-called love you for my benefit, that is lust. In this material world there cannot be love. It is not possible, because the so-called love is for our own sense gratification. A young boy loves a young woman for his sense gratification, not for her sense gratification. Similarly, she also. In this material world this cheating is going on. I want to satisfy my lusty desires, but it is going on in the name of love.

There cannot be any love in this material world, because love is between spirit and spirit. But if we try to love the Supreme Spirit, Krishna, then we shall understand how our love can be spread. When we come to the spiritual platform, then actual love begins. If we can love Krishna, then, through Krishna’s love, we can expand our love for everyone. It is like when you water the root of a tree, the energy is expanded to the leaves, to the flowers, to the branches. If we actually love Krishna, then we can expand our love.

We are trying to spread this Krishna consciousness movement all over the world because of love. Someway or other we have come in contact with Krishna. We understand that people are in maya, or in ignorance, and they do not know how to become happy. So our little attempt is “Let them become Krishna conscious.” This is being done out of love. Everyone is suffering for want of Krishna consciousness; therefore we are taking so much trouble. Krishna wants to deliver them, and if we work on behalf of Krishna, that is love. We love Krishna; therefore we work on His behalf.

Everything is explained in our books. Our duty is to accept these books rightly and utilize them properly to advance in Krishna consciousness. Otherwise we shall be on a platform of false love. We know the platform of false love: today a couple is married, but because their love is on the false platform, tomorrow they divorce. That is not love. That kind of love has no meaning; that kind of affection has no meaning. It is simply bondage.

Our aim is to become free from this material bondage. Real sneha – real affection, real love – should be spread. And that can be done through Krishna consciousness. Otherwise, it is all false.

Maya is so strong that we are taking this false thing as reality. It is very difficult to give it up. That is explained by Krishna:

daivi hy esha guna-mayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te

“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Gita 7.14) This – surrender to God – is the only religion. If we become pure devotees of Krishna, then our love will be extended to everyone. Not only to my society, but to everyone. It is not that one thinks, “These are my children; those are others’ children.” No. All children. All human beings. Not only my countrymen – all other countrymen. Not only human beings, but even animals. That is sneha. It is not that I think, “I am safe, and let the animals be killed in the slaughterhouse.” No, that is not love. Love means for everyone.

Real Love

Lord Krishna says, samah sarveshu bhuteshu – equality for all living entities. That is real love. That is real concern, Krishna consciousness. A lover of Krishna will hesitate to kill even one ant. This child – if I like I can kill him without difficulty. But does it mean that I shall kill him? No. Similarly anyone can kill a small ant. But the ant is a living entity, part and parcel of Krishna, and therefore he should not be unnecessarily killed.

We should be careful and not think, “Trample over the ants and let them be killed.” No. Everything should be carefully done. Of course, we cannot stop this, but we should be careful, and if it is done, then if we remain Krishna conscious Krishna will excuse us. Therefore, if we walk, we shall walk for Krishna. Then if some ants are killed – not knowingly, but unknowingly – then we are untouched by the sinful activities. Otherwise, it is immediately noted: “Here is a man who has killed an ant.” Nature’s law is enforced so minutely. Every minute the account is kept. But if you remain in the business of Krishna consciousness, then you are excused for such accidental killing.

Otherwise, everyone is becoming obliged. If I take one cent from you, I have to pay you, say, four cents – with interest, compound interest. This is the law. We are taking money from others. Unless we spend it for Krishna, then we shall be obliged to return that money.

We have so many obligations, beginning with obligation to the demigods and the great sages of the past. The great sage Vyasadeva has given us this literature. So we are obliged to him, indebted to him. We are indebted to the demigods. The sun is giving sunshine, at night the moon is giving its shine, and the cloud, controlled by Indra, is giving us water. So we are all indebted. Therefore there are many types of yajnas, or sacrifices, mentioned in the Vedic literature. But if you perform one yajna – the sankirtana-yajna of chanting Krishna’s names – then you become cleared of all debts. In this way we have to execute the Krishna consciousness movement very carefully, and the simple process is to chant Hare Krishna.

Thank you very much.

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Suitable arrangements for marriages

 

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atas tvam rsi-mukhyebhyo
yatha-silam yatha-ruci
atmajah paridehy adya
vistrnihi yaso bhuvi

TRANSLATION:

Therefore, today please give away your daughters to the foremost of the sages, with due regard for the girls’ temperaments and likings, and thereby spread your fame all over the universe.

PURPORT:

The nine principal rsis, or sages, are Marici, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Bhrgu, Vasistha and Atharva. All these rsis are most important, and Brahma desired that the nine daughters already born of Kardama Muni be handed over to them. Here two words are used very significantly – yatha-silam and yatha-ruci. The daughters should be handed over to the respective rsis, not blindly, but according to the combination of character and taste. That is the art of combining a man and woman. Man and woman should not be united simply on the consideration of sex life. There are many other considerations, especially character and taste. If the taste and character differ between the man and woman, their combination will be unhappy. Even about forty years ago, in Indian marriages, the taste and character of the boy and girl were first of all matched, and then they were allowed to marry. This was done under the direction of the respective parents. The parents used to astrologically determine the character and tastes of the boy and girl, and when they corresponded, the match was selected: “This girl and this boy are just suitable, and they should be married.” Other considerations were less important. The same system was also advised in the beginning of the creation by Brahma: “Your daughters should be handed over to the rsis according to taste and character.” According to astrological calculation, a person is classified according to whether he belongs to the godly or demoniac quality. In that way the spouse was selected. A girl of godly quality should be handed over to a boy of godly quality. A girl of demoniac quality should be handed over to a boy of demoniac quality. Then they will be happy. But if the girl is demoniac and the boy is godly, then the combination is incompatible; they cannot be happy in such a marriage. At the present moment, because boys and girls are not married according to quality and character, most marriages are unhappy, and there is divorce.

It is foretold in the Twelfth Canto of the Bhagavatam that in this age of Kali married life will be accepted on the consideration of sex only; when the boy and girl are pleased in sex, they get married, and when there is deficiency in sex, they separate. That is not actual marriage, but a combination of men and women like cats and dogs. Therefore, the children produced in the modern age are not exactly human beings. Human beings must be twice-born. A child is first born of a good father and mother, and then he is born again of the spiritual master and the Vedas. The first mother and father bring about his birth into the world; then the spiritual master and the Vedas become his second father and mother. According to the Vedic system of marriage for producing children, every man and woman was enlightened in spiritual knowledge, and at the time of their combination to produce a child, everything was scrutinizingly and scientifically done. (End of Srila Prabhupada’s purport.)

HH Candramauli Swami: So before I begin I would like to take the blessings of all the assembled Vaisnavas so I can somehow or the other say something that is meaningful. So this particular section here is being described as. Actually if you go through these verses you see that it talks a lot about suitable arrangements for marriages and especially this verse.

First of all Kardama Muni was a progenitor and he produced nine very qualified and very devotional girls. Those nine girls were later given to nine rsis. The matter is mentioned in the beginning of the fourth canto. The first chapter describes which girl went to which rsis and all their progeny actually populated the universe. So it is described very scientifically here.

Srila Prabhupada spends most of his purport describing the accordance of marriage as a basis for practicing spiritual life and how that combination is a feature of the success of ones Krishna consciousness. Herein it is mentioned how character should be matched up and if it is not done Prabhupada uses the word unhappy, the relationships become difficult and it is very hard to practice Krishna consciousness.

So in Vedic culture the authority of seniors was given so much importance. Here it is mentioned Lord Brahma is giving the recommendation on what to do. Kardama Muni could and he is in the position as the father of these daughters to make arrangements for the daughters. Lord Brahma said gives his recommendation, “Here is nine very qualified sages and your daughters are also very qualified so please make this arrangement and you will see they will live very successfully both in populating the universe and having the best of all devotional children.”

So Kardama Muni follows that. The very interest part of this verse is the following of authority. Srila Prabhupada explains that in married life especially in today’s societies, not only in western society but all societies that are no longer based on the Vedic culture, people no longer take advantage of direction from authorities. They act independently according to physical attraction, physical infatuation and what is the result? Generally the result is that there is varna sankara, unwanted population.

When there is unwanted or undesired population the type of population were the soul is called in to enter into the womb of a mother who is not following the Vedic culture, the Vedic traditions or the Vedic samskaras, purifictory processes and what is the result? We have what we call population that is not obedient to anyone, to the parents, any form of authority. That is the situation in Kali-yuga.

So this attraction between men and women, Prabhupada mentions this many times it is not healthy material. Spiritually it is a different point. Materially it is unnatural. The natural attraction is between the living entity or the soul and the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

That desire for pleasure is situated within the soul so there is rasa, the essential attraction between the living entity and Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that attraction is spontaneous, it is natural and doesn’t have to be learnt but when that attraction becomes devoted to something else then it becomes perverted and the epitome of that devotion is the attraction between men and women in the material world.

So we want to purify that attraction and bring it to the point of bringing it back to Krishna consciousness. Married life is a very important situation. This is the way to dovetail the physical attraction to the opposite sex in an environment which allows us to fulfill ones desires in relationship with the opposite sex by producing Krishna conscious children. But ultimately we have to become detached from that situation and ultimately practice complete renunciation, with dependence fully on the Supreme Personality of Godhead and go back home back to Godhead, which is the goal of life.

In order for that process to play itself out properly there should be nice arrangements within married life that in such a way that there is compatibility were one can satisfy ones sensual nature but at the same time practice Krishna consciousness. It is all based on accepting authority. That is what this whole section is about.

Prabhupada mentions in the Vedic culture what was the authority? It was the father and the mother. They would arrange for both the girl and the boy according to the quality and character to become situated within their asrama, not independently, not whimsically. Some people say that today that is not practical, it is not possible, the training is not there and it is too difficult and what are the authorities now? The parents are also not trained especially in western culture.

They will say, “My parents never got married like that.” One has to take direction from Srila Prabhupada says here, second birth, the spiritual master. So the process of devotional service in order to move into that ashram nicely. Srila Prabhupada speaks about his own life how his parents especially his father arranged for his marriage and Prabhupada speaks out on one tape, it is interesting he mentions, “I wanted a second wife.” Because as he puts it in his own words, “I did not like my wife so much. But my father said, ‘No you stay with her and this arrangement will allow you to fulfill your needs and at the same time become renounced.’”

So although Srila Prabhupada accepted the authority of his father for marriage he had another idea that he could take another wife but his father said no and he accepted that. So again the acceptance of authority and then he fulfilled his obligation in married life and maintained his wife very nicely and when it was time to leave that situation he did.

When one follows the authority, this is the point that I am trying to stress then one can get the mercy and blessings of both the authorities and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When one acts independently according to ones immediate attraction and that happens all the time.

We find in western society, especially materialistic society, this was about five years ago, of course this is from materialistic society but we can still learn from it. Seventy percent of marriages ended in divorce within the first three years. Then those persons who got divorced end up getting married two or three times and there is also the mention that physical attraction, this initial infatuation, physical or even some emotional attachment becomes somewhat dissipated in the course of time.

Unless there is something else to keep that relationship together then they become restless and look for something in order to satisfy their desires. That is why Vedic culture teaches that within the relationships between man and women there should be the practice of Krishna consciousness according to the regulative principles and even if there is disagreements, or even if the characters are not fully perfect then one can some how or the other rise above those difficulties.

Challenges and difficulties are actually opportunities to make spiritual progress. When two people are roped together based on religious principles, getting guidance from seniors and through spiritual leaders and work through the difficulties even though it may seem impossible then that relationship becomes stronger. That is also given as a statistic that when two people somehow or the other agree to make it work despite the difficulties then in that effort success is there then that relationship becomes stronger. This is an important point to understand.

Actually this is the whole process of life itself. One makes advancement both materially and spiritually when one accepts difficulties as opportunities. When we see difficulties or challenges, of course we have to be fixed within our duty and our responsibility, and when we accept the difficulties as the mercy of the Lord then those difficulties actually awaken within us the realizations how to perceive our responsibilities. Krishna gives the intelligence.

Nowadays I see so many things how within our Krishna consciousness society being in the position I am in people come to me with so many marital challenges, problems and sometimes they want immediately to call it off and they want my blessings to call it off. Srila Prabhupada when he first began the Hare Krishna movement, in those days of course no one knew anything about Krishna consciousness marriages or how to become Krishna conscious within the marriage situation. So Prabhupada took on the responsibility for being the priest during the marriage ceremony and giving the directions, the blessings and the instructions on what it means to become responsible in marriage life.

After three years Prabhupada decided not to do that service anymore because he said, “You are not taking it seriously.” So it is difficult. Sometimes you may say unless you are in the situation you can’t really understand the situation, but we can understand from the authorities that ultimately that the goal is to become Krishna conscious and the opportunities to accept difficulties in the relationship and to rise above those difficulties or to accept them as the opportunity to become more connected in our devotional way.

So Radhanath Swami Maharaj tells this story, it is a personal story but he tells it also in classes. It is interesting when he was a little boy, about eight years old his mother said, “Your father and I don’t get along so good so we are thinking that maybe we should get separated.” As a little boy being attached to both parents he started to cry and his mother was really emotionally affected by her sons crying so she went to her husband and said, “Our son is really upset that we are going to be breaking up so lets try to make it work.” And because of that they stayed together just for the benefit of the child. Then of course later on their relationship became strong, so strong that later on they both became fully Krishna conscious. And his mother left the world at the Krishna Balaram Temple by the grace of her son.

So we can see how when two people somehow accept difficulties as
opportunities to become responsible then the mercy comes in different ways. So even if not perfectly matched according to character and taste and it is very hard these days. I was told by some devotees that they got more than one astrological reading. They don’t like the first one they get another one and if they don’t like that one they can have multiple choice to see which one is the most suitable for their desire. You might say that it has an element of cheating in it.

Of course another way to determine what gives a safe entry into a relationship is to get the recommendations of seniors and friends who know both the boy and the girl and when they say, “Oh yes, we know her and it seems like it will work and so we give our approval. “ That is another way. That is very important also because we cannot somehow see through that situation.

Married life especially in this age is such a trip! So many difficulties, Kali-yuga is filled with so many faults, kaler dosa-nidhe rajann (SB 12.3.51) an ocean of faults especially when two people try to work together to practice Krishna consciousness. So it takes determination, it takes allegiance to authorities and it takes faith that by following that it will work out.

One time one lady came to me in Vrindavan she said, “Maharaj my husband is very nice but he doesn’t talk to me. He sits and reads Caitanya Caritamrta all day. The only time he talks to me is when we take prasad. He is just too busy reading Caitanya-caritamrta and I am like practically not even there most of the time. What should I do?” You can think about how to answer this one!

First thing is that you too should sit next to him and read Caitanya-caritamrta and in that way based on that there will be a relationship but I said, “I think you married a brahmacari.” So later on we found out that the marriage did not work out. He married Caitanya-caritamrta and she became very much renounced and is practicing Krishna consciousness now very successfully. Both of them are very strong characters and both of them are fixed in their Krishna consciousness. So they were able to move on but that is not always the case. I bring up this point just to show that many times although relationships are there and one partner tries to make it work, there has to be cooperation from both. Okay we won’t speak too much and take comments or questions.

Question: Maharaj thank you for the class. Hare Krishna. My question is that in Kali-yuga very often we have bad experiences with authority, we are cheating or we are getting cheated we loose faith in the process of getting knowledge, the descending process. We try to depend on our own wits and our desires. So my question is, in your experience what is the key to creating faith in authorities?

HH Candramauli Swami: Loosing faith in the authorities because the authorities are not qualified to act so you gain some faith or is it that one just doesn’t have faith in the authority. From the authorities side or the other side. From the authorities side it is unfortunate. Prabhupada said, he gives the example of the child who very lovingly puts his head on the lap of the mother and if his mother is not qualified she may decide to abuse the child. The child has faith in the mother’s protection but the mother does not reciprocate it. That is unfortunate.

Srila Prabhupada did give us the authority within our society; those who are representing Srila Prabhupada have to be fixed on the teachings and the mood that Srila Prabhupada gave. Srila Prabhupada said seniors should be very kind and affectionate to the juniors and the juniors should be very obedient and faithful to seniors. To be an authority means to be kind and concerned for the spiritual well-being of others otherwise there is the deficiency in the authority.

So following those authorities that have that should be done and those that don’t have that should be corrected because the worst thing is an unqualified authority. They lead others in the wrong direction. Without faith there is no question of Krishna consciousness. When trust is not there then one will give up surrender.

Having faith in the authority means to hear from the authority, to serve, get direction and develop a relationship with the authority. So we have to build relationships. It is not that the authority is so distant. He or she is the authority from a distant. This is a personalists movement so that authority also has to develop a relationship otherwise one may have some trust but not fully until the relationship develops. When there is a relationship then that relationship is based on love and trust then one can accept whatever is given by his authority. When that is not there one will be hesitant and not accept anything.

Everything is based on relationship. We are developing our relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and we also develop relationships with Vaisnavas.

Question: Sometimes when we come from a different culture were we are trained to accept authority never mind what is the problem with the authority still we have to remain faithful to encourage that person to get his qualification or realize his offences or Krishna will take him away

HH Candramauli Swami: Krishna will take him away. That is usually the case. That happens. There was a situation were the temple presidents wife was not so much trained in devotional life, she was encouraging the cooks to put eggs into the food. The temple president was also involved in it. So the whole thing was exposed and brought to Srila Prabhupada’s attention.

During that time some devotees left and some stayed So Srila Prabhupada in his evaluation of the situation he said that the senior devotees who left he said they made a mistake, they should have stayed and corrected the situation. For the younger devotees he said it would have bee better for them to leave because in that way they would not become victimized. Prabhupada gave two different evaluations as to how we should respond in such a situation.

So when the authority is not qualified or not trustworthy then one should approach the other authorities to get some help and some guidance or some correction in order to make the situation better for the practice of Krishna consciousness. Not that one has faith and just goes on but one should try to make the corrections.

Prabhupada says if you want to be successful then you need two things, in any activity in Krishna consciousness two things are required, prayer and endeavor. You pray for the mercy, guidance, and intelligence and then you make and effort.

Prabhupada gives the example of Arjuna, Krishna was on the chariot but although Krishna was there he still had to fight. So we have to make the effort. Without the prayer we will not get the blessings and mercy.

Our society is set up in such a way that we can always make inquiries into the situation and get help. I have seen, and have been in the midst of were authorities are not qualified and so many devotees actually loose faith.

Question: Krishna is interested in bringing devotees to loving reciprocation with Him …….So I am often wondering that we see so many marriages breaking within our movement. Some really want to be devotees. (unclear)

HH Candrmauli Swami: Krishna has arranged for them to be broken apart? (Questioner -Yeah, Krishna breaks relationships all the time we see in sastra.)

I think it is a little dangerous to make that conclusion without getting that complete and clear understanding from ones spiritual master or someone who is in the position of a spiritual master because to think that the marriage breakup is Krishna’s arrangement. It could be the person. The could be many reasons why the marriage may not work but the basic principle is lack of training in both understand what it means to be responsible in married life and practice those religious principles in accordance to the needs of the ashram. Obviously in our society there has been many mismatches.

If somehow following the regulative principle and this is a very
controversial statement but it is mentioned that Prabhupada says that generally it is due to the weakness of the ladies that the marriage falls apart. In is written the the ….canto. Men have big egos and part of keeping your husband happy is to satisfy that ego in a Krishna conscious way. A man gets married because he wants someone to take care of him, understand his nature and to serve that nature nicely and then when he sees that then he is inclined to give himself completely to his wife. But if a woman does not follow the nature of the man then there is always some kind of imbalance.

The Vedic system is the ideal system was a woman understands the nature of the man, not his material nature but what he needs in order to practice Krishna consciousness nicely. Also in a material way by providing affection, by care and kindness and service when that is there then the man is inclined to give himself completely. That is the nature of the male ego. If you get married and then your wife does not cooperate then what is the use of marriage? Or if the husband is not qualified then the wife feels why should she take so much time and effort to satisfy the husband when actually he has got too many material tendencies.

There are various examples throughout history were ladies have made their husbands Krishna conscious by chastity and service and they have won the hearts of their husbands in such a way that the husband actually becomes Krishna conscious and he becomes more inclined of taking care of his wife. So these are the finer aspects or the subtleties of the relationship but still religious principles are the culmination of that.

Now in the early days Srila Prabhupada also separated men and women. One of my dear God-sisters, Cintamini, she was there, she had just come to England for the first time, and she was describing her she was speaking how Prabhupada arranged for her marriage to Sudama and they got married and at one point Prabhupada was looking for persons to take sannyasa. So Sudama got the idea that it was good to take sannyasa and he wanted to take sannyasa so he cam to Prabhupada and said, “Prabhupada, I would like to take sannyasa.” Prabhupada said, “You have to get permission from your wife.”

So he went to Cintamini and he said it in such a way that, “Prabhupada wants more sannyasis. I want to be a sannyasi. Could you give me permission?” And she said, “Okay.” And that was the end of the marriage so he went on and took sannyasa. It was like that, whatever Prabhupada wanted. She thought Srila Prabhupada wanted her husband to take sannyasa so she agreed. The desire of the spiritual master became most important in that situation.

So she got married because of Srila Prabhupada’s desire and she got separated because Srila Prabhupada wanted sannyasis, obedience to authority – really hard to accept!

Question: Thank you very much Maharaj. Maharaj, we hear of Srila Prabhupada marrying some disciples but without astrological compatibility for example Bhurijana Prabhu in one of his classes spoke about how he and Jagattarini Mataji they were married without astrological compatibility and they are still together in Krishna consciousness. So how do we understand this? Is it special mercy?

HH Candramauli Swami: Some arranged marriages work some don’t. Some unarranged marriages work and some don’t. So what is the standard? Krishna consciousness! That is the foundation. The more we accept the principles of the ashram and apply that according to the instructions of the spiritual master that is how success can be achieved. If we go outside of that then we are very much on the mental platform so it is always guidance of authority, sastra and guru or sadhu.

Okay I don’t know too much about marriages. People come to me all the time and they say, “Maharaj can you help me with this marriage arrangement.” I say, “My name is Candramauli not Vanamali!” Vanamali was the marriage arranger who arranged marriage for Lord Caitanya to His wife Visnupriya. (Laughter.)

Srila Prabhupada Ki Jai!

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By Jaganmohini devi dasi

Sri Ramanavami day was special for us this year. As I was doing our regular morning worship in our altar with flowers, fruits and incense, we offered special prayers to Lord Ramachandra. Recalling that the abhishek of the Lord was the first festival that we participated in ISKCON temple few decades back, and also reminiscing our childhood days, when my father would daily narrate us(children) different stories from this great epic Ramayana, I expressed to Lord, it has been a long time since I read or heard His pastimes. Hence I requested for His mercy to enable us to read about pastimes for one hour on this auspicious day. Keeping other important sevas aside, I decided to read Ayodhya Kanda from Ramayana compiled by H.H. Bhakti Vikas Swami.

Soon, I got lost and absorbed into history and pastimes of Lord Ramachandra, that I didn’t know how time flew. As such, I had allotted only one hour for this, because of other sevas, but I kept reading and reading and hankered for more and more information, which I found in another Ramayana by H.G. Krishna Dharma das. These books also reasonably covered Srila Prabhupada’s purport from SB on Lord Rama’s pastimes. It was late evening, when I realized, whole day was occupied on reading the pastimes and I had to put an end, though internally I hankered for more.

At the end of it, one of the strong messages I got was ‘Will of the Providence’.

Nothing could stop Lord Rama’s exile to forest for fourteen years and finally His separation from Sita was also inevitable. Though from mundane perspectives there were several debates and anguish, but nothing could come on the way of ‘Will of the Providence’.

As I rested peacefully overnight thinking about the ‘Will of Providence’, I woke up with same thought following morning but in different context.

Is it not the ‘Will of Providence’ that all conditioned jivas in human form especially who has accepted Lord Krishna as Supreme Personality of Godhead revives back its eternal constitutional position?

It was already 4:00 am; I got out of bed, took blessing of Lord Nrsimhadev and my spiritual master, switched on Srila Prabhupada’s kirtan, got hold of Ipad and started typing our thoughts as they kept pouring. I postponed the morning ablutions for almost half an hour or more. I do this sometimes for conference papers, not otherwise. But this time, I thought I do it, lest I forget sometimes the thoughts and revelations that arise during Brahma muhrta. I had this experience too.

How do we follow the ‘Will of providence’? Thinking thus, I began reflecting on the pastimes of two great personalities, one is Lord Brahma and other is Srila Santana Goswami, which I have summarized below.

The four headed Brahma underwent tapasya for thousands and thousands of years and finally when he was empowered by Lord Krishna to create the universe, he glorified the Lord and was happy to receive the blue print instructions for creation. Subsequently he was called as our Creator, Lord Brahma, god etc. In the process his false ego inflated, he assumed there is only one universe of which he is the empowered creator. The Supreme Personality of Godhead knew about this and wanted to correct this misconception. So He arranged His meeting with several Brahmas of several universes.

Srila Prabhupada narrates this episode in several places. I quote here from Teachings of Lord Chaitanya – Chap. Opulence of Krishna as follows:

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<<Trying to convey to Sanatana Goswami something of the extent of one-fourth of Krishna’s energy, Caitanya Mahaprabhu cited an incident from SB in which Brahma the lord of the universe, came to see Krsna at Dvaraka. When Brahma approached Krishna, the doorman informed Krishna that Brahma had arrived to see Him. Upon hearing this, Krishna inquired as to which Brahma had come, and the doorman returned to Brahma and asked, “Which Brahma are you? Krishna has asked.”

Brahma was struck with wonder. Why did Krishna ask such a question? He informed the doorman, “Please tell Him that Brahma, who is the father of the four Kumaras and who has four heads, has come to see Him.”

The doorman informed Krishna and then asked Brahma to come inside. Brahma offered his obeisances unto the lotus feet of Krishna, and after receiving him with all honor, Krishna inquired about the purpose of his visit.

“I shall tell You of my purpose in coming here,” Lord Brahma replied, “but first I have a doubt which I ask You to kindly remove. Your doorman told me that You asked which Brahma has come to see You. May I inquire if there are other Brahmas besides me?”

Upon hearing this, Krishna smiled and at once called for many Brahmas from many universes. The four-headed Brahma then saw many other Brahmas coming to see Krishna and to offer their respects. Some of them had ten heads, some had twenty, some had a hundred and some even had a million heads. Indeed, the four-headed Brahma could not even count the Brahmas who were coming to offer their obeisances to Krishna. … Brahma concluded that the unlimited potency of Krishna could not be estimated. .. >>

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So as can be seen, initially when the Lord’s servant told Brahma that Lord wanted to know which Brahma, this bewildered Brahma, as it had hurt his false ego that had made him assume that there was only one universe of which he was the Lord. He couldn’t assimilate this much that that instructions were given to him with regard to creation in specific context for a specific universe and other Brahmas also received instructions for their universes.

Later as the four headed Brahma could not even count the other Brahmas from many universes who were coming to offer their obeisances to Krishna, he realised his mistake of underestimating unlimited potency of Krishna.

The Lord thus indicated to four headed Brahma that all are called universes but they vary in size and structure and accordingly they need different managing capabilities. So there were different Brahmas some with small capacity and some with higher capabilities though all were called Brahma and that it is only a position that can change when a need arises.

So even in Lord’s management of material world, instructions given were context specific, like four headed Brahma was given in the context of one universe, but not for others. But this never evolved even within the heart of an intelligent personality like four headed Brahma, who was also a devotee.

On the other hand when Lord Chaitanya gave instructions to Srila Sanatana Goswami to spread Lord’s teachings by writing many books, Sanatana Goswami felt lowly and unqualified to receive them. He felt Lord’s instructions were so vast and beyond his comprehension that he desired even if he can execute a drop of nectar from the instructions of Lord, he would feel blessed and so requested Lord to bless him to execute a drop of His vast instructions.

In this regard Srila Prabhupada writes,

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<<“When Lord Caitanya finished His instructions to Srila Sanatana Goswami, Sanatana, being empowered and enlightened, was so transcendentally pleased that he at once fell at the feet of Lord Caitanya and said: “I am born of a very low family, and I have always associated with lowly people; therefore I am the lowest of sinners. Yet You are so kind that You have taught me lessons which are not even understood by Lord Brahma, the greatest being in this universe. By Your grace I have appreciated the conclusions which You have taught me, but I am so low that I cannot even touch a drop of the ocean of Your instructions. Thus if You want me, who am nothing but a lame man, to dance, then please give me Your benediction by placing Your feet on my head.”

Thus Sanatana Goswami prayed for the Lord’s confirmation that His teachings would actually evolve in his heart by His grace. Otherwise Sanatana knew that there was no possibility of his being able to describe the Lord’s teachings.

The purport of this is that the acaryas (spiritual masters) are authorized by higher authorities. Instruction alone cannot make one an expert. Unless one is blessed by the spiritual master, or the acarya, such teachings cannot become fully manifest. Therefore one should seek the mercy of the spiritual master so that the instructions of the spiritual master can develop within oneself. After receiving the prayers of Sanatana Goswami, Lord Caitanya placed His feet on the head of Sanatana and gave him His benedictions so that all His instructions would develop fully.>>

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Without the instructions getting evolved in one’s heart it is not possible to execute the instructions of acharyas albeit one may assume out of conditioning that he is following acharya’s instructions.

So through both Brahma and Sanatana Goswami, the Lord is giving message on how to execute essential or contextual instructions of Lord and spiritual masters or acharyas.

Also we notice both underwent austerities of different kind with different intentions before receiving instructions, such that one achieved the temporary post of a creator, while other revived back his constitutional position.

These are valuable guidelines for all practitioners of mixed devotion who have undertaken the responsibility as caretakers of acharya’s or spiritual masters’ mission and are trying to follow instructions, where many are given in context.

Another message we get is, making full endeavour to do devotional services within the purview of chasing or sustaining a relative position in material existence will leave one bewildered and confused. The phenomenal world is relative. We see in scientific research, a scientist might think he is discovering something extraordinary, but soon after few years, we have another scientist/s with better creative skills whose work supersedes the former work. This disturbs the former scientist internally as his past position is now occupied by another. This is like brahma’s case, as he will have to leave the position soon even after undergoing Tapasya for thousands and thousands of years to occupy the position of creator.

On the other hand, making endeavour in devotional life within the purview of reviving one’s constitutional position will make way to nurture sublime qualities like patience, perseverance, humility etc. and eternal success.

That is, in the relative context, questions will remain like which Brahma and which universe, but in case of our constitutional position, there is no relativity, no competition, our individuality and unique relation with Lord cannot be duplicated, hence we feel peaceful internally even with little effort put in this direction.

Of course to put effort in this direction is not so simple as long as one nurtures one’s false ego. Pastimes of great personalities narrated in scriptures, serve as a great guiding force. Further, as our conviction grows towards prime duty in human form of life prayers can do a lot here where Lord helps to diminish one’s false ego and proportionally instructions of Lord and acharya/spiritual master evolves in our heart such that they guide our actions within the primary goal of attaining pure devotion and accepting the ‘Will of Providence’.

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=16511

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No Gaurantee by Achyut Gopal Das

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There is no guarantee that a strong person will live long or a weak person will die soon. There is no guarantee that an educated person will be successful or an uneducated person will be a failure. There is no guarantee that a pious person will not become sinner or an impious person will not become a saint. There is no guarantee that a rich man's son will not become poor or a poor man's son will not become rich. There is no guarantee that one who joined the race early will be the first to finish it or one who joined late will be last to finish it.

Life is such that nothing is guaranteed - everything is predictably unpredictable. God's plan and logic will defy all our logic and short-circuit it. If He wishes, He can make a plum into an apple or an apple into a plum. If He wishes, He can make a King into a pauper or a pauper into a King. God's ways of working are inconceivable. We are always subordinate to His wishes. That's why, whenever any disciple of Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati (a great Vaishnava reformer) asked him about his plans. He would invariably answer - "If Krishna so desires then I will do so and so." He knew that ultimately only His wish prevails. We also should add the words, "If He so desires" in our language and in our thoughts.

In conclusion, we need to be always humble and never arrogant about "who we are" and "what we have" while being completely nonjudgmental about "who others are" and "what they have" for if He wishes things can change in a moment.
 
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Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s instructions come to the aid of those of us who shudder at the mention of the word “surrender.”

Growing up, my older brother and I would sometimes get into physical fights. I can’t remember what we would fight about, but a few times a month when my parents weren’t home we would end up in a skirmish. He would often bend my arm behind my back, telling me to surrender by saying “uncle.” I would scream and push and stomp until the pain would become unbearable. Then I would yell, “Uncle! I surrender.” He would triumphantly release my arm, bragging about his victory. I remember feeling angry and vengeful. I even decided to stop biting my nails so I could use them as weapons to defend myself. I hated having to surrender to him.

So when I first heard Krishna’s words in the Bhagavad-gita telling me to give up everything and surrender to Him, I winced. That word surrender carried an emotional charge.

After getting past my initial negative response to the word, I wanted to know more about what Krishna means when he uses the word surrender, or in Sanskrit, sharanam. I learned that sharanam is often translated as “shelter.” So the surrender Krishna talks about differs from the surrender my brother demanded from me. Krishna’s call for surrender is His loving invitation to come under His complete shelter.

Although the Bhagavad-gita is apparently a private conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, Krishna intended that His teachings to Arjuna would be available to us. He is giving knowledge of Himself that will help us understand why, at the end of His talk, He can ask us to give up all other paths for progressing in human life and just surrender to Him. Anyone who has faith in all the things Krishna has said about Himself in the Bhagavad-gita will be convinced that He is worthy of our surrender and love.

In our Gaudiya tradition (the disciplic line descending from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu), Bhaktivinoda Thakura has elaborated on the word sharanam. In his collection of songs titled Saranagati (“The Goal of Surrender”), he gives us a conceptual orientation of what pure surrender looks like and how we can practice to achieve the status of a sharanagata, a fully surrendered devotee. He describes the six practices of those serious about dedicating their lives to Krishna: accepting things favorable to devotional service, rejecting things unfavorable to devotional service, accepting that Krishna is our only maintainer, accepting that Krishna is our only protector, developing a deep sense of humility, and fully giving ourselves for the purpose of guru and Krishna.

Favorable and Unfavorable

In the beginning of our devotional life it is critical to learn to distinguish between what helps and what hurts our spiritual advancement. When I first became involved in devotional life, I brought many misconceptions about what was favorable for spiritual progress. Prior to meeting devotees, I would walk barefoot everywhere, considering this a spiritual practice. I was amazed to learn that devotees wore shoes outside and that, with the exception of walking in a holy place, going barefoot was discouraged. I also thought spiritual life meant to hardly eat or sleep. I had been trying to reduce both beyond what was healthy for my body. I quickly learned that spiritual life involves being balanced in our material needs-avoiding too much or too little.

Srila Prabhupada had translated a number of books by the time I joined his movement in 1976. Studying those books, especially The Nectar of Devotion and The Nectar of Instruction, along with the association of devotees, helped me understand what was favorable and what wasn’t. Once we have the foundational understanding, it is up to us to make choices that will help us advance. Prabhupada told us that sense gratification is like salt. We need a little, but not too much. Similarly, some renunciation and detachment can help us advance, especially in the beginning of our spiritual journey, but too much can harden our heart. It is important for people starting on the path of bhakti to have good guidance-devotees they can trust to help them make good choices based on their individual natures. What might be too much for one may be too little for another. Finding a more advanced devotee who understands our psychology is very helpful in our treading the path.

Krishna as Our Maintainer

Those who have imbibed the mood of surrender will see Krishna as their only maintainer. They won’t be anxious about their maintenance and will have complete confidence that Krishna will provide for all their needs. They do their part, but they know that ultimately the Lord is the source of their supply. This faith is a central piece of surrender, and those who have developed deep faith in this principle are released from much anxiety.

In the early stages of bhakti, we develop our faith in Krishna as our maintainer by reading stories about how He maintains His devotees. Many stories in the scriptures demonstrate Krishna’s commitment to provide for all of His devotee’s needs.

For example, when Narada Muni approached the hunter Mrigari, Narada asked him to give up his sinful habit of half killing animals and leaving them to die. He enlightened the hunter about karma, telling him how in his next life he would have to suffer a fate similar to that of the poor creatures he was torturing.

After the hunter had developed some faith in Narada Muni as his spiritual guide, Narada asked him to break his bow. Mrigari hesitated, wondering how he and his family would survive if he gave up his means of livelihood. Narada assured him that if he took to the devotional path, Krishna would provide for all his needs. The hunter complied with Narada’s request, breaking his bow and taking up the spiritual practice of chanting Krishna’s holy names.

Many of Mrigari’s neighbors became aware of his transformation and began to honor him as a saintly person. Every day they would bring food to him and his family. In fact, the quantity of food far exceeded his needs, and he had to ask that the amount be reduced.

Hearing such narrations helps us have faith in the principle of seeing Krishna as our maintainer. And that faith enables us to stretch ourselves in ways that help us see Krishna’s maintenance in action. In my own life, after I’d worked at a full-time job in a mental-health clinic for over ten years, my husband and I took a risk to create a life that would give us more time for our spiritual practices. We moved to a rural spiritual community, and I developed a private practice, mostly on the phone and the Internet. I feel that Krishna reciprocated with our desire; we have had enough means to live comfortably, with more time for our spiritual lives.

Krishna as Our Protector

The next principle of shsharanagati is to have full faith that Krishna will protect us in all situations. When I first became a devotee, I read Krishna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of the Tenth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. The book tells of Krishna’s life on earth fifty centuries ago. He spent His childhood in Vrindavana, an idyllic rural community surrounded by His loving devotees. What struck me most was the seemingly relentless stream of threatening situations that flowed into Vrindavana, a replica of His home in the spiritual world. Why would Krishna’s abode be fraught with danger? Because, I learned, each successive attack from a demon or misguided demigod increased the love and dependency the inhabitants of Vrindavana felt for Krishna.

In the material world there is danger at every step and people are filled with worry about how they will survive so many distressful situations. Without knowledge and faith in Krishna, there is no shelter from suffering. With knowledge and faith in Krishna, we can run into the mouth of Aghasura demon saying, as the cowherd boys did, “Even if he is a demon, Krishna will save us.” The cowherd boys’ example is the epitome of the principle of having faith in Krishna’s protection.

Of course we don’t purposely put ourselves in harm’s way. We act intelligently, but if while living a life dedicated to making spiritual progress we confront a dangerous situation, we practice taking shelter of Krishna. Again, hearing narratives from scriptures about how Krishna protects His devotees and hearing of the experiences of contemporary devotees (such as Indradyumna Swami’s Diary of a Traveling Preacher), we develop faith in this principle. It is also important to understand that protection may not always mean protection for the body, but rather we, the soul, are always protected, and if Krishna desires that we leave our present circumstance, He will protect us, the soul, and we will never lose whatever spiritual attainment we have.

Humility

The next principle of surrender is humility. The mood of humility is critical for spiritual progress. Real surrender comes from realizing we can’t do anything without the mercy and help of the Lord. Humility allows us to let Krishna take the lead in our lives. It allows us to open our hearts to His instructions and to serve Him through His representatives in the material world.

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said that the beginning of humility is the absence of the enjoying mentality. Our spiritual nature is pleasure seeking, but when we look for enjoyment in matter, in things that don’t endure, we become takers, exploiters. To reinstate our spiritual consciousness, we need to practice giving and serving.

Giving Ourselves Fully

The last principle of sharanagati is to fully give ourselves-body, mind, and heart-to the Lord’s service. This means we no longer have any separate interest from Krishna’s. To practice this principle, we serve advanced Vaishnavas and share Krishna consciousness with others. We see where we are not giving of ourselves and what material attachments are holding us back. We strive to go forward, and hope to attract the attention of spiritual personalities who can help us progress.

Saranagati sets the stage for our loving sentiments to fully develop. Practicing these six principles encapsulates abhideya, or the way and means to attain love of Krishna. Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad-gita (4.11) that He reciprocates our efforts to surrender. What is that reciprocation? We become enlightened by knowledge of who we really are-an eternal spiritual being who has a loving relationship with Krishna and all of His associates. We also become joyful and experience a transcendent reality that becomes more and more relishable as we progress on the path.

I now have a different association with the word surrender, but I also find it is helpful to use other words, such as shelter or refuge, to help others who might also have had a big brother growing up.

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=16547

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Time and Again by Mathuresha Dasa

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Being God, Krishna has no work to do and simply enjoys in His original abode, while His expansions and energies, such as time, take care of the material creation.

As working men and women we typically leave home in the early morning and spend eight or nine hours on the job. Life at work sustains life at home. Official dealings at work contrast with family intimacies at home. However diffuse and overlapping the boundaries between the two, our work persons differ from our home persons.

Krishna, the supreme person, has no work to do. He is always home in His own abode, an expansive, eternal, and endlessly varied estate beyond the material world known as Goloka Vrindavana. Krishna fills His home life as we fill ours, with His loving friends and favorite belongings. Our own proclivity for home life derives from His original personality, because as minute individual souls we come from Him and from His transcendental abode. Since Krishna is partial to cows and to the Tulasi tree, His pristine abode has a wealth of both. Goloka means “abode of cows,” and Vrindavana means “forest of Tulasi” (Vrinda being another name for Tulasi). The forests, rivers, streams, hills, mountains, fields, and village dwellings of Goloka Vrindavana are an eternal setting for the blissful recreations of Lord Krishna and His confidential devotees.

With no work to do, Krishna is under no obligation to create our temporary material world. He does so out of kindness to provide material estates for those of us who prefer to live independent of Him, or to have the illusion of doing so. Krishna entrusts the work of creation to His expansion Lord Maha-Vishnu, who is Krishna’s original “work person.” Unlike our own work persons, Maha-Vishnu, while an expansion of Krishna’s personality, is also an individual with distinct initiative and identity. He works on His own, leaving Krishna, the original home person, unbothered. This ability of Krishna’s to expand without leaving home, entrusting work to His individual expansions without so much as a thought to the stereotypical functions of God-as-puppeteer, is a unique and essential feature of the Supreme Being.

While Lord Krishna enjoys the informality of intimate dealings at home with devotees who are in the mood of family and friends, in the office of creator Lord Maha-Vishnu attracts worshipers who prefer a God primarily endowed with grand, omnipotent, awe-inspiring features. Maha-Vishnu’s caliber is inconceivable. To illustrate, the Bhagavad-gita and other texts say that not only are we not alone in the universe, but the universe itself is not alone. Past the enormously distant shell of our own universe are an uncountable number of others. These innumerable universes, in a form described variously as seeds and golden eggs, float from the pores of the skin of Maha-Vishnu as He lies sleeping on the Causal Ocean, a body of transcendental water that separates the spiritual and material realms. Maha-Vishnu breathes out, and the universes come into being for trillions of years. He breathes in and absorbs all the universes and their inhabitants back into His body until His next exhalation in the cycling of creation.

Work for Lord Krishna, or for Maha-Vishnu, is therefore not a matter of great effort. He does it in His sleep. And like all His other activities, His work is a voluntary, sportive pastime to please and accommodate His devotees. Maha-Vishnu’s transcendental creative slumber is said to parody our own unconsciousness under the spell of matter. Here we are forgetful of Krishna, Maha-Vishnu, the spiritual world, and of our own eternal individual natures. The technical term for Lord Maha-Vishnu’s sleeping is yoga-nidra, a term Vaishnavas also employ to denote the coating of intellectual, scientific, and quasi-spiritual knowledge that, in perpetuation of our forgetfulness, directs our waking activities.

Lying on the Causal Ocean, Lord Maha-Vishnu wakes to cast a radiant glance at material nature, which is the shadow of the spiritual nature, represented by His own consort the goddess Rama Devi. While Lord Vishnu is always in the direct company of Rama Devi, He contacts material nature only by His glance. Since Rama Devi consorts with Maha-Vishnu both as His beloved partner and as His power of knowledge, the implication is that both knowledge in the material nature and the material nature itself have a shadowy quality. The material nature is not false, however. It is real. But its fleeting, cyclic reality should, like the shadows in Plato’s cave, leave us to wonder at the substance, vitality, freedom and variety of the original, spiritual nature.

The Glance of Time

The words used for Maha-Vishnu’s glancing are tyakta kalam, indicating that His effulgent glance and time (kala) are one and the same. The radiant time glance carries us minute eternal individual souls into the womb of the shadow material nature, where we acquire temporary bodies according to our activities in the previous creation, the previous breath of Maha-Vishnu. The universes, too, having risen from the pores of Maha-Vishnu’s skin in seed form, enter (in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati words) the “unlimited accommodating chamber” of material nature, where they enlarge to house the embodied souls.

Being ever-present, without beginning or end, time monitors and records everything. Time brings with it to the current creation the results of our activities and desires in previous creations, so that we are daily awakened and impelled by time and time-borne circumstances to deal with our past desires and activities. Like a tape-recorded voice, time represents the will of Krishna and Maha-Vishnu while appearing to be separate from Them.

According to the Brahma-samhita, even Maha-Vishnu’s glance does not directly touch material nature. There are intermediaries. The first is Rama Devi herself, who “carries the function of His glance” to her shadow nature. (Brahma-samhita 5.7) And at the point where this transported, effulgent time-glance touches the material nature, a reflected halo appears that is known as Sambhu, or Lord Siva. It is Sambhu who impregnates material nature by direct contact. Lord Siva is thus identified with time, its destructive aspect in particular, and is sometimes known as Kala. His consort, the material nature, is often portrayed as the dark destructive goddess Kali. As Maha-Vishnu’s glance and Lord Siva are both identified with time, all three are practically identical. Srila Prabhupada therefore states at various points, without contradiction, that Maha-Vishnu touches material nature only with His glance, only with His time energy, and only in the form of Lord Siva. Lord Siva is, in short, Lord Maha-Vishnu in contact with material nature.

“Lord Vishnu acts through Lord Siva in the creation of the material world,” Srila Prabhupada writes. “When Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that he is the seed-giving father of all living entities (aham bija-pradah pita), this refers to actions performed by Lord Vishnu through Lord Siva.… When material activities are to be performed, Lord Vishnu performs them through Lord Siva. When Lord Vishnu is untouched by the external energy He is Lord Vishnu, but when He is in touch with the external energy, He appears in His feature as Lord Siva.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 8.7.22)

Lord Brahma’s Creations

Having set the creation in motion by impregnating material nature with the time-bound souls, Lord Maha-Vishnu and Lord Siva expand to individually reside in each universe. Lord Brahma, who is born from a golden lotus flower growing from Lord Vishnu’s navel, joins them. Lord Brahma is first-born of the time-bound souls in every universe. Like the rest of us and unlike Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva, Lord Brahma, though very powerful, is here in the universe, as a result of his past activities, or karma, in pursuit of enjoyment apart from Krishna. Elaborating on the imagery of the lotus, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati states that not only Lord Brahma but every living being has a place on the “superior plane” of this lotus and has a connection to God through its golden form, which represents pure knowledge.

Sitting in meditation atop the lotus, Lord Brahma, impelled by impressions from his previous life, as are all of us, turns his mind to creating the planetary systems, the species of life, and other features of the universal layout. In this way the rest of us individual souls are provided bodies in species that match the mentality we developed in our past lives. During one lifetime of Brahma we rotate in the cycle of birth and death, acquiring and giving up bodies according to the consciousness produced from our chosen activities. Figures given in the Bhagavad-gita show that Lord Brahma’s day, or his twenty-four hours, is equal to approximately eight and one half billion solar years. One hundred years of such days is Brahma’s lifetime, which in turn is equal to one breath, one exhalation and inhalation, of Lord Maha-Vishnu.

While empowering Lord Brahma to create and Lord Siva to destroy, Lord Vishnu Himself takes charge of maintaining each universe. All activities in the material nature fall into these three broad categories of creation, maintenance, and annihilation under the administration of these three deities. We create our dwellings, families, institutions, nations, and civilizations, maintain them and destroy them, and watch as they are destroyed. Outside of human influence as well, all material bodies, plants and animals, as well as natural bodies like mountains and planets and universes, have their creation, their duration or maintenance, and their ultimate demise under the supervision of the triumvirate headed by Lord Vishnu.

As the contact point with material nature, Lord Siva is initially an instrument of creation. Sambhu means parent or progenitor. The accounts of universal history contained in the Puranas also have him assisting Lord Vishnu in maintenance by diverting or battling villainous elements in the universal population. But Lord Siva is best known as the destroyer. He is said to perform the tandava nritya, a wild, gesticulating dance, crushing not only the universes themselves, but everything within them, great and small. Everything material disappears in due course, trampled by the unrelenting dance of time. Within each universe Lord Siva is known as Rudra, and his wife as Rudrani, names indicating that these two cry loudly, and that, with their violent, destructive natures they cause all of us to cry as well. Rudra also denotes reddish blue, said to be the color of anger. In the form of Lord Maha-Vishnu’s glance, time envelops and directs the entirety of the material manifestation, including creation, maintenance, and annihilation. Time’s overall material effect, however, is destruction, implemented by Lord Siva and his Rudra expansions.

Time in the Spiritual Nature

Creation, maintenance, and destruction in the course of time are not features of the spiritual nature. The Upanishads say that before the creation there was no Brahma and no Siva, no sun, stars, or sky. There was only Vishnu, His expansions, and the pure souls who have no desire for a life separate from Him. With only Vishnu, and no Siva or Brahma, there is only maintenance, with no creation or destruction. Time exists in the spiritual nature without its destructive side, and without the type of creative side that is merely destruction’s necessary counterpart. And yet the spiritual nature is said to be full of activity, more so than its material reflection. Lord Vishnu and His devotee servants expand spiritually there to enrich, vary, and perpetually increase the pastimes of blissful loving devotion.

While all this still takes place under the watchful eye of time, in the spiritual nature time only maintains, by the sole influence of Lord Vishnu, or in other words everything there exists eternally. Our experience of the three-fold and ultimately destructive nature of time is only the material experience. The Brahma-samhita refers to spiritual time as a “concentrated all-time presence” and as “transcendental ever-existing time.” It also describes Krishna’s abode Goloka as a place “where there is eternal existence of transcendental time, who is ever present and without past or future and hence is not subject to the quality of passing away even for the space of half a moment.”

As working men and women the process of breaking away from the tearful conditions of material nature and material time begins with using both our work life and our home life as a means to meditate upon and worship the Supreme Person. The Upanishads state that spiritually inclined persons, from Lord Brahma on down to human society, always look to the supreme abode of Vishnu with all their hearts and minds: om tad vishno paramam padam sada pasyanti yat suryayah. From this perspective there is no question of inactivity because we act ceaselessly, whether in the material or spiritual natures. In pursuance of our ideals, whatever they may be, we are constantly busy. Our entrance into the material nature came about by a desire for the illusion of independence from the Supreme, and the entire nearly immeasurable material creation appeared to satisfy that desire. Redirecting both desire and activity towards Vishnu and Krishna can bring about changes at least equally immeasurable. The practices of bhakti-yoga detailed in the Bhagavad-gita, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, and other books center on hearing about and describing the attributes and glories of the Supreme Person and of the spiritual nature. These methods, even approached with theoretical caution, can turn both our work persons and our home persons back into pure, transcendental, spiritual individuals by awakening us from our slumbering condition in material nature.

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=18617

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Sometimes we may question the suitability of the term “razor’s edge” when applied to the process of Krsna consciousness. Isn’t this too harsh? Shouldn’t Krsna be more kind and yielding to His devotees? Is there not a more suitable term that we could use?

That God displays features of unyielding and uncompromising hardness cannot be denied. In Bhagavad Gita Lord Sri Krsna says: “Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, I perpetually cast into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life” (Bg 16.19). Srila Prabhupada explains: “It is known that God is all-merciful, but here we find that God is never merciful to the demoniac” (Bg 16.20, purport).

Alright then, it may appear that God is hard and uncompromising with the demons but what of devotees who are on the path of Krsna consciousness?

Well the term: “razor’s edge” really only applies to the spiritual path, and therefore it would apply to devotees, in whatever stage of development they may be. In explaining the term “razor’s edge” Srila Prabhupada writes: “Not only must one come to the stage of pure Krsna consciousness, but one must also be very careful. Any inattentiveness or carelessness may cause falldown.…Factually, there is always the chance that this will happen, and therefore one has to be very careful” (SB 3.26.24, purport).

Therefore we are always on the razor’s edge, even when, by the mercy of Krsna-Guru-Vaishnava, we return back home, back to Godhead. Our original existence there is also on the edge of a razor – there is no room for inattentiveness or imperfection. Consider this statement by Srila Prabhupada: “Usually anyone who has developed his relationship with Krsna does not fall down in any circumstance, but because the independence is always there, the soul may fall down from any position or any relationship by misusing his independence” (Letter to Jagadisa February 27 1970). We are here in the material world because we fell from the razor’s edge.

To summarise the position: Spiritual life is the razor’s edge, for neophytes, for intermediate devotees, for devotees in the Spiritual World. The only difference between them appears to be how they accept it.

To highlight the point, one may briefly reflect upon a pastime of Lord Caitanya, the most munificent and compassionate incarnation of the Lord, and one of His intimate devotees, Chota Haridasa. Chota Haridasa, who was in the renounced order of life, at the behest of Bhagavan Acarya, a senior devotee, begged white rice from an elderly devotee lady named Madhavidevi, which Bhagavan Acarya subsequently offered to Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya honoured the meal, but later on told Govinda, His personal assistant: “From this day forward, do not allow Chota Haridasa to come here” (CC AL 2.113). When the devotees appealed to the Lord to forgive Chota Haridasa, the Lord replied: “My mind is not under My control. It does not like to see anyone in the renounced order who talks intimately with women. You should all tend to your respective engagements. Give up this useless talk. If you speak this way again, I shall go away, and you will no longer see Me here” (CC AL 2.124-125).

The Lord was inflexible in His chastisement of Chota Haridasa. None of the devotees, even Paramanda Puri, the Godbrother of His own Spiritual Master, could persuade Him to relent. At that time, the Lord immediately prepared to leave Jagannath Puri, but Paramanda Puri pacified Him with these words: “My dear Lord Caitanya, You are the independent Personality of Godhead. You can do whatever You like. Who can say anything above You? All Your activities are for the benefit of the people in general. We cannot understand them, for Your intentions are deep and grave” (CC AL 2.135-136).

There are many lessons which we can learn from this pastime if we adopt the attitude of Paramanada Puri. One of those lessons is given by Srila Prabhupada: “Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted to prove that His devotees are exalted and that their character is ideal. He kindly accepts His faithful devotees and teaches them how much tribulation and disturbance can be produced by even a slight deviation from the strict principles of devotional service” (CC AL 2, Instructions from this chapter).

So we are presented with at least three facts:

  1. Spiritual life requires perfect, continuous and even increasing attention and focus, even up to returning to the Spiritual Kingdom;

  2. The slightest of deviations can result in a fall down from the Lord’s personal association; and

  3. The Lord is absolutely rigid and inflexible in maintaining this principle.

Now we may approach these facts in at least two ways: We can either feel that this does not match up to our notions of Goodness or Mercy, or we may choose to reflect on what these facts actually tell us about the real nature of Goodness and Mercy. If we choose the first approach we shall be forced either to deny the facts or to reject the world view from which they arise altogether. In either case, we shall be left with our unexamined notions of Goodness and Mercy.

If we choose the second path, the path enunciated by Paramananda Puri: that the Lord and His ways are inconceivable but we worship Him just the same, with full faith in Him as the very foundation of Goodness and Mercy, then we may just learn something.

There are some preliminary observations which may assist us in assimilating these facts:

  1. The “razor’s edge” is practically synonymous with the fact of our minute independence. It refers to the fineness with which we make choices at every moment of our lives.

  2. Because we are minute, the consequences of those choices can easily place us in illusion and associated distress.

  3. Those who have accepted the truth of the razor’s edge are called sadhus. Being sharpened by spiritual life, they themselves become razor-like in their ability to distinguish reality from illusion. In this regard, Srila Prabhupada commented: “Just like when a person cuts something, there is no mercy, similarly when a sadhu or a person saint, speaks to his student, he does not make, show any mercy. He speaks the truth so that his mind may be cut off from the unreal attachment” (Lecture Bg 6. 4-12, NY Sep 4 1966).

  4. By accepting the facts mentioned earlier and the Lord’s independence, we ourselves become strengthened in our spiritual practice. Following the chastisement of Chota Haridasa it was said: “After all the devotees saw this example, a mentality of fear grew among them. Therefore they all stopped talking with women, even in dreams” (CC AL 2.144).

The main reason why we might wish for the facts to be otherwise, for there to be something less harsh than a razor’s edge is because we recognise our own shortcomings. “Very well,” one might say, “Spiritual life is a razor’s edge, and God does not make compromises. I can’t do it. It is a hopeless task for me. Better to change paradigms.” To this view, I would suggest the following considerations:

  1. If God demands perfection from us, then perfection must be possible.

  2. God Himself tells us how it is possible: “This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it” (Bg 7.14). In other words, God really wants us to surrender to Him and to depend upon Him. Perfection is a by-product.

  3. Slipping from the razor’s edge does not mean eternal damnation. It does mean a great deal of trouble.

  4. Actually God is especially merciful to His devotees. Although Lord Caitanya was hard with Chota Haridasa, Chota Haridasa obtained eternal shelter at the Lotus Feet of the Lord. Srila Prabhupada has written elsewhere: “…even though he falls down, a devotee is never to be considered the same as a fallen karmi. A karmi suffers the result of his own fruitive reactions, whereas a devotee is reformed by chastisement directed by the Lord Himself” (SB 1.5.19, purport).

  5. The Lord keeps us on the razor’s edge by His mercy in the form of devotee association. Srila Prabhupada writes: “…as soon as a living entity desires the Lord’s mercy, the Lord immediately gives him an opportunity to meet a bona fide spiritual master. Such a person is fortified by both Krsna and the spiritual master” (CC ML 19.151, purport).

  6. We cannot judge the Lord, or anybody by their external behaviour. We are told by Krsnadas Kaviraja Goswami: “Sri Caitanya was actually always merciful within His heart, but He was sometimes externally negligent of His devotees. We should not be preoccupied with His external feature, however, for if we do so we shall be vanquished” (CC AL 7.168). The Lord is not unkind. By hearing about the Lord’s pastimes, we are reminded of the razor’s edge which incidentally also instructs us on how to hear such pastimes.

  7. Above all, the razor’s edge is a constant reminder that we are persons. We are capable of making choices, and we are responsible for the choices we make. This is the beginning. The end is the indescribable joy of devotional service, consciously and freely rendered: the choice to place God before ourselves.

The razor’s edge of spiritual life and the Lord’s uncommon character may be for us bitter pills to swallow, but by accepting them for what they are, on their terms, we regain our spiritual health and are fortified for rendering joyful service to the Lord. It is conceivable that those who have accepted the razor’s edge in that way eventually come to realise: they would not have wanted it any other way.

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=16380

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By Madhava Smullen

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, devotees at ISKCON Boise, Idaho launched a new annual “Festival of Gratitude” this year, with the motto: “Appreciating Deity, Devotee, Nama, Dhama, Bhagavatam.”

“We wanted to focus on inspiring gratitude for Srila Prabhupada and the processs that he’s given us,” says Bhakta Nathen Wanty, who came up with the idea for the festival and co-organized it. “And with the gratitude gained from attending this festival, we hoped devotees would become more enthusiastic to follow the process, and share it with others.”

While ISKCON Boise is a small community, a total of about 100 people attended the festival, which was co-organized by Sri Sri Radha Bankebihari pujari Anadi Radha Dasi, and endorsed by temple president Anantarupa Das.

Running from Thursday November 28th to Saturday the 30th, the event began on Thanksgiving Day at 2pm with a welcome, a two-hour kirtan, and a big Thanksgiving prasadam feast.

“Nathen Prabhu, his wife Alicia, as well as his mom, brother and two kids were in the kitchen for hours, while other devotees brought dishes from home too,” says Anadi Radha. The resulting spread included tofurkey, nutloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables with cheese sauce, fruit salad, banana muffins, cherry pie, pumpkin pie, and apple pie.

The heart of the festival then took place on Friday and Saturday. Each day started off with the morning program featuring a class by Anantarupa Das appreciating Srila Prabhupada, and how he gifted Srimad-Bhagavatam to the world.

After breakfast, Radhika Ramana Das (Dr. Ravi Gupta), who grew up at ISKCON Boise and is now the Charles Redd Chair of Religious Studies at Utah State University, gave a seminar entitled “Appreciating Srimad Bhagavatam.”

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Divided into two 2.5 hour sessions, the first day appreciated the Bhagavatam from an academic perspective. Radhika Ramana cited the many ways in which Srimad-Bhagavatam is culturally significant, such as how it has touched art, architecture, literature and more not only in India but worldwide; how it has remained relevant through different cultures and time periods; why its Sanskrit poetry and meters are special; and how it is one of the most commentated upon works with some sixty to ninety commentaries.

He also described how Srila Vyasadeva, the author of Srimad-Bhagavatam, had been lamenting even after writing so many Vedic scriptures. The sage Narada then explained to him that this was because he had not glorified the Supreme Personality of Godhead and devotional service. Thus Vyasadeva embarked on writing the Bhagavatam, which is considered the cream of all Vedic literature.

As the second verse of the work itself describes, “Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, this Bhagavat Purana propounds the highest truth.”

“Radhika Ramana Prabhu explained how the pure souls qualified to read Bhagavatam do not simply reject such religious activity and material motives to read some austere, stoic scripture,” Anadi Radha says. “But they are doing so to taste and enjoy the seedless, skinless fruit of the Bhagavatam, which is always replenishing and neverending.”

Finally, Radhika Ramana emphasized the importance of Srila Prabhupada’s purports, which not only make the Bhagavat-Purana understandable by ordinary people in this age of Kali, but also contain the commentaries of all the previous acharyas.

With a solid base on what makes the Srimad-Bhagavatam so authoritative and special, the second part of the seminar, on Saturday, dived deeper into its sublime content. 

Tying his talk to the festival’s themes, Radhika Ramana pointed out that many of the stories in the Bhagavatam show devotees going through different struggles and hardships; but they remain grateful to the Lord, and in so doing build a relationship with Him. 

Can we have gratitude for Krishna and Srila Prabhupada not just when things are easy, but when times are tough, too? Radhika Ramana asked his audience, explaining that such challenges give us a chance to pray to Krishna for His mercy.

The Bhagavatam emphasizes the relationship between Krishna and his devotees, Radhika Ramana said. He then told the stories of Prahlad and Dhruva, who went through incredible hardships and remained devoted to the Lord. Ultimately, such devotees were able to control the Lord through their love, or bhakti, and this is the message of the Bhagavatam.

“Radhika Ramana concluded by saying that the Srimad-Bhagavatam is for everyone, no matter what level we’re at,” Nathen says. “Yes, we’re unqualified to read the Bhagavatam, and that’s exactly why we should read it – because it lifts us up and purifies us as we do.” 

Besides the seminars, the Festival of Gratitude included kirtans every night, with a special three-hour kirtan on Friday especially advertised for and geared towards the public. 

“Unlike some of the major festivals, we didn’t have any big name kirtaniyas – it was all local devotees leading,” Nathen says. “It was very simple and sweet, just coming together to chant the Holy Names.”

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Alongside the seminars, there were also kids’ activities with Nathen’s wife Alicia, which focused on reasons to be grateful for Srila Prabhupada. Children listened to the story of how Prabhupada held his own Rathayatra as a young boy, then brought it to the Western World. They then made Rathayatra posters, as well as a map of Srila Prabhupada’s sea voyage from Kolkata to New York City.

The children also created a Gratitude Tree, with leaves inscribed with the words “I am thankful for…” Throughout the festival, all the devotees filled them in with their appreciations and hung them on the tree.

On Saturday evening, the festival concluded with a “family fun night,” in which devotees read out the appreciations written on the leaves, had snacks, played Srimad-Bhagavatam charades, and discussed how grateful they were for each other.

Some of the things appreciated on the leaves included devotee association; Srila Prabhupada; the Festival of Gratitude and those who made it happen; family and friends; and the Boise Hare Krishna community.

After the festival, many devotees expressed that they felt more appreciation for Srila Prabhupada, the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the process of devotional service, and more enthusiasm to become Krishna conscious and share it with others.

Radhika Ramana also praised the festival as being an important opportunity for devotees to relax, connect with each other and care for each other, when often during festivals devotees work hard to present Krishna consciousness to to others.

“This gives us the chance to fill our cups,” says Anadi Radha Dasi. “Then, we’ll feel more inspired to make a difference in other people’s lives too.”

The team behind Festival of Gratitude are encouraged enough by its success to continue it as an annual event. After focusing on the Srimad-Bhagavatam this year, next year they hope to emphasize another one of the five processes highlighted in their motto: “Appreciating Deity, Devotee, Nama, Dhama, Bhagavatam.”

These are derived from Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya-lila, 22.128: “One should associate with devotees, chant the holy name of the Lord, hear Srimad-Bhagavatam, reside at Mathura and worship the Deity with faith and veneration.”

“In the Northwest, we don’t have a lot of the big festivals that bring devotees together like those on the East Coast in places like New Vrindaban and Alachua,” Nathen says. “So we invite anyone who wants to come next year and participate in appreciating  and offering gratitude to Srila Prabhupada.”

Keep up to date with the Festival of Gratitude here:

https://www.facebook.com/Festival-of-Gratitude-108648533905552/

Watch video of the full seminar by Radhika Ramana Das here:

Appreciating Srimad Bhagavatam Day 1: 

https://www.facebook.com/108648533905552/videos/973512013018219/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Appreciating Srimad Bhagavatam Day 2: 

https://www.facebook.com/108648533905552/videos/1693151220816437/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Source: https://iskconnews.org/boises-festival-of-gratitude-gives-thanks-to-srila-prabhupada,7182/

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By surrendering to a pure devotee, we are actually experiencing freedom. The pure devotee sets us free from our lower nature, the lower nature that we have due to our foolishness. Somehow or other, we got entangled in this lower nature and we know that we do not need it, but we still have it.

Take for example, uncontrolled anger! When people get angry, they often break things and it is a lot of damage which they have to pay for. They worked really hard for those things, but then they also break the things. So, uncontrolled anger is certainly a problem, part of a lower nature. Pride is another one – “Yes, I am so qualified! So incredibly qualified and therefore I have no problems. I have only one problem; that world does not recognise my glory.” But what we forget is that when we are very proud, there is nothing we can learn because we are under the impression that we already know everything.

Therefore, it is only when we become a little humble can we learn something meaningful such as how to overcome our lower nature. So like this, we have to grow, and it is through the association of devotees that we develop these qualities that can assist us in overcoming our false ego; overcoming our lower nature. 

Source: https://www.kksblog.com/2019/12/overcoming-our-lower-nature/

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Movers and None by Bhaktimarga Swami

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It struck me, that right across the street from where I live, there's a shop which sells clothing for women.  And in the window display, there are two mannequins decked out in the latest fashionable apparel.  I couldn't help but take a picture of the display, because it said to me, "We don't walk!"
 
I actually found it humourous, at the thought, and carried on with my own stroll along with Jaya.  I will caption them as ‘Anti-Walkers’ because essentially they don't move.  Anyway, what to expect from a couple of dummies? 
 
Just prior to the walk, I sat with our group of ashram residents, and we read from The Nectar of Devotion about movement and all that applies physically and mentally to devotion.  It addressed practices like dancing, clapping, prostrating, standing and singing before the deity.  This is more strictly applicable to humans, of course.

Within minutes, Jaya and I came to Yonge Street, which happens to be very busy, for what reason I didn’t know.  At least there was movement, activity - a good sign.  Now there were those, and many of them, lined up, and others sitting, gorging themselves on chicken filet sandwiches.  (I can't help but be a little judgmental to these, primarily youthful, indulgers in such negative karma).  I am aware that there is some innocence involved in their habit.  Please let me have a heart and feel some compassion for both chickens and their consumers.  After all they could be doing worse, they could be engaged in gang fights. 

The pressure is on, from my side, to have some hope that one day more people will see the value in devotional endeavour of bhakti such as dancing (etc.)for the Supreme. 
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Winning Life’s Battles

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Non-violence when wrongly applied can cause greater harm to society than direct violence.

The first question often asked about the Bhagavad-gita is why was it spoken on a battlefield? Despite a common view that religion is a major cause of war, in most people’s minds the two should remain separate. Religion or spirituality should result in peace not conflict. If one’s spiritual practices bring about the bloodthirsty desire to eliminate the followers of some other faith then they must surely be suspect. That would surely seem to make sense.

Nevertheless the Gita did arise from a war, the great Battle of Kurukshetra, Not only that, but its final message to Arjuna a mighty warrior who had suddenly veered towards pacifism was to give up his “petty weakness of heart” and sally forth to slay his enemies in battle. How then is it a religious text?

Perhaps we should begin by defining religion. Dictionaries usually describe it as a system of belief in some supernatural power. That is where the conflicts tend to arise. My beliefs may well be different to yours, and human nature is such that we identify with these to the point where we create divisions based upon them. Hence we have many religious communities going under different names Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc. In most people’s minds this is what is meant by religion, all these various designations. The Gita however gives a broader definition.

In Sanskrit, the language of the Gita, the word for religion is dharma. This translates more accurately as the essential nature of a thing. In the case of a person this nature is to serve. We are always serving someone or something, be it our boss, family members, country, or maybe just our dog. We cannot avoid service. Even if we have no one to serve we will still serve our own mind and senses, which constantly demand satisfaction in one way or another. We cannot sit peacefully for very long before one bodily demand or another impinges upon us and we have to act to satisfy it.

Vedic wisdom tells us that this service propensity is actually meant for God. This is real religion, the dharma of the soul. No doubt the adherents of all the above named faiths and most others will concur with this, despite their external differences. Whatever our practices the ultimate aim must be to know and love God, to unite with him and serve him eternally. When we serve anything other than God we are never satisfied; we constantly search for the lasting fulfillment that no amount of sensual pleasure or material relationships can provide. As Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.”

This is the message propounded by the gita. It speaks of all beings as eternal parts of God having an unbreakable loving relationship with him. Arjuna’s dilemma as a warrior who was not inclined to fight was only the external context for a far deeper message than just getting him to take up his weapons. That message is encapsulated in the gita’s key verse in the ninth chapter, where Krishna says, “Always think of me, offer me your respects, worship me and become my devotee. Surely then will you come to me.” This is the essence of all religion and it was what Arjuna had forgotten. He was thinking he had so many other duties which had all begun to seem onerous, conflicting and ultimately impossible. He got to the point where he did not know which way to turn or what to do. Krishna’ s response was simple; just do what I want and you will be peaceful and happy.

As it happened at that time Krishna wanted Arjuna to fight. After all, sometimes fighting and violence are required when there are disturbing elements in society. We need the forces of law and order, which was Arjuna’s duty, but that’s not the real point. The ultimate message of the Gita is not about fighting or any other specific kind of work. It is about surrendering to God, acting only for his pleasure, recognizing that this is truly in our own and everyone else’s best interests. When Arjuna understood this point his dilemma was over and he became peaceful. “My illusion is gone,” he told Krishna, “I am now free of duality and prepared to do whatever you ask.” And as Krishna asked him to fight that very fighting became a pure spiritual activity that led Arjuna to the highest point of self-realization.

All of us are like Arjuna in so many ways. We stand on the battlefield of life faced with all kinds of challenges which often seem overwhelming. Sometimes we too don’t know which way to turn but the message of the Gita is also there for us. “Turn to me,” says Krishna, “I will always protect you and in the end bring you back to me.” That is the fight facing us all, turning from illusion towards Krishna, but with his help we like Arjuna will surely emerge victorious.

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=16101

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Worries about terrorism, escalating healthcare and living costs, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and widespread violence are just a few of the concerns that plague people around the world. People everywhere are looking for peace, prosperity and happiness, but in Kali Yuga, these things are hard to find.

Fortunately, however, everyone can get relief from all material pangs by participating in Lord Caitanya’s Sankirtana movement. Sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names, simultaneously cleanses one’s heart and vanquishes suffering, while giving even beginners a taste of real happiness.

Srimad Bhagavad tells us that the root of all worldly afflictions is forgetfulness of Krsna. The remedy is Sankirtana. As such, Lord Caitanya ordered every human being within this universe to accept the process and to help Him spread it everywhere (Cc Adi 9.36).

Krsna dasa Kaviraja describes the wonderful effects of Sankirtan thus:

“The fruit of love of Godhead distributed by Caitanya Mahäprabhu is such a great intoxicant that anyone who eats it, filling his belly, immediately becomes maddened by it, and automatically he chants, dances, laughs and enjoys.
When Sri Caitanya Mahäprabhu, the great gardener, sees that people are chanting, dancing and laughing and that some of them are rolling on the floor and some are making loud humming sounds, He smiles with great pleasure.” Adi 9.49-50

Another muni, Karabhajana, who lived thousands of years ago, described the importance of Sankirtana like this:

“Those who are actually advanced in knowledge are able to appreciate the essential value of this age of Kali. Such enlightened persons worship Kali-yuga because in this fallen age all perfection of life can easily be achieved by the performance of sankirtana.” (S.B. 11.5.36)

Yet, even with these benefits, devotees often find themselves too busy or distracted to personally perform Sankirtana. However, this December, there’s a good opportunity for everyone to take part.

During the holidays, people tend to embrace – or at least to ponder — spiritual values like generosity and kindness. In this mood, they more readily accept prasadam, books, and spiritual association and they reciprocate generously with donations and words of appreciation for our work.

Adding to this, more people than usual come out of their homes and businesses at this time of year to shop and to attend social events.

For these reasons, the “Christmas Book Distribution Marathon” has endured for many years.

Srila Prabhupada always took special notice of the book scores from around the world and was particularly pleased to hear that his followers were increasing book sales and sending money to the BBT. Clearly, he was also aware that December was an especially good month for selling books. This is evident in the following response he wrote to Bali Mardan prabhu – the temple president of the New York temple in 1972 – who had sent him a favorable Sankirtana report. Srila Prabhupada wrote:

“Now December is finished and I think in your country this month is the best month for spending, being the Christmas season, so I shall be anxious to see what was your collection for December and what was your net savings. I note also that your expenses have remained almost constant for so many months, except for the money paid to book fund, which is increasing more and more, so that is the best system: pay to the books fund larger and larger sums, keep other expenses constant as much as possible or reduce . . .” On December 31, 1972

Srila Prabhupada loved to hear that the devotees were distributing large numbers of his books and he consistently encouraged them to sell more of them. He once wrote, “These books and magazines are our most important propaganda weapons to defeat the ignorance of maya’s army, and the more we produce such literature and sell them profusely all over the world, the more we shall deliver the world from the suicide course.” Letter to Jayadvaita, 18 November 1972

So, have some real fun and make your plans now to go out this December to distribute books, prasadam and the holy names. Organize your family, yourself, or your temple, so that you’re ready for this once-a-year opportunity.

Although the entire season is favorable, here are a couple of events worth noting for this year’s book distribution marathon:

Gita Jayanti, the advent of Bhagavad gita.
The best way to observe Gita Jayanti is to study the Gita and to distribute it. For this event, many temples buy large quantities of Bhagavad-gitas from the BBT to sell to their congregation members at wholesale. These members may then enjoy personally distributing them to friends, family and co-workers. Others “sponsor” Gitas, paying for them in advance so that other devotees can distribute them to the public on their behalf.
Some temples distribute thousands of Bhagavad-gitas in this way.

World Enlightenment Day.
Even those who don’t normally have a chance to go out to distribute books traditionally participate on this day (either by going out to distribute or by donating Laxmi to sponsor books for others to distribute).

In whatever capacity you decide to participate this December, you’ll find true happiness and will gain solid spiritual advancement by performing the Yuga dharma — Sankirtana.

Website: www.distributebooks.com

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=2291

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