ISKCON Derire Tree's Posts (12968)

Giving Thanks to Whom? by Mahesvara Das

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At the end of this month the people of America celebrate the event called “Thanksgiving”. As the title implies, the whole purpose of this event is to stop and become consciously grateful for the things we have each been given. Traditionally people take this time to give thanks to God for the gifts of the bountiful harvest and the blessings of family, friends, and good health etc.
Of course, the holiday assumes an acceptance that there is a God to give thanks to. But for all those who reject the Vedic conclusion that the three stages of God realization culminate in the Personality of Godhead referred to there as Lord Sri Krishna, the whole concept of Thanksgiving becomes an absurd event.
There is absolutely no rational reason to go through the motions of giving thanks to God if one truly believes that the one who is apparently doing the “thanking” and the one who is apparently doing the “giving” are the same individual or just sardonic cosmic illusions!
Old Man God ?
When Michelangelo first painted “Creation: The Touch Of God” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in the early 1500’s, it was immediately problematic. The high priests of that time were very upset about having a larger than life full frontal nudity portrait of Adam painted on the most prominent part of the most important church in the Catholic empire. But what was even more controversial was that, according to the Bible, God had specifically told Moses it was impossible for humans to see his face! (Ex 33:18-33) Yet Michelangelo was not only painting his face but his whole aged body in full Technicolor on the same ceiling with the naked Adam! How did Michelangelo know what God looked like?
When the priests converged on him, Michelangelo convinced them to allow the paintings to stay by pointing out that God also said he made man in his own image. Therefore, he reasoned, that if God created the universe and our galaxy was very old, then God himself must also be a very, very old man! It all apparently made sense at that time, but still nobody can say that just because Michelangelo painted what he thought God looked like, his spectacular rendition of how the Supreme Lord looked, it was still limited to his own fanciful guess. The Vedas warn about the pitfalls of this type of faulty reasoning particularly because it seems so reasonable, and yet it is very misleading.
Contrary to Michelangelo’s speculation about what God looks like, the Vedas make it very clear that even though Krishna appeared on this planet for approximately 125 years, he never aged past the blooming youth of 16 years! This of course makes a lot more sense then what Michelangelo concluded for the obvious reason that old age is not a pleasant experience and God is not subjected to the laws of nature like we are!
One Universal God Addressed by Many Names
It’s not so important what name you use to call out to God, all He would like to know is that you haven’t forgotten Him or take Him for granted! That is the real meaning behind “Thanksgiving”. The world is sustained and totally dependent on a brilliant sun that burns several hundred million tons of hydrogen every second in an atmosphere that has no oxygen. Just how magically inconceivable is that? Where does all that hydrogen come from and how can it burn in the vacuum of outer space?
Let’s not take all of this for granted or reduce it down to a game of chance like a Vegas Roulette wheel.

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By Srila Prabhupada

There is nothing in the world with which the Lord is disconnected. The only thing we must learn is to excavate the source of connection and thus be linked with Him by offenseless service. We can be connected with Him by the transcendental sound representation of the Lord. The Holy Name of the Lord and the Lord Himself are identical, and one who chants the Holy Name of the Lord in an offenseless manner can at once realize that the Lord is present before him. Even by the vibration of radio sound, we can partially realize sound relativity, and by resounding the sound of transcendence we can verily feel the presence of the Lord. In this age, when everything is polluted by the contamination of Kali, it is instructed in the scriptures and preached by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu that by chanting the Holy Name of the Lord we can at once be free from contamination and gradually rise to the status of transcendence and go back to Godhead. The offenseless chanter of the Holy Name of the Lord is as auspicious as the Lord Himself, and the movement of pure devotees of the Lord all over the world can at once change the troublesome face of the world. Only by the propagation of the chanting of the Holy Name of the Lord can we be immune from all effects of the Age of Kali.
From Srila Prabhupada’s purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.16.32-33

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From “On the Holy Name” at Kirtan-mela in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Oct 5, 2019:

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura explains that if we are humble will seek the help of another. Otherwise, we will not be inclined.

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said that “trnad api” is the siddha-pranali, the mantra to attain perfection.

Lord Caitanya said to string that verse on the garland of the holy name and wear it around your neck.

Lord Caitanya says that even if a tree is drying up, it does not ask for water.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura says if someone comes to cut the tree down, the tree will still give shade to that person.

“The devotees of the Lord are so forbearing that even though they are defamed, cheated, cursed, disturbed, neglected or even killed, they are never inclined to avenge themselves.” (SB 1.18.48)

Although because of spiritual understanding the devotees do not take insults very seriously that does not reduce the offense of the person committing the insult.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura compares to initiating people without faith in bhakti to casting pearls before swine or dressing a monkey in fancy clothes.

Hearing the glories of devotional service nourishes our faith in bhakti.

Even hearing of the existence of pure devotion, even though we do not have it, is purifying.
To chant the Lord’s names means to take the Lord’s help, but if we use the Lord for our own ends, we cannot never attain the state of humility.

If we hear what purity is, then we become purified. In fact, it is the best way to become purified.

To chant the Lord’s names for any other reason other than to develop our pure devotion is an offense.

From a lecture on Srimad-Bhagavaam 10.9.19 in Hartford on October 25, 2019:

Srila Prabhupada makes the point in the purport, “This bhrtya-vasyata does not mean that He [Krishna] is under the control of the servant; rather, He is under the control of the servant’s pure love.”

Yashoda considered because that the milk she was boiling was ultimately for Krishna’s pleasure, it was something important for her to tend to so she stopped breastfeeding Krishna and set him down.

Krishna does not come to this world to collect some offerings or servants but to reciprocate the spontaneous love of His devotees here.

Krishna does not have to wonder what is the motive of the person because he is omniscient.

Because He is does not have to do anything, He does what he wants to do, and what he wants to do is exchange with the devotees who have spontaneous love.

In Vrindavana-campu, it is described that Krishna broke so many pots of butter and yogurt that there were rivers of those substances pouring out of the house.

Kunti was perplexed that Krishna was genuinely afraid of His mother.

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura lists other contradictions within Krishna:
Although personified goodness, He becomes angry.
Although self-satisfied, He becomes hungry.
Although condensed bliss, He experiences sorrow.

Love is so powerful that it makes Krishna forget that He is God.

The acaryas point that usually we wait for the judgment of God but in this pastime Krishna awaits the judgment of Yashoda.

The cowherd women, seeing that all the additional rope Yashoda added was not making the rope long enough to tie up Krishna, advised her to stop.She told them she wanted to see the extent of Her son’s waist, and told the women to bring all the rope they had in their homes.

Krishna’s heart melted when Krishna saw Yashoda’s determination to bind him, a manifestation of her bhakta-nistha.

From “On the Holy Name at Almaty Kirtan” in Kazakhstan on 21 Sep 2019:

Anarthas obstruct us from appreciating Krishna’s presence in His holy name.

Anarthas are things we are attached to but which have no real value.

Hrdayam daurbalyam (weakness of heart)

1. attachment to things that have no connection with Krishna.
2. envy of other living beings
3. pride in material things
4. duplicity and fault-finding

Persons who wonder how they can find time to chant have this weakness of heart. I ask them if they have time to eat. Generally they are very regulated, and they find time to eat very day. Why? Because they realize if they do not eat, there are consequences very soon. They get weak, etc. Similarly we need spiritual nourishment, and if we do not get it, there are consequences. The trouble is that we do not perceive these immediately. Thus maya lures us into thinking things are not so bad.

The more we associate with the holy name, the more we become purified.

The purpose of this life is that at the time of giving up our body we have to remember Krishna.

We may think that “attachment to things that have no connection with Krishna” is not a problem for us because we understand everything has a connection with Krishna, however, if we are seeing something is for our sense gratification, then we are not seeing its connection with Krishna.

If we chant the holy name while maintaining faith in the glories of the holy name we conquer over offenses.

Tattva-vibhrama means to not be aware of the obstacles in devotional service.

The acaryas give us so much knowledge of the anarthas so we can get beyond them and taste the presence of Krishna in his holy name.

Even though I do not experience the presence of Krishna in His holy name I have faith that if I continue chanting and I try to give up the anarthas someday I will experience Krishna’s presence in His name. This much faith we have to have.

If we do not hear we forget. That is the nature of this world. And forgetfulness is the most dangerous place to be in the material world.

Every day chant Hare Krishna, even if you cannot chant 16 rounds.

From a lecture on Govardhan Puja in Hartford:

This is a festival that Krishna Himself started to worship the cows, the brahmanas, and Govardhan Hill.

Krishna Himself gave a description of how it should be performed. He was the inaugurater of that festival and wanted it performed.

Krishna also wanted to promote complete devotion to Himself as the Supreme Lord and not worship of the various demigods.

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura said that Krishna spoke to reduce the pride of Indra, to begin a blissful annual festival, and to spend seven days in the association of His intimate friends.

The sweetness is Krishna subordinating Himself to those with spontaneous affection.

In kevala-bhakti, yogamaya acts so those with an intimate relationship with Krishna are not distracted by His opulence and His divinity.

Yashoda actually feels responsible for Krishna’s naughty behavior. If she were always conscious of His opulence and divinity she could not correct Him.

If someone tries to correct Him without unalloyed love, they are not going to be able get away with it.

Not only does reveal His spontaneous love and thus attract people during His manifest pastimes, He leaves descriptions of His pastimes so people in the future will also become attracted.

Krishna has nothing He has to do because everything is done by His energies. Thus what He does is what He likes to do the most, experience these pastimes with His eternal associates.

Krishna is self-sufficient because all the ingredients for creation are within Himself. First Krishna creates time, for without time there cannot be a beginning of anything.

Sukadeva Goswami speaks to Maharaja Pariksit Krishna’s pastimes to bring Him to the point of complete resolute faith and absorption in Krishna.

Some places it is amazing how Govardhan Puja is celebrated. At New Vraja in Hungary they would fill 40% of the temple room with hundreds of preparations as the altar was already full.

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Mother Cow Dairy!

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By Krishnarupa devi dasi

A group of devotees in Melbourne have arrived at an amazing initiative, under the guidance of His Holiness Bhakti Rasamrita Swami, to supply ahimsa milk in commercial quantities.

The devotees teamed together in 2016 and located a dairy farmer willing to meet their strict requirements in caring for the cows. Every cow or bullock on the Mother Cow Dairy will always be cared for during their entire life cycle, whether they are producing milk or not.

Mother Cow Dairy is unique not only for how they care for their animals but also in how they process the milk. The cows are secured on a free-range farm where they are always away from force-feeding or other nasty practices of factory farming, including hormone or antibiotic treatments.

The cows at Mother Cow Dairy pasture feed in a park-like setting, and they get to keep and feed their calves freely, just as at New Govardhana.

Long-awaited Organic Certification is on its way and soon it will be certified organic, just to add to the benefits.

With the support of Melbourne Mahaprabhu Temple Management, Mother Cow Dairy milk is now being sold in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

For more information, please visit www.mothercowdairy.com.au

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=79760

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Chastened and Humbled by Giriraj Swami

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Listening to Srila Prabhupada’s talk on Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.35, given in Bombay on December 4, 1974, I felt chastened and humbled by his description of surrender and pure devotion, as exemplified by Sri Prahlada:

“Krishna says (Gita 18.66),

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah

[Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.] The qualification is: unless one is sinless, he cannot understand Krishna. He cannot understand what is krsna-bhajana. But if one is eager actually very eager he can do it immediately. What is that? Surrender to Krishna. Sarva-dharman parityajya: give up all these nonsense so-called religious principles. Simply surrender to Krishna: ‘Krishna, I had forgotten about You. Now I surrender unto You fully. If You like, You can kill me; if You like, You can give me protection.’ This is surrender not business: ‘Krishna, if You give me this nice thing, then I will surrender.’ That is not surrender. That is business.

“When Prahlada Maharaja was offered the benediction that ‘My dear Prahlada, you have suffered so much for Me, even from your father. Now your enemies are all off. You can ask any benediction you like,’ Prahlada Maharaja said, ‘What is this, my dear Lord? Am I a baniya, vanik, that because I have suffered for You, I shall ask some benediction? No, no, don’t offer me like that. Because You are the supreme powerful, whatever I want, I can get from You. I am born in an asura family; I am inclined to material enjoyment. So don’t delude me, my dear Sir. And why shall I ask You? I have seen my father, so powerful that even the demigods were afraid of him, and You finished all his power within a second. So why shall I ask for these things? Kindly engage me in the service of Your servant. This much I want. I don’t want anything else.’

“Therefore a devotee never asks anything material from the Supreme Personality. As Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has taught us, na dhanam na janam na sundarim kavitam va jagad-isa kamaye (Siksastaka 4). [O Lord of the universe, I do not desire material wealth, materialistic followers, a beautiful wife or fruitive activities described in flowery language. All I want, life after life, is unmotivated devotional service to You.] They are simply satisfied by glorifying the Lord. That is their only satisfaction. If they get the opportunity of glorifying the Lord, as it is said in the previous verse, sabhajayante mama paurusani. Mama paurusani the glorious activities of the Lord. This is the way of bhajana. Satatam kirtayanto mam yatantas ca drdha-vratah (Gita 9.14). [Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.]

“This is the way of bhakti-yoga. Simply glorify . . . Krishna therefore comes to give advantage to the devotees for glorifying Him because He acts. Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam (Gita 4.8). [In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.] To kill the demons and to give protection to the sadhus, He has to work.”

Srila Prabhupada has kindly taught us the standard of surrender, of pure devotional service. I simply pray to come to that standard, by his grace, as he wanted unqualified as I am.

Source: http://www.girirajswami.com/?p=15143

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75th DIAMOND JUBLIEE VYASA POOJA 2019

By Chetan Kumar & Neeta Maheshwary
 
As a member of ISKCON Prahla desh, lastly I received a formal invitation to attend an annual offering of special honor pooja known as 75th Diamond Jubilee Vyasa Pooja at the Library Hall, Swami Narayan Temple on 15th September 2019 (Sunday). I made up my mind to attend the event with my family.
 
I never had a clear understanding what it was or could be, in fact the “Vyasa Pooja” title itself being self explanatory gave me a clear awareness that it might be related to Maharishi Ved Vyasa. While arriving at the event I witnessed a purified spiritual environment where the Devotees were chanting the Mahamantra “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare”. Listening to these mind and soul purifier chants my conscious mind went into deep spiritual chanting itself and I found myself also chanting the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra from the depth of my heart with complete surrender and devotion to Lord Krishna. I experienced an inexpressible joy while chanting with the devotees. As the main event was about to begin, I came to know about few things which were completely new for me. Pictorial Reading i.e. the environment was print rich and very well decorated with fresh flowers. All glories to Srila Prabhupada, I paid my obeisance to Lord Krishna and the Founder Acharya of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada. My mind was still questioning me about the title Vyasa Pooja, as I couldn’t find anything related to Maharishi Ved Vyasaji. However, slowly and gradually, with my limited intellect I was able to conclude that the “Vyasa Pooja” is celebrated as an special honor to the spiritual teacher, who actually represents Krishna Himself as well as Krishna’s incarnation Maharishi Vyasadevji. Further, it was elaborated that Krishna recommends everyone seeking God to first seek out God’s representative and respectfully accept his guidance. I became more eager to know about the Vyasa Pooja celebrations therefore I got access of technology and came across some of very significant information.
 
 
“Actually there is no difference between hearing directly from Krishna and hearing directly from Krishna via a bona fide spiritual master like Vyasa. The spiritual master is the representative of Vyasadeva also. Therefore, according to the Vedic system, on the birthday of the spiritual master the disciple conduct the ceremony called Vyasa-puja”
 
 
“Since Vyasdeva is the original guru (spiritual master) of all who follow the Vedic principles, worship of the spiritual master is called Vyasa-Puja”.
 
As of now I was very much aware about the celebration and its ideology. It was an intuition of my mind that the celebrations are for the Founder Acharya of ISKCON Srila Prabupadaji as he is the spiritual Teacher, however after the introduction speech, it became much known to me that the pooja celebration was for H.H. Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj.
 
Few hours later, the lectures segments were initiated in which I was blessed to hear the philosophy and ideologies of ISKCON by the spiritual leader for the very first time. It had an amazing positive energy which made that YouTube lecture interactive as if Guru Maharaj was communicating to us all directly; the crowd was found to be deeply engrossed into the lecture of H.H. Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj. The claps and laughs among the devotees made me feel as if we were in person to Guru Maharaj.
 
Glorifications segments to the spiritual teacher (Guru Maharaj) started with the lectures of Venu Madhav Prabhu Ji, HG Gauranga Prabhu and HG Radhe Shyam Prabhu, which were telecast via multimedia. The lectures of these great personalities had so much of learning into it as I could call it as an ocean of knowledge. I felt like listening to each and every word of them with complete sincerity. It had glorifications and their personal encounters and experiences with H.H. Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj. I believe these souls are very fortunate to have direct guidance from the great Spiritual Master.
 
 
 
 
The Glorifications were further continued by the devotees and I experienced that each one of them were deeply connected to their Spiritual Guru with their thoughts, words and deeds.
 
The ISKCON talent talk team had also arranged a theatre/play “Bounce back with the beads”, written and narrated by Dr. Neeta Maheshwari and Malati Devi Dasi ji which expressed the importance of Hare Krsna Mahamantra japa regularly and how it transforms the behavior of an individual, be it a working class, housewife, or a student. The characters were portrayed so well and the body languages along with the mannerism of each character were perfectly carried by the participants. I thoroughly enjoyed the play and the most vital part of this segment was the dedication of the devotees (the members of ITT) who did not move a second carrying their cell phones to make the entire video of the play until approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Devotees also shared that the participants were practicing for the play since 3 months; honestly their hard work and effort were clearly visible.
 
The ceremony was later lead by HG Ram Sakha Das and Jagannath Das who delivered glorifications to Guru Maharaj and shared the transcendental knowledge of Bhagavat Gita. Lastly Maha Prasadam with Abhishekh Charna Amrit were offered to the Devotees, enjoying the Aarti and kirtan, we were about to come to an end of this Mahautsav Pooja.
 
I would also like to appreciate the team of ISKCON Prahala Desh for organizing such a wonderful event with perfection and high standards in terms of management. Lastly, may I express this year Vyasa Pooja in two words i.e. SOUL PURIFIER, the powerful chants and the vibrations of the Maha Mantra captured my subconscious mind entirely, and I am still consciously or subconsciously reciting the Maha Mantra since then.
 
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
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Prayers request for HG Virabahu Das

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Hare Krishna,

We are requesting your prayers and well-wishes for a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada, His Grace Virabahu Das, an initiating ISKCON Guru and member of the Governing Body of Commissioners (GBC). Virabahu Prabhu recently had an elective surgery at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai, India. Kindly keep him in your prayers to the Lord so he can have a speedy recovery and can return to his devotional service very soon. Thank you very much.
Yours in service, Sangita Devi Dasi

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=80038

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As devotees, we talk a lot about getting free from the material energy, free from the influence of maya, free from our attachments to material sense pleasures and their objects.

Why do we want to do that? What would be the reason?

Sometimes it can be confusing. It may seem like we’re taking all this too seriously, when really it’s all Krishna’s creation and life in this world can have so many pleasures to offer us.

Here is an example that perhaps will illustrate the reasons.

Suppose you are in a relationship with someone. You think you love them, and they love you. You have all kinds of hopes and dreams about all the things you will do together. They seem to be so wonderful, and they tell you all kinds of things that you will do together, and ways you will be happy and enjoy your love together.

You are very pleased by all this, it seems very amazing. You begin to imagine all these ways things will be, and you become very attached to all of it. You make plans, you invest energy, you change your life around being with them.

After some time, it starts to become obvious to you that there are some “flaws” in the situation. Well, maybe the person that says they love you starts lying to you. Then they start cheating, and being involved with others. You’re very attached to them, and all of the things you’d hoped for, so you go on, trying to overlook it. Maybe they say they are sorry, and they make new promises. “I will never lie to you again” they say. “I will never hurt you or cheat you again” they say.

So, you continue on, investing your energy, your love, your time, your faith. You believe in the things they tell you. You believe in your future with them. You think to yourself “well maybe I am not so happy right now, but I soon will be”…. or “someday I will be”.

One day, you realize that your suffering has become very great, and you life seems dark, empty. You feel lonely inside. All the hope you once had seems drained. All the efforts you’ve been making seem to change nothing. Still the lies, still the cheating, still the empty promises.

Finally, something happens that changes everything. You meet someone who is different. This person, there is something radiant about them. You feel a strong attraction to everything about them. When you see them, you feel happy, light. The sun starts to shine again in your world. You suddenly notice there is a moon, and you spend hours gazing at it. Everything seems alive and full of wonder and beauty.

All of this happens when you even just think of this new person… so you start thinking of them more and more. The more you think of this new person, the less all the pain the other person is inflicting on you seems to matter.

Suddenly, you don’t care so much when they lie to you. Somehow, when they cheat, it does not seem to hurt you so deeply. When they yell and scream and try to argue with you and make you upset, you find that all you have to do is think of your new love, this person you have discovered, and are not so affected by their rages and torrents of fury.

Pretty soon, you are spending time with your new love, you can’t wait to see them, to be with them. Everything about them is just so exciting and wonderful to you. They are kind to you, loving, caring. They don’t lie, they don’t cheat, they don’t fly into rages and mistreat you.

But… you still don’t know…. it seems pretty drastic to think of just walking out of the relationship you’ve been in. There is some security there, you have all these plans you’ve made. There are all these “things” and “people” connected to you and your life with them. Well, you would have to give it all up to be with your new love.

The more you think about your new love, the more time you spend with your new love, the less these “things” seem to matter. They all start to seem gray, dull, lifeless. You don’t resent the old person anymore. They don’t even have the power to upset you. All the promises and hopes start to pale in comparison to the new beauty you have found from the relationship you are having with your new love.

Finally, nothing matters anymore at all. You don’t care if you lose everything. You don’t care if the rest of the world hates you. All the plans and dreams and promises have lost their meaning entirely. The person you had been with showers you with expensive gifts, and they have no allure. They offer you everything you had ever wanted, and you find that you no longer want a single bit of it. Not one thing they offer means a single thing to you any longer. All you want in the whole world is just to be with your new love. You have become free from the bondage of the old relationship.

That new love is Krishna. : )

(you knew I was going to say that didn’t you ;)

We are all longing for Krishna. All the things in this world will only give us temporary pleasure and happiness. All the while, we will be lied to, cheated, and punished. That’s really what’s happening. The material world is a lie. It’s a false dream of happiness. It keeps us from our real love with promises of things it will never deliver, and lies about the nature of our relationship with it.

When we start seeing Krishna, thinking of Krishna, spending time with Krishna, the material world starts to lose it’s power over us. All the things it has to offer begin to pale and have less meaning. The become much less valuable.

We have found our one and only true love.

We start to feel the real happiness and beauty and love that Krishna has to offer. Krishna doesn’t lie or cheat or mistreat us. We only feel happiness when we are with Him. This is our eternal relationship. This is what we are all seeking after, we have just forgotten where to find it.

Now we know. We know Krishna. Even just thinking of Krishna makes us feel happy, what to speak of being with Him. That is real freedom from the bondage of the material world, and real (and lasting) happiness is the result.

Hare Krishna : )
——————

 

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=14352

 

 

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From Back to Godhead

By Satyaraja Dasa

The Golden Avatar delivered the gold standard of spiritual practices for this age.

In general, people like gold. It represents wealth and success. A golden age refers to an era of goodness and plenty, acknowledged in Greek, Roman, and Indian cultures. If you have everything, you were born with a golden spoon in your mouth. The Golden Rule is the epitome of cosmic justice or fairness: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. As the saying goes, “As good as gold.”

In Krishna consciousness we have the Golden Avatar, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the best of divine incarnations. He is Radha and Krishna combined, and it doesn’t get any better than that. To be more specific, He is of golden hue because, though Krishna, He has taken on Sri Radha’s mood and complexion (radha-bhava-dyuti suvalitam). Thus, He is female and male, a particularly profound manifestation of the supreme. His golden complexion is emblematic of His intense beauty.

What’s more, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu brings with Him a snippet of the Golden Age. That is to say, within the darkness of Kali, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy in which we now find ourselves, we can access an age of love. It is a facsimile of Satya-yuga, a time, millions of years ago, when all beings lived happy and prosperous lives. Mahaprabhu Himself initiated this modern reflection of the Satya age when He appeared in India some five hundred years ago, and all who partake of His process—the chanting of God’s holy names—can avoid being victimized by the horrors of Kali. Instead, they can bask in the glories of prema, or love of God.

Lust vs. Love

Prema is itself compared to gold. The Chaitanya-charitamrita (Adi-lila 4.164) tells us, “Lust and love have different characteristics, just as iron and gold have different natures.” The next text elaborates (4.165): “The desire to gratify one’s own senses is kama [lust], but the desire to please the senses of Lord Krishna is prema [love].”

One might compare lust to the misuse of gold or think of it as gold’s bad side. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.17.39) we learn that gold can encourage falsity, intoxication, prostitution, envy, and enmity. Similarly, countless books and songs have been written about the pains associated with “love” in the material world, about the horrors of being betrayed or deceived, as when one’s beloved goes off with another.

How can something so pure lead to something so bad? The answer is that in this world when love leads to hardship and pain it is usually not love at all. It is, rather, lust, or love’s grossly materialistic counterpart. As in the Chaitanya-charitamrita verse already mentioned, we can understand the distinction between the two quite simply: When our love is egocentric, focused on our own gratification, it is merely lust—iron, not gold. And when it is theocentric, focused on God and in a spirit of selflessness, it is true love. Indeed, it is gold.

Even in the material sphere we can see that when we are selfless and giving in our relationships, they bear sweeter fruit. But still we can be exploited. The highest kind of love, then, is love of God. This is the true gold standard, for it takes us out of the world of exploitation and into the realm of dedication, where true love becomes the very fabric of our being: It is expressed towards God directly, and through Him to all living entities, who are brothers and sisters under God’s fatherhood.

Distinguishing Iron from Gold

The Golden Avatar brings with Him a golden process meant to help us distinguish between lust and love, between cheap iron and valuable gold. Simply by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—one can partake of this golden opportunity.

In fact, it is this chanting process that makes this age truly golden. As Shukadeva Goswami says in the Bhagavatam (12.3.51), “My dear King, although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: Simply by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom.”

But chanting, like all other forms of meditation, must be executed in the proper way. The seed of the sacred sound comes through a bona fide preceptor. Srila Prabhupada traveled to the United States in 1965 and shared the goldmine of the holy name by initiating people into Krishna consciousness, thereby making them shine like molten gold. Hari-bhakti-vilasa (2.12) tells us, “As bell metal can be transformed into gold when treated with mercury, a disciple initiated by a bona fide guru immediately attains the position of a brahmana.”

A Vedic text defines brahmana as “one who knows Brahman.” Knowledge of Brahman, spiritual truth, descends into the heart of a sincere disciple through hearing from a self-realized spiritual master and committing to the process he or she offers. This knowledge and commitment blossoms into divine love, making the disciple golden in every way. It is this blessing that the Krishna consciousness movement seeks to share with the world.

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Westerners, in general, take too much for granted and are not careful enough in social dealings.
Modern Western society conditions one to artificially come too close, too soon without respect for one another. 
Modern Western society respects nothing beyond fame, money and sexual prowess; it is the antithesis of Vaishnava culture.
Prematurely judging others and jumping to conclusions are other negative traits found almost everywhere, which most of us must admit. These traits, born of the mode of passion, create dissension.
We should seek to understand our fellow devotees and try to accommodate them. This principle is basic to all religious people and holds true even in mundane dealings.
Here is a story that illustrates the point of prematurely judging others and jumping to conclusions.
Once, a man was sitting on a park bench, quietly reading a newspaper. A moment later, another man with three children came along and also sat down on the bench.
The man with the children looked morose and stared at the ground, but his children began to clamor for attention. The man ignored them and the children began to fight among themselves. The first man was trying to concentrate on his newspaper, but the children were making quite a disturbance. He thought, “Why doesn’t this man control his children?”
Ten minutes passed. Finally the first man suddenly put down his newspaper and turned to the second man and said, “Why the hell don’t you control your children? Can’t you understand that they’re
creating a nuisance? It’s so disturbing!”
The second man slowly turned to the first, and with tears in his eyes, replied, “My wife has just died of cancer. I’ve come from the hospital. My children think that she’s gone to sleep. They don’t know that she’s dead, but they sense that something’s wrong. I don’t know how to explain it to them.” On hearing this, the first man realized that he had made a mistake. He acted too soon without properly understanding the situation.
Nowadays, if a devotee is accused of something, many jump to a conclusion and consider him guilty without knowing the details. And if a devotee is factually guilty of a crime or misbehavior, many hold it against him even twenty years later, never considering the possibility that he could have repented and become purified through devotional service. This closed-mindedness indicates a lack of faith in the process of bhakti and a lack of proper culture.

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=28187

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The Bhaktivedanta Research Centre in Kolkata was happy to welcome HG Ananga Mohan Prabhu from the ISKCON Kolkata Temple at the library. He was fascinated to see the rare collection of the library especially the handwritten songbook of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. He was notified about the recent projects in which he showed great interest. Overall he was very satisfied to see the progress of the BRC.

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Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=79920

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The original ISKCON “ CONSTITUTION OF ASSOCIATION ” prepared by HDGSP and signed by Himself as acharya and co-signed by Rayama-Mukunda-Ravindra Swarup and Jagganath. Notice that all of the statements expounded by HDGSP became realized by HDGSP’s Supreme Purity and Spiritual Power and Knowlege.

CONSTITUTION OP ASSOCIATION
1. The name of the society is The International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
2. The headquarters of the Society are located at Radhakrishna Temple, 26 Second Avenue, New York City, 10003, USA.
3. The objectives for which the Society is being established are:
(A) To educate the greater human society in the techniques of spiritual life as the basis for a balanced psychic and biological development, and thereby achieve for the first time in human society a real peace and unity among the contending forces in the world today.
(B) To propagate the Sense of Godhead, the all-attractive Personality of primal and eternal Form, as He Himself revealed in His own words in the Bhagavad Gita, The Holy Scripture of the Lord Sri Krishna, the Godhead.
(C) To bring together individuals in a Society, regardless of nationality and irrespective of creed or caste, in order to develop a nearness to the Godhead and thereby the idea that within the members and humanity at large there is an infinitesimal soul spirit that is part and parcel in quality with the Godhead, and that all life is meant for the satisfaction of said Godhead, the Supreme Soul.
(D) To encourage the teachings of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who demonstrated practically the transcendental process of approaching the absolute Personality of Godhead by His acts of congregational chanting of the holy name of God, a process known as Samkirtan.
(E) To prove by active work and preaching that Lord Sri Krishna is the only enjoyer of all the outcomes of individual and collective sacrifice, penance, meditation, arts, culture, science, because He is the Supreme Proprietor of the whole universe, eternally apart of Him everyone knows Him as a friend. Real peace can be attained when this is realized, in fact.
(F) To assist whenever and wherever possible in the building of a social structure on the real foundation of spiritual progress and establishment of peace and unity between men throughout the world.
(G) To attempt to save men individually from the chain of victimization the ongoing trend in modern civilization operates by, in the name of ideologies of false sentiment, so that Man may again be a free soul, to act and live freely with spiritual vision. This is possible by individual spiritual initiation, Diksha, when a man can see everything in Godhead and Godhead in everything.
(H) To further toward realization this highest truth as revealed by Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the six Goswamins headed by Srila Rupa and Santana Goswamins.
(I) To have for its objectives amongst the others four principles which the Goswamis had in view. They are the following:
1. To erect a holy place of transcendental pastimes as well as a place where members of the Lord Sri Krishna can flourish.
2. To propagate all over the world in the form of missionaries the process of devotion, the transcendental service to the Godhead, and to make known that this devotional service is the main function of the human being.
3. In order to accomplish this, to adopt proselytizing methods of peaceful means and to establish a broader society of association for all members, including scholars and admirers, to engage in this service as put forth in the Srimad Bhagwatam.
4. To install, wherever it is possible, the worship and temple of Radhakrishna and that of Sri Chaitanya, and to give facility to everyone to become trained in the modes of Archan or preparatory principles of devotional service.
(J) To introduce to the members of the Society and humanity-at-large a simpler and more natural purpose in life by means suitable to the particular place and time, and as enjoined in the Bhagavad Gita.
(K) To organize educational programs, such as classes and lecture tours, and to institute services, such as mailing, for the benefit of the members of the Society and humanity-at-large.
(L) To publish periodicals, books and/or pamphlets in all important languages in order to reach human society and give an opportunity to same to communicate with the Society.
(M) To invoke the Quality of goodness particularly in every member of the Society, individually by the process of Diksha and by establishing one in the status of a Brahmin (good and intelligent man) on the basis of truthfulness, knowledge and faith in the transcendental service of the Lord.
(N) Among the secondary objectives of the Society, it shall undertake the following activities:
1. To revive the scientific system of social orders of classification based on intelligence, martial spirit, productivity and common assistance, generally known as the four castes with reference to quality and worth for the common cause of world society.
2. To discharge as a matter of course the vitiated system of supremacy of one man over another by false prestige of birthright or vested interests.
3. To popularize the vegetable-grain diet under approved methods in order that full value of protein, carbohydrate, fat and vitamin benefit may be derived therefrom.
4. To discourage intoxicating or addicting habits of all descriptions and dimensions and to expose such persons thus afflicted to approved methods of spiritual realization.

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Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=79822

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Seeing Krsna by Kadamba Kanana Swami

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Everybody close your eyes and take a deep breath – breath in and then breath out. Now, in your mind, go to your favourite place, wherever that is. Now in that place, try your best to see Krsna. Do you see Krsna? Maybe, maybe not. This is difficult. What we see is usually a picture of Krsna that we may have seen of Krsna, maybe even in the form of His deity. That is what we try to remember when we see Krsna. So we have this mental image of Krsna, but can we actually see Him? Can we see His face or we just see the contour? Do we see His flute? How much of Krsna can we actually see?

It is said that in bhava, it is no longer us thinking about a form of Krsna, but Krsna Himself actually appears. So that is something special. Can you imagine? Krsna appearing! And then as we go deeper, more and more things happen. There are Krsna’s pastimes which start to unfold. And it has got the life of Krsna going and all we are doing is watching, seeing Krsna perform His transcendental pastimes. There, we can see Him play his flute and we can see Him herd the cows.

Source: https://www.kksblog.com/2019/10/seeing-krsna/

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The Power and Glory of the Holy Name

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I heard a wonderful talk in which Srila Prabhupada and Srimad-Bhagavatam glorified the chanting of the holy names. I was present when Srila Prabhupada gave the talk at the Ardha-kumbha-mela in Allahabad on January 31, 1971.

Srila Prabhupada said, “The conclusion is:

na vai sa narakam yati
neksito yama-kinkaraih
yady apy amangalo martyo
visnu-loke mahiyate
 [SB 6.2.48]

[‘Because this very confidential historical narration has the potency to vanquish all sinful reactions, one who hears or describes it with faith and devotion is no longer doomed to hellish life, regardless of his having a material body and regardless of how sinful he may have been. Indeed, the Yamadutas, who carry out the orders of Yamaraja, do not approach him even to see him. After giving up his body, he returns home, back to Godhead, where he is very respectfully received and worshiped.’] One who is engaged in chanting the holy name—for him this is the special facility. What is that? It is guaranteed that he’ll never go to the hellish condition of life. That is guaranteed. He will not be degraded to the lowest stages of life, animal life or a life of ignorance in a lowborn of human life, but he will gradually make progress. And it is also guaranteed that the Yamadutas, the servants of Yamaraja, will never come to see him, or he will never see them. They will be out of sight. This is the result. And yajnati ananyalo mattah: although this material existence is always inauspicious, a person engaged in chanting the holy names always lives in the Vishnu-loka. He’s not in this material world. If you chant without offense, yatra ananyalo mad-bhakta tatra tisthami, immediately you create a Vaikuntha-loka, because Krishna comes.”

Here Srila Prabhupada was referring to a verse in the Padma Purana:

naham tisthami vaikunthe
yoginam hrdayesu va
yatra gayanti mad-bhaktah
tatra tisthami narada

“My dear Narada, I do not dwell in Vaikuntha or in the hearts of the yogis; I remain wherever My devotees sing My glories.”

“When Krishna comes, Vishnu comes,” Prabhupada continued. “Wherever Krishna goes, that is Vaikuntha. . . . There is no difference between the holy name and Krishna. And Krishna says, ‘I live there where My pure devotees are chanting.’ So, when Krishna comes, when Krishna is on your tongue, how you can live in this material world? It is already Vaikuntha, provided your chanting is offenseless.

“In the beginning it may not be offenseless; still, the chanting has got so much power. Krsna-karsini. There are several qualifications of devotional service; one of them is krsna-karsini: attracting Krishna. Krishna attracts everyone, but devotional service attracts Krishna.

mriyamano harer nama
grnan putropacaritam
ajamilo ’py agad dhama
kim uta sraddhaya grnan
  [SB 6.2.49]

[‘While suffering at the time of death, Ajamila chanted the holy name of the Lord, and although the chanting was directed toward his son, he nevertheless returned home, back to Godhead. Therefore if one faithfully and inoffensively chants the holy name of the Lord, where is the doubt that he will return to Godhead?’] This is the last conclusion, that Ajamila actually did not mean to chant the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but some way or other his son’s name was Narayana, and he called his son. The name is so powerful that even without aiming or intending to address the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because the name was there, therefore ajamilo ’py agad dhamam: he was promoted to the spiritual kingdom. Kim uta sraddhaya grnan: then what to speak of such persons who are actually trying to chant the holy name without any offense.

“Ajamila never meant to chant the name of Narayana actually, but he was calling his son, whose name was Narayana. That means it was almost neglectfully done. So, even when neglectfully chanted, the holy name has got so much power, and what to speak of when those who are very faithfully chanting, observing the rules and regulations without any offense—what to speak of them? That is the thing.

“A similar instance is there in the Nrsimha Purana: a boar attacked a mlechchha, a lowborn meat-eater. They hate the hog. They call it haram. Haram means ‘abominable.’ So, one boar attacked him, and while he was dying he called this abominable, ‘haram, haram’; ha rama means ‘O Rama.’ So although he did not mean it, it became ‘O Rama,’ and he was immediately promoted to the spiritual kingdom. So, that is the power of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.”

Source: http://www.girirajswami.com/?p=15137

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Life's Tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late." - Benjamin Franklin

As I carefully see the mirror and observe my face, I notice a few strands of white hair in my chin area. Time has passing is a known fact but never expected it to pass so soon. It appears that I recently passed out of college and entered my youth but I now realize that I am almost 36 years old and a grown up adult, at least physiologically. I also realize that there is a long way to go till I become a psychological adult and grow up from my childhood immaturity and foolishness. But year by year, I am slowly growing a little wiser, more mature and more humbler. Life is doing it's part well and I am trying to be a submissive student learning all the tough lessons life throws at me.

SIGNALS FROM GOD
This recent Karthik Yatra to Vrindavan was another revelation in the passing of time. I got to see some of my old devotee friends from different parts of India after many years. I could see the phenomenon of time, catching up with them too. Many of them have joined "the white hair" club too. How true is the saying - "time and tide wait for none"! I thought I would be an exception to the passing of time (as everyone wishes) but there are no exceptions to the laws of God. Everyone must get old and eventually die to make space for future generations.

Signs like the greying of hair are signs from God that our time on this planet in this human body is running out. These signs are like alarm bells that go on after every hour in the examination hall to remind the student to be more focused in answering the exam well and not be spaced out. But, we conveniently and lazily keep pressing the snooze button to these warning signs hoping that one day these alarms will stop disturbing our plans for enjoyment. But how much ever we hope against hope, the reality is not going to leave, it is here to stay. Rather, we are the ones who will have to leave.

HOUSE ON FIRE
Our condition is like a person who is cozily sleeping in his cozy bed when the entire house in which he is sleeping is on fire. So, deep is our slumber of ignorance that even when devotees who are like firemen come to rescue us away by waking us from our slumber, we consider them to be a nuisance and a disturbance, disturbing us from our dreamy reality. It's time to realize that the reality we assume and hope to be the reality is not the true reality. True reality is revealed in the scriptures. The scriptures explain that this world is already on fire (samsara dava nalalidha loka). There is no time to waste. When this "house" of our's will come collapsing, there is no guarantee (nisvashe nahi visvasah). It's time to run and take heed the advice of saintly devotees like Vidura.

Vidura was so pained to see the pitiable condition of his old but adamantly attached elder brother, Dritharashtra that he returned from his pilgrimage just to speak seemingly harsh but actually compassionate words of wisdom to him to make him quit his "so called" fallible home of comforts to take the life of austerity and discomfort in order to attain a permanent place in the permanent, spiritual world free from the encumbrances and miseries. Srila Prabhupada, writes in one of his purports in this chapter of Srimad-bhagvatam that in those days there was one Dritharashtra but nowadays, there is a "Dritharashtra" sitting in every house. Thus, it is such a need to take shelter of the saintly Vidura's who kindly traverse this world and follow in their footsteps by liberating the "Dritharashtra" mindset within everyone's mind.

PEARLS OF WISDOM
Towards the end of this blog, I would like to quote two beautiful and apt verses from our scriptures. The first verse is from Srimad-bhagvatam 11.9.25 wherein a self-realized Avadhut Brahmana tells King Yadu about what he learns from his body. (I am including the translation and purport to this verse)

deho gurur mama virakti-viveka-hetur
bibhrat sma sattva-nidhanaṁ satatārty-udarkam
tattvāny anena vimṛśāmi yathā tathāpi
pārakyam ity avasito vicarāmy asaṅgaḥ

"The material body is also my spiritual master because it teaches me detachment. Being subject to creation and destruction, it always comes to a painful end. Thus, although using my body to acquire knowledge, I always remember that it will ultimately be consumed by others, and remaining detached, I move about this world."

(PURPORT)
"The words yathā tathāpi are significant in this verse. Although the body bestows great benefit by enabling one to learn about this world, one should always remember its unhappy, inevitable future. If cremated, the body is burned to ashes by fire; if lost in a lonely place, it is consumed by jackals and vultures; and if buried in a luxurious coffin, it decomposes and is consumed by insignificant insects and worms. Thus it is described as pārakyam, “ultimately to be consumed by others.” One should, however, carefully maintain bodily health to execute Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but without undue affection or attachment. By studying the body’s birth and death, one can acquire virakti-viveka, the intelligence to detach oneself from useless things."
And the last verse for this article is a classic verse, loved by all devotees from the Mukunda Mala Stotra of King Kulashekar explaining the only solution to the inevitable failing body problem.

idam sariram parinama-pesalam
pataty avasyam sata-sandhi-jarjaram
kim aushadham pricchasi mudha durmate
niramayam krishna-rasayanam piba            

"This body's beauty is fleeting, and at last the body must succumb to death after its hundreds of joints have stiffened with old age. So why, bewildered fool, are you asking for medication? Just take the elixir of Krishna's Holynames, the one cure that never fails."
 
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Tolerate and Transcend by Giriraj Swami

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Speaking on Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.26.47 on January 22, 1975, in Juhu, Bombay, Srila Prabhupada appealed to us not to be preoccupied with the temporary miserable and happy conditions of life but to put a permanent end to the real problems of life and make our lives successful:

“Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, says personally, ‘These are your miseries.’ What? Janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi: [birth, death, old age, and disease (Gita 13.9)] ‘Repetition of birth and death.’ This is your real misery of life. What you are thinking as this misery or that misery are all temporary. They are all under the laws of material nature. You cannot get out of it. . . . So long as you are under this material nature, you have to accept this birth, death, old age, and disease. This is your real misery. We are thinking of temporary miserable conditions. Shastra says, ‘You don’t require to adjust temporary material misery or happiness, because they will come and go. You are destined to a certain type of miserable condition of life, a certain type of so-called happy life. They will automatically come and go, just like seasonal changes.’ Agamapayino ’nityas tams titiksasva bharata (Gita 2.14). We are very much happy when we are in a very good condition of life. But that will also not stay. That will also go away. Then miserable condition. Cakravat parivartante sukhani ca duhkhani ca. Sometimes happy, sometimes miserable. So, if you are actually interested to get out of miserable conditions, then try to get out of these four miserable conditions of life: janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi. That is intelligence. Don’t be bothered with the temporary miserable or happy conditions. They will come and go. Tams titiksasva bharata. If you cannot bear, then try to tolerate. That is the qualification of a brahman. Satyam samo damas titiksa, tolerance. We should not be disturbed—‘Now I am in miserable condition.’ Tolerate. The miserable conditions will come in this material world. Don’t be very much happy when you are in happy condition of life; neither become mad in miserable condition of life. Chant Hare Krishna and make your life successful. That is required. This is the propaganda of this Hare Krishna movement, or Krishna consciousness.”

Source: http://www.girirajswami.com/?p=15126

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Meeting Tony by Bhaktimarga Swami

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Achuta is a young father originally from Tamil Nadu, who is now living in Qatar. He is exploring Canada as a place to move to.  He happily accepted my proposal for a one hour walk.  We did so in a drizzle, in a nearby neighbourhood of the temple/ashram.  We both chatted and compared notes, so to speak, on the differences between the three cultures of India, the Middle East and Canada.  Our conclusion was that while there are variant ways to do things, in the end, everyone is often quite the same in terms of habits based around self-centredness. 

As we were in conversation (and still in drizzle and darkness) a younger man walked up to me, wanting my attention.
 
"Are you a monk?"

"Yes I am, a Krishna monk from around the corner at the Krishna temple on Avenue Road."
 
He went on to say, excitedly, "In my ancestry, there have been a good number of monks and nuns." 
 
He identified himself as Roman Catholic by birth and said  his name was Tony.  “They were so gifted and insightful.  Are you like that?”
 
I believe he was implying that people of the cloth, who lead a life of simplicity, are perceptive and often healers; they do good works. So I explained that through study of ancient teachings, like those of the book, Bhagavad-gita, and through the mercy (kindness) of my teacher/guru, I've become a lot more sensitive and benevolent.

We were now at the entrance of the subway, and he mentioned he had to break it off and depart.  We shook hands.  Achuta saw and heard our talk and was impressed with Tony's inquisitiveness.  Personally, I like the way some conversations go from a negative analysis to a positive experience.  We walked back to Govinda's where I met Stephen Phillips, who was happy on Krishna prasadam. https://www.instagram.com/p/B4i3gDWgCkH/?igshid=1umh561toifr7
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An early yearning to change the world leads to a year-long international journey with unexpected results.

From Back to Godhead

I was born in 1970 in upstate New York and had more or less a typical American childhood – that is, until age fifteen, when I began to perceive the shallowness of it. At that time, I started to read books on philosophy and psychology and to listen more carefully to the weekly sermons at our local Baptist church. I had a lot of questions – about God, about life – but no one seemed to have the answers.

I was dissatisfied with the state of the world and felt impelled to change it. I opted for an alternative education at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, where I studied Human Ecology. I experimented with alternative lifestyles and environmental and political activism, but was not satisfied with any of my attempts to change either the world or my own life.

I entered into the field of global climate change, which in 1991 was still cutting-edge research. After an internship at New Alchemy Institute, another at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and a third at Harvard University Department of Biological Sciences, I was offered a full scholarship to pursue a PhD at Harvard.

Though honored by the offer, I needed to see the world first. I had to get outside of America and experience other ways of living, other ways of thinking. I applied for and won a fellowship to travel abroad and undertake a research project of my own design. I bought a round-the-world plane ticket and set as many countries as I could on my itinerary.

During this year-long journey, I encountered people from a diverse range of cultures and religions. Studying each in some depth, I was able to appreciate the common ground in all faiths. I was impressed to see how spirituality, for some of them, was not just a tiny fragment of their week, but pervaded everything they did.

During this time, someone dropped a startling piece of information on me: that the combined nuclear weapons of all the countries of the world were enough to burn the entire planet earth to ashes fourteen times over.

Having grown up during the arms race between the USA and Russia, having studied the effects of nuclear fallout in school, and knowing what rash stupidity our governments were capable of, I decided to reset my priorities. After all, what use was a career in global climate change research if the globe was not going to exist? What difference would a slight increase in temperature or carbon dioxide make on a region’s ecology if an H-bomb reduced the ecosystem to a lifeless pile of radioactive dust? Even if I became a world-renowned scientist, even if I won the Nobel Prize, what difference would it make?

An Encounter in Malaysia

I realized that whatever I did in the material sphere would be temporary. If I’m going to use my life’s energy to make a positive change in the world, I thought, let me do something that will have an eternal benefit. I realized that the only way to do this would be to act on the spiritual platform. But I didn’t know how to do it. I prayed to God for direction.

At a cultural festival in Penang, Malaysia, I met a man from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and bought the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, along with two other books. That evening, I read Coming Back, from cover to cover. Then I started on the Bhagavad-gita and read for as long as my eyes would allow me. After a few days, I set out to find the address the man had given me where the devotees have weekly meetings.

I arrived late, and Bhagavad-gita class was going on, followed by kirtana. There was the smell of incense, then amazing food unlike anything I’d ever tasted before. The program was a multi-sensory experience I’ll never forget. It had a very big impact on me. Although I didn’t know anyone there, the devotees were very kind and friendly. I felt that they didn’t want anything from me – they only wanted to give.

One young lady, Kalavati, was particularly friendly, being very happy to meet a fellow American so far from home. She was living in London and traveling with her husband. They were only in Penang for a few days, but she gave me her address and said that if I ever came to London I must look her up. I promised her I would, though I had no plans to go to London.

I continued attending the weekly programs and each time enjoyed them more. The devotees gave me japa beads and showed me how to use them to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. When I packed my bag to leave Malaysia, however, I left all the books behind. In anticipation of what awaited me at my next destination, my experience in Malaysia quickly faded into a memory.

A High-Altitude Adventure Ends in a Lofty Decision

From Malaysia I flew to Kathmandu, where I spent weeks trekking in the Himalayas alone with a Sherpa guide. The Himalayas were otherworldly. Their towering peaks and majestic views made me feel insignificant. The crisp mountain air and the intense physical exercise seemed to invigorate body and soul. I spent most of my days in silent prayer, walking across God’s canvas, asking Him to bring me closer to Him.

Although I’d left my Bhagavad-gita behind, some of its ideas had sunk in. One of those was the concept of devotional service. This concept had seemed to call out to me from every page. Now in the mystical Himalayas it all gelled in my mind. I made a decision: I would devote my life to serving God. But which path would I choose? The Bhagavad-gita had helped me so much, but at the same time it was so Eastern, so foreign to me.

I decided to stick to what I was familiar with. I had been brought up a Christian and had attended church every Sunday and Christian summer camp every year. I even sang in the Christmas choir. When I was a teenager, some missionaries had visited our church and given a slide show about the pioneering work they were doing, spreading the gospel in some obscure country. It had looked exotic, adventurous, risky. That seemed to be the perfect example of devotional service. That was it. I would be a Christian missionary. I would finish my travels and enroll in Bible college, get a solid basis in Christian theology, and follow God’s will from there.

A Change of Plans

From Kathmandu my itinerary was to go to Frankfurt then transfer to Tel Aviv, but somehow all the flights to Europe were fully booked. The only seat available was to London. I took it.

It was early morning when I arrived at Gatwick Airport. In every other place I-d visited I had made contacts in advance, but London was not planned. Then I remembered the American girl I had met over a month before in Malaysia. I took out my address book, and there it was: Kalavati, 10 Soho Street, London. I bought a map and made my way there, expecting to arrive at their apartment. But it was not an apartment. It was the Radha-Krishna temple.

A large Belgian woman sat at the reception desk.

“Hello,” I said, “I’m looking for a friend of mine, Kalavati. Is she here?”

“Oh, yes, she works in the restaurant. She’ll be coming in later. Would you like to wait? I can show you around the temple.”

“Sure,” I said. “Thanks.”

I didn’t have anything else to do, and I had never been to a Hare Krishna temple.

“My name’s Purnamasi,” she said as she led me up the stairs.

She rang a small bell, and we entered the temple room. It was bright and sparkling clean. She bowed down. I stared at what I thought was A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I recognized him from the picture on the back of my Bhagavad-gita.

“I know him,” I whispered. “I bought some of his books.”

“That’s a statue,” she chuckled. “Come, let’s see the deities.”

We walked to the front of the temple room, and she introduced me to three intriguing, jolly-looking wooden forms.

“These are Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra.”

They looked so benevolent. Then she gestured to her right.

“And these are Radha and Krishna. Here we call them Radha-London-ishvara – the controllers of London.”

They were so beautiful, adorably dressed and decorated. It was all so new to me. I didn’t know what to say or do.

“It’s twelve o’clock,” Purnamasi announced, “time for harinama. Would you like to go?”

“What’s harinama?”

“It’s when a group of devotees go out with musical instruments and sing in the street. It’s fun. You’ll like it.”

“Okay.”

The devotees assembled on the street outside the front door and started singing. I already knew the Hare Krishna mantra from Malaysia, so I was feeling more confident. Someone handed me a pair of small brass cymbals on strings, and the group started walking. It was incredibly enjoyable. Somehow it felt really good to be there.

When we got back to the temple, it was time for the lunchtime program. There was a short class, and then we all sat in rows on the floor. A young lady, Anne Marie, started serving lunch. I had been in Asia for long enough to be used to rice, dal, and vegetables, but for the past month in Nepal, I had been eating in the homes of simple mountain people, and the dal was little more than green water with salt and garlic. So when I tasted the thick, creamy, exotically spiced dal, my undernourished body brimmed with gratitude. I remember the feeling of complete satisfaction. Surprisingly, Ann Marie seemed to be even happier serving me than I was eating.

When I finished, she told me that the temple president, Keshava Bharati Dasa Goswami, was holding a questions-and-answers session upstairs in the library. So far, everything at the temple had been so amazing. I decided to stick around.

As I entered the library full of people and sat down on a cushioned bench, I was greeted with an exuberant, “Hare Krishna!”

I turned to the radiant saffron-clad monk seated at the front of the room.

”Is this your first time here?” he asked with a welcoming smile.

”Yes,” I said.

He asked me where I was from, what brought me to London, and what my plans were.

”I’ve decided to dedicate my life to serving God,” I said confidently.

He smiled in surprise.

”Oh, well, you’ve come to the right place.”

Everyone laughed.

”And how exactly are you planning to serve God?”

”I’m going to be a Christian missionary,” I told him and explained my reasoning.

”Well, do you know much about Indian religions?”

”I’ve read some of the Bhagavad-gita, but I’ve never been to India.”

”If you go as a missionary to India, it would be helpful for you to understand their philosophy and religion so you can better relate to the people and more intelligently respond to their arguments. You would make a deeper impact on them. Don’t you think?”

”Yes, you’re probably right.”

”So, we have all these books here,” he said, indicating the shelf full of colorful volumes. “Why don’t you stay with us for two weeks, study our philosophy, and then you can go on to Bible College with a broader background in world religions? We have a dormitory for ladies upstairs. Anne Marie can show you around. How does that sound?”

””Um, yeah, why not?” I said.

And that was it. I moved into the Hare Krishna temple.

An Extended Stay

My invitation had been for two weeks, but the more I read the books, the more I became fascinated by the philosophy. The practices the devotees followed, such as chanting the Hare Krishna mantra and worshiping the deity, were not just something made up but were rooted in the teachings of the ancient Vedas. This immense wealth of knowledge existed before the creation and describes in detail the cyclical events of the creation and destruction of the material universes, giving precise time scales for such events. I realized that no matter how many nuclear weapons humans have, the planet cannot be destroyed without God’s sanction. It was comforting to know that there is a supreme controller who is all-good.

Many of the cultural elements were new to me, and I made a point to understand the significance of everything before deciding to follow it. I was impressed by the degree of philosophical understanding possessed by even the newest devotee. Every activity had deep spiritual significance, and everyone was aware of it. There was no question of blind faith.

In addition to reading on my own, I also attended classes on the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam and continued going on daily harinama. The more I understood what the harinama was all about, the more ecstatic the experience became.

The happiest people in the temple, I soon discovered, were the ones who went out all day to distribute books. When they returned in the evening, they would look so blissful. Their faces were glowing, like angels, and they were full of exciting stories about the places they had gone and the people they had met.

I decided to join them. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I had expected people to be as interested in spiritual knowledge as I was, but sadly, most of them couldn’t be bothered. It was a humbling experience, but I stuck with it.

Eventually, I accepted initiation from a bona fide spiritual master and received the spiritual name Prabhupada-priya Devi Dasi. The guidance of my spiritual master helped me immensely to overcome various obstacles, especially in the beginning of my spiritual life. In time, I married a wonderful devotee from Brazil who gives continual support and encouragement daily. Now, twenty years later, we live with our two daughters in Mayapur, India, in a dynamic, rapidly growing community of ISKCON devotees.

No longer am I the confused person spinning in an endless stream of unanswered questions, disgusted with materialistic culture, disappointed by superficial relationships, and lost in a seemingly pointless existence. Now I have found the answers to my questions. I have discovered a worldwide community based on spiritual culture. I have lasting relationships with amazing people. I have realized the purpose of life and the process to fulfill it, a process that has worked for me and can work for anyone, a process that can change our hearts and change our world – the process of bhakti, or devotional service.

This article appears as an appendix to the author’s book Rising Above It All: Higher Consciousness, Happier Life, by Wendy DaSilveira, available as an ebook from Amazon.com.

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=46695

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The Crush of Love By Jagabandhu das


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My Father-in-law was at first alarmed by the framed photo of Srila Saraswati Thakur adorning our living room wall captioned with His Divine Grace’s bold declaration that “…Western civilization must be crushed.” I explained that the whole world was contaminated by the ideology of extreme exploitation which has it’s heart inextricably intertwined with the roots of what History portrays as Western “civilization.” This idea of exploitation ruins any realm in which it exists like a malignant cancer or lethal virus. It is this ruinous mood which must be crushed and not the spiritually hollow edifices populated by the despairing, spiritually bankrupt masses. It is this spiritually cancerous mood which must be crushed. For the ultimate, intrinsic mutual benefit of all the denizens of Earth. Crushed by Love. Whose Love? Mahaprabhu’s Love for Krishna, which was His Ardent Desire to dispense to all souls. Unconditionally. Regardless. Forever. Srila Saraswati Thakur Himself flawlessly exemplified this Divine Love to an unfathomable extent. Indeed, He was the ripened fruit of Srila Bhaktivinode’s Divine Love and so perfectly represented such Supreme Affection to an unbelievable degree. Srila Saraswati Thakur was Himself the very Personification of Krishna-Prema, which is the ultimate goal, primary purpose and final function of all souls.

If only the Real sambandha-jnana/ Krishna Consciousness of Srila Saraswati Thakur could finally, at long last, Really get out there to it’s intended audience of the fallen forgetful souls, the world would then be transformed by the wave of Real Devotion. We have heard that Mahaprabhu and the Sri Pancha-tattva broke open the Storehouse of Love Divine as if breaking a dam and unleashing a flood of Krishna-prema upon the fortunate masses. And yet there is scant apparent contempoaray evidence of This in the world. As if the Wave of Love has been held in check by a dam of hate.

No doubt, ecclesiastical inconsistencies and consequential ideological incongruities must be adequately addressed. But as should be the case with all problems, in the right mood. The right idea conveyed in the wrong mood helps no one. Genuine reform of ideological improprieties and subsequent impieties is indeed a a worthy and honourable cause. Nonetheless, it is not the Original Cause.

Souls do wrong not because they are inherently evil, but rather because they have misunderstood or misconceived Original Ideology. Therefore, misunderstanding and misconception are the real problems and not those who have misconceived.

If, as an ostensible reformer/healer of the many woes of any society, civilization or culture I am apparently unable to accurately perceive and correctly diagnose the actual collective malaise, how can I hope to achieve real reform? Of anything. Contrary considerations festering with spiteful malevolence have about as much truly universal relevance, validity and utility as a wet paper bag filled with fetid, hot air. Very little real reform will be accomplished from such a myopically, distorted perspective. And a hodge-podge of malcontentment will eventually effectively incinerate all hopes of genuine, mutually beneficial reformation as the few lingering remnants of the original organization eventually smolder away into nothing but the Ultimate Essence of the Original ideal. Same as it ever was.

Working on rooftops fifty feet in the air makes many workers have what they call a “Hari” experience. I explain that what they think of as “hairy,” is really “Hari,” an original Name of God known to souls since time out of mind. That just as when fearful people throughout the world instinctively, as souls call out “Oh God!” In India, many souls call out “Hari!”, which is a Name of God which refers to His Innate Supreme Ability to remove all inauspicious or evil things.

The dreams and screams, of course continue, without any apparent end in sight. Dreams of Sri Guru. And Mahaprabhu Himself. Screams of my Daughter, my Teacher. And the suffering jivas. Who will hear their cries? And Why?

Humbly,

the insignificant pretender
Jagabandhu das

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=6944

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Most devotees (and people in general) are married, grhastha, and further, the grhastha asrama is the basis of all other asramas—and of the lives of our children. So we want the grhastha asrama to be as strong as possible. Recently, from December 18 to 20, we held a Couples’ Weekend in Durban, facilitated by Arcana-siddhi and her husband Karnamrita. All the participants felt enlivened by the experience. Here is my address on the opening day:

When I first joined ISKCON in 1969, we all were quite young and not many of us were married. And we were so new to Krsna consciousness and so dependent on Srila Prabhupada that we asked him for guidance in every area. When one devotee, Advaita dasa, who had recently gotten married, asked Srila Prabhupada about his having loving feelings for his wife, Prabhupada replied, “One hand cannot love the other hand directly—it must go through the stomach. Similarly, one person cannot love another person unless God is in the center.” There is the right hand, and there is the left hand, but what connects them is the body. In this example, the two hands are the husband and wife, and the body is Krsna.

We had to change our consciousness, Prabhupada told us, and put Krsna at the center. That, he said, would make all the difference. When our false ego is at the center, we have so many problems, but when Krsna is at the center, our relationships become harmonious.

We come into the material world out of envy of Krsna. We want to take Krsna’s position and be the enjoyer, the controller, the proprietor. This is our mood in conditioned existence. And when we come into the material world, we end up competing not only with Krsna but also with so many other competitors of Krsna. And that egoistic mood can enter the home. We compete to be the enjoyers, the controllers, and the proprietors, and that leads to conflict—so many imitation gods fighting for supremacy.

Through the process of Krsna consciousness, our false, bodily identification is replaced by the realization of our true identity as gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah—the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of Krsna, the maintainer of the gopis.

When a disciple asked Srila Prabhupada, “What should we do when there are conflicts among the devotees?” he replied, “If each devotee thinks, ‘I am the servant of the servant of the servant of Krsna,’ then there will be no more conflict.” The same principle applies in the home. If each family member thinks and feels, “I am the servant of the servant of the servant of Krsna,” the relationships will be very congenial. But that requires a revolution in consciousness. We are in the material world because we want to be the master of the master of the masters, and that mentality leads to frustration, disappointment, and death—repeated birth and death. Becoming the servant of the servant of the servants of Krsna leads to happiness and ultimate liberation.

Soon after I first met Srila Prabhupada and the devotees, as a university student in Boston, I heard that Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, had said that when you come to Krsna consciousness you become relieved of the burden of enjoyment. I was actually feeling that burden, because every weekend there would be a subtle but intense competition for who would enjoy the most. Leading up to the weekend, the students—and perhaps the faculty too—were making plans how to enjoy. These plans included going to restaurants, going to movies, going to shows, going to parties, going to clubs—so many plans. I didn’t really like any of those activities, and it was a burden for me to have to enjoy like the others. And then, afterwards, the students would ask each other, “What did you do? Where did you go?” “Oh, I went a party. We all got high and . . .” “Oh, I went out on a date and . . .”

The statement that when you become a devotee you become relieved of the burden of enjoying resonated with me. It was artificial for me to try to enjoy like that, because as souls our real pleasure comes in relationship with the Supreme Soul. True love exists only in relation to Krsna. The Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu defines pure love (prema) as the focusing of all one’s loving propensities and feelings on Visnu, or Krsna.

ananya-mamata visnau
mamata prema-sangata
bhaktir ity ucyate bhisma-
prahladoddhava-naradaih

“When one develops an unflinching sense of ownership or possessiveness in relation to Lord Visnu, or, in other words, when one thinks Visnu and no one else to be the only object of love, such an awakening is called bhakti [devotion] by exalted persons like Bhisma, Prahlada, Uddhava, and Narada.” (Brs 1.4.2, Cc Madhya 23.8)

There are some beautiful prayers by Queen Kunti to Lord Krsna:

atha visvesa visvatman
visva-murte svakesu me
sneha-pasam imam chindhi
drdham pandusu vrsnisu

“O Lord of the universe, soul of the universe, O personality of the form of the universe, please, therefore, sever my tie of affection for my kinsmen, the Pandavas and the Vrsnis.” (SB 1.8.40)

tvayi me ’nanya-visaya
matir madhu-pate ’sakrt
ratim udvahatad addha
gangevaugham udanvati

“O Lord of Madhu, as the Ganges forever flows to the sea without hindrance, let my attraction be constantly drawn unto You without being diverted to anyone else.” (SB 1.8.41)

As we become serious in Krsna consciousness, this really becomes our prayer: “Let my love flow to Krsna without any hindrance, just as the Ganges flows to the ocean.”

These statements—“Please sever my attachments for my family members. Let my love flow exclusively unto You without being diverted to anyone else”—raise some questions: What about other relationships? What happens to my relationships with my friends and family?

In his purport, Srila Prabhupada makes a very interesting point. He says that Kunti’s family members were devotees of Krsna. Her paternal family members, the Vrsnis, were devotees, and her sons, the Pandavas, were devotees. And affection for devotees is not outside the pale of Krsna consciousness, of pure devotional service. So when Kunti prays, “Please sever my ties of affection for my kinsmen,” she means that she wants the affection based on the body to be cut.

“Her affection for the Pandavas and the Vrsnis is not out of the range of devotional service because the service of the Lord and the service of the devotees are identical. Sometimes service to the devotee is more valuable than service to the Lord. But here the affection of Kuntidevi for the Pandavas and the Vrsnis was due to family relation. This tie of affection in terms of material relation is the relation of maya because the relations of the body or the mind are due to the influence of the external energy. Relations of the soul, established in relation with the Supreme Soul, are factual relations. When Kuntidevi wanted to cut off the family relation, she meant to cut off the relation of the skin. The skin relation is the cause of material bondage, but the relation of the soul is the cause of freedom. This relation of the soul to the soul can be established by the via media of the relation with the Supersoul.” (SB 1.8.41 purport)

There are two categories of affection—one based on the body and one based on the soul, soul-to-soul, through the medium of the Supersoul, the Supreme Soul. When Kunti prays, “Please sever my ties of affection for my kinsmen,” she means the affection that is based on the body—so that only the affection based on the soul remains. Affection based on the body leads to bondage and death, whereas affection based on the soul leads to liberation and eternal life.

So, we don’t have to give up our family relationships, but we want to purify them. We want the material aspect, which is based on the body, to be become less and less prominent and the spiritual aspect, which is based on the soul, through the medium of the Supreme Soul, to become more and more prominent. And the more the spiritual dimension of our relationships becomes prominent, the more the relationships become congenial to our happiness and ultimate success in life.

One authority on marriage said, “Marriage is not supposed to make you happy. It’s supposed to make you married, and once you are safely and totally married you have a structure of security and support from which you can find your own happiness.” So we are here to work on our marriages. We are not in any illusion that marriage per se will bring us happiness, but we want to work on our marriages so that we can function well as parts of a unit, the family unit, and within the relative peace and mutual support of that unit find our own inner happiness, which is the only real happiness there is.

The marital relationship also provides the basis for the couple’s children to develop Krsna consciousness and be happy. Some time later, Srila Prabhupada wrote to Advaita’s wife, Balai, “In materialistic marriages generally there are too many troubles and frustrations because the basic principle for both the husband and wife is their own personal sense gratification. Therefore there is inevitable conflict and divorce petition. But in a Krsna conscious marriage the basic principle is for both husband and wife to serve Krsna nicely and to help the partner advance in spiritual life. In this way both the husband and wife are true benefactors for one another and there is no question of any serious conflicts or separation. So I am sure that to have such nice parents who are devotees of Lord Krsna, your child Nandini is very, very fortunate. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna instructs us that for one to be born in the family of devotees means that such person was the most pious of all living entities. So raise Nandini very carefully in Krsna consciousness, and surely Krsna will bestow all blessings upon you and your family.”

So I am happy for all of you who have come to the Couples’ Weekend. Here we have older couples and newer couples. We often hear at japa retreats, “I wish I had heard these things thirty years ago,” but better late than never. And some of the older couples may leave here thinking that way. But better late than never. And some of the younger ones may think, “I’m so glad I attended this workshop early in my marriage, receiving guidance from the beginning about some of the things that might come up—and how to deal with them.” But the soul is eternal, and Krsna consciousness is eternal, and our relationships based on Krsna consciousness are also eternal. So even if in a relative, material sense we are starting late, it is never too late, and in relation to eternal time we are just developing the proper mood of loving service that will continue into eternity.

These material bodies are just dresses for the soul. Our identities based on the body and mind are temporary and illusory. Our real identities are as loving servants of Krsna and His devotees, and whatever we are doing here in the material world is practice for our eternal life in the spiritual world, where we will serve Krsna and His devotees in ecstatic love. As Srila Prabhupada said, if a high school student is doing college-level work, he can be promoted to college. So if we are in the material world but are engaged in the activities of the spiritual world, we can be promoted to the spiritual world. The basic activity of the spiritual world is to render loving service to Krsna and the other servants of Krsna—which includes chanting the holy names and glories of Sri Krsna. And the grhastha asrama is a suitable situation for practicing loving service, which can qualify us for eternal loving service in the spiritual world.

Hare Krsna

Source: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=8044

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