ISKCON Derire Tree's Posts (13817)


Developing the quality of empathy has many benefits for aspiring devotees of the Lord.

When I was doing my clinical psychotherapy internship in graduate school, a supervisor stressed connecting with our clients through realized empathy. Most of his interns came from privileged backgrounds, and he felt we needed more than just a theoretical understanding of our clients’ pain.

My first session in “experiential empathy” was with Doris, who suffered from schizophrenia. A slight woman in her early 30s, she had an attractive face, but it was worn from exposure, as she would often choose to be homeless rather than stay in shelters. She would often sit in the waiting room carrying on conversations with imaginary persons who seemed real to her.

Doris wasn’t a strong candidate for therapy, yet her case manager and I would provide her support. Once in a while she would have some respite from her illness and would talk about her numerous losses, including relationships, and her dream of being a teacher.

After my initial sessions with Doris, my supervisor had me spend an afternoon in a session designed to develop empathy for schizophrenics. Through earphones, a myriad of voices began to assault me-calling me names and demeaning my character. While listening to these voices, I was given a list of simple tasks to perform, such as going to the corner store to buy batteries. After two hours of listening to the taped voices and running my prescribed errands, I was spent. Physically and mentally exhausted, I joined with others to share our experiences. The training was effective in achieving its goal. I learned more about people plagued by this most debilitating illness and felt increased compassion for them.

My next client was a middle-aged man with multiple sclerosis. Wheelchair bound, he showed symptoms of depression, and his doctor referred him for mental health counseling.

By now I was familiar with my supervisor’s relentless conviction for experiential empathy, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw a wheelchair waiting for me in his office. For the next hour, he had me running small errands throughout the hospital while awkwardly learning to maneuver the wheelchair.

Reflecting on that internship, I appreciate how my supervisor approached this most important element of therapy-joining through empathy. Empathy helps us care about people by identifying with their suffering. It also helps us avoid falling into the trap of thinking we’re superior to others. And it helps us develop humility-the gateway to making spiritual progress and developing a loving relationship with God.
Krishna’s Help

Krishna helps His fledgling devotees by purifying any mentality that prevents them from coming closer to Him. When we form opinions of people and their situations, we should do so with the desire to be of assistance and to please our guru and Krishna. That kind of thinking will help us advance in spiritual consciousness. But if we evaluate others with a mentality of exploiting them or putting them down-to elevate our own sense of importance-that kind of judgment will hinder our spiritual progress.

One of the most unwanted qualities in the heart of a practitioner of bhakti-yoga is the tendency to judge others without concern for their spiritual welfare. This leads to faultfinding and puts us at risk of vaishnava aparadha, or offending Krishna’s devotees. If we are fortunate, Krishna will correct this tendency in our heart. Sometimes Krishna, the originator of experiential empathy training, will place us in a situation similar to that of the person we are judging. Although this can be disconcerting, it is the Lord’s kindness to help uproot the qualities in our heart that are obstacles to loving the Lord and His devotees.

When I was a young devotee, I was strict about attending all the temple programs. But I found myself critical of devotees who didn’t always attend. One devotee suffered from an illness and did her best to come when she could. But I felt she could do better. Not long after those thoughts contaminated my consciousness, however, I became ill and often missed mangala-arati, the early-morning worship.

Krishna accomplishes many things by one action, and one result of my illness was a diminishing of my critical mentality. Krishna has often placed me in situations similar to those of people for whom I lacked empathy, helping me develop more understanding of others’ difficulties.

The saying atmavan manyate jagat means that we tend to see others as we are. Often the very thing we find reprehensible in another is a negative quality lurking within ourselves. So it is prudent to reflect on this when we form opinions of others and to look within our heart to expose our own faults.
Prabhupada’s Example

By his example, Prabhupada taught us to be lenient with others and strict with ourselves. He was uncompromising in his service to Krishna and his daily spiritual practices. Yet he showed understanding and compassion toward his neophyte disciples, who often struggled to follow the basic practices of bhakti-yoga. As his disciples matured, he would sometimes sternly correct them, but only out of duty, to help them progress in their spiritual lives.

In the early days of the Hare Krishna movement, Prabhupada asked one of his first disciples, Syamasundara Dasa, an expert craftsman, to carve a deity of Lord Jagannatha from wood. At one point Prabhupada came to see how the work was progressing. When he entered the room, he saw a pack of cigarettes sitting on Lord Jagannatha’s head.

“It’s all right,” Prabhupada told his embarrassed, contrite disciple.

Prabhupada didn’t need to become addicted to cigarettes to understand his disciple’s plight. He instructed Syamasundara to reduce by one the number of cigarettes he smoked each day until the habit was gone. Prabhupada was a pure devotee, his consciousness crystal clear. Because he had no contamination in his heart, he was free of the propensity to find fault or condemn.

In the Bhagavad-gita (6.32) Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that spiritually advanced persons can understand both the happiness and the distress of others. Because of their own experience in the material world, they understand that people suffer because they forget the Lord and are happy when united with Him.
Saving the Coat

Like all spiritual qualities, empathy or compassion has a counterpart in the material realm. My supervisor was helping me develop empathy, but because he lacked knowledge of the eternal soul within the body, his conception of feeling another’s pain was based on only the body’s suffering. Prabhupada tells the story of a man who jumps into a lake to save a drowning man and returns with only the man’s coat. Born of the material mind, this kind of empathy will have only temporary value unless employed in our spiritual lives.

Srila Prabhupada deeply felt the pain and suffering of the souls in this world. Once, in Mayapur, he saw a scene from his balcony that brought tears to his eyes. Children were fighting off dogs to get food left on discarded plates. Prabhupada then said that no one within ten miles of the ISKCON Mayapur temple should go hungry; they should be fed with spiritually uplifting prasadam. Prabhupada’s compassion meant elevating people’s consciousness so that they could eventually be freed from all suffering.

Empathy is a natural quality of the soul. Following in Srila Prabhupada’s footsteps, we should cultivate concern for the suffering of others while understanding the ultimate goal of life. That doesn’t mean we have to use the means devised by my supervisor-enacting another’s suffering condition. But we can do practical things to develop empathy.

First is to have a student’s mind-an inquisitive mind that seeks to understand the lessons ever present in our environment. The Eleventh Canto of the Bhagavatam gives the example of a brahmana who describes twenty-four entities whom he considered his gurus. For example, he says that he learned valuable lessons from a pigeon, a honeybee, and a prostitute. Being open to what we can learn from others will help us appreciate the struggles of others and feel a connection we might have missed.

Another technique that can help us understand another’s world is reflective listening. Also known as empathic listening, it requires the listener to summarize both the speaker’s words and the feelings behind them.

Another powerful mindset is to practice seeing people for their potential rather than for who they were in the past or who they are in the present. Everyone is a pure soul with an eternal relationship with Krishna. Remembering this can help us see beyond people’s material conditioning, allowing us to care about them and want to help them.

Finally, we want to be in the mood of service to others. When we look for ways to serve rather than exploit, our hearts open and we naturally feel the connection that eternally exists between all living entities.

These are just a few suggestions for how we can move in the world in such a way that we expand the mentality favorable for developing empathy in our role as a spiritual practitioner.

Because of his spiritual perfection, Prabhupada could always clearly diagnose our suffering and worked tirelessly and patiently to give us the remedy. Despite having once said that our hearts were as hard to clean as coal, he didn’t give up on us. Now that Srila Prabhupada is no longer physically present on the planet, we have to extend his compassionate, empathetic nature to all the living entities who have the opportunity to take shelter in Lord Chaitanya’s movement.

When the guru leaves the world, the disciples have to rise to the occasion and take up the legacy of their beloved teacher. The guru will empower sincere disciples to carry on the mission. Sincere disciples of a Vaishnava guru are themselves Vaishnavas, deserving of the prayer offered in ISKCON temples each morning: “I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord. They can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and they are full of compassion for the fallen souls.”



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My life took an apical turn when I stumbled across the Hare Krishnas. Being born in India I had some knowledge of “Krishna” but I was like most Indians are – conscious of Krishna but not Krishna Conscious. Being just “conscious of Krishna” didn’t mollify my thirst for happiness. When I was introduced to the programs conducted by the Hare Krishnas near our college campus new hope dawned upon me. What mesmerized me the most in these programs was the chanting of the mystical mantra….


Just by chanting these Names for few times I felt so euphoric, still I can remember vividly the experience. I felt as if albatross of eons was alighted from my back. Initially I was quiet skeptic about the activities of the Hare Krishnas due to my rearing and education. I used to be suspicious why these people are distributing such tasty food for free. I would mull there must be some intoxicant in it to hypnotize me imperceptibly. As I was an engineering student I was trained to see everything with mechanistic vision. Our group of friends who were attending the programs all had same outlook. So we were not ready to accept any kinds of conjury. But the chanting of Hare Krishna mantra indeed put my skeptical mind on a trial. I had some acquisitiveness about mind control, hypnotism, psychology, etc hence I persisted while my other friends dropped out. Due to this chanting some unusual transformation started happening within me. I could tangibly observe that by chanting I could control my senses more easily than before. I could resist undesirable blandishments which seemed invincible before. The taste that hit me while chanting was unearthly experience and thus kept me going on. I was stupefied that how some mantra made up of some simple syllables could produce such abstruse effect. I was chanting continually without getting fatigued! I cogitated there has to be something mystical to the chanting.


I remember in my college days if any film song I loved I would purchase the cassette and hear it continuously with verve. But no song could sustain the flavor for more than a month. It would get clichéd. Then another song would hit the list and I would swear this is it! It will never lose its taste it is simply prodigious! But after a month at the most, the same result. I never could discover a song which could pass the test of taste. Amazingly the simple sounding Holy name devoid of any music passed the test. It could sustaining the effect for more than a month! Till date I am chanting 16 rounds daily for many years but the taste is only increasing ceaselessly. How can the chanting be quotidian? Sometimes people indict that chanting as verbal intoxication. If that is true then why there is no intoxication with chanting “coca cola” or any other sound? Why while chanting “Hare Krishna” only people feel absorption and great joy?

Later I learnt the chanting of Hare Krishna is call for God. God has invested all His potencies in chanting. Just imagine all the potencies of God at one place! We simply cannot envisage. Just like if an ant crawls over a valuable 24 carat diamond it can only think the diamond as simple sugar crystal. Hardly can it discern the complete value of diamond as an expert lapidarian would. Similarly people really don’t understand the value of chanting. They think it as ordinary name just like any other names in use. The Holy sound is completely apart from the prosaic sounds of this world. It is transcendental sound full with God’s energy.


Lord Kelvin, great scientist says, “If you think strongly enough you will be forced by science to believe in God (supreme consciousness).” The whole approach of science is mechanistic with little scope for consciousness. The only branch of science which believes in consciousness is the Quantum mechanics where the result of an experiment depends on the conscious observer. So first we need to have faith that we are conscious beings and not dead matter. Then we need to understand that only something conscious can give real contentment to conscious beings. In this phenomenal world there are only two conscious objects – the living entity and the Holy Name of God. Hence only chanting can give real satisfaction to the soul. Matter is dead and cannot give real satisfaction. Contact with matter can give us material pleasure which has 3 characteristics F,I,T. which stands for Futile, Insubstantial & Temporary.

For example a boy in the college likes an angelic girl in the same college. If he has to have her he has to venture a lot and mostly he may not get her because he has many competent competitors. So most of the time the pleasure is Futile to achieve. Suppose after sufficient skirmish the boy gets his dream girl and revel with her. He soon realizes the pleasure doesn’t really conciliate him completely. It is not up to his expectations hence it is Insubstantial. Even if we assume that she completely gratifies him according to his expectations, still how long? For some time not for long. The pleasure is Temporary. This applies for every kind of material pleasures. So the pleasures of this world are not really FIT for us. What soul really longs for is easily available, satisfying and eternal pleasure. And that pleasure is available only in chanting the holy Names of God.

The subconscious mind of a human being is much scopious and profound than the conscious mind. There are many deep rooted impressions both positive and negative stored in the subconscious mind. To change these rooted impressions is very challenging nay almost impossible because they are very subtle. Negative impressions like anger, lust, pride, envy, greed, illusion causes lot of anguish to the living entity. Today there is no method to measure them what to speak of evicting them. There are techniques like hypnotism which claim to expel these vices from the mind but it is just like trimming the grass in the lawn. It grows back again after some time. Chanting has the power to purge these negative impressions from the subconscious mind completely because the chanting is subtler than these impurities of the mind!


1) Purification:- Just like a powerful detergent cleanses from roots the very stringent dirt in the clothes chanting eliminates the vices from the consciousness and purifies it. Chanting is not only antiseptic but also prophylactic in nature.

2) Satisfaction:- Chanting helps one to easily rise above the lower modes of passion and ignorance. One becomes situated in mode of goodness where one doesn’t hanker or lament for worldly things, one becomes completely satisfied. Just like a hungry person who has fully relished delicious food becomes satisfied and doesn’t hanker for anything.

3) Liberation:- Manas trayate iti Mantra. Mantra means sound which can free the mind from material bondage. When a rocket is launched at escape velocity of 11.2 KM/sec from earth the rocket can escape the gravitational pull of earth and float in space. Similarly chanting helps us from escaping the pull of material entanglements of this world and progress towards spiritual world.

4) Absorption:- When a jaundice patient is afflicted the sugar cane juice appears bitter but the same juice is medicine for the patient. Gradually as he is tasting the juice he gets cured and starts tasting its sweetness. Similarly now we may not be able to taste the sweetness of chanting but as we go on chanting it tastes the sweetest of all sweets. At advanced stage one gets fully absorbed in chanting the Holy names of God with deep feelings and thus one is assuaged from absorption in matter.

5) Devotion:- This is the main product of chanting – love for God or devotion for God. Other products mentioned above are sheer by-products. Soul has a nature to love and be loved. Love for any person in this world is frustrating but love for God is very endearing. Just like a child when tickled will surely laugh but may not be happy. But when he is in lap of mother he may not laugh but is very happy and satisfied because he is experiencing the deep love of mother. Love of this world tantalizes the senses but love of God satisfies to the soul.


1. In vedic text there is example of Mrigari, the hunter who was a very pernicious as he used to take pleasure in half killing the animals. When the great sage Narada saw this he advised the hunter to stop the violence otherwise the result would be very horrid as every action has equal and opposite reaction. When Mrigari heard about his future he came to his senses and broke the bow. Narada told him to chant Holy Names of God continually. When with great faith the hunter did so he found amazing result! The people around gave sufficient charity enough for him and the family to feed on. After a year when Narada came to visit Mrigari, Mrigari was very much excited to meet his spiritual guide. He went running to meet Narada but on the way when he would see some ants crawling he would stop for them to pass and then run again. This happened several times. He couldn’t imagine hurting the tiny creatures. Previously he would exult killing animals half but now he couldn’t think of harming even the ants.

2. A famous tennis player in USA came in touch with the Hare Krishnas and it brought complete transformation in his life but not in his life style. He remained as a tennis player but with change of consciousness. He started chanting Hare Krishna regularly. The paradigm shift in his life is indicated by his equally famous statement below when in a match he stood at a less strategic position just to save little ants getting crushed under his feet and finally lost the match. “A column of ants began to follow me onto the tennis court. Because I would not step on them, I lost the match. But I won with God.” – Peter Burwash

3. The hippies in USA in 1960s were clamant in search for some pleasure which would satisfy them completely. They were jaded with the normal American way of life. They were searching for something different which will give them mystical experience. Unfortunately they were searching it in LSD, sex, alcohol, etc. Their search ended when they came across the chanting of Hare Krishna. They could easily give up all their bad habits and dedicate their lives for God. They found the real happiness in chanting the Holy Names of Lord.

CONCLUSION In the age old vedic text of Kalisantaraëa Upaniñad the reference of this mantra appears hare kåñëa hare kåñëa kåñëa kåñëa hare hare hare räma hare räma räma räma hare hare iti ñoòaçakaà nämnäà kali-kalmaña-näçanam nätaù parataropäyaù sarva-vedeñu dåçyate

“Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare—these sixteen names composed of thirty-two syllables are the only means to counteract the evil effects of Kali-yuga. In all the Vedas it is seen that to cross the ocean of nescience there is no alternative to the chanting of the holy name.”

By chanting people are becoming perfect gentlemen/ gentlewomen. This is what today’s world perilously needs. This is process of real alchemy turning everyone into gentlemen and women. When every one of us takes to this remarkable process the whole world will be a spiritual world, happy place to live. The chanting is sweeter than the elixir of life. Try and experience it. The taste of pudding lies in tasting. One cannot taste the honey from outside the bottle. One has to open the lid, taste and relish it!!!


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By Madhava Smullen 

Since it was established, the ISKCON Ministry of Education’s aim has been to provide Krishna conscious education of high quality to everyone through temples, educational institutions and various global initiatives. 

Last year, in February 2019, the Ministry held its first annual symposium in Mayapur, West Bengal. Entitled “Viplavah,” meaning “Revolutionary,” the event was focused on revolutionizing, or revitalizing education in ISKCON, and drew over 150 educators from eighteen countries.  

With people around the world in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the second annual Viplavah symposium will be held virtually on the Zoom video-conferencing platform. 

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If crying is the preserve of advanced devotees steeped in devotional mellows, should it bother us to display a show of apparent weakness? Shedding tears in lamentation, as a plea for sympathy, as ostentatious syrupy hype or as a tantrum disguised as frustration, can all be good enough reasons not to appear less than masculine.

Yet tears are required while treading the path of devotion. For the ‘average’ practitioner who plods along, pacing himself as if running a super life-long marathon, conserving his serious energy for a later time, the need for earnestness can be a zealous overstated subject matter. We may feel bombarded hearing sermons given by serious preachers who tell the rest of us to get serious. But sometimes the truth hurts.

With this in mind, are there any grounds for crying for Krsna? If we fall far short of Lord Chaitanya’s standard of – vipralambha-seva, what on earth can behoove us to weep? Yes, we may shed tears of gratitude to the spiritual master who has kindly accepted us into the spiritual fold. We will bereave the passing of a vaisnava. With a heart softened due to devotional practices and good association, we may feel for those who are immersed in deluding pursuits. “But crying for Krsna?” one may ask. “Am I ready for this? Perhaps if I receive some special mercy I will understand the need for it.”

Srila Prabhupada writes in the NOD page 83: “….one should learn how to cry for the Lord. One should learn this small technique, and he should be very eager and actually cry to become engaged in some particular type of service. This is called laulyam, and such tears are the price for the highest perfection.” Given this information, one may ask how and when to cry? Does such a small technique justify a mention since it is not a frequently discussed topic?

It is undoubtedly a necessity for all serious spiritual aspirants. A serious devotee knows that the teachings of Lord Chaitanya embody all his aspirations. NOD page 82/83 says: “Lord Chaitanya also desired that “a moment will appear to Me as twelve years of time, and the whole world will appear to Me as vacant on account of not seeing You, my dear Lord.” This is the teaching of all great devotees, especially Lord Chaitanya.”

It is obvious however that until we have a semblance of Krsna-prema, any show of crying for Krsna is going to be sham imitation, or not? How can we feel separation as intensely as Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu? There is a way, and it is available for all. The answer is found in just that – devotional service, added to the fact that devotional service and Krsna are the same. We hear so much about the Lotus Feet of the Lord and wanting to see Him.

In the purport to SB 1.6.22 Srila Prabhupada says: “One can go on increasing his hankering for the loving transcendental service of the Lord, and yet he will not find satiation or end. By intense service of the Lord, one can experience the presence of the Lord transcendentally. Therefore seeing the Lord means being engaged in His service because His service and His person are identical.”

Once we have a grasp of this understanding, a problem would arise if we are unable to be engaged, either because of an unsteady mind, lack of desire, complacency, satiation, offences and other causes. These are certainly reasons to cry.

In TLC Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says to Srila Sanatana Goswami: “Activities in devotional service increase the sense of devotional service. What else is there for two eyes to see beyond the face of Krsna? Since one cannot adequately see Krsna with only two eyes, one feels incapable and thus becomes bereaved.” Though this is an elevated expression, the lesson for us is to feel deprived in the absence of devotional service. With such awareness we can more understand what great souls undergo when feeling separated from the Lord.

One may surmise “Yes! This is all very nice. But I have been around for some time now. I chant my rounds and attend temple functions, I have my dear circle of friends and my social status is stable. My integrity is intact and I am reasonably well respected by my peers and juniors. I am happy as I am.” While this is laudable in terms of assurance, of knowing that ones path back to Godhead is more or less assured, it could indicate a static state of affairs. NOD page 107 states: “For persons who are not inclined to clear the dust from their hearts who want to keep things as they are, it is not possible to derive the transcendental result of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra.”

Clearly, emphasis is put on continual forward progress. TLC page 169 says: “In every practice there is some endeavor, and the ultimate endeavor is the endeavor to reach the highest perfectional stage of devotional service.” If we have no desire to endeavor this way it is a pitiable condition. To cry for such a resolve is required.

In many situations the need to feelingly appeal to the Lord for leverage in bhakti are instances of being away from Krsna and His service. We can never get close enough. BG 10.10 refers to such continuity with the words – satatam yuktanam – to be always engaged. If ever we flounder without guiding intelligence, Srila Prabhupada answers in the purport to this verse: “The qualification is that a person always engages himself in Krsna consciousness and with love and devotion render all kinds of services.” The word love implies a selfless act. To be constantly selfless requires eagerness, the same price to pay for success in spiritual life.

Lord Krsna also says – ananya manaso – without deviation in BG 9.13 and – satatam kirtayanto mam – always chanting my glories in BG 9.14. To understand this constancy we can learn from the effects of unbridled lust which has no satiation, which when transformed into real love towards Krsna, also has no satiation.

When Lord Chaitanya laments; durdaivim idrsam ihajani nanuragah – “I am so unfortunate that I have no attraction for them [holy names].” No one in their right mind will accuse the Lord of lacking in taste. Rather, He was so blissful yet cannot get enough ecstasy hence His mourning. When Srimate Radharani is being embraced by Krsna She feels the utmost happiness, yet allowing some anxiety to creep in about impending separation enhances Her ecstasy even more.

Crying for Krsna is an internal way of beseeching the Lord for empathy and strength to be constant in practice. It is a private matter, unless one is lucky to have like-minded friends with whom to confide, and who understand each other. To be seen wailing during japa time is asking to be labeled a sahajiya. Seriously correcting wayward intentions can mean the difference between positive or negative advancement. TLC page 143 says “When conditions are favorable, a pure devotee laughs, and when emotions are not favorable, he cries.”

Even if we perform favorable devotional service, our determination may be deficient. We often hear or read the word ‘intense’ used regarding serious practice to bolster our progress. Whenever we not feel like reading, chanting or other such activities, we should be concerned. Conversely we can never ever read enough, or chant enough or do enough of any service in Bhakti due to its unlimited nature. Thinking like this will keep us motivated to progress incessantly, and crying to attain such constancy is a purifying deed.

If great fortune allows us to elevate our desires from average to eager, this small technique of crying will manifest what Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu says to Sanatana Goswami “All devotees of Krsna in full Krsna consciousness are free from all kinds of material pleasures and miseries. They are fully absorbed in the service of the Lord, and they are always jolly by virtue of their engagement in His transcendental service. They are experienced men of happiness.”


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Trees by Bhaktimarga Swami

What hugs the soil and keeps it in place
Teaches tolerance especially at the base
Provides us company when down and lonely
Is a true member of the earthly family?
What cuts the wind when all is tossed in the air
Which resembles a turbulent mind enough to scare
What emits a sweet sent at dusk and at dawn
And has sap flow at winter’s end when spring is on?
What gives warmth in cold in coolness in the heat
And what eats and drinks by their very own feet
Give shelter with shade at a blazing sun’s prime
What will never let you down in the worst of time?
What stretches up to touch a gorgeous guy
And what is home for the species that fly
What provides rest and a place of refuge
For feathered and furry friends during this deluge?
What dances in breezes in awesome rhythm
Makes music of creaks, moans and psithurism
What can cause a surge of adrenaline
Contains fire and hydrogen and oxygen?
What are the soft hairs jutting out of the universe
Yielding healing properties like nature’s nurse
What requires our stewardship and service
A chance for their well-deserved catharsis?
I can tell you what saved my life multiple times
Their arms reached out to mine on a steep climb
More than once I took to a slippery slope
When there seemed to be so little hope
Trees (Part-Two)
Some are alive
Some are dead
Some are green
Some are red
Some bear fruit
Some bear nuts
Most have wood
For the very own guts
Some have needles
Some have leaves
Know it for certain
They’re here to please
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Kamala Devi Dasi passed away

5329379252?profile=RESIZE_584xMy beloved, exalted disciple Kamala devi dasi left her body in Mauritius two days ago. Everything about her departure was auspicious, and her consciousness was fixed on Goloka Vrindavan. She was ably assisted in her final journey by HH Bhakti Brhat Bhagavata Swami; Karunika dasi; Vrajesvari dasi; Manasi Ganga dasi; Arcana Siddhi dasi; and her devoted daughter, Dhira Prasanta dasi, and son, Lesh, in Mauritius; and by Krsnagi dasi and others from afar.

I have attached a photo of Kamala devi when she came to California to serve me, after which she returned to Mauritius and learned that she had cancer.

Please pray for her.

Thank you very much.
Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami


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From Back to Godhead

Can the investigation of God through the method of Krishna consciousness really be called scientific?

God: The Evidence; The God Delusion; God: The Failed Hypothesis; The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. Apparently, writing about God is the latest rage among scientists, both theistic and atheistic. Many of these authors have also been invited to speak to college crowds, and they are causing quite a stir. But is this really the best way to approach the question of God’s existence? Conventional science, particularly in its “hard” forms such as physics and biology, doesn’t seem to offer the right tools and techniques with which to come up with a definitive answer. On the other hand, many religious approaches seem to preclude the rigorous application of reason and the opportunity for individual experimentation. Between these two less than satisfactory alternatives, the Vedic literature of ancient India offers what could be a promising third option. To satisfy ourselves that this is so, we’ll first have to look at why conventional science can’t get the job done, and then move on to understand how the spiritual science of the Vedic literature succeeds in this task without compromising what modern people like about science.

Two cardinal doctrines present major obstacles to conventional science as a way to know God. First is the doctrine of naturalism, the assumption that all natural phenomena have natural causes. (Natural in this context means empirically observable, or perceivable through the five senses.) This is a foundational assumption of scientific research, and its acceptance in effect rules out any reality beyond the reach of the senses.

That being said, there are somewhat softer interpretations of this doctrine. Some scientists distinguish between metaphysical and methodological naturalism. Metaphysical naturalism is the view, described above, that behind everything in the world is an empirical cause. According to this view, the sun rises because of the rotation of the earth, and certainly not because it is pulled along by an imperceptible entity riding a golden chariot. Methodological naturalism, however, merely limits how we study the world to empirical observations (things we can touch, see, feel, and so on), while not necessarily ruling out supernatural explanations for these observations. According to this view, a chariot could possibly pull the sun, but the only acceptable way to test this proposition would be to use telescopes and similar instruments. Thus, supernatural phenomena may exist, but supernatural means are not permitted as a way to verify them. Although this perspective is more accommodating, we’ll see below that it is still unnecessarily restrictive for one serious about investigating the existence of God.

The second hindrance is the doctrine of falsification. Popularized by the philosopher of science Karl Popper, this doctrine holds that for a statement to be considered scientific, one must be able to prove it false. In other words, if scientist A makes some claim but there is no way for scientist B to show that it is wrong, then the claim is considered unscientific. It can’t be tested, so it’s disregarded. An interesting consequence of accepting such a criterion for science, and one we’ll explore more fully later, is that it becomes impossible to prove anything. One is only able to disprove.

Nevertheless, such is the functioning of science under the doctrine of falsification. Science accepts a theory if it can be used to reliably explain and predict natural phenomena and if no data contradict it. If it is refuted at some point, then another theory is accepted, and so the cycle continues. While the mercurial knowledge produced from such an approach might be acceptable for other purposes, it is not a proper basis for understanding God.

Double Blinders

Why do these twin doctrines of conventional science, naturalism and falsification, become so problematic when applied to the study of the divine? Because they’re unwarranted blinders. Let’s perform a thought experiment to find out how. Suppose vehement and gifted theists, peerless in their execution of conventional scientific investigation and consummate in their dedication to an omnipotent divine being, suddenly took over all the great research universities and institutes. Given decades of time, what is the farthest such God-fearing geniuses could take us? They could surely discredit every scientific theory ever proposed that did not include a rigorous conception of God. They could also propose elaborate models of their own that both centered on God and perfectly accorded with every piece of empirical data ever observed. But the million-dollar question is, Would they have proven the existence of God?

The answer is no. They would certainly have turned atheism into an unreasonable stance that no intelligent person could hope to justify. And they would have elaborated a comprehensive picture of the world as dependent on God in every way. But they would not have proven that God exists. Naturalism would prevent them from introducing data and evidence that transcend the five senses, and falsification would prevent them from establishing any kind of conclusive truth. Shackled by these ideological handcuffs of conventional science that limit it to disproving theories using natural data, they would never be able to produce positive evidence of a supernatural entity.

So where does that leave us, the spiritually inquisitive rationalists? If even in such an ideal scenario, conventional science could not give us the satisfaction of knowing that God exists, are we left with only blind faith in what the authorities tell us? Is there no way to employ rational methods of observation and experimentation to understand the Supreme? As it happens, the Vedic scriptures of ancient India provide us with just such an alternative.

Enlightenment Roots

To appreciate the value of what the Vedic literature offers, we must first understand that the scientific establishment cherishes naturalism and falsification because these help distinguish science from pseudoscience. Today’s researchers are intellectual descendants of the Enlightenment, a movement in eighteenth-century Europe that shifted the gaze of humanity from the heavens to the earth and whose proponents esteemed reason and progress over dogma and tradition. As such, members of the scientific community constantly seek to delimit science as a way to explore the world with reason and the intellect, a way that is open to individual endeavor and initiative. In contrast, they vigilantly expel to the realm of pseudoscience any approaches they see as dependent on subjective emotion or passive reception, which for them usually includes religion of any kind. Both naturalism and falsification aid such a separation, and hence mainstream researchers have come to accept them as doctrines.

Granting that the motive underlying their acceptance is bona fide—distinguishing disciplined inquiry from whimsical allegation—a critical question is whether these doctrines are the only means to achieve this end. Not if we engage the Vedic wisdom. While avoiding the pitfalls that naturalism and falsification present, the Vedic literature gives a way to get knowledge that is nevertheless rigorous, systematic, and verifiable. Indeed, the traditional Vedic method of knowing God (as presented in scriptures like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam) is a model of good science, albeit a science adapted in unavoidable ways to the study of spirit.

Methods of the Soft Sciences

The first (rather unremarkable) adaptation is the realization that God is a person who must be dealt with accordingly, not an inert substratum of the universe that that we can dig up and put on a microscope slide. Therefore if we are to look to science as a model, we must look to the social rather than the natural sciences.

Certainly many “hard” scientists scoff at the idea of disciplines like psychology, sociology, and economics being considered science at all, but that has not stopped legions of thoughtful people from trying to apply the scientific method to the study of human beings and their societies. These social scientists are simply forced to take into account qualities in their subjects, such as self-awareness and self-determination, that natural scientists, who research inert matter or sub-human species, generally take the liberty of ignoring. Since even the study of humans as conscious agents is a matter for social science, why would we use the methods of the natural sciences to study God? If anything, He is superhuman.

How then might we define the spiritual social science of the Vedic literature? We can define conventional science, social or otherwise, as “the objective observation of the natural realm by the senses and their extensions.” But given that God is known in the Vedic literature as Adhokshaja (“beyond the reach of the senses”) and Achintya (“inconceivable”), the need to adapt this definition to the study of transcendence becomes obvious. A definition of spiritual science that takes God’s transcendental nature into account might be “the subjective experience of the transcendental realm by the consciousness, in accordance with the direction of revealed scripture.”

Is this new definition no longer scientific? Srila Prabhupada apparently didn’t think so; he referred to the practice of spiritual life as the science of self-realization. Let’s review the components of this “science of self-realization” and see if such a perspective is justified.

To begin with, our new definition of science involves subjectivity rather than objectivity. But then, modern science (through the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and quantum mechanics) has brought the observer into the equations of physics and prevented him or her from remaining safely on the sidelines. Thus, the presence and perceptions of the person doing the measuring color every act of measurement, and there is no such thing as knowledge independent of the knower. Yes, these truths operate on the infinitesimal quantum scale, but the point is that conventional science has essentially shown objectivity to be illusory, so we can hardly be criticized for talking about a science based on subjective experience.

The next component of our definition of spiritual science is the use of consciousness, rather than our physical senses, as our primary research instrument. This obviously violates the doctrine of methodological naturalism, which restricts measurements to instruments that extend the senses. But is our definition still scientific in meaningful ways?


Consider the principle of isomorphism, which dictates that the instrument used to measure a certain phenomenon should be appropriately matched to that phenomenon. To depend solely on the five senses (and their mechanical extensions) in our search for God violates this principle; they can only perceive matter, whereas our subject is spiritual. Considering this limitation, it is only reasonable to replace them with a more appropriate measuring tool. To dogmatically cling to only those instruments with which one is comfortable or familiar—in the face of their obvious inappropriateness—is the sign of an irrational researcher, not a good scientist. As the famous chemist John Platt wrote several decades ago in the journal Science:

Beware of the man of one method or one instrument, either experimental or theoretical. He tends to become method-oriented rather than problem-oriented. The method-oriented man is shackled; the problem-oriented man is at least reaching freely toward what is most important.

If we are to successfully research the existence of God, as good scientists we must use whatever method is best suited to the problem at hand. The Vedic literature informs us that to understand the supreme spirit, the supreme consciousness, the supreme self, the only suitable instrument is our own spirit, our own consciousness, our own self. Indeed, only in our capacity as portions of His divinity can we connect with God.

Using Consciousness to Investigate God

Having sagaciously chosen consciousness as our instrument, how should we employ it? This is where the guidance of revealed scripture becomes crucial. Following scripture essentially means studying God on His own terms, for He is the ultimate source of scripture.

Adapting to the needs and demands of a subject is not alien to conventional social science research. Consent and access are of paramount importance, because human beings cannot be manipulated against their will as if they were mere vials of chemicals or laboratory chimpanzees. If these considerations are critical in studying ordinary people, we should not be surprised to find they are important in studying God. If we are to succeed, we need Him to consent to our study and grant us access to Him. We might find this subordinate status unpalatable, but we must accept that we are trying to meet with the busiest, richest, most powerful, and most famous person in existence.

Social science researchers often speak of critically positioned persons who can help them make important contacts as “gatekeepers.” As it turns out, God has his own gatekeepers, and we need to work through them to gain an audience with God, just as we would work through a corporate hierarchy to arrange a meeting with a CEO.

Fortunately for us, in the Bhagavad-gita God has elaborately presented the procedures by which we can gain access to Him. Among these the most foundational is the need to accept a guru. Is such a move unscientific? Not at all. Just as any doctoral student learns the art of research from an advisor, so too the spiritual aspirant must take instruction from an expert. Seasoned researchers, of either spirit or matter, can pass on finer points of technique and practice.

The Vedic approach to knowing God thus violates the doctrine of naturalism in its reliance on supernatural methods, yet it is surprisingly consistent with the spirit of science, and even many of its essential principles. It is an improved science, however, in that it allows access to an entirely different dimension of reality, systematically and with repeatability.

What of the other impediment to conventional scientific knowledge of God, the doctrine of falsification? How does the science of the Vedic literature address this limitation?

Two Perspectives on Knowledge

Once again a bit of background discussion is needed before we can answer such questions. Conventional science and Vedic science have dramatically divergent perspectives on knowledge. The former holds that human beings can’t know anything positively or independently. Rather, based on the empirical data we gather by observing and interacting with the physical world, we constantly refine what we consider truth. Our knowledge base is thus relative and ever changing.

Ultimately, such a state of affairs really means we don’t know anything. I may say I know that the sun will rise tomorrow or that there is a country called China halfway around the world from the U.S., but my so-called knowledge is based only on my experience. If tomorrow the sun doesn’t rise or I fly to China only to find out it doesn’t exist, I would simply revise what I considered truth. Today’s dependable knowledge would become tomorrow’s mythology. In light of such an understanding of knowledge, the doctrine of falsification makes sense. We can’t really know what is true, so let’s just spend our time showing what is definitely not true, and take what’s left over as good enough for now.

The Vedic scriptures present a different view of knowledge. They claim that we can know things for certain, intrinsically and independently. This absolute knowledge is not subject to the fluxes of our ever-changing world. Not surprisingly, this principle applies most powerfully and most gloriously to the one question we should most want to answer: Is there a God? Sounds wonderful, we may say, but is this purportedly absolute knowledge scientific? It certainly seems so. Although presented in revealed scripture, one need not accept it blindly, based solely on someone else’s word or experience. True to the spirit of scientific inquiry, it can be verified by individual endeavor.

More Scientific than Science

In fact, one could argue that this process is even more scientific than conventional science. After all, why do many people choose science, rather than, say, religion, as a means to acquire knowledge? I assume it is because if they are going to have to rely on information from some outside source, over some sort of authority figure, they prefer their own senses (which are an outside source in that I am different from my eyes, which can and do deceive me). At least then they are involved in the process and not merely passive recipients. But the Vedic literature boldly declares that you don’t have to rely on any outside source—you can know for yourself. Knowledge does not have to stay externally dependent, on either an authority figure or our own senses, but can become something genuinely internal. What could be more satisfying to people who want to see for themselves?

In this way the Vedic method allows us to transcend the restrictions of falsification and acquire true positive knowledge, but in a way harmonious with scientific ideals like independent observation and verification.

Of course, we begin by accepting the version of scripture on faith, but again, is that really so unscientific? Every conventional research investigation begins with a hypothesis, a formulation of what the researcher expects to find. This hunch can come from theory, observation, previous research, life experience, intuition—just about anywhere. As long as the methods used in investigating the hypothesis are rigorous, its source is irrelevant. So why not start from scripture?

Indeed, even before we begin our investigation, scripture plays an important role. Lest we have trouble imagining what it feels like to have such positive knowledge, the Vedic scriptures use analogies to inspire us. Lord Krishna explains in the opening of the most confidential chapter of the Bhagavad-gita (Chapter 9) that the knowledge He is about to describe gives “direct experience” (pratyaksha). Although the subject being discussed is clearly spiritual, the Sanskrit word used is the same as that used in physical sensation. And if that doesn’t give us enough of an idea, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.42) assures us:

Devotion, direct experience of the Supreme Lord, and detachment from other things—these three occur simultaneously for one who has taken shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the same way that pleasure, nourishment, and relief from hunger come simultaneously and increasingly, with each bite, for a person engaged in eating.

By faithfully following the procedures God has given in the Vedic literature, we can expect to experience Him in as tangible a way as we experience a meal. And it doesn’t stop at the internal. Rather, both the Gita (6.30) and the Bhagavatam (11.2.45) inform us that at a certain stage of advancement, we’ll see God in everything and everyone.

At this point it should be clear that what the Vedic literature offers is a genuinely scientific way to know God. Rather than invoking mere sentimentality or blind faith, it sets forth a coherent process that incorporates both reason and individual endeavor, and then invites willing souls to make their own investigation. So, for those of us who truly want to research the existence of God, the predicament is clear: Running on the two rails of naturalism and falsification, the locomotive of conventional science can take us some distance in the right direction. But sooner or later we have to board the airplane of Vedic science to reach our desired destination. So why wait until the end of the line?


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Let’s Ask a GBC

Continuing our series of interviews, today we speak with Praghosa Prabhu GBC for Zonal Secretary for Ireland, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway & Switzerland; member of the GBC Organizational Development Committee, of the GBC Nominations Committee, the GBC-BBT Team and editor of the website Dandavats, Praghosa Prabhu will share his insights of the present situation and how it has affected ISKCON temples and communities in his area.

Video: Click here


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Dear Devotees,

Our humble obeisances to you. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I am writing on behalf of the group of carers who are serving Her Grace Ramadevi Dasi, Srila Prabhupada’s disciple and a long-standing resident of the Mayapur community, to inform the local and international devotees of Ramadevi’s state of health.

Some days ago, Ramadevi collapsed, and it was clear her condition had accelerated. Ramavijaya Prabhu arranged her swift transfer to the Calcutta hospital who had been treating her pre-lockdown. After an MRI and talks with the specialist doctors tending to Ramadevi, the diagnosis is that her condition is now terminal, and no treatment is possible.

Ramavijaya escorted Ramadevi home to Mayapur last night. She will be receiving 24-hour palliative care, and personal attendance, in the coming days.

Of course we are all still observing lockdown, most especially inside the campus, so there will be limited, scheduled visiting. There will be even more limited access to Ramadevi electronically, as she is in no condition to do so. We are asking, therefore, that all communications, questions, or messages for or about Ramadevi be posted here in this thread, or via phone (+91 9775186307). Be assured that Ramadevi will receive every message sent, and ask that you please direct all communications this way.

In regard to the question that may arise of quarantine, Ramadevi and Ramavijaya traveled to the Tata Cancer Hospital & Research Centre in Calcutta, who have strict protocols for Covid-19 screening, and no Covid-19 patients. They also returned to Mayapur via ambulance, so no quarantine is required.

Everyone please pray and chant for Ramadevi, remember her, and offer your loving support for her coming journey….

On behalf of the care team,

Braja Sevaki dd



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By Madhava Smullen

With the U.S. State of Florida, and within it Alachua County, in Phase One of Reopening from COVID-19 lockdown, ISKCON’s New Raman Reti temple in Alachua has also started phase one of a gradual reopening process with careful restrictions.

To do so, Temple President Mukhya Dasi is consulting local government recommendations, as well as her own committee consisting of two phsyicians, one nurse, and two members of management. She’s also taking guidance from Nila Madhava Das, a doctor, anesthesiologist and member of the COVID-19 team at Baltimore’s Northwest Hospital. Nila Madhava serves as temple president of ISKCON Baltimore, and is also beginning to reopen his temple with similar precautions. 

Mukhya cautions that the gradual reopening at ISKCON Alachua is a trial run, and that the temple will continue to monitor Coronavirus cases in the Alachua area, where the rate of positive results from testing is currently low. “If cases goes up too much in our area, we will cut back; if the virus continues its current trend, we will probably continue as planned,” she says. 

ISKCON Alachua began phase 1a of its plan a week ago. This phase allows one individual or one family who has been sheltering at home together in the same household to sign up for a time slot, and lead a kirtan during one arati on a particular day. 

The individual or family leading are the only people present in the temple room besides pujaris. They are also asked to use hand sanitizer or wash their hands with soap and water before entering, wear masks, offer obeisances standing up, and stay at least six feet away from each other. The person leading kirtan may remove their mask, while the others should keep their masks on while joining in the kirtan. (Alachua County is a mandatory mask-wearing county.)

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Danger Is Required by Giriraj Swami


Hearing Srila Prabhupada speak about why danger is required, I thought of the coronavirus pandemic. In a talk on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.33, April 25, 1973, Los Angeles, Prabhupada said:

“We have got natural devotion. Just like father and son, there is natural affection. The son has got natural devotion to the father, mother. Similarly, we have got our natural devotion. And when we are in danger, even the scientists pray to God—though when they are not in danger, they defy God.

“Therefore danger is required in order to teach these rascals that there is God. So, that is natural. Jivera svarupa haya nitya-krsna-dasa. (Cc Madhya 20.108) [“The living entity’s constitutional position is to be an eternal servant of Krishna.”] That is our natural . . . Artificially we are trying to banish God: ‘God is dead,’ ‘There is no God,’ ‘I am God,’ ‘This God,’ ‘That God.’ This rascaldom we must give up. Then we shall be given all protection by Krishna.”


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It’s quite interesting to see how many roads are becoming sidewalks, places for boys at basketball and now today the road, an actual bridge arched over a ravine in Rosedale has become arehearsal site for a young women’s cheerleading team. Oh, they moved over when the rare motorist came. They pulled over when the vehicle would pass and then get right back into action.
Further on a fresh new sidewalk was laid for the concrete to harden. Being blocked off caused pedestrians to use the street. They had an excuse. I hope in some way that we could prolong the days of more feet and less wheels.

It wasn’t quite dark yet for this 8:30 pm time but a raccoon (yes, another one today) was just about to help himself to the contents of a trash can but it saw me coming. He jumped off, landed on the condo building’s lawn and stood there. He actually stood his ground. Maybe it never saw a monk before. His back curled which indicated, most likely, “I’m not moving and I am gettin’ back to my meal!”
Okay so I got going. I kept chanting softly. I came to a park, sat down at a bench and chanted the gayatri mantra. Then I called,from my cell, Amala, a music teacher, and my spiritual student.  “How are you?”

“My obeisance! I’m sitting in the backyard watching a robin feed his/her young babies as they eat the worm from its beak…”
I offered some advice about life. I looked at the sky, grass, the environment around. I liked it.
There was an Englishman who came to Canada, lived with the natives and practically became one of them. He became a conservationist and fought against deforestation and the trapping of beavers. His name became Grey Owl. He said of nature, “Some things are not for sale!
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If a devotee were to ask, “Please bless me so that I’ll never take birth again in this horrible material world,” would this be asking for some kind of liberation? Hundreds of times, Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to “Go Back home, back to Godhead.” Would it be a form of boldness or naiveté to desire to come back to this world and serve by preaching?

That would depend on our level of perception and spiritual progress. There were times when some disciples indicated to Srila Prabhupada that they would perhaps like to take birth again and help with preaching Krishna consciousness. Even then Srila Prabhupada would variously say, “Don’t try to come back…simply go back to Godhead.”

If going back to Godhead is what we must seek, then does this fare somewhat less to an ideal expressed by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, as paraphrased by Srila Prabhupada: Nitya-dasa prati tuwa adhikara: “You have got every right to do whatever You think right in relation with Your servant. I am Your eternal servant.” Janmaobi moe iccha jadi tor: “If you so desire” — because a devotee goes back to Home, goes back to Godhead – therefore Bhaktivinoda Thakura proposes, “If You like that I shall again take birth, it doesn’t matter.”

Bhakta—grhe jani janma hau mor: “The only request is that if I have to take my birth, please kindly give me the chance of taking my birth in a devotee’s house.” Kita—janma hau jatha tuwa das: “I don’t mind if I am born as an insect, but I must be in the house of a devotee.” Bahir mukha brahma-janme nahi as: “I do not like non—devotee life.

Noticing that Srila Bhaktivinoda said, “…IF I have to take my birth…” in a mood of allowing Krishna to do whatever He wants, does this appear more surrender’ful than our ‘conditional’ Back to Godhead wish, as encouraged by Srila Prabhupada? We can look at this in different ways, and the way Srila Prabhupada emphasised it so much points in the right direction.

Here is one of many examples: “And after passing 5,000 years, we find so many difficulties, and the more we grow in this Kali-yuga, the days will be more and more difficult. So best thing is that you finish your Krishna consciousness business and go back to home, back to Godhead. That will save you. Otherwise, if we come back again, the difficulties, the difficult days are ahead. We have to suffer more and more.” (SB 1.8.32 – Los Angeles, April 24, 1973)

A daunting prospect of rebirth in Kali-yuga is discouraged. Srila Prabhupada also knew that most of us are rules and regulation types and will struggle mightily to ascend the path of devotion. For these reasons it would be an extraordinarily rare event to actually go back to Godhead, and the extraordinary is made clear and simple for us by him – and many devotees are going back to Godhead.

An interesting question can be raised at this point: Srila Prabhupada sometimes said that many of his disciples were sent by Krishna, or by his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta to come and help him spread Krishna consciousness all over the world – from where did they come?

To have the desire to go back to Godhead, or not to ever take birth again in this world, is the correct thing for those of us who are unsure of our eternal position in Godhead. If we haven’t yet realised our spiritual identity, then better we pray to go back to Godhead where we might discover something wonderful. This is the greatest fortune.

Then there are those rare souls who are certain and assured of themselves spiritually. This certainty enables someone like Srila Bhaktivinoda to know that wherever he is in the material world, he is already in Godhead. “If one has a strong desire to serve the Lord, even if he accepts a material body, there is no cause of anxiety, since a devotee, even in a material body, is a liberated soul.” (SB 9.13.9 purport)

On this level, going back to Godhead or not, being in heaven or hell, are inconsequential so long as service or devotion is rendered in the company of devotees. “Even if I am born as a Lord Brahma. I want to remain with the devotees.” Bhukti-mukti—sprha vihina je bhakta: “I want such devotee who doesn’t care for material happiness or spiritual liberation.” Labhaite tako sanga anurakta: “ I simply desire to be associated with such pure devotees.”

And while serving with devotees an assured soul knows, “When he gives up his body, he goes directly to become an associate of the Lord and serve Him, although he does the same thing even in a material body in the material world.” (SB 9.13.9 purport)

If we try to express our desires to take birth again in this world without having the certainty and assurance of eternal spiritual grounding, we could be moving ahead of ourselves. This is why Srila Prabhupada encouraged a more realistic prospect of desiring to go back to Godhead. Besides, having a genuine realised desire to go wherever Krishna wants us to go, stems from relishing real taste for chanting Hare Krishna.

When Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu says in the forth verse of Sri Sikastakam, “I only want Your causeless devotional service birth after birth,” He is – “By saying “life after life” (janmani janmani), the Lord referred not to an ordinary birth but a birth in which to remember the lotus feet of the Lord. Such a body is desirable.” (SB 9.13.9 purport)

According to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s analysis in his writings like Sri Bhajana Rahasyam and others, this Siksastakam verse equates with having deep taste or Ruchi. In other words, someone possessed of this quality of spiritual progress can have more realisation when and if, the desire for rebirth arises, and is expressed with proper understanding.

It could be that one wants to go back to Godhead because – (SB 9.13.9 purport) “…whereas a nondevotee, having no engagement in the service of the Lord, is very much afraid of accepting a material body or giving up his present one,” could reflect some of the uncertainty. This uncertainty is due to not knowing one’s eternal relationship with Krishna, or even retaining or practicing impersonal concepts in the realm of personal service to the Lord and His devotees.

“Mahārāja Nimi continued: Māyāvādīs generally want freedom from accepting a material body because they fear having to give it up again. But devotees whose intelligence is always filled with the service of the Lord are unafraid. Indeed, they take advantage of the body to render transcendental loving service.” (SB 9.13.9)

To seek relief from material suffering and from bodily inconveniences in order to go back to Godhead, can be a selfish motive. Then again, we are encouraged to use this selfishness for a higher purpose. The fact that we somehow came here at – Anadi – time for some selfish reason, and now wanting some selfish relief, is well worth our effort in going back to Godhead.

At least having returned back to Godhead there will be some capacity to serve the Lord. And in that service one may want to come back down to the material world to help bring back other suffering souls – from an already liberated position. With an assured Godhead situation as this, who would not want to go back home, back to Godhead to render eternal loving service, either here, there or anywhere?

Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa – GRS.


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AnchorTrue to the ancient aphorism that “one is known by the company he keeps”, in any endeavour one’s chances of success is determined by the association he cultivates. The higher the goal, the tighter this close-knit association of like minded people is required for success. Attainment of Sudh Bhakti, being one of the highest goals of life, demands an even stricter and absolute adherence to this principle. This infallible wisdom is dexterously interwoven by Srila Rupa Goswami in updeshamrita text 2 & 3. The two key words used to convey this message are jana-saṅgaḥ (association with worldly-minded persons) and saṅga-tyāgāt (giving up the association of nondevotees). He cautions that jana-saṅgaḥ can cause our bhakti-lata to dwindle, whereas saṅga-tyāgāt will enable it to blossom – guaranteeing our success. If we scrutinize the various aspects of this advice the following compelling arguments emerge.

2.Avoiding Being Trapped In A Vicious Cycle

Jana-saṅgaḥ is the root cause of many evils. It is the door through which the other five symptoms of material entanglement creep in. For instance jana-saṅgaḥ ignites and fans one’s desire to lord the material energy. As a consequence we over-endeavour (prayāsaḥ) to gratify our senses. Such an endeavour, fuelled by the mode of passion, leads to accumulating more than required (ati-āhāraḥ) and eventually transforms into greed (laulyam). Thus we become susceptible to niyama-āgrahaḥ, and turn oblivious to self-realisation in the blind pursuits of our interests. This creates a never ending vicious cycle that not only invites many vices, but also makes escaping from the grab of Maya impossible.

3.Preventing Loss of Opportunity (for God Realisation)

The higher intelligence conferred on humans is meant for a higher purpose. It is the only form of life in which our dormant relationship with Krsna can be revived; and liberation from the material bondage can be achieved. Srila Prabhupada explains that the revival of this relationship demands that we associate with those who have not forgotten Krishna, so that an intelligent inquiry about our higher purpose of life can be made – jīvasya tattva jijñāsā (Updeshamrit 2 p). However, if we make a mistaken choice to associate with the worldly minded people, this valuable opportunity to attain God Realisation is lost. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, therefore, advises us to live only in the association of Kṛṣṇa conscious devotees – bhakta-sane vāsa (Updeshamrit 2 p).

4.Only Bhakti Begets Bhakti

Advancement in Krishna consciousness is possible only through the mercy of self-realised Bhaktas. Pure devotional service can neither be achieved through mundane efforts nor be terminated by any mundane cause. It is “ahaituky apratihatā” (SB 1.2.6). On the other hand, non-devotees, who neither have an inclination towards spiritual development nor any faith in Krsna, can only serve to impede or recede our progress. Therefore, to the extent possible, one’s company and aural reception should be given only to self-realised people by approaching and inquiring from them submissively “tad viddhi praṇipātena” (BG 4.34). This is the recipe for sure success.


To summarise, our devotional service gets spoiled when we fail to exercise discretion in the company we keep. One must remember that association always causes transfer of desires. Therefore, it’s imperative that those aspiring for pure devotional service should carefully protect their bhakti-lata by nourishing it in the divine light and company of knowledgeable self-realised souls – and thus augment their chances of relishing the complete nectar of devotion in this very lifetime, and associating with the ambrosial pastimes of Lord Shri Krishna in the life here after.


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16 years ago, after graduating from UCL with a management degree, I opted to leave it aside and embrace monastic life instead. Ironically, it’s all come full circle; dealing with people, projects and practicalities is a sizable section on the modern monastic menu. I must have some management karma to burn off. Balancing spiritual immersion and practical politics, however, is incredibly challenging.

You have to be alert, streetwise, tuned in, and sensitive enough to deal with the complexities and conflicts that harass every manager. Being a monk, however, you simultaneously try to live in a sacred space of consciousness, beyond the temporary phantasmagoria, with a broader vision and deeper meditation. Sometimes I feel like I’m living the life of a public hermit – ‘on the grid’ but simultaneously aloof.

While navigating the practical world and settling into my inner world, I encountered a useful mantra which I tried to embed within my mindset – “learn to live with chaos.” External circumstances are never perfect, prim and proper. Life just doesn’t work like that, and if we’re perpetually seeking the perfect resolution of everything around us, our attention will be perpetually diverted away from other parts of our life which need it.

Many things aren’t meant to be resolved – they just need to be managed and tolerated. We must cultivate resilience and steadiness of mind, even amidst unresolved problems, issues, obstacles and hostility. The entirety of our life can’t be spent putting out fires. Some will just have to burn, but we should continue progressing forward nevertheless.

Once, Swami Prabhupada was being driven to a public engagement. As they hit a series of roadworks, the traffic slowly built up, and within minutes all the vehicles were at a complete standstill. As they peered outside the windscreen, a luminous highway sign read “road works: temporary inconvenience, permanent improvements.” The Swami laughed heartily and exclaimed “the material world: temporary improvements, permanent inconvenience!” And so, learning to live with chaos is more realistic, progressive and pragmatic. Like running water effortlessly flows around the obstructing rocks, moving steadily to its destination, so in the face of inevitable challenges and unexpected reversals, we must march on.

I’m slowly learning the art of switching off, entering sacred space, and blocking out the chaotic noise of the buzzing world. I’m not suggesting irresponsible indifference, but I can’t allow my inner world to be permanently hijacked. That space is off limits. Otherwise, in the midst of the chaos, I may well miss the whole point.


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Culture are subtle forces or activities which condition or influence how individuals think and behave in every facet of their life; culture largely depends on a country’s or group’s conviction and purpose for existence (belief system); ones convictions are largely formed by knowledge or education (ideas or wisdom); therefore, we can conclude that knowledge and education changes culture, which then ultimately translates to changing individuals behavior and thus their destiny. In Bhārata-varṣa, I once asked a respectable gentlemen, who was enthusiastically standing up for protecting the “Hindu culture”, “What is the purpose of your culture?” To my surprise, the question surprised him. He fumbled for words, as if he had never been asked, or even thought about such a point. Sadly, this is the case with majority of people. The blind leading the leading. People are unaware where their culture is taking them, or what is the purpose of culture? Culture ultimately should free one from this temporary and miserable existence, by assisting everyone to understand Bhagavan Śrī Kṛṣṇa in full, thereby attain His Supreme abode (Bhagavad Gita 4.9). With this definition of culture and anecdote in mind, let us briefly analyze my year experience in Bhārata-varṣa.

One can’t think of Bhārata-varṣa, India, without thinking of its vast and dynamic culture: The many holy places, rivers, and saints; temples, names Gods and Demigods written everywhere, many languages spoken, promotion of false gurus and incarnations, vast rich food, music and loud noises, intimidating public transportation, non-stop cars honking, beautiful mountain ranges, contrast between cities and villages, year round political competition, major cricket fans, cows, dogs, and cats seen on the streets. Seems like quite a bit to take in and experience? This list simply gives us glimpse of reality. From a naive westerner first perspective, it seemed like someone just assembled random countries into one massive country. One may even wonder, how does anything function or get organized in such a seemingly chaotic place? But actually everything happens in a somewhat organized but dynamic way: There is unity in diversity.

Despite all the glamour and excitement, unfortunately, beneath the surface there is war or ‘Clash of Cultures’. Imperceptible to the general masses, massive tidal waves in the form of ‘Western Culture’, under the garb of ‘Progress and Modernization’, have been crashing against Bhārata-varṣa – gradually dwindling what little culture is left. The illusory urge to enjoy this temporary and miserable world has gradually increased more than ever before, and captivated most the population. Yet, from a westerners’ perspective, this land’s traditional culture still seems quite unique, and intact. Bhārata-varṣa’s culture still remains standing; this is largely due to the wealth of wisdom kept in books such as Mahabharata, Ramayana, Srimad Bhagavatam, and other Puranas – fortunately which, a large enough percentage of the population still cherish, worship and have faith in. As long as people have faith in these teachings and in intellectual class, the culture will exist to varying degrees. In recent history, the International Society for Krsna Consciousness (ISKCON) humble attempts at revitalizing India’s Vedic culture, particularly centered on distributing the teachings of ‘Bhagavad Gita as it’, and public chanting of Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, has helped repopularize the spirit of fully surrendering one’s life to Bhagavan Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Now many enthusiastic renunciants (Brahmacaris) are joining our ISKCON temples uplifting the entire spiritual culture of India.

Yet, in order to continue to combat against all this materialism being bombarded into Bhārata-varṣa, there is so much work to be done: Varṇāśrama-dharma. We need so many more thousands and thousands of men and women to join our centers, temples, and new farm communities to imbibe the teachings and impart of it to others. Get rid of this toxic coming from the west! Protect Bhārata-varṣa from its greatest tragedy! Do as your forefathers have done, lead the world once more as the spiritual forefront. There is no need to experiment on the youth of India. The social experiment has already been trailed and done. In America, growing up most of my school friends grow up with divorced parents, most students were depressed or on some form of anti-depression, and aimlessly lived their lives. Just see the lives of those who live against the tenants of guru, saints, sastra, and tradition: They simply cannot be happy, neither in this live, nor the next (Bhagavad Gita 16.23). Have we noticed the difference between the children who fortunate enough to still grow up in a village to the children growing up in cities? Are they any happier or of better character?

We see that Srila Prabhupada validates this theme or points being made in the follow Srimad Bhagavatam purport:

“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has clearly declared:

bhārata-bhūmite haila manuṣya-janma yāra
janma sārthaka kari’ kara para-upakāra

The real success or fulfillment of the mission of human life can be achieved in India, Bhārata-varṣa, because in Bhārata-varṣa the purpose of life and the method for achieving success are evident. People should take advantage of the opportunity afforded by Bhārata-varṣa, and this is especially so for those who are following the principles of varṇāśrama-dharma. If we do not take to the principles of varṇāśrama-dharma by accepting the four social orders (brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra) and the four orders of spiritual life (brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and sannyāsa), there can be no question of success in life. Unfortunately, because of the influence of Kali-yuga, everything is now being lost. The inhabitants of Bhārata-varṣa are gradually becoming degraded mlecchas and yavanas. How then will they teach others? Therefore, this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement has been started not only for the inhabitants of Bhārata-varṣa but for all the people of the world, as announced by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. There is still time, and if the inhabitants of Bhārata-varṣa take this movement of Kṛṣṇa consciousness seriously, the entire world will be saved from gliding down to a hellish condition. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement follows the process of pañcarātrika-vidhi and that of bhāgavata-vidhi simultaneously, so that people can take advantage of the movement and make their lives successful.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.19.10 Puport)

We hope that Bharata-varsa once more regains her full glories, and as Srila Prabhupada urges us, the entire world will be saved from gliding into hellish conditions by seriously taking to Krsna consciousness. Let us create a Krsna conscious culture all over the world.


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By Madhava Smullen 

At least 72 people have been killed and thousands left homeless in West Bengal, India, after Cyclone Amphan ripped through the state on Wednesday May 20th. Amphan, which was the most powerful cyclone ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal before it weakened, destroyed homes, trees and bridges, and left rural areas without power or communications. 

Fortunately, although ISKCON’s Mayapur campus was affected, the damage was minimal. 

The cyclone reached Sridham Mayapur on Wednesday evening with severe wind gusts of 160 kph (100 mph), accompanied by torrential rain and tumultuous sounds. 

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Walking has become a family affair from what I can see.  On the Belt Line Trail Aisvarya and I were seeing this with our very own eyes.  People have become antsy staying at home for two months now.  Except for a young raccoon that walked solo and, upon seeing us climbed a mesh fence, was seemingly lost from his family.

With the sun at approximately 16° Celsius you couldn’t find a better situation.  Singles, couples, and families, people with baby strollers were drawn to the out-of-doors.  It was truly a happy situation.

There was one family, husband, wife and two young boys (one at 20 months), that were halted or stopped on the trail and we found ourselves having to go around.  When dad turned around to see who was passing after fussing with the youngest he stood erect, then bent forward slightly, offering palms together (pranams) and said “Haribol!”

I had to think for a minute.  Oh yes!  It was Dhruva.  I knew him last as a kid.  His dad, Balaram a.k.a. Bill Moore, is a first-class mason and did so much for our temple/ashram in the past.  This is a case of father passing down his trade to his son.  That’s quite traditional as an approach.  A great succession plan.
It was heartwarming to speak to Dhruva.  I recall him curled up like a cat in a chair, when small, while his dad was doing work in our building.  I also remember when I was having a shouting drama practice when young Dhruva burst in, feeling something was wrong, unaware of our rehearsal and demanding, “Stop it!”
Although I am a monk I am into family.  I wish Dhruva and family the best.
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