ISKCON Derire Tree's Posts (14339)

Gathering Good by Bhaktimarga Swami

7936682490?profile=RESIZE_400xMy feet didn’t go far today but, on a set of wheels, I did venture to Oakville. We were going to have our first ISKCON Oakville gathering but due to the number of Covid-19 victims rising, that was canceled. It was regrettable, however, Kasyapa and Panchami saved the day. This couple, who have successfully run a centre in Saskatoon for eight years, are back in the Greater Toronto Area, and they opened up their home for a smaller group event.

I asked them if I could bring Cameron, Chris, Nick and Christopher to their home, because each and every one of these guys are quite sincere about their spirituality. Each one of them are serious about their japa chanting. That makes them special.

We sat down - one Indian family, a Mauritian family and then the four younger Caucasian guys—and listened or followed the verses from chapter eleven of the Gita. This chapter clearly stands out with its visually sensational display of magnificence. I correct myself though. Because we were a diverse group, we’re good. Nick is Guyanese. He treated us with his ukulele playing, along with the maha-mantra chanting.

Kasyapa and Panchami’s daughter is great with colour and paint. She gave me a gift of a Krishna image. She has a knack as an artist, with a unique style. Thank you, Radhika. And thanks, all, for a lovely evening.


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7932568678?profile=RESIZE_400xWhy bother? Considering how short life is, why should we bother about taking care of the different aspects of health? In the Sri Caitanya-siksamrta (chapter 2.1, p. 67-68) Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains why: “If people do not follow these rules [regarding health of body and mind], they cannot pass through life smoothly. […] One will not be able to take the mind from material thoughts and direct it to thoughts of God. As a result, sinful thoughts and an atheistic attitude will dominate the mind. Finally, a person will become no better than a beast. Therefore, these bodily and mental rules are very necessary for success in human life.” In other words, if you don’t take care of the needs of your body and mind in a way that is favorable for your spiritual development, you will not come very far.

Life can be compared to a tree. Just as a tree needs to have deep roots, a strong trunk and a flourishing crown, we all need to have roots in eternity, a supportive life style, in which physical, emotional and social needs are met, and the fruits of contributing to the lives of others.

The unique feature of the tree of life concept is that by applying the principle of sattva to all these areas of life it is uplifted onto the spiritual plane (in contrast to ordinary self-improvement). Sat means “eternal” and tva “truth”, so sattva is that force of nature which is open for spiritual truths. The sattvic way of practicing the principles of the tree of life will be different from rajasic or tamasic self-improvement. In this way the teachings of the tree of life open the doors to the spiritual dimension. The Guiding Principle:

Strengthening Sattva

The workings of matter are orchestrated by three forces: sattva (goodness, illumination), rajas (passion) and tamas (ignorance). The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.24) teaches us that, “[…] passion [rajas] is better than ignorance [tamas], but goodness [sattva] is best because by goodness one can come to realize the absolute truth.” Srila Prabhupada explains, “It is further comprehended herein that one has to rise to the platform of the mode of goodness (sattva) so that one can be eligible for the devotional service of the Lord.” In other words, having a strong sattva means having access to the absolute truth. Strong sattva is a state in which we maintain balance in the four areas of our life: the health of body and mind, contributing to the lives of others and nourishing our spirituality. It is a force that brings you inside. Rajas is an energy that is directed to Amrta Vani, Training Letter for Retreat Participants, page 2 the outside and when it is dominant you feel stressed. A state of dominant tamas is a state of exhaustion and depression. Ensuring that your sattva stays strong will make it easy for you to enter the sacred space in your heart – sattva is the force that brings you there and facilitates God-realization.

The many details of leading a life of strong sattva are guided by the principle of associating with thoughts, food, recreation, people etc. that are sattvic (“One can strengthen the mode of goodness by cultivation of those things that are already situated in goodness […].” SB 11.13.2) (For more information, see handout “The Modes and their Corresponding Attributes” attached to this email.) With practice, you will eventually be able to remain sattvic even in situations that would usually bring you out of your steadiness. On the other hand, if you are ruled by rajas and tamas, you will feel anxious or downcast even when you are in paradisiacal surroundings. So, in essence, it is not difficult to become sattvic: you need to learn which behavior is sattvic, practice it and then the force of sattva will do everything for you. After some time behaving in a way that allows sattva to unfold itself will become natural to you, habitual, and you can go through life smoothly. You will be moved forward by an energy which brings you to happiness, composure, peace and spiritual realizations.

Physical Well-Being

Much can be said about maintaining physical well-being. You might want to revisit the handout “A Day in Sattva” you received at the retreat (and which is attached to this email), specifically the tips on a sattvic diet.

Please remember to do regular physical exercise. The benefits of physical exercise are usually very underrated. Remember, exercise is not something that takes energy from you – it restores it to you. By burning excessive fat and sugar in your blood system, physical exercise clears up your cardiovascular system and prevents cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks. Physical exercise is a powerful antidepressant, reduces stress and makes your brain faster and larger. Studies have shown that physical exercise is also a strong booster for willpower – not only for the exercise itself but it is contagious to all aspects of life. So by increasing self-control, physical exercise supports you in achieving any other goal as well.


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7932563094?profile=RESIZE_584xYou can tell when someone is reading Srila Prabhupada’s books:
So this actress looking middle eastern lady and her young son parked their Porsche, walked past my book table and went inside the grocery store. I actually remembered meeting them in the past and how she was kind of puffed up, so I didn’t expect much.
When they came out of the store, they walked straight towards me with a big smile and the boy was holding a $20 bill to give me. The mother was so warm this time and all happy to see me. She goes, “how you been, here is a donation for you. I feel bad, I feel like I owe you,” and the boy puts the money inside my donation bowl.
I vaguely remembered giving the boy a book, so I thought I will just ask him if he is reading the book I gave.
The boy super enthusiastically says, “I finished the book!” Surprised to hear this 11-year-old say that he finished one of Prabhupad’s books I asked him again, ‘you read the whole book? Which book was it?’
He replied “The Science of Self Realization.”
So I tried to encourage him to take a few more books. He picked three different titles to take home, but the mother said the boy, Ali, can take only one book.
I encouraged him to take The Gita. The mother asked me why I insist Ali take home The Gita.
I said, “It’s the main book and its 1000’s of years old spiritual science, etc.. ”
The mother got irritated saying, “why everyone always talks about ancient, authentic, old stuff? What’s wrong with new? Why not forget about all that ancient stuff and just live in the now and go with the flow?”
I was thinking what to say to her and the boy interjects, “mom that’s what the animals do, as humans we are supposed to have wisdom and guidance.” He shocked both the mother and myself with his response. We both laughed so hard.
The mother goes, “baby did you just call me an animal?” The boy bluntly replied, “Sorry mom that’s what these books say.”
After they both walked off I couldn’t stop laughing. I was thinking to myself, this boy has definitely read Prabhupad’s books

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7932528262?profile=RESIZE_584xWe celebrate the auspicious occasion of the 85th birthday of our dear Rose Forkash.

When Srila Prabhupada first arrived in America, it took some time—almost a year—before people began to take his message seriously. But gradually, after he moved to New York, some young men and women did join him. And after starting the first center, on Second Avenue, Srila Prabhupada sent some disciples to San Francisco. Soon thereafter, he went, too, and it was there that he inspired and celebrated the first Ratha-yatra in the Western world. Before leaving America to return to India, Srila Prabhupada told his disciples, “Whoever wants to please me”—of course, everyone wanted to please Srila Prabhupada—“should open a center.” So one young couple, Dayananda and his wife Nandarani, took up the call and went to Los Angeles and began the center there.

Eventually, some of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples came to Santa Barbara, and one young person to get a copy of Back to Godhead was Linda Forkash. She brought the magazine home and read every page, and she told her mother, “Mom, this is it—this is what I have been looking for! This magazine is answering all of my questions about God.” Soon she decided to move into the Los Angeles temple in order to practice bhakti-yoga in the association of devotees, to realize her goal of developing love for God—Krishna consciousness.

Linda’s mother, Rose, being conscientious and loving as she is, soon followed her to Los Angeles—just to make sure everything was on the up-and-up. She got hold of Karandhara dasa, who was in charge of the activities there, and told him, “If I find out that there are any drugs going on here . . .” She did not know that the devotees did not take even tea and coffee and cigarettes; she just wanted to make sure that her daughter was in proper company.

In a room conversation in Bhubaneswar, January 20, 1977, Ramesvara told Srila Prabhupada, “We have one mother in Los Angeles of a girl named Lilashakti. She’s a big book distributor. And her mother, she loves this movement so much that when the deprogrammers start debating us, she stands up and yells at them that ‘My daughter was on drugs, hippie, before she came to this movement. This movement has saved her. If I had known about this movement when I was a young girl, I would have joined this movement!’ On television she’s speaking like that, very strongly: ‘You have no right to criticize! You don’t know anything about this movement.’ . . .  She says, ‘You just come over to my house for lunch and I’ll tell you all about this movement, how nice it is.’ She started this club, Parents for Krishna.” And Prabhupada replied, “Oh, she is very sincere. And her daughter, this Lilashakti. She’s a wonderful girl. She’s expert in everything.”

Now I would like to hear from some of the other devotees here, how they came in touch with Krishna consciousness and how they came to know Rose. I think of her as Aunt Rose. We have a saying in Chicago: “Everyone has an uncle (or aunt) in Skokie.” Rose actually lived in Skokie before she moved to Santa Barbara. So she definitely qualifies to be Aunt Rose—for many reasons. So, now I will call on Linda, or Lilashakti, to carry on the thread of the story.

Lilashakti dasi: As you were speaking about how we would go out and chant and distribute Back to Godheads, I was thinking of how many devotees in this room actually connected with Krishna through seeing the devotees on harinama and maybe getting a Back to Godhead. It was very powerful to see the devotees, and I remember chanting with them. The first couple of times, I would just stand there and observe, and then they would call me to join them and chant. I finally did, and I remember chanting on harinama with them and watching the people go by. It was as if I was immersed in and surrounded by the transcendental sound vibration, and what I was experiencing was totally different from the people walking by. The experience of the transcendental sound vibration was so powerful. Then, of course, reading the Back to Godhead. When I went home, it just solidified the experience. “Oh, so this is who God is. All right. Now someone is finally telling me.” As Maharaja said, it took me only a couple of weeks and I was saying goodbye to my mum and dad at the door. They stood in shock as a brahmachari with a shaved head pulled up in a little Volkswagen to drive me to Los Angeles.

I could not stay in the small temple that was in Santa Barbara then. There were five brahmacharis there, and they did not have a brahmacharini ashram. But then, as Maharaja said, it was not long—probably the very next Sunday feast—before my mother and father came and observed. Experiencing the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra and honoring prasada just hooked them. You just cannot escape it. It is the mercy of this day and age that even if you are not conscious of what you are hearing or what you are eating, you will become purified and attracted to Krishna. It is just magical. It works. And it worked with my mother and father, because then we could not keep them away. They just kept coming every week, and before you knew it, they were doing service. And before you knew it, the temple gave them an apartment at Watseka and they started a whole program: “Friends of Lord Krishna,” FOLK.

I will let mum go on and talk about her experience, but I feel really blessed. Especially in those days, there were not a lot of mothers and fathers coming to support their children in what they were doing. But my mum and dad were so supportive and loving, and my own children benefited from having not only a mother that was Krishna conscious but grandparents that were Krishna conscious, who were at the temple and sharing our life with us. So, we had not only the extended family of devotees, but we actually had our blood relatives. And then friends like Ann would come to the temple, and my aunts would come to the temple, and they were quite open. It was really amazing that my family members were as open as they were.

Rose: And your brothers.

Lilashakti dasi: And my brothers. Oh, yes, you should have seen my mother and father at my fire yajna for my first, arranged, marriage. That was very interesting. My uncle was there, and my brothers were there. This was in Arizona. I had an arranged marriage with Madhukara, and he is Das’s father—Manasa Chandra Das. I had never met him before. Karandhara had told me, “Prabhupada wants all the women to be married.” As Maharaja said, we just wanted to please Prabhupada. If Prabhupada wanted us to jump off a mountain, we probably would have done it. So I went and met Madhukara. We had a fire yajna, and my mother and father came. I have pictures of them sitting around it. I do not know what they must have thought. What did you think, Rose?

Rose: It was pretty hard to think. It was overwhelming. Mostly I looked around and saw that there were very few older people. It was mostly younger people, and I wondered, “Where are people my age?” But I have to jump ahead, because the first person who came to visit Los Angeles to visit Lila was this lady right here, and I took her to the temple and she observed. As I recall, she took her shoes off and kneeled at the temple door, not knowing what was going on inside. But she observed and did everything that everybody else was doing, including chanting.

Ann Gottfried: I did not know.

Rose: Because she had so much faith in me, I think, that if it was good for me it was good for her. But I have to jump ahead. There was a little woman who would come to visit her son. She was so very, very kind. That was Ratnabhusana’s mother, who came to visit him. She was very devoted, very kind, and willing to do anything that the devotees wanted. I will never forget his mother. And so it went. It did not take long.

I went to visit my family in Florida, and there was a temple there. In the western part of Miami there was a temple, and I brought all my family, and all my family got into it. Then one day my mother and father decided, “Well, if it is good enough for Lila and Rose, why can’t we stay there?” I said, “No, Dad, you can’t have that cigar there.” “Maybe they will let me have one!” And I said, “No, they can’t.” But anyway, he conceded to that—that he would have only one cigar a day. The devotees were going to make a move to the oceanside at that time, and they were selling the property. So my mother and dad did not move to the temple. But it would have been interesting. Nonetheless, when my mother was ready to pass away, devotees surrounded her and chanted with her until her last day, for which I am grateful.

But this lady right here [Ann Gottfried] spoke to anybody and everybody in Chicago on behalf of Krishna. She was a true, true friend and thought that if it was good for us, it would have to be good for everybody else.

Ann: I did that mostly for you.

Lilashakti dasi: My Aunt Ann.

Rose: So, we come to this time, and I do not know where we go from here except maybe to another body. I have to interrupt only for one very important thing. When I began to write to the parents all over the world, I had a very good friend who helped: Kaumudaki dasi. She was very instrumental in helping. I don’t think I could have done it myself.

Giriraj Swami: Can you explain a little more how you came to start FOLK?

Rose: What led me to it? That fact, that I noticed so few parents coming to the temple. Very few came to the Sunday program. A few neighborly people came at that time, I think because of the prasada, but very few parents. I think Ratnabhusana’s mother was one of the few who would come.

So, I spoke with Ramesvara Swami about that one afternoon. I said, “There must be a way to bring other families around to see for themselves what their children are doing.” I asked him if it would be all right if I had the names and addresses of all those in the Los Angeles temple. Not knowing where San Francisco was as opposed to Santa Barbara, I had no conception of distance at that time. I invited every family that lived in California. We arranged a luncheon. And they came. I stood at the temple door, waiting for every car that would pull up. I felt so grateful when I saw fifty people finally filling the room. I stood at the door and greeted everybody, but, of course, everybody was very uncomfortable at the beginning.

I stood before the room full of parents and wondered what I could say to them. I thanked everybody for coming, and then suddenly I just began to cry. That was the beginning. But I recovered enough, and I tried my best to explain what their children were doing and why they were doing what they were doing and that I had hope that if they, the parents, were able to read some of the material, perhaps their differences would be smoothened. And so it went.

From that I wrote to other families. Then Sam decided that we should take a trip to all the temples. We had a camper van, and so we travelled throughout the United States and stopped at fifteen temples where I had the names and addresses of the families. I also got the names and addresses of families that lived in other countries. The list grew and grew and grew until we might have had about three or four thousand letters going out. I think that is what it came to—many thousands of letters.

Where do we go from here? I think this is about the beginning of the end . . .

Devotee: Or the end of the beginning.

Rose: That is right. I must add that this year Sam and I attended a beautiful wedding on the grounds here about five days before Sam left his body. We were sitting together. At the end of the ceremony Sam took my hand, and he said, “Would you like to marry me again?” “Yes, I would.” It never came to pass, but the intention was good and it was there. Thank you for letting me say this.

I am very fortunate that from Lila we have two very fine grandsons. My sons are very supportive and have made many, many donations in honor of Prabhupada. So, this is where I am today, at the age of eighty-five—a big number—surrounded by very good friends. I am very, very happy for this arrangement here today. I thank everybody for coming.

Ratnabhusana dasa: I would like to mention that my brother and I became devotees through Back to Godhead magazine. We had a friend whose father owned a gas station. It was in Bismarck, North Dakota. We had never heard of devotees, what to speak of seen any. But some devotees were passing through, and instead of paying for the gas they asked if we could take a Krsna book and a Back to Godhead magazine. So my brother came home with that. He said, “These guys were here. They had the robes, the ponytail—the whole thing.”

My brother was interested in the book mainly for the art, but he started writing. There was a line in the magazine: “For more information write to 3764 Watseka Avenue.” So he started getting letters from Swarup. My brother joined the temple first, and then I came in 1977. My brother was very ill then. He had diabetes and kidney failure, so he was in the hospital. When he got out, my mother came out to visit us in the temple in Los Angeles. Rose had an apartment right behind the temple, on the next block, and my mother stayed with Rose. That is how we came to know Rose and Sam. Later, my mother started staying with Kaumudaki too, sometimes in the brahmacharini ashram.

Rose has been like my aunt, and Sam—they just have been such good friends all these years. I have never seen Sam angry. He was just always very cheerful and happy to come down and take prasada. And from the story you were telling about Rose’s coming and warning Karandhara, I have to steal something that Jagadambika told me. We have a card from all the devotees in Los Angeles, and her husband wrote that Rose has been like a mother to the whole Los Angeles temple.

Rose: Many others came.

Giriraj Swami: You extended yourselves. It was not just that they came; you extended yourselves. When you say that Rose and Sam had an apartment, were they staying there full-time or was it an apartment allocated for the FOLK program?

Lilashakti dasi: Part of it had to do with Ramesvara’s mercy. Ramesvara was incredibly merciful to me and to my family. Before he was a swami, he was the head of the sankirtana department at New Dvaraka, Los Angeles. So I worked under his guidance for years and years, distributing books. He carried Prabhupada’s desire to spread Krishna consciousness through book distribution in his heart, more than anybody I had known. Because I was blessed as a salesperson—I just have this adept nature that I can sell anything I believe in, and I believed in Krishna consciousness—I became a book distributor. Because of that, Ramesvara showed me such incredible mercy and extended that to my mother and father and supported the Forkash family incredibly. When I became pregnant with Manasa Chandra and had a baby, it was difficult for me to juggle having a young child and going on sankirtana. So he gave me a car, just to facilitate me going. He made accommodations like that. And to support and accommodate my parents, he gave them an apartment on Watseka to do their service. It was a lot of his mercy. It was Krishna’s mercy and Prabhupada’s mercy through Srila Ramesvara that did this.

Our family is very indebted to him. He gave us so much support and so much facility. I think a lot of why things happened the way they did was that. He would do anything for us. And when I took my son out of the gurukula, he did not have any problem in going up to my mother and saying, “Your daughter is crazy. What is she doing?” But I felt uncomfortable leaving my son in a boarding school, away from me. I wanted to bring him home. I agreed to bring him to mangala-arati, but I wanted to make sure that he was getting enough rest and that he was in his mother’s nurturing arms. I think I was the first one to do that in New Dvaraka. So at that time I was considered crazy, but not too long after that, many mothers followed in my footsteps. And today they are glad they did.

Kaumudaki dasi: I first met devotees, came in contact with Krishna consciousness, in 1970. Actually, in the late ’60s I had gone down to Boston to visit some friends. I am from Canada. The first time I saw devotees was on the Boston Commons. I took the bus down from Ottawa in about 1968, and my friends picked me up. We were walking across the Boston Commons, and I saw five devotees—all young Americans: three young men and two young women—and they were wearing these robes and playing karatalas and chanting Hare Krishna. We just stopped. This was the late ’60s, and I had already dropped out of college and tried LSD a couple of times, and I had gotten a little horrified at the drug scene. I was a strict vegetarian because my friends were Buddhists, and when hippies started wearing buckskin I thought, “That is just not my thing.” They had to kill those animals and all that.

Then I thought that maybe traveling would give me some enlightenment. So I worked and saved up my money. I went to Europe and hitchhiked all around. After a while, I got tired of that, so I borrowed money from my father and came back and had to work to pay him back. Then I went to visit friends in Ottawa, where I had gone to university, and I got invited for the summer to Boston, and there were the devotees. The late ’60s were a real cultural mix. I was just in awe. My friend and her husband and I were standing there in the Boston Commons, and devotees seemed to glide, or float, by, and we just listened to them as they came right past us and went off in the distance. I just wanted to follow them, and I said to my friends, “Who are they?” They said, “Oh, those are the Hare Krishnas. They are really nice people, and they have a Sunday feast.” I thought, “Wow.” That was about 1968.

So, I visited for the summer and then went back, but I didn’t see the devotees again. Back up in Canada I met an American who was against the Vietnam War, and we started living together. We went to Montreal for a weekend, and there we saw them. The only money I had on me was a quarter in my short shorts. I walked up to the sankirtana guys, and I gave them my quarter. My husband said, “Come on; we’re in a hurry.” Sripati was the head of that sankirtana party. That was 1969.

We hitchhiked to the West Coast and lived in Vancouver for the winter of 1969. In 1970 we went up to Vancouver Island, because my husband wanted to see what it was like being out in the woods, and there in February I got this beautiful booklet. It was on our friends’ coffee table. My husband was in the kitchen playing guitar and making music with his friends. I was sitting there, and I looked at this beautiful booklet, and it read “Krishna, The Reservoir of Pleasure.” It was printed in Boston in 1970, so they had had only one month to print it and get it up there, but they did. I still have that original booklet. I loved the picture on the front. I thought, “Who is that beautiful child, and where is that beautiful place?”

Then I looked at the inside. I could not understand the articles, because Prabhupada started, “Krishna is a transcendental sound vibration.” So I did not think He was a person. I did not get it. I looked through, and I looked at the pictures. As soon as I saw the picture of Srila Prabhupada I knew he was my spiritual master. We had been reading Bhagavad-gita, but it was not Prabhupada’s Gita. I had had Buddhist friends, so I knew a little bit about Buddhist meditation and values, which I appreciated. I had also read a little bit about Vivekananda, because my physics teacher in high school was a Hindu from India, but I was never really attracted to any of it. I knew there were spiritual teachers out there, but I knew they were not my spiritual teacher. When we were in Vancouver, before we went up to Vancouver Island, I had seen a picture of Paramahamsa Yogananda in the newspaper, and we had been thinking of going to his place, but when I looked at his picture I thought, “Well, you are a spiritual master, but you are not my spiritual master.” For some reason, in my heart I just knew. But now in this booklet there was a beautiful picture of Srila Prabhupada sitting in an orange turtleneck under a tree at New Vrindaban, and I just knew, “He is my spiritual master.” It felt like a big kick in the heart.

But we were living on the north end of Vancouver Island, and there was nothing I could do about it, though I did keep the booklet. That was February of 1970. Then all summer these friends of ours who lived in Ballacolla kept writing to us, “We are chanting Hare Krishna. We have a blooped devotee here named Sri Ranga”—I think that was his name. I never met anybody who knew him, but he was an initiated devotee. So he taught them all to chant, and they had an altar. They were offering all their food. They were living way up in the woods. Then they moved to the south end of Vancouver Island, and they came up and visited us. They said, “You’ve got to come and see what this is all about.” They were trying to preach to us from Bhagavad-gita, and we said, “That is not what Bhagavad-gita says. We have read the Bhagavad-gita.” So they said, “Well, then just try the chanting and come and read the book.” So, we went down there at Christmas time, and I spent three days just reading Caitanya-caritamrta. I thought, “This is theoretically perfect. This answers all my questions.” My husband also felt the same way. And the devotees were very nice. There were Bahudaka and Rocana and some other devotees, and so we moved in.

We ended up in Vancouver and Seattle. That is the first place where I met Ramesvara. It was near the beginning of the year, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s festival, and all these brahmacharis came up from Portland. Up until that time, I had been around only householders. I did not know anything about saffron and all that stuff. We were standing in the back of the temple, kind of backed up in the back of the temple room. And there were like fifteen brahmacharis about a foot off the floor, having this truly passionate kirtan. The altar reminded me of Seattle at that time, beginning of 1971, with Jagannatha deities and then below them Gaura-Nitai and the pictures. It was all with one curtain on the wall—a very simple temple. It was just a house that was made into a temple.

Then we went back to Vancouver, and my husband wanted to work on the press. So we went to New York, where the press had moved from Boston. And then, to make a long story short, at the beginning of 1973, due to my husband’s wishes, we ended up in Los Angeles. That is where I met Lilashakti dasi, because she had to have a really quiet place to sleep. Remember that? The place they gave her to sleep was this little room in the back of the old temple room—actually the back of the Sanctuary, which is now the Los Angeles temple room. The temple room then was where the museum is now. So, what is the temple room now used to be called the Sanctuary, and up ahead was the stage, where the altar is now. We had these wonderful Sunday programs, but we had to go to bed a bit late on Sunday, because there was gulabjamun juice and stuff all over the little room where we stayed. Anyway, I was given that little room to share with her, and that is how I met her. That was in May of 1973. That was a wonderful year—Prabhupada was there so much of that year.

My first engagement was helping to cook in the kitchen and helping Manjuali cook. Jayatirtha was in charge of Spiritual Sky, Manjuali was the head pujari, and Karandhara was the GBC. So, the whole evening I was cooking, offering, and bringing in the maha to the sankirtana room. When I first got to Los Angeles, my husband said, “You have got to see this. You’ve got to just feel the energy in the sankirtana room.” He was a photographer, and he had been taking pictures of the sankirtana devotees. So he brought me in, and it was just so joyful. It was just overflowing with Lord Chaitanya’s mercy. . . . There was nothing like those sankirtana days in the early ’70s. It was just incredible.

So, I would cook the bhoga and make the offering and then take the maha in after arati, take it into the sankirtana room, and make all these little cups for the sankirtana devotees. The different offerings went to different devotees in different departments. Well, I just lucked out, and I got this one. So I would see Lilashakti dasi, and I used to think, “She looks like Natalie Wood.” She used to wear these really beautiful long dresses and go out and distribute books all the time.

Lilashakti dasi: We were going undercover to the airport.

Kaumudaki dasi: Tripurari worked at the airport, and first he kept it secret, but gradually everybody else wanted to go too. So they had to wear these Western clothes, because we were not yet legal there. I was getting more and more in awe of these devotees—Lilashakti, Lavanga-latika, Tripurari, Ganga Narayana, Vrndavana-vilasini—so many dedicated devotees. It was really wonderful. Finally, after hearing the nectar about book distribution every night for so long . . . I used to go on harinama once a week. That was my sankirtana—every Friday or Saturday night, once a week I would go on harinama. But I thought, “Gee, I am really shy of the public, but I have to try this.” So I went to Karandhara and asked him if I could try. For three weeks I tried book distribution. I would do maybe one pamphlet a day. I have a real hard time talking in public to a large number of people or to strangers on the street. It’s karma from a past life or something. I just can’t do it; I have barely been able to overcome it.

After three weeks, I was unable to continue, and somebody asked me to be Karandhara’s secretary, because his current secretary was getting married. The front office, where I was working, was connected to the sankirtana room, and Ramesvara used to come from the BBT. Where the pujari rooms are now is where the book storage was then. Karandhara was the BBT trustee, and he used to write up all the orders and give them to Ramesvara. He had brought Ramesvara down from Portland to help him with the BBT. Ramesvara used to fill all the orders. He would call the trucking company, and the trucks would pull up in the alley, and he would load all these boxes of books onto the trucks.

Ramesvara used to come back at night, and I was in awe of him because he gave such great classes—he and Tripurari—their classes were just full of nectar about preaching. And everybody was a spiritual soul then; there was no criticism of the nondevotees—just opening the treasure house of love of God and the marketplace of the holy name. It was overflowing in everybody’s heart. So, Ramesvara used to come back once a month with the newsletter that he sent out to all the temples, and he used to leave them on the counter and say, “Send them out” and would walk into the sankirtana room. I used {to} think, “Huh! That is not my job. Who is he to tell me what to do?” He wasn’t my authority, but then I started to think about his classes and figured, “Well . . . maybe I should.” Plus, I didn’t want to displease Karandhara. So I put all the postage on and sent them.

Then, unfortunately, for personal reasons, Karandhara left, and then Jayatirtha was put in charge. Then I was Jayatirtha’s secretary, but still right there by the sankirtana office. After a year, Jayatirtha got transferred to England. All of this was in 1975. In the beginning of 1975 Gopavrndapala came and asked me to be Ramesvara’s secretary, as he had too much to do, because Karandhara had left, Jayatirtha had gotten transferred to England, and Tripurari had started the BBT traveling party. So Ramesvara was doing all kinds of work, and he really needed a secretary. The first year he had this really beautiful blonde secretary, so I think part of the reason they asked me to be his secretary was that I wasn’t quite as attractive as she was. She was a real dish! And she was single, and he was a brahmachari.

The first day I reported for work, Ramesvara had a screen between us, and he said, “This half of the room is yours; this half of the room is mine.” As he could see that I could do the work, he just kept giving me work, more and more and more work—first invoices and then letters and journal keeping. That way he had more time to preach and be in touch with the devotees all the time and concentrate on all the organizing he was doing.

I met Rose because she was coming to visit Lila. Rose actually should speak about her meeting with Prabhupada. I never had a personal talk with Prabhupada, but Rose did. Anyway, Ramesvara told me, “Rose is going to do this newsletter to help parents understand what their kids are doing. Maybe we can break some of the ice between the devotees and their parents. She needs somebody to help her with the newsletter, with typing and if she has any philosophical questions. If there are any problems, come to me.” He gave Rose and Sam this little apartment down the street, and I used to go there periodically and help type and answer questions. The parents would write in and ask some questions, so Rose and I would discuss what the best way would be to answer them. We had these little cards and a mimeograph machine for doing the envelopes. We did not have computers; it was all typewriters. So, we gradually kept sending out more and more and more.

It was a very healing process for a lot of devotees to be able to bridge the gap, and I personally was very fortunate that my parents were . . . my father always believed that you should follow the religion you are born into. He was not really crazy about me taking up any other, Eastern religion, but he was tolerant, and he always helped me out whenever I needed it. And my mother was very appreciative. She really thought that it was very devotional, and they even brought my grandmother to visit the temple. My younger sister even lived in the Vancouver temple for a while, but she could not take getting up at four in the morning. Still, she stayed for quite a while. My other sister came to visit me and made garlands for the Deities, and she liked the prasada and everything. And my parents came to visit in the ’80s, and we took a little tour to the different temples—Laguna Beach, San Diego. And then we drove from Los Angeles up to Santa Barbara, to Carpinteria, and that was one of the most joyful memories of their whole visit—to stay with Rose and Sam. We all had a meal together.

Later on, when my father came down to visit at the end of 2002, I drove them up to Rose and Sam’s. My parents had become very attached to Rose and Sam; they considered them to be real friends. And when Rose and Sam went on their trip, they met my grandmother in Vancouver and had planned to meet my parents too, but they had to cut their trip short. So my father really wanted us all to go to Santa Barbara. He showed us the place where mum and he had stayed when they had come down to visit. It was just one of their best encounters possible, because we did not have role models. We did not have an older generation, and so Rose—maybe there were other favorable parents in other places—but especially Rose, she was such a leader. She and Sam were so supportive that they were like our older generation. There were about three people over thirty in the temple for like ten years. So, I am very grateful that Krishna brought me in contact with Rose and Sam. I think our association is eternal. Hare Krishna.

Bhumi dasi: I’m from New York City. The devotees conquered Manhattan in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I was always traipsing around town, running into them. I was not always favorable. I remember a couple of times thinking, “This is what you do when you have nothing else going for you.” And I think in a way I was right, because it seems to me that in my life . . . my attraction to Krishna consciousness was not so much an attraction to Krishna, an attraction to Prabhupada, but based more on a realization that this material world is miserable. I had grown up in the hippie era, and they always talked about free love and drugs, sex and rock and roll and all of that, and enjoyment, but I was not enjoying. I was miserable and did not understand why, and I was very frustrated. When I was thinking, “This is what you do when you have nothing else,” I realized very quickly after coming in contact with the devotees that there is nothing else and that this is what you do when you realize that the material world is void and that there is nothing worth pursuing here. And it has been kind of a reoccurrence, because in a span of thirty years you go through so many different stages of life and coming and going from Krishna consciousness. What always brings me back is that same realization that there is nothing in the material world. So I just wanted to say that. I don’t need to give the details of how I ran into the devotees, but I think that that is just . . .

Rose: . . . a realization.

Bhumi dasi: It is. It is a reoccurring realization that keeps bringing me back to Krishna consciousness. And I am very grateful for that, getting a lot of hard knocks in this world, because I know that if there were even one iota of a chance of enjoying this material world, I am probably ignorant enough to go for it. So Krishna has been very kind by taking everything away from me constantly and giving me good association. And that is where Rose comes in.

Lilashakti dasi: When did you meet Rose? How did you meet Rose?

Bhumi dasi: I think I met Rose in San Diego, because we used to go on sankirtana together and you, Rose, used to come to the Sunday feast. But I have gotten close with you more recently, since Lila and I became friends in Monterrey. I have always had a really hard relationship with my mother. I love my mother, but she has never understood my interest in Krishna consciousness, and I have never been able to really be myself with her, because my real self is I am a devotee, and I always have to edit and censor things when I am around my mother, not to freak her out. But with Rose I really get what I don’t get from my own mother, and I love that. It is really quite wonderful. We have a Krishna conscious mother, a surrogate.

Urvasi dasi: This could go on and on and on—never-ending. I was not in the Los Angeles temple until after Rose. I was in New York, Montreal, Chicago, Toronto, England. I was in England for a while and then came to the Los Angeles temple. But I had heard of Rose, and when I would come home to visit—because I grew up in the Los Angeles area in San Fernando Valley, at the west end—I would bring my parents to the Los Angeles temple. They were very pious, and both of them were very, very respectful of the temple. The devotees were so kind to the parents that visited, and I am sure that is because of your [Rose’s] training.

I remember this one time the devotees gave garlands to both my parents and we went into the temple room and my parents got down and bowed. Then my father just instinctively went straight to Srila Prabhupada’s vyasasana and took his garland off and put it around Srila Prabhupada, and gave the garland to Srila Prabhupada. Wow! I was so pleased. He was just very humble in front of Srila Prabhupada. They did not know a whole lot, because I was not close at home with them, but they knew that I had accepted Srila Prabhupada as my guide. Another time when my mother came and visited, she sat down with a bunch of devotees and made garlands for the Deities. So they were very sweet.

I had heard of your activities, but it wasn’t really until coming out this way that I got to know you better. I just feel so blessed to know and to have that relationship with you and Sam, because you are such a wonderful example, not only for our parents and the older generation, but for us as well, being parents to our children, how you just so lovingly stayed connected with your daughter, with your children, and really took the time to understand what was important in their lives. It is very, very commendable. Many times when parents don’t understand, they just reject. I think that you and Sam have been shining examples for us. I am in Ojai, and being able to get to know you and have association with you, like Giriraj was saying, “To know him . . .” But “To know her, Rose, is to love her,” and I have true affection for you.

Rose: Some of us don’t have parents and don’t remember parents who would indulge in anything like this, but my mother at the age of eighty did sankirtana on State Street.

Devotees: Wow!

Lilashakti dasi: I trained her up! “What a great man does, common men follow.” She helped me distribute Back to Godheads, and she wanted to join in. She did good.

Rose: She did very well. When people tried to give my mother money for the magazine, she would often say, “That is not necessary. Just read it.”

Lilashakti dasi: Your grandson is going to say something about you. He knew you since he . . .

Das: I am sorry, but I am not much of a speaker.

Lilashakti dasi: You just remember when you were a little boy and they would come and see you at the temple. I have pictures of Das with his little bead bag on, about this tall, my mother and father holding him.

Devotee: I remember Das. He used to drive up in the little Volkswagen.

Lilashakti dasi: The one Ramesvara gave me to do sankirtana.

Devotee: The yellow one. And Das was always there. I remember that face. It was unmistakable. He looked just like Madhukara.

Rose: As I said earlier, this lady right here spoke on behalf of the movement. Really, she deserves so much credit for this. So loving.

Ann: Thank you. But I think you are overstating my role a little bit.

Rose: I remember.

Giriraj Swami: Would you like to tell us . . .

Ann: I liked the idea of Linda going to Krishna, because she had problems at that time. All the kids had problems. That was the year of what?

Rose: The year of problems.

Ann: In the ’60s.

Lilashakti dasi: What she is trying to say is that I was pretty wild.

Ann: I am not going to say that, but I was glad when you became a Krishna member, and I thought it could only be good, after your life. And so it was, and you are still a good girl.

Giriraj Swami: She always was and still is!

Rose: Very loyal.

Ann: Well, I loved her. I still do.

Jagadambika dasi: I got a Bhagavad-gita through a friend of mine, and one day I began to read it, and I stayed up for twenty-four hours straight and read the whole book. I was mesmerized. So I read it, but I had never heard of devotees. In the front of the book it said that for further questions you could write the secretary, so I called Information, got the telephone number of the temple, and told the devotees that I was reading this book, Bhagavad-gita, and that I wanted more books. They invited me to come to the temple. So I came on a Sunday and bought a full set of books. I wasn’t interested in prasada, because I was into macrobiotics and thought you shouldn’t eat sugar or fried or spicy food. Then I met Vrndadevi and her husband, Radha-Gopinatha, and they explained to me about the prasada and why I should take it. It took me two or three months to really appreciate what prasada meant. Anyway, after that Sunday I started to come to the temple every day.

My home was in Seal Beach. So, I was reading that full set of books. One day at the temple I met Ramesvara, and he asked me what I was doing with my life. I replied, “Right now, just searching for the Absolute Truth.” So he said, “You will find it in those books.” I was not working at the time. I was sitting on the beach all day, reading and doing yoga. He invited me to come to work in the BBT warehouse on Higuera Street. There I met Ghanasyama dasa, who later became Bhakti Tirtha Swami after taking sannyasa.

My service was to ship books to colleges. The devotees would go out and get standing orders. The colleges might want just one book, and I felt like it was a waste of my time to come in to ship just one book to a college. So I thought of sending more books. Then colleges were getting bills, and they were complaining: “You over-billed us. You are sending books that we did not ask for.” The temple authorities could not find out who was doing it. I thought everybody should have these books. Finally, they found out it was me. Ramesvara asked, “Are you doing this?” I said, “No, I am not doing that. I am only sending them books that they ordered.” I was not over-billing the people, but they found out that I was sending them more books. So he said, “Well, maybe you want to go and take your time,” like that. I did not understand what “take your time” meant.

So they sent me to the Santa Monica mall with some devotees, and they would stop people and pin little daisies on them and ask for donations. I thought, “I am not going to go out and beg. My parents never taught me to beg for anything.” I couldn’t do it. So I called Ramesvara, “When are you going to pick me up? I am not a beggar. If I go out, I want to do books.”

Lilashakti dasi: Was that in ’76?

Jagadambika dasi: 1977. I felt like distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books, and Mula Prakriti was the first devotee to teach me how. That was when I started meeting your mum. She was doing the FOLK program and mailing Back to Godheads. I also always felt like you, Rose, were my mum, although my mother didn’t pass away until 1978. I think you were also instrumental in me not being deprogrammed, because at that time my parents were real strict Christians. My dad was a minister and a gospel singer. The whole family was like that. They were either into politics or they were preaching. At one point in 1977 my brothers decided that I had lost my mind, because I had officially joined the Hare Krishnas and given away all my material possessions. So they came and gave me some made-up story: “Oh, mum is dying. She is having a heart attack. You have been away. Her desire is to see you before she dies.”

So I rushed home, to the country, where we grew up, and the deprogrammers were there. They were saying, “You have to eat meat. Those people are crazy. They have brainwashed you.” This went on for two or three days. After the third day, my mum came. I had not seen her yet. I told her that I thought she had had a heart attack and was dying. She said, “No, there is nothing wrong with me, but your sisters and brothers said that you have lost your mind, you are crazy, you have joined these Hare Krishna people, and they are weird.” So they did not understand anything. But this is where I think your mum came into the picture. My mum sat and talked with me for three hours, and finally she came to the conclusion that “My daughter is fine. She is not brainwashed. She is in her right mind. She can stay with the Krishnas.” And the deprogrammers were like, “Now she brainwashed you to be like them.” It was a whole big thing.

Somehow or other, someone had been sending my mum Back to Godheads. It was not me, and I do not know how they got the address. But she was getting your mother’s newsletters, so I think that that saved me, because my mum helped me escape the deprogrammers and my brothers and sisters, and get back to California. Then I went on traveling sankirtana.

Rose would always encourage us to distribute books. “How was your day?” “How are you?” I have always seen Rose as my mum. Although I have my mother-in-law, we still see Rose as our mother and Sam as our father. No matter what we needed or what time of day it was, whether it was 1 or 2 a.m., it didn’t matter; they were always there for us.

Lilashakti dasi: My mother would always speak about you. She never repeated your name to me, but she would always refer to “the girl there that always took such good care of Sam and me.” Every trip to Los Angeles they would come back and glorify you, how the line was so long but you would go right up to the front and get them prasada, and always got them chairs. Every time they came back my father would talk so fondly about you, and I never really knew who they were talking about. Now I know.

Jagadambika dasi: I just know that your mum is always very kind. Back then I had a lot of problems and a lot of issues about how women were treated. Women stayed in the back and covered their head. But I would always come to Rose and Sam, and they were always like my authorities. No matter how busy they were, they always had time for everyone. Such good listeners, your mother and your father. They preached to us about reality, and the whole movement saw Rose as the mother of the Hare Krishna movement.

Giriraj Swami: Yes, and many of us still feel that way about her. So, we thank you all for sharing your wonderful memories of ISKCON’s mother, Rose Forkash.

Here is a video of her stories about Srila Prabhupada and her family’s journey in Krishna consciousness, recorded by Siddhanta Prabhu for his Prabhupada Memories series: Click here


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7932522067?profile=RESIZE_584xWhen our children grow into teens, many of us find that inspiring them in Krishna consciousness becomes much harder. They are no longer enthusiastic to imitate us or join in with the devotional activities we initiate. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what we can do to keep them close and hopefully inspired. Here are some of my thoughts.

The first priority is always to take care of the relationship. As the saying goes—they may not remember what we say, but they’ll always remember how we made them feel. We need to develop and nurture a relationship of trust, affection and understanding with our teenagers for them to be willing to share their inner thoughts and feelings, and to be open to what we share with them. This means that as parents we may need to acquire skills that we don’t have—how to listen with empathy, how to avoid judging, shaming and blaming, how to deal with our own fears and inadequacies so that we don’t act or react in undesirable conditioned ways. We need to understand and accept them as individuals and let the relationship grow and evolve as they mature. An experienced mom in our community told me, “No matter what phase my girls were going through, or what they were getting up to, I always made a great effort to be supportive and keep a close relationship with them.” I thought this was good advice.

It is important that our children feel unconditionally loved, by us and by Krishna. But what if we give them the impression that we approve of them more and love them more when they are behaving like devotees—wearing “devotional clothes,” memorizing verses, doing kirtan, doing service—than when they are pursuing other activities? I think we need to be aware that if we are using our approval and disapproval in a heavy-handed way, that could make them feel that our love is conditional on their performance as devotees, and could eventually lead to resentment about feeling they had to “earn love” in this way.

A really good starting point as parents is to question why we want our children to be devotees. Is it so that we feel we have succeeded as parents in our own and the community’s eyes? Is it because we feel that Krishna consciousness is a precious gift that connects us to the source of the love everyone is searching for? That it is the ultimate solution to all life’s problems and sufferings? That it’s a nice lifestyle? It’s what we grew up with and is familiar to us? Or any other reason? I think understanding our own motivation will have a meaningful impact on how we share Krishna consciousness with our kids. It may also help us to avoid mistakes such as trying to live out our own unfulfilled spiritual aspirations through our children.

A hugely important part of the teenage journey is about finding identity, through observing others and trying out different identities, and also differentiating themselves from their parents and expressing their individuality. So teenagers are constantly observing the behavior of adults in their world, looking for role models and heroes, and trying to figure out where they belong in society. They are extremely observant of the qualities that adults demonstrate through their behavior—whether we are kind, tolerant, empathetic, encouraging, irritable, reactionary, judgmental, mean, hypocritical etc. So we need to be very introspective about what qualities we are developing and displaying. Because our teens are observing and concluding that “this is what devotees are like” or “I want/don’t want to be like that.”

They are also observing our attitudes towards our spiritual life. Are we enthusiastic about our devotional activities? Do our practices seem to bring us joy and fulfillment? Or do they make us impatient and irritable, because we have an endless list of have-to’s – rounds to chant, puja to do, cleaning, service, etc.? Does our application of the philosophy make us judgmental and critical of others? If our teens are associating many negative or unappealing attitudes with our practice of Krishna consciousness, they may be put off. I think that managing our own lives in such a way that we are actually happy in our homes and families and engagements is a great service to our children—they can learn from us that our devotee lifestyle and values help us create a joyful life and support us through life’s changes and challenges. A happy Krishna conscious home life will also help them to seek out contentment and loving relationships as their default emotional environment as adults.

We need to be quite intentional about the messages we are giving our children. For example, I recently took a group of teenagers to the temple for darshan, on their way to play sports. It was more convenient for them to just go to the temple in their shorts and T-shirts. I later thought about the kinds of messages we might give kids about something like wearing casual clothes to the temple:

a) It’s always OK to “come as you are” to see Krishna. He’s interested in your heart, not your clothes. This consideration should never make you hesitant to come.

b) It’s kind of OK. You can do it, but should feel awkward while there (and be aware that people may disapprove.)

c) It’s just not appropriate and we don’t generally do it. In the same way that you wouldn’t wear beach-wear to an interview, or a dhoti to sports practice, you shouldn’t wear inappropriate clothes to come see the Lord.

I realized that without thinking about it, the message I gave them was probably b) – and that I needed to think more deeply about what I actually think, why I think that way, and communicate with them clearly so that they don’t get any confusing, unintentional messages. Another example of examining the messages we may be giving is—I tend to grumble about cooking on ekadasi because it’s hard for me to cook enough food throughout the day to keep my family fed. So the message I’m unintentionally giving my kids is that following ekadasi is a burden. Obviously I need to re-examine my attitude, and make practical changes to avoid passing on my negative attitude to them.

Teenagers are naturally idealistic and curious about the world, and are often surprisingly interested in philosophy, if they feel it’s relevant to them. Growing up as devotees, our kids quickly become adept at parroting philosophy, and knowing what “the right” answers are. But in order for it to be meaningful for them, it needs to be relevant to their lives, not something that’s isolated within the temple or their “devotee life.” One way that we can help is by proactively having conversations about how our philosophy relates to what is going on in the world, and specific topics that interest them. For example, “How can our philosophy provide satisfying and compassionate explanations or solutions for issues such as racial discrimination, environmental degradation, Covid etc.?”

This can be really daunting for us as parents, especially if we’re not confident that we have strong philosophical knowledge or satisfying answers to give. I think it’s really important that we are willing to try to engage with difficult questions. It’s okay to admit when we don’t know or are unsure ourselves. If, on the other hand, we avoid hard questions or doubts, or just supply “copy-and-paste” style answers, teenagers may quickly decide that it’s not worth bringing up doubts and questions because they won’t get satisfactory answers. When my teenagers ask even quite simple questions about why we do a particular thing in devotional service, I often don’t have a good (or any) answer. Instead of just mumbling a formulaic answer, or saying “I don’t know,” and leaving it at that, I can take it as an opportunity to try to figure it out and understand better together.

Even if we are not very knowledgeable about philosophy, we can always honestly share with our kids our personal experiences of Krishna consciousness. A devotee who has been running a Sunday school for teenagers for many years told me, “This is what’s beautiful about teenagers. They cut straight to the chase. They’re looking for the realness, they don’t buy the façade.” Taking time to think about our own motivations and practices in Krishna consciousness and articulate them is really important so that our kids can sense that we are authentic in our choices and practices. If we can express something like, “These experiences touched my heart in a very special way . . . I notice these effects of my spiritual practices in my life . . . so even if there are things I don’t fully understand yet, I’m okay with that,” that might sometimes be more meaningful than correct philosophical answers.

We need to be sensitive about whether the way we present ideas is encouraging or discouraging to young people. For example, I’ve heard some young people express that their parents’ pessimism about the material world, or mundane education and jobs, was very demotivating for them. We need to understand the world that our young adults are going to be making their way in, and not simply dismiss or criticize it in a way that deflates their goals and aspirations for their lives. Another thing that can be disheartening for young people (and any people) is when Krishna consciousness is presented in a way that emphasizes the high standards and long list of demands for aspiring devotees. It can seem impossible to succeed at. (Recently my son commented that it’s easier to just be a friend of the devotees than to be an actual devotee, because then everyone encourages you and no one cares if you make mistakes.) We’ve found in our family that what has been much more encouraging for us is to find a few devotional activities that we like and do those wholeheartedly, and then grow from there. If we want to be supportive and encouraging of our children we should encourage them in what they are doing, rather than focusing on what they “should be” doing.

One of the most important jobs we have as parents may be helping our children to engage in services that suit their nature. One of my sons really has a talent for cooking, and when he is in the kitchen he is fully absorbed and invested in what he is doing, and it’s very joyful and natural for him. So it’s very easy to encourage him to do service involving cooking. If we want to help all our kids find service that engages their talents, we need to expand the scope of activities we think of. Beyond the obvious, traditional activities such as cooking, sewing, playing music, we could try to expose them to a wide range of activities that they could do for Krishna—event-management, fundraising, graphic design, festival décor, landscaping, IT and computer-related work, carving, budgeting and financial management, driving, sound engineering, musical composition, theater direction, advertising, journalism . . . the list is endless. Just as when they were little, we put a lot of effort into kids’ festivals and crafts and puppet shows, now we can focus our efforts on helping teenagers connect to meaningful service. The easiest way to do this is if we can somehow connect them with mentors who are already engaged in these activities.

One of the pitfalls that we really want to avoid when parenting our children is creating aversion associated with Krishna consciousness. I know some adults who struggle with strong aversion to japa or Bhagavatam class due to having been forced as children. And we know that Srila Prabhupada said that there should be no force. But I do wonder—where do we draw the line between encouragement and coercion? I’ve sometimes made an executive decision involving the kids: “We’re going to the temple to do a particular service.” (They weren’t highly resistant, but weren’t enthusiastic either.) And they’ve ended up having a great time, and commenting that it was fun and they’d like to do it again. Or there have been other times when they have gone a little reluctantly to appease me, but seemed bored and disconnected from the experience. I’ve wondered—in such a case, is it valid to think that, “Well, at least they saw the Deities and heard the kirtan,” or would it have been better if they’d not gone? And in the first case, given the positive outcome, was it okay for me to make that decision for them to do service?

I asked a devotee who has decades of experience in encouraging and inspiring youth in Krishna consciousness for some input. She mentioned that when parenting or leading our families, we are constantly making decisions about which habits, activities or values are worth insisting on, sometimes in spite of our children’s resistance (and they can be masters of resistance!) So, just as we may decide that brushing teeth regularly, or completing homework, or speaking respectfully to adults are points we will insist on, it’s also okay if we decide to insist on certain devotional activities. We may decide that certain things are necessary, while others are not worth insisting on. The important thing is to explain why we are making these decisions for our family, so that our kids may (now or eventually) come to appreciate them.

I think that it’s okay for young people to learn that we may do things for a variety of reasons—because it’s fun, or it’s good for me, it’s for a cause I believe in, or because I want to invest in my relationship with someone, etc.—and that includes devotional activities. I feel that if they are always left to the mercy of their minds and desires for immediate gratification, they might miss out on experiencing deeper spiritual connection. Just recently I was talking to my sons about how we have this secret access to happiness that defies logic. That sometimes, in a kirtan, the holy name magically touches everyone’s hearts, and everyone is just inexplicably beaming and blissful. And that I really hope they get to experience that sometimes. My son replied, “Yeah, but I don’t like it when a leader tells us that we have to be in the kirtan.” And I said, “Yes, but what if your mind tells you every time after 5 minutes that this is boring and you should go hang out outside? You may never get the chance to have the experience.” Perhaps a little bit of austerity, sticking with an activity that may be hard or a little boring is okay or even helpful in learning to control the mind and in building character, as long as this is not the majority of kids’ experience in Krishna consciousness.

And that brings us to one of the most important points: MAKE IT FUN!! I recently listened to an interview with Syamasundar Prabhu (ACBSP) in which he said, “If Krishna consciousness isn’t fun, you’re not doing it right.” Making it fun is easier said than done when dealing with teenagers who find most things we do ‘lame.’ The best thing here is to find someone else who can make it fun—a youth leader who is naturally talented at this, or some friends. And friends really are a key factor. Because when they’re with friends almost anything can be fun. We all, and teenagers especially, need to have a feeling of connectedness and belonging to feel good. Our kids need friends and mentors that they connect with, and if these are devotees, it can be a huge determining factor in making spiritual life ‘alive’ for them.

Programs like the Youth Bus Tours in North America, Europe, Central America and Australia and the Boys’ Summer Trip and Kishori Yatra create great opportunities for young people to connect and feel part of a larger devotee community. The meaningful peer association—where they are not only hanging out together, but also having fun while doing service, discussing spiritual topics and doing kirtan together—really creates a feeling of belonging and helps kids self-identify as devotees of Krishna. (There is a rare and special breed of devotee that loves hanging out with teenagers and taking big groups of them on month-long trips and adventures! We are deeply grateful to the devotees who take up this amazing service.) Many young adults say that going on these trips with other young devotees changed their lives. I really hope these will be possible again soon.

Obviously, the decisions we make about how to parent our children are completely personal, and everyone has their individual style and approach. I think that all we can do is try to make our decisions conscious and intentional, and do the best we can in a mood of service, while trying to not be too attached to the results. And learn from the experiences of other parents who have tried to figure it all out before us. If you are a parent or teacher of teenagers, or were once a devotee teenager yourself, and have any comments or suggestions you’d like to make on this topic, I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below or email me at Hare Krishna.

My sincere thanks to

Jaya Sri Radhe Kaseder and Gopika Kanta Sharma

for generously sharing their time and expertise.


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Greater Beauty by Bhaktimarga Swami

7932466894?profile=RESIZE_400xSome of us will never forget this date—September eleventh—a sad day in human history. On a positive note, it is also the date that marks the birthday of a dear follower of Krishna. His name is Keshava and I remember this day of his, not because he is a terrorist, by any stretch. He is a kind-hearted Malaysian Canadian. I wish him well. Very well!

I walked to Saint Jamestown, to a clinic, to intimate a medical check-up for next week. A queue of people were standing in the hall, waiting for the green light to welcome them in. I came to the back of the line, which wasn’t so long. A client walked in after me, with a sample for the clinic woman at the door. “I brought my pee!” She proclaimed, as she held it in the air. After all this is the place where you give some consideration to your physical make up.

Our guru tells the story of “Liquid Beauty” in the magazine, “Back to Godhead,” which he first published in 1944. Here it is, in short:

A young prince set his eyes on a beautiful woman. Spontaneously he wanted to arrange to meet her and, perhaps, win her hand in marriage. The young woman, knowing his intention, agreed to meet one month later. She had a plan to help open his eyes. So, for that time, before the prince came to take her to the ballroom, she took laxatives and collected the by-product, excrement and all, in containers. When the prince arrive to meet his date he was horrified to see an ugly, emaciated woman. He asked, “What happened to your beauty?” So she brought him the containers to see. Her point: beauty is only skin deep. There is a greater beauty that lies within.


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Question: Namaste Swamiji. It is said that we should always associate with selfless people, and that’s very critical. Then, how should we interact with the people who are selfish? As you say, we should also love them as they are also part of God. So, if we are surrounded by such people, how should we act?
Radhanath Swami: By being a good example. Of course, if those people open their minds and hearts for us to speak to them about higher virtues and higher truths in life, then that is our service to them—to offer them that higher ideal, that higher philosophy that’s based on truth. We should not be egoistically thinking, “I know more than you.” We should be humbly serving all living beings by sharing a spiritual message that will enlighten them, bring joy in their life, and relieve them of suffering. So, if we learn the philosophy and the truth nicely ourselves, we can present it in a way that can help convince others of the good way of living.

But if people are unwilling to hear, we can just be good examples. They should see that we are dynamic and successful in whatever we do, as far as possible. At the same time they should see that we do it without greed, without anger, as an expression of our love for God. They should see that we’re actually good, we’re actually spiritual and selfless. That will have a tremendous impact on people.

We live in a world where people have very difficult time trusting one another because they’re exposed to so much hypocrisy. Most people say one thing and do the other. But when we act in a spirit of selfless service, which comes by cleaning our own hearts through chanting the names of God and living a service-oriented life, people will feel the radiation of your spiritual energy and they’ll be able to trust you. They’ll say that this person actually has a simple and innocent heart and I can trust him/her. And when people trust you, you can do so much good in their lives by your example, by your words. So we should not hate people that are selfish. We should feel compassion for them, and we should live in such a way that we can somehow reach their hearts and help them, and if we can’t do anything else, we can pray for them. You may not be able to change the world, but you could change yourself. And when you access that spiritual potency, you could do your part of making the world a better place.

In building the bridge across the Indian Ocean from Ramesvaram to Sri Lanka, Hanuman was lifting mountain peaks and putting them in the water, and there was a little spider kicking grains of sand with his little legs. Hanuman told the spider, “Move aside!” and Rama said to Hanuman, “No! You move aside! That spider is doing as much as you. In helping me in my mission he is doing as much as he can. That spider’s capacity is to kick one grain of sand at a time, you’re capacity is to rip off mountain peaks and put them, but you’re each doing what you can do; therefore, you are both equally perfect in my eyes.” So, let us be happy just doing our part, whether it’s big or small. And let’s try our best to clean our own hearts to love God and to do actual good in the world.


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Veda means knowledge. The word Veda is related to the Sanskrit root ‘vid’ meaning ‘to know’. So, it encompasses the entire corpus of knowledge, both phenomenal and numinous. Actually, knowledge is established through three primary epistemological premises, viz., sense perception, logical-mathematical inference and reliable testimony. However, when a subject employs inductive methodology to acquire knowledge, it is inhibited by four defects, viz., limited senses, illusory perception, mistaken inference and cheating propensity. As a result, inductive methodology cannot reliably establish any type of knowledge, let alone the ultimate conclusions on reality. (For instance, throughout history, men have died and they continue to die; but we can never conclude that man is mortal applying induction because there may be an unidentified man or a future man who will never die).

On the other hand, Veda is ‘apauruseya’ meaning that it is not a composition of any agency, whether human, divine or demonic. Indeed it is co-eternal with God: His very cognitive and contemplative function. Therefore, Veda is untouched by the four defects. The unauthored Veda, also known as ‘sruti’, remains in the mind of God and at the beginning of material creation, He gives this infallible knowledge to the seers or ‘drsta’ in the form of ‘mantra’ or sound vibrations because they are qualified by their sinless character. The entire cosmos alongwith the laws of nature is designed according to this knowledge. Thereafter, the ‘sruti’ (including both the exact sounds and their meanings) is received by the worthy disciples of the seers through the aural medium and they in turn, instruct the next generation of qualified disciples and so on. Thus, the Veda has been preserved and transmitted through generations in its exact form.

The Veda holds a unique status among all sources of knowledge that it is the authoritative parameter for establishing the validity of any other source of knowledge, which may be based on empiric, rational or prophetic evidence, because the Veda contains the perfect cognition and contemplative logic of God. Hence, even God respects its authority and His statements (like those in Bhagavad Gita) conform to the Vedic conclusions. Only in special circumstances, when He wants to delude the demons that He may criticize the Veda. (For instance, Lord Buddha preached atheism to stop animal slaughter in the pretence of Vedic injunctions).

Moreover, in the absence of Vedic authority, there would only remain contending and evolving schools of thought, with their separate gods, prophets, theologians, philosophers, etc. As a result, it would be impossible to create a universal standard of morality and the society would gradually degenerate to moral relativism, which means, each person would abide by his own whims and societal consensus, although uncertain and unreliable, would assume the guise of authority.

Due to the existence of the stated properties, the Vedic injunctions have to be accepted as self-evident or axiomatic standard of reality. However, one need not accept the Vedic authority on blind faith. It is not a revelation to a single person or a group of persons at a particular point in history and at a particular geographical location. It is an eternal tradition of plurality, which is based, not only on philosophical disputation but also progressive levels of self-realization. We can accept the Veda only if the stated results of its injunctions, according to the merit of place, time and subject, are attained. Throughout the Vedic history, we have many instances of personalities who have lived according to the Vedic standard and achieved proper results, including the most conclusive realization of direct audience with God. Thus, the validity of Veda is established.

Since the Veda is unauthored and self-evident, its authority does not depend on any other source of knowledge. Indeed, only the assertions issued by the agencies recognized by the Veda can be accepted as authoritative. The recognized agencies are ‘sastra’ (scriptures: Veda, Pancharatra, Purana, Ramayana and Mahabharata), ‘sadhu’ (statements of the bona fide teachers affiliated to or honoured by any of the four traditions: Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Kumara) and ‘guru’ (the bona fide teacher or spiritual master who initiates or instructs an individual subject). The mechanism of sastra-sadhu-guru (together known as ‘sabda pramana’) is fine-tuned to resolve all contradictions inherent in the process of knowledge acquisition.

The Vedic authority is not limited to any geographical, temporal or cultural co-ordinates. It is applicable in all circumstances. So, it is improper to refer to the Veda as Hindu or Indian scripture. In fact, societies paying allegiance to Vedic authority existed throughout the entire planet Earth about 5000 years ago (corroborated by Purana, archaeology and local traditions). Of course, misinterpretations (Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, etc.) and deviations (Pasupata, Shakta, Jaina, Lokayata, sophism, paganism, animism, etc.) also prevailed in many places. The core of this knowledge-based civilization remained within the territory bound by the Himalayas in the north and the ocean in the south. On February 18, 3102 BC, the Earth entered a temporal phase known as Kali-yuga, in which quarrel and hypocrisy are the pre-dominant qualities among human species. Since then, the true import of the Veda, gradually, faded from the collective memories of several societies, reducing them to uncivilized (non Aryan) status.

The first major split within the core of the Aryan civilization occurred in the vicinity of the great river known as Sindhu. A philosopher known as Zarathustra (Zoroaster) rejected the conclusion of the Veda that God is the singular cause of material creation and preached the doctrine of two separate and antagonistic causes. He thus introduced a rival to God (later referred to as Satan within the Semitic tradition) and rejected His omnipotence. This doctrine became popular within the Persian Empire and assumed the status of state religion. The Persians (from Cyrus the Great to Nadir Shah) invaded the Sindhu valley and beyond several times. They used to pronounce Sindhu as Hindu (because the Vedic sound S is pronounced as H in the Avestan language), which in the course of time, became the name for the entire civilization beyond the river. Later, when the Greeks (under Alexander the Great) overran Persia and intruded into the Sindhu/Hindu valley, they began to refer to the river as Indus (dropping the H), from which the name Indika/India is derived. Hence, both the terms Hindu and Indian are based on limiting co-ordinates and are foreign to the Veda.

The Vedic civilization weakened further when the priestly class forgot the conclusion of the Veda (Vedanta) and continued indiscriminate slaughter of animals in sacrifices meant for the satisfaction of Vishnu (God). Then, out of compassion, Vishnu descended as Buddha, deluded the demons (in the guise of priests) by preaching atheism and wrecked havoc on the infallible status of the Veda. The message of Buddha spread throughout the Asian continent (except perhaps the Western reaches beyond Persia). Another threat to Vedanta philosophy emerged in the form of Adi Shankara, when he twisted the meaning of Upanishadic statements to deny God’s personal qualities and His eternal dominion over all living entities. The demonic class of men became his followers all over the Indian sub-continent and thus, he tacitly re-established the Vedic religion (after a prolonged period of atheistic dominance).

The Vedic superstructure nearly crumbled under the sword of Islam, which defeated the weakening and unpatriotic ruling class and ruled for about 800 years. The so-called Hindus were persecuted and their places of worship and pilgrimage were destroyed. In fact, the entire trace of the ancient civilization was wiped out from the Sindhu valley (now in Pakistan). However, the mechanism of sastra-sadhu-guru was preserved by great teachers like Visnuswami, Ramanuja, Nimbarka and Madhva and the pure theistic message of the Veda was gradually propagated in different parts of the sub-continent. The devotional fervour induced the appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who inaugurated the Sankirtana Movement (the pristine form of Vedic religion recommended for the invincible Kali-yuga) for the deliverance of the entire planet Earth from clutches of nescience.

Meanwhile, Europe had emerged from the Dark Ages (when knowledge was choked by the doctrines of the Church) and the Crusades (the inconclusive contest of arms between two great Semitic faiths, viz., Christianity and Islam). The project of colonial expansionism took the European adventurers, traders, missionaries and mercenaries to all the continents of the planet and the indigenous cultures alongwith their traditional socio-religious structures and self-sufficient economies succumbed to the European onslaught. Although the physical control over the planet was reluctantly ceded by the Europeans, they continue to control the global knowledge system (elitist culture, school curricula, universities, mass media, pseudo religious institutions, etc.) and people have been turned into consumers to pump profits for the corrupt business class. Therefore, there are so many resistant movements like Jihadism, Maoism, local nationalist insurgencies and civil society protests. However, such forms of material struggles have failed to resolve the real problems of our existence.

Until the late 19th century, the Sankirtana Movement was limited within India, where it got lost amidst the conglomeration of false doctrines (voidism, impersonalism, mysticism, ritualism, casteism, etc.) and illicit practices (Tantric sex, ganja smoking, etc.). Due to the efforts of three great teachers in the lineage of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, viz., Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Prabhupada, the Movement was purged of the degrading elements, institutionalized and then transformed into a global phenomenon.


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The Power of the Ramayana

7929862482?profile=RESIZE_400xThis short video is a talk given by Sri Nandanandana dasa (Stephen Knapp) called “The Power of the Ramayana,” given at the 2nd World Ramayana Conference held in Jabalpur, India, in January 26-29, 2020. He was a special invited guest for the conference, and his talk explains from the Valmiki Ramayana the different ways it helps uplift humanity from the ordinary miseries of life, up to and including liberation or freedom from material existence altogether. At 17:53 in the video, it shows Dr. Akhilesh Gumastha introducing Stephen for receiving a special certificate of appreciation for his service to Vedic culture from the well-known Murari Bapu. He also mentions that Stephen is so dedicated to the Vedic culture (being a Krishna bhakta) that he has changed his name to Shri Nandan (short for Sri Nandanandana dasa as given by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada).

Video: Click here


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Once one engages in criticising Vaisnavas, it becomes part of one’s nature. One will do it again and again until ultimately one offends Krsna!

Once one engages in criticising Vaisnavas, it becomes part of one’s nature. It sets in and one will do it again and again and again until ultimately one offends Krsna. He who offends Krsna, how can such a person approach Krsna? Such a person removes himself from Krsna and comes to a greater distance from Krsna. This is great misfortune. Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami had one outstanding quality – he would never hear any criticism about any Vaishnava and in front of him, if anyone would criticise a Vaishnava he would just walk away. So, this is a wonderful policy because hearing criticism of Vaisnavas is contaminating our consciousness. This is something that we especially must pay attention to in spiritual life.

In the Bhagavad Gita, we have the following verse:
dvandva-mohena bhārata
sarva-bhūtāni sammohaṁ
sarge yānti paran-tapa
(Bhagavad-gita 7.27)

Because all living beings are afflicted by delusion of desire and hate or lust and envy, that tendency is there within us. We must make a conscious effort to check this tendency and be very diligent about this and ask for forgiveness when we do this. Although we are diligent about avoiding offences, we are not the International Society for Avoiding Offences. We are the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. So Krsna Consciousness comes first. First and foremost is devotional service. And then as we are absorbed in devotional service, it naturally becomes the course that we are careful not to criticise any Vaisnava or anything in relation to Krsna. In this way, we are eligible to make spiritual advancement. This is something we must learn. We must learn to glorify.

In Srimad Bhagavatam, it says:
śrī-bhagavān uvāca
na praśaṁsen na garhayet
viśvam ekātmakaṁ paśyan
prakṛtyā puruṣeṇa ca
(Srimad Bhagavatam 11.28.1)

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: One should neither praise nor criticise the conditioned nature and activities of other persons. Rather, one should see this world as simply the combination of material nature and the enjoying souls, all based on the one Absolute Truth.

So basically, one should not criticise a Vaisnava and one should also not glorify the Vaishnava in front of the Vaisnava. Criticising should never be done, however, glorifying the Vaisnava in front of him can sometimes be done. One who praises us, he is not our friend because he makes us proud. One who finds faults in us is our friend. We take it like that when someone speaks to us. One may break that rule of praising the Vaisnava in front of him, although one should understand that if one praises the Vaisnava too much, that may unnecessarily increase his pride. So, we are not helping him to develop his humility, but we will give credit, certainly give credit. It is said that in praising the Vaisnava, one must praise the Vaisnava for something genuine that he has done. That is the way.

Video: Click here


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7929823667?profile=RESIZE_400xA brahman (priest) had just finished dealing with the call of nature, and took a quick look at what had come out of his system, remarking, “You are so disgusting!” His output responded back saying, “I was a sweet ladhoo until I entered your company for a few hours.”

That was, perhaps, a lesson in gross humility.

I was chatting today with the foreman overseeing the renovations going on in our ashram. He was speaking about the sewage pipeline in our building. “This building, which is well over 100 years old, has its pipes very deep in the ground. We have had to dig real deep to get to the bottom of it in order to have washroom facilities for a guestroom.”

Acharya, one of our Ukrainian devotees, is the foreman, and he deals with practical matters such as this. “Dig deep!” He said, in relation to the reno’s. This concept of going deep needs to be applied to our spiritual self. We have to be gutsy in order to progress in all projects, whether physical or anti-physical.

Today was such a good day, from the introspective side, and also on pragmatic levels. Steps were thought out and taken to aim at solutions. It wasn’t just a day for putting out fires.

At the same time I was hearing that there’s a surge of Covid victims in Ontario again and there’s a concern about the children going back to school. How to honour social distancing for these young ones?


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From Back to Godhead

Which way does one go in moments of despair?

LORD KRSNA HAS TWO ENERGIES, material and spiritual, but they can be used interchangeably if one knows how. Just as the same electricity can be used to heat or cool a building, so Krsna’s energies can be used for different purposes according to the living entity’s desire.

That doesn’t mean that the living entity can control Krsna’s energies, only that he can use them. When a conditioned soul wishes to exploit the material nature, he contacts the material energy. When he no longer wishes to dominate or enjoy the material energy and instead uses it in Krsna’s service, he contacts the spiritual energy. The living entity is called the “marginal potency” of God-he can go either way. The Bhagavad-gita (9.13) states: “Being marginal potency, as soon as the living entity is freed from the control of material nature he is put under the guidance of the spiritual nature.” There are only two choices.

In the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada speaks of penance and repentance as our means to begin the switch from material to spiritual. If we regret our association with the material energy, we will no longer feel dependent upon its dualities and we will turn to Krsna. Repentance burns away our sins and pushes us toward surrender.

Lord Krsna states, “The material energy is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Bg. 7.14) Srila Prabhupada adds, “Krsna, being the Lord of the illusory energy, can order His insurmountable energy to release the conditioned soul.”

Repentance is followed by penance or austerity. We begin our austerity by trying to stop exploiting material resources as if we own them. That means we have to learn tolerance, because the material energy rarely acts for our comfort. Numberless little things in life irritate us. The more attached we are to physical ease, the more troublesome these things become. Therefore, we have to tolerate.

Those who tolerate are neither culprits who cause pain to other living entities to ensure their own comfort nor helpless victims living only for relief nor fools trying to enjoy. Our senses become subdued and our hearts purified.

Repentance and penance are nothing more than attitude. An episode in t he Bhagavatam shows how our attitude determines whether we live in the spiritual or the material energy. When Vidura tried to convince Dhrtarastra to return the throne to the Pandavas, its rightful heirs, Dhrtarastra threw Vidura out of the palace, which had been his home. So Vidura decided to go on pilgrimage. Because of his love for Krsna, he accepted his new situation as the Lord’s will. Srila Prabhupada states that in this instance the Lord’s material energy acted as the internal , spiritual energy. Although Vidura could see that he had been mistreated, he also saw Krsna’s blessing. Suddenly he was free of political entanglement and could seek out pure Krsna consciousness in a life of renunciation and devotion.

When we stop blaming others for the pain they seem to cause us, and understand our role in causing our own karma, and when we see our powerlessness against the material energy, we will become more dependent on Krsna. Then the material energy will become spiritual in our hands. Instead of dragging us further into material life, our happiness and distress will elevate us in Krsna consciousness. Rather than causing us pain, our predicaments and perplexities will provide us another chance to meditate on Krsna. And that will make us happy.

Of course, the atheists consider this mad, irresponsible. You should not tolerate your suffering but strive to overcome it. But is it possible? No matter how hard we work to get ahead in life, we never seem to become happy. That’s because everything we do must be done at the expense of others, who are seeking gratification at our expense. If we manage to climb to the top of the pile, then Providence slaps us-a family member dies, the fortune dwindles, the spouse is unfaithful, we contract a debilitating disease, and in the end we die. To pursue such a blind path is the ultimate in irresponsibility.

The Bhagavatam (1.3.34) states: “If the illusory energy subsides and the living entity becomes fully enriched with knowledge by the grace of the Lord, then he becomes at once enlightened with selfrealization and thus becomes situated in his own glory.” We are the marginal potency of God. We can go either way. We can go either way. We can respond to whatever life deals us by glorifying God, or we can make that other choice.

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"The process of Krishna consciousness will empower us when we empower it."

The other day as I was taking a bath, the plastic bucket I was using, slipped and cracked. A piece from the rim of the bucket broke off and cut my finger. As I was waiting for the bucket to refill with water, I noticed that even after a long time the bucket wasn't filling up. It's at that time, I noticed a "not so apparent" crack at the bottom of the bucket which was causing all the water to leak out. I drew a lesson from this incident which is applicable to my spiritual life.

The process of spiritual life or Krishna consciousness which includes the nine fold limbs beginning with Shravanam (hearing) and Kirtanam (chanting) is like filling the container - the vessel of our hearts. For the vessel of our hearts to fill up, it should be leak free. If the container is faulty and contains many holes, the best of content, in the best of quantity will not help it fill. Anarthas like lust, anger, pride, envy, illusion, greed and other corollaries leave dents in our hearts because of which we are unable to hold onto the nectar of Krishna consciousness for a prolonged period. That is our misfortune. The process of Bhakti is therefore two fold.
  1. 1. To keep filling our hearts by engaging enthusiastically in the process of hearing and chanting.
  2. To seal the holes and leaks of the anarthas in our hearts by consciously and diligently working on them.
Both these things are equally important and must go hand in hand. The simple accepts of devotional service have great potency to fill our hearts with love of Krishna provided we are working on sealing the leaks.

Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, a powerful teacher of the Vaishnava line used to narrate a graphic story of a marriage party that wants to cross a river in the night to go to the other side, for the marriage which is scheduled the next day. The boatman keeps rowing the boat non-stop for the whole night only to be surprised to notice that the boat is in exactly the same place as the previous night. That's when it dawns on him that he forgot to pull the anchor out. Needless to say that the marriage went for a toss. Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati narrated this story to tell all spiritual practitioners that like this marriage party, our spiritual life can get jeopardized and stalled if we don't work on removing the anchor of our attachments to this world.

Practicing spirituality without working on removing our attachments is like rowing a boat with the anchor on - it doesn't get us anywhere. Then we wonder after years of practice, "Why have I not made any progress?". Instead of taking the onus of our spiritual stagnation on ourselves, we conveniently push the blame on the process itself and start doubting it's efficacy. In fact, one of the offenses in chanting the Holynames is to chant the Holynames while still maintaining material attachments. One senior devotee was making a funny joke with a serious point. He said that as a practice, devotees systematically recite the offenses to be avoided while chanting in the morning and in the course of the day, systematically commit all the offenses. Joke apart, the point is that we need to come out of the default, auto mode in spiritual life and take personal control of it by working on our attachments.

The Chaitanya Charitamrta gives another brilliant analogy to explain the point of working on our anarthas, our weaknesses while simultaneously continuing to practice the process of Krishna consciousness. The Chaitanya Charitamrta compares Bhakti or spiritual life to a little creeper called Bhakti-lata. For this creeper of Bhakti to grow nicely, one needs to water it with a lot of devotion by the sincere practice of hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord. If one keeps watering this creeper regularly (nityam-bhagvata-sevaya) then this creeper will gradually but surely pierce all the coverings of the material world and reach the spiritual world to find shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Krishna. But, the Chaitanya Charitamrta warns us of a potential threat to the growth of this creeper and they are the weeds of anarthas that grow along side this creeper of devotion and can create commotion in our spiritual life. Therefore, along with watering  this creeper, it is equally important to keep weeding these unwanted weeds from time to time if we want to find the ultimate success in our spiritual endeavours.
Thus, if we want to make great progress in spiritual life, we need to seal the leaks and the cracks in our hearts, unplug the anchor of our attachments and weed out the unwanted weeds of anarthas in our hearts while simultaneously continuing to practice the process of Krishna consciousness. I know that all this is easier said than done but we have to begin somewhere. And the best place to begin is by sincerely praying to Krishna from the bottom of our hearts to give us the strength and wisdom to give up our pettiness and thus experience His prettiness.
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The Heart of Bhakti by Sacinandana Swami


When we start our devotional practices it is possible to keep them up for a while out of a sense of duty. For a while it is possible to practice devotional service mechanically out of a sense of “I have to do this.” But in the end we are not machines! We cannot practice for a long time, if we only do it mechanically, and not experience the taste of it. We can only continue steadily if we get a genuine taste for it – the sweet and relishable taste of bhakti.

You must know that there are two forms of bhakti: ceñöä-rüpa and bhäva-rüpa bhakti, as distinguished by Rupa Gosvami. Cesta-rupa-bhakti is the external form of bhakti, the activity you perform with your body and senses. These are the 64 practices of devotional service described in the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. The second kind of bhakti – bhava-rupa bhakti – is what is going on in your heart, the feelings.

Bhakti remains incomplete without these two manifestations: the efforts of the senses and a devotional feeling which arises in the heart and mind. Cesta-rupa, external activities, are the body of bhakti, but bhava-rupa, the devotional sentiments, are the heart of bhakti. Thus, Srila Prabhupada translates the word bhakti into loving devotional service. Service can be done with the body, but love and devotion come from the heart, not the body.

My dear devotees, I have seen many devotees starting the process of devotional service with great enthusiasm, but then eventually slowing down and even leaving. The reason for this is that they did not develop the heart of bhakti and therefore didn’t relish the sweet taste of it. How can we develop the heart of bhakti? By associating with devotees!

Of course, it is possible to practice bhakti alone. You can hear and chant alone in your apartment, you can perform the activities of devotional service on your own, however, our process only becomes sweet when you associate with devotees. The same thing – hearing about Kåñëa and chanting about Him – becomes sweet and relishable in the association of devotees! Do you understand?

Everything in bhakti can be done alone: chanting, reading, worshiping your deities; it is possible. But it only becomes sweet and relishable when you do these things in the association of devotees. And unless your bhakti becomes relishable, tasty, infused with bhava, it will not distinguish itself from material activities. And we already know that material activities don’t give us any substantial taste – that’s why we joined Iskcon. Srila Prabhupada says that “Unless one is associated with devotees, one’s devotional service does not mature and become distinct from material activities.” (Srimad Bhagavatam, 4.9.11, purport) Now you may say: “Thank you Maharaja for discouraging me. I’ve given my heart to material activities and I don’t have any devotional feelings. My heart is cold.” Yes, that is the unfortunate situation of all conditioned souls – we have dedicated our affection and service to matter. How can we change this? The Srimad-Bhagavatam informs us of the remedy: “It is by being in the association of Your devotees and hearing Your transcendental pastimes, O Krishna.”

Every imaginable kind of success or asset of this world can never replace the taste of such feelings in the heart. Let us not forget the main point: Kåñëa wants your love – this is the heart of bhakti.


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Chanting of the Holy Name by Giriraj dasa


Let us try to learn the fundamentals of chanting of the Holy Name from Srila Prabhupada as our founder acharya explains its importance, the dos and don’ts and also the remedy if we commit offenses while chanting.

How should we do chant the Holy Name?

It is recommended that such chanting be performed very loudly. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Nārada Muni says that without shame he began traveling all over the world, chanting the holy name of the Lord. Similarly, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has advised:

tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā
amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ

A devotee can very peacefully chant the holy name of the Lord by behaving more humbly than the grass, being tolerant like a tree and offering respects to everyone, without expecting honor from anyone else. Such qualifications make it easier to chant the holy name of the Lord.

Who can Chant the Holy Name?

The process of transcendental chanting can be easily performed by anyone. Even if one is physically unfit, classified lower than others, devoid of material qualifications or not at all elevated in terms of pious activities, the chanting of the holy name is beneficial. An aristocratic birth, an advanced education, beautiful bodily features, wealth and similar results of pious activities are all unnecessary for advancement in spiritual life, for one can very easily advance simply by chanting the holy name.

Our disqualification is our qualification

It is understood from the authoritative source of Vedic literature that especially in this age, Kali-yuga, people are generally short-living, extremely bad in their habits, and inclined to accept methods of devotional service that are not bona fide. Moreover, they are always disturbed by material conditions, and they are mostly unfortunate. Under the circumstances, the performance of other processes, such as yajña, dāna, tapaḥ and kriyā — sacrifices, charity and so on — are not at all possible.

Chanting of the Holy Name is the only way

Therefore it is recommended:

harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva gatir anyathā

“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is chanting of the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” Simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord, one advances perfectly in spiritual life. This is the best process for success in life. In other ages, the chanting of the holy name is equally powerful, but especially in this age, Kali-yuga, it is most powerful. Kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet: simply by chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, one is liberated and returns home, back to Godhead.

Therefore, even if one is able to perform other processes of devotional service, one must adopt the chanting of the holy name as the principal method of advancing in spiritual life. Yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanti hi sumedhasaḥ: those who are very sharp in their intelligence should adopt this process of chanting the holy names of the Lord. One should not, however, manufacture different types of chanting. One should adhere seriously to the chanting of the holy name as recommended in the scriptures: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Easy process but remain vigilant

While chanting the holy name of the Lord, one should be careful to avoid ten offenses. From Sanat-kumāra it is understood that even if a person is a severe offender in many ways, he is freed from offensive life if he takes shelter of the Lord’s holy name. Indeed, even if a human being is no better than a two-legged animal, he will be liberated if he takes shelter of the holy name of the Lord. One should therefore be very careful not to commit offenses at the lotus feet of the Lord’s holy name.

The offenses are described as follows: (a) to blaspheme a devotee, especially a devotee engaged in broadcasting the glories of the holy name, (b) to consider the name of Lord Śiva or any other demigod to be equally as powerful as the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (no one is equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, nor is anyone superior to Him), (c) to disobey the instructions of the spiritual master, (d) to blaspheme the Vedic literatures and literatures compiled in pursuance of the Vedic literatures, (e) to comment that the glories of the holy name of the Lord are exaggerated, (f) to interpret the holy name in a deviant way, (g) to commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting the holy name, (h) to compare the chanting of the holy name to pious activities, (i) to instruct the glories of the holy name to a person who has no understanding of the chanting of the holy name, (j) not to awaken in transcendental attachment for the chanting of the holy name, even after hearing all these scriptural injunctions.

What if I commit offences?

There is no way to atone for any of these offenses. It is therefore recommended that an offender at the feet of the holy name continue to chant the holy name twenty-four hours a day. Constant chanting of the holy name will make one free of offenses, and then he will gradually be elevated to the transcendental platform on which he can chant the pure holy name and thus become a lover of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Don’t be anxious, seek forgiveness

It is recommended that even if one commits offenses, one should continue chanting the holy name. In other words, the chanting of the holy name makes one offenseless. In the book Nāma-kaumudī it is recommended that if one is an offender at the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava, he should submit to that Vaiṣṇava and be excused; similarly, if one is an offender in chanting the holy name, he should submit to the holy name and thus be freed from his offenses.

In this connection there is the following statement, spoken by Dakṣa to Lord Śiva: “I did not know the glories of your personality, and therefore I committed an offense at your lotus feet in the open assembly. You are so kind, however, that you did not accept my offense. Instead, when I was falling down because of accusing you, you saved me by your merciful glance. You are most great. Kindly excuse me and be satisfied with your own exalted qualities.”

One should be very humble and meek to offer one’s desires and chant prayers composed in glorification of the holy name, such as ayi mukta-kulair upāsya mānam and nivṛtta-tarṣair upagīyamānād. One should chant such prayers to become free from offenses at the lotus feet of the holy name.

(SB 7.5.23-24p)

I hope something touched your heart reading it as it did mine. I felt embarrassed thinking about the quality of my chanting but I also felt the encouraging hand of Srila Prabhupada guiding me gently.

The unique thing about the above post is that except for the questions, which I made up, and the introductory line, rest everything else is a word to word copy from Srila Prabhupada’s purport from the famous SB 7.5.23-24 (śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ). I did not add or change a single word.

We can appreciate how methodically Srila Prabhupada wrote these purports for us. Answer to all our spiritual questions, steps to make further advancement in our spiritual journey, yardsticks to measure our spiritual progress and remedies for our offences/ mistakes in Krishna consciousness are all there in Bhaktivedanta purports– we simply need to open the books and read them.

All glories to the most merciful Holy Name.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.


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Cows and goodness by Ananda Vrindavaneswari


When I was young we spent time at our aunt’s farm in the south of Ireland. She had 5 milking cows, all had names, and when she sat and milked them in the morning and evening, great conversations would be had. With the cows that is.

It was there I learned to milk a cow, to hear the sound of the swish-swish into the bucket. To see the bucket fill up with white goodness, and to marvel at the natural wonder of cows and milk. It was there I saw the connection between human and animal as I watched my aunt sit beside the great creature, rest her head on the cow’s body as she milked and talked and sang to them.

It was there I also saw the same cows being taken away to slaughter and I couldn’t understand it. How could we treat the animals so personally and then send them away without a second thought? My aunt never seemed to feel remorse or at least never expressed it.

We often have this great divide in our heads – we are shocked at children locked in cages yet we have no problem aborting a child in the womb. We love our dogs as we gorge down on other lovable animals. We treat some humans with respect and despise and humiliate others. What is wrong with us?

Part lazy, part greedy, part foolish, part great avoiders of facing complicated questions with no easy answers – we learn in the Vedas that we are influenced by 3 modes of nature. That’s it. Just 3 – goodness, passion, and ignorance. We have all experienced the 3 modes and how they mix and match and come and go in our lives.

The goal is to come to goodness – conscious awareness, conscious choice, and respect for all life. From goodness, we can rise to transcendence – stepping away from or above the 3 modes to experience ourselves as something completely different.

Come sit by our cows, lean into them, and learn about goodness. They have a lot more than milk to offer us. Receive it, and them, with love and gratitude.


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From Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and Gaudiya history, it seems that there has always been a tension between two kinds of followers of Lord Caitanya’s mission—the preachers and the reclusive practitioners. These are known as the gosthy-anandi (GA) and bhajan-anandi (BA), respectively. The debate between the two centres around how they realise the confidential essence of Lord Caitanya’s teachings, Vraja-bhakti, and the failings that each sees in the other’s practice. GA see that BA neglect Lord Caitanya’s order to preach and that they take an exoteric approach to spontaneous devotion in practice, for which the vast majority of aspirants are ineligible.(1) Therefore such BA are rightly labelled sahajiyas. BA, on the other hand, argue that GA preaching of varnasrama and refuting evolution are material activities, and the GA practice of regulative devotional service leads them to Vaikuntha and not Vraja. Both these charges show a lack of understanding of how to preach and how to elevate neophyte devotees to the realm of spontaneity.

My purpose in writing the Krishna in Vrindavan series was to highlight to members of ISKCON that while preaching and regulated practice are the guidelines given us by our acaryas, they—our acaryas—also taught an esoteric approach to spontaneous service, which did not, as did the BA exoteric practice, conflict with the preaching mission and its resultant influx of neophyte devotees.(2) In this regard Srila Prabhupada emphasised that as devotees’ hearts become purified by service and practice—mainly nama-sankirtana—they will naturally remember Krishna, and by remembering Krishna devotees will awaken their desire to serve Him in the same mood as the Vraja-vasis. That is vraja-bhakti. But if devotees do not read Srila Prabhupada’s books, or books of other Vaisnavas, what will we remember? If devotees do not hear of Krishna’s pastimes, His sweetness, His devotees’ services, then how will we awaken a desire to serve Krishna in Vrndavan?

Following Srila Prabhupada’s order, I am trying to provide more reading material for devotees’ remembrance, and also trying to give the truths of siddhanta and rasa that substantiate the understanding of the transcendental nature of Krishna’s pastimes, associates, and their mutual shared love. However, if devotees do not take seriously the study of transcendental literature, if we only emphasize preaching as a means to perfection, then such devotees may well be confirming the BA false assessment of the path of the GA. Therefore I request devotees not to neglect reading Srila Prabhupda’s books and if they have spare time, read the books like those made available by Lal Publications. Books are not meant to sit on shelves, but are meant to be read and thus awaken our desire to serve Krishna in the way that the Vraja-vasis do.

Thank you.

Yours in Krishna’s service,
Sivarama Swami
1. Exoteric means external.
2. Esoteric means internal.


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How Pain Can Motivate By Mahatma Das


Pain is a Stronger Motivator Than Pleasure

In the seminar I give on prayer, devotees look at their obstacles to bhakti and consider why it is important to overcome them. Then I ask devotees to focus on the pain they feel when they allow these obstacles to impede their spiritual progress. I ask this because if we do not associate significant pain to our anarthas, we may not be motivated to give them up. It is said that people don’t change when they see the light; they change when they feel the heat.

We have all heard a great class or read something that really motivated us to change. But why do we often fall back to our old ways within a few days or weeks? It can be because we have not associated significant amounts of pain to holding on to some anartha(s). Unless something disgusts you, unless you feel you can’t take it anymore, it’s unlikely you will change.

In the prayer seminar I ask devotees to consider what their spiritual life would look like if they overcame their obstacles. I ask this to help devotees see what these obstacles are costing them in their spiritual life. When you see what your anarthas are costing you – what your Krsna consciousness would look like if you overcame your biggest anarthas – it will likely give you an impetus to take control of them for you see more clearly how they take you away from Krsna.

The idea is to link enough pain to maintaining anarthas that you deeply feel that holding onto them is more painful than letting them go. If you are not making a strong effort to overcome youranarthas you probably attach more pain to letting them go than to holding onto them. And as Prahlada Maharaja said – matir na krsne parata svato – if you don’t want to be Krsna conscious, no one can help you.

Think about something you have put off for a long time – years perhaps – that you could have easily done by now. Why haven’t you done it? It is because you feel it will be more painful to do it than to not do it? Fear is defined as an anticipation of future suffering. We are afraid to give up our anarthasbecause we think we’ll suffer.

Srila Prabhupada often describes the foolish materialist saying he would die without meat eating, gambling, illicit sex and intoxication. Maybe you also think you cannot live without holding onto some of your anarthas. But our real life in bhakti begins when these anarthas are removed, anatha nivrtti syat. At this stage real taste and attraction for bhakti develop (ruci and asakti).

Anarthas prevent you from getting this taste. Are they worth it?


Write down two or three of your biggest anarthas, or obstacles to bhakti. Then write down why it is important for you to give them up. Include what it is costing you spiritually to maintain them (what your spiritual life would look like if you didn’t have these anarthas), and how carrying them in your heart makes you feel. Then write down how you will feel twenty years from now if you are still holding onto them.

If it helps you, use analogies. You can compare obstacles to painful diseases, vicious animals eating your bhakti creeper, poison destroying your heart, etc. You want to come to the point where theseanarthas disgust you. Then when they surface you will have attached so much pain to them that you naturally turn away from them.

You can also do this with a partner, if talking about it is better for you. But after you do that, make sure to write it down so in the future you can refer to what you’ve written.

Once you have done this, compose prayers that will help you overcome these obstacles. *For example, in the Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada refers to a prayer in which the devotee reveals to Krsna how he has faithfully served his masters (lust, anger and greed) but they have not given him any rest or peace. So he is revealing his heart to Krsna – how he is suffering by his attachment to theseanarthas – and praying so that he can overcome them.

In the same way, we may pray to Krsna that, “My dear Lord, for so many years I have been controlled by (put your anartha here) and it has only caused me pain. It makes me feel like……… It takes me away from You, causes me to forget You, and makes me suffer. I no longer want to serve this cruel master who is preventing me from coming closer to You. Please help me give this up. Please always reveal to me the price I am paying by my attachment to this obstacle.”

*This verse is from Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lila 22.16.

This is a poetic translation by Dravida Das

In how many ways have I sought to obey

The seductive demands of my wicked desires?

They’ve shown me no mercy, yet on I’ve gone, shamelessly

Trying to quench lust’s unquenchable fires.

But now I’m rejecting those hellish desires, for my

Higher intelligence now has awoken;

O Krsna, O shelter of fearlessness, please let me

Serve You with faith that will never be broken.

This article is taken from a monthly newsletter by Mahatma Das called Illuminations. If you would like to read previous issues, or get on his mailing list, please visit


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Last Little Touch by Bhaktimarga Swami

7923229860?profile=RESIZE_400xA last little touch of the boreal forest marked the end of my stay in Thunder Bay. The Beaver Meadows Trail takes one through a sweet boreal forest, a forest that occupies so much of Canada, holding a treasure of a huge collection of freshwater. Check out maps of this extraordinary spread of trees, ancient rocks and lakes. People speak of rainforests, such as the Amazon but, as I understand, the boreal bush impacts the globe in a similar, environmental way.

If you are a walker you have to love nature. Even if one begins routine outdoor walks with some apprehension, the atmosphere grows on you, eventually.

After landing at the Toronto airport I had a chance for a short touchdown in our neighborhood park, Ramsden Park. It’s considerably warmer in the southern part of the province. It was 3°C in Thunder Bay in the morning. Upon landing, after a two hour flight, we were greeted by a warm 17°C. Quite a difference.

I was struck by seeing the lineups at the tennis courts. Basketball courts were also occupied. Before long the hockey rink will be filled up with ice. I can hear the skates hissing along already. It’s actually a kind of grind sound created by the blades of the skates biting into the ice. I can also hear the hockey puck slamming against the rink’s wall.

We do have a fall season yet to relish. It is colours, smells and no mosquitoes that I look forward to. There’ll be two months of such glory.

While the park is busy with sports abound, it would be nice to see a tad more of spiritual practices taking place. It is somewhat rare.


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