By Payal Shah
(Adapted from a class given by H.G. Narayani Mataji in Sydney on the 24th of December 2019)
In older civilizations, it was possible to conceive, understand and retain spiritual knowledge by simply hearing from a spiritual master. In today’s day and age, however, the majority of us need to read scriptures alongside hear in order to learn, digest and remember spiritual knowledge. The foundation of the Krishna consciousness movement is predicated on the principles presented by Lord Krishna in Bhakti literatures such as the Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita. Srila Prabhupada, a representative of Lord Krishna, translated and distributed this spiritual wisdom for the benefit of the world. The spiritual foundation of ISKCON are Srila Prabhupada’s books, which present the most scientific and the most authentic understanding of spiritual reality in a very simple way. Srila Prabhupada has also written numerous small books that present the philosophy in a short, concise and easy to understand manner. Examples include: ‘Chant and Be Happy’, ‘Easy Journey to Other Planets’ and ‘The perfection of Yoga’ to name a few.
At the time of creation, Lord Krishna imparted spiritual knowledge to Lord Brahma, and through disciplic succession, this transcendental knowledge is still flowing through our spiritual teachers. Srila Prabhupada’s books are carrying that knowledge and they represent the words of Lord Krishna through which we can understand that there is a spiritual world beyond this material world. From reading these books, we gain spiritual strength to tolerate the turbulence and miseries of this world; and to position ourselves to navigate through our journey of self-realization and God realization. Even if you read just one line or one paragraph, it will change your life.
Below are 8 steps on how to read Srila Prabhupada’s books in a prayerful state:
1. SACRED SPACE: Find a quiet spot where you can be alone and be able to read for an uninterrupted amount of time.
2. HUMBLE ATTITUDE: Approach the books with a need to acquire knowledge and a need to receive guidance.
3. OFFER PRAYERS: You may offer a personal prayer to those who you will associate with before you start to read. This will help to make meaning out of what you read and to see the relevance of it in your life. For example, if you are reading the Bhagavad Gita, offer a prayer to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna. An example of a prayer could be: “Dear Lord Krishna and Srila Prabhupada, I feel anxious about the rapid spread of the Coronavirus and how it could affect me. Please help me understand that this world is a place of miseries and what the true purpose of my life is”.
4. READ SLOWLY: The purpose of your reading is not quantity – it is quality with meaningful association. Therefore, it is important to read slowly.
5. FIND INTERESTING WORDS: Read until a word or a phrase or a key point catches your attention. Stop there, repeat it to yourself a few times, and mediate on it for a sufficient amount of time.
6. FIND AGAIN: Start reading again until another phrase or point strikes you. You can repeat the process as many times as you like depending on how much time you have. When you are reading, discover what is nourishing you. You can read 3-4 pages at a time and then analyze a point on the 5th page. It is important to find an optimal pace for yourself.
7. OFFER OBEISANCES: After reading, offer words of appreciation either aloud or mentally for any realizations that may have been offered to you whilst you were reading.
8. APPLY: Try your best to apply the teachings and realizations to your life. If possible, discuss your realizations from the scriptures with someone else as devotees relish Krishna in different ways.
Srila Prabhupada’s books are his personal exchange with us and Srila Prabhupada is present through his instructions in his books. These scriptures are meant to change the world and to save the suffering of conditioned souls. Therefore, please take advantage of your human form of life and read Srila Prabhupada’s books. Start reading now, give yourself to the scriptures and you’ll find out a wonderful secret – Krishna is always there!