Saturday, August 16, 2014

Krishna Janmashtami 2014

[Krishna's birthday]“When Krishna grew up a little more, He began to turn Himself backside up; He did not merely lie down on His back. And another function was observed by Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja: Krishna's first birthday. They arranged for Krishna's birthday ceremony, which is still observed by all followers of the Vedic principles.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 7)

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“This day in history” is a line that appears more frequently as more years pass that allow for the recorded history to increase. In a professional sport the particular day can be the anniversary of a championship or a noteworthy achievement by an athlete. In our personal lives, the day in history could relate to a wedding, the first meeting with our significant other, or when we first entered this world. All of these are important to the people involved, but one day in particular is important to every single living entity. That is because on this day the Supreme Lord, the origin of everything living and nonliving, came within the vision of two splendid people for the first time. That occasion has since been celebrated each year as Janmashtami.

Isn’t that a sectarian holiday? Isn’t it only significant for the Hindus?

[sun shining in the sky]Actually, there can be no such thing as a “Hindu” God. The personality referenced has a position rooted in scientific understanding. There is no such thing as a Spanish sun or a Russian sun. The sun shining in the sky in a different country is the same one I see above me right now. I may call it something different, but this doesn’t mean that the sun is different. It is a singular object. Some people may not even know what it is; they may only know of it indirectly, through the sunshine entering their room through the windows. Others may even know less of it, seeing just an overcast sky, which is still illuminated by the sun, but whose covering is thicker.

So God is the same for everyone. Janmashtami celebrates His appearance on earth in His original form of Krishna.

Why do we say that this is the original? How can we proclaim this with ontological certitude? How can we make such an assertion without doubts?

Krishna is a Sanskrit word that means “all-attractive.” So how can that word not apply to God in His original form? We accept the importance of Janmashtami on the authority of the Vedas. Anyone can write anything in a book and pass it on to future generations, but we can test the claims through further study. By hearing more about Krishna, we see that He indeed cannot be anyone else except God.

[Krishna appearing in jail cell]The people seeing Him witnessed firsthand His divine nature. When Krishna appeared as an infant to mother Devaki and her husband Vasudeva, He showed them His majestic form of Narayana, which has four hands and is opulently adorned. This gave the parents the proof necessary for knowing that their son was God Himself. When transformed back into His childhood form, Krishna did so many amazing things. He thwarted all the attacks of the evil King Kamsa. He protected the residents of Gokula. Most importantly, He gave everyone transcendental bliss. Even His enemies achieved salvation, for they thought of Him at the time of death.

“Krishna is so merciful that because the demon Putana came to offer her breast-milk to Him, He fulfilled her desire and accepted her activity as motherly. But to stop her from further nefarious activities, He immediately killed her. And because the demon was killed by Krishna, she got liberation.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)

[Krishna on Putana]So these things can only happen with God. It would make sense to celebrate the day that He first entered our lives. Actually, we are never apart from Him. These hands and legs of mine don’t identify me. Through an accident, I can quickly lose the use of them. If I sleep on the wrong side during the night, I might wake up with a dead arm, where I don’t have any feeling in it. I still remain who I am, though. The “I” here refers to something besides the body. That which transcends the shifts of matter is spirit. My true identity is spirit.

Accompanying the travels of the individual spirit is the Supreme Spirit. He is always with me, though I can’t see Him. He must be there; otherwise the laws of nature wouldn’t operate. He gives sanction to all results. When He doesn’t sanction something, it can’t happen. That’s why actions don’t always yield the same results. I can practice tennis from today until I am ninety years old, but this is no guarantee for making me the best player in the world. The same goes for acquiring money or finding an attractive spouse.

When Krishna appears before us, it is the visual manifestation of the same Supreme Spirit who always accompanies us. The first time seeing His personal form is like the first time recognizing Him. And the first time recognizing Him is the beginning to endless bliss known only to genuine spiritual life. Therefore it would make sense to celebrate this day.

[Krishna's first birthday]In order to bring together all the fortunate souls who have seen the beautiful vision of Krishna, there is the celebration of Janmashtami. This was inaugurated in the earthly realm by the foster parents Yashoda and Nanda. When their bundle of joy turned one year old, they held a grand ceremony in His honor. This celebrated the moment He first entered their lives. They were pure of heart, so they deserved God’s intimate association. Though appearing as an innocent child who required protection, it was actually Krishna who protected everyone. He was the center of the universe in the small village of Vrindavana.

That same Vrindavana exists in smaller replica forms throughout the world today due to the efforts of Vaishnavas, devotees of the Supreme Lord’s personal form. And so on Janmashtami the Vaishnavas unite to remember the day that the beautiful Lord first entered their lives, the moment that they realized that the meaning to this journey from boyhood to youth to old age is for always remembering that darling of Vrindavana, whose lotus feet forever remain the supreme shelter for all.

In Closing:

Never forget the day He came,

That darling going by Krishna the name.


Finally the bigger picture to see,

No more in loss for direction to be.


In Gokula parents first celebrated,

Janmashtami occasion thus inaugurated.


Personal vision for eyes most wonderful sight,

Occasion for Vaishnavas of the world to unite.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Symptoms of Transcendental Ecstasy

[Lord Krishna]“My dear Lord, when will My eyes be beautified by filling with tears that constantly glide down as I chant Your holy name? When will My voice falter and all the hairs on My body stand erect in transcendental happiness as I chant Your holy name?” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.36)

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[Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.36]“We are a nation that believes in God. We are a God-fearing nation.” A leader may have to make this statement publicly in order to get support for a specific policy. They do this also to distinguish themselves from those who act in a way that goes against the standard laws governing human conduct since time immemorial. To believe in God is certainly a vital first step, as the Vedanta-sutra says that the human birth is the time for inquiring into Brahman, or spirit. Lord Chaitanya wishes to go one step further, to have pure love for God. And that love has specific symptoms which manifest.

Imagine this situation. You’re attending a commencement ceremony. These are oddly named, as actually you’re celebrating the completion of school for so many children. After attending for twelve plus years, these kids are ready to enter the real world. It is the beginning of a new life; hence the use of the term “commencement.”

You’re in the crowd along with the other proud parents. Your child was a little on the naughty side. You had to urge them to study. They were not self-starters in that regard. They argued with you a lot, saying that they had no desire to graduate. When they call your child’s name, you’re overcome with emotion. You can’t help yourself. You stand up and shout your child’s name, clapping and yelling. Tears flow down your cheeks. This is a spontaneous reaction. No one had to tell you to act this way.

[commencement ceremony]Imagine another situation. The same child is now getting married. You are sitting in the front row at the ceremony. Your child has known their soon-to-be spouse for a long time. You see the love they have for each other. You care so much for both of them that during the ceremony you start crying again. The hair on your back stands on its end. You’re not supposed to cry. You’ve always thought others who did the same were weak. But this is beyond your control. Your love for your child is so pure that you can’t help yourself.

Such situations show a spontaneous reaction, and the same can be found in love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. At first we think this is odd, for we’re not even sure what God looks like. Is He an old man? Does He get angry at everyone and send locusts to punish them? Is He even a person? The Vedas describe both conceptions: the abstract and the defined. The abstract is known as Brahman. This is the undivided spiritual energy. We are all one with each other through the relationship to this energy. We are all Brahman. We are all spirit at the core. Every spark of spirit is identical in quality. The little fly buzzing around your head in the summertime is as much a soul as the leader of a big nation.

[Bhagavad-gita, 5.18]“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

The defined is the source of the abstract. In the defined version God is a personality. He has a transcendental body which is eternal, knowledgeable and blissful. His original body expands into non-different forms. These are identical to Him, but may appear slightly different. The Brahman energy expands from Him; it is not identical to Him, though it is similar in quality.

[Lord Krishna]As God is a separate personality, it is possible to have a relationship to Him. He has the most wonderful features, so the relationship to Him is the most rewarding. The goal of the human birth is to develop this relationship, for it brings the highest pleasure. After all, everyone is seeking this pleasure, whether they realize it or not.

The relationship can be formed simply through sound. By regularly chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, the relationship forms. The names included in this mantra directly address God. The name Krishna is the same as the person Krishna. The same goes for Rama. Hare refers to His pleasure potency expansion, the personality who most excels in the loving relationship to Him.

Just as we cry when our child graduates high school, the person established in the relationship to Krishna cries tears of joy simply from chanting the name of Krishna. Their voice falters and the hairs on their body stand up. Lord Chaitanya prays for this spontaneous reaction to come to Him, for it will signal purity in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. He actually has this purity all the time, but in humility He thinks that He doesn’t. In fact, He is Hare and Krishna in a combined incarnation appearing on earth to teach the fallen souls the proper path in life.

[Lord Chaitanya]His desire shows that there can be such a thing as divine love. You can have untainted affection for someone you previously thought didn’t exist. In fact, only in bhakti-yoga can you find pure love. No matter how much affection you have for your children or spouse, the relationship will have to end eventually. In bhakti-yoga the link continues forever if so desired. The soul who is conscious of Krishna, who cries tears of ecstasy upon hearing His name, gets the reward of Krishna’s association in the afterlife.

In Closing:

God with my eyes cannot see,

So how sure of His existence can I be?


Foggy notion through the abstract,

Clearer picture with form exact.


Just as for loved ones crying loving tear,

Same when sound of holy name to hear.


Lord Chaitanya for this moment prays,

Already there, in humble guise He plays.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why Am I Suffering

[Lord Krishna]“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

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[Bhagavad-gita, 2.27]You’re preparing for international travel. This requires time on an airplane. When you were young, such journeys were not a problem, but now that you are older there is great anxiety. “I better remember to bring my passport. If I don’t, I won’t be allowed in the country.” Then there is the trip to the airport. You need someone to drop you off. You’d rather not drive and leave your car in the parking lot to accrue fees that you don’t want to pay.

By the way, this trip is for fun. It is not compulsory. It is to attend a family member’s wedding. You are looking forward to that aspect, for sure. You can’t wait to see everyone gathered together again. You likely won’t see everyone at the same time like this for many years. For seeking this pleasure, you’re suffering great anxiety, though. Once you reach the airport, there is trouble with the luggage. You’re over the weight limit. Now you have to pay the extra fees, which you think aren’t warranted. You feel as though the airline is taking advantage of you.

[airport]Finally, after anxiety throughout, including for many weeks prior, you make it on the airplane. This is only the beginning. Now you start freaking out about sitting in such a tiny space for many hours. You are a wreck. There is no peace. Many people have made this journey before, and they mostly all reached safely. In the grand scheme, the time required for travel is not very much. It will go by very quickly; you know this in theory. But realizing this at the moment is very difficult. Therefore you are in great anxiety.

All the suffering in the material world is like this experience. Everyone dies. We know this. There is nothing that can be done to prevent death once birth takes place. And yet there is constant worry over this impending event, which is doomful. And actually, the individual can never be killed. They cannot be destroyed. Even at death, they remain vibrant, simply shifting from one residence to another. For such reasons, the Vaishnavas attempt to glorify the Supreme Lord and explain His teachings to others. They know that this is the only way to cure suffering.

“If you are not Krishna conscious, you will suffer.” This simple statement says it all. Why is it true? Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Consciousness of Him is always beneficial. It’s like remembering that you have so much money in the bank. It’s like recalling that your past journeys were safe, so that the chances for another successful trip are high. It’s like remembering that your best friend is someone who is very powerful, capable of doing anything for you.

If remembering such a person is good, then forgetting Him is bad. Goswami Tulsidas says that forgetfulness of the holy name of Rama is the greatest loss. The name carries the presence itself. Rama is the same Krishna; simply addressed with a different Sanskrit word. To debate over which name to call isn’t a good use of time; the connection is what counts. The connection comes through the name, and in that connection there is consciousness.

“Tulsi emphatically says, ‘O mind, hear what I am saying and always take it to heart, for this will benefit you. Remembering Shri Rama’s holy name is the greatest profit, and forgetting Him is the worst loss.’” (Dohavali, 21)

Cancer is a kind of suffering. So is torture at the hands of others. The tornado running through town is another misery. Will Krishna consciousness cure these? Will there no longer be scorching heat if I am conscious of the Supreme Lord? Actually, these miseries will occur regardless of one’s consciousness. The effect is different when there is consciousness of God, though. The dying soul who keeps the lotus feet of the darling of Vrindavana at the forefront of their mind will pass away in total bliss, ready to take up service to Him again in the next life.

[Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.43-44]“Hiranyakashipu could not kill his son by throwing him beneath the feet of big elephants, throwing him among huge, fearful snakes, employing destructive spells, hurling him from the top of a hill, conjuring up illusory tricks, administering poison, starving him, exposing him to severe cold, winds, fire and water, or throwing heavy stones to crush him. When Hiranyakashipu found that he could not in any way harm Prahlada, who was completely sinless, he was in great anxiety about what to do next.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.43-44)

[Prahlada thrown off cliff]A long time ago, a five year old boy was tortured in quite horrible ways. He was a special soul in Krishna consciousness, so he did not suffer at all. But even if he were to perish, he had no fear. He would not suffer since his consciousness was right. It is this consciousness which is most important. It is more important than religious affiliation, signed statements of allegiance, or outer dress. Consciousness is what determines genuineness in spiritual life, and so it is not surprising that those who are conscious of God try their best to get others to be the same. They do this through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They also speak the philosophy of Krishna which is found in the Bhagavad-gita. They know others are suffering, and they know how to cure it. Therefore their work is the most important.

In Closing:

For one event anxiety and pain,

Know that for all experiences the same.


If to material world you drop,

Suffering surely you have got.


Only one way to permanently end,

Consciousness towards divine realm to send.


Prahlada whether in fire or off a cliff,

Mind fixed on Krishna, always in bliss.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Success In Bhakti

[Prabhupada's lotus feet]“According to this instruction of Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura, it is the duty of a disciple to follow strictly the orders of his spiritual master. The secret of success in advancement in spiritual life is the firm faith of the disciple in the orders of his spiritual master.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 12.8 Purport)

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The goal is simple in bhakti: think of God. Think of Him especially at the time of death. That time is surely frantic, for who wants to leave the residence they have grown accustomed to for so many years? When we’re in trouble now we have a difficult time focusing on the positive. If something is pressing, if there is an uncertain outcome, naturally there will be worry. The afterlife brings the most uncertain outcome, so how are we to think of God at the time of entering it? Success comes very easily, however, for one who has unflinching faith in the spiritual master and His orders.

Imagine this scenario. You’ve just gotten married. You’ve decided that you and your spouse will live at home, where your parents and younger siblings already reside. Though this isn’t the customary practice in modern times, you see no problem with it. You want everyone to be together. You don’t see a reason to seek a new dwelling simply for privacy’s sake. You’d rather everyone be under the same roof.

Now how will you assure that the home life is successful? Your situation doesn’t have to exactly match this one in order to relate. It could be just you and your roommates living somewhere. The key to success is love. If there is strong affection for one another, then there is every chance at success. If each person has their own interests, and they go about only trying to meet those, you will surely have conflict. If everyone does their own thing, who will manage the house? If I’m only interested in partying, who is going to take out the garbage? If there is a problem with the heating system, and everyone is locked away in their room, who is going to take care of it?

[dinner table with food]In the home with the family, there needs to be attention on the children. Someone has to watch over them. Someone has to guide them. Then there needs to be food on the table. If everyone is out for themselves, who will make sure that everyone eats properly? As with a well oiled machine, each component must function properly. The string that holds everything together is affection for one another. When that is present, whatever you are looking for at the outset will likely come to fruition.

In bhakti, the linking thread is affection for the spiritual master. It is said that one cannot approach God directly. This should make sense if we think about it. We have no idea what God looks like. We have no idea where He lives, where He moves, and what His desires are. We can speculate, for sure. Man has done this since time immemorial. Yet that speculation yields nothing tangible, as with our imperfect senses we can’t even remember everything we see or hear. How, then, can we know someone who is beyond this temporary world?

The guru is God’s representative, and from his mercy we can know God. As an example, from the mercy of the guru through his translation of the Bhagavad-gita, we can hear directly from the Supreme Lord about how one can know Him in full, free from doubts. In that verse, translated and commented upon for our specific time and circumstance, we see that with a mind attached to Krishna and practicing the yoga of devotion to Him, we can know Him.

image“Now hear, O son of Pritha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.1)

[Lord Krishna]The guru tells us that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan, the detail behind the foggy notion of a Supreme Lord. The guru informs us that the word “krishna” means “all-attractive,” which is an apt description for God. The guru also reveals his own position: he is servant of God. He is God’s representative, but not God Himself. You can tell who is the guru by seeing if they are always thinking of Krishna, serving Him, and helping others to know Him.

If you encounter such a guru, even only indirectly through his recorded words, you can get an attachment to him. If you develop love for him, your success in bhakti is assured. If you really love someone, you will do things that make them happy. The guru’s only desire is that the disciple, either informal or formal, take up bhakti-yoga in earnest and make their life successful.

The guru even reveals the best way to practice that yoga in the specific time and circumstance. For this present age of Kali, known for its heightened quarrel and hypocrisy, the best method is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The spiritual master says that intoxication, gambling, meat eating, and illicit sex chip away at the efficacy of this chanting. Sort of like trying to hear someone when you have loud music blaring in your ears, chanting with any or all of these four behaviors active makes the bhakti practice take longer to fructify.

[His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami]Bhakti thrives on the love for the guru. If his desire is taken to be the most important mission in life, then there is every chance for success. If a person thinks, “The spiritual master wants me to chant the holy names every day, so I will. I’m not sure how or why this will work, but he is a wonderful person so I will listen to him,” then such an attitude alone will bring one to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, who is the supreme shelter for all.

In Closing:

Krishna the supreme shelter for all,

The guru His eternal servant to call.


Way to liberation to teach,

Wished for disciple every and each.


By his grace alone,

Supreme Lord to be known.


Even if at beginning a doubt,

Follow their word hesitation without.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Receiving Causeless Mercy

[Lord Krishna]“Oh, My Lord, O Krishna, son of Maharaja Nanda, I am Your eternal servant, but because of My own fruitive acts, I have fallen in this horrible ocean of nescience. Now please be causelessly merciful to Me. Consider Me a particle of dust at Your lotus feet.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.32)

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[Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.32]The mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is causeless. There is apparently no reason for it, because God is never compelled to do anything. One may petition Him for this thing or that. During an ancient time, there was a powerful king named Kamsa who was terrorizing the innocent on earth. The demigods petitioned Lord Narayana, the source of all men, to help. He agreed, promising to descend to earth in His original form of Krishna.

[Lord Vishnu]Yet this does not mean that Krishna appeared on earth because of Lord Brahma or any of the other demigods. Previous to that, when He appeared on earth as Lord Ramachandra, again it was out of His causeless mercy. Ravana’s nefarious acts did not necessitate Rama’s advent. If that were the case, then any fiend could go on a killing spree in the hopes of seeing God face to face.

Lord Chaitanya gives us a hint into how that causeless mercy can come our way. The attitude is key. Nothing is guaranteed, but in the right mindset, there is the chance that God will take notice. Lord Chaitanya asks that Krishna consider Him to be a particle of dust at His lotus feet. The particle is small in size. Especially in comparison to the incredibly large Supreme Lord, the particle is nothing.

Dust is also on the ground, referencing stature. When one considers themselves to be low, they have a chance at receiving God’s mercy. Indeed, this is the attitude necessary when approaching the bona fide spiritual master, who is Krishna’s representative on earth. The mercy first flows through the guru, who looks for humble submission in the disciple.

[Bhagavad-gita, 4.34]“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

[tall trees]Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s request is noteworthy because the attitude is usually the opposite. Amongst other living entities, each is looking to be considered the best. They want to be more than a tiny particle, and they want to be higher than the tree. The business mogul wants to have the most profits in the land. The administrator wants to reach the position which wields the most authority. The radio personality wants the largest audience. The athlete wants the most championship trophies and the academic wants the most advanced degree possible.

None of these disqualify one from receiving the causeless mercy of the Supreme Lord, but in comparison to Him everyone is small. If that awareness exists, then there is every chance of receiving that coveted gift. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna Himself. He is a combined incarnation of Radha and Krishna, or the energy of God and God Himself. There is no difference between Chaitanya and Radha and Krishna.

“Lord Chaitanya is Krishna with the feelings of Radharani; in other words, He is a combination of Radha and Krishna. It is therefore said, shri-krishna-chaitanya radha-krishna nahe anya. By worshiping Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu alone, one can relish the loving affairs of Radha and Krishna together.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 13.43)

[Radha-Krishna]What results from receiving that causeless mercy? What happens when we truly consider ourselves to be a particle of dust at the lotus feet of God? There is already mercy from mother nature received on a daily basis. We easily could be seriously harmed on our way to work in the morning. There is no guarantee that the plane flight we’re taking tonight will land safely. There is every possibility of contracting a disease, becoming overly stressed by daily pressures, or making the wrong decisions. As we’re able to survive, it is due to nature’s mercy.

The mercy of Krishna is much better. With nature’s blessings, we continue in this temporary life. But that does not mean we will be happy in that life. It does not mean that we will find an engagement that invigorates us, that makes us want to get out of bed every morning. In many respects, the longer we continue to live, the more miserable we become. As an adult we could never imagine getting up so early and spending so many hours in a classroom, yet as children we did precisely that. As a senior citizen, we have little desire to travel or get out of the house, but as young adults we had so much more energy to explore the world.

The causeless mercy of Krishna brings Krishna. He is all-attractive. His features are inexhaustible. This means that if you have Him with you, you can contemplate His beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation for hours and hours. After you go to sleep and again wake up, the same glorification continues. It goes beyond the present life as well, as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is the soul’s eternal occupation.

[Radha and Krishna]Reentry into that occupation is not difficult. The first step is the required humility, beautifully expressed by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In fact, Mahaprabhu explains every requirement, so that from start to finish we’ll be guaranteed of getting Krishna’s mercy. With that gift, nothing else is needed, as the devotee relishes the opportunity to daily chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

To be graced with causeless mercy’s flow,

Must truly consider yourself to be low.


Like on the ground particle of dust,

In supremacy of God to trust.


When that mercy to receive,

To find enthusiasm you can’t believe.


To continue day after day,

When holy names always you say.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Work Should Lead To Renunciation

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Everyone is by nature inclined to some sort of work, and when that work leads one to religious life and religious life leads one to renunciation and renunciation leads one to devotional service, one attains the perfection of work.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.23.56 Purport)

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Work outside of genuine religious life leads to further attachment. From that attachment, it is more difficult to get renunciation, and without renunciation the consciousness stays clouded. In the thick haze of hankering and lamenting, at the time of death the mind is unable to concentrate on the source of the spiritual energy. As such, rebirth is guaranteed. When one takes to the proper path, however, their attachment becomes transcendental. That attachment automatically brings the proper renunciation, leading to pure devotional service, the pinnacle of the evolution of consciousness.

[Bhagavad-gita, 2.27]“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

For one who takes birth, death is certain. We know this based on our own experiences. Though at the time of reading this, we have not yet died, we know that we will eventually. This is because of what we witness with everyone else. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna reveals the other side, that birth is guaranteed for one who dies. This explains the timeless question of where we came from. We died before, so that’s how we took birth.

The circumstances of that birth are determined by consciousness. What were we thinking of the last time we died? More importantly, what should we think of when our next death comes? If you think of someone who is timeless, who is beyond birth and death, naturally you will have good circumstances in the next birth. You will become timeless yourself, regaining a body that is identical to your soul.

[Bhagavad-gita, 8.6]“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.6)

[tennis court]I should think of God at the time of death, but that is difficult when I’m so busy working right now. In that work I become more entangled. One day I decide that I want to play sports. I will join various recreational leagues that meet at night during the week. I think that this will be fun, but I end up finding the opposite. Now that I have a new obligation, I have more pressure. I have to worry about more than just school and work. When things don’t go my way during the games, I lament over my failures. Then I constantly think of how to correct the situation. Previously I wasn’t worrying over such things, but now I am. This means that by my work I’ve become more entangled.

The same applies to all aspects of material life. I look forward to the day of my marriage, but afterwards I’m left worrying all the time. Does my wife like me? Does my husband still find me attractive? Will our children be healthy? Will our family remain together? Will I be able to earn enough money to support everyone?

Work in genuine religious life should lead to renunciation. This makes sense if we think about it. Religious life is spiritual life. Spirit transcends matter. If I focus on spirit, I won’t be as concerned with matter. With less concern, I will have renunciation. With renunciation, I have a better chance of accepting devotional service, which is the only way to have the right consciousness at the time of death.

In pure devotion, I think only of God. In fact, I have a strong attachment to Him. Devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, is so potent that one can start with attachment to God. They don’t have to wade through religious life focused on the impersonal followed by renunciation. Things will properly fall into place through enough devotion. Bhakti-yoga is non-different from the Supreme Lord. Therefore in practicing bhakti-yoga, one directly associates with God. He automatically clears nescience, leading to spiritual enlightenment. In that enlightenment, one realizes that whatever is favorable for devotion should be accepted and whatever is unfavorable should be rejected.

[Prabhupada]Bhakti-yoga likely begins as karma-yoga, which is work in the pursuit to unite the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. As His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says, everyone is naturally inclined towards some kind of work. If you’re going to work, why not make it fruitful? Why not work in a way that you’ll have less attachments afterwards? Why not work in a way that you’ll be really happy, instead of getting entangled in something new?

Karma-yoga is the beginning to this work, and in the process gradually the karma turns into bhakti. No longer is it a chore to chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. No longer is it difficult to make the long journey to the local house of worship. No longer do you need to have your arm twisted to hear about the glorious pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

[Krishna's pastimes]In pure devotion, the attachment to Krishna increases, which automatically brings renunciation. Rather than becoming more and more entangled in miserable material affairs, the devotee becomes more convinced that they are on the right path. With that conviction, they lose fear. They no longer have to worry about having the right consciousness at the time of death, as it is impossible for them to not think of Krishna. Thus they attain liberation even before the time of death, achieving the perfection of work.

In Closing:

To meet desire have to work for,

But find that only entangled more.


Should not work set you free,

So that more happy you’ll be?


If bhakti to try at the start,

Soon your attachments to depart.


Renunciation wonderful first step,

Key that devotion to Krishna eventually get.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fallen From Grace

[Govinda]“Oh, My Lord, O Krishna, son of Maharaja Nanda, I am Your eternal servant, but because of My own fruitive acts, I have fallen in this horrible ocean of nescience. Now please be causelessly merciful to Me. Consider Me a particle of dust at Your lotus feet.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.32)

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[Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.32]Just as the Bhagavad-gita perfectly summarizes Vedic philosophy, which is also known as Vedanta, the most important teachings of Lord Chaitanya reveal the same vital information, though in a different mood. The conclusion of both is the same: devotion to God is the highest occupation for man. Krishna’s presentation is a little more thorough, while Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s seems to be less philosophical. Yet there is nothing missing from the latter, including an explanation on the most vital question: from where did I come.

It’s the question parents dread. They never want to hear it. They have books ready just in case, but it’s not something they want to go through. “Mom, where did I come from? Dad, how do babies get here?” The parents struggle because the answer involves sex, a topic which the child is not ready to hear. If they hear the explanation, how will they understand it? They don’t yet know why men and women join together. They don’t understand why the woman is anxious to hold the hand of her beloved and why the man feels the need to look fit for the woman.

Upon reaching maturity, the same person, who was once a child, begins to understand. In the same way, Vedanta philosophy is meant for the sophisticated. Such a person not only understands the cause of birth through sexual relations, but they also know that the soul is eternal. This means that the soul which appears in the body of an infant was somewhere previously. Though presented through the term “reincarnation,” which has a mystical aura, the concept isn’t very difficult to understand.

The child eventually matures into adulthood; provided they remain alive. This means that there is a change. Yet the identity is one. The child and the adult are the same person; they are just at different points within the timeline known as the lifetime.

And so the infant appearing from the womb is also at a different point in the timeline. The individual inside, the soul, was somewhere previously. This is how life continues. The union between a man and a woman doesn’t suddenly create a soul. It simply creates the atmosphere for which a previously existing soul can once again appear in front of the eyes.

Lord Chaitanya explains the origin of the soul. He says that the soul is an eternal servant of the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna, but through desire it falls into the material ocean. This ocean is considered horrible. And why is that? Do not we experience pleasure from time to time? Is not the piping hot pizza pie in front of us delicious? Is there not excitement for the upcoming vacation?

[the ocean]The material world is likened to an ocean because it is seemingly endless. The last place you want to be stuck is out in the ocean. Even if you have the sturdiest of boats, it will take you a long time to find land again. If anything bad happens, you are out of luck. It is not possible to swim to safety. And so the repetition of birth and death takes place in an ocean-like place. Just as there are so many species of fish in the ocean, in the material world there are so many bodies that can act as temporary homes for the fallen spirit soul. The Vedas give the definitive tally: 8,400,000 different species.

What makes this ocean horrible is that it is nearly impossible to remember Krishna while in it. If you’re stranded in the ocean, will you not panic? Will you not worry over things and forget everything which is pleasant? And so in the material ocean there is constant worry. There is fear over impending death, which is guaranteed for every person. Shri Rama, the same Krishna in a beautiful incarnation form, says that for the mature human being there is no other fear than death.

“Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than falling, the man who has taken birth has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)

Life in this ocean continues for as long as there is no desire to reunite with Krishna in service to Him. The desire only changes through the causeless mercy of Krishna Himself. Therefore Lord Chaitanya prays for that mercy. He doesn’t need to, as He is Krishna Himself, but He reveals the proper attitude necessary for rescue from the material ocean.

Through the causeless mercy of God, one finds devotional service again. They don’t pray for temporary happiness through material opulence. They don’t simply ask for rescue from the ocean, only to fall down again. The true reward is devotional service, which automatically keeps one from the material ocean.

The elevated souls who practice bhakti-yoga are so merciful that they intentionally act as instruments for deliverance. They volunteer to plunge into the material ocean again in order to rescue others. In the process they do not forget devotion to Krishna; so they remain unaffected. The horrible world does not bother them. They fight fearlessly to rescue others, and this selflessness is an extension of Krishna’s mercy.

[Lord Chaitanya]Lord Chaitanya led the fight during His time on earth, and those who follow in His line continue the mission to this day. Devotion is the meaning to life, and it can be explained in great philosophical detail or simply by example. The high life of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead gives a glimpse of eternal life that is blissful, which is beyond the suffering accompanying residence in the material ocean. The chanting of the holy names is the best means for practicing that service: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. One who always chants these names and keeps Lord Chaitanya in mind gets the causeless mercy of the son of Nanda Maharaja.

In Closing:

Somehow into material ocean fell,

From this of reincarnation can tell.


In ignorance continuously swimming,

High and low but never winning.


By mercy of Govinda rescue to gain,

And once again reach devotional plane.


Lord Chaitanya for all shows the way,

Chant holy names and for His help pray.