Saturday, October 25, 2014

Talking About Parting Words

[Shrila Prabhupada]“The influence of time, which manifests as past, present and future, cannot touch higher personalities like Brahma and other demigods. Sometimes demigods and great sages who have attained such perfection are called tri-kala jna.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.15.3 Purport)

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Wife: Do you ever wonder how people will react when you pass on?

Husband: Why are you asking me this? Is there something wrong with me that I don’t know about? Did you hear from my doctor?

Wife: No, silly. It’s just an interesting question. I’ve been wondering about it since my father passed on.

Husband: Oh, okay. I mean, I know you’ve been itching to get rid of me, but I’m not ready to go just yet. [smiling]

Wife: Will you take this seriously, please?

Husband: Okay, okay. What was the question again?

Wife: I’ve been so sad since my father passed on. I feel kind of empty without him. When I see others react in the same way, it doesn’t give me strength. I’d rather they pretend to not be affected. Then I would know that everything’s going to be okay.

Husband: But it will. Life moves on.

Wife: Yeah, I know you’re right. Still, I wonder what the proper reaction is. Should I continue to be sad? If I carry on as if nothing happened, that might give strength to others who are feeling the loss, but isn’t that also kind of cold?

Husband: Oh, I see. So by trying to understand at the personal level, you’ll get a better idea of what reaction your father would have wanted to his passing?

Wife: Exactly. If I left this world, how would I want people to react? Have you ever thought about this?

Husband: Indeed, I have. I think everyone has to some extent.

Wife: Care to enlighten me on what you came up with?

Husband: Well, obviously I want people to be a little upset. Especially those whom I love so much and would miss so much if they left me - I’d like to think that they would be a little sad if I left this world.

Wife: I agree. I was thinking the same thing.

Husband: But from there I sort of figured it out. Basically, if I was on my deathbed and others asked me how to honor me if they so desired, what would I say to them?

Wife: Okay, that’s a question, though. What would you say to them?

Husband: I’d tell them what my spiritual teachers have told me. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam it is said that a saintly person can see past, present and future. Naturally, this means they foresee that one day they won’t be physically present to guide others.

Wife: Right.

Husband: And so by their instructions, both in physical interaction and written word, they prepare to leave a lasting impression. What they say to the future generations is what I would want people to follow after I’ve left this world.

Wife: And what do they say?

Husband: Well, before I get to that I would start by telling others that don’t think this won’t happen to you. “I am dying now, and you will too some day.” Honey, I’m sure you’ve thought that a few times since your father passed on. I know I have.

Wife: Yeah, that’s what has kept me sad, actually. Like what am I doing here anyway? If we all have to meet the same end, what is the purpose to life?

Husband: That’s the perfect question. So the rishi in the Vedic tradition will tell the future generations to understand the soul. The soul is who we are. We are not this body. Therefore death is not that big a deal. The soul will live on. It has to. There is no other way.

Wife: That’s comforting to know. I mean, I know this, but it’s nice to hear at a time like this.

[Prabhupada books]Husband: We survive off the love of others. There is no doubt about this. We are all better people because of your father’s love for us. And his parents were very loving also. There is no proper way to repay what they did for us. They continue to influence us in so many ways, ways that we’ll never fully know or appreciate. For myself, I realize that I never would have been introduced to the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam were it not for your father and the respect he commanded. Simply by his praising these books I eventually took an interest, when I was ready to find answers to the most important questions in life.

Wife: He was a very spiritual man.

Husband: We survive on love, even through mother nature. The rain comes from her and it sustains us. The next question is why. Why do people love us enough to keep us alive? The saint of the Vedic tradition says to live to be conscious of God. That is the unique boon to the human birth. From assuming the body of a human being we get the best chance to understand God.

Wife: So the people who love us keep us alive so that we can understand God?

Husband: Exactly. They may not realize it. Another thing to mention is that understanding God is for our greatest benefit. It will make us happy before we pass on. And don’t we want others to be happy after we’re gone? Don’t we want them to realize all that life has to offer? We know that money, fame, sensual pleasures and the like aren’t enough. These don’t satisfy the soul, which will live on past this life.

Wife: So you would tell people to understand God? That’s what you want others to do after you are gone?

[Lord Krishna]Husband: Well, I’d want them to do that while I’m still alive also, but yeah. Miss me a little bit but then focus your attention on the Supreme Lord. And this isn’t so difficult, provided you know some things about Him. In His original form He is Krishna, the all-attractive one. He is also Rama. He is also Narasimha. These personal forms allow for attachment. They allow for interaction, which takes place in the mood of service. This service, known as bhakti-yoga, will bring the most pleasure to the soul. It will bring happiness to anyone who engages in it. I’d tell people to follow bhakti-yoga without fear. Our predecessors foresaw their own passing and the passing of others. They knew what was going to happen. So how they lived their lives is very instructive. They made the most out of their short time on earth, and through their efforts we were benefitted. And isn’t that what we want, people to benefit from our life?

Wife: Yes, definitely. I feel so blessed to have had such a wonderful father. I feel that he lives through me and our family. He will never be gone from us.

Husband: God bless such a wonderful man. Let us all be devoted to Krishna in thought, word and deed. He would love that. I know He always encouraged me in my devotional efforts. So by improving myself, by making the most of this precious life, I will pay homage to him. The benefit will come back to him and to all of our ancestors, to whom we owe so much.

In Closing:

To part from this world one day,

What on your dying bed to say?


How your desire for others to live?

What words of wisdom to give?


This situation by the rishis was known,

Through their words right path was shown.


Miss me a little, but in bhakti move on,

With Krishna blessed to be even when I’m gone.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Do People Die

[The universe]“The demoniac conclude that the world is phantasmagoria. There is no cause, no effect, no controller, no purpose: everything is unreal. They say that this cosmic manifestation arises due to chance material actions and reactions. They do not think that the world was created by God for a certain purpose.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 16.8 Purport)

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Question: “I know this has been asked by people since the beginning of time, but it really struck me lately. Why do people die? It’s not fair if you think about it. You become attached to them, you gain so much from them, you love them so much, and then they abruptly leave you, never to be seen again. Why must there be death?”

Life and death are tied to each other. You can’t have one without the other. Death puzzles everyone, for who knows exactly where the individual previously living has gone. No one is certain, as they can’t do an experiment to test for the next destination. The same lack of knowledge is there regarding birth. From where did this new baby come? The less intelligent, relying on sight alone, think that sex life is the only cause. Two living bodies get together in the proper way and a new life emerges. The philosophy of the spiritual science says otherwise. From knowing how birth takes place, the unknown of death becomes a little clearer too.

Between birth and death what we actually see is the soul. The individual may be a man, a woman, a dog, an elephant, a cow, or even an ant. We react differently based on what we see. We adjust our behavior to the individual’s behavior, which differs depending on the species. Even within one species, the individual always changes. The human being doesn’t emerge from the womb capable of acting out scenes in a Shakespearean play, but in adulthood it can. The infant doesn’t know how to fix a computer, but as an adult the same person can become an expert in the field.

This means that we see change. The individual does not change; just their particular covering does. From this we see that birth is the assumption of a covering. The individual existed somewhere else previously. Where exactly we don’t know for sure. The individual doesn’t remember their previous existence. If they could, they would be God.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
bahūni me vyatītāni
janmāni tava cārjuna
tāny ahaṁ veda sarvāṇi
na tvaṁ vettha parantapa

“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)

We’ve introduced another person into the picture. God. One way to know Him is to look for that one person who has perfect memory. Birth and death is a single instance of a travel where memory gets erased at the end. There is no memory going in, but the individual remains the constant. It’s like a dreaming state almost. Death is like waking back up and awaiting the next dream.

This helps us to understand what birth and death are, but we don’t really know why they take place. Why does someone have to exit the dreamlike existence? As the dream is not real, we should know that the time spent within a particular species is not the ideal existence for the individual. In short, they are not meant to undergo birth and death. They do so at their own risk, and the cycle continues until they are ready for a permanent change.

And actually, death is a nice thing. Imagine if the situation were the other way around. Imagine if someone told you that how you look right now, where you live, and what you do - those things will remain forever. You will never get to leave. Who would actually opt for that? The less intelligent might jump at the chance without thinking first, but upon further thought the apparent boon would be properly seen as a horrible punishment. Death guarantees a change of scenery, an escape from a prison-like existence.

Unfortunately, that cycle continues. Death brings another birth, which brings another death, and so on. The cure for birth and death is spiritual awakening. Know who you are. Understand why you go through this temporary existence. Then take the necessary steps to stop it. The identity of the individual is spirit. Spirit is that which transcends birth and death and all the changes that occur in between.

The temporary existence is the result of desire. The individual who wants a dreamlike state, a place where they can pretend to fend for themselves and rise to prominence amongst other species who are in the same boat - they get their wish granted. Of course they are quite powerless even in the dreamlike existence. If they had real power, they would never be forced to leave. They would never die. They would get what they wanted, all the time. This is not the case, which means that the results to actions actually come from someone else.

upadraṣṭānumantā ca
bhartā bhoktā maheśvaraḥ
paramātmeti cāpy ukto
dehe 'smin puruṣaḥ paraḥ

“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 13.23)

[Lord Krishna]That person with perfect memory whom we mentioned before accompanies the individual in the dreamlike existence. He is the one who actually makes everything happen. He doesn’t influence decisions without being asked. If it were otherwise, then the individual would have no independence. They would be like robots forced to act under someone else’s direction. God observes and then sanctions. Desires conflict and so not everyone can get what they want all the time.

The temporary existence stops when there is surrender. Not to another fallible living entity. Not to the desires of someone who is destined to die themselves. Surrender to God is the secret. This means relinquishing the desire to live amongst the temporary. It means no longer competing with God, but instead serving Him. As God is such a vague concept, we see why surrender is so difficult. We see why there is such widespread lamentation at death, with so many puzzled by the event, wondering why it has to occur.

Vedic philosophy gives the most information about God. Fortunately, the information presented covers all aspects of life. Blind faith is not required, and neither is it encouraged. Use all your intellect. Question everything. Immerse yourself in the philosophy and start to look at everything with the eyes of spiritual knowledge. Then soon enough you will see for yourself that more important than birth and death is the happiness of the soul. That soul gets lasting happiness and peace, shanti, in service to God in His personal form.

In Closing:

To understand I try,

That death has to be why.


An answer to this cannot find,

So therefore always troubled my mind.


That death tied to birth always know,

As soon as one comes they must go.


Cycle on and on it goes,

Stops when Krishna one knows.


As Supersoul sanction to action giving,

When desire in bhakti, without fear then living.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Govardhana Puja 2014

[Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill]“When the cowherd men of Vrindavana, under instruction of Krishna, stopped offering sacrifice to the heavenly King, Indra, the whole tract of land known as Vraja was threatened with being washed away by constant heavy rains for seven days. Lord Krishna, out of His causeless mercy upon the inhabitants of Vraja, held up the hill known as Govardhana with one hand only, although He was only seven years old. He did this to protect the animals from the onslaught of water.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.32)

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gopair makhe pratihate vraja-viplavāya
deve 'bhivarṣati paśūn kṛpayā rirakṣuḥ
dhartocchilīndhram iva sapta-dināni sapta-
varṣo mahīdhram anaghaika-kare salīlam

When there is birth, there must be death. This fact we know from our own experience. It is also confirmed by Shri Krishna in the famous Bhagavad-gita. All that we see living around us is that which has yet to die. What will come in the future will also die some time afterwards. Since there must be death, there must be a means to accomplish that end. Therefore we can conclude that this world is extremely dangerous. It is mrityu-loka, or the planet where everyone dies. To facilitate the impending death, there must be danger at every step. On the occasion of Govardhana Puja we remember how one person can protect against any danger.

“The devotees of the Lord are never in danger, but in the material world which is full of dangers at every step, the devotees are apparently placed into dangerous positions, and when they are saved by the Lord, the Lord is glorified.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.16.13-15 Purport)

There is danger just in getting up each morning, but consider all the risks taken for sense gratification. When I am not satisfied with a nine to five job that pays enough to put food on the table and keep a roof over my head, I look in other directions. I jump out of airplanes for sport. I have no reason to take such a risk other than to feel a heightened thrill. Yet there is every chance of something bad happening, and when it does one must ask why they took the risk in the first place.

If I am not satisfied travelling in a horse and buggy, I look for ways to improve upon transportation. The new inventions then require a fuel source. That source is the oil that comes from the ground. So many things in today’s world would not be possible were it not for this oil, which is also referred to as petroleum. The supermarket would not exist; for without trucks to deliver the many varieties of products on time, how would the store stay in business? Without the supermarket, how would the people of the town eat?

To secure oil is not easy. It is a dangerous procedure, carrying the risk of killing an entire town. Make the slightest mistake while drilling deep into the earth and you’ll release a gas that will kill you in under ten minutes. That same gas can then travel through the air and kill so many others. More machines and manpower are required as precautionary measures; they are ways to keep safe from this potential calamity.

[iPhone 6 and 6 plus]The purpose to taking these risks is to increase sense gratification. Yet that happiness is fleeting. It does not stay for very long. If it did, then the model of the most popular smartphone would not change every year. If sense gratification could be kept in check, then restaurants would never change their menus. People would never get divorced, and there would be no such thing as drug addiction.

There is a higher happiness to be found. It is known as prema, or pure love. It also goes by the name of bhakti, which means devotion. This happiness is not nearly as risky to attain. There aren’t as many dangers involved. Surely there is danger at every step in a material existence, but for bhakti all that is required is hearing. Simply lend your ears to the sound of the holy names, like those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Another way to find prema is to chant. Say those same holy names on a regular basis. Make a routine of it by using a set of japa beads, which are harmless. You can get bhakti also by offering service to a worshipable figure made of some material substance. You can offer prayers to find bhakti. These are not risky paths. The only thing lost is material desire, which has proven to be worthless in providing real satisfaction.

Bhakti is so wonderful that those who have it want to share it with others. They are not afraid to take extra risks in this area, provided they are necessary. They have the hand of God protecting them. That hand turns a potentially risky situation into the safest one. In Vrindavana several thousand years ago, there was no risk in taking shelter underneath a giant hill that was held up in the air by a tiny child. Normally this would be the riskiest situation, but the child in this instance was Shri Krishna Himself appearing on earth. He held up the hill to save the residents from a devastating flood instigated by the king of heaven, Indra.

[Krishna lifting up Govardhana Hill]Floods can appear at any time. They are part of the category of miseries known as adhidaivika, or those which come from the divine forces. Hurricanes, earthquakes and the like are natural disasters, acts of God. The Supreme Lord, who is beyond duality, can eliminate the risk from any material misery. His tiny pinky finger held up Govardhana Hill immediately after it was worshiped. This large umbrella He created is the strongest one ever seen in the world. That same safety comes to those who take shelter of Shri Krishna through bhakti-yoga. Therefore the occasion of Govardhana Puja is celebrated annually by those who rely on the protection of the Supreme Lord, who by Himself puts an end to the cycle of birth and death.

In Closing:

For more happiness you yearn,

But know that danger at every turn.


To extract oil from the ground,

Deadly gas too can be found.


Happiness thus there is not,

Until real love you have got.


In bhakti by Shri Krishna protected,

Who Govardhana into air projected.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Diwali 2014

[Rama and Lakshmana]“O Lakshmana, this kingdom I desire only for the maintenance and happiness of my brothers. Holding my weapon, I swear on this.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 97.6)

bhrātṛiṇāṃ saṃgrahārthaṃ ca sukhārthaṃ cāpi lakṣmaṇa |
rājyamapyahamicchāmi satyenāyudhamālabhe ||

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Diwali is the popular annual holiday noted for its many lights. Spread around the home, the festive atmosphere is intended to welcome home the prince of Ayodhya. The initial event took place thousands of years ago, but since that prince is a divine figure, the celebration can be repeated every year. Indeed, through bhakti-yoga, lamps are waved in His honor on a regular basis. He is remembered and appreciated every single day of the year, but Diwali calls for a special celebration. After all, it was the time that a great injustice was finally reversed.

[Lord Rama]The prince coming home is Shri Ramachandra. He is also known as Rama, and according to the Sanskrit texts that are the Vedas, He is the Supreme Lord. God is not an old man. He is not mean, vindictive, petty, or angry. He is sach-chid-ananda, which means ever-existing, all knowledge, and all bliss. He never takes birth and He never dies. He never loses the happiness He feels. So whenever He decides to appear on earth, in whatever form He chooses, He is an ocean of mercy to those who come in contact with Him. Everyone is looking for bliss, and in Rama they find it in the highest level.

In Ayodhya the people did not know that Rama was God Himself appearing in a seemingly human form to teach so many valuable lessons. They did not need to know this. They held so much affection for Him. He was their life and soul. If someone you love dearly becomes famous, do you stop caring for them? Do you start to treat them differently? If you really care for them, their status will not matter. In a similar way, the people were not concerned with what Rama could do for them; they were rather interested in seeing Him happy.

This means that they were quite upset when He was banished from His kingdom for fourteen years. By the way, this happened on the eve of His would-be coronation. Being the eldest son of the king, Rama was the rightful heir to the throne. As is known to happen in families, jealousy arose. The king’s youngest wife wanted her son on the throne instead. Rama did not mind this. The people would have been okay with it also. But thinking the worst in Rama, the queen ordered that He be banished for fourteen years. This way Rama would not be able to act should He entertain hopes of taking the throne by force.

This was insult to injury. Rama lived for His brothers. When He first heard the news that His father was going to make Him king, Rama told His younger brother Lakshmana to share in this glory. Rama did not want any of His younger brothers to feel slighted.

“O Lakshmana, do you rule this earth with Me. You are like My second self, so this glorious opportunity has been presented to you as well. O Saumitra, do you enjoy all the pleasures you desire and the fruits of the regal life. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, 4.43-44)

[Rama and Lakshmana]When Rama was leaving, Lakshmana insisted on coming along. Rama’s wife Sita also would not stay at home. The people of Ayodhya wanted to go too, but that would have defeated the purpose. It would have created a kingdom in the forest, which would essentially nullify the exile punishment.

So the people had to wait at home. They had to endure fourteen years of knowing that their beloved prince had been wronged greatly. Bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. A sinless person like Rama should not be made to suffer for no reason. Rama’s wife Sita was equally as beloved. It was a grave injustice that the couple should not get to protect the citizens that loved them so much.

It was not surprising, then, that at the group’s return to Ayodhya the city went all out. Each home was decorated nicely. Fragrant water was sprinkled on the roads. Flags were raised and auspicious pots were placed outside the homes. The city had celebrated like this before, when Rama first came home from marrying Sita. That was a different mood, as Rama was out on business. He and Lakshmana were protecting the sage Vishvamitra in the forest. This time too they were offering protection, namely to the sages in the Dandaka forest. But still, the fourteen years should not have been spent this way, at least in the minds of the people.

Similar to how the people in Ayodhya felt at Rama’s banishment, the devoted souls of today feel it is a terrible crime to deny the existence of God. To ascribe higher importance to any path except bhakti, pure devotion, is cheating the innocent people of the world. Therefore the Vaishnava saints, who worship Rama, Vishnu, Krishna, or any other personal form of God, always profusely celebrate the divine mercy. They are not shy in discussing His teachings, His pastimes, and His greatness. To acknowledge His sovereignty over the three worlds, they loudly and regularly chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[Rama's coronation]Due to the influence of Kali Yuga, the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy caused by the darkness of ignorance and the gradual decline of righteousness, even Diwali is celebrated in a secular manner today. Even still, every lamp lit on that auspicious day pays some honor to the original celebration, the one that occurred in Ayodhya, when the rightful king of the world triumphantly returned to His home and to His adoring loving extended family.

In Closing:

Fourteen years a wait too long,

When time for righting the wrong?


Rama and Sita to rule over them meant,

Instead to the woods by Kaikeyi were sent.


Diwali celebration for their return home,

Lamps and decorations by people were shown.


Injustice too in denying God’s existence,

Thus bhakti followers chanting with persistence.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Talking About Repaying Honor

[Narasimha with Prahlada]“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Prahlada, O most pure, O great saintly person, your father has been purified, along with twenty-one forefathers in your family. Because you were born in this family, the entire dynasty has been purified.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.10.18)

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śrī-bhagavān uvāca
triḥ-saptabhiḥ pitā pūtaḥ
pitṛbhiḥ saha te ’nagha
yat sādho ’sya kule jāto
bhavān vai kula-pāvanaḥ

Girish: How are you doing, man?

Shankar: Not bad. How about yourself?

Girish: Well, everything was going fine, but then I got hit with bad news.

Shankar: Oh no. What happened?

Girish: I found out that my grandfather passed away.

Shankar: I’m so sorry to hear that. What happened?

Girish: One of those sudden things. He was really fit, too. It’s just shocking.

Shankar: I remember meeting him a few times. He was a true gentlemen.

Girish: That’s a great way to describe him. I can’t think of any sins attached to him. He was a stand-up guy, very wise, and so loving.

Shankar: They don’t make people like that anymore. In my family too, one of my grandfathers was like that. No one dared speak up to him because he commanded so much authority. It was like he never did anything wrong.

Girish: Yeah, he will be sorely missed.

Shankar: So how are you handling the situation?

Girish: I tend to go through the same pattern with these things. At first I’m a little in denial. So I don’t really change much. I don’t start crying right away. But as time goes on I start to remember more and more. Then that remembrance makes me sad. I’m in that stage right now.

Shankar: Yeah, you can’t help but think back to all that they did for you and the experiences you shared with them.

Girish: That’s precisely where I am in my head. I keep thinking of how he gave me so much and I didn’t give him back anything at all.

Shankar: That’s natural to think like that. You’re the grandson, so how much can you really do?

Girish: It really makes you think. I mean he influenced me in ways that I can’t even appreciate. He was there for me when I was younger. You know, I don’t think he ever said a negative word to me my whole life. He was always supportive. He always praised me. He gave me so much support, and yet I wasn’t very friendly with him. I’m weird like that. The people I respect the most I talk to the least, for fear of offending them.

Shankar: That makes sense. Friendship is to be made amongst equals. You know, if you really think about all that we owe other people, it’s astounding.

Girish: Yeah, and grandparents, aunts and uncles have it tougher I think. When you give love to your children, you get to see the results yourself. But the grandparents can do so much for us when we’re little, and then as life goes on they don’t see us as much. The child can very quickly forget the love that was offered, even though they enjoy the benefits. So it’s true selflessness to show such care for a young one.

[changing bodies]Shankar: Wasn’t your grandfather the one who first mentioned the Bhagavad-gita to you?

Girish: Yes. If it wasn’t for him, I likely would never have taken an interest in that book. That work which contains the highest philosophy known to man, which helps me to deal with everything in life, including death, came to me through him. You know I still have a copy of the Gita that he originally purchased in my room?

Shankar: Really?

Girish: Yes. I remember looking through it as a child and being enamored by the different pictures. Especially the one about the changing bodies. I remember thinking it was weird that you get shorter as you get older.

Shankar: If there’s any painting that will make you think, it’s that one.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Girish: And my grandfather always encouraged me in practicing bhakti-yoga. He used to give high praises to His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I realize that life is relatively easy for me, and it is due to loving family members like my grandfather. At the same time, I feel so helpless. I want to repay them, but I’m not sure how to do it.

Shankar: Yeah, and telling them how great they are only embarrasses them.

Girish: Right. I don’t need to tell them. I need to show them.

Shankar: Well, you know of Prahlada, right?

Girish: Yes, I’m somewhat familiar with his story.

Shankar: The answer to your problem lies with him.

Girish: How so?

Shankar: Prahlada had a very sinful father. That father was so bad that Krishna, the Supreme Lord, had to come Himself to deal with him. Prahlada was a young, innocent child, and so he needed protection. Though Prahlada wasn’t sorry that Krishna came and dealt with his father, the boy still asked for pardon. He was worried that his father would suffer a horrible fate in the future.

Girish: That’s a pretty great son.

Shankar: Yeah, the father Hiranyakashipu was so bad. And Krishna, in His incarnation of Narasimhadeva, told Prahlada that not only was the father liberated, but so too were twenty-one previous generations.

[Narasimhadeva killing Hiranyakashipu]Girish: That’s great. Is it because Krishna came and intervened?

Shankar: Well, there’s that but it’s also because of Prahlada himself. The boon applies to anyone who sincerely takes up devotional service, bhakti-yoga.

Girish: I see.

Shankar: So the best way to repay the kindness offered to you by your ancestors is to be Krishna conscious. Every time you chant the holy names with purity, everyone who had a role in making that consciousness happen gets a share of the reward.

Girish: I was thinking that the other day. As I was saying, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” I was thinking that so many other people helped me to find this and that they should get something for it.

Shankar: They will; don’t worry about that. Narasimhadeva guarantees it.

[Narasimhadeva]Girish: Yeah, I guess bhakti-yoga really is the best activity for the soul.

Shankar: It transcends birth and death. It makes you a better person and it pays back the honorable with supreme honor. It’s a win-win.

In Closing:

Because of grandparents love giving,

Easily in this life now living.


How that gift to them to repay?

Embarrassed when kind words to say.


Lesson from Prahlada shown,

In serving ancestors your own.


Kindness of Narasimha just see,

To liberate generations His guarantee.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Talking About A Password To The Other World

[Krishna with friends]“Conditional life is due to this contamination only, and as soon as it is cleared off, then naturally the dormant function of the living entity - rendering service to the Lord - awakens. By developing his eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord, one becomes eligible to create friendship with the devotees.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 7)

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Girish: Why is it so important to associate with the devotees?

Shankar: Because their friendship is most beneficial to you, me and everyone else.

Girish: So the association has to be in friendship?

Shankar: It doesn’t have to be, but if you’re going to have a friend, why not make it one of them?

Girish: So basically I’m looking for something from them if I intentionally decide that I want to make friends?

Shankar: That’s really the case with all friends if you think about it. It’s unpleasant to consider, but it’s undoubtedly true. Why do friendships end?

Girish: People get into fights. Some little squabble ends everything.

Shankar: Right. So the basis for the friendship is tenuous. Whatever it is you were getting out of the friendship is no longer there. Therefore the friendship ends. You’re also getting something out of the friendship with the devotees.

Girish: What exactly is that?

Shankar: You can think of it like a password or key that unlocks endless treasures. And we’re not talking limited stuff here. It’s not that if they tell you then they’ll lose out themselves. It’s not like how things work normally.

[music downloads]Girish: Oh you mean like if a friend tells me about a website allowing free downloads of a particular software, movie, or video game?

Shankar: Right. Since you are friends with them, you get access. But as the more people find out, the treasure diminishes in value. The server holding the files could buckle under the heavier load. If the website of origin didn’t intend on giving stuff away for free, they could get tipped off by the increased traffic.

Girish: Yeah. Or it could be something like with the free sodas we got from the machine in school.

Shankar: Oh, I totally forgot about that. That got out of hand real fast.

Girish: Yeah, that one kid figured out that if you press and hold down the button for the ginger ale the machine would spit out endless sodas, as many as were in the machine.

Shankar: I remember the first time you showed that to me. It was amazing.

Girish: I’m not sure if I ever told you, but one day I went down and waited for the delivery of sodas to the machine. To my surprise, the kid who told us about the trick was already there. He was going to wipe the machine dry as soon as it was loaded.

Shankar: That’s insane. But it proves my point.

Girish: Yeah, so even in that friendship there is competition.

Shankar: Not everyone will be willing to part with what they have. But anyway, if you have an earnest desire to establish a relationship with the Supreme Lord, you become eligible for making friends with those who already have that relationship.

Girish: I hear that all the time, “a relationship with God.” What does that mean exactly?

[Lord Krishna]Shankar: It means consciousness of Him. That consciousness gets strengthened by service and it also inspires future service. That consciousness controls you. That relationship is the best one to have.

Girish: Is it like an obsession? Always thinking about one particular object?

Shankar: I wouldn’t say an obsession, since you’re not lusting after something. You’re not looking to exploit. Rather, there is a greediness to serve more and more, to give more of yourself. The friendship with the devotees helps you figure out how to best accomplish that.

Girish: I see. But if it’s a friendship, isn’t it limiting? Won’t the friendship break easily?

Shankar: Of course. That’s how friendships are. But you’re getting the most out of this one. Even if you never talk to the person again, at least you have picked up something about being conscious of God. If someone inspired you to regularly chant the holy names then you’re benefitted by them even if you never see them again.

Girish: Every time you chant the maha-mantra, you’re essentially paying respect to that friendship.

Shankar: Yeah, exactly. That chanting is but one part of a complete lifestyle. From the secrets the devotees give you, you figure out a way to always think of God. You learn that hearing about God is more blissful than hearing about anyone else. You set aside time for that hearing. You understand that God is a person originally, and since He is all-attractive Krishna is a perfect name for Him. You learn that the more you give in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, the more you get out of it. You learn that giving the same gift to others, being another sincere spiritual seeker’s friend, makes you more conscious of God.

In Closing:

Relationship with friend not secure,

From single argument can break for sure.


Best if with the devotees to make,

Then valuable lessons away can take.


For being conscious of God how,

To turn life around today and now.


If even that friend to see again never,

By Krishna’s grace to be benefitted forever.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Talking About Remembering My Past Life

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The whole process of spiritual culture is aimed at changing the heart of the living being in the matter of his eternal relation with the Supreme Lord as subordinate servant, which is his eternal constitutional position.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.24 Purport)

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Girish: I got one for you today.

Shankar: You always do. Shoot.

Girish: I think I can tell the difference between people who chant regularly and those who don’t.

Shankar: What do you mean? Like people you run into on the street? You’re a clairvoyant or something?

Girish: That’s telling the future, Mr. Smarty Pants.

Shankar: Or an Iron Maiden song.

Girish: [laughing] If you’re implying that I’m a mind reader, then no. I’m talking about within devotional circles.

Shankar: So if you’re in a sat-sanga or sadhu-sanga, you can tell which people are more “sat” than the others?

Girish: I think so.

Shankar: Oh, this should be good.  Let me hear it.

Girish: The people that are really into it tend to be more peaceful. There’s this calm about them. I can’t explain it fully in words. It seems as if peace has conquered them.

Shankar: That makes sense. They say that chanting the holy names is the process for purification with the most efficacy in the present age.

Girish: Yes, I am familiar with the philosophy. Thanks for reminding me [sarcasm].

Shankar: Anytime.

Girish: On that note, I can’t help but think of myself whenever I see the transformation in these people.

Shankar: Like how you were before you took up bhakti-yoga seriously?

Girish: Yeah, exactly. Believe me, I’m no sadhu right now, and I can’t say that I’m free of faults, but I do remember how I was before.

Shankar: I’m not sure I do.

Girish: Never at peace. Specifically, I used to envy everyone. I should have been happy when good things happened to friends and people I knew, but I never was. Deep inside I was jealous. “How come they can get girls and I can’t? How come they make so much more money? They must know people.”

Shankar: I can certainly relate. It’s difficult to not be envious. I guess it’s rooted in insecurity.

Girish: Definitely. Besides envy, I was always buying things. I had my car phase. I would always check out the newest cars that would come out. Some I would dream of buying and others I would set up a strategy for how to trade up. I bought one car and then wanted another one later on.

Shankar: Yeah. There’s a reason we see so many car commercials during sports programs on television.

Girish: And then there were the technological gadgets. I never had enough. I had to have backups for everything. I had to have the best cases. From this one store online, I used to purchase things at least once a month. I would also binge-watch movies and television shows. I can’t tell you how much time I spent copying, converting and storing my DVD collection.

Shankar: How do you feel looking back on it now?

Girish: I’m so embarrassed. That’s the best word to describe it. I especially get reminded of it when I talk to others. This is why I have a hard time criticizing them. I feel so bad telling them that they’re on the wrong track. Who am I to pass judgment on them? In that time in my life, I was likely much worse than they are now.

Shankar: Well, your empathy is a sign of intelligence. It shows that you learned something from your experiences, that it helped you to understand others better.

Girish: Thanks. I need to get over this. I cringe anytime I hear harsh criticism of such people. I feel like I couldn’t do it myself. It would be hypocritical of me to say anything.

Shankar: Well, let me ask you this. How did things change for you? How did you go from being very envious to not so much?

Girish: You know the answer to that. I started reading bhakti-yoga philosophy, the science of self-realization. I started immersing myself in the bhakti culture. Most importantly, I started regularly chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

[The Science of Self-Realization]Shankar: Well, then why can’t you share those experiences with others? This way you’re not criticizing them directly. You’re merely speaking the truth by telling a story. You’re giving an account of your personal history.

Girish: Yeah, I guess I wouldn’t have a problem with that.

Shankar: That is an important point to get across to others. These teachers in the line of instruction starting from Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they all adopted the bhakti life with firm conviction due to their intelligence. And we know that intelligence gets strengthened from personal experience. Practical realization, vijnana, is as or more important than theoretical knowledge, jnana.

Girish: So you’re saying that when I explain to someone that they are not their body, that this life is meant for understanding and serving God, that I should reference my own life experiences to show to them how things can change?

Shankar: Yours or others that you know. I bet you don’t meet such peaceful people outside of sadhu-sanga, right?

Girish: I sure don’t. Or on the odd chance that I do, it is because of some relationship to God that they have, though it may be from another spiritual tradition.

Shankar: Yeah, so all those things you mentioned previously, seeking money, collecting stuff, buying things all the time - they’re all supposed to bring peace, no? Who doesn’t want peace? Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that there cannot be happiness without peace. So if others want peace, they should adopt the bhakti lifestyle.

Girish: They can’t deny that they are looking for peace. There is no doubt about it. I guess I could try that.

[Shrila Prabhupada]Shankar: Yeah, they say that example is better than precept. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada especially liked to quote that. So you are the example, even though in your humility you may not realize it. Stop being so shy and start sharing your divine self with the rest of the world.

Girish: Alright, just stop it. But I see your point. Hare Krishna.

In Closing:

From assimilating bhakti information,

Person naturally to see transformation.


Envy and hankering now gone,

Fondly God’s features to dwell upon.


Value in memory of tendencies prior,

Useful for describing bhakti’s taste higher.


From chanting in devotion regularly done,

Visibly noticeable that by peace overcome.