Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Day before yesterday was the appearance day of His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj. He is the guru of A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami. Srila Prabhupada commented on his guru as “Vaikunta man” and “simha guru”.
Those two words pretty much summed up his aura and persona. He was the fourth son of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur. He was born in Jagannath Puri in Orissa in 1874. He was a pure Vaishnav who spread the glories of Radha and Krishna worldwide. It is through him that we have ISKCON today.
Personally, I derive immense inspiration from his works and life. I remember reading one of his quotes (do not remember where I read it), he said “spiritual life starts with vairagya”, meaning we have to be determined to quit our material hankerings and be fixed in our pathway to God and for that we need vairagya. The resolute determination will certainly take us back home back to Krishna. His whole life is an inspiration for students such as me. Another point of reverence I have towards His Divine Grace is his command on modern day literature. He was not some old-fashioned swami who stumbled with modern views. He was pretty much in the system and was completely aware of its short comings.
His brilliance was showcased in many of his works but one conversation with a western scholar stands up. A Prof. Suthers from Ohio State University visited India sometime in the early 1900s (do not remember the exact date) where he interviewed His Divine Grace. The interview started with some cynicism on the part of the professor regarding the swami and Vedic culture in general. At the end of the interview, the professor was, let us put it this way, dumbfounded and flabbergasted at the length and breadth of His Divine Grace’s knowledge on western thought and Vedic science.
He was dynamic and a personification of renunciation. His disciples gave their lives for him and Srila Prabhupada is one such disciple who gave his life. I am, personally, indebted to Bhaktisiddhanta Goswami Maharaj for more ways than one.
I wish he blesses me with the mood to serve as das anu das unto all the Vaishnavas and my guru and Srila Prabhhupada!
Thank you Maharaj and Happy Birthday!
I offer my full prostrated obeisance unto your Divine Lotus Feet!
All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga!
Monday, February 25, 2008
We have to change the world.
We have to help people, we have to serve them
We have to protect the environment
We have to protect the animals
We have to preach the glories of the Lord so on and so forth
In all of the above…only one thing is repeatedly emphasized and that is the concept of “I, mine and we”. In other words, it only enhances the mentality of doership, ownership and sense of control. Maya also works in mysterious ways. While we perform “God’s” work…we are actually being roped into deeper sense of false ego and pride.
While…actually the entire universe is conducted by the Supreme Will of God, we are just puppets and instruments. We can choose to be the puppet of maya or the puppet of God. So…the so called problems of modern life such as animal slaughter, human slaughter, environmental degradation so on and so forth is but a grand plan by God to help us understand that our purpose in this life is to go back home and not try to enjoy in this wretched place. So if we just understand this…we can become serious in our journey back to Godhead.
So our purity is “to use our free will to surrender to the will of God” and what is impurity- it is “using our free will to surrender to the will of Maya”. So if we just surrender to the will of God instead of Maya…there is absolutely no struggle and everything would be just peaceful and happy.
What is God’s plan for us – to orchestrate our lives (gross and subtle) in such a way we go back home back to Godhead. Everything else we see and hear is played out by God perfectly according to time and place.
He is in full control. We just have to play our small part in it.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
One devotee asked Srila Prabhupada in a morning walk “Prabhupada, what is required from me to become Krishna Conscious?”…Prabhupada’s answer was one word “DESIRE!”
Bob Cohen from the American Peace Corp was in Mayapur in 1972 during the first Mayapur festival with the devotees and Srila Prabhupada. He had many questions regarding spiritualism and had question/answer sessions with Srila Prabhupada. These sessions were transcribed into a book called “Perfect Questions and Perfect Answers”. One of the answers given by Srila Prabhupada to a question was “first…you be convinced. You convince yourself that chanting Hare Krishna will take you back to Godhead. Then you give Krishna to others”.
These two short narrations made me think deeply about me. It was revealing to me that my DESIRE to serve Krishna is weak and my CONVICTION that the holy name is actually spiritual is also very weak. I have neither the desire nor the conviction it takes to become a devotee of Krishna with the proper etiquette and attitude.
I have been holding on to my past too long and too often. This is the biggest stumbling block in my advancement in spiritual life. I make too many plans only to get attached to them. I think too much only to get attached to my own thoughts. I give too much weight to my capabilities and incapabilities only to be proud or bitter over it. In all of this, I FAIL to do one thing – that is – surrender my thoughts, actions and words unto that Supreme Lord who is beyond all doubt and illusion, who can lift us from this mire of repeated birth and death and all suffering, and who is all transcendental and the supreme reservoir of all pleasure.
Henceforth, I beg unto that Supreme Lord to give me the DESIRE and CONVICTION to serve HIM in such a way that His representatives (i.e. the guru parampara) and the Supreme Lord Krishna Himself be pleased with my service (whatever that may be). The biggest struggle of all (it is not other people or religion or the atheists or anybody else) is to fight my own demons of false ego and pride.
Time will tell if i have won the battle or lost it!
Monday, February 18, 2008
Today is Nityananda prabhu’s appearance day. He is Baladev Himself in His pastimes with Lord Chaitanya. He is considered the original guru and hence the origin of guru-tattva. Without His mercy, it is impossible to seek the shelter of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It is through Him only are we fortunate to chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra. Srila Prabhupada is a merciful representative of Lord Nityananda prabhu!
On this special day and occasion, I would like to offer my prostrated humble obeisances unto the Lotus Feet of Lord Nityananda prabhu who is engaging this whole world in the chanting of the Holy names of Krishna.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
- atheists (including most materialistic people)
- agnostic (a skeptic of all levels)
- ritualistic follower (blind followers)
- other types of yogis
- people who pray to Demigods
- people from other religions (including who worship human beings)
- people who pray for material benefits
- caste Brahmins (for that matter any caste specific worship)
- people who believe all pathways lead to the same goal
This constitutes 99% of the world population in the subject matter of God. Hence not surprised Krishna says
bahūnāḿ janmanām ante
jñānavān māḿ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ
After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.
Also, we have to be ready when we preach; we will face a person fitting in one of the above categories. Depending on the type of person we meet we have to engage them accordingly. So the only way to make them understand about Krishna is to show them love and compassion in a genuine and sincere manner. Be tolerant and patient with them…and the rest Krishna will take care.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
It is chilly out and the rain is pouring heavily. The monsoon season has picked up this time and the rain does not stop. I am walking on the streets looking for a place to take shelter. I find one and snug under the canopy of the shelter. Sounds familiar!
It is scorching hot, about 42 deg centigrade. I am walking and can feel the heat penetrating through the soles of my footwear into the soles of my feet. I take shelter under a cool shade under a tree with mild breeze. Sounds familiar!
This is the kind of life one will encounter in humid and tropical places such as India. The rains and heat really impels one to seek shelter of some kind. Man appreciates shelter when there is a need.
Similarly, as devotees the only way to seek the mercy of Lord Krishna is when we take His shelter at every moment. Unfortunately as devotees we get into a routine of spiritual life and forget how important it is to actually take shelter of the Holy Names of Krishna. We chant as a matter of duty and forget how it is necessary to take shelter to chant properly. Why…we get into this routine…it is because we forget the need. In order to feel the need, Krishna is merciful that He puts us in difficult situations so ultimately we will take shelter of Him. Hence difficulties in our life are actually a mercy of the Lord and not otherwise.
Therefore, Queen Kunti prayed
viṣān mahāgneḥ puruṣāda-darśanād
mṛdhe mṛdhe 'neka-mahārathāstrato
drauṇy-astrataś cāsma hare 'bhirakṣitāḥ
vipadaḥ santu tāḥ śaśvat
tatra tatra jagad-guro
bhavato darśanaḿ yat syād
My dear Kṛṣṇa, Your Lordship has protected us from a poisoned cake, from a great fire, from cannibals, from the vicious assembly, from sufferings during our exile in the forest and from the battle where great generals fought. And now You have saved us from the weapon of Aśvatthāmā. I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Let us look at history of Vedic culture a bit
The Mughals invaded India somewhere around 1000 AD. They came and spread their faith through persecution and terrorism. They destroyed temples and converted people. Many people within the land of India for fear of the Muslim rule abandoned their culture and system.
Years passed, around 1500 AD, the Europeans came followed by the British around the 1600s. This invasion went on till 1947 AD. During that period, the British successfully broke the backbone of Indian culture by infusing their own western mindset of sense-gratification (in the name of religion and economic benefit). The system of education, eating habits, social customs, etc etc started to evolve based on the British mindset. In other words, the British successfully infiltrated the core values of the Vedic system and started to input their own “advanced” system. They called the Vedic culture primitive. Eating with hands and sleeping on the floor and living simply in a farm was considered primitive. They convinced people cows are meant to be eaten and tractors are to be replaced for oxen. Today we have mass slaughter houses in even in India (land where cows are considered holy). The whole system slowly started to turn upside down. They introduced tea and coffee which was never heard off before. They showed us how to play cricket and we all know what havoc it is causing to youth of today. They introduced tv, radio and the whole industrial system. One may argue what is wrong with modernization…I am not saying it is wrong but the British used these “allurements” to distract people from practicing bhakti unto the Supreme Lord. That was their main purpose, to distract people from practicing pure bhakti and embrace a western style of living so the British can be the boss from the social, economical and religious standpoint.
Slowly going to the temple became a mere ritual and social custom. People saw the deities as mere stones and everything became meaningless. The British in the course of 350 years in India successfully brainwashed five to six generations of vedic culture, propagated the idea that the perverted caste system is a product of vedic culture and successfully created the elitist groups and labor groups. They divided them both and played from both sides, the remnants which we see to this very day. Caste clashes, religious clashes etc etc are due to the efforts started by the British. The Mughals broke the physical fabric (the temples and the surrounding areas)\ the British broke the social and religious fabric. So from 1000 AD up until 1950s, the Vedic culture in the physical, social and religious sense was raped and brutalized. The people following the Vedic system no longer had faith in the system. During this time science and technology was burgeoning in other parts of the world where reality was defined based purely on gross sense perception and hence Vedic teachings became a thing of the past. School systems taught a western system of education completely devoid of spiritual values. A product of innovative science and technology is cable tv and internet. What the mughals and the British could not do in 850 odd years, the cable tv and internet did in 15 short years. Cable Tv and internet has inflamed the sexual culture of the West and today we find people of India struggling hard to ape the western way of life in every form and fashion. The media culture, movies, internet, TV, food habits, social etiquette, sports etc etc is a testimony of that fact. Everything else “Indian” is an artifact.
The bare truth is that the essence of Vedic culture (in the past 1000 odd years) has been successfully erased except for some bits and pieces lying around. What do we learn from a harsh history – if we are not resolute in our purpose, Maya will just pound us to death. It was true 1000 years before and it is still true today. The forefathers who were torch bearers of Vedic philosophy were irresolute in purpose and hence eventually we lost our original purpose. If we are not determined, reality can be a harsh reminder. So Krishna says
bahu-śākhā hy anantāś ca
Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched
So if we ever want to regain our original purity of consciousness then we have to learn from history and be fixed in practicing bhakti. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu seeing this has made everything so easy for us. Just by chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra, we can be delivered.
It is not too late yet,
If we are sincere in our quest,
Krishna will do the rest.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
The first and foremost principle towards search for God is open-mindedness. If we bring our previous conditioning in deciphering knowledge, we will be (no doubt) misled. Therefore, just like any objective scientist – we should not bring in our own values while getting to know the subject matter of God (for that matter any field of knowledge). So with an open mind we have to approach this knowledge.
So with this open mindedness let us read further
Any research into any subject matter requires a strong methodology (depending on time and resources). Before we determine a research methodology, we need to understand the nature of the problem we confront. In other words we have to do a literature review of that subject we would like to enquire more. So in the subject matter of God, we need to know some basic rules.
God by definition means the supreme authority (just as sugar is sugary because of its sweet taste). For example, if there is beauty on this earth, then by definition of supremacy, God should be the most beautiful. Like this, we can define the position of God as most knowledgeable, most powerful, most wealthy, most renounced and most strong. Like this, there are many qualities that God should possess in full if we accept that God is the supreme authority. This automatically puts God in a position that no human mind or intellect can comprehend simply because of His supreme position. In other words, since God is the supreme authority, God by definition is in a position that is so up, beyond and above us. God is supremely independent that He can do what He wants when He wants it. With this preliminary understanding we have to approach the science of God.
click the above picture for an enlarged view
The reason I compared human with God is because human beings are trying to ascertain God so from our vantage point we need to establish the relationship between the two.
One thing is very clear, just by the plain definition of God (supreme authority); we can safely conclude that God is transcendental to mundane reality (in which we humans live).
So the first question we should ask ourselves is what method of scientific enquiry will work to understand God properly. Obviously He is beyond any human interpretation and therefore trying to incorporate commonly practiced scientific methods will NEVER work in our quest for God.
As common citizens of any country, one can never know the inner movements of the president of that country. In other words, for security purposes and by the free choice of the president, we can never know the full schedule of the highest authority of the state. However, the closest aid of the president will surely know the movements. So if we somehow know the closest aid, then from him/her we can confidentially understand the inner dealings of the president. This is a valid scientific method we use in qualitative research such as in the field of sociology or observational type research (non-experimental research); surveying and collecting data from key informants will help inform the nature of the problem. Using this technique, we have to search for that informant who will reveal to us the nature of God proper. In Sanskrit, we call this informant – Guru or spiritual teacher/master.
Just as in modern scientific qualitative research where we follow proper protocols to survey an informant similarly there are certain protocols to follow when we survey a Guru. Krishna Himself reveals that protocol
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaḿ
BG ch 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 souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.
To the degree we realize the above statement; to that degree we can realize God. But unfortunately in today’s world we do not care to love God, we only use God as our order carrier and hence go to temple, church, synagogue or mosque just to make sure we maintain our current assets (gross or subtle) and desire for more (gross or subtle). In other words, in today’s definition, God/religion is nothing but an extension of our own false-ego and nothing else. As long as we approach God with this mentality, rest assured we can never know Him and what to speak of loving Him. Hence it is very very important to follow the above protocol of proper enquiry only then can we gain the knowledge of transcendence.
One thing is for sure, if we go back in time to the list of informants, there should have been the first informant (Guru) to whom God revealed Himself. The first informant (Guru) transfers the knowledge to informants after Him and so on and so forth. This is one way to test the authenticity of the current informant (Guru) is to see if he/she follows a disciplic succession starting from God Himself.
What is that knowledge we are looking for from Guru?
1.What is our relationship with God (sambandha)
2.What is the process of establishing that relationship (abedheya)
3.What is the use/result of that relationship (prayojan)
Many people have many dealings with God for many reasons but the ultimate purpose to know God is to love Him without any personal motivations and without interruptions. Just as our highest dealing with the people we care about is to show love, our dealing with God should be to love Him unconditionally and any religion that teaches us to love God unconditionally is true religion.
sa vai puḿsāḿ paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.
Friday, February 1, 2008
A. There is a common misconception in India and in the west about caste system. The current caste system in India evolved over a period of time due to selfish exploitative mentality of the bureaucratic set up. It has no basis in the Vedic scriptures as per taught by our authoritative sources.
Krishna clearly states
cātur-varṇyaḿ mayā sṛṣṭaḿ
tasya kartāram api māḿ
viddhy akartāram avyayam
“According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable”
So depending on guna (quality) and karma (fruitive work) we fall in the mode of goodness or passion or ignorance. Since we have to work to maintain ourselves, we work depending on the type of mode we are situated in. Hence Krishna has created the four divisions (4 varnas and 4 ashramas) to facilitate for this disparity in guna and karma. It has nothing to do with the current day caste system where the four basic varnas has been extrapolated to hundreds of castes.