Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Monday, October 28, 2013

Subtleties of religion

The scriptures such as the Puranas and Itihasas were written for mankind to follow the righteous path of Dharma free from vice thus gradually purifying one's heart of material desires. Even in the Judeo-Christian traditions, there are codes of morality given for mankind.

Despite abundant instructions on truth, justice and spiritual values in the scriptures, still, more than any sphere of existence today - the religious sphere encompasses violence and hatred. Why? The conclusion we can come to is in the interpretation of religion and not with religion itself. When a man with imperfections study and speak from scriptures it will only manifest in imperfections. Imperfections in the extreme sense can result in fanaticism. Therefore it is imperative that we seek guidance from a perfect person who is free from doubt. illusion and envy.

During the Kurukshetra war, there was an incident where Karna completely vanquished King Yudhistira in battle.  Karna did not kill King Yudhistira because of his promise to Queen Kunti. Retreating to his tent, Yudhistira was given medical treatment. At this time, Arjuna and Krishna entered the tent to check for Yudhistira's safety. Seeing Arjuna in the tent not avenging Karna made Yudhistira angry. He criticized Arjuna to give up his Gandiva and insulted him. As a kshatriya, insult is worse than death. Arjuna famous for keeping his vows had a vow that whoever tells him to give up his Gandiva will be killed. Seeing his predicament between fulfilling his vow and killing his brother, he turned to Krishna.

Krishna, in his response was shocked that Arjuna even considered killing his brother. Finally, Krishna had this to say to Arjuna about upholding religious vows "O Pārtha, your vow was made out of childishness. Now hear from me about the higher principles of religion....morality cannot be ascertained by logic, nor even in every case by a study of the scripture. One must seek the guidance of experienced and wise elders to learn its subtleties. All this I have heard from the ṛṣis, O Pārtha"

His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada is one such rsi or saintly person- If we submissively study his books, listen to his lectures and practice his instructions,  then we also will understand the subtleties of religion beyond logic and study of scripture.

Hare Krishna

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Meaning of Initiation

In life, always, there are two things (1) form and (2) substance. In other words form represents the external act or ritual and substance represents the inner meaning behind it. Ideally the inner meaning should drive the external word, act or ritual. Otherwise the act in itself has little meaning.

Today in ISKCON, whatever little I have seen, initiation is taken seriously by aspiring devotees only up to when they get it. Of course, I don’t want to generalize but there is this tendency also among devotees today. They practice Krishna consciousness seriously to the point of initiation and then after initiation, spiritual life becomes hackneyed. But real spiritual life begins after initiation. Also, I have seen initiation is seen as a social status symbol within ISKCON and devotees have a sense of air around them. Such behavior actually is contradictory to the inner meaning of initiation.

Once initiated, the devotee actually must become more humble and tolerant and in fact aspire to seriously take the position of servant of the servant even if it is difficult. But initiated devotees (even so called senior devotees) lack the mental discipline to reject all forms of adoration, profit and distinction (materialistic qualities) thus beginning the road for downfall. So yes initiation is a serious commitment externally to practice our sadhana and internally to remain humble servants in the hands of Guru and Krishna.

Below is a transcript from a lecture about initiation given by H.H.Radhanath Swami. He captures the idea very nicely.

We should know that initiation in itself doesn't mean anything. Real initiation does not mean getting a name, sitting in front of a fire, and throwing some grains in the fire. That is not initiation. There are many people who get initiated who never got initiated…not really! It’s not something cheap. But in Kali Yuga everyone wants something cheap. 

Prabhupada said don’t try to keep your guru like your dog. Don’t think your guru is just a picture to put on the wall and say this is my guru. It’s the way most people are. What does initiation mean? It means the willingness to surrender your life to following the instructions of the guru. If you are not willing to do that, initiation is a farce. It means nothing. Then we should never encourage anyone to get initiated unless they are living a life sincerely to follow the instructions. It is better to remain a congregational devotee without an initiation. 

Getting initiated means following the four regulative principles strictly, if you are not following the four regulative principles strictly in this sampradaya and get initiated, it is a farce. It means nothing. If you are not willing to chant 16 rounds everyday it’s a farce! It means nothing! It’s a show bottle! It’s nonsense! We are not concerned with such show bottle nonsense cheap things. We are concerned something with substance. You are not going to back to Godhead because you are initiated. You are going back to Godhead because you surrendered to Krishna through surrendering to his pure devotees through the parampara and part of the process of that surrender is to accept initiation but it is not the end of itself. 

To initiate means to begin - its beginning a higher realm of surrender if you do it right. If you don’t do it right it does not mean anything. If you are not willing to put your own ego aside to hear from the words of your guru and follow, then forget about initiation. 

Initiation means a formal vow that I am going to put my ego aside and I am going to humbly follow you throughout my life with faith and if someone is actually living according to that principle then he will make real spiritual advancement and whatever spiritual advancement you make all of those connected to you will share the benefits from your spiritual advancement and eventually you will become a pure devotee – definitely! And at that time all of your descendants and all of your forefathers will be liberated for so many generations.  

- H.H.Radhanath Swami, lecture - Uttara Mother In Krishna Consciousness

Hare Krishna

Friday, October 4, 2013

Giving gifts to God

There was a time in ancient India when man spent his surplus wealth in serving the Deity form of God. God is omnipotent and hence the belief is that He resides in His Deity form to show mercy and compassion to His devotees. In reciprocation to God's love, devotees show their love by dedicating whatever they get as surplus in service to Him. This relationship of expression of love of giving gifts to God was the hallmark/essence of vedic customs, rites and rituals. Thus the fully satisfied man was a good steward of fellow living beings and nature. In such an enriched environment, there was no poverty, crime, exploitation, animal slaughter, greed, lust, pride etc - things we take for common today was not even heard of in ancient vedic culture.

Remnants of such culture can be seen even today where pious Hindus give gifts to the Deity form of the Lord. While the external rituals remain, the inner meaning of love is lost. Unless we revive our inner feelings of love for God we will not be satisfied in life. We will not be good stewards of fellow beings and nature. Our hearts will only be filled with exploitative tendencies of greed, lust, fear etc.

Feeding the poor, building orphanages or schools or hospitals might be the band-aid solution to solving social ills but the root cause solution is to clean the ecology of our own hearts from materialistic tendencies of greed, lust, pride, fear etc.

I will end this post in the spirit of Gandhi's birthday reminding us of his words - “Be the change that you wish to see in this world". The change within us can come about only if we revive our original culture of giving our surplus to God in an exchange of unmotivated gratitude, devotion and love.

Hare Krishna