Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL

Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL
Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL (Personal Deities)

25 October 2007

Krsna Consciousness Can Teach You How To Think Critically -- Or Would You Rather Vegetate?

In this world the real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Greed is their God. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners, capitalists. They own you. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the US Senate, the US Congress, the state houses, the city halls, the judges, not only in the USA but internationally as well. And they own all the big media companies so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear. They spend billions every year lobbying to get what they want. Well we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everyone else. They don't care about spiritual emancipation. They have effectively sidelined real religion. They don't believe in the soul. They don't believe in life after death. They may say they do but they don't. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people. That’s against their interests. They want obedient workers, slavish consumers. Where do you stand?

11 October 2007

Some thoughts on Dharma

Religion means that we are servants. Otherwise, how can Krsna or God demand that we surrender to Him? Therefore the proper term for religion is dharma or the living entity’s inherent quality. Every living entity in whatever form is dependent, no one is independent. The common understanding of religion is faith, but faith can change whereas dharma or being dependent on Krsna is an unchangeable fact, i.e. not something introduced at a particular time.

Eternal religious truths are contained in the Vedas. Veda means fact and it is apauresam or not postulated, manufactured, concocted or cooked up at some point in time to serve some transient idea. It is reality, fixed and unchangeable. Unfortunately, and reprehensibly, all main line religions (including Hinduism) have a history of self-service, when the real purpose of the religion as originally taught by its prophets and acaryas has been perverted to support the institutional structure around it. Or, the essence has gone and most thinking people aren't such fools that they haven’t noticed.

Now, why does this remind me of an institution I was once so proud to belong to?

02 October 2007

On YouTube

On the second and fourth Saturdays of the month I hold a Bhagavad Gita Forum at Karunika, a cultural spiritual initiative in the center of Amsterdam. Last week a Dutch documentary maker filmed the event. He called me this evening to say that he had put the chanting part of my presentation on YouTube under the name Ananda Svarup. For those of you who like devotional music here is the link:

Accompanied by my acoustic guitar I 'm chanting the concluding verses from the Gita (Ch. 18.61-66), verses that have made a difference to my life and which mean more to me than I can properly express. It's not only about music, it's about feeling, appreciation and the tiny, very,very tiny beginning of love.

24 September 2007

Sharing Some Thoughts with a Friend

Dear X,

The Truth being the authority is simply a way of saying not to trust too readily just anyone who may have the external trappings of authority, spiritual or otherwise. Power, money, politics and diplomacy are the ways of the material world. isvarah sarva bhutnam hrd deshe 'rjuna tisthati... tam eva saranam gaccha sarva bhavena bharata (Bg. 18.61 and 62). Lord Krsna gave you a brain and a heart so don't vegetate, use them in His service and trust no one who does not speak and act exactly from sastra AND previous authority. Ultimately our tiny insect-like lives are not that serious. Me, I just like to make people, and especially devotees, think for themselves. Not all do. But even if a few do it, that will be a great victory for truth. Study Prabhupada's books deeply and don't be allured by nice stories, fancy acts and propaganda. Just because you noticed some emotions in me when I chanted my japa does not make me anything special. Plenty of drama actors can cry real tears and show very believable emotions at will.

You are a good boy X and I like you and have genuine affection for you. So, be blessed and in this life please wrap up this miserable existence in the material world. Be yourself, don't aspire to imitate anyone, ever great preachers. Devotee means no independent desire.

"Whatever You want of me, my Lord, let that be."

That is the path of freedom from fear.

Your aspiring servant always,


Advanced? Who is advanced?

Who is actually advanced in devotional service? That’s a tricky question. The pat and often heard answer goes something like this, “I am lower than a worm in stool and if someone hears my name he will go to hell...” and so on and so forth — that is a very popular line promoted by kanisthas for kanisthas. That answer is cheap imitation of great souls like Krsnadas Kaviraj Gosvami who wrote it in Caitanya Caritamrita. So, let's consider the circumstances under which it was written. Krsnadas Kaviraj is an eternal associate of the Lord and he expressed those feelings writing under the personal auspices and request of the Gosvamis in Vrindavana having been sent there by the direct order of Lord Nityananda in a dream who told him, “O My dear Krsnadas, do not be afraid, go to Vrindavana for there you will attain all things.” And off he went the very next morning, an old man on foot all the way from Bengal to Vrindavana -- but his heart brimming over with love of Krsna. Because that love is so overwhelming, so unimaginable and utterly undeserved, and because Krsna’s extraordinary beauty moves like huge waves in an ocean knocking one repeatedly head over heels, experiencing such great fortune one perforce feels totally undeserving, humble and small. Thus, speaking of humility, that’s the real deal. It is unthinkable and offensive to pretend to be on that level. And anyone who does so is a cheater, a rascal. Avoid his association like the plague.

kanistha = a devotee on the beginning platform of devotion, overly concerned with the external rituals and accouterments of spiritual life and unable to properly evaluate real spiritual advancement.

21 September 2007

Some Thoughtful Words from Srila Prabhupada

"Why this Gaudiya Matha failed? Because they tried to become more than guru. He, before passing away, he gave all direction and never said that 'This man should be the next acharya.’ But these people, just after his passing away they began to fight, who shall be acharya. That is the failure. They never thought, 'Why Guru Maharaja gave us instruction so many things, why he did not say that this man should be acharya?’ They wanted to create artificially somebody acharya and everything failed. They did not consider even with common sense that if Guru Maharaja wanted to appoint somebody as acharya, why did he not say? He said so many things, and this point he missed? The real point? And they insist upon it.They declared some unfit person to become acharya. Then another man came, then another, acharya, another acharya. So better remain a foolish person perpetually to be directed by Guru Maharaja. That is perfection." (Srila Prabhupada Room Conversation,16 August 1976, Bombay)

19 September 2007

Radhastami -- The Auspicious Appearance Day of Srimati Radharani

"Even though tightly embraced by Rukminidevi in a jeweled palace in Dvaraka on the shore of the ocean, Krsna, remembering the fragrance of Radharani's transcendental presence within a grove on the enchanting banks of the Yamuna river, suddenly fainted." (Ujjvala Nilamani, by Rupa Gosvami)

Rukminidevi = Krsna's chief queen in Dvaraka
Dvaraka = Krsna's capital city on the shore of the Western Indian Ocean
Yamuna river = Situated in Vrndavana where Krsna manifested His most intimate loving pastimes

11 September 2007

A poetic offering to my Guru

Vyasa Puja Offering to Srila Prabhupada 2007

1. The mercy you bestow is beyond compare.You make the impossible possible and you stand alone as the supreme patita pavana.
2. In your presence all sins take flight. By your mercy the most sinful are purified. How can anyone compare with you?
3. Bathing in the Ganges and similar rituals purify only after prolonged practice. But in a moment, just by your glance, the heart is cleansed.
4. The chanting of the holy name excuses even a direct offender to the supreme Lord Krsna. But to offend you is certain spiritual suicide.
5. Packed safely within your heart Krsna came to the West. From that residence He spoke, He wrote, He taught, He sang, He cooked -- all through you.
6. Spiritual choices sweetly beckon me to Krsna's side -- frolic and play in Gokula, love and fight in Dvaraka, chant and dance in Navadvipa? What do I want? Sincerely, all I want is to become worthy to be with you, life after life.

Your insignificant servant

Ananda Svarupa dasa

patita pavana = one who can purify the fallen souls.
Goloka = Krsna's intimate abode where He plays as a cowherd boy.
Dvaraka = Krsna's capital city where He reigns a warrior king.
Navadvipa = Where Krsna appeared as Caitanya Mahaprabhu to teach the chanting of His holy names as the principal religious principle for the current era.


20 June 2007

The Beauty of the Gita part I


Summary Study of Chapter 1

Verse 1

One will find in the Bhagavad-gita all that is contained in other scriptures, but the reader will also find things which are not to be found elsewhere. That is the specific standard of the Gita. It is the perfect theistic science because it is directly spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord sri Krsna.

The word dharma-ksetra (a place where religious rituals are performed) is significant because, on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was present on the side of His friend Arjuna. Kuruksetra was formerly known as Samanta-pancaka because there Lord Parasurama filled five lakes with the blood of 21 generations of ksatriyas (royal warriors) whom he killed. Later King Kuru performed austerities there and it thus became known as Kuruksetra.

Because the battle was arranged to be fought at Kuruksetra, which is mentioned elsewhere in the Vedas as a place of worship even for the denizens of heaven, Dhrtarastra, the father of the Kurus, became very fearful about the influence of the holy place on the outcome of the battle. He knew very well that this would influence Arjuna and the sons of Pandu favorably, because by nature they were all virtuous.

Another important word here is mamakah which means “my party”. Actually we all belong to Krsna and there is no “my” anything. Although conditioned souls may forget this and under maya’s spell will identify with family and loved ones, this is not acceptable from the executive head or king whose duty is to guide his subjects away from illusion. If the government is in illusion what hope is there for the subjects? The first qualification of government or king is that they represent God. God has given them the power over the citizens so they can uplift them, not exploit them. Thus, to rectify this situation Krsna engineered the battle of Kuruksetra. dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge , “To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium”. (Bg 4.8).

Verse 9

Here Duryodhana uses the words: mad-arthe tyakta-jivitah or “prepared to lay down their lives for my sake “. Although Duryodhana is speaking from the platform of false ego, his words turn out to be an inderect prophesy as Krsna confirms in the eleventh chapter, mayaivaite nihatah purvam eva , or, “they are already put to death by My arrangement”.

Verses 39, 40 & 41

(often quoted by srila Prabhupada in his lectures and writings)

These three verses contain Arjuna’s first argument against fighting. He says: if we kill all the men of the ruling class (ksatriyas ) then the women will be unprotected.

When women are not protected they will be exploited. The vedic system of family samskara (religious tradition) will stop. This refers chiefly to garbhadhana-samskara or the process of producing good progeny. Arjuna: strisu dustasu varsneya jayate varna-sankarah , “From the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vrsni (Krsna) , comes unwanted population”. Good population in human society is the basic principle for peace, prosperity and spiritual progress in life.

In the varnasrama institution there are many principles of religious traditions to help members of the family grow properly and attain spiritual values. The elder members are responsible for for such purifying processes in the family, beginning from birth to death. If the elder members of the family are slain, the younger ones may, lacking good example, neglect their samskaras and develop irreligious habits thus losing their chance in human life of attaining salvation.

Why was this Arjuna’s first concern? Because he was leader of men who understood his duty as a member of the royal order very well. What are the duties and qualities of a ksatriya?

Some of the prominent personalities mentioned in the first chapter

Duryodhana: Eldest son of Dhrtarastra. Determined enemy of the Pandavas having usurped the throne.
Dronacarya: Martial arts teacher of the princes, both Kurus and Pandavas.
Dhrstadyumna: Son of Drupada and born (along with his sister Draupadi) from sacrificial fire. Drupada prayed for a son to kill Dronacarya.
Bhima and Arjuna: Second and third Pandava brothers. Bhima is the son of Vayu the demigod of wind and Arjuna of Indra, king of the heavenly planets.
Yuyudhana: Also known as Satyaki. A Yadava. He was an amsa (empowered portion) of the Maruts, demigods of wind.
Virata: King of Matsya where the Pandavas spent their last year of exile incognito. His daughter Uttara married Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna and Subhadra.
Drupada: King of Pancala. enemy of Dronacarya.
Dhrstaketu: King of Cedi. Son of Sisupala (who was killed by Krsna in the royal assembly of Yudhisthira’s Rajasuya sacrifice). Killed by Drona.
Cekitana: Famous archer of the Vrsni dynasty. Killed by Duryodhana.
Kasiraja: Son of the king of Benares who was installed as monarch after Krsna killed his father.
Purujit: Son of Kuntibhoja and stepbrother of Kunti.
Kuntibhoja: A king in the Yadu dynasty. Cousin of Vasudeva. Foster father of Vasudeva’s sister Kunti. Therefore Kunti is Krsna’s aunt.
Saibya: Great archer. Fought on the side of Duryodhana.
Yudhamanyu: Prince of Pancalas. He was Arjuna’s bodyguard. Killed by Asvatthama.
Uttamauja: Guard of Arjuna’s right chariot wheel. Killed by Asvatthama.
Saubhadrah: Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna and Subhadra. A maharati car warrior almost as good as his father. He is the son of the moon god, Candra. Killed by the combined effort of the Kuru’s maharatis.
Draupadeyas: The five sons of Draupadi: Prativindya (by Yudhisthira), Srutasoma (by Bhima), Srutakirti (by Arjuna), Satanika (by Nakula), Srutakarma (by Sahadeva).
Bhisma: Son of Gangadevi. The paternal grandfather of the princes.
Karna: Secret son of Surya the sun god and Kunti. Adopted by the suta (charioteer, lower caste than ksatriya) Radheya.
Krpa: along with Dronacarya he was the martial arts teacher of the Kuru and Pandava princes.
Asvatthama: Son of Dronacarta by Kripi, the sister of Krpacarya. Fanatic follower of Duryodhana. When the war was lost he unleashed the Brahmastra weapon to try to end end the Pandava dynasty. He was captured and then pardoned by Arjuna at the insistence of Draupadi.
Vikarna: One of Duryodhana’s one hundred brothers and one of the eleven maharatas among them.
Saumadatti: Known as Bhurisrava . Son of the king of the Bahlikas . Fought on Duryodhana’s side.
Sikhandi: He was Amba (princess of Kasi) reborn to cause the death of Bhisma.
Jayadratha: King of Sindh. Married Dussala (Duryodhana’s sister). Kidnapped Draupadi and for this was humiliated by Arjuna who shaved off his hair and mustache and dragged him in front of all the assembled kings and made him swear allegiance to his brother, King Yudhisthira.
Krtavarma: Born in the Vrsni dynasty. Friend of Arjuna.
Salya: King of Madras. Brother of Madri (one of the two mothers of the Pandavas). He was to fight on the Pandavas’ side but was diplomatically ensnared by Duryodhana to join his side instead.

14 June 2007

By way of introduction... a Travelogue

Some notes on the Vedas - their importance to life and love in South India

Tiruchendur, 20 February '06

After three weeks at the foothills of the Western Ghat mountains that separate Tamil Nadu from Kerala, I have moved to a new ashram by the sea at Tiruchendur. I am in a small village well outside the city and 5 minutes from the beach. Kulashekaram Pattinam, the village, is named after the renowned king of Travancore (modern day Trivandrum the capital of Kerala) and is set in a natural harbor. From this harbor Indian navigators sailed to Lanka and further to the Far East to trade their spices such as cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and pepper as well as jaggery (natural brown sugar), dried coconut, cashews and almonds. This was around 3000 BC (yes, that's five thousand years ago). Modern anthropologists, followers of Darwin's theory, do not accept that there was civilized life on this planet at that time, but Vedic written and, most important, oral and cultural tradition, speaks of spiritually evolved society going back millions of years.

Indian books of knowledge are called Vedas and include the Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva vedas which deal mainly with the mantras (chants) and methodology of performing sacrificial rites usually aimed at the demigods like Surya (sun), Candra (moon), Indra (rain), Siva, Durga and so on with the aim of assuring material prosperity. This primary driving force for religious rites is called artha, or material development aimed at kama, or satisfaction of the senses. The supply of light and heat, rain and so on is out of our hands so why not worship the powers that supply these necessities? Something like, if you don't pay your electricity and water bills the supply will be cut off. The majority of people are happy with this. Let our necessities be given and let us enjoy in unobstructed ignorance of our spiritual identity. They forget that cruel death is waiting in the wings to end their part in this illusory stage play. We will be kicked out and it seems madness to me to arrive at that point without having made a concentrated effort to discover who am I really? What am I doing here? Where will I go? Can my action determine the outcome? The convention is to tag these questions as imponderables, but the Vedas very much beg to differ. Therefore there is another, deeper, section of the Vedas comprising of the Vedanta, Upanishads, Puranas and Itihasas (Ramayana and Mahabharata). This section deals with our spiritual identity and how to revive our lost, loving relationship with our creator. The Vedic version is clear: the only absolute reality is the soul, atma, and its relationship with the supreme soul, paramatma. Everything else is but a passing show -- life after life.

But lets get back to the king. Maharaja Kulashekhara was born into the Sera dynasty of the royal family of Travancore, the southern half of the modern state of Kerala, in southwest India. The rulers of the land did not claim to own the kingdom but considered themselves vassals and ministers to Ananta Padmanabha Swami, the Deity of Visnu, whom they regarded as the actual owner of the land. Ananta Padmanabha, situated at Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), was, and still is, the worshipable Deity of the people of that area. The kings of Travancore would come daily before the Lord to offer obeisances and report on the administration of the country. (The tradition of the Maharaja of Travancore’s visiting Lord Ananta Padmanabha Swami goes on to the present day, even though the king has no real political power.) Such was the pious and saintly quality of the ancient line of Vedic kings among whom Maharaja Kulashekhara appeared. Kulashekhara was a ksatriya (ruler and military man) of great prowess and became king not only of the Sera lands but also of the neighboring lands of the Pandya and Chola dynasties. His flawless administration stood for peace, virtue, justice, and happiness. He nourished the people, and he personified magnanimity.

Sometime in the middle of his rule, he had a spiritual vision and renounced the throne, moved to the holy place of Sri Rangam and dedicated his life to spiritual cultivation. He is famous throughout India for writing the Mukunda Mala Stotram, a garland of verses to Krishna, the giver of liberation. A sampler:

“I have no attraction for performing religious rituals or holding any earthly kingdom. I do not care for sense enjoyments; let them appear and disappear in accordance with my previous deeds. My only desire is to be fixed in devotional service to the lotus feet of the Lord, even though I may continue to take birth here life after life.”

“My Lord, I do not worship You to be liberated from this material entanglement, nor do I wish to save myself from the hellish condition of material existence, nor do I pray for a beautiful wife to enjoy in a nice garden. I wish only that I may always be in full ecstasy with the pleasure of serving Your Lordship.”

"The desert of material existence has exhausted me. But today I will cast aside all troubles by diving into the lake of Lord Hari (Krishna) and drinking freely of the abundant waters of His splendor. The lotuses in that lake are His hands and feet, and the fish are His brilliant shining eyes. That lake's water relieves all fatigue and is agitated by the waves His arms create. Its current flows deep beyond fathoming."

With affection,