Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL

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

20 April 2008

Why I write

Why do I write? I write because Srila Prabhupada expressly advised his disciples to do so. Why? One reason is that writing is a natural reflection of one's inner realization. Any fool can be considered spiritually advanced until he opens his mouth or, even more irreversibly, when he puts pen to paper. In any case, writing is a natural manifestation of any devotee who has genuine vijnana or wisdom. It is impossible to be silent when Krsna speaks through you. The reason for my blog and other writings is to share my thoughts and experience with my friends and students who participate in my Sat Sangs. Younger devotees are inquisitive and I try to provide some ideas to help them become independently thoughtful and competent in knowledge and action.

The material world is full of problems. Spiritual progress and material needs can go along peacefully side by side like the two parallel lines of a railway track. But not always. Sometimes there are disturbances and that should not be surprising. Thus, Krsna many times advises in Bhagavad-gita to be equal in all circumstances, in honor and dishonor, success or failure and so on (Bg 14.24, 16.3, 17.18, 2.38). Why does He advise us this way? Because the nature of the material world is that there will be dishonor, there will be lack of acceptance due to envious people and, of course, our old bad habits and karma coming from many, many previous lives will tap us on our shoulder until we have fully dealt with them. Material existence is padam padam hi vipadam na tesam (Bhag. 10.14.58), dangerous at every step. Notwithstanding the dangerous nature of this material jungle, because we are living in it, an important prerequisite to progress is to appreciate that Krsna’s plan is behind all things and thus there is no need be unnecessarily critical nor approving. In fact, mindless approval and visceral criticism are counterproductive. Each and every living entity is unique, there are no two alike and each one has the potential to offer unique love and pleasure to Krsna. Since there are unlimited living entities it is logical to see this as one way that Krsna enjoys unlimitedly. Because of this inclination to enjoy, every living entity is very dear to the Lord who is sitting in the heart waiting for that unique and as yet undiscovered loving reciprocation, raso vai sah (Taittiriya Up 2.7.1), He is all love and love is all to Him. The devotees who have begun the process of uniquely loving Krsna are personally nurtured by Him to come to newer and newer levels of loving exchanges. He specifically and personally takes care of them in proportion to their willingness to be trained, ye yatha mam prapadyante (Bg 4.11). Even if a devotee, due to past habits, makes some mistakes, we must know that Krsna Himself will take care of him or her in a better way then we can imagine or judge. Also, although we may not like what a devotee is doing, or his or her actions may be contrary to accepted morality, nonetheless Krsna may be satisfied with that devotion, api cet suduracaro (Bg 9.30). After all, who is in control?

12 April 2008

Sat-sanga -- Using Discrimination To Find the Truth

Discrimination is the best part of valor." Simply we have to learn how to discriminate whether we are working on material platform or on the spiritual platform. That's all. Just like Arjuna. Arjuna was being advised to work on the spiritual platform. That's all. The whole instruction of Bhagavad-gita is based on this principle, that Arjuna was perplexed with material thoughts. And Lord Krsna wanted to pose him, or to place him in the spiritual platform. That's all. So now, from Arjuna's activity, you can understand that what is spiritual platform and what is material platform.(Srila Prabhupada, NY, April 5, 1966)

The role of sat-sanga is to highlight the patterns that keep us on the material rather than the transcendental platform. The difference between the two is simple. The first is characterized by a subjective reaction to events. The second by understanding that, as pure spirits, no external event has any bearing on us. Naturally there is a huge gap between the two perceptions. Nonetheless, understanding the theory is an essential step on the journey to enlightenment. For example, we all experience rejection, and that can be very painful. As a young man I became suicidal over the loss of a long time lover. It took me years to overcome that loss and the pattern kept repeating itself in other failed relationships. Finally I figured out that the amount of loss I experienced was directly connected to the misunderstanding of myself as a spiritual being. In other words, the amount of suffering was directly proportional to my ignorance of my spiritual nature. The best part of my discovery was its possible and practical application to every day life. This is spirituality. Practical and applicable. Not some debatable promise of distant perfection or, even worse, extorted present payments on an after-life insurance policy.

In the next few posts I will try to explore how Prabhupada’s presentation of Krsna’s advice on discrimination can be understood and applied to immense benefit here and now, in our daily struggle for meaningful existence. Stay tuned!

08 April 2008

Our Six Demons and How to Deal With Them

It is sometimes very hard to know how to deal with deep emotions. Of these six: kama (lust), krodha (anger) lobha (greed), moha (bewilderment), mada (madness) and matsarya (envy), only envy must be ruthlessly uprooted from a devotee's heart. The other five, according to Narottama Dasa Thakur, must be dovetailed. He gives the following examples on how to do it: Lust by offering the results of my activities to Krsna. Anger by directing it to the enemies of the devotees. Greed by eagerness to hear Krsna-katha. Bewilderment by acknowledging my frustrating inability to quickly attain Krsna. Madness when I glorify the limitless beauty and sweet unpredictability of Krsna.

An important point to consider is that the above dosas (faults) are best mitigated according to a devotee’s position. Subjectively speaking, because I am an old man and have been around ISKCON since Srila Prabhupada’s time, my anger has a tendency to be directed at the many ways I see his legacy being misused and corrupted. I am not saying this is the best way and in fact often it isn't. Even for old geezers like me. I certainly would not recommend it for younger devotees. Anger is very dangerous and best to avoid it unless Krsna directs one like He did Arjuna or Mahaprabhu showed with Jagai and Madhai. So, I would be very, very careful if anger comes up too often.

That does not mean that under the guise of anger we should throw out truth. No. Truth is truth and nothing can change that. We may not be able to do much about it for whatever reason but as devotees we cannot live a lie. It is just not possible to lie or condone a lie and at the same time be a devotee.

02 April 2008

Mission Critical

(The) Krishna Consciousness Movement is for training men to be independently thoughtful and competent in all types of departments of knowledge and action, not for making bureaucracy. Once there is bureaucracy the whole thing will be spoiled. There must be always individual striving and work and responsibility, competitive spirit, not that one shall dominate and distribute benefits to the others and they do nothing but beg from you and you provide. No. (Srila Prabhupada, Bombay, 1972)

This is a mission critical instruction from Srila Prabhupada. Genuine spiritual life is never from the top down. Never impersonal. Never bureaucratic. Never dogmatic. According to Rupa Gosvami the Krsna Consciousness movement is not nyamagraha or organized solely around the rules. Rules are important up to a point but more important are the reasons behind the rules. We must always remember how liberal Krsna is in His dealings with His children and thus understand that no brother or sister can overstep the mood and desire of the father. That is, if you want to keep the family together. This begs the question: what happened to Prabhupada’s family? Why is its decimation since 1977 never discussed in any meaningful manner? At the time of Srila Prabhupada's departure there must have been upward to 2000 of his dedicated disciples active in ISKCON (perhaps someone can supply a more exact figure). What happened to them? Why did the overwhelming majority of them leave? Is no one responsible? Can we have leadership without responsibility? These are important question that need to be discussed. I am eager and open for genuine and now long overdue discussion. I want to talk to the devotee community about this and other important subjects which seem to be anathema in certain quarters. Please feel free to communicate with me.

Ananda Svarupa dasa