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Positive and negative impetus for Bhakti

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
[Reposted from 10-29-2007]
In the Gita's 7th chapter Shri Krishna tells us that four kinds of pious people approach him to render service: the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of he Absolute. And once we have come to Krishna, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur describes four levels or motivations for service: fear, prospect, duty, and love. One point in these two types of analysis is that there are many ways people come to Krishna, and different stages to aspire for once we do---the highest being serving out of love.

Another way to look at how we are motivated to serve Krishna is by dividing them in two broad categories, of positive and negative.

Negative impetus for serving Krishna is by our experience of the miseries of the material world. Preaching based on this emphasizes how bad the material world is, entangling its' relationships, simply awful and gross the body is plagued by, bad smells, imperfections, disease, old age, death, and even birth (which is touted as being such a happy thing).

AN INTERESTING DREAM LAST NIGHT & MY PRAYER FOR DIVINE HELP and INITIATIVE

I HAD AN INTERESTING DREAM LAST NIGHT. I was able to fly and was looking at all the sights of the planet. It was fun, but I wasn't very satisfied with the experience. Then as I was attempting to help someone in a seedy part of town, I was captured and injured. As my new master was putting me in a cage, he freed the former resident of the cage to make room for me, who happened to be my wife. I awoke as she was telling me the rules for living in the cage.

I relate this dream to my wife's difficult health throughout our marriage, and how now it is my turn. At the same time, one of the important ideas now, is to keep a good sense of humor and laugh a lot. That is very healing. I feel such gladness and gratitude

The Blessing of Illness

[reposted from 9-26-2012] [This blog is recorded]
None of us want to be sick, and yet we all experience the occasional cold, flu, or something more serious. Some persons, like my wife, who have a weak immune system, deal with a body that is prone to catch whatever bug is going around. Having such a delicate bodily instrument, if they don’t eat and sleep properly they become more susceptible to illness. Thus my wife is a much greater expert than me in understanding the benefits of sickness to her spiritual life and how the body can be a great teacher. Never the less, I have a few experiences that have helped me appreciate the value of illness. [Though since this blog was written I have the experience of dealing with cancer and my possible physical demise, which sounds scary to most of us, I still am not as experienced as my wife. This is because I have no painful effects, though through my natural treatment I require more sleep and keep a strict diet which can be challenging. I can say, as I have frequently, that cancer has been a huge blessing in my life, which this blog is meant to demonstrate]

Having a background in Krishna consciousness and a trained philosophical eye and heart helps us see everything—even great reverses—in relationship to Krishna and bhakti. Illness can bring us to our knees in surrender and teach us the smallness of our existence (even Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur glorified ill health for this very reason, and he underwent many bouts of sickness in his life). I was reminded of this after I ate something at Radhastami that didn’t agree with me, and have had the runs for the last 3 days. While not a pleasant experience on one level, I also practically experienced how sickness can be a helpful part of our spiritual journey.

We have the saying that, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” While there is relative truth in this, I would say that “If you don’t have Krishna consciousness or a spiritual perspective on life, you don’t have anything.” Certainly we should all endeavor to be healthy, and not fall sick, yet regardless of the condition of our body it’s important to understand our soul beyond the temporary body.

Success—What it is, and How to get it!

[reposted from 2011-01-26] SUCCESS, WHAT IT IS, AND HOW TO GET IT: To make the claim of today’s title, which might be promised by motivational speakers or writers, I would have to give a universal definition of success. Though I honestly don’t think this is possible, I could do my best to say that in general, success means to be happy—though even here, at different times, people would disagree for various good and bad reasons. In any case, if we can agree for the sake of this blog, that in general people want to experience happiness and avoid distress, we might still argue over the best way to reach this sometimes illusive state.

For some people happiness or peace of mind can seem like the carrot before the donkey—always seeming to be within reach, but never quite obtained. We might have an ever-increasing list of things required to come to our ideal state of happiness—got to have that IPad, and this app, and then that app! To our motivational guru, this would sound terribly negative, since they believe that we can have anything we want if we want it badly enough.

Although the Vedas and Krishna devotees might agree that one can have most anything desired either today or in some lifetime they would caution us that although one may be temporarily happy, it can’t last. The nature of the world is constantly changing, including our body, senses and mind. For instance, toys or dolls no longer are objects of happiness for an adult, or as an old person our ability to enjoy certain foods is lost—though we may still desire them!

Besides this, and fundamentally more important, since our identity is not material but spiritual, worldly things can’t bring the soul happiness.

Near Death Experiences

[I originally wrote this in 10-08-2007 and included it in a chapter on death and dying in my book, "Give to Live." Such topics can help us be a better person, by informing or reminding us, that whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves. During the life review, as explained in what follows, we see our life from both our perspective, and that of others we have impacted, either positively or negatively. This goes along with what I am currently teaching in my talk, "Facing Death, to Live More Fully Today," which I created in response to my cancer diagnosis, which continues, though it hasn't worsened.

To me, the life review, which is taught not only in the near-death experience literature, but also in Vedic and Buddhist texts, is one reason we need to "Die Before Dying," or review our life to now, before we are dying, to make amends, forgive, or seek forgiveness from others--basically cutting karmic cords, and praying to improve our character and actions. Truly, "what goes around, comes around," which is one explanation of karma. We receive what we give, or what we do to others, we do to ourselves. Please reflect on this fact as you review your life, and as you interact with others ask yourself, "what am I giving to to them?" I lament that more of us don't practice loving kindness and less negative harsh judgement with other devotees and people in general!]

"Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail." [Bhagavad Gita 8.6]

I have thought about exploring the topic of near-death experiences for some time. One of my Krishna.com friends has requested me to do so, as she recently also had one.

I have not kept current on my near-death readings, but there are a number of books I have read in the last fifteen years that I found fascinating, and good for sharing with people who may not accept the Vedas, or any scripture, as authority.

Some people accept the personal testimony of fellow human beings living at this time as meaningful. The fact that most NDE’ers have similar experiences is compelling to them, whereas they think religious people can be dogmatic.

I am not suggesting that you should buy every book on the subject. Knowing about these experiences is useful, for they share some viewpoints also expressed in Vedic texts. And some people like me, read many books outside our tradition which they feel have benefited them. Not everyone has to, or should necessarily.

DISAPPEARANCE DAY OF SHRILA PRABHUPADA

DISAPPEARANCE DAY OF SHRILA PRABHUPADA (adapted from my book, "Give to Live," which also appears many years ago in my blog here ) :
The disappearance or appearance (birth) day of great souls are equally honored. The pure devotees live for Krishna or God, and die for him. The famous prayer by Saint Francis, states that by dying we are born into eternal life. Although we lament that we will not have the physically manifest presence of our guru or a certain saint in this lifetime, we also feel happy that they are with Krishna. Prabhupada “left his body” (as we refer to death) in perfect Krishna consciousness and lived his life like that as well. We have no uncertainty about his auspicious destination, and we pray to for that same perfection by following his example!

"He reasons ill who says that Vaishnavas die,
When thou art living still in sound!
The Vaishnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the holy name around."
[Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur]

Today is Shrila Prabhupada's disappearance day from this mortal world and his return to the nitya-lila (Krishna's eternal pastimes). It is the fortieth anniversary. Wow—that is over half my life! How things have changed for me, for so many devotees present then, and for the movement.

On that day, forty years ago, I was a young man of twenty-seven years old. I became a devotee when I was nearly twenty, so really I had seven years of his presence. During those years, most of us never considered that he could leave us at any time, though he did remind us of the possibility. Somehow we just expected him to always be present with us. If only I would have known!

The Power of Saintly Association: My Personal Asssociaion with my Guru, Shrila Prabhupada Part II

As I flew to L.A. from Hawaii, I brought a very fragrant flower garland. When I arrived at the Temple, I wanted to personally garland him, but a devotee guard downstairs from his room stopped me. I thought about going into his room anyway, though I was too hesitant and fearful. Eventually Prabhupada came down to give his lecture---it was the disappearance day of his guru, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. I was introduced by the local GBC and gave him the garland. He didn’t seem to really notice me, which upset me a bit. I was able to consider that he likely was absorbed in other thoughts, perhaps of his guru. This was the year he gave a famous talk about his guru where he became choked up with tears saying how we were all helping him serve Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta.

Embracing all of Krsna’s Family

NOTE from Bhakti-lata Dasi: As the inmates evolve in their Kṛṣṇa consciousness, increasingly realizing the importance of Prabhupada’s teachings and making a conscious effort to apply them in their life, they develop in strength and realization. Being a witness to this spiritual growth, I feel the joy and pride of a mother seeing her children mature. I am forever captivated by the power of Srila Prabhupada’s words to completely transform the lives of so many who receive his mercy.

The Power of Saintly Association: My Personal Asssociaion with my Guru, Shrila Prabhupada Part I

At the airport reception, a huge kirtana was going on with devotees from Berkeley, San Francisco and L.A. We were oblivious to our surroundings and took over the waiting lounge. Perhaps there were over 100 devotees. As we waited the kirtana got more and more wild and ecstatic, which was not what the other arriving passengers were expecting as they filed out of the plane. We were at the top of a ramp with devotees on either side of the pathway. After what seemed a very long time Prabhupada appeared at the bottom of the walkway. Then the kirtana went into warp speed and intensity difficult to describe.

JANMASTAMI OBSERVANCE BY HEARING KRISHNA LILA: AKRURA'S ARRIVAL IN VRINDAVANA

[reprinted from August 8th, 2009] JANMASTAMI OBSERVANCE BY HEARING KRISHNA LILA: AKRURA'S ARRIVAL IN VRINDAVANA:

Bhakti-yoga, or Krishna consciousness, means quite simply being conscious of Krishna. When we love someone we naturally think of them, so when we love Krishna it is natural to think of him and want to hear or read about his lila or divine activities. Those of us who want to love Krishna—or even believe in him if we are new—will make progress in knowing and loving Krishna by reading about his pastimes in the Shrimad Bhagavatam or in Shrila Prabhupada’s Krishna book which is the summary of the 10th Canto.

We are advised to read with the desire to understand and in the mood of service, humility and reverence--at least with that ideal in mind. Just like in Shrila Prabhupada's introduction to the Gita he recommends a new person to at least theoretically accept Krishna as the Supreme Lord, because that will help create the right mood to enter into the book. Though we want to use our intellect to understand as far as we can, our spiritual heart needs to come out, since that is the real way to understand the inconceivable Lord.

In Prabhupada’s translations of Vedic literature, we have the scripture with a commentary by a pure devotee. Many people have become devotees by reading these books. As wonderful and powerful as these books are they don’t ask us if we have understood, nor do they personally interact with us to show us how to be Krishna conscious. For that we need advanced devotees we can observe and serve with.

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