FEAST OR FAMINE FOR MANY FACILITIES OR PREFERRED ACTIONS: These days I am in somewhat of a famine, or at least some restriction, in terms of writing, which I consider so central to my life lived in the pursuit of being a giver. This makes me sad, but also brings introspection on the way my life works--a very recommended and helpful practice!
Our lives have their demands which require our attention to properly deal with them. This seems to be just the nature of material reality even for spiritual practitioners in bhakti. Though the ideal of followers of Shri Chaitanya is to be fully absorbed in seva (loving devotional actions), still, we can't completely escape material necessities that require payment and thus bring certain ebbs and flows in our life aspirations. We could also describe these ebbs and flows, or ups and downs, as cycles of life.
This is certainly no big revelation, but for me, at certain times, it is more painfully evident (during the ebbs) then during those inspiring flow states when everything seems divinely ordered and empowered. As always, in addition to just sharing, my intention is for you to think over your own life and how this might apply to you. We can ask ourselves when reading or listening to a talk, "How can I use this," and try to find at least one good point to put into practice. Such openness will help us notice the useful and practical in what others miss due to focusing on the faults of the presentation. This is the meaning of the saying that we get more of, or notice, what we focus on, and how so much of a successful life comes from our attitude and faith. The Gita teaches us that we are our faith, for without faith, we can't do anything, remaining on the doubting fence of the intellect!
Please, therefore, describe the Almighty Lord's activities which you have
learned by your vast knowledge of the Vedas, for that will satisfy the
hankerings of great learned men and at the same time mitigate the miseries
of the masses of common people who are always suffering from material pangs.
Indeed, there is no other way to get out of such miseries.
O VyAsadeva, you are freed from all sins. Thus I have explained my birth and
activities for self-realization, as you asked. All this will be conducive
for your personal satisfaction also.
I originally published this blog on February 15, 2011. Since I don't have time this evening to prepare a blog about Lord Nityananda, I thought I would post it again now. Wednesday, February 8th will be the observance of Lord Nityananda’s holy appearance day. I was blessed in 2011 to be able to give class to the devotees on that day. I am sharing with you part of what I spoke about then. On the one hand, I appreciate the special mercy that comes to one who is able to speak to the devotees about Krishna and the philosophy of devotion, while on the other, I also find it very humbling to realize that I really don’t know much about the philosophy. It is like an ocean, and I can only share a few drops. However, I speak for my own purification, with the prayer and intention to inspire and inform the devotees. Besides this, Krishna appreciates our taking risks in his service, assuring us in the Gita, that he carries what we lack and preserves what we have.
It is interesting how Spring is associated with Shri Chaitanya and his associations. First Shri Advaita Acharya, who prayed for the Lord’s appearance, then Shri Nityananda Prabhu, the expansion of Lord Chaitanya and his most merciful aspect, and finally the crescendo, next month, on the full moon day, Lord Chaitanya’s appearance. Although Shri Chaitanya is widely known as the “most munificent” avatar, freely giving Krishna prema (ecstatic love for Krishna), Shri Nityananda is considered even more merciful, since he gives prema to the most unqualified persons.
Recently I've read this prominent Vaisnava tantra of the Pancaratra canon spoken by Siva to Narada Muni in 716 verses, similar in length to BG. The reading of Sanskrit takes about 2 hours. I had a very good feeling after reading it.
(The first two chapters in English edition are in Harvard-Kyoto transliteration system. All other online versions of this edition seem to lack Sanskrit.)
MAKING MARRIED LIFE AN ASHRAM THROUGH THROUGH WORSHIP OF THE FORM OF KRISHNA, SAINTS, AND THE HOLY NAME: I devoted a previous blog to the power of Deity worship in general and some of my experiences being a temple pujari for so many years. Today, after I dressed our Gaura and Nitai, and beheld the other Deities, all recently worshiped and adorned with new dresses and ornaments, as I chanted, I felt both awe and inspiration that these forms of Krishna and his expansions and energies have allowed us to live with and serve them. I was appreciating how for a householder, regular worship of Deities and seeing them as the true owner and enjoyer of our home and lives, is one way we transform our home into an ashram.
We have a simple home standard where we offer them everything we eat two or three times a day, and dress and bathe them once a week, while the shilas are worshiped daily, though also simply. I have reasoned that our real worship is through our daily chanting of the holy name through japa and kirtan, offering our prayers, and ultimately our very life and soul, which is the point of everything we do.
Saranagati, or surrendering our body, mind, and soul and all that we possess for divine service, or bhakti, is the process of spiritual awakening. Surrender is a loaded word, and we naturally feel it means we have to give up so much, lose so much. However paradoxical it may seem materially, it is by surrender that we gain our soul and true spiritual nature.
To breathe out, one only has to breathe in,
but we can’t hold our breath forever;
so begin today while you are still breathing
because there are no tomorrows or could-bes.
Only a string of nows, do-days giving potential
at least one step of progress on the miles ahead
though even a step back can help us go forward
All of the material existence, the universes, outer space, galaxies, stars, planetary systems, planets, continents, countries, cities, and everyone’s body, are all on fire. In worldly consciousness, our illusory task is to deny this fire at every turn, or recognizing the fire partially, to create structures to protect us from being burned, keeping that fire “over there,” overseas, or in another neighborhood, and not in our view. However, as much as our societies, elders, and parents are trying to reassure us that there is nothing to worry about, we find clues everywhere about this all-consuming fire, if we can read the signs. We can’t combat what we deny.
Great devotees come to this world to warn everyone about the fire that is consuming all physical life and every aspect of the material world. Religions are begun around such saintly speakers of cutting truth to reveal the fire, but in course of time, religions also become deniers of the fire, or they teach people how to work with the fire so they can be happy with it until they die with the promise of going to heaven, which is just another type of fire--not giving the real solution.
We can fight this fire with a different type of fire. Though we can’t stop the material world from burning, since everything material is meant to change, transform, and eventually burn to ashes, we can fight the fever of material existence with the transcendent cooling firepower of life-giving divine wisdom and spiritual practice.
SELF-ABSORPTION isn’t thought of favorably and generally means to be excessively concerned with one’s own life and interests without taking into consideration other people. Some synonyms are egoism, self-centeredness, narcissism, self-importance, self-preoccupation, etc. However, in my thinking this morning while chanting, which is the attempt to “hear” God in his holy names, or become absorbed in the Supreme Self, we need to be self-absorbed in the sense of becoming aware of those parts of ourselves that need to be adjusted and purified. When we are chanting or praying we become aware of our highest ideals and our various types of material interests, or even our lowest worldly desires.
Prabhupada has compared chanting the holy name to making ghee. In ghee making, we boil butter, and must work to skim off the “impurities” or milk solids which rise to the surface. Then we will be able to create clarified butter, or ghee, which has so many medicinal properties and uses. This is an interesting analogy which can help us in our daily spiritual practice.
We can think of our spiritual practices, like chanting the holy name, as the cleansing fire, that is meant to burn up the impurities or material contaminations. If we expect to go anywhere spiritually we have to
svAyambhuvo dhurjatayaz ca sarve
prAdurbhave suSThu jaTA-ghaTAyAm
succhAyakAH sUrya-samAz ca vRkSA
AbAla-zobhAH sanakAdi-vac ca
From the branches and roots of the trees of Vraja all BrahmAs and Zivas
emanate. Although the trees of Vraja are as splendid as the sun, they still
are wonderful parasols to shade one from the sun's rays. They shine with the
luster of youth, just as the four KumAras. (VizvanAtha CakravartI ThAkura -
VrajarIticintAmaNi 2.21, trans. Kuzakratha dAsa)
praphullatAyai kusumAkaro 'yam
zrI-nArado yatra babhUva gopI
I am entering the mood of preparing for my talk a week from Friday, on the 20th. This means for me, hours of chanting, prayer, deep contemplation and writing, in order to be as prepared as possible to say what is most essential for the audience who might attend. I always keep high ideals! The presence of my listeners is a gift for me since they bring me to higher levels of being, knowing and loving in devotion. Though I am responsible for what I bring to any discussion, the audience is considered at least 50 % of the equation, as their mood affects the speaker, either expanding or contracting the possibilities.
We give who we are, so I have to prepare myself to be on the highest, most compassionate, and loving platform, to manifest vital, life-giving wisdom, practical and transcendent. Though I am always praying to be my most empowered spiritual self, speaking to others gives me more urgency to be all I can be to serve and uplift. This is beneficial for me, as well as whoever listens with an open heart. Meditating on this mood with the prayer to share is exciting, and I very rarely use that word!
I’m endeavoring and praying to be open to receive much more than ordinary materialistic, limited thinking might deem possible. Then I may reach high to be a spiritual possibility thinker, or spiritually and miraculously minded, by connecting to the higher spiritual realms, and be guided by my seen and unseen spiritual benefactors and teachers. As we shower with water to cleanse our body, I am meditating on being more deeply cleansed through the divine Light shower of the holy names, prayer, and the serving mood in bhakti, offered to our Deities, and ideally put into everything I do, with whoever I am with.