Coming to Krishna and Finding a Way to Stay the Course


Soul taking off body close up

Those on the path of bhakti remember
when they first heard about Krishna(!)
when events unfolded before and after
they tried to make this path theirs—
and even if you are new to Krishna,
someday you may gain insight as
to the significance of these days.

For me, looking back
repaints the vision
of an amazing, magical time
in my then turbulent, unhappy life—
in the thick of it, questions,
lacking perspective and answers
I was compelled
to search for life’s purpose,
it seemed the most natural path
unfolding with direction
as I only looked forward,
never to go back.

I am still astonished
in contemplating these
momentous events—
even though I have written
extensively about them
in numerous biographies,
here, in other cyber places
and in the devotee mag. BTG.

Baby me, Muth and Fath
How could this have
happened to a very ordinary
“red-blooded American boy”
from an abusive alcoholic family
who never excelled at anything
or was passionately committed
but was detached, indifferent, neutral
not a shining star anyone would
have picked as religious—
certainly not spiritual.

If I had a little good looks
it never got me anywhere—
yet I had a hidden treasure
in my heart and soul—sukriti
or standing in Bhakti from previous lives
being uncovered by connecting
to Prabhupada through his disciples
chant the holy name, which was what
my life was meant for—
so alien and eyebrow raising
in the West, though then
I couldn’t have cared less
about the world’s opinion.

K youth close up
With the 60’s counterculture
my world was torn asunder
I rejected my society’s beliefs,
hippie peers questioned everything
opening the door for new ideas
with help from psychedelic drugs
causing existence to seem unreal,
not solid—it could melt away into
a puddle at any moment—
doubting everything material
uncovering great, divine hope:
out of body experiences
and past Bhakti created
a new portal full of light,
trusting for the first time
my heart’s searching for a way
to come closer to my soul
and its origin, the primal Lord.

Redwoods 2
I often lived in the redwoods
near Muir Woods across the bay
from Berkeley and San Fran
where every day was a quest,
a search for the Real Truth
beyond appearances
as I observed everything:
the Natural Order of
changing seasons, moon cycles,
the sun rising and setting,
old trees fallin’ to fertilize
the new ones risin’ up through
decaying, rotting tree bodies.

When I would return to
Berkeley after my Natural
nothing else but my quest
was important or mattered—
I saw a crazy civilization
cut off its roots, artificial
plastic culture unaware
of its connection
to the natural world
arrogant and proud of puny
so-called achievements which
made life more complicated
confused, chaotic, polluted.

Teacher makes point
College professors didn’t inspire
by their example to become
like they, who were a part
of the material system
I didn’t want to be connected to,
since I wanted higher knowing
than just earning a living—
to learn who I was
what life was for;
how to help others
make a difference
become better,
a vital, introspective person
connected to the Earth, to Spirit
and whatever our Source was.

I bet my life on the search for my soul
and its Source—so I gradually gave up
everything material I owned:
my girlfriend, material education,
job—and yet I was cared for,
nurtured, illuminated, and prompted
as I read all the spiritual books
I could get my hands on,
studying ancient Chinese seers
and mystics who spoke of superior men
and “The Way,” non-endeavoring action
peaceful coexistence and tolerance—
then the Gita and Upanishads called me.

My few possessions become very Zen,
and I began sleeping and sitting
on the floor, studying before a low table
thinking deeply, I considered: “In order
to learn a spiritual discipline I need
to become a monk,” like a student of Truth
majoring in a spiritual curriculum;
I began looking at various groups:
yoga communities, Christian Trappists,
Buddhist monks and whoever I could find,
though when I met the devotees of Krishna
on the streets, I knew—as I told one—
“I will become like you”
which surprised me when I said it.
Reading the Gita and BTG magazine
seemed to build on all I had studied—
here was a way to live a spiritual life
which gave a clear, concise method
of spiritual attainment with an exacting
philosophy on the nature of the soul
and God—the Krishna conception,
unique, while so attractive and accommodating;
yet it was the devotee's character and peacefulness
that convinced me, and seeing them chanting,
hearing their knowledge and conviction
feeling that sense of dejavu at the Temple.

Now my worldly renunciation made sense
helping me have a clear sense of purpose
with a focused mind, free of responsibilities
or distractions so I could completely embrace
the Vaishnava practice and easily close
what little materialistic life that was left
to become a brahmacari monk in the ashram
rising early with the life of kirtana,
japa, and sharing my life with others.

Those were simple, carefree days
giving me a strong foundation
preparing me for dealing
with more complex issues
of my conditioned embodiment–
my struggles to find balance
when my “anarthas”
(unwanted habits of thinking and acting)
became conscious,
(like how butter solids rising up
when making ghee)
that forced me to look at myself
more realistically with a less grandiose vision
of my spiritual standing and taste
revealing the need for marriage,
occupation, a vision for the long haul
or a lifetime strategy
so I could live in the world
while not identifying the body as who I was
helping me to be peaceful,
focused on my spiritual life
without being distracted or diverted.

A portal
I dreamed that
the flower starship
would pick me up quickly
from the material whirlpool
to take me to the spiritual world
but it didn’t arrive as expected
making it evident that I couldn’t
major in crisis devotional service
but instead had to “dovetail” my
natural tendencies in Krishna’s service
so I wouldn’t burn out and could
enthusiastically finish the race to Krishna.

In Vrindavana
So forty years later I am still inspired
by the vitality of my original spiritual quest—
yet I don’t nostalgically see my early years
as “the good old days,” since I was ignorant
of important material and spiritual truths
about myself, without the benefit of life-long
experience as I have gained today
in the School of Hard Knocks
with brutal self-examination
coming face to face with my “shadow self”.

Let me be enthused by how Krishna,
Prabhupada, and the devotees plucked me up
out of the material world—in such a fascinating
tailor-made way—yet let me live today
for today and my future came from this
as I move closer to my body’s demise
I am practiced to take shelter of Krishna
having faith in my spiritual ideals.

Sometimes I’m challenged to not be depressed
at my shortcomings, at other times by my successes
but in any case I need to be grateful
for the spiritual progress I have made
since despite my many trials, tribulations
reverses, or tests of happiness or victory
I am still on the path of Bhakti
being in the best part of my life
as I live in the present remembering
what I have learned and realized
being prepared to take shelter
of Lord Chaitanya & Nitai, the instructions of
my gurus, the holy name, scriptures,
bhakti philosophy, hearing from sadhus:
all to help me face my final exams of
diminishing capacities through old age,
diseases, and impending death,
which talking about could seem
cliché for devotees, but it is really
very crucial to remember.

1972 kirtan in San Francisco
I have to believe in myself
what I can become, or uncover
by the Lord’s grace, ever present,
helping me, and that somehow
as a result I can encourage you to also
believe in your spiritual potential
who you truly are, strengthening
your resolve to stay the course of Bhakti
for your whole life, in your full capacity
pointing out your good qualities and triumphs—
if possible being there with you, for you,
when you are down or feel defeated,
discouraged, or lost—at least this
is my ideal understanding of
devotee association:

Sharing the nectar of the holy name,
Radha-Krishna and Gaura-Nitai lila
and the minuet of the bhakti philosophy
and serving together, never giving up
on one another, even if you or I have—
that we are the other person’s “keeper”
extending our hand and heart while gently,
lovingly, sometimes strongly
encouraging our friend to keep dusting
off the dirt, should we slip and fall.

Hill Rainbow
A meditation:
We are always on the path
though sometimes in climbing the highest peak
we first pass through the foothills
giving the appearance of going down,
yet we’re still progressing if the
sight of the goal still inspires us,
if we keep on keeping on,
knowing that stumbling blocks
can be stepping stones
mindful that our gurus and Krishna
never give up on us if we don’t quit—
so with a grateful heart,
armed with yoga
we will fight the good fight
with determination, love,
and dependence on Krishna,

With the conviction that
we will be, and are successful,
if we never give up despite slipping
knowing our spiritual standing
keeping balanced and realistic
yet sincerely stretching while trying
to do the best we can in devotion,
knowing what we need at different times
for an entire life of spiritual practice
remembering Guru and Krishna,
praying for help and strength
to keep inspiring company
continually making effort
for spiritual progress.


Combined comments from old site

Fri, 10/16/2009 - 17:55 — jivatattva
Nice Redwoods

I think i've been to that place, we used to go there when i was at UC Berk - great place for an OBE :)

I used to love the Bay area and always thought I would go back and stay permanently, but the last time I visited family a few years ago it just didn't feel the same, like the attachment was gone.

Its funny how we can transcend attachments, and sometimes not even know it until that thing comes around again.



Fri, 10/16/2009 - 20:21 — Karnamrita.das

Yeah, I thought I would return there for the longest time, but there was no compelling reason to return--only to visit, but not to live. I wrote about my visit to S.F. last year on a blog here and on Dandavats on Nostalgia for the place of birth. When I visited there after 30 years it was a really amazing experience, comparing my somewhat (comparatively) mature vision with my myopic childhood perspective. In the part of town I grew up in, little has changed, but it was like I was viewing it for the first time. It was very familiar, but the difference was something like seeing in HD color, to fuzzy black and white. In any case I have no pull there now. Home is where the heart is, and that is wherever I am with devotee friends, family and service, as I look toward Goloka, praying to have attachment to that realm

Good to hear from you!

Your friend in Krishna,