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In Adversity, finding Spiritual Shelter!

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After those last major winter storms, and with all the devastating earthquakes I thought about the topic of shelter (which for different reasons is on the mind of many people in dire economic conditions)--though I will be talking about the eternal spiritual shelter. Being indoors we appear protected from the “elements” or the extremes in the environment. Although it appears on the surface that most people in the world have adequate shelter, out of 2.2 billion children in the world, 1 billion are in poverty. There is also a large population who although technically having shelter, can be easily uprooted by severe weather.

Those of us who have always or usually had strong shelters to live in, often take them for granted. We call them homes or houses—the word “shelter” sounds primal or something for homeless or poor people to exist in. Sometimes the terminology we use to describe things covers their real utility or function, whether positive of negative. Living in a house just seems to many people to be the way life is, like a right. Thus when people are displaced by hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, foreclosure due to job loss, or some other unavoidable calamity, they are extremely affected by shock: “How could this be happening to me?”
earthquake damage
Much of our ego or material identity is invested in the building or shack we live in. In the West there is a saying, “A man’s house is his castle.” This means to me that we are king or queen at least in the small world of our home. When we are forced to vacate our home, whether by it being repossessed, destroyed, or damaged, where is one’s solid shelter to be found? And what is truly important? Reverses or calamities in life often force us to be introspective and ask essential question about meaning.

In a similar way to one’s external residence, one’s body is apparently a shelter or residence inside of the home or whatever environment we are in. When we are injured, sick, affected by severe disease or old age our self-concept is challenged. In youth especially we take our health, strength, agility, intelligence and memory for granted. We often “push the envelop” of our endurance with various overindulgences whose negative affect is often not experienced until much later in life. When some centenarians are interviewed they often comment that if they had know they were going to live so long, they would have taken much better care of themselves. Easy to say, though not likely!
naked truth of death

The Vedic scriptures seek to enlighten us about the shortcomings—the total inadequacies—of material sources of shelter. They point us to the proper utility of our body and possessions in providing a peaceful circumstance for understanding and uncovering our spiritual shelter: within the universe is our planet, within the planet is our country, within our country is our home, within our home is our body, within our body is our soul or self, and within our soul is the Supreme Soul or God, who sustains and nourishes the Universe and everything in it.

Some Western or materialistic readers of these scriptures consider them negative or life denying due to their harsh analysis of the limitations and miseries of matter. For those people whose shelter is in the world, whether through home, spouse, children, family, career, and bodily capacities etc, hearing about their frailties seems discouraging and overly negative. However, this stark, harsh, pointed examination of the temporary, troublesome nature of physical reality is meant to serve as a “negative impetus” for the positive, substantial, eternal spiritual shelter of the transcendental reality of God, or Lord Shri Krishna.
atom
For those of who are attached to matter, this world seems very solid and substantial, and although temporary, it is all they know—it just needs to be gravely accepted and not worried about. Interestingly modern Quantum physics considers the world mainly open space and hardly solid at all, challenging many normal assumptions about material reality. Sometimes we have to be brought to our knees by the obvious withdrawal of all sources of material shelter before we raise our vision to search for an alternative and lasting shelter beyond our normal material purview. The fact is that everyone will be faced with the removal of their material shelter at some point, as everyone must face death alone.

Therefore, it is advised for intelligent and thoughtful people to study books such as Shri Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam to see the material world from the perspective of spiritual truth, and discover the lasting shelter of the spiritual reality. In order to do this one has to have or develop a spiritual orientation.

How is this done?

In Gaudiya Vaishnavism which teaches the science of Bhakti-yoga, spiritual practice or sadhana is meant to purify our material conceptions (allowing the soul to wake up from its sleep of a false material identity) and give us a higher taste from the spiritual shelter. Another way of speaking about sadhana is that it is about purifying the heart, or awakening the spiritual heart, preparing it so that love of Krishna or prema will manifest there. Of the nine processes of bhakti, two are given prominence. Hearing and chanting about the activities, qualities, forms and especially the names of God or Krishna are strongly recommended.
Gaura Nitai at Chipped Rice.
We are advised by Lord Shri Krishna in so many places in the Bhagavad-gita and other bhakti scriptures to take exclusive shelter of him. In the famous Gita verse considered to contain the book’s conclusion, we are urged strongly to “Give up all material forms of shelter or material religious activities and take exclusive refuge in Krishna alone.” Life as guided by the Vedic eye is meant to help us reach this conclusion. We are not independently strong, intelligent, beautiful, or whatever our material conception of our bodily identity is. Our true position— if we can be receptive to hear it—is that we are totally dependent on Krishna, or God for every facility of body or mind. These faculties and our possessions are given and sustained through Krishna’s energies. Every soul is actually a servant or cooperator with the Supreme God. That is our nature, though in the world we think just the opposite due to our conditioning.

The struggle in material existence means trying to deny our subordination to God, and counteract the laws of nature in the form of disease, old age and death. In spiritual ignorance it seems that our very existence is threatened by non-existence. As a result the people of the world are busy erecting material shelters in a vain attempt to overcome the previously mentioned laws of Nature. This is why Krishna says that for the non-believers he is cruel all-devouring death, which takes away all material forms of shelter.

Although certainly we physically require clothes, homes, families, occupation and so forth even if we are spiritual people, we need to cultivate throughout our lifetime our absolute dependence on God. Materially we are defined according to our attachments, or where we put our faith. This is crucial to understand. At the time of death we will take our next birth in a plane which corresponds to our attachments and faith, taking into consideration our pious and impious activities (our good and bad stock of karma).
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If someone put a gun to your head and told you that you have a minute to live, what would you think of? Where would your shelter be? And could you fearlessly, confidently, joyfully embrace it? The fact is, we all have a gun to our head. It is just that we don’t know when it will go off—when death will come. Our guru Shrila Prabhupada encouraged us to life our life with the miseries of physical existence and our inevitable death firmly in mind. Presently we live in a plane which will not endure—we are here today and gone tomorrow. Either we can ignore it, or seek a spiritual solution. When we are convinced that we are eternal and learn to trust Krishna as our substantial shelter in all circumstances, we will be fully peaceful and ready for any apparently good or bad circumstance.
A familiy
Think about it again. Where is your shelter—really and honestly? Is it in your body, mind, intelligence, strength, abilities, spouse, children, family, title, social status or possessions? In the Shrimad Bhagavatam these physical shelters are called “fallible soldiers” against impending disease, old age, death, and rebirth (which are considered the real problems of life). We are encouraged there to become convinced that Radha and Krishna, or God and his pure devotees, are our real, lasting blissful shelters. By studying the Bhakti scriptures, chanting the holy name, and engaging in devotional service, we will experience that higher spiritual taste which is food for our hungry souls.

Although this blog attempts to point the way out of material illusion and suffering, you have to decide whether or not to embrace the spiritual shelter of devotional service—bhakti yoga—to Shri Krishna as revealed by Lord Chaitanya and his followers. To do this one has to be philosophical, spiritually flexible, and seek the association of saintly devotees who live the ideal of the scriptures. There is the book Bhagavatam and the person Bhagavatam who is the book by action (acharya).

We require the ideal person to demonstrate and teach the meaning of the scriptures. Otherwise we are likely to be misled by our material conditioning. In the company of such pure devotees we will imbibe their faith and be inspired that we too can become Krishna conscious. We will discover by our practical experience that Krishna and his pure devotees are the only lasting and satisfying shelter.
Chanting together with Tulasi

Combined comments from old site

Thu, 03/18/2010 - 10:06 — milan
Hare Krishna!

Hare Krishna!

:-) I like the way you choose your words:
"Sometimes we have to be brought to our knees by the obvious withdrawal of all sources of material shelter before we raise our vision to search for an alternative and lasting shelter beyond our normal material purview."

And I like the pictures you add in your posts.

Milan


*Reply*

Thu, 03/18/2010 - 20:40 — Karnamrita.das
Thanks!

Good to "see" you here. I'm naturally glad you like what I write. My endeavor and prayer is to write words that will be inspiring and helpful in the devotees spiritual practice or to intrigue a new comer to check out our spiritual path, perhaps trying it on for size. Though KC is not for everyone, it is for some, and we just have to find those who have some sukriti or past connection to bhakti. Intention and prayer are powerful, and by the grace of Krishna and his representatives all things are possible! I do my best and if there is any credit, it is due to my gurus and Lord Chaitanya and Nitai. I aspire to be their instruments by getting out of the way! Be blessed by remembering Shri Radha and Krishna and chanting the holy name!

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


Mon, 03/15/2010 - 12:11 — shikha
thnx

HARE KRISHNA JI
thnx alot for ur kind response. fm where i can get the book u hve mentioned . do reply ? is it available at ISKCON TEMPLE EVERYWHERE IN INDIA?, HARE KRISHNA


*Reply*

Mon, 03/15/2010 - 19:03 — Karnamrita.das
Yes

All the books I quoted from should be available from most of the Temples in India, or from the publisher, the BBTI. The Gita and Nectar of Devotion are two essential books to regularly read. The Shrimad Bhagavatam is many, many volumes and 18,000 slokas, was the favorite book of Shri Chaitanya. In addition the Chaitanya Charitamrita is very dear to the devotees as it has the life of Shri Chaitanya and the highest explanation of our philosophy. There is a summary of this book titled, "Teachings of Lord Chaitanya", that will give you a taste. And it is also helpful to association with those who live by the ideals in these books and to do service for them and at the Temple. Besides that there are many resources here at Krishna.com to assist you in your progressive spiritual life. So dive into the nectar of topics about Krishna, and let us know how we may further assist you.

Hare Krishna!

Your friend in Krishna,

dasanudas Karnamrita


Fri, 03/12/2010 - 12:34 — shikha
HARE KRISHNA well thanx agn

HARE KRISHNA
well thanx agn for ur inspiring post. well i personally love SANKIRTAN . CHANTING . i forget everything when i chnt my whole worldly pains become nil but moment agn i am in this world everything agn seems very lonely nd in moments i start feling lifeless depressed nd frustrated sometime evn lack interest in life even zeal nd enthusiasm to work . kindly help me to knw how can i attain this permananat happiness of being absorbed in RADHA KRISHNA every second of my life . becoz even moment of SANKIRTAN HEALS ME FM INSIDE nd my all desires end at that time . its just like there is no one else than KRISHNA but agn as i get involved with world agn i feel so lonely life as boring nd just rough stuff. kindly do help . how i can spend each nd evry moment of mine with KRISHNA becoz it is damn sure nd clear there is no other shelter than HIM SO KINDLY HELP . HARE KRISHNA


*Reply*

Fri, 03/12/2010 - 14:06 — Karnamrita.das
the long haul

What you are asking for, permanent absorption in Krishna consciousness and lasting happiness is the fruit of all the processes that are given such as group chanting the holy name (sankirtana). There are not shortcuts or overnight methods...you have to position yourself to engage in a lifetime of sadhana. Even your ordinary activities can be dovetailed as an offering for Krishna.

If you are really so desirous of being totally absorbed in KC, then you have to search out and find a guru who can give you shelter, as well as a situation where you can associate with advanced devotees. Initiation by a guru is sometimes considered the planting of the devotional creeper, and before that, cultivating the soil. It is considered essential for all. Please study Bhakt-Rasamrita Sindhu, which Prabhupada has summarized in his Nectar of Devotion.

If you don't live near a Temple or have devotee association, then you should consider moving. Where there is a will, there is a way. Our necessity rules and reveals if we are just talking or are really serious. We don't have to leave our material situation or family necessarily, but we have to become purified by sadhana and the mercy of advanced devotees. We have to "Die to live" or put an end to our materialistic life and false ego though attachment to Krishna, and his service and devotees.

Krishna will help us if we are sincere and determined. Our Prabhupada, following the example of his guru, kept his disciples very busy in devotional service, since that purifies us so we can chant more. So be patient and do the needful for your spiritual life. We all have our ups and downs in spiritual life, and it can be a test during difficulties or reverses. Even great devotees like the Pandavas, Queen Kunti, Maharaja Pariksit, Prahlada Maharaja, and Prabhupada and so many are put into difficulty. That is to be expected and is part of our purification. Our test is how we take shelter of Krishna in difficulties. Sometimes we may question, "Why me?", but why not us? We are far from perfect devotees even though we are trying. Krishna is also minimizing our suffering. So in all circumstances take shelter of Krishna--through his holy name, his words in the Gita and Bhagavatam etc, and his devotees.

We are advised by this important verse in the Shrimad Bhagavatam to tolerate reverses expecting we will someday receive Krishna's full sheter:

"My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim." SB 10.14.8

Here is most of the purport to this verse:

"The word su-samiksamana indicates that a devotee earnestly awaits the mercy of the Supreme Lord even while suffering the painful effects of previous sinful activities. Lord Krsna explains in the Bhagavad-gita that a devotee who fully surrenders unto Him is no longer liable to suffer the reactions of his previous karma. However, because in his mind a devotee may still maintain the remnants of his previous sinful mentality, the Lord removes the last vestiges of the enjoying spirit by giving His devotee punishments that may sometimes resemble sinful reactions. "

"The purpose of the entire creation of God is to rectify the living entity's tendency to enjoy without the Lord, and therefore the particular punishment given for a sinful activity is specifically designed to curtail the mentality that produced the activity. Although a devotee has surrendered to the Lord's devotional service, until he is completely perfect in Krsna consciousness he may maintain a slight inclination to enjoy the false happiness of this world. The Lord therefore creates a particular situation to eradicate this remaining enjoying spirit. This unhappiness suffered by a sincere devotee is not technically a karmic reaction; it is rather the Lord's special mercy for inducing His devotee to completely let go of the material world and return home, back to Godhead."

"A sincere devotee earnestly desires to go back to the Lord's abode. Therefore he willingly accepts the Lord's merciful punishment and continues offering respects and obeisances to the Lord with his heart, words and body. Such a bona fide servant of the Lord, considering all hardship a small price to pay for gaining the personal association of the Lord, certainly becomes a legitimate son of God, as indicated here by the words daya-bhak. Just as one cannot approach the sun without becoming fire, one cannot approach the supreme pure, Lord Krsna, without undergoing a rigid purificatory process, which may appear like suffering but which is in fact a curative treatment administered by the personal hand of the Lord."
SB 10.14.8 pp

I hope this helps. It is still generic advice, and there are many factors to consider relative to your particular life situation.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


*Reply*

Sat, 03/13/2010 - 06:33 — Karnamrita.das
Three verses

Although all the verses of the scriptures are meant to help us in our attempt to serve Krishna, some are more appropriate for difference purposes. Specifically, in regard to living and working in the world and remembering Krishna here are three I have found helpful:

"My dear Arjuna, he who engages in My pure devotional service, free from the contaminations of fruitive activities and mental speculation, he who works for Me, who makes Me the supreme goal of his life, and who is friendly to every living being -- he certainly comes to Me." Bg 11.55 and part of the pp:

"No work should be done by any man except in relationship to Krsna. This is called krsna-karma. One may be engaged in various activities, but one should not be attached to the result of his work; the result should be done only for Him. For example, one may be engaged in business, but to transform that activity into Krsna consciousness, one has to do business for Krsna. If Krsna is the proprietor of the business, then Krsna should enjoy the profit of the business. If a businessman is in possession of thousands and thousands of dollars, and if he has to offer all this to Krsna, he can do it. This is work for Krsna. Instead of constructing a big building for his sense gratification, he can construct a nice temple for Krsna, and he can install the Deity of Krsna and arrange for the Deity's service, as is outlined in the authorized books of devotional service. This is all krsna-karma. One should not be attached to the result of his work, but the result should be offered to Krsna, and one should accept as prasadam the remnants of offerings to Krsna."

"But those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Prtha -- for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.> Bg 12.6-7 and part of the pp:

"As stated before, the Supreme Lord can be appreciated only by devotional service. Therefore, one should be fully devoted. One should fix his mind fully on Krsna in order to achieve Him. One should work only for Krsna. It does not matter in what kind of work one engages, but that work should be done only for Krsna. That is the standard of devotional service. The devotee does not desire any achievement other than pleasing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His life's mission is to please Krsna, and he can sacrifice everything for Krsna's satisfaction, just as Arjuna did in the Battle of Kuruksetra. The process is very simple: one can devote himself in his occupation and engage at the same time in chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Such transcendental chanting attracts the devotee to the Personality of Godhead."

and finally: "In all activities just depend upon Me and work always under My protection. In such devotional service, be fully conscious of Me."Bg 18.57 and part of the pp:

"When one acts in Krsna consciousness, he does not act as the master of the world. Just like a servant, one should act fully under the direction of the Supreme Lord. A servant has no individual independence. He acts only on the order of the master. A servant acting on behalf of the supreme master is unaffected by profit and loss. He simply discharges his duty faithfully in terms of the order of the Lord. Now, one may argue that Arjuna was acting under the personal direction of Krsna but when Krsna is not present how should one act? If one acts according to the direction of Krsna in this book, as well as under the guidance of the representative of Krsna, then the result will be the same. The Sanskrit word mat-parah is very important in this verse. It indicates that one has no goal in life save and except acting in Krsna consciousness just to satisfy Krsna. And while working in that way, one should think of Krsna only: "I have been appointed to discharge this particular duty by Krsna." While acting in such a way, one naturally has to think of Krsna. This is perfect Krsna consciousness."

Although most of us can't come to this standard immediately--or even after many years--it is a standard to strive for: pure devotional service which we will gradually obtain, step by step. So please take heart, as there are many devotees in the past who have obtained perfection by bhakti or devotional service. (Gita 4.10)In addition, you have many brothers and sisters on the path who can give you strength by their example and realizations. "Armed with yoga, stand and fight." We have our own battle of Kurushetra as we have to fight our material conditioning to keep steadfast in bhakti-yoga. But for a devotee, Krishna will help us, as will his devotees.

In Kali-yuga we are lazy, misguided, anxious, and unfortunate, but this can all be transformed by the awakening of our spiritual consciousness through the mercy of Shri Chaitanya who brought the holy name and sadhu-sanga (sainly assoication)!

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


Fri, 03/12/2010 - 08:59 — vagisha.vasudev
Vagisha Vasudev Beautiful,

Vagisha Vasudev
Beautiful, very intellectual,
Haribol


Fri, 03/12/2010 - 09:58 — Karnamrita.das
The head and heart

We have practically unlimited books of philosophy. The point of all of them is to soften the heart so we can revive our eternal love for Krishna. We are giving the intellect compelling reasons to take shelter of Krishna....yet it is more than just reasoning. In order for reasoning to take hold we have to have some sukriti or blessings from advanced devotees. That is the beginning of everyone's spiritual life.

If we truly love Krishna, then our love will inspire us how to act and live in the world. When you love, you know what to do. I actually don't think of myself as particularly intellectual, but I do appreciate the philosophy. The intent of my writing is to inspire people to become devotees, and to also inspire devotees in their spiritual practice. We are not merely jnanis or philosophers for philosophy sake, but we are devotional philosophers whose objective is to glorify Krishna, devotional service, and those who are devoted to Krishna--the pure devotees.

Our process is all about the deepening of faith, which comes from the heart of the soul. Belief is mental construct, but true faith is the currency of spiritual advancement. The material world is sometimes referred to as the world of doubt, whereas the spiritual world is the world of faith!

Your comment is much appreciated as it inspired me to write.

Hare Krishna!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita


*Reply*

Fri, 03/12/2010 - 12:36 — shikha
hare krishna . kindly reply

hare krishna . kindly reply nd help me to be engrossed IN LOVE with LORD KRISHNA