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GIVING CLASS

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Author: 
Karnamrita Das

From the heart photo DSC00766_zpswrnhdgdr.jpg As I prepared last week to give a Sunday class in Hillsborough (video at the end of this blog), along with researching and thinking of the topic of levels of secrets (from the most mundane to the most sublime) I also contemplated the topic of speaking to others from our Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. The archetypal “class” is Maharaja Parikshit being instructed by Shri Shukadeva Goswami. Both of them have special qualifications being pure devotees of Krishna, and yet the whole class was fueled by the urgent necessity of Parikshit Maharaja, since he was cursed to die in seven days, and sought the best way to use his remaining time.

According to Shrila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur, of the three types of people benefited by talks about Krishna—the questioner, the hearer, and the speaker—the speaker is the most benefited. Never the less, without the ardent interest, fueled by an urgent necessity to hear, the speaker won’t be as motivated to speak. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which records the conversation between these two great souls, Shukadeva frequently glorifies the questions of his student being enlivened at the opportunity to speak about that which he has such feelings for.

Therefore, as exemplified by this conversation, as well as in many scriptures including the Bhagavad-gita, both speaker and listener have responsibilities. For example, being advanced devotees with the urgency to speak and hear helps make the conversations an inspired one, and takes it to new heights of spirituality and insightfulness. While we may not be on the level of such high devotees, we can none the less be as reverential, attentive and prayerful as possible, whether we are speaker or listener, and be mindful of the sublimity of the process we are following.

Otherwise, out of our familiarity with the process of attending or giving a class, we may minimize its benefit and have a material vision of what it’s about. If we become complacent in our spiritual lives we may skip the class or think it is just for new people. However, if we truly realize our perilous situation in the material world and have an urgent necessity to make spiritual advancement we will do as much as possible to make spiritual progress.
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Attitude and intention make a huge difference in any endeavor, and we may examine both in regards to attending or giving a class. Although we may know the Krishna conscious philosophy we are still required to keep a beginners mind and realize that due to the deep esoteric and inconceivable nature of the subject, we are recommended to always consider ourselves a student.

When we speak, even if we are a great scholar, we are encouraged to remember the lives of our gurus and superior acharyas along with Shri Krishna Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda, by whose mercy we are living on, and whose blessings are required in order to properly represent our tradition. We sit on a high seat not because we are great, but because of the greatness of the tradition we represent and the sacred wisdom we are meant to share. We are called to be living representatives of Krishna consciousness and thus share who we are as a person from our purified heart. We begin by giving the theory and what we have understood. In time, by practice and prayer, we gain the grace to internalize the teaching and realize them practically. Then our conviction and urgency has the power to effect the audience. It is no longer academic, but our life.

I frequently examine my intentions and attitudes in my life as a devotee and pray for the proper foundation in all my endeavors. Considering my situation in facing my possible death, I have often written and thought about how important my necessity must be to make spiritual advancement in order to speak well, and how meaningful Prabhupada’s statement that we need to keep death in front of us is.
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Much of my writing and speaking since my cancer diagnosis eight months ago has been fueled by my desire to use my remaining time in the best possible way, which to me means being as serious as possible in my spiritual practices and prayers, and in encouraging devotees in their devotional lives by sharing my experience on the path of bhakti.

While I admit to falling short of my highest ideals in speaking, I am still praying to do my best, and praying frequently that I may properly honor our tradition, and be able to convey what is most essential and practical for calling our spiritual progress. That will be good for me, and all who may hear. By the grace of Prabhupada, my gurus and Gaura and Nitai, and the listeners, my practice in speaking will take me to perfection someday, or some lifetime. I am honored to make the attempt and thank all those who have allowed me to speak. I share these pictures in that spirit of gratitude.
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Speaking my necessity photo Karnam speaks at Pranadas_zps0pjbvroo.jpg
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I gave a class on Sunday in Hillsborough with the topic of secrets, ordinary, confidential, and most confidential (see my last blog on that topic), from which two of the pictures in this blog were taken. As is often the case the preparation is always enlivening, though what I speak is never as complete as what I prepare. So many points I didn't make. Still, I was able to keep my basic game plan and I felt connected to the audience and was able to look at everyone (used to be very difficult) and speak with conviction and, for the most part, from my heart. It is a great privilege to be able to speak, and it is both humbling and enlivening if I can feel "in the zone" so to speak.

Much prayer was behind my speaking, for the last week and during that day, so if there was any success, it is all mercy from above, from Guru and Gauranga, and Radha Gokulananda, the predominating Deities of that temple. Speaking isn't just about sharing information but as far as possible sharing one's feeling for what one presents. Here is the video of the class. A few technical difficulties occurred because I forget one part of the tripod and had to improvise. All in all, it worked with a table and some books to lift up the camera.
Here is the YouTube link for the one hour class:

Prayers and confort zone

I should mention that I was a bit nervous and thus I forgot one of my favorite parts of the class--sharing devotional prayers. I did mention above and in the talk that this class was a result of my prayers, one benefit from cancer, and my attempt to leave my comfort zone. For me, it is like going out on a limb, and yet, I have learned that this is where the fruit is, which is reciprocation for making the attempt to share what to me is essential knowledge. Another fruit is the opportunity to speak again and take this message to as many places as possible, in this country and around the world. That is one of my prayers and goals. Basically, who will ever have me.

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