Blogs

TEXAS FAITH 105: Was it moral to shut down the Texas Senate?

Dallas Morning News,

Dance for the pleasure of The Avatars of Vishnu

Although I am from England and grew up as a Christian, I was always interested in Vishnu. When I became a Vaishnava I learned more about Vishnu from the scriptures. I have also raised my children on the same path. Here is a dramatic dance by my daughters Jahnavi and Tulasi, with Jaya Krishna Das. It describes the avatars of Lord Vishnu according to the early mediaeval song written by Jayadeva Goswami. You will hear me singing the song in the background.

 

The Ten Avatars of Vishnu

Experiencing Krishna while Living in the World

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Krishna is the taste of water photo Krishnaisthetasteofwater_zps85d68b30.jpg
Two of the top difficult things to understand—out of many—for new readers of Bhagavad gita are the personhood of Krishna, and his Universal Form. Of course they are related, since Krishna reveals that the Universal Form comes from him, and is a manifestation of his energy as the material world. In particular this display of the Universal Form (there are others), though inspiring to show the greatness and inconceivableness of God, is also at times ghastly and fearsome, and as a form of time, “the destroyer of the worlds,” all of which may be disconcerting. While Krishna is both the creation and annihilation of everything he is also the seed of all existence, the life of all that lives, and the soul of our souls, so we have to look at the whole picture before being able to evaluate who Krishna is.

Krishna could have demonstrated his nature as the creator and maintainer by showing baby animals, lovely human children, beautiful scenes in Nature, the universe being incredibly sustained and flourishing, but specifically to get Arjuna’s attention, he wanted to encourage Arjuna in his duty of fighting by showing him that the great warriors he had to fight were already killed by Krishna’s power--in fact we all must die, our bodies that is, at our allotted time. For conditioned living beings, the Universal Form teaches us that the material world is temporary, and not really suitable for eternal souls to live, since bodies, planets, and the entire Universe are constantly changing, and will ultimately be vanquished. The point is that Krishna is present in all things and, through his energy, is everything. His greatness is all-sided and unlimited, manifested in the subatomic dimension and as the whole universe—in the micro and macro-cosmic level. For us imperfect and limited souls, he can be experienced in what we can observe. Though we can’t perceive his spiritual form, or even our own souls, we can, by the grace of the Bhagavad Gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and the mercy of the devotees who live by such revealed Vedic literature, “see” him, specifically in “…all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations…”[ Bg 10.41].

In what follows I will share some highlights of these manifestations of Krishna from the Bhagavad Gita, which is another version of the Universal Form, or Krishna’s material form.

If you’re going to San Francisco. . .

A familiar name evokes special memories. . .

One thing about working at Krishna.com, you never know who’s going to show up. I was going over the day’s accounting tasks one day recently, and came upon a name that sounded so familiar to me. It was the same name as the person who had first introduced me to Krishna consciousness in a serious way, over 40 years ago, in San Jose.

TEXAS FAITH 104: Is Belief Overrated?

Dallas Morning News,

Tears of My Father

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Hippie Dad photo HippieDad_zpsc746875e.jpg
Two days after my birthday was my fathers’, or June 24th. This year I wanted to share some snapshots in my relationship with him, in the hope that it might be useful to you in our journey of self-exploration, using that as a balanced platform for spiritual practice. Dear reader, I am indebted to you for taking the time to read this, and to think about your own relationship with your parents. What does it tell you about the nature of the material world of (re)birth, disease, old age, death and disappointment, and the importance of receiving the saving grace of spiritual knowledge and bhakti practices to uncover the eternal life of the soul?

I was running a preaching center on O Street in Washington D.C. in 1986. After leaving Baltimore with Maha-nidhi Swami to travel and preach, after some time I felt it would be a natural move to stay there. I had a small staff which fluctuated between 1 or 2 devotees. I also received some morale boosting, and financial support from the near-by Potomac MD, Temple from which devotees sometimes visited to chant, preach, or help cook. We held three feasts a week, mainly attended by college students and young people in the area. All was going fine for a few months after I settled in, and then, one afternoon between feasts, I felt like something ominous was in the air. It was a typical August sunny, muggy day, nothing unusual but this feeling. Although I couldn’t put my finger on the possible reason, I prayed for clarity to understand. As I was lost in thought, the ringing of the phone startled me. It was Barbara, my father’s current wife. She told me that my father had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

A long silence ensued. I didn’t have a personal reaction, being in shock, and besides, I wasn’t very good at dealing with others in such matters of intense sorrow. I was at a loss for words, thinking more about her, than for myself. Even today, it seems so inappropriate and trite to say things like “sorry for your loss,” or any number of socially correct statements. Finally, I was able to thank her for letting me know, and told her how sorry I was. Our conversation was awkward,

Are you ready to be Free?

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colorful desolate tree photo desolatetree_zps253cd4db.jpg
Are you ready to be free (?)
it doesn’t mean being a tree—
you laugh, but our body is the same—
we’re forced to choose survival,
for the tree, growing to the light
thinking that this is life’s purpose,
and we’re forced to be human
identifying with race, gender, age
mental likes and dislikes—physicality.

If we could only realize our self
the simple truth of spiritual existence
not defending what can’t endure:
our conception of material identity

TEXAS FAITH 103: Are Interfaith Marriages Good for Couples?

Dallas Morning News,

“Love and Trust” is Developed, Maintained, or Depleted, by our “Emotional Bank Accounts”

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 photo ShrilaPrabhupadagivingcookie_zpsae3abb64.jpg

While we often hear Shrila Prabhupada’s statement that “our relationships should be based on love and trust,” we don’t often expand on how this can be created and maintained. One process I have found helpful is something we teach in our relationship seminars, namely the practice of checking the balance in the “Emotional Bank Account” that we have with another person—do we have a surplus of positive emotions, or are we overdrawn, in the red?

This is a metaphor that Stephen Covey [The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People] first came up with to describe "the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship." This statement really piqued my curiosity and interest in his work, and after scrutiny, dovetails nicely as a support to putting into practice Prabhupada’s aphorism. Just as we have bank accounts to keep our money in, we also have “bank accounts” to store our “emotional capital” or the energy that sustains or strains (if it becomes depleted) relationships.
Trust photo Trust_zpsab5f6139.jpg
We could also consider this capital like a trust meter, and trust is the basis of reciprocal loving dealings. Very few people love unconditionally, but most of us require more positive interactions (deposits), than negative ones (withdrawals), to stay, or be happy, in a relationship.

Garland of grace

The other day I felt that things kept going wrong, and I began to mentally blame everyone around me for the dissatisfaction I was feeling. At a certain point, however, some insight kicked in that it might just have something to do with me and my outlook. When I thought of how unsympathetic I’d been to several different friends and co-workers, I felt bad. After work I went to the temple to chant on my beads, hoping that the chanting would put me back on course.

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