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Being Open to Learn Through Humility: Part 1

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[reposted from 04-02-2014]
I had the good fortune Sunday to spend time with a devotee friend and neighbor, along with her two visiting daughters—one out of college and looking for work, the other, soon to finish high school and already accepted at a college of her choice. I love to share my experiences and what I have found is valuable with others—anyone who is interested to hear and discuss—but especially to devotee young adults and teens. In my life growing up, and later as a devotee, I suffered for want of wise elder guidance, and basically had to wing it by trail and err.

Though my life has worked out well in many ways, I feel I could have had more skills to help others and be further along spiritually had I had help. Admittedly, we all have our personal journey and ways we are given to learn our own lessons (even with guidance) through personal experience and trying various endeavors. Never the less, I know that having supportive, kind, and experienced mentors can make one’s path more fruitful, one’s decisions better informed—if one is willing to listen. Remembering my own lack of guidance I feel inspired to share what I have learned in life, both my mistakes and successes. This is one reason I write, and in this case, enjoyed speaking to our guests.

I found the young ladies to be very open-hearted and humble. This caused me to think about the importance of humility on our lives. I have written a fair bit about this, as has my wife, but today I am looking at humility as a means of being open and grateful, and how there is real, and shadow humility. I shared with my two young friends that my behavior as a young devotee appeared to many to be humble, or unassuming, and I was willing to do almost anything. However, as I learned in my thirties, my so-called “humble” attitude was more a result of being beaten down by agents of the material energy as well as feeling bad about myself than arising from any spiritual understanding.

Lord Nrisimhadeva's Appearance Day, and the day before, Celebrating the Life of Jayananda

Lord Nrisimhadeva’s divine appearance day celebration is certainly one of my favorite occasions, and I am sure I am not alone in this. Our Christian friends are fond of quoting the Bible that “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” [John 3.16] and we could also say that God so loved his pure devotee in the world that he personally descended to give him all protection.

To this day devotees feel protected by this form of Krishna and pray to him to slay their “anarthas” or unwanted habits of thinking and acting, just as the Lord slayed Hiryanakashipu, the tormentor of his devotee, Shri Prahlad. While Gaudiya Vaishnavas can agree to having great faith in one’s particular agent of Divinity or conception of God—even thinking their path and face of God is the best—Vedic scriptures point to a more inclusive God that reciprocates according to one’s faith, and doesn’t condone fanaticism or war in the name of faith. There is only one God, though like a gem with many facets, the one God has unlimited expansions. “As they surrender to me, I proportionally reciprocate with them.” [Bhagavad Gita 4.11]

The “one path” to be celebrated would be pure devotion and not merely the externals of worship or which name of God one favors which, unfortunately, religionists fight over. How God reciprocates with those who worship him is expressed in many different forms in the religious world and to different degrees of purity. This is to be celebrated as the mercy of the Lord and the types of devotion that exist.

Remembering my Youthful Fear of Non-existence

NUMBER ONE. I am going to reprint a series from 2010 during late April till May 20th, when I spent time with my mom. [What follows after this introduction is from 4-03-10] She lay in hospital bed in a hospice, basically waiting to die, though she didn't really understand that, and kept asking when she was going home. When both one's parents have left the world in biological death, and moved on to another life, that is a kind of initiation.

"Loosing" one's parents (were they ever really "ours?") will obviously mean different things for everyone, but for me, it has been an initiation into a realization, that is more real than the important theory in scripture, namely, that we come into this world with only our karma and any spiritual merit we have, and then leave everything we have worked so hard to accumulate, either in hard material assets or our reputation, and how we are remembered.What we keep is what we have given, or owe for taking, and any spiritual progress we have made. Equally as importantly is our own opinion of our life--do we have unfinished business or unresolved issues including anger or resentment, and, as is often said in those having had a near death experience who underwent a panoramic life review, we are questioned in "How much have I given, how much have I loved, how much have a learned?" Everything else is only a backdrop to our spiritual progress.

Or as personal growth teachers often share, it is not what we have accumulated, how much money we have made, or any number of external signs of success or prosperity, but who we have become in the process in terms of our character, gratitude and generosity. Personally, though I agree with that assessment, I just add the superlative importance of how much we have progressed in loving God, and making spiritual progress from our conditioned exploitive ego, to the serving ego of the soul--that trumps everything.

I am on a plane heading to see my Mom in Palm Springs California in the US who is gravely ill. For the next few days or week I will be sharing my reflections and thoughts.

There is a strong power in being clear about our intentions. In my case my intention is to be a support for my Mom through our natural love from our long relationship at a very difficult time for her. I have to remember my purpose is to extend her compassion, kindness. I need have no other agenda--as much as we have hurt one another through misunderstanding--and be there for her by communicating love, consideration and the mood of service, while within I will pray for her speedy departure from her current miseries, and ideally to have some sort of spiritual awakening.

The Currents of Life, Part 1 and 2

The Currents of Life, Part 1 and 2 (reposted from FB on April 16th, 2013)
Part 1: Have you noticed the invisible currents of life? My experience currently, and upon reflection on past events, is that sometimes it is apparent that I seem to be swept along, lifted up as it were, beyond my will into the air of destiny, on some already decided course, which it is best if I accept, and not fight. I have come to see that our free will and power of choice though very small, can be applied, at least, to the attempt to be as present and introspective as possible.

Thus, I feel it is an important practice to develop the wherewithal to be as aware as possible, like a third-party witness, doing our best to accept what is beyond our control, with the hope to learn. Through “mistakes” or trials by fire, learning and growth are essential outcomes, regardless of external results. Furthermore, as an aside to the main topic here, as an aspiring devotee of Krishna, I know now to also add—or look for—Krishna to help me be present in the moment, by chanting the holy name, or remembering his form, pastimes, or instructions. This is “the life” for those on the path of bhakti.

I am applying this truth, which could be seen as awareness of destiny, or synchronicity, first to a recent, seemingly ordinary event, when I was volunteered, as is done in Facebook groups, to be part of an attempted reunion of Prabhupada disciples, and secondly to the events of my past life, which practically forced me to take up the path of bhakti. A few weeks ago I was implored upon visiting this FB site to share my devotional history. Fair enough, and yet, when I began attempting this, the scope of the writing took on a life of its own, as I have found is often the case, turning into more of a detailed autobiography.

LAST NIGHT THE GRIM REAPER CAME FOR ME

(reposted from 4-14-16)
I saw the grim reaper in my dream,
feeling no fear, I was curious to see him.
Coming near, he pointed his bony, pale hand toward me.
His other palm raised in blessing pose
where it was written, the number 65—my age!
Then with both hands, he pointed to the sky, and shrugged.

Meditation on Seeing Krishna in All Things

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[reposted from 4-10-2010 and included in my book, "The Yoga of Expression"]
Part one: The Metaphysic of Simultaneous, Inconceivable, Oneness, yet Difference

“In my unmanifested form
I pervade the Universe,
though I’m present everywhere
I am also apart from all.” [Bg 9.4]
In the broadest sense
Krishna is everything--
with more knowledge and focus
we learn about His energies.

Within the One Energy
there is spiritual variety
as Krishna is like the sun
his energies, the sunshine.
Here is Chaitanya’s metaphysic
of simultaneous, inconceivable
Oneness yet difference
all-pervading, yet a person.

Yes, the water IS Krishna—
yet NOT Krishna
as we don’t worship water
independently from him.

A Lotus in the Redwoods

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
[Some persons caught up in the counter-culture of the late '60's and '70's felt that all materiel prospects were void and society's status quo, miserable stagnation. Thus, as if in a life and death battle, they intensely felt compelled to search out meaning and happiness on the spiritual quest, appearing as their only hope. This free verse poem, inspired by the months I spent in the redwood forest in Muir Woods in Marin County [near San Francisco, California], condenses the background feelings of my spiritual search that culminated in Krishna bhakti and continues to unfold to this day, some 49 years later.

While the dynamics of my mood in writing this poem in 2011 was much softer than is expressed in this poem, my current mood has a similar quality in terms of inspiring action. The power of my original spiritual search gives me energy today, and has sustained my spiritual life all these years. I am inspired to remember that pivotal time of my life. It reminds of the power of urgency in fueling our endeavor to act for our dreams and goals, and what is required to make radical life changes for a higher purpose. I was so determined (for the first time in my life for anything!) to find the real purpose of my life and to make sense of what appeared to be a mad, pointless, world.

I was willing to forgo everything else to be successful on that pilgrim's journey. By the grace of my current cancer I am putting forward a more mature, subtle, but no less powerful, determination toward my life goal of service to others by speaking and writing, based on my life experiences. I'm inspired to remember the feeling and dynamism of that time of new beginnings, and to create another new beginning for myself. And as I have, so can you, whatever you age!

CONTINUALLY RECOMMITTING TO THE SPIRITUAL PATH AND ITS GOAL

After I finished my 31 day bodily cleanse of my various organs two years ago, I felt disassociated from life and had to regroup and recommit to my life mission--which is the subject of this short blog poem. Then my wife and I helped facilitate the Grihastha Vision Team 4th Annual Couple's Retreat in Gita-nagari PA. I have written and thought a great deal about my life, and the value of keeping death in mind. However, as I share in this poem, my tendency is to forget the urgency of my spiritual life, in my case, when my health seems to be getting better. I have to continually remind myself of the importance of whatever time remains in my life, be it one day, or 20 years, and thus I keep speaking and writing about my journey and what I have learned is most essential in life. When I speak or write, I am also teaching myself! I have been on my cancer healing journey now for 2 and 1/2 years, and according to my last PET scan, there is no change in my cancer. I have learned that some people just live with cancer and treat it with diet and various alternative treatments. If that be the case with me, so be it--even as I explore different options.

I must continually remember that I will die
perhaps today or tomorrow, but soon
because if I forget this truth
I return to complacency and the easy life—
this has happened to me, yet again...alas!!

I must recommit to spiritual life, continually.
Otherwise I may die distraught and resentful

which I have been shown by cancer’s mercy.
But now I am getting better and losing my urgency
so comfort and safety beckon me to return and relax.

CONFESSIONS OF BEING A HABITUAL “SLUMP,” TRANSFORMED BY FULLING MY MISSION TO GIVE

CONFESSIONS OF BEING A HABITUAL “SLUMP,” TRANSFORMED BY FULLING MY MISSION TO GIVE: Generally, I’m not in favor of self-deprecation, especially as a habitual go-to attitude of who we are as persons, which I see as an ill-informed, bad affirmation that can keep us stuck in behavior that needs to be overcome or changed into something positive. We aren't our past sad story, or who we "think" we are, which we only are if we resign ourselves to our limiting beliefs about what is possible.

The more we dwell on something the more power it has in our lives, either positive or negative. Our habitual thoughts and words become who we are, and to begin to change, we must begin changing our self-concept revealed what we focus on and affirm, within, by self-talk, and without, by our actions.

SELF-CRITICISM

Our self-criticism may be true to some extent but such introspection is only useful if it inspires us to change and improve ourselves. Otherwise, what’s the point? A successful life, materially or spiritually, is about change for the better. The purpose of introspection is for personal growth and transformation,

Dying in Prison

One of the inmates who has been in contact with the prison ministry since 2009, Bhakta Sasha, now has terminal cancer. He is fifty-seven years old. The prospect of dying is overwhelming for everyone, but having to die in prison is even more daunting. Prisons are not known for their warm, loving atmospheres; they are cold and impersonal at best. However, Bhakta Sasha is armed with Prabhupada’s teachings and graced with the holy name and he is taking full advantage of it.

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