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Fate Attraction Part 5—Coming to Krishna

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[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series as a way to commemorate this month which marks my 45th year of coming to Krishna. This is the final installment (previously posted 2-16-14)--until I make it into a whole book.] Chris had come back from Muir Woods to Berkeley a few times to restock his food supplies and then return, but this time he felt he would stay in town for a while. He wanted to begin searching the library and alternative newspapers for information about different spiritual orders and groups such as the Trappist monks, Buddhists, and various yoga societies. Somehow to have a new life, a spiritual life, and one by which he could focus on useful life skills, being in harmony with Nature, and helping others.

In his second year of college he wasn’t impressed or inspired by his teachers. He reasoned that if he continued his education he would become like they who were merely part of the materialistic status quo. His teachers didn’t seem interested in changing, becoming better people, or most importantly, in their own souls. Chris felt completely estranged from his old life, apparently lost, even damaged from an external perspective, and yet he felt somehow guided in the process of finding his path. It had been a radical, unpredictable journey and there no end in sight, but his effort to find and live the Truth was worth it, even if his material progress was impeded or lost forever. Without realizing and living the purpose of life, what was the use of any other obtainment, even if praised by the World?

He simplified his life by giving away most of his possessions, and began sleeping on the floor. During the day he would sit on his folded sleeping bag before a small coffee table that he used as a desk. It was covered with stacks of spiritual/religious books, magazines, and notebooks. He dreamed of being a sage or monk, what the I Ching referred to as a “superior man,” not in vanity, but in depth of character. Chris had become a vegetarian rather naturally,

Fatal Attraction Part 4: The Awakening—Learning from the Natural World and the Redwood Forest

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[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series.] Growing up in San Francisco, Chris didn’t think it unusual or sad if the sky was overcast or foggy—it was just a different color sky, though he liked the sun too. In fact, in a general sense, even at the young age of four he began a lifelong pattern of not look forward to things, or thinking of too much about the past. Though he was learning to shut his emotions down as much as possible, in a strange way he lived in the present, at least his version of it, safe in his castle of neutrality, yet ever on guard so he could remain at peace, and not angry (like his father). He learned that if someone is angry that will mean pain, so he treaded life very gently. When his family moved from L.A. to San Francisco in 1954, he didn’t feel much different in his new neighborhood in the Sunset district than he had in his previous house in Van Nuys, especially after making friends—but at first he didn’t like the hills. When a neighbor began making skate coasters for the kids, the hills became an asset for fun.

In their flat on 9th Avenue, these were carefree years for Chris, at least on the surface. He had a best friend, Michael Rivers who lived next door, and they played all day, coming home for lunch, and sometimes playing Monopoly. They were loosely under the watch of Michael’s mom, since Chris’s parents were at work, and sometimes there was a baby sitter, but in those times kids were just let out to their own devices without supervision. As they grew older they enjoyed roaming the neighborhood, finding homes under construction to play in, climbing the tree on the corner, or exploring the hill that steeply dropped down from 8th Avenue to the fast and busy street far below. Sometimes on the weekends they would walk over to Sutro forest and climb to the top with Chris’s dad.

Interestingly, from today’s perspective, in his youth Chris didn’t learn to make any distinction between the city composed of concrete, asphalt, cars, and houses, with the natural environment he encountered in his back yard, in vacant lots, or at Sutro forest. He hadn’t yet spent time in country settings which were at least partially undisturbed and full of trees, bushes and wildlife. Although later he and his friends spent time in Golden Gate Park, and had family vacations in scenic resort areas, he still didn’t understand that where a city now stood was once a scenic, natural habitat, free from human intervention and “progress.” To Chris, human beings seemed to be the center around which everything else revolved, while Nature and its laws were but an afterthought, or only of secondary importance to cities and their inhabitants. It was only when he was in his existential crisis at 18 that Chris really appreciated the natural world. He discovered a Nature that wasn’t secondary to human beings. Instead, humans were only a part of Nature. The natural world, the planet, and the Universe, were the basis of all life, having to be properly respected and cooperated with.

Fatal Attraction Part 3—Choosing the Path of Light

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[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series.] An unusual cold, rainy day in Berkeley, California, but for a particular person, it was a fitting, useful, backdrop for an epiphany, or deep “aha moment.” Chris Cox, in a contemplative mood that was becoming almost normal, was sitting on the floor in his minimally furnished room. A single light bulb hung down from the ceiling by a cord speckled with white paint from an ancient paint job. Warming himself in front of the gas heater, he would occasionally look around the room or out the window at the gray day, as if looking for special meaning, or some clue about what was missing from his life. In fact he felt like he, himself, was an existential question waiting to be answered, and for the first time in his life.

Chris had lost his job and was getting food stamps. His hippie house was on “rent strike,” having banded together with other renters to withhold paying rent until the “pig landlords” lowered the cost, so he hadn’t paid his rent in months. Still, the electricity and water were on, and he had food and shelter. How was this possible that he could live here with no effort? He could just sit here and live, having time to read religious and mystical texts and think about the purpose of life. It all seemed magical, yet purposeful.

He didn’t know it yet, but he was experiencing how simple living can foster deep thought about life. As it turned out, this was a rare time when life conspired to make certain results more likely by arranging the environment like a perfect supporting cast.

Fatal Attraction Part 2: Illuminating the Shadow of our Past

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[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series. The basic premise of this series is to posit that our greatest challenges, problems, reveres, difficulties, hurts, or pain, have the power to crush us (if we let them), or offer the greatest opportunity for personal and spiritual growth. Specifically here, I am speaking of our childhood, and how huge a shadow it casts on our life—which could be good or bad, or likely, a mixture. Our parents are instruments of our karma and are meant teach us valuable lessons for living our lives. Many people don’t really worry about this and simply live without a lot of deep introspection about how their past has shaped them, which isn’t a bad fact if one is happy and fulfilled.]
(Fast forward sixteen years from the marriage spoken about in part 1.) This seemed like any typical San Francisco summer morning, foggy and cool, but it was anything but normal to Chris, who was going to do something he didn’t want to do, while his Dad, Johnny, was happy. They were driving to the courthouse for a divorce settlement. Parking, they walked up the stairs and into the building. John found the appropriate courtroom and they took their seats to wait their turn. Chris felt sick to his stomach and wished he could just run away, but knew he couldn’t, so instead, he retreated deeper into himself. It was like he wasn’t even there. Disassociation was how he survived childhood and it had served him well. While a good temporary protection strategy, it was a poor way to live at all times. Later in life, Chris would find his biggest challenge was learning to be present, and to feel, whether sadness or love, but depression became a way to be numb, though it gradually became his clue that something was wrong, very wrong.

For all practical purposes, the memory of this courtroom experience was gone, buried under the debris of pain and disappointment. He only knew it happened on the rare occasions his dad recounted how proud he was hearing that Chris, when asked by the judge, wanted to live with his father—which was totally untrue. Even though Chris couldn’t remember the last time his dad beat him, he still was afraid of him and on guard in case his father would become angry and hit him, so he didn’t speak his mind at court, or for that matter, much at all.

Fatal Attraction--Part 1

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[February 12th was my 45th anniversary of moving into the temple as a single monastic (brahmacari) and officially taking up the process of bhakti, or pure devotional service. To honor my spiritual journey on the way to Krishna, I thought I would repost this 5 part series about my life before taking up Krishna consciousness and how it led to my existential crisis and spiritual search. Since these are blogs, I have greatly condensed the material.] Pattrica Ann Bailey stared mindlessly at the passing scenery as she sat in the moving train. She felt relaxed and glad to be away from Chicago and what seemed like a fixed future. In fact, the more miles away from the “Windy City,” the better she felt. While a fiercely independent and critically intelligent young woman, she couldn’t stand up to her mother Peg—still, after all these years! Patt (with two t’s please) had joined the Navy during the Second World War to escape her mom’s watchful eye, and even married, but then, after only a year she had to get a divorce. Her—now X—husband shocked her by revealing that he liked men better than girls and had no feelings for her. Thus, she was forced to return home in shame.

Although she had a very high IQ, Patt could be impulsive and over emotional at times. Thus her mom had never quite trusted her decisions, and was worried about her future. To “help” her daughter make a better choice in picking men, she invited a good looking, wealthy, navy captain over for dinner. He was nice enough Patt had thought at first and so they began dating. Before she knew it she was engaged, which she had agreed to do at the insistence of her mom. And the major problem was not only that she didn’t love him, but as she shared years later, “He was boooor-iiiiiing,” and Patt had a weakness for exciting men and doing fun things her mother didn’t approve of.

Stages in your ages

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[The theme of this blog is very much on my mind and was originally published in 2008-08-08--I spruced it up a bit and added pictures to make it more consistent with my current blogs.]I just returned from a trip to the ocean. I spent time thinking of some lessons I learned during my life which I wanted to share with you. As we age and hopefully mature we have to apply the spiritual principles of Krishna consciousness in different ways. At the same time, in our pursuit of spiritual perfection, we also have to apply different material strategies of support (i.e marriage, living in an ashram, occupational development, etc.) in order to be peaceful, satisfied, and able to remain fixed in our goal of loving and serving Krishna for our whole life. We don't want to be a shooting star, but a brilliant sun in lasting service. The following are points for your contemplation:

As we mature we will have a much different idea of what spirituality is than when we were young and inexperienced. In fact we may very well see what we once thought was Krishna consciousness, was only a shadow, or a beginning layer of a much deeper, broader, nuanced view.

Your conceptions of Krishna consciousness, and what you thought was your level of advancement will in time be challenged—so never be complacent and think you have gone somewhere by only a head full of knowledge or some years of chanting and service. The quality of our practice is much more important than the time spent. We may obtain Krishna in a moment, or not for a million births.

Encouraging Words

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[This blog was originally published on 4-21-12, and has now been moved here] Everyone falls short, or doesn’t progress as fast as they would like, on their spiritual journey. Can we ever think we love or serve Krishna sufficiently, when even great souls consider themselves deficient in devotion? Therefore, I always feel it is essential to portray my struggles as well as successes, so that devotees will be comfortable accepting and acknowledging where they fall short—at least within a select group, or a confidential friend. If we hide behind a veneer of external practice, trying to look good without admitting and sharing our struggles, we won’t be able to hear how other devotees have dealt with similar problems. Some devotees think they are the only one with a particular challenge or sensual weakness, but if there was more honest sharing of experiences, devotees would see that while the exact details and degree of intensity vary, most of us have many of the same issues and struggles

To make spiritual progress we must be introspective enough to understand our strengths and weakness, as well as where we are now, and what the goal is (so we can remain fixed on it). There is a time to hear and chant about Krishna, and a time to be real about our material attachments and lack of spiritual standing. We only get to steadiness (nistha) and taste (ruchi) in bhakti through being conscious of, and retiring our anarthas, or unwanted ways of thinking and acting—and that is a long, winding road!

Be Who You Really Are!

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(Since I have a new audience, I thought I would continue to repost some of my favorite blogs [this one from 11-11-11] that are related to my current themes about personal growth, power, and a sense of mission. I am focused on these topics because many of us aren't using our full potential of allotted power, or energy given by Krishna, and thus are dissatisfied due to being diverted from making our special, natural contribution. To give you an example, my mission is to provide encouragement and inspiration to my readers or listeners to be the best persons they can in the pursuit of bhakti, or loving devotional thoughts and actions to please God, or Krishna. In this blog I point to the power of spiritual positive thinking while depending on Krishna. Real humility comes not artificially, but as a by-product of our spiritual development. With Krishna's help and our faithful thoughts and actions, all things are possible.) :

In the face of all our apparent problems, mistakes, and perceived failings and shortcomings, it is absolutely essential to remember our spiritual identity as a soul who is part of Krishna. This spiritual understanding is the solution to all problems and is the success of our life. You aren’t that body—remember? Don’t get so caught up in life as to deny this, or please consider this view if you have never thought of applying it practically. Bodily identification which is created and fostered by false ego—that most insidious and subtle element—encourages us to defend our misconceptions, and thus causes all our conflicts with others and unhappiness. Rather than looking inward, we think we need to add things on to our lives for fulfillment—of course, this is good for the economy!

Many of us suffer from low self-esteem, or a very poor opinion of ourselves, or we may display an inflated grandiose view of ourselves to cover this up (the dirty secret of our unworthiness). Some may not really have faith in the spiritual goal, and so remain with what they think is certain—however miserable or mediocre that may be. We may want to distract ourselves by remaining very busy so we don’t have to spend too much time thinking of our wounded, hurt self—or we may always be blaming others for our problems.

Shri Nityananda as more Merciful than Shri Chaitanya

Shri Nitai
I originally published this blog on February 15, 2011. Since I don't have time this evening to prepare a blog about Lord Nityananda, I thought I would post it again now. Sunday, February 1st will be the observance of Lord Nityananda’s holy appearance day. I was blessed in 2011 to be able to give class to the devotees on that day. I am sharing with you part of what I spoke about then. On the one hand, I appreciate the special mercy that comes to one who is able to speak to the devotees about Krishna and the philosophy of devotion, while on the other, I also find it very humbling to realize that I really don’t know much about the philosophy. It is like an ocean, and I can only share a few drops. However, I speak for my own purification, with the prayer and intention to inspire and inform the devotees. Besides this, Krishna appreciates our taking risks in his service, assuring us in the Gita, that he carries what we lack and preserves what we have.

It is interesting how Spring is associated with Shri Chaitanya and his associations. First Shri Advaita Acharya, who prayed for the Lord’s appearance, then Shri Nityananda Prabhu, the expansion of Lord Chaitanya and his most merciful aspect, and finally the crescendo, next month, on the full moon day, Lord Chaitanya’s appearance. Although Shri Chaitanya is widely known as the “most munificent” avatar, freely giving Krishna prema (ecstatic love for Krishna), Shri Nityananda is considered even more merciful, since he gives prema to the most unqualified persons.

Finding Our Personal Mission and Potential Power—Part 2

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One of my main points over many months of writing is that personal growth can be very favorable to our steadiness in spiritual practice. Such work is certainly not an end in itself, but can be helpful along with our sincerity of purpose and prayer in sorting out our life issues, and accessing our personal power for our service to Shri Guru and Gauranga (our spiritual teacher and Lord Chaitanya), and for the people in general. We can judge a thing by its results (phalena pariciyate) and if through such personal growth work one is more enthused in bhakti and in one's life, this is proof of its value.

All change begins with knowing we have a problem, sometimes the most difficult awareness. However, this still isn’t sufficient to create change without working and praying to remove our shortcomings, and replacing them with better qualities or habits. Expert guidance in doing this work is indispensable. My understanding is that assisted introspection (as I have coined it) with experienced mentors will be helpful in rising to the stage of nistha (steadiness), an interim goal on the long road to prema (pure love of God).

The Gita teaches us that to not follow our nature is artificial and unsustainable. So our spiritual practices should be in sync, not just with our work (as important as that is), but with our sense of personal mission. Our power, or empowerment, in life comes from connecting our personal mission to our spiritual mission, making them one, if you will. Some teachers today say that just doing our personal mission, or being a balanced human being, is spiritual. While this is a crucial part of the equation, it is only part of it, and remains incomplete without addressing the needs of the soul.

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