Utilizing the Time of our Lives for the Best Purpose: Appreciating the Value of Prema Part 2

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My Muse, Sara: Hey, Karnamrita. Haribol! Thanks for publishing part 1. I found it very clear and concise, but I see that you’re having problems finishing this series.

Karnamrita: You would know, as by the grace of my gurus and the Lord of my heart, along with prompting from you, I have generally been inspired to write my blogs over the last seven years. However, these days my writing is going slower than usual. I know there must be some reason for this, and so I have been praying for guidance to understand my next step. I have learned that in making spiritual progress we have to practice both elimination of the old, and acceptance of the new, in order that we may grow into our full potential, and not remain stuck in old habits. In this vein, I have a number of possible book ideas that I haven’t spent time on. While this is an untried venue for me, it may have a wider audience. What do you think? I am wondering if I should focus more on writing books.

Sara: That is an area to be explored, and I am sure you will gradually know what to do—but for now, why don’t you complete part two. I have a few questions which might help you finish. Human life without some type of connection to God through religion or spirituality is similar to animal life in meeting survival needs.

Karnamrita: Your questions would surely help, but should I say anything about you, or not?

Sara: Why not, as the readers may just consider this a writing ploy, or think that it is interesting that you have a muse you can converse with. Anyone who has had to write will at least appreciate the idea and possibility.

Karnamrita: Well, you're usually not that easy to speak with, and mainly give inspiration, but I like the idea of having talks with you, and adding that to my posts. Thank you for helping! In any case, go ahead and ask.

Sara: What is it that causes an ordinary person to take up some type of practice centered around God?

Utilizing the Time of our Lives for the Best Purpose: Appreciating the Value of Prema Part 1

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Although we may die at any time in youth or old age, the older one is the more possibility exists that this day will be our last in our current body. Many accounts have been written about the regrets of those on their death beds. Most people don’t bemoan their lack of social standing, accumulated money, or accomplishments, but are focused on feelings of regret about how they used their time, or their unresolved conflicts in close relationships. Such unsettled emotions are centered on actions they did, or should have done, words they said, or should have said, etc. Our sense of regret or incompleteness partially makes up our desires which combine with our good and bad deeds to fuel our future births.

In my training in hospice work one service we learned to offer to the dying was to help them make peace with their past, or we could say, to have a life review before death. Eastern religious traditions speak about how at the time of death one experiences a panoramic life review from the soul perspective. This perspective has been strengthened for some people by the convincing testimony of those having near-death experiences. At such a time one can experience what is truly important (according to the level of one’s wisdom and guidance), and are reminded that whatever we do comes back to us in kind, and that there is a higher purpose to life than one’s personal selfish agenda. Therefore, the time we have in our life is a very valuable asset and needs to be used in the best possible way for the advantage of all. Hierarchies of benefits exist, from levels of material blessings to planes of spiritual obtainment, culminating in prema, or pure love for God.

TEXAS FAITH 132: Is religion to blame for the conflicts around the world?

Dallas Morning News,

Our Cancún Trip–Part 2 Beach, Harinam and Book Distribution

On Sunday we were able to visit the ISKCON farm and we had just one day left.  So Monday we finally took our dip in the ocean.  We left out early to visit the clear ocean and do a little exploring. 

TEXAS FAITH 131: In love and marriage, do different faiths really matter in America?

Dallas Morning News,

When I'm Sixty-Four: Aging Gracefully with a Spiritual Purpose--or Not

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“Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?" - PAUL MC CARTNEY; JOHN LENNON

Sunday June 22, is my 64th birthday. Growing up in the 1960s I naturally remember the Beetle’s song, “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Yeah, after 44 years of bhakti practice those old songs (and ad jingles!) are still floating around in my subconscious mind. This Beetle’s ballad is a love song about staying together despite aging that Paul McCartney wrote at the advanced age of 16. As a person involved in marital and premarital education this is an important topic for me (and my wife of 24 years). When I was 16 I couldn’t even imagine being 25, what to speak of 64! I was an only child with very limited experience with older persons. After living in Berkeley, California for a few years and then moving into the temple, when we went to San Francisco for street sankirtan (group chanting), I was taken back seeing all the old people! Berkeley is a college town and I was hanging out with only the young, and when I moved into the temple, the oldest person was 23

In any case, anticipating my birthday, I thought the subject of aging, suffering, and being 64 would be a good blog topic. Of course, most anything can be grist for the writer’s mill (we usually notice those things we are focused on), but this one was a natural candidate. Thus I wanted to find the words to the Beetle’s song, but before I began my Internet search, my dear friend, Dulal-Chandra Prabhu, sent me the lyrics and wished me a happy birthday. I wished him a happy birthday back, since his birthday is the same as mine—with THE SAME YEAR! How interesting and rare is that—especially among close friends! We celebrated our 60th birthday together, and amidst fun and games, we went around the room to compile a list of shared personality traits and devotional histories. Though we have a number of differences, our wives and friends found an amazing amount of shared traits and experiences.

My general thoughts when writing are to share what I am going through, experiencing, thinking about, or inspired by, in a way that I pray may have relevance to you, my readers. Birth, disease, old age, and death, being shared by all embodied beings, are very rich and important topics. Called the four-fold, or four, miseries of material life, they are listed in the Bhagavad-gita verses (8-12) from the 13th chapter, as part of understanding the process of spiritual knowledge.
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Since the soul is eternal and is never born or dies, speaking of these four miseries isn’t considered by devotees to be morbid or a topic to avoid in polite conversation.

Our Cancún Trip–Part 1

Uncovering our Soul's Nature in Bhakti: What Have We Signed Up For?

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so if you don't want to listen, mute your speakers.)Which head is real? photo Towheadsarebetterthanone_zpse9a9416d.jpgThere are many ways and varieties of motivations by which people take up the practice of Krishna bhakti, or any path. Whatever way, and for whatever reason, one turns toward God are all good since we all have to begin somewhere on our spiritual journey. Well, we don’t have to begin anything. However, the premise of the Vedas and many religious texts is that the ultimate purpose of life is not only understanding our true nature as part of God (and our relationship with Him), but includes putting that knowledge into practice by serving God in pure love with our heart and soul.

In regards to the type of people who come to Krishna, there is no specific type, or class, from the worldly point of view. Anyone can take up the path of bhakti, provided they have the “qualification” of having faith in it. There are many gradations of this faith as we’ll discuss. To have faith in bhakti, there has to be some background, or blessings from a saint, or some act of devotional service from this or a previous lifetime, often unconscious (ajnata-sukriti). Observably, externally, we may be born in a devotee family, be attracted to the qualities or looks of the devotees or those in the congregation, or be searching for relief from our suffering; we may love kirtan, the food (prasadam, or mercy), the philosophy, the general spiritual atmosphere, how we feel when we visit, or some combination of reasons with varying mixed motivations. Perhaps we like belonging to a group, being around people from our ethnic background, or are looking for customers for our product or service; or we may be hoping to find a girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse, etc. Regardless of one’s intent, Krishna bhakti is like fire, and it will eventually act.

However, though there are many indirect reasons that bring us to Krishna, at some point one has to consciously choose to embark on it for its own sake, beyond circumstance, convenience, or to fulfill some material purpose. If we are actually a spiritual seeker—or aspire to be—it behooves us to understand what the ultimate goal of the bhakti path is. This will help us get the most out of our time and endeavor by inspiring us to put our heart into the spiritual practices while praying to have the best motivation. This, in turn, will give us a spiritual vision enthusing us for the long term, beyond any fleeting material reasons that initially brought us.

Mouthwash, oral cancer, and distilled essence of rotten

The Importance of Trained Counselors and Mentors

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This last Memorial Day weekend my wife and I attended the 2014 Sadhu Sanga Retreat, located near Boone, NC. Conveniently located only 2 hours plus 15 minutes or so from our house in North Carolina, the retreat center, situated on a high ridge, featured a panoramic view of the surrounding area in a stunning secluded setting. The Vedic style architecture of the facility felt very friendly and appropriate. All the events were held in a spectacularly spacious hall that could comfortably accommodate thousands. While the four day kirtan event was itself enticing for us to attend, we came mainly to promote our Grihastha Vision Team’s [GVT’s] new book, “Heart and Soul Connection”, (which gives tools to improve marital and family relationships) and to invite couples to our September 12-14 couple’s retreat in at Gita Nagari, Pennsylvania.

I talked to many devotees throughout the retreat, selling about 70 books. I spoke to spouses having difficulties in their marriages, and to those devotees who were trying to help couples in their communities but didn’t have the training to really help counsel them. These conversations reminded me of the critical need in our devotional communities for mental health services, couples counseling, and the training of mentor couples. Temple leaders should have basic training as to when to refer devotees with mental health problems to appropriate professionals and have available trained mentors to help couples having marital difficulties.

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