Slow and steady wins the race! Only $12,000 $5,221 more is needed to keep alive and vibrant for the next six months. A big THANK YOU to those who've contributed to our Fall Fundraiser so far. If everyone gave a few dollars (say, between five and fifty) we could get rid of this banner and go back to doing what we love most: helping people all over the Internet discover Krishna. If you give $25 or more, we'll email you a gift of the Bhagavad-gita audio book. How about that? Click here to donate.


Is Happiness a Choice? Part 1 & 2

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Part 1
In the midst of my sneezing and a hacking cough this morning I discovered a fantastically beautiful sunrise—breathtakingly inspiring for me—when I went downstairs to wake our home Deities. These days I am very taken by the natural world, the sunrise and sunset, phases of the moon, and my favorite for super variety, the ever-changing clouds. These daily occurrences are often missed in our hectic world, and thus it is no wonder that people are ever more depressed and lonely, feeling the cities are like a fast paced void. Behind Nature, and within it (and our hearts), is the Presence of the Almighty, patiently waiting for us to turn to him.

And when we are in the peace that nature can afford (if we can turn off our phone) we can feel closer to the Source of Everything, who for Gaudiya Vaishnavas, is the charming, extraordinarily gorgeous, irresistible flute player and cowherd, Shri Krishna. So I felt inspired and happy in the midst of a distressful condition—which gives a clue on how to be happy. This is the opening for today’s topic on happiness.

My wife and I gave a class last week titled, "Is Happiness a Choice?" guided by the 14th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita on the three modes, or qualities, that govern the material world. Our answer to this question was a conditional yes, since happiness is really an attitude toward life, and not the result of our material adjustments or attainments. Another way of thinking of happiness is that it is not a “thing” but a by-product of a state of consciousness. Thus we might reframe the question to read, “What state of mind is required to choose to be happy?”

From a higher spiritual perspective, one of the qualities of the soul is happiness, so the closer we come to the spiritual platform, the more joy we will naturally feel, and the less we will be searching for happiness in the world of ephemeral things. The potentiality of material goodness (sattva) is that it is the portal, or gateway, to the soul, since it can bring wisdom and spiritual illumination. The downside of material goodness—and all material qualities or things have shortcomings—is that one can become attached to being a happy, virtuous, and wise person, and remain materially bound.

Discovering and Using our Gifts--the Fruit of Inner Work and Prayer

(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.)

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This blog is a continuation of the last two about undercurrents in groups and for each of us, personally. In a sense the fruit of dealing with our personal undercurrent, or unresolved life issues, is discovering and sharing our gifts, and the joy and fulfillment that ensue.

Many of us feel that being a soul in a physical embodiment is a strange combination. So strange in fact that some people, even without any spiritual awareness, have the experience of feeling they don't fit into the world, or are depressed for no apparent reason. A few of us have taken this angst as an impetus to search for the meaning of life beyond the status quo, finding the spiritual quest as the solution. I understand though, that being on the spiritual journey doesn't mean to deny the physical, or to just live our life waiting to transcend—as I did for many years as a single monastic (brahmacari). Awakening to our spiritual nature requires being fully present in the world and understanding our unique contribution to the family of the Earth while focusing on our Source through spiritual practice.

There are many dimensions to life. My feeling of emptiness and depression with the world led me to begin my spiritual quest. This search inspired me to regularly visit and live in the redwood forest, observe Nature, and read spiritual books. That led me to Krishna and I lived a spiritually focused life in various temples around the world for 12 years or so. That was good for me and gave me standing in, and a taste for, bhakti. Then I came to another dissatisfaction, or inner prompting, which led me to the journey of interfacing with the world and understanding that I was out of balance with my material self; I had to attend to what I would come to understand as my life lessons and "karmic mission."
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Both our spiritual practice and understanding what we need to do in the world are essential. It is better to live in the world near devotees hankering for our spiritual ideal (Krishna Consciousness), then to live in a temple, hankering for material facilities and wondering what is wrong.

Our Personal Undercurrent—And What We Can Do About It!

(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.)
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As I was working on last week’s blog about undercurrents in communities, I also thought about a related, important topic concerning our personal undercurrent, and how that affects our life, relationships, and whatever groups we are part of—such as family, school, occupation, and religious organization. I did bring up the subject, without naming it, when I spoke about how devotee’s unresolved “life issues” or undiagnosed mental health problems can create difficulies in any group they are part of. However, that was about “them,”—you know, those “other” devotees that cause all the problems—and I wasn’t specifically addressing you, that saintly person who never causes any conflicts. (Smile!) Many “you’s” make up any group, and each person has an effect on the whole. We must soberly consider that we can’t change others, but only ourselves—and that with great difficulty and endeavor. Never the less, changing for the better, within and without, is our most important work in life, and specifically for those on the path of loving devotional service to Krishna, or our conception of Divinity.

If we are in a leadership position, we can carefully and lovingly point out problem areas we observe in others, or if serious enough, recommend they seek professional help. Ultimately each person has to accept their shortcoming and see the value of working toward improvement. Taking personal responsibility for relationship conflicts is the first step, combined with a willingness to do the difficult work of introspection and self-examination. I have written before about our “shadow” side, or those disowned or repressed parts of our psyche, that we don’t want to accept or deal with. “Undercurrent” is another way to label those problematic parts of ourselves and encourage everyone, in addition to spiritual practice, to be engaged in self-improvement and developing less reactionary ways of dealing with others. The principle to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” applies if we are to minimize our problems with others, and be a positive force in our family and/or community!

Texas Faith 136: A cup of coffee and other holy rituals

Dallas Morning News,

4 Minute Krishna Podcast @ BKS Iyengar Yoga - Wine VS Yoga

Texas Faith 135: When is a city ban on feeding the poor an infringement on religious liberty?

Dallas Morning News,

TEXAS FAITH 134: How should we incorporate faith into a secular political world?

Dallas Morning News,

25 Fun and puzzling Krishna Trivia Questions - #20 is my fav

Appreciations from guests

Oaklawn/Cedar Springs Halloween Block Party Street Kirtan w/ Giriraj Swami

Every year during this time of the year we have a wonderful kirtan with thousands of folks attending the Oaklawn Halloween Block Party.  The event has more than 100,000 attendees and can be quite PG-13 but everyone loves the chanting.  In fact many costumed partiers chant along with us for several hours throughout the night.

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