Karnamrita.das's blog

When Devotees Leave Krishna

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Sometimes we experience great surprise and intense sadness at the unexpected departure from the bhakti path of a devotee we may have been inspired by or respected. Or even if the devotee struggled to follow the basic devotional practices and disciplines, we can still be unnerved when they leave, and then denounce and attack what is still our faith, reinterpreting their stay in an ashram in terms of cultic manipulation and brainwashing. “What really happened?” me may wonder, and how could I have helped prevent this? Sometimes in the aftermath of such a sudden departure, some devotees worry and wonder if it could happen to them, as it brings up their own doubts. This scenario recently happened in a circle of devotees I know, and it caused me to reflect on what it takes to stay on the path, and the various reasons people leave.

When I was a new devotee I experienced one of my friends leave the temple. I didn’t see him again for three weeks until he came to the Sunday feast. Though I recognized him, I was startled to see his expression. He looked like a shadow of his former self when he had a bright faced countenance. Now he had a dark gloomy appearance and seemed unfocused and dazed. I wondered what had brought this about, as if he had just entered a self-created prison.

An Example of What’s Wrong with Modern Medicine

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When we are sick and not getting better we may imagine going to some kind of medical professional who is knowledgeable, compassionate, and knows something about our medical history—even about us personally. Today this seems more of a fantasy we cling to, or hope to encounter if we have a lot of money to spend for the best care available.

Some months ago I visited a clinic in the next county, as this was recently given to me by my new medical insurance. During and after this experience, I had firsthand experience of is wrong with the American medical system. Let me recount:

Walking through the door to the desk, a sign informs me that I need to sign in. After doing so, I look up at the busy workers behind the counter, hoping someone will notice me. The minutes tic off and I wonder if I am invisible. Closest to me are two ladies busily engaged, one on the phone, and another on the computer. Behind them are 3 other women busy with conversation, and behind them are 2 other ladies with their back toward me, busy with data entry. No one notices me. After about 8 minutes I am checked in and told to take my seat and wait for my name to be called.

In the building directory two doctors and nine nurses are listed with various titles. In the front office I counted nine office staff and there must be more inside. I wonder what the payroll is for all these employees.

Narada’s Previous Life Demonstrates His Dependence on Krishna

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[Originally published on July 24th, 2012](The final installment of the 3 part series.) One of my favorite accounts in Shrimad Bhagavatam is Narada’s sharing of his previous life with Vyasadeva in the first Canto. This volume was all of the SB that was published when I became a devotee, and I have read it more than any other passage. Still, even with whole 12 Cantos of SB in print, I still find this story very inspiring. I like biographies anyway, and “coming to Krishna” stories are especially interesting and relevant to sadhakas (practicing devotees of Krishna). Although Narada is an eternally perfected devotee, he still has this aspect of his life as a way to teach us about the essential importance of Vaishnava blessings and association to jump start our spiritual lives. Narada embarks on the pilgrim’s journey to attain spiritual perfection, and he seems like one of us as he faces a personal tragedy which catapults him toward Krishna. We read how he depended on Krishna in all circumstances and was not independent in his endeavor to successfully meditate, but had to abide by Krishna’s timing for perfection.

True Independence Comes from Dependence on Krishna Part 2--False and Real Independence Taught by Ajamila

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[Originally published on July 14th, 2012]After setting the mood with six verses and excerpts from Shrila Prabhupada’s purports in part one, in the next two blogs, I will do my best to unpack some of those ideas through appropriate stories from the Shrimad Bhagavatam. The foundational understanding to gain the most from this, or any Krishna centered talk or writing, is that our lasting identity is spiritual—we are eternal awareness, or a particle of consciousness imbued with the serving tendency. Presently, by identifying ourselves with the material body and mind and their attachments, we are forced to serve the needs of physical survival, and are also led to fulfill our desires for enjoyment and accomplishment. By conditioning, we think fulfilling our personal desires is freedom, yet our proclivity to be attracted to specific material tastes is relative to the type of body and mind we have—not to our spiritual selves, or who we truly are. We are the perceiver or animator of the body, but have a different nature than we are currently identifying with.

True Independence Comes from Dependence on Krishna

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[first published on July 8th, 2012]Since "Independence Day" in the USA was is July 4th, I gave a class about the idea of real independence from a spiritual perspective. I will share some of the points I made in this and a second blog. To begin with, material "independence" is an illusion based on our forgetfulness of our spiritual nature. Since we are tiny parts of Krishna, our normal condition is to be under a superior shelter. Therefore, we can only work under the power of His energies, either consciously through bhakti (internal superior energy), or unconsciously through the modes of material nature (separated inferior energy).

Spiritual dependence is the true reality and secret for peace, happiness, and fulfillment. Real independence comes from total dependence on Krishna by seeing Him as the Supreme Source of everything in our lives and the world. Krishna is the supreme proprietor, enjoyer, and dear-most friend of all. I explain these points through six verses from the Gita with some of Prabhupada’s purports and then I ran out of my allotted words, so I will give practical examples by sharing spiritual narrations from the Shrimad Bhagavatam in my next blog. I then end with some prayers from Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur that speak of how to practice seeing Krishna as our supreme maintainer and protector.

Date with Destiny--Saved from Death--Enlightened by a Deer

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 photo 11055331_10205628611428053_2405937437644898940_o_zpso1lbxysi.jpg[Reposting from yesterday a fictional retelling of an event I just experienced] Thursday is shopping and errand day when I travel a radius of about 20 miles to purchase some organic vegetables, dump garbage, occasionally give away stuff at the Goodwill, and take care whatever else needs to done in nearby, exciting Sandy Ridge—like go to the bank or post office. As I was driving away from the bank, I thought that this had been a normal day for me. Rising at 4:30 AM, I began by reading some of Yamuna Devi’s biography and then Shrimad Bhagavatam. As often happens, time seems to shoot by and I have to rush to take my shower and prepare to wake the Deities, and begin my japa, or personal chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra on beads.

By 6AM I was chanting. My wife joins me between 6 and 7. This morning I was happy to have almost finished my quota of “rounds” on my beads by 8 AM. At that time I begin the breakfast offering as part of my worship, and then bathe my Shilas, or sacred stone manifestations of Krishna. At slightly after 9, my wife and I honor the Lord’s prasadam or the food which has been prepared for our Deity’s pleasure, though according to our necessity and diet, while we get some morning sun on our deck. Then more reading, finishing my chanting, emails, making a few posts, and it is time to leave for my outing. Today I had to leave earlier than usual since the store I buy the organic produce at was closing early.

On the open road the sun was brightly shining with those beautiful, white puffy clouds, gently moving across the sky that inspire me so much. Another typical hot summer day. I was thinking about the fact that while I pray to be free from my anarthas or unwanted mentalities or attachments, sometimes my mind would like to have them. We have so many parts of our conditioned identity. While ideally we remain in our best or core self in the mood of goodness, sometimes our parts take a primary voice and role in our life and we may do, or at least think about doing, what isn’t helpful for our spiritual progress, even degrading.

As I was lamenting this fact in myself, I heard a loud thud, and saw a deer to my right that was obviously the cause of the sound, being hit by my car.

Die Before Dying—Move Before Moving: Parts 1 & 2

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Part 1

Devotee: “Hey! Haribol! How are you? I noticed that you haven’t written any new blogs on Krishna.com in quite a while. What have you been up to?”

Karnamrita: “I am good, thanks. Krishna is very kind! For the last two months I have taken a full time job, so I have been recycling, or reposting, my older blogs, which don’t usually don’t get read.”

D: Really, I thought you were retired?”

K: “I wouldn’t consider myself “retired” or tired, but it’s true that I haven’t worked a regular job in many years. My focus has been on my spiritual practices and writing. However, my new “job” over the last two months has been preparing our house for selling. In other words I have been repairing, painting, cleaning, getting rid of stuff, organizing or straightening what we have kept, making our house spiritually neutral, and doing a great deal of landscaping and gardening. While the lion’s share of the work is done thanks to my hiring a devotee neighbor, there are still many small actions that I continue to complete on a daily basis.”

D: “Organizing and getting rid of things. Hmmmm…that is really difficult for me. What was that like for you?”
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K: “You are a person like me in this regard. Listen, when we first began taking down our devotional pictures and deciding which ones to keep or give away, along with filling up bags of unnecessary accumulated stuff— to either give to charity or throw away—I actually felt like I was dying.

Devotee: “How so? Sounds intense!”

Karnamrita: “It was very intense, and it revealed much about me, and the spiritual work I have left to do!

Being Run Over by Time or Keeping our Head Amidst the Tempest

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Uncontrollable time
[Republished from November 11, 2012]
Two weeks have passed since my last blog. During this time, I have reflected on the illusive, uncontrollable (though we try to use it) nature of time, of which life, as we known it, is inextricably intertwined. Hopefully we will be drawn to question the force of natural laws on us, and think of their purpose, and controller—the Law Maker. We have our individual life’s timing for significant or insignificant events—sometimes lethargy or stagnation—and then the larger field of our immediate surroundings, our country, and the whole planet, all of which can influence our decisions and how we go about things. We may feel like we are in a stagnant pool, going nowhere fast, or being diminished daily, while at other times we seem to be swept away by events much larger than ourselves or our family concerns. For Gaudiya Vaishnavas, the chaos that may surround and seem to threaten us, points to the lasting spiritual peace within, and the love of the soul for Krishna which enlivens us. Thus the blessing of upheaval or problems can be a motivation for spiritual practice. Life in the material world is always uncertain and changing, like unstable shifting sand, and still we try to avoid, or find shelter from this truth. Firm ground is the soul and its relationship to God.

And Then You Die...(Imagining the World Through the Eyes of Illness)

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[Republished from December 14th, 2012]
I began this blog with the first part of the title before I contacted an “industrial strength” flu, which then gave me illness eyes to emote through. Practically our entire community received this illness gift from a visiting sadhu, and many of us have been under the weather for 12 days or more. In any case, I have combined the two blog ideas since they are related. In other blogs (included in my book Give to Live) I have spoken about the positive and negative impetus for practicing bhakti. While today’s title emphasizes the negative, it is within the context of a positive, spiritual, worldview and an understanding of the blissful nature of the soul engaged in loving service to Krishna. Until we are self-realized devotees of Krishna, we have to continually be reminded about the shortcomings of the material world and the fallacy of trying to enjoy our senses. Why? Since we are all addicted to pleasuring our senses and material conceptions, we often have a difficult time breaking these bad habits. However, we can apply the adage, “Repetition is the mother of skill,” and gradually find our spiritual footing.

In this spirit, the statement, “and then you die,” can be added to any ordinary material activity or accomplishment in order to put life into a spiritual context. In other words, from the perspective of the eternality of the soul, how much value does a particular action or achievement have? Reading the obituary column is interesting from this perspective, since often the authors of the “accomplishments” of the so-called deceased, make quite a stretch in their praise, like looking for straws--at least it seems this way to me. If we were merely a temporary conglomeration of chemicals, then yeah, such narratives would be important, since that would be all there was to a person’s existence. One life and then you die—end of story! And even if, from a worldly or religious perspective, they are significant milestones, or extraordinary achievements, how much difference do they make spiritually? To me, that is the fundamental question to be asked in thinking of a person's, or our own, life. We all have things we feel compelled to do, and yet, as aspiring devotees, the art is to connect them to Krishna. As souls with a spiritual purpose to wake up from our conditioned dream, the only thing that truly matters is our real lasting enlightened self in a relationship of loving service to our Source, God, or Krishna.

Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for the Love of Our Life in The Wrong Place

Photobucket[Originally published on September 1st ,2009] We are all unique yet also very similar to others of a certain background. I see the world as a Gaudiya Vaishnava which distinguishes me from many people by my habits, desires, spiritual and religious practices, and in general my lifestyle. However, by introspection I must admit to sharing much in common with human beings termed in America as "Boomers" or those born around 1950 or so. Sometimes people pride themselves for their particular group, ignoring how each human being shares the same basic needs to maintain their body, mind, and emotions in often only slightly different ways and varying personalities and tastes. The nature of our material ego is to try to convince us that we are very special in a positive or negative sense (specially gifted or flawed), and that the big world (or our small circle) should revolve around our needs, desires and mental constructs.

The more knowledgeable and humble we are the more we realize how similar we are to others, and how small and insignificant we are in relationship to our community, city, state, country, planet and the infinite Universe. We are a tiny soul, thinking we are very big and important. And we want to hear stories, read books, or watch movies that inflate our sense of self importance and greatness. This is why so many books are written and movies made.

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