Karnamrita.das's blog

Coming to Krishna—and Staying with Krishna (Through Tests, Challenges, or Growing Pains)

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Prabhupada chanting japa
After the last two blogs, while further thinking about the topic of associating with advanced devotees, I also thought about other ways we can make connection to spirituality, since even those who are blessed to hear from and serve devotees of high spiritual standing don’t usually have that opportunity perpetually. In their absence, we can also serve the instructions of our guru, or someone who inspires us spiritually (a sadhu), and in that way feel their presence and blessings. On a regular basis we can adopt other devotional actions to keep the flame of spirituality alive within that first came to us by the grace of a devotee, either from their personal company, or through their recorded talks or books.

Such spiritual practices, or sadhana, include reciting scriptural prayers, or making our own unique outpourings. We are recommended to also regularly chant the holy name in meditative japa, or musically in kirtan, read the scriptures, give in charity or help spiritual people, prepare food for offering and then eating (honoring) prasadam (blessed vegetarian food). Additionally, we can visit holy places and temples,

Greatest Treasure—Accessible Saintly Association

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From a spiritual perspective “luck,” or good fortune, means having association with saintly persons. Even more fortunate is to have spiritual adepts who are genuinely and specifically interested in our progress in bhakti, and can give us unique guidance suited to our natures and circumstances. The opposite is also true: to be bereft of saintly persons in our life is most unfortunate. Why? This is accurate because to hear and ask questions to the saintly, or try to reciprocate with by pleasing a great soul, takes us much farther spiritually than by our own efforts. This is the version of the Vedic scriptures and my personal experience. Such association is really the key to our progress in bhakti, and the lack of it can stall our forward march toward Krishna. Although we have much to do in our spiritual life, bhakti is ultimately a path fueled by grace.

I am exploring this topic as a result of a question that arose from my last blog about living our life in the mood of a permanent pilgrimage. I was asked about how I remain enthusiastic, and what habits or type of negligence may contribute to a half-baked or mediocre bhakti practice.

Making Our Entire Life an Inner Pilgrim’s Journey

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Taking up the path of pure devotion, is to take up the pilgrim’s journey. “Pilgrim” is defined in the dictionary as traveling to a holy place. However, the Shrimad Bhagavatam advises us not merely to make an arduous journey for the sake of taking a holy bath, but to hear from saintly persons who embody the holy place and sacred teachings. Our spiritual awakening may include an outer expedition to leave the mundane and live sequestered from material life by becoming a spiritual hermit or monk, yet the real life of a pilgrim is a difficult inner voyage which turns out to be an adventure of self-discovery on many levels, both physically and spiritually. The externals of our life may or may not facilitate this growth. As obvious as this might sound to you, a theoretical understanding is much easier than applying it practically. For me, a great deal of maturing over many years by trial and error was required for me to really understand this.

I have lived as a monk and a family man, and both have been very helpful to me on my spiritual path, and in discovering the necessity of balance and authenticity. Timing, or at what level of awareness we do things, facilitates our understanding. In other words, what may work for us as a young person often no longer supports us as we age and change. Whether we wear saffron and live out of a milk crate in an ashram (as I did), or wear business attire and have a family, our external situation is meant to help us find support and peace for the long haul of a lifetime of endeavor in uncovering our soul, and our love for Krishna. Giving our life and heart to Krishna is a process, and for the majority of us it doesn’t happen overnight, in spite of our initial enthusiasm.

Practicing the Presence of God—(Our Walk with Krishna)

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The title of this blog is taken from a book which consists of conversations and letters written by a humble Christian monk, Brother Lawrence, during the 17th century about his practice of remembering, praying to, and serving God in all circumstances. I find it very similar to what bhakti, or devotional service, is all about—that is, to remember and serve Krishna in love and devotion in all circumstances, at all times. As so often happens, the seed for this blog came to me while I was “practicing the presence of Krishna,” by chanting His holy names during my morning devotional time. My life is dedicated to devotional practice, which we could call practicing the presence of God, not only at designated times, but always, or to the extent that I remember. In my retired life I am finding it more urgent than ever before to be absorbed in awareness of Krishna with feeling, studying the bhakti philosophy, keeping good association, and sharing my past and present spiritual journey—I pray—for the benefit of others.

Shri Advaita Acharya—Teaching the Secret Bliss of Servitorship

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“I offer my respectful obeisances to Shri Advaita Acharya, whose activities are all wonderful. By His mercy, even a foolish person can describe His characteristics.” [Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi-lila 6.1] Shrila Prabhupada, my guru, and the founder/exemplary teacher of the Hare Krishna movement, referred to the bhakti scriptures as “the science of God.” This term is amply demonstrated by the appearance days of various incarnations or expansions of Godhead. Shri Advaita Acharya is one such expansion of God, specifically of Krishna, whom Gaudiya Vaisnava’s see as the fountainhead or Source of all incarnations—or we could say, the Source of our conception of God which is in relationship to the material world. Within this tradition Shri Advaita Acharya is famous, and celebrated for His compassion, as it was His pure prayers for Krishna that caused Krishna to personally appear (as Shri Chaitanyadeva) for the deliverance of suffering humanity. Specifically, Shri Advaita is the cause of the material creation and is considered an expansion of Maha-Vishnu, that aspect of Krishna who maintains and sustains the material world.

The Life of the Poem, or the Death of the Soul

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Uplifting Transcendental Beauties
Sitting before Their Metamorphoses
newly painted, revitalized Radha Krishna,
living art infused with bhakti we can feel
indescribably, yet noticeably, increased beauty—
chanting the king of poetry, the Gayatri mantra
with the desire to share my heart bubbling up
like provided raw ingredients and cream
with which I make butter and ghee, and offer up.

Is There Sex After Death?

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No, this isn’t a racy title to increase readership of my blogs. This is the name of a movie from 1972. And? While on an errand, Shrila Prabhupada happened to see the ad for this movie on a billboard, and mentioned it in a Shrimad Bhagavatam class. He spoke about it with a mixture of wry humor and seriousness. As an ideal acharya (exemplary teacher), he took note of whatever he encountered, and by giving a Krishna conscious perspective, taught us to do the same in our lives. Prabhupada observed that since the mass of people are preoccupied with sex, they wonder if sex will continue in any afterlife. The implications is that if sex isn’t available there, then any existence after death mustn’t be a very desirable destination.

When I was growing up and attending grade school and college, it would seem that although learning was the supposed purpose of education, the mingling of the sexes seemed to mainly be what was on everyone’s mind. In my own life I can see practically that what we are absorbed in during youth becomes very ingrained, and if we build on this in adulthood, it is practically impossible to conceive of living without it.

Accepting our Shadow Self as a Divine Vehicle

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Seeing the Illusory Curtain
that creates separation
between souls and God,
enmity, physical attraction-repulsion
with you and I, and everyone
as Shakespeare rightly said:
we are all players on a stage
having many roles,
what begins must end.

Contemplating spiritual truth
learned from scripture/saints
confirmed in life’s classroom:
our body’s merely a garment
that we must transcend,
our actor’s roles and costumes—
which seem so important—
bring all our problems,
distracting and confounding us,
events are more than appearances

The Problem with the World—Selfishness

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World revolving around me
While there are many ways to frame, or lead into, speaking about the root cause of the problems of the world, or of the country I live in, looking more closely at the concept of selfishness will be helpful. I have often thought that fanaticism is the real enemy of the world, since people’s inability to consider other viewpoints is at the root of most world or local conflicts. To me, fanaticism is a type of selfishness, or the result of a very narrow vision. Both come from bodily identification. My guru, Shrila Prabhupada spoke of selfishness, and extended selfishness. We are all eternal souls, yet we have the power to invest ourselves into matter. So although in the ultimate sense, or spiritually speaking, we have nothing to do with matter, due to false ego, we (the soul or consciousness) become duped or fooled by the illusion of the material world (maya), to think we are a particular body and mind, separate from God, others, and Nature.

Words as a Bridge Between Our Hearts and Souls

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Those who have followed my blogs for some time know that I revisit the topic of writing frequently, perhaps too often! Yet I can’t resist, and I have to explain why, if you will permit me. This is part of my journey of self-discovery and giving, which I hope will encourage you to embark on your own. It isn’t that I feel I have to justify the time I take to write, as it is a labor of love, but I am continually amazed by the whole process of writing, and what it really means, as I try to express myself, and put who I am on the page, as it were. Transferring my energy to the page in some essential way is how I view writing—only I don’t know to what extent, or how this happens, but I know it does. There is value in this for anyone, but to my thinking, especially to the degree that I, or anyone, embodies bhakti, or love and service to Krishna.

I am writing and you will read it in the future; only time separates the meeting of the two. This is one way the present, past, and future can be the same. Amazing! We are two souls who are meeting through the Word, and there is benefit for both of us, ideally spiritually, though also as struggling and thoughtful human beings searching for love and meaning. I am also speaking, as I have often, of the power of intention.

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