(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
One of the recommendations for advancing in devotional service is the observance of Kartika Vrata (special devotional practices) especially in Vrindavana, India, or at some holy place, but anywhere that we worship Krishna during the Vedic month of Kartika, or Damodara, which corresponds to October-November. It began yesterday on the full moon and continues to the following full moon. As the next month of Margashirsha represents Krishna, [Bg 10.35] this month represents Shri Radha, who is the feminine compassionate aspect of Krishna. Shri Radha is considered the best devotee of Krishna, and she is both Deity and ideal of devotion for Gaudiya Vaishnavas. We try to please Radha, and our gurus who represent her, to obtain the favor of Krishna, which means engaging in His devotional service eternally. Our aim is not so much to obtain Krishna, but love of Krishna, or prema, because wherever prema exists, Krishna lives! Thus by the grace of the Divine Couple, Shri Radha and Krishna, Radha’s month is considered like a special sale, where the ordinarily very difficult ideal of pure devotion, becomes easily available for a small price. Ours is truly a path of mercy, though as much as possible we also follow the recommendations in the scriptures for our daily spiritual practices.
(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
[Some persons caught up in the counter-culture of the late '60's and '70's felt that all materiel prospects were void and society's status quo, miserable stagnation. Thus, as if in a life and death battle, they intensely felt compelled to search out meaning and happiness on the spiritual quest, appearing as their only hope. This free verse poem, inspired by the months I spent in the redwood forest in Muir Woods in Marin County (near San Francisco, California), condenses the background feelings of my spiritual search that culminated in Krishna bhakti and continues to unfold to this day, some 45 years later. While my mood is currently much softer than that expressed in this poem, the power of my original spiritual search still gives me energy and reminds me of what is required to make radical life changes for a higher purpose. I was so determined to find the real purpose of my life and to make sense of what appeared to be a mad, pointless, world, that I was willing to forgo everything else to be successful on that pilgrim's journey. Unfortunately I don't have the same level of focused and powerful determination that I had in my youth, though I'm inspired to remember the feeling and dynamism of that time of new beginnings. Fortunately, I still have momentum from the scent of the lotus flow I discovered in the redwoods. I continue walking up the bhakti mountain, step by step, guided by spiritual adepts. There is no question of returning the way I came, from the "Valley of the Shadow of Death," as that road is closed to me, due to some unimaginable good fortune.]
Pensive on a mountain top
looking through modern civilization
almost covered by smog
adrift in a sea of uncertainty
atomic threats and toxic chemicals
no charted course appeals
provided answers are shallow
all paths appear pointless
unlimited choices dull the brain
walking among the living dead
complacency dressed as a virtue
the status quo bewilders me
To some, the idea in the title of today’s blog sounds too simple, or sentimental to be true, yet I have found that happiness, or sadness, or a host of emotions, are a state of mind, or more correctly, are a result of whether we remember our spiritual, joyful nature, or not. Happiness is a choice we make, moment by moment, by what we focus on, and who we think we are. Many great persons in the world also know the power of our focus. Abraham Lincoln once wisely observed that “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be,” and he was a man who underwent many reverses, and hardships in his life. We all have tremendous power to be happy and to help others, but this power comes from the soul, who is a spark of Krishna.
As eternal spiritual beings our nature is joy, peace, satisfaction, and in relationship to Krishna, everlastingly, blissful celebration. While we live in the world, and strive for various goals, or solutions to personal or world problems, one of the most important components of our success is the joy and spiritual consciousness we bring to life. In spiritual, or Krishna consciousness,
Krishna has a perfect sense of timing. As so often happens in my life, He has helped me in my tiny service. While I was thinking of how to expand my four paragraphs in this second part about affection, I heard a very appropriate tape of a Prabhupada lecture, with pertinent details about feeling that I never remember hearing before: In his travels, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to a town where He observed a brahmana who appeared to be reading the Bhagavad-gita. As he was turning its pages, he was sometimes crying. Passersby were mocking this brahmana’s “reading” of the Gita, since it was known that he was illiterate. Curious, Lord Chaitanya humbly approached him and inquired how it was that he was reading the Gita. The brahmana felt the sincerity of Shri Chaitanya’s inquiry, and answered that he was illiterate, but since his guru asked him to daily read the eighteen chapters of the Gita, he was somehow trying to follow his guru’s order by just seeing the pages. "Oh,” asked Lord Chaitanya, “you are not simply seeing it, since you also are crying." "Yes, Maharaja, I am crying also." "Then if you are not reading, how you are crying?" "Maharaja, I am not reading, but I'm feeling the Gita."
René Descartes, considered the father of Western philosophy, is most famous for his statement, “I think, therefore I am”. However, devotees of Krishna, informed with the spiritual knowledge of the Vedas, might better say, “I am, therefore I can think,” which hints that often Western philosophy has it backwards. In other words, from consciousness, or from the soul, flow all our abilities such as thinking, speaking, or communicating, etc. Thinking doesn't make us exist, but our eternal nature allows us to think. While rationality is better than merely animality, or the struggle to meet bodily demands, Lord Chaitanya has taught us that the real gift and facility of human beings is their ability to voluntarily love, and specifically to love Krishna or God. Animals express a limited form of love based on biology and receiving physical necessities, yet human beings have the full potential for loving unconditionally--one another and God. Therefore, we might continue to develop Descartes’ maxim, by rephrasing it further to say, “I love Krishna, therefor I am.”
A week of rain
with more on the way
a full morning
of sadhana and prayer--
My country spot calls me
favorable for contemplation/writing
secluded place by the creek
inspires many themes to share.
As we prepare for prayer
by remembering our dependence
on our Gurus and Krishna
I prepare for the wetness—
The concept of service is an important one since it involves the true constitution of souls in relationship to God. It is the natural religion of the soul, so to speak, and as I have mentioned previously, it is observable in every person to varying degrees. This topic needs to be thought about from many angles of vision, and thus yet another blog. As so often happens, the last part in this series on service, is what first inspired me to write about it, namely some of my early misconceptions about service, and relating to the world and other people. Having taken up the path of bhakti at the young age of 19, I had many misunderstandings, as did many of my spiritual brothers and sisters. Some of our ideas at that time, though well intended, were quite one-sided, and are not very flattering when looked at today. However, my hope and prayer is that my mistakes and immaturity may help you understand Krishna consciousness in a deeper and more nuanced way than some of us. If we don't admit our mistakes, how can future generations learn to avoid repeating them?
Studying his life reveals
a lifetime of preparation
kindling his fire of devotion
realization of the scriptures
practical knowledge with purity
compassionate perseverance to save us.
Many current or past ideas of service to others have no connection to God, are seen as direct service to God, or replace any idea that God has an existence beyond humanity. For example, the idea of some in India that "manava-seva is madhava-seva" or that "service to man is service to God." It certainly can be service to God, but that depends on one’s intention and one’s goal in life. Why we do what we do is all important and will determine the karmic or spiritual result we obtain, and the degree of benefit for others. Most every person will appreciate service or helping the poor or downtrodden, and it should be done. However, often these same people will criticize religious or spiritual people who may be focused on the spiritual solution to everyone’s problems. Both helping people materially and spiritually are important, yet from a Godly perspective, the most essential service helps awaken others to their real life. As I mentioned in the last blog, this is a sensitive topic because not everyone understands or agrees upon the purpose of life. Some people think that in the face of untold suffering of many people, spiritual pursuits are a luxury.
As souls, we are all individuals with the innate awareness of our serving disposition, but it is now hidden by our identification with matter. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught us that the svarupa, or constitutional nature of the soul, is the rendering of service to Krishna. The more we understand and apply this, the more we spiritually awaken. Our serving nature is explained in code by the concept of dharma, as outlined in Prabhupada’s introduction to his Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The “dharma” of something refers to its nature or quality which can’t be changed. Specifically, sanatana dharma means the nature of the soul to serve God.
In other words, our intrinsic spiritual nature is to serve, and we can’t help but serve, wherever we are in the material or spiritual world. Although not often referred to as service the material world is run by people serving one another in different capacities. Even a small-minded absorption in serving bodily appetites is a limited expression of this natural urge. If the body is not served by food and nourishment, it will die, so we are forced to begin serving at least this much if we want to continue living. We cease being merely animals when we voluntarily give, or sacrifice to benefit others.