The naked form of matter
giving misery, heartbreak
from good advertising
In the scheme of things having a tooth pulled--or loosing it--could be seen as a very small event in a person's life--one of the many so-called mundane "non-events", more a distraction from "real life" than something noteworthy. However, personally, I don't think any occurrence, event or day is ever ordinary. We only have mundane or ordinary vision or perspectives. Especially for a devotee, they try to put Krishna into everything they do, or see everything in relationship to him. Life is miraculous, but to see like this requires an attitude of appreciation and positive expectancy.
I was inspired to write this blog in the face of my intense pain preceding my tooth extraction, and my wife's present illness. Everything which we experience is meant to be thought about deeply and seen in relationship to God. According to Shri Prahlad Maharaja, a saint whose great devotion caused the incarnation of Krishna as Lord Nrisimhadeva, there are two main problems with the material world: experiencing that which we don’t want, and separation from our loved ones. These two might be considered a general outgrowth of the Gita’s analysis of “the fourfold miseries” of birth, disease, old age and death. I think it safe to say that we can all look at our life and expand these basic categories.
My guru, Shrila Prabhupada taught us that the appearance and disappearance of the guru are both equal, since there is no death for anyone, and what to speak of our guru. In addition our guru lives on through their instructions and disciples and how we relate to both. Of course within the oneness of these occasions there are different flavors. We may remember how we first met our guru, and the impact their leaving this world has had on us. In his or her absence we can talk about worshiping them in separation, which is considered even a higher and more powerful meditation then physical presence. On these days we often remember endearing stories of our association with our guru. While these stories are often touching and inspirational, I have been reflecting for the last few days, that for me, more important then the stories themselves, are what we have become by following Prabhupada’s teachings and example.
We just observed the celebration of Govardhana-puja or the worship of a special mountain in Vrindavan, India (the land of Krishna’s birth or appearance) which is considered non-different from Krishna. It is a festival of simple, though elegant pomp and gaiety that teaches us many practical lessons about living in balance with Nature and God. For the festival a hill of sanctified food (prasadum) is created with Krishna on the top to recreate the hill. These festivities commemorate this occasion, and help us meditate on its meaning. We hear about what happened, along with plays reenacting it, worship of the cow, and circumambulating the hill as was done 5,000 years ago. We also pray to enter into the deep, yet simple, essential message of this blessed event.
It often happens in our modern, youth oriented and scientifically informed culture that people consider an ancient scripture like the Shrimad Bhagavatam an irrelevant, old book, good--at best--for a doorstop. Anticipating this bias I thought I would try to help you enter into the world of the revealed spiritual literature of India, the Vedas, and specifically the Shrimad Bhagavatam.
The Vedas were originally an oral tradition compiled or put into written form 5,000 years ago by the legendary Vyasadeva, the literary incarnation of God. Books then are considered a sign, not of advancement of human beings, but an indication of our deteriorated intelligence and memory. In any case, after finishing his great work, which included the four main Vedas, 18 Puranas, 108 Upanishads, and such epics as the Mahabharat and Ramayan, Vyasa was still not satisfied.
During every Japa Retreat we have the opportunity to formally write down our prayers to the holy name. We are again reminded that the holy name is a person, or really the combined persons of Radha and Krishna. Our Christian brothers are fond of offering their followers a relationship to their conception of Divinity in the shape of Lord Jesus Christ. Gaudiya Vaishnavas are also offering their followers a relationship with Radha and Krishna through their holy name, as revealed through Gaura-Nitai and their representatives. We worship and praise One God in multiforms and expansions, and we especially esteem those we represent them.
In the stars at birth, a picture is taken
revealing if we are blessed, or perhaps forsaken;
a chart plotted, the future is told
will we become ill, die young or grow old.
After returning from the Japa Retreat enthused and divinely touched by sharing such potent spiritual practices in uplifting company my wife and I also received another type of mercy: the flu that some devotee inadvertently gave us. Sickness, although never sought after, often teaches us about the dual nature of the material world (happiness and distress) and its temporary nature. If we are a “spiritual possibility thinker”, then every situation can be favorable, helpful, and instructive for our holy aspirations to make progress in “shuddha Bhakti” or pure devotion. What follows are some of my thoughts from being sick and having reduced capacities for living.